Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Feeling that Church History has been Whitewashed

Well, the holidays are over, the kids are back in school and the routine of life is back.   That also means picking up this blog up again.   However, I really struggled writing this particular blog on a number of different levels.   Lots of worries went through my head, and I even considered not posting at all. As a reminder, this particular blog post is part of a series where I am sharing what I learned in studying the stories of 158 once devout members who ended up choosing to leave the Church.   This would now be the 7thblog post in this series.  The first 5 posts served as an introduction, explaining my own life experiences that led to this study and my motivations to understand this ever growing group of once devout Latter Day Saints.   The sixth post just gave an overview of the results of that survey and what I learned about those 158.   Starting with this post and over the next few posts I will share some of the issues mentioned most often by them and ones that seemed to have the greatest impact on them.  
This post might be a hard one for some, so proceed with caution.  Please remember that what I am writing here are not my words, but the feelings that were shared by these once devout members who left the church.  There will be many feelings and thoughts that they shared that are critical of the Church, so be forewarned.  But if we don’t listen and try to understand their experiences how can we ever hope to address those concerns, be prepared when those concerns are raised perhaps by our fellow LDS friends, or avoid that path ourselves?  I think we would be kidding ourselves if we think this trend will eventually go away.

One of the reasons cited most often (61%) in the stories that I studied that were shared by the 158 once devout Mormons who eventually left the church dealt with Church history.  Especially what they learned about early church history and events directly related to the founding of the Church.   Despite being devout members who diligently read the scriptures, participated in Sunday School, and magnified their callings in some cases for decades, many of them were learning things about Church history that had never been mentioned and that in some cases were quite different than what they had been taught including some things that they felt directly contradicted what they had learned about Church history.
Many of them initially distrusted what they had learned; assuming it to be from some anti-Mormon source, but to their consternation would find them confirmed from LDS sources.  As they sought for understanding and answers to an ever increasing number of questions, they inevitably turned to FAIR, FARMS, Jeff Lindsay’s web site and other sources seeking for pro-LDS answers to the things they were learning.   Yet, what bothered them even more was to find out that all of these pro-LDS sources confirmed what they were learned and that LDS scholars had been debating and addressing them for years.   A whole world of unknown Church facts and history that were not necessarily faith promoting at first glance now opened up to them.

Yet, what was interesting about their stories is that the main thing that troubled them was not so much the fact that they were learning things that contradicted what they had been taught, but rather the question of WHY they did not know about these things before.  To many of them it felt that Church sincerely hoped that they would never learn about those facts or ignore them once they did.  It felt like many of the stories taught from their youth had left out many important details or they had been polished to such a sheen as to completely omit anything that might take away from the idealized understanding of our history.     
Yes, they were bothered by some of the things that they learned, but what was more important to them was that many of them mentioned feeling betrayed, or lied to.   Some became angry.   With each new fact that they learned, they wondered what else had they not been taught, what else had not been shared, what other inconvenient truth or uncomfortable fact was glossed over, ignored or omitted.   The facts did not bother them as much as the feeling of being lied to by an organization they trusted implicitly and to which they had given much of their lives and devotion.  Some felt that the Church had intentionally polished its history, whitewashing any of the blemishes and thus being dishonest about its own past.

Many of them had said that if the Church had been more open about its past and had provided some type of an explanation, that they might not have ever left.   Their words appear to be buttressed by one active LDS sister who commented that she “…was plainly taught many of these controversial issues by her family when she was growing up.  As a consequence, because of her complete knowledge of the historical problems of the LDS church, if any new disturbing information would come to light, it didn’t really affect her testimony.  
The feelings that the Church was whitewashing its history were only reinforced when in the course of their personal research they learned that prominent scholars have been disciplined with regards to their scholarship on the history of the church, the September Six back in 1993 being the most prominent examples and probably Grant Palmer being one of the more recent examples.   They observed that the in not one single case, was the work of these scholars challenged as untrue, but rather, they were punished because their works were laying bare uncomfortable truths about Church history that could cause one’s testimony to be challenged.  The “Truth” or the factual basis of what these scholars published was not the issue behind their discipline. 

