Maybe Everything is a Lie?

By: Jeff Spector
January 24, 2014

Andrew’s discussion on 4 Reasons Why Disaffected Mormons Become Atheists sparked a thought in my mind as the familiar stories unfolded in the comments.  Those stories told many times before speak of being lied to, mislead, having facts and truth withheld by “The Church.” The history was not told completely, or in their mind, purposely withheld, even though the facts and “whole truth” was generally available if one chose to seek it out.

Now, that’s a hard thing to do as a child, brought up in Primary, with an almost pristine, magical past of angels, gold plates, miracles, visitations and, walking and talking to God and Jesus. All cloaked in a “This Church is True” wrapper.

But as an older person, an adult, those picture perfect stories begin to develop holes as more facts are available or discovered through various means: books, the Internet, other people, etc.  As potentially disturbing facts become known, what is a person to do?

As a stated in my comment to Andrew’s post, I think one has three choices:

1. Retreat into belief. – Those who encounter issues put it on the shelf and just believe. This could be equated to putting one’s head in the sand. Could also be called blind faith. Maybe the issues are dealt with at a later time or not at all and simply ignored.

2. Retreat into unbelief – In this case, the person feels betrayed, lied to, deceived, etc. So they pull back, doubt, or leave. This can be viewed as ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” In other words, in spite of all the positive experiences, the new-found negative(s) trump positive experiences and the whole is abandoned. If the Church is a failure at some level, God is also a failure because He did not prevent it. So a conclusion is, there must be no God.

3. Tackle the issue head-on – This scenario requires the person to address the issue in a complete way, seeking to fully understand in the correct context. While not a foolproof method, I have found this approach can generally satisfy the need to know and to remain a believer. For me, as I have tackled each issue that has come up, and believe me, I’ve looked at every issue there is in the Church and its history, I can process the whole story and remain a member of the Church.

But actually, that is not the point of this post at all. My question to you is simple:

“How do you handle the fact that almost everyone in your life, at one time or another, has lied, mislead, withheld information or deliberately deceived you in some way?”

Starting with your parents, your siblings, your spouse, your friends and acquaintances, your teachers, your employers, the clerks in the store, institutions, and on and on.  Chances are, they have not been totally honest and forthcoming about every aspect of their lives or having to do with their interactions with you.

For example, how did you deal with the fact that your parents lied to you about Santa Claus, or where babies came from, or withheld certain unflattering facts about their lives?  Did you divorce them from your lives? Did they stop being your parents? In some rare cases, the answer might be “Yes.”

But, usually, you just dealt with the fact that they weren’t perfect and moved on. Maybe your respect for them diminished slightly, but they were still your parents.

This can be applied to every other person or institution in your life.

In short, ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God. So, how do you reconcile that from the rejection of the Church for committing the same sins and omissions?

115 Responses to Maybe Everything is a Lie?

  1. IDIAT on January 24, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    Many people on the other post commented “fool me once, shame on you — fool me twice, shame on me.” I would rather be fooled a thousand times if it means I find eternal truths.I usually use approach number 3, and sometimes fall into numbers 1 and 2 as well. In the end, I don’t think living life as a “mormon” will be detrimental to my health. Could I have used my tithing money for other things? Sure. Could I have spent more time with family or pursuing other interests instead of the time spent on callings and church meetings? Sure. Would that time and money have made me a better person or been put to use in a better way? Who knows. I’ve sometimes asked myself: What incentive did President Hinckley or President Monson (or any other church leader) have to lie to me? What does it profit him? Absent some report that says church leaders are living a life a largess on my tithing donations, I can’t think of a real motivation that would merit all the time and energy spent doing church work. As for church history, I think many of us are too quick to judge and believe what is written. Just because someone says they “know” something doesn’t mean it’s so. It seems like those who are serious church history scholars are able to maintain their faith. If they can, why can’t I? No one likes to feel like they’ve been duped. But, I think a humble acknowledgement, coupled with some faith, can go a long ways.

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  2. out of the woodwork on January 24, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    “For example, how did you deal with the fact that your parents lied to you about Santa Claus, or where babies came from, or withheld certain unflattering facts about their lives?”

    Interesting illustration. Reading Andrew’s thread my analysis was that when you grow up and stop believing in Santa you don’t turn to the Tooth Fairy for consolation.

    I’ve heard of people who do resent and mistrust their parents after that experience. I think a smart child realizes it was a benevolent fabrication. In any case, a fabrication is a fabrication. So you move on and you grow up as most kids manage to do.

    Giving up religion is like that. If it was all a benevolent fabrication you evaluate it and move on. You can take what’s useful along with you appreciating that both what was good and what was to be avoided came from inside the human psyche and human nature. It’s humbling and reassuring. So is seeing that cultures through time keep coming up with more or less the same answers whether it’s the Greeks’ Golden Rule or Emily Post’s “Etiquette” or Robert’s Rules of Order.

    What I’m saying is I picked #3 a long time ago and moved on happily and constructively on my own. Nearly half a century later it’s served me well and I have no regrets.

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  3. John Hamer on January 24, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    The LDS “True/False” paradigm is root of the problem. When people who are invested in the paradigm (a religion based on “knowing such and such is true”) decide that they don’t believe the faith claims they previously “knew” were “true,” their immediate conclusion is that the religion they had invested in is “false,” They then extrapolate to assume that all religions are like their religion and that all religions are false, and maybe a lot of other things are false too.

    What some are failing to do here is question the original True/False paradigm itself. While it’s true that this paradigm is a characteristic of fundamentalist religions/philosophies, but not all religions/philosophies. (Which is why the Santa Claus / Tooth Fairy analogy is based on a false assumption.)

    Although people who make an ostensibly radical change in their surface beliefs may think they’ve completely changed their thinking, they (like all of us) can’t help but lack perspective to be fully introspective. In other words, yes you no longer believe the cosmology or mythology of your former religion is a literal historical and spatial description of the actual universe, but what other, deeper premises are you still bought into?

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  4. rah on January 24, 2014 at 9:44 AM

    I interpret your #3 as moving definitively away from a black/white interpretation of the world and religion in particular. In some ways, “its all a lie! religion is evil!” has as much in common with “The church is true…la,la,la” as anything else. So what is so hard about taking path number 3, accepting the inherent grayness and imperfection in church history and our current institution? I think alone, facing the reality of our very mortal church history does little to undermine a person’s overall faith or practice. Rather it is the cognitive dissonance between being allowed to be a nuanced thinker about the past with heavy social constrictions on being allowed to apply it to the present. So questioning the racial priesthood ban, its origins and its “prophetic/opinion” history is ok, but the moment you ask or want to discuss the current female priesthood ban and whether its origins are prophetic or moral the knives come out which is why most if it happens here in semi-anonymity on the internet. The moment you point out that the parallels between our ever changing creation of pseudodoctrine around homosexuality has stark parallels with our now recognized problematic racial pseudodoctrine that is clearly treated as illegitimate. One’s faith is questioned. One is to “follow the prophets” and “don’t go astray” (I hate that song). It seems we have moved to a place where we allowed history to be gray but the present must be black and white. Anything that might question or “undermine” the current institution and practices is off the table for “real” believers.

    I think this is what causes #3 options to be hard for many people to maintain. It often requires of them to live their actual, present life with compromised authenticity (in their view) especially when they come to view things like gender policy and homosexuality as relevant moral issues which tends to happen when you stop thinking of them as “issues” as you come to know women and the LGBT community as real people. I know at least for me this is the case. I am happy, even fascinated and excited to delve into intricacies of church history. I am happy to be completely agnostic to certain truth claims. What causes me serious problems is the realization that the current institutional church in its gray and complex way hurts a subset of real, living, breathing people and is in almost total denial about it. Yet at the same time it wants us to hold the black/white fiction of direct revelation from God leading the church because it seems obedience to the church is now the most important thing. So I stay with my gray, complicated views on the relationship between God and the church, but it isn’t easy and I completely empathize with people that can’t make that work, especially people in ward and family contexts where they find no room at all for questioning current policy, “doctrine” and practice. I simply can’t believe what the church teaches about homosexuality and I don’t believe the vast majority of what they teach about gender. My heart and spirit tells me it isn’t from God but like racial doctrine rooted in our own mortal and institutional weakness. Sadly, there is no indication it can change anytime soon. So I wait and try my best to do what I can to help where I can as a way to live an authentic “gray” life, a moral and spiritual life that receives virtually no support from the very church I find myself sacrificing and struggling for.

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  5. Serragon on January 24, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    I think a major difference is that most people in your life never make the claim of absolute correctness.

    I realize that technically the LDS church does not either, but much of the rhetoric of “true church”, “living prophet”, and “Christ sits at the head of this church” lead people to believe that the church is in fact claiming absolute correctness. I have heard it said over the pulpit many times. Our last High Councilor talk essentially boiled down to “stop thinking and follow the prophet”.

    It is much easier to forgive/look past the failings of someone you love who has always acknowledged their imperfections. Much more difficult for someone who you feel was lying to you simply to have control over you.

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  6. Jeff Spector on January 24, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    Serragon,

    “I think a major difference is that most people in your life never make the claim of absolute correctness.”

    I’m not sure Church Leaders do either. You have Joseph saying that any errors are the errors of man, BY says that he is afraid the people will just take his word for things,and other examples of that type of those comments.

    OTOH, you do have the “The prophet speaks and the thinking is over” mentality.

    And while most people do not claim absolute correctness, There is an implied trust that people are who they claim and tell the truth, especially your loved ones.

    Bottom line, trust is a choice.

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  7. tbp on January 24, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    In answer to your question, if someone lies to me and I learn this, I do my best to forgive. And I may be leery of giving them my trust later on if the lie is big enough. There is, however, a significant difference between being lied to by a person and the Church. No one in my life makes the claim that by obeying what they say I will be given the greatest gift possible — the Church does make that claim. The Church’s rhetoric is about obedience to the priesthood, i.e. the Church itself, which makes the Church a stand-in for God. So when the Church is dishonest, a person who fully buys into the Church’s rhetoric will feel like God is lying to them. Essentially there are different degrees at work here — sometimes we feel betrayed by other people, and that’s hard. But feeling betrayed by God (the Church) is a bigger sense of betrayal. So your question, while interesting, really doesn’t have much to do with Andrew’s blog post.

    As for the rest, it reminds me of this post: http://mainstreetplaza.com/2008/03/07/grayer-than-thou/

    It’s a common refrain that those who are unable to keep their beliefs in the face of new and troubling information failed to see in the proper shade of gray, to make their beliefs figurative enough to still be acceptable. This is definitely true of some people — we can call them fundamentalist atheists if you like. But it is unfair to paint all of those who can no longer believe (in Mormonism, Christianity, or even God) with that brush. Many intelligent people struggle with and against their beliefs and how to combine what they know with what they feel. It is wrong to say that those who can’t maintain belief simply retreated into unbelief; it is wrong to say they should have tackled it head on because other people can know all of the troubling aspects and maintain their belief. Just because someone else’s shade of gray is darker than yours doesn’t mean theirs is black.

