Last Post *sniff sniff, *tear
This post is basically a short summary of my own journey through Mormonism. There are many hyperlinks included in the text- mostly referencing my own writings at the time I went through the particular stage/struggle of my faith.
I think I’ve caught the “rational bug”. I’ve tried and tried to make Mormonism and the LDS Church work for me but “faith” and “just put it on the shelf” is usually where my inquiries lead me. I am now very much interested in Science and reason, rational thought, and evidence-based belief. I am still attending church for familial reasons, however I think that the fundamental Mormon inside me died. And the liberal Mormon in me has become uninterested in Mormon Studies and Culture. It’s sad, even sad to me, but the “real” world out there is much more exciting and fulfilling, full of greater truths, even.
These last two years (I just this second realized that it’s been two years exactly) have been a fun roller-coaster- immensely interesting and entertaining at times. The boring parts I would have to admit have been Sundays in the chapel, hearing loose interpretations of old cherry-picked scripture writ.
Four years ago found me on my mission- I made the largest collection of G.A. articles of all the missionaries on my mission. Why? Because I loved “the truth” and wanted all I could get my hands on. It was “that fruit” that I couldn’t get enough of. Three years ago found me on the internet (only MormonShields, FairLDS.org, and other apologetic sites). Why, because I wanted to be the best defender of the church I could possibly be- for myself, and my non-member friends and family. I hadn’t stumbled upon the archiving-abilities of “blogging” yet (yes, I blog mostly to archive my studies, not just to put out poorly-written material), so I printed out hundreds and hundreds of pages of articles to add to my mission books and to study and devour.
Two years ago I found new material on church history (not “anti-Mormon” stuff, don’t worry). To me, the authors would strive for objectivity, it was mature and didn’t have to “edit” out parts of the LDS’ history for me- it treated me like a big boy. If Joseph Smith drank, and liked to drink, I could know. It didn’t have to be edited out for me. If a church leader was married to several women and having sex with all of them, it was now fair-game to study. I could know about it (remember, big boy). And if the church had a peculiar policy on race, I could find out more details on the subject. I found it fascinating to get a glimpse of the other side to some issues. My world “took on color” instead of its previous black-and-white, 2-D nintendo 8-bit version.
I then started to have doubts. I always saw my belief in something in terms of a percentile. That percentile came from the very high nineties as a true believer just back from a mission (you can’t have 100% because that would be “perfect knowledge”…or self-deception, you choose). The doubts I started to have took me somewhere around a 55% belief-range (these were my liberal or “intellectual” Mormon days). I expressed my doubts to my family openly and publicly on online forums.
I became very sympathetic to doubters, disbelievers and ex-Mormons. I did not think like most of them, but I understood where they were coming from. I developed a critical mind towards some things in the church. I was then split. I saw myself in two worlds at once. Part of me felt like the father in Keith Norman’s T-Word. It is a story about a father whose son returns from his mission, studies church history and loses his faith. A story where the father is sympathetic towards his son’s situation and continues to love and not judge him. I felt like the son in the story, jealous of how the father showed empathy towards his son. At the same time, part of me was critical of that same father.
In a letter to a friend dated eleven months ago, I summarized my strongest points for disbelief. They were:
- The translations. Book Of Abraham+ Kinderhook= Reconsidering the Book of Mormon translation/claim of divinity.
- The ever-constant change of core doctrines in the Church which upon one’s perception of this instability members may find less genuine the “fullness of the gospel”, or a “restored gospel”, or a “peculiar gospel” or uniqueness from other churches. After seeing one church in JS’s time, a completely different one in the 1950′s, and another completely different church as it stands today, leaders can be seen as completely human in their opinions, prophecies, and commandments and that can make it hard to take them seriously today. After seeing so many doctrines thrown out in the past, how many of today’s doctrines will remain? How can we put faith in today’s doctrines and suggestions after seeing a history of constant and convenient re-modeling of the Church?
- “Permissible Human Imperfections” (where people say “oh, but they were just human”) of past leaders are of the most heinous: Fraud/scams (Treasure seeking/magic, running away at midnight from a bankrupt bank). Murder (the doctrine and implementation of Blood Atonement, Mountain Meadows Massacre). And sex/adultery. These imperfections are far from being merely “warts”.
Those were my issues nearly a year ago. To seal the deal of my apostasy for me today- or the “final nail in the coffin” for me was probably and quite simply learning how to think critically for myself. Let me explain: anytime an issue was brought up with my father or anyone concerned with my doubts, their factory-produced replies came packed with logical fallacies. Every single argument for belief either ended in an unacceptable fallacy or that magic word to suspend rational thought and inquiry…faith.
Equally damning for me has been the gaping abyss found between religion and Science (see this article for some great examples). I soon found that the only way to be intellectually honest with myself would be to accept Agnosticism. Less than a year ago I started to read Dawkins and Harris’ works. I listened to anything I could on the subject of science and reason. Favorite podcasts for me became the Skeptic’ Guide to the Universe and Point of Inquiry. I became to find these things truer than the ultimate religious “truth” I once proudly proclaimed. I had traded reason for faith. And I’ve been loving it ever since! I have found an exciting world in that which is rather than that which one hopes for. I know that doesn’t work for many, but it represents what I’m about in the most perfect sense. The popular Astronomer Carl Sagan put it this way:
For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
An archive of my studies in science and reason can be found here. So my One Dude’s Mormon Studies has now come to a end, basically. On the percentile-level there is still a small hope that lingers in me for Mormonism, but it’s pretty small. Part of me thinks that is sad, too, but another part of me rejoices in the possibilities. Indifferent of my disbelief, my morals are here to stay and my love for friends and family around me only grows. I may not “know” anything in this world, but this, I am sure about.
To conclude this short story, here’s a question I proposed to my friend John Dehlin (who by the way appeared on Good-Morning America- (yeah, awesome, huh) and I put it below for anyone here that may have an intelligent answer for me as well:
Hey John (and any readers out there that got to the end my story),
My question to you is about [John's post, where he says]:
I don’t care what you say. Krista Tippet of Speaking of Faith is in every way as compelling in her arguments for faith, and maybe even more so, than Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins are against faith
You say that Tippet’s arguments are “as compelling or more so” than Hitchens and Dawkins. I have two questions:
1) would you say that “compelling” in this context can mean “rational”? I guess I ask that because to me only rational thought is “compelling”.
2) If so, can you paraphrase any of her main points where her “compelling” arguments may be found as rational as the atheists’ take?
I ask this not as a cynic, but per serious inquiry. I’ve listened to many of SOF podcasts in the past (a history of doubt being my favorite), but lost interest when I recently found the rational thought of the two atheists mentioned in your post to be much more compelling for myself. In other words, I am interested to find compelling rationalism in the philosophy of “faith”…. and if anyone can have a shot at being able to enlighten me in this, I’m sure it’d be you, John.
Maybe there’s no hope for me, however.