Their negative reactions to their feelings that the Church was intentionally omitting what they felt were important parts of Church history were magnified because of the Church’s teachings regarding the pursuit of truth, honesty, integrity and honesty.   All those teachings had sunk deep into the hearts of these members, who then felt that they were finding instances of lack of integrity by the church in choosing not to be open about its past and only presenting the good while completely ignoring and even discouraging any discussion of anything that might not be so faith promoting.  Some of them even went so far as to accuse the church of hypocrisy on this point since the Church demands that its members be fully forthright about their personal lives in interviews with local Church authorities while the Church conspicuously avoids any discussion of the problematic aspects of its own past and has created a culture where members are trained to do the same.  
Many of them also pointed to comments by Elder Boyd K. Packer in his talk “The Mantle is far, far greater than the Intellect” (BYU Studies  Summer 1981) when he outright proclaims that “not all truths are useful.”  In this speech, Elder Packer directly encourages LDS scholars and teachers to focus only on Church history that is uplifting and faith promoting and to not give voice to the rest.   Given what they have learned so far, Elder Packer’s talk is interpreted by some of them as direct evidence that the Church is actively covering up the less faith promoting aspects of its history.   President Packer ends his talk with the injunction that teachers and scholars of Church history should endeavor to make sure members “see in every hour and in every moment of the existence of the Church..the overruling, almighty hand of God” while omitting anything that might not be faith promoting.

The situation of this member who has come across all of this “new” information and who feels that the Church intentionally avoids some parts of its history is then compounded even further when these questioning members run headlong into stiff resistance from fellow members of the Church after they begin to ask questions about what they have learned.  These still devout but questioning members turn to Priesthood leaders, the resident ward scholar, and fellow devout LDS friends and family to sincerely ask…”have you heard of this?   Is it true?   What do you think about it? How does that fit in?” They are turning to trusted people IN THE CHURCH for help on issues that are now troubling them, but are not as of yet strong enough to drive them from the Church.
The reaction that many of them in this group of 158 met from these trusted and devout LDS leaders and friends is sad.  The members that did not receive them critically typically responded in four ways: “I don’t know” , “Pray about it”, “Read the Book of Mormon” or “I’ve put it on a mental shelf and plan to ask God about it after I die.”  In other words, they had no answers, no explanation, and often just more questions.   Unfortunately, a significantly larger percentage of these devout members received a far more critical reception if they had the courage to speak up and ask their questions.

Some faithful members dismissed their concerns as lies, or as coming from anti-Mormon sources.  Some of their fellow LDS members, including friends and family accused them of being influenced by Satan.   Their fellow LDS members and family even questioned their righteousness and their motivations.   Many of those in this study were met with in some cases harshly critical and judgmental reaction to their sincere questions.  Spouses threatened divorce and in some cases of the 158, even followed through with it.  
Still a large group of others were so afraid of the above reactions, so afraid of jeopardizing their marriages, and friendships, and even personal standing within the ward that they were just too afraid to ask questions of their trusted LDS friends and Priesthood leaders and even their spouses.  Given that invisible wall of fear that confronted them, some suffered greatly alone and in silence.  Depression and thoughts of suicide were not uncommon.   Others found websites online such as StayLDS.Com, where they felt they could talk about their concerns and questions openly without being judged.    For those who do not know, is a website devoted to providing a place of support for members who are struggling with history, doctrine, culture of the Church but who wish to remain LDS.

In summation, they learn history that does not match the current image of history we have been taught. Including things that challenge our current understanding of the foundations of the Church.   Many of them feel like there is a cover up and become emotionally affected with feelings of betrayal and anger.  They learn that scholars who have published these things were excommunicated, not for publishing lies, but for publishing facts of LDS history that could challenge someone’s testimony.  As they seek answers from local LDS friends, family and priesthood leaders, their reception is critical and judgmental.  They find that their own righteousness and motives questioned.   And so, feeling unwelcome by their fellow members and leaders, and feeling attacked for their own pursuit of truth, feeling that the church is hiding its history and punishing those who are revealing it and then not having the same integrity it demands of its members…they leave.  
A final nail in the coffin for some of them is the Church’s own all or nothing approach when it comes to accepting the Church.   For example, some of the things they learned challenged their understanding of the First Vision and the Book of Mormon. Yet, in spite of that, many of them loved the teachings of the Book of Mormon; some of them still accepted Joseph Smith as a prophet.  Even though their understandings of the Book of Mormon and First Vision had now changed.   Yet, because of all-or-nothing proclamations of Church leaders and a cultural tendency to view everything as black and white, they end up feeling like they have to reject the entire Church.    

"I am suggesting that we make exactly that same kind of do-or-die, bold assertion about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the divine origins of the Book of Mormon. We have to. Reason and rightness require it. Accept Joseph Smith as a prophet and the book as the miraculously revealed and revered word of the Lord it is or else consign both man and book to Hades for the devastating deception of it all, but let’s not have any bizarre middle ground about the wonderful contours of a young boy’s imagination or his remarkable facility for turning a literary phrase. That is an unacceptable position to take—morally, literarily, historically, or theologically."
- Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, “True or False,” New Era, June 1995, Page 64 (Excerpted from a CES Symposium address given at Brigham Young University on August 9, 1994.)

Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens. It's either true or false. If it's false, we're engaged in a great fraud. If it's true, it's the most important thing in the world. Now, that's the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true. And that's exactly where we stand, with a conviction in our hearts that it is true: that Joseph went into the Grove; that he saw the Father and the Son; that he talked with them; that Moroni came; that the Book of Mormon was translated from the plates; that the priesthood was restored by those who held it anciently. That's our claim. That's where we stand, and that's where we fall, if we fall. But we don't. We just stand secure in that faith."

- Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, Interview "The Mormons"; PBS Documentary, April 2007

Given such a black and white, either/or type of choice by the leaders of the Church themselves, and often by many of their fellow LDS members and family and thus having no room for any middle ground some ended up rejecting it all, even though they might love many other aspects and teachings of the Church.
Never mind that they love the culture of the church, never mind that they might agree with most of the doctrines of the church. Never mind that these people have proven that they were committed to the church and were ready and willing and even desirous to continue serving. The fact that they now view the First Vision and the origins of the Book of Mormon differently, in their minds and as declared by the leaders of the church, leaves them OUT.

So what exactly did these devout members find that they say is “hidden” or “covered up”?  What is it that they learning that is challenging even the most devout member of the church? The list is actually quite long, but there are some common themes.   I will mention several here, but there are far more.   For those who would rather not know, now is the time to stop reading.    I will also include links to FAIR for each item.  For those reading this that are unfamiliar with FAIR, here is their mission statement: 

FAIR is dedicated to standing as a witness of Christ and His Restored Church.

Our mission is to address the charges leveled at the doctrines, practices and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) with documented responses that are written in an easily understandable style.
I am including links to FAIR for each item I raise to accomplish two purposes. First of all, to validate the truthfulness of facts these devout members are learning about the history of the Church.   The questions these people have are legitimate and grounded in fact.  Second, is to provide the reader with a group of LDS scholars who have been endeavoring to provide faith promoting explanations for these and other issues deemed by many to be difficult or challenging.

So, here we go:

There have been several versions of the First Vision written by Joseph.  Much like the several accounts in the New Testament of Christ’s resurrection have details that contradict one another, there are multiple versions of the First Vision that conflict with one another as well.  These versions were all either written or dictated directly by Joseph Smith.  Many of the contradictions are mundane such as whether the First Vision took place in Joseph’s   15th year or 17thyear.  All of these versions were written at least a decade after the First Vision took place.   I know I often get my years messed up when trying to remember when something that happened so long ago.  
But there is one significant apparent contradiction. The first version of the First Vision was written by Joseph Smith in 1832 (the version with which we are familiar with was written in 1838).  In that 1832 version, Joseph does not mention seeing two personages, he mentions only one. There was no grand and glorious proclamation “Joseph this is my beloved Son, Hear him!”  

In addition, in the version we are familiar with (1838), Joseph asks Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ which church he should join and even states that as being his purpose of going into the woods to pray.   In the 1832 version, Joseph notes that he had already come to the conclusion on his own that none of the churches of the world were correct and he did not bother to ask that question of the single personage that appeared to him.  The one personage that did appear to him according to the 1832 version did forgive him of his sins though.  
What also makes this even more challenging for some of these members who mentioned this in their stories is that there is plenty of corroborating information prior to 1835 that give the impression that the First Vision was just not that big a deal and that only one personage was mentioned.    There are plenty of articles in early periodicals of the Church talking about the visit of Moroni and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, but very very few that mention the First Vision directly and none that mention specifically that he saw TWO personages, God the Father and Jesus Christ.  Go ahead and look at D&C 20 given in 1830.  It mentions the First Vision in passing in verse 5 focusing only on the fact that he received a remission of his sins as Joseph mentioned in his 1832 version of the First Vision.  Much greater emphasis is placed the coming forth of the Book of Mormon (D&C 20:6-12). It gives the impression that the visit of Moroni is of far greater importance than the visit of God the Father and Jesus Christ.


The gold plates were not directly used at all in the translation of the Book of Mormon. Instead, Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by placing a seer stone inside a hat and then placing his face in the hat so that all light would be obscured.  He would then recite the translation of the Book of Mormon that was revealed to him by looking at the seer stone in the darkness of the hat to a scribe who created the text of the Book of Mormon.  
Link to FAIR:
Note two comments from FAIR on this matter:

Joseph did not need the plates physically present to translate, since the translation was done by inspiration.”

“The very fact that plates existed served a greater purpose, even if they were not directly viewed during the entire translation process.”

Link to FAIR regarding use of stone in hat method:


Joseph Smith was introduced to his first seer stone even beforethe First Vision.  It belonged to a neighbor.  He used that seer stone to find his first seer stone, which he then used to find a second seer stone. Apparently Joseph found two more seer stones in Nauvoo, bringing to a total of four seer stones.  
In addition to using the seer stones to find other seer stones, prior to the restoration he used seer stones to help people find lost valuable items.  

Ultimately, the location of the Gold Plates in the Hill Cumorah was revealed to Joseph through the seer stone. There is some confusion between the seer stone and the Urim/Thummim and the FAIR article deals with that confusion.  But it also goes on to mention that the use of the stone to translate was not limited to the Book of Mormon.   The Joseph Smith Translation and the Book of Abraham translations were also both begun by using a seer stone.
Link to FAIR:

Back in 1960s, eleven fragments from the papyrus that Joseph Smith bought from Dr. Chandler and were used to translate the Book of Abraham were found.  The papyrus was translated and the paper itself has also been dated.   The resulting translation doesn’t come close to the current text of the Book of Abraham and the papyrus dates to centuries after the time that Abraham lived.  Even the facsimiles that we have in the Book of Abraham are on these fragments and the translations of those do not match either.
Link to FAIR:


Just about everyone, member and non-member alike, is well aware of the fact that as a Church we practiced polygamy for about the first 60-70 years of our existence.   In 1890 a manifesto was issued that ceased the practice though it did not repudiate the doctrine.   A lesser known second manifesto was issued in 1904.   A bit lesser known is the extent to which Joseph practiced polygamy himself.  I can’t think of a single Sunday School lesson related to Joseph that even remotely alluded to his own polygamous marriages.  If they spoke of a wife, it was always Emma.  However, sometimes people are surprised to learn that Joseph was married to approximately 33 other women.  But these were not the types of polygamous marriages that we are often taught.  For example, we often talk about one of the reasons for polygamy was the large number of widows.   Well, of Joseph’s 33 marriages only 4 were to widows.  Sometimes we talk about sisters who could not provide for themselves, yet Joseph married 11 women who were still currently married to other men that were supporting them, some even active LDS men who were then sent on missions. There were a number of teenage girls including two who were 14.   There were three sets of sisters and even one mother and daughter combination.   Trying to understand those marriages is hard enough, but then you add on top of that that it appears that Joseph lied to Emma, to the Church, and publicly about his practice of polygamy.  

Link to FAIR on Joseph’s marriages to concurrently married women some whose husbands were active LDS:

Link to FAIR on many issues related to polygamy, but also discusses the apparent lying by Joseph Smith and other Church leaders that went on in relation to polygamy.


Most of my life, I have been aware that there had been changes to the scriptures.  But I never studied them in depth.  I just brushed them off as mostly being grammatical in nature or related to spelling errors.   However, I will mention one of several instances of changes to scripture that were mentioned specifically by the 158 devout members who left the church.
1)      The ”Divining Rod”
Many of us are aware that when Joseph’s revelations where gathered and published, they were put out in a book called the Book of Commandments.   Later editions would change the name of the collection of Joseph’s revelations to the Doctrine and Covenants.  
In D&C 8:6-8 we read the following:  

"Now this is not all thy gift; for you have another gift, which is the gift of Aaron; behold, it has told you many things; Behold, there is no other power, save the power of God, that can cause this gift of Aaron to be with you. Therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God; and you shall hold it in your hands, and do marvelous works; and no power shall be able to take it away out of your hands, for it is the work of God"

However, in the Book of Commandments that same passage reads differently.  

Now this is not all, for you have another gift, which is the gift of working with the rod: behold it has told you things: behold there is no other power save God, that can cause this rod of nature, to work in your hands, for it is the work of God

Many of them were surprised to learn of this change.  Some of them felt that Oliver’s gift of using the “divining rod” and Joseph’s use of a seer stone (basically rock in hat method) were covered up to not give the appearance of occultish or magical type elements having anything to do with the early revelations of the Church.   
Link to FAIR:

Even today, there are examples of what seems to be disinformation provided by the Church.  I will give only one example that was cited by these members who left the church, but there are other examples.  
In a press release issued by the Church, the Church officially tackles the question about whether Latter Day Saints believe that they will get their own planet if they make it to the Celestial Kingdom.   The answer is an emphatic “NO.”

Here is the link to the official newsroom of the church and their answer to that question in a FAQ:

On the other hand, you can go to LDS.ORG and find in Gospel Fundamentals the following quote which appears to directly contradict the press release by the church.  This is in the third paragraph.  

“To be able to live in this part of the celestial kingdom, people must have been married in the temple and must have kept the sacred promises they made in the temple. They will receive everything our Father in Heaven has and will become like Him. They will even be able to have spirit children and make new worlds for them to live on, and do all the things our Father in Heaven has done  (Gospel Fundamentals Chapter 36) found on LDS. ORG. 

The perception that the Church is attempting to portray a vision of our Church history that is not quite accurate is reinforced by Church Art.   This image, has often been used in lessons in Sunday School. 

This image gives the impression that Joseph is actually using the Gold Plates to translate the Book of Mormon.  We established earlier that even LDS scholars acknowledge that the Gold Plates were not used in the translation of the Book of Mormon.  It gives the impression that the plates were visible to Oliver Cowdery, and yet we know that Oliver did not see the plates until he became one of the Three Witnesses.  And the image completely ignores the documented methodology used by Joseph where he placed a seer stone in a hat, placed his face into the hat so that no light could get in and then received the translation through revelation while in this position.   The following picture would be more historically accurate:

FAIR discusses the historically inaccurate art here:
Note, the FAIR scholars agree with the historical inaccuracies of the artwork.  However, in this instance, they lay the blame at the foot of the artist.   Although I must admit that I understand the plight of the artist.   Personally, the first image is exactly how I pictured the Book of Mormon as being translated for many years of my LDS life. If I would have attempted to make a painting of that event, it would have been similar to that.  Apparently,   according to the article in FAIR, the artwork did not go through correlation for clearance and so there are several instances of Church art that have made it into our Sunday School lessons that may be historically inaccurate. 

So…is the church actually intentionally hiding its history? Is there a conscious effort to whitewash and present only an idealized, heroic and pristine vision of our history?  Well, unless you are a general authority involved in decisions regarding the dissemination of materials used to teach members, we can only speculate.   I would not dare to provide my own opinion or conclusion.  But there are multiple explanations that have been offered:

1)      Yes, total cover up:  Many of these devout members came to believe that the Church is intentionally covering up any facts in its history that may challenge the orthodox view.   In addition to the many facts of history that they have learned that do not appear anywhere in correlated teachings, their feeling that there is a cover up is buttressed by the disciplining and excommunicating of scholars who publish this information, as well as teachings by General Authorities who state quite clearly that “not all truths are useful” and encourage teachers to only present a faith promoting view of history.

2)      Clinton-esque control of information:One blogger gave the following opinion regarding the question of whether the church hides its history:

“I don’t think it’s so much about hiding information as it is about controlling how, when, and where the information is presented. I remember that the Clinton Administration in the US talked often about “message control”: unpleasant information was revealed at times when most people would not be paying attention. Often, information would be discussed or “leaked” late on Friday afternoon, as most people don’t pay much attention to the news over the weekend. By Monday, the information would have been covered in the media and discussed on the Sunday talk shows and would have mostly blown over. I think this is how best to understand the way the church presents information.”

3)      Analogy of Parent/Child communication:  One person put forth an interesting theory in their attempt to understand why so much Church history seemed to be covered up.   He compared it to parents who made plenty of mistakes when they were younger.   As they teach their children right and wrong, they avoid telling their children some of the foibles of their own youth.   Where it made sense to share some of their weaknesses they do.   But in many cases, they might never share some of the skeletons in their closet or perhaps the reasoning for some of their choices in life.   Sort of like Jean Valjean who up until his death hid from Cosette the fact that he was a prisoner who had broken parole.  The child then grows up and wants to know and sometimes even gets upset that their parents never told them.  Every parent has their reasons for not sharing some of their own weaknesses with their children, but as was pointed out by the person who developed this theory, somewhere along the line the child grows up.   The feeling they had was that the Church is still treating its members like children, only giving them milk and never progressing beyond that.       

4)      Hidden versus hiding: Another theory espoused by several of these devout members who had chosen to leave the church is much more charitable than the previous three.  In this theory, they see the Church as supremely focused on building faith. As a consequence,  all of the materials and lessons it prepares have that singular focus in mind.  With that objective in mind, the other stuff falls by the wayside.  Not because the Church wants to avoid it, but rather the objective of the lessons is to build faith and have spiritual experiences rather than to delve deeply into an academic debate on history.   And so, since that material is never included in any correlated lesson, it is easy for a member focused on his callings, reading the scriptures daily and focused on the lessons manuals never comes across any of these other issues and is completely unaware of them.   The controversial material is not being covered up by the church, but rather is just “hidden” or in other words just hard to find since it is not being proactively included in lesson materials.   You have to be engaged in specific research to find it.   If you look for it, it will be there…not hidden away.

5)      NO…The items found are false and all lies perpetrated by Satan or Anti-Mormons.   This theory is most often used by many active members of the Church in response to queries from questioning members learning about these facts of history.   Especially if they have never heard of the point being raised.

Information not conclusion

It is not my intent to come to a conclusion here or even to provide my own opinion on the feelings these members who left the Church have that the Church is whitewashing history.    Rather it is my intent to inform on reasons why these devout members of the church are leaving the church after years and decades of faithful service and commitment.  This blog post just touches on one of the many reasons cited by many who leave the church.  Quite simply, they feel that the church has lied to them.  The beautifully polished, idealized and heroic image of Church history doesn’t turn out to be what they expected.  The history of our church is more complex than what they’ve learned and there are apparently outright contradictions that directly challenge our understanding of the foundations of the Church. 
There is so much material out there to wade through, but this is normal when studying history.   It is part of what makes studying history so fascinating for some and overwhelming for others.  Given the technology of the internet and social media, that information is now more readily available to more and more members. It is being more quickly and easily disseminated.   It is only a matter of time before most if not all members get presented with this information in one form or another.  How we each react to what we learn is personal.  For example, the fact that in 1832 Joseph Smith wrote that only one heavenly personage appeared to him in that famous grove is not in and of itself anti-Mormon.  Yet it is a fact that that is how Joseph recounts that vision the first known time he writes about it.   What you personally do with that fact (and all the others) is up to you.   Some left over these issues (and especially how others reacted to them as they asked questions); other remained with their testimonies strengthened after deep research and prayer.  Certainly the writers at FAIR are well aware of these issues and yet continue as strong members of the Church

However,   we as members can make a big difference if rather than go on the attack and get defensive when these issues are raised by our questioning brothers and sisters that we humbly realize that there are legitimate questions that touch the foundations of the Church.  We can attempt to learn of them ourselves, and get our own answers to provide or at least point them in a direction where they can find help and support.   That direction should include an arrow pointing upwards in prayer in addition to people or other resources that are more aware of these things.  
We should remember that these devout members left the Church not so much because of what they learned, although certainly it shocked them and affected them, even leaving some of them angry and feeling betrayed.  Ultimately it was all of these things combined:  The “hidden facts” they were learning that contradicted long established foundational stories, the punishment of scholars who have published them, the critical reactions from fellow members and families as they began to ask question, the all or nothing mentality of the Church, the perceived hypocrisy of the Church as it demands full disclosure from its members, but from their view does not do so itself.    Given that all or nothing mentality in the church.  Once their paradigm of the BOM and the First Vision was seriously challenged and even changed, many of them could no longer be LDS even though they loved and accepted so much else about the Church.  Many of them stated that it was a matter of personal integrity for them.  

I would encourage us as members to become more familiar with our own church history so that these things do not take us by surprise and so that we do not ignorantly condemn others for raising them.  I would encourage us all not to be so quick to condemn those who are raising sincere questions in an attempt to understand what they are finding.   And perhaps with a more Christlike response, with greater understanding and empathy for our fellow members who might struggle with these things and without fear of the truth, perhaps we can help one or more of other devout members who are considering leaving the Church to stay a little while longer.  

~ Bruce Fey

1 comment:

  1. I'm a former temple sealer who resigned for some of the reasons you've described. But you have not mentioned the most important one.

    Yes, I learned I’d been lied to. Yes, I learned that the church required me to be honest when it refused to be honest itself. But all of that was secondary.

    What always mattered most to me was TRUTH. Was the LDS church factually, objectively, historically, empirically, and actually what it claimed to be? Was Smith what he claimed to be, and were the books he produced actual historical records as he claimed they were? Hinckley and Holland are right in how they characterize these things: Smith made all or nothing claims for himself, his books, and the organization he founded. There is no middle ground.

    So when I learned “the rest of the story” about all these things that I was never taught in church, when I set aside the confirmation bias of Alma 32 and “Moroni’s promise” (because feelings aren't facts) and simply let all evidence speak for itself, the weight of that evidence and the conclusion was clear. The LDS church is not what it claims to be, neither are Smith or his books. You have cited many examples above, so I won’t repeat them. But you’ve only scratched the surface. There is far more.

    That is why I resigned, on principle, while still holding a temple recommend. Not just because I’d been lied to and the LDS church and its leaders had forfeited my trust, but because the things they hid showed me that the official narrative and claims were NOT TRUE. That was my tipping point. Honesty and integrity would not allow me to stay, and when I'm solidly persuaded that the organization is a fake anyway, there is no reason to stay either.

    For most of my life, being where I am today was absolutely unthinkable. Yet here I am, led by my desire for truth above everything else. I know that Mormons are taught that "apostates" like me aren't "really" happy, but they are wrong. I am so much happier and more deeply so than ever before. My family is closer, more loving now that we are all out of Mormonism. We realize and repent of how judgmental we were before. We are better Christians, kinder and more accepting of everyone than we were before. The world seems so much more miraculous now, and life so much more wonderful and precious. I have heard many ex-Mormons say these very same things.

    Jesus taught that "by their fruits ye shall know them." The fruits of my and my family's leaving Mormonism have been nothing but good. I wish my Mormon relatives who've ostracized us could see that, but it's their loss. We have emerged from Plato's Cave, and life is wonderful.