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  8. chanson on January 24, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    “How do you handle the fact that almost everyone in your life, at one time or another, has lied, mislead, withheld information or deliberately deceived you in some way?”

    Just because you conclude that a person’s conclusion on some subject is wrong, that doesn’t mean the person lied or withheld information from you.

    Retreat into unbelief – In this case, the person feels betrayed, lied to, deceived, etc. So they pull back, doubt, or leave. This can be viewed as ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” In other words, in spite of all the positive experiences, the new-found negative(s) trump positive experiences and the whole is abandoned. If the Church is a failure at some level, God is also a failure because He did not prevent it. So a conclusion is, there must be no God.

    Changing belief doesn’t have to be a “retreat”. A lot of us view it as a move towards something better.

    With regards to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” — we get this accusation all the time. If you are willing to consider an actual exmo-atheist perspective on this point, I would ask that you review my essay The Baby and the Bathwater.

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  9. Jeff Spector on January 24, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    chanson,

    “Just because you conclude that a person’s conclusion on some subject is wrong, that doesn’t mean the person lied or withheld information from you.”

    Actually, I agree with you here. If that is what it is. We are, in fact, allowed to change our minds about religion, politics, hair color, clothing, any number of things. If that’s the case, then that is the explanation and it is all on you, as your choice. No need to spout pejoratives, negatives and accusations on the way out. I think I wrote a post on this very thing some time back.

    “we get this accusation all the time. If you are willing to consider an actual exmo-atheist perspective on this point, ….”

    I’ll be happy to read the essay, but it will be difficult to consider a POV that I cannot understand.

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  10. Andrew S on January 24, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Personally, I think the analogy to parents, etc., falls a little flat, because the extent of the deception, and the extent of the feeling of betrayal, is magnitudes different. Even the lies my parents told me did not ultimately cause me to pay thousands of dollars to causes I found to be morally repugnant, or cause me undue emotional and mental trauma trying to change core sexuality, or doubt core aspects of my personality.

    I guess what I would say is something like this — I still feel comfortable associating with my parents because I get the feeling and the evidence supports that my parents care for me and my wellbeing — and that’s important. I would trust my parents only to the extent I found them *trustworthy*. And they do seem trustworthy, notwithstanding the Santa fiasco.

    But I know other people who tragically can’t say the same thing about their parents and their relatives, so they are either estranged from them or they make a conscious decision to distance themselves if the relatives don’t do it first.

    And here’s the kicker — when we’re talking about other people, I can make this calculus of care, trustworthiness, etc., But I don’t think it’s appropriate to do the same with an organization or corporation. The organization doesn’t care for me. The organization isn’t trustworthy. Engaging with organizations has to be more cynical and transactional, because there aren’t such guarantees of care anymore.

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  11. MB on January 24, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    I think that what you believe you’ve been promised by the church and the how important fidelity to that perceived promise is to you (rightly or wrongly) and how much your relationship with the church requires that fidelity has much to do with it.

    Spouses who claim they are on a diet and hide the fact that they’ve eaten candy bars today combined with your knowledge that they may well do so again are easier to forgive than spouses who claim they are faithful to you and who, you discover, have had a sexual fling with someone while on a business trip today and the realization that you are not sure they won’t do it again.

    For some people, the church’s failure to live up to their expectations and hope is like a candy eating spouse who claims to be on a diet. Annoying, disappointing and aggravating, but, in the eternal perspective, not a deal breaker. Your relationship isn’t shaken to the core because your commitment to your spouse and your identification with your spouse isn’t based upon total abstinence from candy or honesty about having eaten it. The good things about your spouse are enough reason to keep the relationship going. And if your spouse relapses and eats candy bars again, you’ll manage, and keep serving up healthy, low-calorie meals in spite of that.

    For others the church’s failure to live up to their expectations or hopes is like a philandering spouse. The expectation of perfection is stronger and one’s ability to identify with the church hinges much more on that expectation. And the sense of betrayal when the heretofore undiscovered sin is discovered much deeper. In that case staying related takes much more effort. The good things about the church feel like they are not sufficient by themselves to make you want to work to keep the relationship going. And the sense of fear of a relapse of that sin is much more distressing.

    That’s an oversimplification using some extremes. ,There are many, many gradations between one’s response to candy sneaking and one’s response to sexual infidelity, just as there are many gradations to peoples’ responses to their encounters with information about the church’s failure to act according to their ideals or previous assumptions.

    But, in a nutshell, I think it depends upon what you expect or hope from the church and how deeply your ability to maintain a mutual relationship with it depends upon that expectation being met.

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  12. David Redden on January 24, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    I can’t speak for Jeff, but I didn’t read his list as suggesting that all atheists take the #2 approach and simply “retreat” and/or “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” It seems likely that more people become atheists through the #3 approach (tackling head on), which I suspect is part of the reason believers tend to shy away from that approach and say things like “once the propehet has spoken, the thinking is over.”

    While approach #1 is not always a bad approach in my opinion, I think encouraging people to default to approach #1 is a mistake, especially in today’s information-rich society. Churches would do better to encourage faithful people to fully engage in their faith and tackle the issues together in a faith context rather than leave people to go it alone. I teach Sunday School at my ward, and that’s how I try to teach it. We tackle tough issues together in what I hope is an environment of love and faith. Two weeks ago we talked about how we might reconcile a belief that the Bible is the word of God with the fact that the cosmology set forth in the Old Testament is plainly wrong. The discussion was powerful and, based on the feedback I received, faith-promoting.

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  13. S Kahut on January 24, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    I remind myself daily that people are “imperfect”. Maybe your family or leaders were some of those who used the #1 or #2 approach to living their lives as TBM’s. If so….how can you judge them? Also , I have come to realize in my life that all relationships…..even those with God or religions…..come from within you. If you want a relationship….you are willing to put forth the effort to “ignore” the things which you do not like or understand and continue on. It is a choice you make everyday. I feel religion is the same way. No religion is perfect. Every religion began with some man or another……..so it is bound to be imperfect. The religious leaders are imperfect beings and are bounds to mess up. I feel it is our duty to ourselves to search out the truth…..the truth we can accept and decide if we want to continue to have a “relationship” with our religion or not. We need to be logical and not “react” to the things we see or hear…..but ACT upon them.

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  14. Oragami on January 24, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    Any person (or organization) claiming to have a monopoly on the truth should not be trusted. Unfortunately, as newborns, we have no idea what truth or trust even mean (even most adults struggle with the abstract nature of truth).

    Those of us born into the church are indoctrinated, manipulated, rewarded, and punished by those we are utterly dependent on for everything, including life itself, in support of the so-called truth or Mormonism, which we can not comprehend, much less critically evaluate, at such a young age.

    This is morally REPUGNANT and an affront to the God I believe in.

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  15. hawkgrrrl on January 24, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    From a Fowler’s stages of faith perspective, both your #1 and #2 are a Stage 3 kind of faith – which is a less mature stage that involves shelving questions and thinking. I do think it’s common enough for people to encounter something unforeseen and essentially turn off their thinking in the other direction – giving over wholly to doubts and *new* authoritative sources. These are probably the folks Uchtdorf was thinking of in his talk in which he suggested we should doubt our doubts. It’s easy to overreact and continue to simply believe what you are told, just changing to whom you listen.

    But the #3 group is a big category, and where it leads you isn’t a foregone conclusion by a long stretch. Benefits of being in the church vary. Personal values differ. Costs of staying in the church or leaving the church are not the same for everyone. When we tackle these issues head on, the importance of the individual issues is different for different people.

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  16. New Iconoclast on January 24, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    Would #4 be the “Eppur si muove” category: those of us who are convinced that we have had a true, external, manifestation of the divine presence (“a testimony”)? Because I certainly wrestle with cultural issues, as an introvert among extroverts, a libertarian among mainstream Republicans salted with Minnesota leftists, and a straight-speaking Aspie among the passive-aggressive. And I struggle with historical and personal imperfections of past and present leaders, too, as well as the seeming inability of a lot of people to string two or three coherent thoughts together.

    But I know what I felt and why I completely changed my life (and am working on completely changing my heart; it’s only been 28 years; it’s a work in progress).

    For me, the rest of it often boils down to, “If I really couldn’t live with imperfect people, I should commit suicide, because I couldn’t live with myself either.” That has been my practical-approach mantra to dealing with sin in me and others while trying to appreciate everyone’s good points, including my own.

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  17. Howard on January 24, 2014 at 3:04 PM

    Excellent post Jeff!

    One of the problems is the church itself has a history of NOT tackling the issues head-on leaving them lying out there like land mines just waiting to detonate otherwise faithful testimonies!

    Another is the church indoctrinates it’s members to NOT tackle these issues head-on by discouraging probing questioning replacing it with (somewhat blind) belief and (somewhat blind and childlike) obedience. This is particularly damaging to many of those who were raised in the church because their indoctrination began at such an early and impressionable age. And there is still a legacy of folklore that is had to wash out of TBMs thinking that when the prophet speaks the thinking has been done!

    So often those who fail to arrive at #3 do so because they are simply obedient members. The truth may be only a mouse click away but they are hearing; Move along. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

    In addition to all of these problems LDS apologetics until just recently were so poor they actually became the final nail in the testimony coffins.

    “How do you handle the fact that almost everyone in your life, at one time or another, has lied, mislead, withheld information or deliberately deceived you in some way?”

    It’s a good question to begin one’s thinking but it sorely lacks psychological insight into the severity of various betrayals. LDS indoctrination layered into a compliant child beginning at an early age teaches them not to question the church or it’s leaders at a very fundamental level. Add to this the pious claims of being the ONLY true church led by prophets of God etc. and emphasis they were taught regarding the importance of telling the truth implying the church does too and you set them up for a betrayal severity roughly equal to that of severe parental abuse! This isn’t a Santa Clause level little white lie these people are living!

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  18. Howard on January 24, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    Here’s something else to consider. Imagine not being able to trust your own judgement or your own morality because you really didn’t or don’t have your own, you just have/had a copy of the church’s implanted in your mind insidiously in layers so it becomes so entangled with the church you can’t easily separate them out so one or both become babies thrown out with the bathwater leaving you with just a huge void! This is likely what happened to the people John Delin reported were wife swapping etc soon after leaving the church!

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  19. Howard on January 24, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    Children are hardwired to accept a lot of parental abuse probably because out in the big bad world terrible parents are still better than no parents at all. This programming can give rise to Stockholm syndrome (of Patti Hearst fame) where the child victim identifies with and protects the parent persecutor. When abuse happens at a young age the child has great difficulty resolving the conflect; if my parent(s) love me why do they hurt me? It’s not uncommon for them to eventually conclude via rationalization that abuse is actually an expression of love leading them to later choose abusive relationships. Later in life if this unconscious programming is exposed to their conscious mind too rapidly the person throws the parent part of their personality out along with their parents living or dead. In Transactional Analysis terms this is know as de-cathecting the Parent Ego State. It leaves the person very vulnerable and ungrounded acting out like a teenager for a couple of years while new values are constructed.

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  20. C. on January 24, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    At the risk of sounding snarky (and I say this as an active member), I debunked Santa and came to the conclusion he was a ruse by myself as a child, but doing so never jeopardized my place in my family. The same cannot be said for those who arrive at the same conclusion about the church.

    Secondly, there is a massive difference in relationships between individuals and other individuals vs. individuals and corporations. Apples and oranges.

    Thirdly there is a massive difference between how I get childhood toys vs. how I get/don’t get salvation. We’re talking apples and radiators, here!

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  21. tarvis79 on January 24, 2014 at 4:54 PM

    The problem is the “one true church on the face of the earth” mentality that was drilled into us over and over again. Hinckley himself says things like “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.” Couple that with the extreme demands the church places on its members and you have a recipe for feeling much more strongly about things than you would regarding smaller deceptions.

    And that’s probably the biggest problem. No other institution in your adult life (unless you’re part of the military, maybe) will ever demand the time, money, and outright control over so many aspects of your life that Mormonism does. You’re taught to obey because of the authority these men hold, handed down from God. When you find out they lied to establish that authority, you truly resent the control they’ve exercised.

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  22. TheLion on January 24, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    There is a person in my ward that says “If any of it isn’t true than all of it is not true.”

    Pretty big statement and a quite effective one. It even encapsulates that Jesus is our Savior, as that is something that the church supposedly teaches. I say supposedly because if you look through the History of the Church (yes the books) you will find plenty of examples of ‘prophets’ saying that Joseph Smith is actually the savior. Hence, ‘follow the prophet.’ So by saying the statement that “if any of it isn’t true than all of it is not true,” and knowing that Jesus is who he is we blindly doubt our doubts and fall right in line.

    So with this paradigm, we utilize #1 if we want to stay where our family and friends are. If we do either of the other two we will either choose to leave the church or be excommunicated if we answer truthfully once a year. To minimize lies in church by equating them to santa or the easter bunny (my creative liberty) is doing a disservice to people.

    We are talking about a relationship with God and our Lord and Savior here, not some individual day where we get something and find out it was our parents all along. Even in our surprise and disappointment we are still blessed with gifts and love. If we end up worshiping a false idol (man) we can do everlasting damage that none of us should dare gamble with. Will we still be blessed with Gods grace?

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  23. EOR on January 24, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    TheLion please provide a reference to where “plenty of prophets” claim that Joseph Smith, as opposed to Jesus, is our savior.

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  24. David Redden on January 24, 2014 at 8:57 PM

    #16, New Iconoclast: “Would #4 be the “Eppur si muove” category: those of us who are convinced that we have had a true, external, manifestation of the divine presence (“a testimony”)?”

    When we confront what we take to be issues, we come out a number of ways, so I suspect that what you’re referring to is a species of #3. One that I definitely relate to, though for different reasons (DFLer here…yay Minnesota!).

    #21, tarvis79: “When you find out they lied to establish that authority, you truly resent the control they’ve exercised.”

    “Lie?” Imputing bad motives when a less judgmental alternative is at least as likely seems pretty unfair.

    #22, TheLion: “If we do either of the other two [options 2 or 3,] we will either choose to leave the church or be excommunicated if we answer truthfully once a year.”

    I suspect you’re with regard to option #2, but I disagree with regard to option #3. One can honestly work through certain issues in the church and even disagree with church leaders on some points and yet still arrive with a faith that is consistent with its tenets. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to get there. Some may start or never arrive. Others may figure it’s not worth it, and that’s fine, but it’s not impossible, and we do a great disservice if we fail to give people the inspiration and the opportunities to develop the tools they need for the journey.

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  25. hawkgrrrl on January 24, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    Santa brings presents in exchange for good behavior (except nobody really gets coal anyway). The church exacts tithing in exchange for salvation (except nobody really gets hell anyway). Still, the money is going in different directions on these two things.

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  26. Douglas on January 24, 2014 at 11:01 PM

    I’m gonna steal an alliteration from the Libertarian author, Robert J Ringer, referencing the Chinese philosopher Chuang-Chou:

    “Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.”

    Here you all are worried about whether you’ve been dealt with truthfully, when, for all you know, you’re just some stupid butterfly having a bad dream.

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  27. tarvis79 on January 24, 2014 at 11:02 PM

    The correlated materials that I was taught by missionaries, learned and taught in Sunday School, and which are still being taught every Sunday are full of assertions that the leaders of the church demonstrably know are untrue. What would you call it other than a lie?

    More to the point, even if I were to grant that it’s a benevolent deception (which I don’t), why should I continue to obey these men when they don’t even feel the need to be honest with me? It isn’t like a parent with a child. A parent’s claim to authority is that they’re a parent. The church asserts authority based on certain truth claims which they lose the credibility to establish via their acts of deception, benevolent or no. The truth claims, in reality, are vanishingly unlikely to be true in light of the real facts of history which are absent in the correlated materials. I’m supposed to treat all that the way I did when I found out about Santa, and continue to consecrate everything about my life to this organization? No thanks. I’ll keep my tithing dollars and enjoy my coffee.

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  28. Zara on January 25, 2014 at 1:18 AM

    Why stay loyal to an organization that has no real authority? If we retain belief in God, why do we need a middleman to facilitate our relationship with him? What is the payoff for “working through the difficult issues” and coming out with one’s testimony, when clearly one has to work pretty hard to be okay with those issues, often twisting one’s mind into knots? Why have faith in just ONE possible “true” religion, if that religion has proved itself untrustworthy–why work so hard to condition oneself to staying in an organization that has misrepresented itself or abused authority?

    Perhaps there are people who have so much love for the organization, and fit in to its mold so well that it’s worth it to reconcile the ugly stuff with the stuff they love, and stay in. For others of us, finding out the church is a fraud is the world’s largest relief. It’s like escaping abusive parents who constantly gaslight you. If the church didn’t claim ultimate authority and keys to the afterlife, and if it didn’t try to insinuate itself into every area of your life, including what you can drink and what underwear to wear, I might go alone with the “Santa fib” analogy. The church shapes the person you become, for good or bad. If I had a dollar for every woman who has expressed regret at having been strongly coerced into the SAHM role from such an early age that they didn’t ever consider another choice for themselves, I would be a decently wealthy woman. These are not benign effects. This is an organization that has the ability to hijack the 80 years you have on this earth. This ain’t Santa. If you claim to be a mouthpiece for God, expect people to take you at your word.

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  29. Karen on January 25, 2014 at 3:09 AM

    I agree about not needing a middle man. I think the reason LDS become atheist afterwards is the black and white thinking programming. We either have all the answers or none of the answers. The Iron Rod Mormon can become an evangelical atheist – swinging right to the other side. I am also a little sick of labels. These big questions are simply the mysteries of life. Why do we have to label ourselves on what theories we have about them? Can we not just accept life’s uncertainty and respect everyone’s different ways of coming to terms with that uncertainty. I think we are here on a need to know basis – there is too much for our minds to comprehend. What will be will be. For now, I focus on what is here. My own little universe and try to do the best I can in it to love, be loved and feel gratitude for living.

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  30. Karen on January 25, 2014 at 3:15 AM

    For me, it was right to leave the LDS church. It caused me misery my whole life. I am a free spirit. Hate control. Don’t want a tribe. Enjoy spiritual tools from lots of faiths. I am not an institutional person. But I accept that for others – totally different to me, the LDS works. I just wish there wasn’t so many casualties in the faith – from Gay boys committing suicide to stay at home mums depressed. There is nothing bespoke about Mormonism.

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  31. Nate on January 25, 2014 at 4:15 AM

    I like what Karen says: “But I accept that for others – totally different to me, the LDS works.”

    This is a generous sentiment, and I wonder if the other ex-Mormons would also espouse it. Lost in the distraction of the difficulties of gays and some SAHMs, is the fact that the LDS church is working for so many, that it is improving lives, bringing happiness, and giving opportunities for selfish, normal people to grow and serve others. Sure it is not helping everyone, but it is helping many.

    I personally don’t fault anyone for leaving Mormonism. I think these choices are often bigger than ourselves. Personalities and circumstances may steer people to different paths. But I would hope that others would respect my decision to stay as well, and could see from the perspective of those who stay, that there IS something true and beautiful about the church.

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  32. Howard on January 25, 2014 at 6:46 AM

    …the fact that the LDS church is working for so many…. It does work for some but a 30% active rate doesn’t really qualify as “so many”. It’s a tiny church in terms of world population that works for some fraction of 30% of it’s members.

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  33. Jeff Spector on January 25, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    I am enjoying the discussion and see many good points being made, but it seems that most have really missed the point.

    How do you deal with the fact that everyone in your life has lied, mislead or withheld truth from you at one time or another? Many are willing to divorce themselves from the church for that imperfection, but how do you deal with all the other people and institutions who have done the same thing to you?

    Second, to me the Church and the Gospel are two different things. The Church merely being the conduit for the Gospel. If the church messes up, how does it make the gospel not the true gospel of Jesus Christ?

    Thirdly, have you ever notices that the Articles of Faith only addresses the actual Church in one of them (#6). the rest are pretty much focused on the Gospel. Does that put how we should be viewing the church organization in perspective?

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  34. Brian on January 25, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    The Gospel as well as many other religious bodies of teachings are wonderful if applied. Jesus being a messiah is a different question. I don’t believe in him any more than I do in the church.

    Richard Dawkins’ famous reply to a college student asking him about being wrong on the religion question sums it up for me perfectly. Sorry for the long cut and paste.

    He said, ‘what if i’m wrong? I mean, anybody can be wrong. We could all be wrong about the flying spaghetti monster and the pink unicorn and the flying teapot.
    You happen to have been brought up, I would presume, in the christian faith. you know what it’s like not to believe in a particular faith because you’re not a Muslim, you’re not a Hindu.
    Why aren’t you a Hindu? Because you happen to have been brought up in in America, not in India. if you had been brought up in India, you’d be a Hindu. If you’d been brought up in Denmark at the time of the vikings, you’d be believing in Wotan and Thor. if you had been brought up in classical Greece you’d be believing in Zeus. if you had been brought up in central Africa, you’d be believing in the great Juju up the mountain.
    There’s no particular reason to pick on the Judeo christian god in which, by the sheerest accident, you happen to have been brought up, and ask me the question, what if I’m wrong? What if you’re wrong about the great Juju in the bottom of the sea?”

    I’ve seen estimates that there are 4,200 religions in the world. I believe in only one less than a Mormon.

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  35. Howard on January 25, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    It hurts when I’m berayed by people I love or trust and sometimes I feel foolish that I was decieved. Betrayal causes you to redefine your relationship to your betrayer and as a result I have ended some of those relationships. Indeed the church and gospel are two different things but you wouldn’t know that by attending church as pointed out earlier in this thread Hinckley says it’s either all true or fraud and the church has capatilized on the implied conflation of the church with the gospel for as long as I can remember thus the nonsensical but commonly head “I know the church is true” testimony.

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  36. Howard on January 25, 2014 at 9:56 AM

    Ah yes but LDS folklore gospel outruns Dawkins because where you were born and to whom was determined by the outcome of your first estate, and since your birth and life circumstances resulted in you having the opportunity of becomming a member of the only true church in the world it is evidence of you were one of the great ones in the preexistance and your unbelief is evidence of your weakness and squandering your birthright!

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  37. David Redden on January 25, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    Oh I caught the point, I just wanted to talk about something else.

    People lie, they perceive things differently, they think they know things when they don’t, and do most of what they do without even thinking about it–it’s all just part of the messiness of the human condition. I just assume the best of people and always leave myself open to other facts. The alternative, at least for me, is anger and indignation, and I didn’t find those productive.

    The gospel is a reified concept that people understand through the lens of their religious beliefs. So while the gospel is severable from the church in the abstract, in practice the church informs how its adherents understand and apply the gospel. So if a person thinks the church goofed up, then it may change at person’s conception of the gospel, including the assessment of whether it is true, depending on the nature of the goof and how serious one takes it to be.

    I didn’t notice that the articles of faith rarely mention the church, but I don’t think it makes that much of a difference for most people. The church claims to be led by a prophet of God. The more meaningful inquiry in my mind is what is the nature of a prophet? Answer that in detail, and you have gone a long way toward helping people have a healthy relationship with the church.

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  38. Andrew S on January 25, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    re 30

    Nate,

    I am totally OK with saying that the LDS church does a really good job of catering to those with all sorts of privilege (racial, gender, heteronormative, etc.,) and also does a pretty good job of showing those who don’t have any of those privileges what the expectation is for those folks to live in a society that does have such privilege.

    re 32

    Jeff,

    I actually have liked the engagement many folks have had, whether here or on Facebook. Like, the basic response is either that your analogy is off (and so, here are the ways that other people do not lie/deceive like the church does) or that to the extent that your analogy is on point, we would disassociate from anyone who acted similarly to the church. For example, you ask:

    How do you deal with the fact that everyone in your life has lied, mislead or withheld truth from you at one time or another? Many are willing to divorce themselves from the church for that imperfection, but how do you deal with all the other people and institutions who have done the same thing to you?

    I’ll go ahead and steal a few responses from Facebook:

    The more I think about this, the more I think the analogy with parents is on point. But the OP doesn’t explore it in any depth.

    As we grow up, we realize that our parents are just people. Maybe they’re unusually good people, and maybe not, but either way we love them mostly because we’ve shared so much with them. Along the way, parents learn to respect the autonomy of their adult children; parents who continue to insist on being treated as authority figures jeopardize their relationships with their kids.

    It’s not so different with the church. We grow up, realize it’s just another institution. Maybe it’s a particularly great one, but I love Mormonism mostly because I happened to be raised in it. But Mormonism insists on being treated like more than just a nice institution. It marginalizes me if I don’t treat it like the kingdom of God on earth. It allows no healthy way for me to cut the apron strings.

    Sorry, Mormonism, I just can’t deal with your shit. I’m not coming home for Thanksgiving this year.

    Or

    Hmm, very interesting questions. I’m assuming that this person has actually been lied to by his or her parents about those things? (I could be wrong, but it sounds like the examples came from personal experience.)

    I suppose my parents did lie to me about Santa Claus, but as soon as I expressed doubt, they fessed up. They didn’t deny it outright in an attempt to keep the lie going. And they never ever lied to me about where babies come from (they told me the whole truth every time I asked a question about sex), nor have they withheld unflattering facts about their lives, to my knowledge (I’m presuming this based on the fact that they have indeed shared unflattering facts about their lives with me).

    Perhaps if you come from a family that is routinely deceptive, the deception of Church leaders (which I do believe they think is for our own good, although I obviously disagree with that assessment) is that much easier to reconcile.

    The rest of your comment is quite interesting…but I think one strain of responses to my article was that the idea of God was totally wrapped up in the idea of the institution — there was no way to meaningfully separate the two. I would say that for many disaffected Mormons, the idea of the gospel is totally wrapped up in the idea of the institution. It’s not an open source product that just happens to have a version promoted and sold by the church. Rather, the gospel (as the LDS church teaches it) is distinct from what is called the gospel in other places, and for many people, it cannot be extricated from the institution.

    So, if you want people to lessen their relationships with the institution, this naturally lessons their relationship with the gospel as it is taught by that institution.

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  39. Brian on January 25, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    So true, Howard. I mean I knew with every fibre of my being that when I looked around my old ward I was clearly surrounded by the best and brightest god had ever created.

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  40. Nick Literski on January 25, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    Jeff, I’ve purposely held off from commenting on this thread, trying hard to understand where you must be coming from in order to suggest that the LDS church lying about its history and misrepresenting its ever-shifting doctrines is no different than your parents telling you about Santa Clause. Then I read this from you:

    “Second, to me the Church and the Gospel are two different things. The Church merely being the conduit for the Gospel. If the church messes up, how does it make the gospel not the true gospel of Jesus Christ?”

    It seems that you are drawing these comparisons from the viewpoint that LDS doctrine (de jour) is axiomatically true. If I understand you correctly, what you’re really asking is something like “Since there’s no question that the doctrine of the LDS church is objectively true, why would the LDS church lying about its history matter?” Perhaps, if your opinion of LDS doctrine was genuinely accurate, it would make sense to tolerate blatant dishonesty on the part of those who control the LDS organization. One problem with this model, however, is that so many LDS historical claims are intimately tied with LDS doctrine. Coming to the conclusion that the LDS church has lied about its history, in many cases, leads inevitably to the conclusion that the doctrine emanating from those historical claims is also false.

    That said, I’ll go ahead and speak of my feelings, as well. Your original post seems to suggest that the so-called “faith promoting” lies told by LDS leaders are somehow no different than parents telling tales of Santa Clause. Your post seems to suggest that reaction to these two situations should be equal, or else one is hypocritical for choosing to leave the LDS church. I personally find this comparison offensive, cynical and infantilizing. The major life decisions which stem from believing what LDS leaders communicate are of an exponentially higher magnitude than the consequences of believing your parents’ tales of Santa Clause. Such a belittling, contemptuous comparison is far, far beneath you.

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  41. Zara on January 25, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    Re: the church v the gospel:

    The church is the institution that have you that idea in the first place. I doubt very much Baptists talk about the church being separate from the “perfect” gospel. We have developed that idea as we have struggled with the idea that our prophet-led institution, whose directives are carried out by teachers and plumbers and lawyers, has erred greatly and caused harm and damaged self esteem from time to time.

    Beyond that, there really should be no distinction. The church gives you the gospel. You either believe that god didn’t like the way other religions were handing out his gospel and felt the need to give it to JS in it’s purest form, and that we need prophets today for the same reason, or not. If the prophet gets it wrong much of the time, screwing up the beautiful, pure gospel, why the hell do we need the church or a prophet? The church is the gospel, or the church is beyond useless, other than being a nice community or keeping people in line.

    I understand that people find value in the LDS church, to answer Nate’s question. I really do. My mom is one of them, and I would never try to take her testimony away. My problem is when Mormons judge other people by their standards and imply that if you leave, you didn’t try hard enough or had unrealistic expectations. The church is what gave me those expectations.

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  42. Jared on January 25, 2014 at 5:01 PM

    If the lead story in tomorrows world media reported that conclusive, incontrovertible evidence had been discovered by scientist proving the Book of Mormon was an authentic book of scripture what do you think would happen?

    While you’re thinking about that I’d like to add that the “evidence” needed to produce faith for belief or unbelief in the claims made by the LDS church exist in a state of balance. In other words, there is no smoking gun ( incontrovertible evidence) to prove the claims of those who believe or disbelieve in the LDS church. Therefore, faith to believe or disbelieve is a choice.

    A point of clarification, many church members who choose to believe are provided with spiritual evidence by the powers of heaven. In these cases, the state of balance is undone and is strongly or irrefutably swayed in the favor of certainty/knowledge.

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  43. MB on January 25, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    “The church is what gave me those expectations”

    But the fact is that not every member of the church has the same expectations. I find that there is a wide variety of what my LDS friends of all ages expect and believe about what the church promises them.

    I think we form our expectations about what the church promises from a combination of our parents, our family’s take on church activity, our seminary teachers, our own study,of scriptures or old church talks, our ward, our relationships with our peers, our own personality, the neighborhood in which we live, our understanding of what we hear in conference or at a stake youth activity, our favorite as well as our most despised youth leaders, our understanding of what “testimony” means or our definition of the word “true”, our political beliefs, our cultural traditions and assumptions, our emotional needs, our intellectual curiosity, etc. etc. etc. The list goes on and on.

    Expectations are created within us, by us. They are our response to a framework that we construct around what we perceive based on what we’ve established as our foundational assumptions, which in turn, are an earlier form of created expectations.. That’s not bad and it’s not good. It just is.

    And our response to the situation when those expectations we’ve created, consciously or unconsciously, are dashed is, I think, what Jeff is asking about.

    I believe it’s very helpful when we can take the time to figure out how we come to construct certain expectations within ourselves. Doing so may not lead to a change of course. It may even reaffirm a course taken. Whichever, doing so does help clarify one’s understanding of the multiple factors in the creation of those expectations and relieve emotional distress or anger. And it helps us construct new expectations in future situations which will prevent distress from occurring to such an extreme degree again the next time that expectations are not met by an organization with which we are involved.

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  44. Brian on January 25, 2014 at 7:12 PM

    “A point of clarification, many church members who choose to believe are provided with spiritual evidence by the powers of heaven. In these cases, the state of balance is undone and is strongly or irrefutably swayed in the favor of certainty/knowledge.”

    Well, unless you counterbalance that certainty against the sure knowledge of a Muslim. Wow, then it gets just really confusing. My spiritual witness can beat up your spiritual witness.

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  45. Jared on January 25, 2014 at 9:29 PM

    #43 Brian-

    As a Mormon, I don’t see a difficulty with a Muslim or followers of any religion having a spiritual witness. Abish, a Lamanitish women’s father had a remarkable vision. This teaches that all the sons and daughters of God can receive spiritual witnesses.

    I don’t know why you think or infer that spiritual manifestation are only for Mormons.

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  46. Brian on January 25, 2014 at 10:38 PM

    Jared in #41 you wrote, “While you’re thinking about that I’d like to add that the “evidence” needed to produce faith for belief or unbelief in the claims made by the LDS church exist in a state of balance.”

    Among the claims of the LDS church is the claim that the church is “The (as in the only) true and living church”. While a common claim, I quote Dallin Oaks who said, “I will speak about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the only true and living Church. In doing so I know I speak against the powerful tide of what is called “political correctness.The fashionable opinion of this age is that all churches are true. In truth, the idea that all churches are the same is the doctrine of the anti-Christ” (June, 2010, New Mission President seminar).

    Since your first paragraph was about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and your second one was about there being no “smoking gun” disproving the church, I assumed (and why not) that you were talking about a belief in the “truthfulness” of the one and only true church, a claim that your spiritual witness would include but doubtfully one a Muslim would have.

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  47. Karen on January 26, 2014 at 12:55 AM

    Just responding to what Jeff said about the fact everyone lies. The reason people leave because the church has mislead them is for many, the only reason they were there is because they felt they had to be to gain salvation. Many simply do not like it, do not enjoy it, it takes 10 percent of your income, a massive amount of your time, growing up you are different to your peers (if outside Utah). The only reason for many tollerating all of this is that it’s true. I attend an Anglican faith now – just once or twice a month. Life is so much easier, less stressful, and the services work much better for me. I accept though that some love the LDS. There are many who don’t care whether it’s true or not. Don’t want to see the evidence because I hear time and time again that they want to believe it. I respect that. I agree that everyone lies but still being part of a religion that has lied and takes so much, making many un-happy then for me the argument falls down. You forgive the people in your life that you love the most. Is this about how much you love the LDS faith and the effect it’s had on your life? Partly I feel yes. For others truth is so important that regardless – even though they love it – if it’s false they are out of it too. All should be respected for their decision. Having lost part of my family, many of my friends, had nearly two years of therapy leaving has come at a big price but I am not bitter. I accept this is a highly complex situation, I try to show tolerance and understanding despite all the conflict I encounter.

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  48. bitherwack on January 26, 2014 at 4:16 AM

    There is also a fourth way of dealing with it…
    That is viewing things from a different perspective.
    When one looks at the motivation behind the lies, one sees a pattern of careful control. Once one understands organized religion as a means to motivate people to certain ends, the reason to change from one religion to another strikes one as rather naive.
    The great and holy gift that is faith should never be sullied by a power motive, or profit.

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  49. […] is more an explanation of why they don’t gravitate towards Christianity). His post prompted a dismissive follow-up describing the atheist experience the way believers would like to see it, and here is […]

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  50. hawkgrrrl on January 26, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    Jared: “Abish, a Lamanitish women’s father had a remarkable vision.” What? Abish is a woman, one of the few named women in scripture. Why do you think Abish is the woman’s father? The temple disagrees. Abish is a woman’s name used therein.

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  51. tarvis79 on January 26, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    That’s exactly right. None of the other “sins and omissions” you try to equate with the church claim to hold I) the keys to my salvation, ii) authority from on high to dispense absolute, unquestionable truth, or iii) an entitlement to my obedience, which include what I wear, eat, drink , say, do on Sundays, and to 10% of my income. The only reason to do all of the above is if I believe the church’s truth claims. When you learn the foundation of those claims is a pile of whitewashed history including many outright falsehoods, it isn’t throwing out the baby to stop believing them. The lies undercut the basis of their authority, and the anger comes from the control they exerted via their fraud. Santa isn’t in the same league.

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  52. Jared on January 26, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    #49 hawkgrrrl

    Yes, I agree Abish is a women. I have no doubt.

    I’m sorry about my properly constructed sentence-lol. It might even be a double-entendre. Example: Children make nutritious snacks.

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  53. Zara on January 26, 2014 at 9:25 PM

    Yes, exactly, tarvis79! That about sums it up for me.

    MB, I agree with the earlier part of your post, about different people coming from different backgrounds, and expectations forming from different influences, with each person’s set of expectations being ultimately unique. However:

    “Expectations are created within us, by us. They are our response to a framework that we construct around what we perceive based on what we’ve established as our foundational assumptions, which in turn, are an earlier form of created expectations.. That’s not bad and it’s not good. It just is.

    And our response to the situation when those expectations we’ve created, consciously or unconsciously, are dashed is, I think, what Jeff is asking about.”

    Unless I’m reading you wrong, this part seems to come awfully close to blaming the individual, as if we were 100% responsible for having internalized a set of standards that are basically fed to us by the church and parents and leaders at a young age. We are essentially handed our beliefs until we are able to sort them out for ourselves–and some people don’t even try to sort them out. Why would they, if the organization is the “One True Church?” and they are comfortable with the expectations? Even so, a child doesn’t really have much of a choice in the expectations that surround them. Some internalize them more than others; some have more of a tendency toward scrupulosity or wanting to please or striving for unattainable perfection. So, yes, the levels of damage vary greatly, and for some, there is no discernable damage. The church works for them.

    However, “how we come to construct certain expectations within ourselves” is no great mystery when we’re told exactly what a perfect Mormon example should look like. We’re given a great many expectations at church each and every week, including external ones, such as coffee consumption, earrings and tattoos, sleeves, etc.. It shouldn’t be surprising that we internalize many of those expectations–especially when they are reinforced during childhood by every adult in our lives. But yes, you can bet that I will not place this level of trust in another organization, ever again. In fact, I wouldn’t have placed my trust in this one, had I not been indoctrinated as a child.

    That might make a good blog post, too–the ethics of indoctrinating children, and how much of a choice one can really make to be baptized at 8.

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  54. Jeff Spector on January 27, 2014 at 8:08 AM

    Nick and others,

    “Your original post seems to suggest that the so-called “faith promoting” lies told by LDS leaders are somehow no different than parents telling tales of Santa Clause.”

    Not at all. The Santa Claus example is nothing but an example, not an analogy, but an example. I realized that some would poo-poo the example as not having any equivalency and for most, it does not.

    But, still, not many want to honestly and in any detail face the issue I posed head on. They seem to rather go back to bashing the Church. Like for example;

    Karen Says:

    “The reason people leave because the church has mislead them is for many, the only reason they were there is because they felt they had to be to gain salvation. Many simply do not like it, do not enjoy it, it takes 10 percent of your income, a massive amount of your time, growing up you are different to your peers (if outside Utah). ”

    There is no such thing as “the reason.” There are, in fact, a myriad of reason, many having nothing to do with the Church itself, but with the individual themselves.

    But that has little to do with my post. My post is about dealing with the so-called lies of the Church when we are subject to lies from every corner of our lives.

    How does one reconcile those other lies when they cannot seem to reconcile the so-called lies that think have come from the Church? And, knowing that the Church is the vehicle for the Gospel, how do they divorce themselves from God and Jesus, while throwing away the Church itself? That was largely the subject of Andrew’s post.

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  55. tarvis79 on January 27, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    Two things. As far as “knowing the Church is the vehicle for the Gospel,” well, no. We stop believing that because every spiritual experience we had was in the context of praying about the correlated narrative. When we discover that narrative is untrue, we stop believing the Church is the vehicle for the Gospel.

    As far as reconciling other lies, I don’t submit to the dictates of any other organization either. Except the government, because they can throw me in jail.

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  56. Jeff Spector on January 27, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    Tarvis79,

    “As far as “knowing the Church is the vehicle for the Gospel,” well, no.”

    So what are you saying? Even as an adult you don’t understand the purpose of the Church?

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  57. tarvis79 on January 27, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    I mean that I no longer believe that the Church has any divine mandate or appointment. Your arrogant presumption that I simply don’t understand is insulting. I know what the Church’s claimed purpose is. I am saying that I and those others who have left no longer believe they have any relationship to the divine, any claim to truth, or any keys to salvation. Many believing Mormons are utterly incapable of grasping that those who leave have actually stopped believing, and everything they write, your post and comments included, are premised on the assumption that the Church is what it says it is. We have honestly stopped sharing this assumption, and until you grasp that you will find it very difficult to understand us.

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  58. Jeff Spector on January 27, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    Tarvis79:

    “Your arrogant presumption that I simply don’t understand is insulting.”

    My POV is obvious and I offer no apology for it. but I would check your own responses before casting stones at others….. I understand you may be bitter and that can be reflected in your comments. but you might watch in which direction your fingers are pointing.

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  59. Fence-Sitter on January 27, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Jeff, assuming someone is bitter is insulting. It presumes that their logic is colored by emotion. It presumes that they’re not being reasonable. I’m not sure why you don’t think anyone is answering your question because I think there have been many thoughtful, well-reasoned responses that directly address it.

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  60. out of the woodwork on January 27, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    Why is it necessary to label things as bitter or arrogant instead of accepting that someone can face facts squarely and come to the conclusion that there is no god and that’s just fine?
    One person may face facts squarely and come to his conclusion but that doesn’t mean that someone who comes to a different conclusion hasn’t been equally fearless and rigorous in coming to theirs.

    Why is it suspect to say that institutional churches serve their own institutional needs and engage in lying, obfuscation and manipulation as they set their very temporal purposes above the needs of members? Why should a sincere person not find institutions corrupt if they purports to have the keys to higher truths but excuses their own failure to behave by the standards they set? Why refuse to address it if a church that amasses great wealth and power and uses them both literally and figuratively for its own greater glory rather than charity? It simply isn’t accurate to call honest observations bitter.

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  61. Jeff Spector on January 27, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    Seriously, one of the traits that the disaffected and ex-mormons haven’t been able to shake is the persecution complex that the church and its members seem to have.. As someone who remains loyal to the Church, I’ve endured my share of insulting remarks. The best course of action is to ignore those and concentrate on the topic at hand.

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  62. New Iconoclast on January 27, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    Jeff, in #33, thinks a number of us may have missed the point and asks:

    How do you deal with the fact that everyone in your life has lied, mislead or withheld truth from you at one time or another? Many are willing to divorce themselves from the church for that imperfection, but how do you deal with all the other people and institutions who have done the same thing to you?

    I had already noted in #16:

    For me, the rest of it often boils down to, “If I really couldn’t live with imperfect people, I should commit suicide, because I couldn’t live with myself either.” That has been my practical-approach mantra to dealing with sin in me and others while trying to appreciate everyone’s good points, including my own.

    That might have been awkwardly worded, but I thinkk it begins to address Jeff’s question. I’m sure I offend people all the time by offenses ranging from awkwardly wording things to lying, misleading, and withholding truth – or at least acts that are construed as such. And, like most of us, I have done such things intentionally on some occasions, although I make an effort not to.

    I think each of us has to make a call about betrayals and lies. Who betrays us, and the importance of the issue, ends up dictating the strength of our reaction. I think that most of us come to a point in our lives where re recognize Santa and the Easter Bunny as an entertaining fantasy (I noted at age 4 that Santa had the same distinctive, left-handed, Catholic grade-school handwriting as my mother). Few of us sever relations with, or hold any long-term animus toward, our parents as a result. When we conclude, however, that the Church isn’t “true”, or that a spouse or lover has been unfaithful, that goes to a much deeper place of emotion and commitment, and evokes a much stronger reaction from us.

    As a teenager, I threw out the Baby Jesus with the Catholic bathwater, but didn’t become an atheist. That left me open to the LDS message when I encountered it 5 years later. I’m learning to sort out culture from real doctrine. What I can’t tell you is why I didn’t become an atheist. (Of course, this was like 35 years ago, so it was long before Dawkins and his straw men captured the secular world’s imagination.)

    So I try to keep my own side of the street clean, and I try to turn the other cheek, and I recognize that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other guy dies. And if someone or something has done me sufficient wrong, I simply cut ties. Sometimes I even succeed in having no hard feelings.

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  63. out of the woodwork on January 27, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    But then why ask a question if you’re not inviting people to provide the answers that make sense to them? Do you think it’s useful to dismiss answers or cite them as evidence of character flaws rather than take them at face value? After all, people didn’t insist on being heard. You asked to have their responses.

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  64. Andrew S on January 27, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    But that has little to do with my post. My post is about dealing with the so-called lies of the Church when we are subject to lies from every corner of our lives.

    How does one reconcile those other lies when they cannot seem to reconcile the so-called lies that think have come from the Church? And, knowing that the Church is the vehicle for the Gospel, how do they divorce themselves from God and Jesus, while throwing away the Church itself? That was largely the subject of Andrew’s post.

    In light of your OP’s questions, let me try addressing things in a different way

    “How do you handle the fact that almost everyone in your life, at one time or another, has lied, mislead, withheld information or deliberately deceived you in some way?”

    You re-evaluate those relationships based on those lies.

    Starting with your parents, your siblings, your spouse, your friends and acquaintances, your teachers, your employers, the clerks in the store, institutions, and on and on. Chances are, they have not been totally honest and forthcoming about every aspect of their lives or having to do with their interactions with you.

    For example, how did you deal with the fact that your parents lied to you about Santa Claus, or where babies came from, or withheld certain unflattering facts about their lives? Did you divorce them from your lives? Did they stop being your parents? In some rare cases, the answer might be “Yes.”

    For example, in these cases, if it’s something like “Santa,” you re-evaluate the relationship — “what does this lie require me to do to be OK with myself and with this person? You throw out Santa, but you probably will maintain the relationship with the person.

    Other lies might — as you note — create pressure for bigger actions.

    But, usually, you just dealt with the fact that they weren’t perfect and moved on. Maybe your respect for them diminished slightly, but they were still your parents.

    Sure.

    This can be applied to every other person or institution in your life.

    So, we apply it to the church. “The church has lied about its history, doctrine, theology, etc.,” Let’s re-evaluate our relationship with the church. In this case, God and Jesus *are* Santa, so we throw out Santa (or, in this case, God and Jesus). In this case, the idea that the church is the one true church *is* Santa, so we throw that out.

    We have now re-evaluated the relationship. We are free to continue engaging with our parents, friends, etc., with this new understanding. We don’t give the bishop a particular relationship w/r/t the church hierarchy in a similar way that we no longer treat dad in a costume as actually being Santa.

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  65. Jeff Spector on January 27, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    “But then why ask a question if you’re not inviting people to provide the answers that make sense to them?”

    Of course, I am inviting them to answer the question I posed. Not talk about what a big lie the Church is to them, how deceived they feel etc. I think we all get that.

    I was asking if they reacted the same when finding that everyone else in their lives might have done exactly the same thing as they have accused the Church of doing.

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  66. tarvis79 on January 27, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    And I think his core point can be addressed in a single sentence, like I did above. Yes, everyone lies in a self-serving fashion, which is why I don’t let anyone dictate rules about my life to me, just like I don’t let the Church do it any more. I might be equally bitter had my brush with religion occurred with Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, fundamentalist Islam or even fundamentalist Christianity, but my particular experience occurred in the LDS context. When I look at the Church I now see an institution made by men and run primarily for the benefit of those men, which is the same thing I see when I look at any of the others I mentioned. I only have anger at the LDS Church, because it is the one that I firmly believe defrauded me of tithing dollars and countless hours of my time, but if I separate that out I can admit it’s a lot less harmful than many others.

    Let me make my point another way by flipping Jeff’s argument around. Everyone lies, as does the Church. Fair enough. Do you continue to trust, obey, and commit to everyone, then, as a matter of fairness and consistency? Of course not. It’s one thing to let my anger slide, which I hope to do one day. It’s quite another to know you’ve been lied to and continue committing your time, money, talents, obedience, mind, and very life to the organization doing the lying.

    I fully understand that believers don’t see it that way. Despite the problems with the church, they see it as a commitment to God, not to an organization. The core schism between those who stay and those who leave after finding out about the issues is whether they can continue believing God speaks through the church. I couldn’t, and don’t.

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  67. tarvis79 on January 27, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    Another analogy, with an apology for the double post. Finding out these Church issues is not like discovering that Santa wasn’t real, or even that a spouse cheated. You deal with the imperfection and move on, one way or other, depending on its severity. It’s more like discovering that the parents you grew up with kidnapped you when you were an infant, and realizing you’re clueless about who your parents really are. It’s learning that someone simply isn’t what they claim to be, not that they did something wrong and lied about it.

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  68. Andrew S on January 27, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    re 65,

    Of course, I am inviting them to answer the question I posed. Not talk about what a big lie the Church is to them, how deceived they feel etc. I think we all get that.

    I was asking if they reacted the same when finding that everyone else in their lives might have done exactly the same thing as they have accused the Church of doing.

    To the extent that they think “everyone else in their lives” might have done exactly the same thing as they have accused the Church of doing, I think people would react similarly. But the reason you have people talking about “what a big lie the Church is to them, how deceived they feel etc.,” but people not doing similarly for other things — is because people don’t think that “everyone else in their lives” have done exactly the same thing as they have accused the Church of doing.

    Plenty of people have given examples of the differences.

    But yeah, to the extent that people think their friends and family defrauded and scammed them, you would see them ranting and raving about it. The question is — does everyone think this because of Santa Claus?

    Either way, you ditch Santa. So that explains quite nicely why people become atheist. ;)

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  69. Jeff Spector on January 27, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    Andrew,

    ” is because people don’t think that “everyone else in their lives” have done exactly the same thing as they have accused the Church of doing.”

    Exactly. In some cases, it is a double standard. How many of these folks decided to leave the US when they found out what the government did to Native Americans? Or how they manufactured the Spanish-American War or armed Panamanian rebels in order to build the Panama Canal?

    You keep coming back to Santa as if that is some gold standard of deception. Let’s find a really parallel to what the Church is accused of and discuss that.

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  70. New Iconoclast on January 27, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    I only have anger at the LDS Church, because it is the one that I firmly believe defrauded me of tithing dollars and countless hours of my time, but if I separate that out I can admit it’s a lot less harmful than many others.

    The other guy still doesn’t die when you drink the poison. This is not an argument for the goodness or rightness of the Church; simply a wish that you can, as you say, let the anger slide away someday. [Oh my fetching heck], that’s hard.

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  71. Andrew S on January 27, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    re 69:

    Jeff,

    You keep coming back to Santa as if that is some gold standard of deception. Let’s find a really parallel to what the Church is accused of and discuss that.

    Your OP (not mine) kickstarted this conversation with:

    how did you deal with the fact that your parents lied to you about Santa Claus, or where babies came from, or withheld certain unflattering facts about their lives?

    So yeah, that’s why a lot of people keep going back to it and pointing out how inadequate of an example it is.

    Exactly. In some cases, it is a double standard. How many of these folks decided to leave the US when they found out what the government did to Native Americans? Or how they manufactured the Spanish-American War or armed Panamanian rebels in order to build the Panama Canal?

    Ah, so instead of leaving the church, they should participate in political/democratic processes to change how these events are taught in history classes, to change policies to reflect past injustice, and to vote in leaders that will not perpetuate on-going injustices relating to thee and other issues?

    And then, they certainly wouldn’t hold up the church as being divine (or hold up the idea of divinity being involved in the church at all), but recognize that it is just one of many churches, that participation in it is because we were raised it in and it’s just too inconvenient to renounce it for another church that is also not divine (but has the added benefit of probably not having the same language) and that its leaders are pretty lame. (Maybe there are religious opinion polls like congressional/presidential opinion polls)?

    In other words, they should all become liberal Mormons?

    (EDIT: not saying that liberal Mormons believe that there can be no divinity involved in the church. That’s far too disaffected a summary, haha.)

    In either case, people definitely renegotiate their relationships with the institutions in question. They definitely lose faith in something (whether it is God or the ideal of America as being anything close to a just nation). But Americans can still have some sort of “faith” in the ability of America to change through the political process. It seems like if you want to go with this analogy (which, you know, many people have addressed why religions and countries aren’t a great analogy but you probably haven’t read those posts, so I’ll just go along here)…what you’re really wanting people to ask is: why don’t more exmormons have the sort of faith that liberal Mormons have that the church can change through a similar process?

    I dunno…there are plenty of folks who actually do get discouraged from the political process. But countries are a tad bit more obligatory than churches. I could certainly write a post on why I think people find the prospect of *changing* or *reforming* the church to be such a hopeless endeavor.

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  72. MB on January 27, 2014 at 3:39 PM

    First, Zara, 53, no I’m not blaming anyone. I just think it’s helpful to understand that we all bring our own personal experiences to the table as we respond to the church, and it’s foolish to ignore that in ourselves as we evaluate our responses. As I said in my post, it’s not good and it’s not bad. It just is what we all do, those who stay and those who go, because we are human beings.

    I think that also means we can’t give Jeff a one-size-fits all answer to his question because we all bring different things to the decision.

    I think that while mulling Jeff’s question we also need to take into consideration the person’s view of the things that the teachings of the church has required of him. Tarvis79′s comment 51 made me think about this.

    It seems to me that if a person finds the church’s doctrine that governs personal practices (word of wisdom, tithing, sabbath observance, missionary work etc.) to be something that he finds restricting or bothersome or forced, but he does it because he believes that he has to in order to avoid future misery or to gain future reward, the sense of betrayal when the church is found to be untruthful is magnified. Not only has the institution betrayed his trust and expectation, but in hindsight he realizes that he has spent years missing out on things he’d like to have done or to have tried, or done things he’d rather not have had to do, simply because he had trusted the church’s word on what he should and shouldn’t do.

    I think that in such cases, not only is there a sense of unmet expectations, but there is also a sense of frustration and lost opportunities. Why continue to affiliate with or trust an organization which you believe has not only lied to you but, because you believed what you though it required, has caused you to miss out on things you wish you might have tried out or influenced you to decide to do things you’d rather not have done?

    A person who had not found what the church requires difficult or a person who had found those requirements personally helpful doesn’t have that dimension of the fallout to deal with. It is true that any institution who you believe requires you to do something when you would rather be doing something else is going to irk you much more fiercely when you come to believe that it has lied to you than it would have if it had simply required you to do things that you found unobjectionable or helpful in your own life.

    Again, as I said, this is just one more aspect of a wide variety of circumstances that people bring to the table when they encounter unsettling facts about the church. I don’t believe for a minute that it applies to everyone who leaves. But I do think that it may be a factor for some and knowing that should increase our compassion. A keen sense of lost opportunity or regretted decisions is a hard thing to deal with in any circumstance.

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  73. out of the woodwork on January 27, 2014 at 3:39 PM

    When government which is made up of citizens and responsible to citizens lies you get investigations and you certainly attempt to avoid the same behaviors. There is no equivalent mechanism in a church because a church purports to speak top down on god’s behalf. Also when officials are supposed to be prophets, seers and revelators it is only natural and reasonable to expect an exceeding level of truth.

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  74. tarvis79 on January 27, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    Tithing is by far the biggest. Fraud is a crime, but I gave the money willingly and could never prove to a legal certainty that the church is fraudulent. You have no idea how helpful it would be to have that money back right about now.

    Gotta tone down the rage, though. I think the above answer to the country analogy is spot on. It’s a lot harder to leave a country than it is to leave a church, and until the US actually becomes a dictatorship, it is at least marginally more responsive to the desires of its citizens. Last time I checked, you couldn’t even write a letter to Salt Lake without having it returned to your stake president unopened.

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  75. Jeff Spector on January 27, 2014 at 4:09 PM

    Andrew and others,

    “But Americans can still have some sort of “faith” in the ability of America to change through the political process.”

    I was talking history, you know the thing that everyone was deceived about?

    “It’s a lot harder to leave a country than it is to leave a church,”

    Really, it’s a plane ticket or car ride away. I used to do it all the time, but then again, I also chose to come back.

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  76. tarvis79 on January 27, 2014 at 4:14 PM

    Selectively answering pieces of arguments is a great way to insulate yourself from what we’re saying, but it doesn’t make for very productive dialogue.

    What is your answer to our point about absolute top-down control within the Church as opposed to responsive, democratic give-and-take in our government? The Church, as structured, is take it or leave it-there is zero way for the average member to change it from within. There’s plenty for everybody to dislike about the US, but we don’t get kicked out of the country for openly discussing it, and we even have a say in what happens next.

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  77. Andrew S on January 27, 2014 at 4:22 PM

    re 75

    Jeff,

    I was talking history, you know the thing that everyone was deceived about?

    Right, and we’re talking about what the church claims to be, the thing that everyone was deceived about. The history is evidence to the deception.

    Really, it’s a plane ticket or car ride away. I used to do it all the time, but then again, I also chose to come back.

    For Jeff, the TSA is probably a good analogy (err, example) of dealing with church membership records. everyone else is facepalming right about now though.

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  78. Andrew S on January 27, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    Alternative response:

    leaving the parking lot of a church is still easier than driving or flying across borders. You don’t even need a passport for most locations!

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  79. out of the woodwork on January 27, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    “Really, it’s a plane ticket or car ride away. I used to do it all the time, but then again, I also chose to come back.”

    That was a pretty dismissive post. Sounds like “America: love it or leave it!” if you’re old enough to remember that.

    The thing is we are all here in this life together. We can’t leave that. We can just make the best sense of it we can and try not to wear too much on one another in the process. There is no country that has the truth tailored to what we want to hear or that is a free zone from the truth that is inevitable.

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  80. […] I read Jeff’s post Friday (“Maybe Everything Is a Lie?”) that was in response to Andrew’s post Wednesday (“4 Reasons Why Disaffected […]

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  81. Jeff Spector on January 28, 2014 at 6:09 AM

    “That was a pretty dismissive post. Sounds like “America: love it or leave it!” if you’re old enough to remember that.”

    That is totally insulting to suggest I would propose that! How dare you.

    I am suggesting if you applied the same standard to leaving the Church for its historical lies and omissions, then the same would apply to a country’s history, of which the same thing, maybe even worse, has occurred.

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  82. tarvis79 on January 28, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Except, again, my country doesn’t purport to control nearly every aspect of my life, nor does it ask me to believe it speaks for anything other than itself.

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  83. Jeff Spector on January 28, 2014 at 9:09 AM

    Again, missing the point. Nor does the Church. Unless, of course, you let it. I don’t

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  84. out of the woodwork on January 28, 2014 at 9:19 AM

    “That is totally insulting to suggest I would propose that! How dare you.”

    How dare I read what you wrote and respond to it? You seem to be getting a bit overwrought about the fact that some of us come to different conclusions.

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  85. out of the woodwork on January 28, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    I wonder if this has gone past the point of being productive. You asked a question. You’ve had a number of answers.

    To the best of my assessment no one tried to convince you of anything tho some of us attempted to clarify where you remained unsatisfied. All that is required of you is that you acknowledge that we made the effort to explain our views. Whether or not you can do that each of us is still just as equally entitled to our beliefs or non-beliefs as you are to yours.

    Peace.

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  86. Jeff Spector on January 28, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    You are absolutely entitled to your beliefs. I actually do not think you have really addressed the point of my post, but so be it.

    I am entitled to believe that.

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  87. tarvis79 on January 28, 2014 at 3:46 PM

    What would satisfy you vis a vis addressing the point of your post? Most of us have answered in two main ways: i) the analogy within the post doesn’t really work, and ii) we actually do treat others that behave as the Church does in similar fashion. What more are you looking for?

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  88. Jeff Spector on January 29, 2014 at 7:16 AM

    1) There are no analogies in this post. There are two examples, but those are real examples, not made up scenarios designed to mirror the original action.
    2) I am not convinced that this is true. I don’t think people are being totally honest about it. I give the example of US history and it seems that people have just blown it off. In my own experience, I took a very different view of the US after finding out about the deception and the lies about its history. But, again, maybe that is just me. but I see a very strong parallel with the issues people say then have with the Church.

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  89. tarvis79 on January 29, 2014 at 8:31 AM

    We certainly no longer view the US as infallible, if that’s what you’re getting at. We obey the laws of the US because they hold the power to toss us in jail, and that power is real. The church attempts to establish a measure of power with the truth claims regarding priesthood keys and salvation. Whether this is benevolent or not is irrelevant-it is, at its core, a claim to authority. Learning the real history is to learn that the church lacks real authority. The authority of the United States government is quite real.

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  90. Andrew S on January 29, 2014 at 8:37 AM

    I think that the “very different view” people take of the US after finding out about the lies and deception of its history is pretty consistent with the very different view people take of the church.

    1) Don’t see it as perfect or divine.
    2) Participate as is obligatory (e.g., pay your taxes or go to jail), but don’t participate as is not obligatory.
    3) Denounce the inaccurate history and promote for true history, better policies in the present and future, etc.,

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  91. Jeff Spector on January 29, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    But, Andrew, while I agree with what you say, there is not the same action taken. Very few people leave the US when confronted with those realities as they do the Church.

    Why the difference if we are being consistent?

    Tarvis79: I actual find both you your statements about the church and the government to be quite absurd. The church has no power over me and I am not paranoid that my opinions about the United States has any danger of landing me in jail. Sorry, but that view is ridiculous.

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  92. hawkgrrrl on January 29, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    Simply put, I think leaving the church is easier than leaving the US, but I agree that Jeff’s onto something about other relationships that are imperfect. We might leave a marriage (or not) if we found out a spouse deceived us. We might leave our country (or not) if we found out it had an unsavory past (or we disagreed with its present actions), but most would not go to these lengths because in general the country is not that oppressive, and we aren’t concerned about negative impacts to our children from being an American, we might cut off relations with our parents if they betrayed us (or maybe not).

    All of these things then are relative to the “betrayal” and our daily lived experience.

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  93. Andrew S on January 29, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    re 91

    Jeff,

    You could also ask why very few people stop paying taxes when they disagree with the government’s policies, whereas plenty of people stop paying tithes when they disagree with the church’s policies. Why the difference here, if we are being consistent?

    As to your question about leaving the US vs leaving the church, I totally agree with hawkgrrrl’s reason for the difference.

    I think it would be interesting if church membership were obligatory (as country membership is — e.g., you might not live in the US, but you have to live in *some* country). Then, it would be an interesting question — of all the churches [since someone who leaves one church in this situation would have to join another], where does the LDS church fare? Since that is a question with country citizenship (notwithstanding that it takes more effort to emigrate than it does to join a church) — if I am dissatisfied with American politics and history, I can’t just quit nationstates forever, so I have to ask: where else to go?

    I would point out something else — most folks who disengage in the church do not leave it. So, it’s actually unclear what “leaving the church” actually means, since even a lot of the folks who would self-describe themselves as having left the church are still on the rolls. And in a church with 15 million members and 30% activity rates, most disaffiliated folks just stop engaging. They don’t even send a resignation letter, much less get excommunicated. They are just never seen from or heard from again.

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  94. Jeff Spector on January 29, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    My own experience tells me that most of the folks I have encountered that are not active in the Church tend to be those whose lifestyle and commitments does not allow for church activity. Either time, habits, or more benign reasons tend to keep them away. while I do not doubt there are those whose inactivity is directly related to specific historical and/or doctrinal issues, that seems to be more pervasive on the Internet than in my personal encounters along the way.

    Now, having said that, there are some who respond so hostile that you cannot tell what their reasons are, but you can assume it is more doctrinally/ historically oriented then just not wanting to get up for Church or paying tithing. Again, very much like the responses you sometimes get on the Bloggernacle.

    Hawk,

    Thank you for expressing it in a way that perhaps I was not able to.

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  95. Andrew S on January 29, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    My own experience tells me that most of the folks I have encountered who are disturbed by American history/politics/etc., but who have not left the country tend to be those whose lifestyle and commitments do not allow for emigration. Either time, habits, or more benign reasons tend to keep them where they are.

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  96. Jeff Spector on January 29, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    You’re better than that, Andrew.

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  97. Andrew S on January 29, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean by that, Jeff.

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  98. fbisti on January 29, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    Just came across the post and my comment is directed at it and not any of the 94 (to date) comments about it.

    First, with regard to Religions in general (though I have little familiarity beyond Christianity and Judaism), the title is largely the truth, everything is a lie. Though if we define truth as only that which is “the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” the title is also a lie/not the “truth.” With that premise nearly everything supposing to communicate doctrine, what to believe, and the fear-mongering lists of sins and subsequent punishment or lack of blessing/salvation are all lies.

    If man had not developed religion on his own (think animal spirits, taboos, superstitions, etc. which later led to “organized” religion, scriptures, etc.) God would have invented it Himself in order to better manipulate man. One could add here, “for his own good,” if one believes in a loving God. Religion, especially organized religion, has a very mixed history–has it been more for our good or our detriment?–and deserves much criticism.

    To oversimplify: I believe there are eternal and uncreated (God, nor any of His forbears authored them) principles that are true, always were and always will be: being kind, humble, honest, charitable, etc (the Sermon on the Mount). Living by these principles make us happier (and more righteous), especially in the eternities. Helping people to incorporate those attributes into their character is the primary value (“purpose” if one believes God has had a hand in things) of the gospel and churches–including ours. That end is the only justification for all the numerous/onerous rules, hierarchies, sanctions, and other LIES told to propagandize, motivate, manipulate, indoctrinate, coerce (else the lake of fire and brimstone), or promote “faith” in God and the Church.

    If we are to believe that God actually spoke to man and was recorded with any degree of accuracy in scripture, He has lied to man a great deal and likely sanctions much of the lying (anything less than truth) done in His name over the past 6,000 years or so–”for the good of man.”

    In my experience with my fellow man–especially those derisively called TBMs–I agree with the Jack Nicholson character in A Few Good Men film that for most people: “You can’t handle the truth!” So, the plan has been to trick man into behaving properly and changing himself into something more Christ-like. When, after passing through the veil, we come to understand the truth (stepping out of Plato’s allegorical cave?), it is supposed that we will be strong enough to withstand the shock. The alternative is that almost none could ever overcome the natural man without all the sweet, coddling, faith-promoting, and fear-inducing lies. The full truth is much too void of such emotional training wheels and crutches.

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  99. tarvis79 on January 29, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    What’s absurd about what I said? To stay in the church is to submit to its rules, which is to acknowledge its authority. To leave is to disregard its authority. Since the church, unlike the government, lacks the prerogative to resort to force, any authority it has over someone is freely given. If I could simply revoke the US’s authority over me, as I can with the church, I probably would, but there are more considerations to it. Although they both lied about their histories, I have to weigh the costs and benefits of remaining. With the church, if the truth/authority claims dry up, the benefits of continued membership and association are virtually nonexistent, especially when it costs 10% of my income. Even if the US lied about its history, and misappropriates some of my tax dollars, I get to go to school, drive on the roads, call the police, go to court if need be…concrete benefits that I have to decide whether to give up. When you find out the church lied to establish its line of authority, it’s pretty easy to toss it out because the supernatural/eternal benefits vanish from consideration.

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  100. Andrew S on January 29, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    tarvis79,

    Staying in the church doesn’t really mean submitting to its rules. I mean, to stay in the church, the bare minimum rules you need to follow are the ones that would otherwise get you excommunicated.

    But other than that, there is a lot of leeway.

    This really supports my reading of Jeff’s post as advocating for liberal Mormonism.

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  101. tarvis79 on January 29, 2014 at 3:22 PM

    Well, are we defining “staying in” as “not resigning?” I’ve posted under the assumption that “staying in” means being fully active and obedient. I haven’t resigned, and have no plans to. Perhaps this has led to misunderstanding on all sides.

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  102. Andrew S on January 29, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    tarvis79,

    You can be fully active and still not submit to the church’s rules. But, moving away from extremes (what is “full activity” in your mind), you can be at varying degrees of activity (since, you know, not even the staunchest, most orthodox, conservative “TBM” follows every commandment with exactness) and still in. If you define “staying in” as being “obedient [to the church's rules]“, then it’s tautological that you are submitting to the church’s rules. But even still, you are voluntarily submitting.

    But I’ll note (again, with the whole liberal Mormon thing) that if you look at a site like StayLDS, the strategies for “staying in” aren’t about “being fully active and obedient” — unless these things are defined pretty openly.

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  103. Jeff Spector on January 31, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    I am not sure I am as much as advocating for Liberal Mormonism as I am not succumbing to traditions, following edicts that have no basis in scripture or Christ’s teachings, allowing others to dictate how one’s family should operate given everyone’s unique situations. I am advocating to a return (if that is necessary) to following the Savior and using for The Church for what it is; A help and assist for members to perfect themselves and return to Heavenly Father. To be the conduit for the Priesthood and the ordinances of salvation. To care for the poor and needy and to proclaim the gospel. You know, the 4-fold mission….

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  104. Kullervo on January 31, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    You can be fully active and still not submit to the church’s rules.

    How? What counts as “fully active” in your mind?

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  105. Andrew S on January 31, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    Conservatism definitely includes an aspect of preserving traditions. So if you’re not about succumbing to traditions (which, the conservative elements would elevate to doctrinal status), that itself is stating something very different than how many folks experience the church.

    Saying “these traditions and edicts have no basis in scripture or Christ’s teachings” is definitely a repudiation of conservative, orthodox Mormonism.

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  106. Andrew S on January 31, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    re 104,

    Kullervo,

    Well, if I were going to use the LDS church’s definition of activity, wouldn’t that equate to something like going to sacrament meeting at least once a quarter?

    But I mean, I would personally even concede that “fully active” should probably include more church time, and more than just sacrament. But I don’t think that full activity needs to equate to being an “institutionally worthy member” (e.g., temple recommend, temple attendance, etc.,) so I don’t think that the sorts of commandments involved in being worthy for the temple necessarily factor in being a “fully active” Mormon.

    Does that answer your question?

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  107. Kullervo on January 31, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    Kullervo,

    Well, if I were going to use the LDS church’s definition of activity, wouldn’t that equate to something like going to sacrament meeting at least once a quarter?

    But you don’t even have to be a member to do that. Anyone can walk into sacrament meeting off the street once a quarter. Is that full activity in the Church?

    The fact that you are not physically barred from attendance at sacrament meeting once per quarter is hardly a big win if you’re a Mormon who doesn’t “submit to the church’s rules.”

    But I mean, I would personally even concede that “fully active” should probably include more church time, and more than just sacrament. But I don’t think that full activity needs to equate to being an “institutionally worthy member” (e.g., temple recommend, temple attendance, etc.,) so I don’t think that the sorts of commandments involved in being worthy for the temple necessarily factor in being a “fully active” Mormon.

    Does that answer your question?

    Sure. But I guess when I think “fully active” I mean “able to fully participate.” Which means not only attendance at sacrament meeting but also activity in RS or a priesthood quorum, holding and performing callings, participating in appropriate ordinances, holding the priesthood (if you are eligible), exercising priesthood (if you have it) and temple attendance (to the extent that it is possible and appropriate).

    Even if you put those on a spectrum, I still think that your ability to fully participate in the life of the church is clearly contingent on your willingness to assent to particular beliefs and your obedience to key commandments.

    (I’m not even saying that’s a bad thing; just trying to accurately describe the situation.)

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  108. Andrew S on January 31, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    re 107

    Kullervo,

    But you don’t even have to be a member to do that. Anyone can walk into sacrament meeting off the street once a quarter. Is that full activity in the Church? The fact that you are not physically barred from attendance at sacrament meeting once per quarter is hardly a big win if you’re a Mormon who doesn’t “submit to the church’s rules.”

    A nonmember who walks into sacrament meeting off the street once a quarter should be considered active, and a member in great standing who never walks into a single sacrament meeting should not be considered active.

    But, speaking more to the Mormon who doesn’t submit to the church’s rules…I’m not sure why that wouldn’t be a big win? After all, the Mormon who doesn’t submit to the church’s rules doesn’t have to submit to the church’s institutional view of worthiness.

    One person is putting in the face-time. The other is not. That’s what I’m drawing attention to.

    Sure. But I guess when I think “fully active” I mean “able to fully participate.” Which means not only attendance at sacrament meeting but also activity in RS or a priesthood quorum, holding and performing callings, participating in appropriate ordinances, holding the priesthood (if you are eligible), exercising priesthood (if you have it) and temple attendance (to the extent that it is possible and appropriate).

    Even if you put those on a spectrum, I still think that your ability to fully participate in the life of the church is clearly contingent on your willingness to assent to particular beliefs and your obedience to key commandments.

    Then I guess I just don’t agree on that definition. I think of people who are excommunicated, but with testimonies of the church who attend every week (e.g., John Gustav-Wrathall). Even though because of his gay marriage he is not considered worthy to be a member, hold the priesthood, exercise the priesthood, or even bear his testimony (I don’t know whether he is allowed to attend priesthood or not…never thought about where folks go after sunday school if they aren’t actually members), he attends regularly. He is more active (and, I would point out, more faithful) than many Mormons who are in good institutional standing (as is noted by that willingness to asset to particular beliefs and obedience to key commandments, as you note)– and I think this is a point to recognize. I mean, I can see what you’re saying, but I disagree.

    The fact is that you CAN be a J G-W kind of mormon, and be an active, known quantity in the community…nothwithstanding the fact that his breaking a very key (to Mormon institutional worthiness) commandment bars him from even being able to be a member. The key differentiator is not whether people are *unable* to participate if they are don’t submit to the church’s rules — because even you concede that the church doesn’t close off its doors. Rather, it’s that typically, people who don’t want to submit to the church’s rules don’t WANT to participate in the environment and context. I don’t necessarily blame them — being a fringe Mormon is not easy, it is not fun, etc.,

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  109. Kullervo on January 31, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    Again, showing up regularly is not the same thing as being able to participate fully in the life of the Church. A Church is more than something you watch once a week.

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  110. jspector106 on January 31, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    Andrew,

    “So if you’re not about succumbing to traditions (which, the conservative elements would elevate to doctrinal status), that itself is stating something very different than how many folks experience the church.”

    Well, I am not sure I agree with your assessment of traditions being a conservative trait per se or that it is considered doctrinal (ie Gold and Green Balls or Church sports), but you know that I came into the church pretty late in the game at age 28 and from a non-Christian viewpoint, so I don’t have the traditional perspectives that some lifers might. I can divorce myself from much of that early non-doctrinal stuff.

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  111. Kullervo on January 31, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    Preserving traditions is sort of the classic essence of conservativism.

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  112. Andrew S on January 31, 2014 at 7:11 PM

    re 109,

    Kullervo,

    You can be doing more than “watching” once a week without being able to participate fully institutionally.

    re 110

    Jeff,

    I have to agree with Kullervo’s 111. But even if you didn’t want to align traditions with conservativism, then I could rephrase and say that you are encouraging people to basically become nontraditional Mormons. But for the traditional Mormon who thinks that traditional Mormonism is authentic Mormonism, what authority do you have to suggest that nontraditional Mormonism is valid — or that traditions are invalid? The same for disaffected Mormons who found traditional Mormonism to be authentic Mormonism.

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  113. Jeff Spector on February 1, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    Andrew,

    “But for the traditional Mormon who thinks that traditional Mormonism is authentic Mormonism, what authority do you have to suggest that nontraditional Mormonism is valid — or that traditions are invalid?”

    First, I think we are back to the Church versus the Gospel thing again, but traditional Mormonism has women with little to no voice, polygamy, Blacks without the Priesthood and spending every waking moment not working, eating, sleeping or going to school at Church or a church-related activity. It also has Temple ordinances reserved for those who could get there to Utah. And tithing paid with chickens.

    So, no, I certainly do not regard traditional Mormonism as authentic. Most do not either, for that matter.

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  114. Andrew S on February 1, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Jeff,

    You are describing fundamentalist Mormons. Fundamentalist Mormons are going to think that traditional Mormonism is these things. But traditional Mormons (in the CoJCoL-dS) are not.

    Your linguistic coyness and slipperiness is admirably liberal Mormon, though.

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  115. jon49 on February 15, 2014 at 12:46 AM

    I prayed to God and s/he told me through the spirit that God doesn’t exist. Many atheists “feel the spirit” and realize that the “spirit” is just sensations caused by something we don’t currently know how to explain (or maybe we do and I just haven’t read the study).

    I described my experience in the Andrew’s post. I tackled it head on. It was like losing a good friend. Very sad. But truth is important and I owe my children the truth.

    When we figure out that Santa isn’t real we take the good parts of the story and move on. We stop believing that Santa exists and don’t live our lives around. I opine that it would be good for humanity to do the same with God.

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