Dealing with My Doubts

[Note: this is a conversation between me and a couple of people on Mormon Stories.org. At this time, I had been dealing with some serious doubts about my faith and religion. Here are the responses, insights and support from some thoughtful individuals- ending with a great quote!]

Jordanandmeg said:

Daniel [another commenter talking about his experience in studying “New Mormon History”] said:

“It shook my faith but didn’t destroy it. I think that’s a healthy thing.”

 

Yes. Wonderfully said. It’s very healthy, I think, to let your faith be shaken. When it is shaken it can be deepened, corrected, reoriented, broadened. A stagnant testimony is like an embalmed flower. And even when faith is destroyed, time finds ways to put it back together with more beauty and precision than we had before, even if it takes years. And not just faith that a particular religion is true or false, but in God, goodness, truth, happiness.

Mark (me) said:

Wow, well said jordanandmeg! Kinda describes what I’m going through. Many don’t understand my “new” testimony I have now but luckily my wife is very understanding and open-minded herself. I’ve been involved in Mormon studies since I got back from my mission in ‘02. I now feel very content with my new way of thinking and have even prayed to God about my new “un-orthodox” way of thinking and felt extremely whole, happy and satisfied. I have a few questions for all you guys:

1) I haven’t been married in the temple yet and I currently don’t feel the need to do it either. Should I just get married in the temple to satisfy the parental pressures from my family and my wife’s family? (We occasionally hear the “I hope you don’t die and end up seperated for eternity” line). What about getting married “just in case it’s all true”? I’ve thought about that, too. Any thoughts?

2) How can I open up and be completely honest about how I feel spiritually to my parents? (I feel that a conversation between us cannot even start since they don’t have the “background” of information that I have).

3) I’m twenty-five and can’t get my friends to be more involved in Mormon studies. I’ve sent free issues of Sunstone to my friends. My wife doesn’t get involved either so I’m stuck reading all this interesting information and listening to all of the Mormon Stories Podcasts on my iPod and I end up with noone to share it with or chat about it. Does anybody know of a community of young open-minded individuals that meet in Utah County or anything?

4) Since I’ve become more open-minded about sources of information/ books/ philosophy (instead of just the church correlated), I have come across some cool books that I can now read and be inspired from. You guys come across any cool books that you wouldn’t have read beforehand but now you find thought-provoking? (A couple of my examples are “The Teachings of Don Juan”, and “The Singularity is Near”)

Some people’s very insightful responses to my inquiry:

Kempton said:

I’m an exmormon but I hope that doesn’t detour you from listening to my perspective, K.F. In regards to #1 above I am so glad I no longer have to make those kinds of decisions. But I understand where you are coming from. If you are already willing to live in an orthodox environment with unorthodox beliefs then why not extending it to going through the motions of a temple marriage with the funny hat, secret handshakes, and modified penal oaths?

In regards to #2, for any Progressive Sunstone Mormon, I highly recommend John Dehlin’s screencast at http://www.mormonstories.org/whytheyleave. If they do not have at least some basic common knowledge in regards to the problems with taking Mormonism literally they will likely not be receptive to what you have to say. Ask them if they want to understand your perspective? If they don’t then they won’t read any books or web pages you recommend. If they won’t read for themselves, it is like a PhD professor trying to explain algebra to a person who refuses to learn basic mathematics. In my experience I have received two distinct reactions from LDS family and friends when I tried to explain my perspective, first as a Sunstone Mormon and then as an exMormon.

1. Some of my friends would listen intently. They knew that I was a man of good character. They trusted me enough to know that there was something to what I was saying. After I gave them the basic reasons why I feel that Mormonism is not what it claims to be, they then decided to do their own research on the Internet or in books. They chose to read for themselves in more detail. After which, whether they decided to remain a devout Mormon or not, they had read for themselves everything I was saying, and so they never chose to accuse me of being the problem or making stuff up, as they had read it for themselves.

2. The second half of the people I opened up to would immediately attack my character before investigating what I told them. They’d just say they know it is true, and I must be the problem, not the church.

I have since learned that, unfortunately, people in category 2 never prove to be very good friends. But I don’t necessarily blame them. Although it is ultimately their choice to refuse to hear your side of things, they are also under a lot of socio-cultural pressure to avoid apostate Mormons and Sunstone Mormons. Below are ten examples of how much conditioning the LDS member goes through, in order to keep them from being able to see their religion as anything but the only true church let by direct revelation. Consider the following:

1. Just think about this: the LDS temple interview actually contains the following question that Latter day Saints must answer correctly to be considered a devout Mormon:

Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual? Therefore Mormons vow not to sympathize or affiliate with apostate Mormons like me.

2. Mormons are strongly discouraged from reading literature about their religion that is not faith promoting and published by the church or Deseret books.

3. At least ten times a week they say or hear the phrase “I know the LDS church is true…” When the LDS member is surrounded by friends and family who reinforce this, I believe that over time it becomes a factual truth imbedded in their subconscious mind. Any emotions they get while thinking or talking about Mormonism becomes proof to the truth of the LDS church.

4. Mormons are taught that the natural man is an enemy to God and science and rational thinking are seen as man’s ways. Therefore, when anyone writes a book that opposes the claims of the Mormon Church, the LDS member will often presumptively discount any evidence disproving LDS claims as natural man’s distortion of the truth before even examing the evidence, all because it is against what he or she believes and “feels” is true.

5. Therefore, LDS tend to refuse to read anything that criticizes the Mormon Church. Anything that challenges the idea that Mormonism is the only true religion is deemed anti-Mormon. Mormons develop an aversion to anything that is critical of their religion. When they are constantly reinforced with faith promoting literature and refuse to read the opposing point of view, they inevitably develop a powerful bias and remain voluntary ignorant to all the problems in their religion.

6. Mormon culture functions on the basis of conformity. Members don’t go to church to think but to have their beliefs reinforced. People who do not believe in Mormonism are not expected to show up, as that would challenge the faith of those in attendance. Therefore, since Mormons usually associate with only Mormons when discussing their religion, they slowly develop religious tunnel vision as their relationships are built around the emotion-based premise that Mormonism is true. Anyone who questions this premise is seen as someone causing trouble. Mormonism is a feel-good religion, based on emotional security and social conformity. If someone brings up something that doesn’t make the church member feel good they will not be welcomed.

7. Since the Mormon’s identity is wrapped around Mormon dogma anyone who questions things like the historicity of the Book of Mormon will be seen as someone who is attacking the member’s very identity. Just like taking a toy away from a two-year-old, most LDS members are unable to look at their religion objectively, because their ego has become attached to the dogma.

8. Then they are taught to believe that subjective feelings are the way to know objective truth. Talking with an exmormon usually will not make the true believing Mormon feel good, since they had no idea Smith put a seer stone in a hat or that he had sex with teenagers.

9. If the Mormon really thinks an old white man in Utah is the only person on the planet who speaks for God they will begin to distrust any scientific expert that does not conform to the words of their leader. They believe obeying the words of their leader is what’s most important.

10. The LDS member has been trained to handle the former LDS believer and Sunstone Mormon with disdain. They are told to bear testimony: appeal to emotions rather than have an open discussion based on logic and reason. They are told to refuse to read what the former Mormon offers as evidence because it’s all considered anti-Mormon lies. The Mormon has been taught to assume that anyone who leaves the church is an evil sinner that is spiritually sick, and must be either reconverted to the true fold or rejected lest they drag you down to the pit of hell with them. Dramatic language aside that is unfortunately what you’re dealing with.

For some suggestions for having a friendly dialogue with an LDS member see: http://www.geocities.com/exmormon2000/friendlydialogue.htm


Mark (me again) said:

Thank you!! I sincerely thank you for your thoughts, experiences and links posted. I didn’t even know about the slideshow put together by John Dehlin! I’ve already started to bring up some sort of dialogue with my dad and already he told me he was worried I would become an “apostate”. I know that he is scared to look into the things I’ve been looking into for the last year.

Everyone around me tends to say, “I don’t wanna hear about it”, or even, “why are you poking around in manure”. Well the reason why is because, like Mr. Dehlin, I was SOOOO into LDS apologetics and Church history. I studied everything on the FAIR website, SHIELDS, Jay Lindsay and ate it all up- I loved it, but I wanted more and delved deeper. Like John I went from LDS Church manuals to Arrington, to Bushman, to Quinn, Compton and other Signature books. Did we do something bad to have come to the place we are?? No, we arrived here from our thirst for knowledge of our church and its history. People who have come to where we are arrived here because they value integrity, too. I think most of us on this blog are studious, care about truth and integrity.

I would probably consider myself a NOM (New Order Mormon) for now, and the path to where I am now started with an LDS mission, then to apologetics, and then to fair and balanced Mormon literature. John Dehlin’s studies started when he wanted to be a better Seminary teacher. He cares very much about integrity and truth, I can tell. Grant Palmer sounds very much the same in his interview on Mormon Stories and elsewhere. You sound like a great guy too, Bill, and I am sure none of us are going to be judged negatively for simply studying our church and honoring truth.

Thanks again!

Jordanandmeg said:

Mark.

I think the road to deeper faith is an inherently lonely one. It is essentially between oneself and God. You learn to judge things as they come and slowly become more patient with yourself, other people, your religion, and life’s ambiguities.

I wouldn’t expect anyone to understand or join you. I wouldn’t expect family or church to take part in this. And rightly so. Deep faith is deeply personal. And I wouldn’t expect to change the world – that’s part of learning patience with reality.

Deepening faith is like running the gauntlet: there’s nothing more lonely, painful, dire, urgent. But once it nears its end – what satisfaction, what accomplishment! And every once and a while, you come across someone who’s ran the same race, and you can enjoy a knowing exchange.

Through it all, I have come to love the church. I think I’m beginning to see it for what it really is.

It’ll be exciting to see what kind of conclusions you come to.

Kempton said:

Hey Mark,

I’m afraid that the “I don’t want to hear about it” retort is quite common in Mormondom. I once presented an LDS friend with David Whitmer’s pamphlet An Address to All Believers in Christ where he states that God told him to leave the LDS church. My friend just said, “I don’t care what David Whitmer said!” Imagine that, he doesn’t care what a BoM witness said, LOL. Most of my family has seen the light but my father is still afraid to look into things and we agree to disagree about religion. I spent about two years trying to get him to read or listen to things and finally I decided that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, you can’t teach a dog new tricks, and I accept my father the way he is. You know the saying, “would you rather be right or be happy?” You are so right, Mark, when you wrote that “most of us on this blog are studious, care about truth and integrity.” Jordanandmeg is right too, the road to truth and integrity is often a lonely one, but once the smoke clears you’re true friends remain and no one can put a price on truth. In the long run the truth comes out. Be glad you found out now rather than later.

– Bill
www.geocities.com/exmormon2000


FreeAtLast said:

I heard a great quote today from Patrick Henry, the 18th-century American Revolutionary leader and orator. It’s SO applicable to many Latter-Day Saints in respect to their fear of finding out faith-shaking facts about Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, early church history, and other aspects of Mormonism. Henry said,

We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth…Is this the part of wise men…Are we disposed to be of the number of those, who having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not…? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it might cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; [and] to know it – now.

Advertisements

~ by bonoboi on May 27, 2006.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: