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If you have read the information we provide on MormonThink, then you may be grappling with one of the following statements:
Regardless of where you find yourself now, in this section we provide a perspective and set of resources we hope will help you negotiate your relationship with Mormonism in a meaningful, satisfying, and personally rewarding way.
If you fall into the first category, you will be a more knowledgeable ambassador of the Church. You can now refute the critics' problems and suggest alternatives. Moreover, if you are doing missionary work, you need not worry what an investigator may bring up because you will be well prepared.
Your confusion makes sense, especially if you are confronting the issues MormonThink raises for the first time. You may have some more learning, thinking and processing to do, by yourself or with others. Be assured that there is no need for you to rush to judgment. Take your time and let yourself be guided by your good sense and intellect.
We advise you to leave no stone unturned in your quest for truth. Talk to critics, faithful members, local LDS leadership, former members and anyone that can intelligently discuss the issues. Read broadly. You may want to make sure you have read all of the critics' arguments as well as the LDS faithful responses from this website. Check out the relevant links for both sides and read what each side has to say in their own words. Read books that represent all perspectives, and listen to podcasts and watch informative videos, use the Internet to research thoroughly. There are lots of very informative websites from many viewpoints out there. Pray for answers as you are comfortable with prayer.
If your research finds you still uncertain as to what you believe is the truth, we would suggest not doing anything until you are comfortable. Take your time and explore your options. Visit the message boards of both critics and faithful church members, and get their insights.
Former members and questioning members:
New Order Mormons (active LDS that don't necessary believe everything the church teaches):
Totally faithful member sites:
Additional internet resources: comprehensive list of LDS links.
Other purely faith-promoting books suggested by faithful readers include:
Additional books: LDS books
This is the most difficult conclusion to address, and the one with the hardest decisions to make. What most people do:
Option 1) Leave the Church. Send in your resignation letter and no longer be involved at all with the LDS Church. Get on with your life. You can find instructions for resignation here: How to get out by Richard Packham
Option 2) Become inactive. Just forget about the Church and dwindle into inactivity.
Option 3) Stay in. Some people who do not believe in the divinity of the Church yet do not want to leave it may become "New Order Mormons" (NOMs). The reasons NOMs tend to cite for staying in the church include family (often a spouse is still a believer and would cause significant strife if one partner leaves the Church), employment (members, particularly living in Utah, often work with many LDS and fear for that their careers may suffer if it was known that they left the Church), or they don't know what else to do. Some people do not want to join another church and are comfortable staying with the religion they have known their entire lives, even if they don't believe it's all true.
This reminds me a little bit of what the Mormon kid Gary says to Stan in the South Park episode, “All About the Mormons”:
For those who no longer believe that the Church is true, there is another option. First we don't blame anyone for leaving the Church if you no longer believe it's true. Also, those who stay in to keep the peace with their families and 'suffer in silence' have their crosses to bear; we wish them well.
For those who wish to do an altruistic service, you may want to consider staying in and try to make the Church a more honorable institution. Several of us are doing that through this site, and thousands more 'New Order Mormons' do that as well.
We're Gospel Doctrine teachers, Sunday School teachers, home teachers and just average everyday members who provide service in the Church just like other Latter-day Saints, yet we know the full history of the Church and try to promote accurate history over myth and legend.
It's not easy, and some of the original founding members of MormonThink found it too difficult to continue to listen to the sugar-coated history in church every week so they no longer attend. But if this is something you may be interested in doing, try staying in the Church, at least for a while.
Essays by John Dehlin
Here is a thought-provoking essay entitled 'How to Stay in the LDS Church After a Major Challenge to Your Faith'. This was written by John Dehlin, host of mormonstories.org.
John is a non-traditional believer who encourages people to stay in the Church as he does. John makes a strong case to stay in the LDS Church unless you have something else to replace it with.
A more recent John Dehlin essay, "For those who are in the LDS faith struggle."
In July 2012, John gave a talk at the July 27th Salt Lake Symposium called "Why I stay - John Dehlin".
This 18 minute mormonstories podcast is good and reflects the sentiment of many contributing members of MormonThink and a must-hear for those wondering why some people choose to stay in the church who do not necessarily believe in its complete divinity. Podcast #365
If the church would change its lesson manuals and teach everything historically accurate, and not sugarcoat the history, then this site and many others would not be needed. We would be glad to shut it down when that day arrives. Many church members agree with inoculating its members with the full truth early on, including several, official church historians.
Moreover, we should never apologize for teaching the absolute truth. It's the right thing to do as stated by a modern-day apostle:
It may not always be easy, convenient, or politically correct to stand for truth and right, but it is the right thing to do. Always.
- Elder M. Russell Ballard, LDS apostle, Ensign, Nov. 1997, 37
It's healthy to get Joseph Smith's history out in the open. It shouldn't be concealed.
- Richard Bushman, LDS historian, Deseret News
Take in mind we don't try to educate people who would rather not know about the disturbing aspects of church history. They have to go looking for it to find the details.
Taking the Church on your terms
Accept what you feel is good about the Church and reject what you feel is bad. Only participate as you are comfortable doing so. Believe only the doctrine that you are comfortable with. Only pay tithing to the extent you feel you are receiving benefit. Accept only callings you wish to do honorably. Don't feel compelled to wear garments unless you really like wearing them. Be in control and take the Church on your terms—after all it is a volunteer organization. It's okay to be a cafeteria Mormon.
We're not fooling ourselves; we know we won't affect much real change, but at least it makes us feel good about being part of an organization that we don't believe is always totally honest with its members.
The Church has some 14 million members. That can be an incredible source for good. However, membership should not be based on inaccurate or misleading information. We recognize that the Church is perhaps the best fraternity in the world, but perhaps it isn't God's only one, true church. We don't want to harm the church, but rather reform it so it can truly be an organization to be admired and trusted 100%, but that can only happen if the Church is totally open and honest in recognizing the many issues that are problematic in its history.
Keep the good teachings of the Church
In the Church we often tell new members or investigators to keep the good, true things of your faith and let us add to it. Similarly we ask those who either wish to remain in the Church or those who decide they're better off without it, to retain the good things they experienced in the Church. We acknowledge that the Church does have many good teachings and experiences that came into our lives as a result of the Church and we encourage people to not abandon them. Many of these are universal things like the "golden rule" or helping our neighbors altruistically as taught by Jesus in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon.
Most LDS members think that one or more of the following are reasons why members leave the church:
None of those reasons apply to those who helped develop this site or for most of the former members or inactive members who post their experiences online on LDS message boards daily. There doesn't seem to be any room for the idea that for many people, they leave because of doctrinal disbelief and historical problems of the Church that are too serious to ignore.
A well-done video summarizing the: Top 10 Mormon Problems Explained
An excellent presentation on why people leave by John Dehlin
John has updated his popular 'Why people leave the LDS Church and what can we do about it' video. He has now included results of a survey.
Powerpoint presentation: can be found here.
Church historian Elder Jensen speaks publicly on members leaving the church
Church historian, Elder Marlin Jensen held a Q&A session at Utah State University on January 18, 2012. Elder Jensen has been a general authority of the church since 1989. He currently is a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Since 2005, he also has been the Church Historian and Recorder of the church. [note: Elder Jensen has since become a General Authority Emeritus]
A questioner asked, “Has the church seen the effects of Google on membership? It seems like the people who I talk to about church history are people who find out and leave quickly. Is the church aware of that problem? What about the people who are already leaving in droves?”
Follow-up: The program that Elder Jensen talked about appears the be 'the essays' that started to be published on the LDS.org website in late 2013.
One important thing to consider: this site, as well as many of the critics' sites, link to many faith-promoting websites. We link to FAIR, The Neal Maxwell Institute (formerly FARMS), Jeff Lindsay's webpage, SHIELDS,the official LDS page and various websites made by faithful members of the Church.
Unfortunately, those sites don't link to MormonThink. Nor do they link to Richard Packham's site, The Tanners Utah Lighthouse Ministry, exmormon.org, i4m.com, lds-mormon.com or any of the blogs from those who have doubts or present information about the Church that doesn't look through rose-colored glasses.
We at MormonThink want everyone to look at ALL of the credible information out there, even if we don't agree with it. But the people at FAIR, FARMS and especially the LDS Church itself, want you to only look at their information.
We ask you, who do you think is dealing more fairly with you? Who has something that they don't want you to see?
In several places throughout this website, we tell readers that if the true-believer response isn't sufficient that they can go to FAIR and use the ask the apologist feature and get their answers on any topic in their own words. Can you imagine the apologists putting an 'ask the critics' feature on their website so readers can fully understand the critics' arguments?
We get emails all the time from faithful members. Some disagree with us and say that one of the faithful member arguments is too weak, and they suggest changing it. So we change it. We want the strongest arguments from both sides so we will change them accordingly or at the very least link to it if it's too lengthy. So please feel free to send us stronger arguments on any issue representing any viewpoint.
FAIR and FARMS would probably say that they adequately discuss the issues from their viewpoint. An analogy: If you were involved in a court case and the opposing lawyer said that you don't need a lawyer that instead he would fairly state your case and then argue against it, would you do it? Of course not, only a lawyer working for you would present the strongest arguments for your side. Also, FAIR and FARMS (and most other apologetic web sites) often only show part of the problem, and the average member would also then think that all of the issues have been covered in a given topic, but in reality only the issues that they choose to bring up are discussed.
For example, some of the faith-promoting sites may actually mention that Joseph did put his face in a hat while translating the Book of Mormon. But most don't talk about how the stone he used was a common stone he found while digging a well on Willard Chase's property, the very stone he was brought up before a court in 1826 for 'glass looking'. They let readers believe that Joseph put the urim & thummim, that he got from Moroni, in the hat. Also never explained is why the Urim & thummim, the original one that was preserved in the stone box for 1400 years for the purpose of translating the BOM, was never used to translate any of the published BOM. They also never mention why on earth the gold plates were preserved for 1400+ years when they were never even used in the translation process. They don't talk about why Moroni did not return the urim & thummim to Joseph when Moroni returned the plates, after he took them from Joseph for losing the first 116 pages. They also act as if the name 'urim & thummim' was always used to describe the seer stones instead of having the name coined by W.W. Phelps in 1833, some three years after the Book of Mormon was published.
An example of this was on the 2007 PBS Special "The Mormons", when one of the most well-known defenders of the faith, Daniel Peterson, was discussing the seer stone. Daniel Peterson said that the stone Joseph used to translate the BOM with is something we don't know much about except that it was found in the vicinity of Cumorah. That is Peterson's attempt to make it sound as if the stone was something that the Nephites had used or something anciently divine. In reality, Peterson is undoubtedly aware that the stone was found some 20 feet underground on Willard Chase's property when Joseph and his brother Hyrum were digging a well for Mr. Chase years before the gold plates were even given to Joseph. He also neglected to say that the church still has this stone in their possession.
The same is true of all the historical problems of the LDS Church. The LDS apologetic sites only discuss some of the disturbing details of the topics and only from their viewpoint. We at MormonThink discuss all the issues - the good, the bad and the ugly, and we link to the LDS Church and both critics and LDS defenders for every topic. We also gladly add links to ANY site when asked of us for sites that have relevant information on the topic, whether we agree with their viewpoint or not!
See this informative link by Dr. Shades: Inside the minds of LDS apologists
The information discussed on MT is just the stuff we know about and have the time to write about. Many of these things only came to light in the past 30 or 40 years or so because insiders in the Church decided to leak the information to the public. What else is in the vaults that hasn't been leaked out? It could be a lot worse. How will we ever know because we have no trust? What if there's something like a fabricated set of plates that were found in Sidney Rigdon's basement or something? How would we ever know there isn't more damaging stuff in the vault OR has already been destroyed, especially since the Church won't openly acknowledge the stuff that they have now? An obscure paragraph in the Ensign written decades ago is not sufficient to say they aren't hiding anything. When the masses know everything and have full access to the information in the Church vaults then the Church can say it's not hiding anything. One known example is the minutes to the Council of Fifty. The church continues to refuse to publish them despite stating that the Joseph Smith Papers Project will disclose everything it finds.
In the Church, we've been taught to feel guilty for not being a missionary and proclaiming the gospel to everyone, especially our friends and neighbors. We told how disappointed our friends would feel in the next life, if we knew the truth but chose not to tell our friends about it.
Assume for a minute that the LDS Church is not true, and that you discovered this after carefully studying the history of the Church. How do you think your friends and family would feel, either at the end of their life or in the next life, if you knew the truth and never cared enough to tell them? The principle is the same - tell people the truth, no matter what it may be. It is up to you, the reader, to decide what you want to tell your friends and loved ones about what you discovered.
Some people may not want to know that their religion, which to some people means a great deal, may not be exactly what they thought it was. Do you risk telling them and have them say "Gee, I wish you wouldn't have told me that"?
We suggest the following. If you know someone that you feel may benefit from learning about the details of Mormonism's history, ask them the following:
Comment from Richard Van Wagoner, LDS author, historian
Fables can be useful to a culture. Who can deny that Santa Claus makes Christmas more memorable to the child in us all. And what a wonderful tale of George Washington and the cherry tree did Mason Locke Weems weave out of whole cloth not "to give information about George Washington but to suggest virtuous conduct to young Americans." In religious matters, however, folk tales equated with reality can ultimately destroy conviction when unmasked. Latter-day Saints who base their faith on such irresolute stories as Paul H. Dunn's allegories or the "Transfiguration of Brigham Young," when faced with evidence that their belief system seems to rest on sources that are dubious at best or duplicitous at worst, may conclude as Elder Brigham H. Roberts once warned "that since these things are myth and our Church has permitted them to be perpetuated ... might not the other fundamentals to the actual story of the Church, the things in which it had its origin, might they not all be lies and nothing but lies." Answering his own compelling question Roberts responded, "I find my own heart strengthened in the truth by getting rid of the untruth, the spectacular, the bizarre, as soon as I learn that it is based upon worthless testimony." That advice, like a spectral voice of reason from the past, remains as sound today as it did six decades ago.
Jim Whitefield's Advice
From Jim Whitefield's webpage, about 2/3 of the way down under "Sharing Discovery of the Truth", he gives the following thoughts in how this issue should be approached so as to not harm a marriage:
Many of those who decide to leave the LDS faith or become less active fear for their children. They believe that it is only through the influence of the LDS Church that their children will grow up to be good, moral people and to stay away from drugs and other bad influences of the world.
This may perhaps be a somewhat naive view and really depends more on your parenting style than if you are a an active member of the LDS church. Here is a well-done article by Richard Packham exploring this issue:
Raising Children as Mormons by Richard Packham
Mormon Expression did an excellent podcast that discusses the pros and cons of raising children in the LDS Church: Mormon Expression podcast # 198 Children in LDS Families
We are often asked: What do you believe about Jesus? Is mainstream Christianity true? Should I join another church? Is there a God?
We don't feel qualified to give definitive answers or advice to these questions. Actually, nobody is. The contributing members of MT have diverse opinions on that subject Some contributors find fault with LDS history but still believe the LDS Church is basically true, so they would not consider joining another church. We have observed that for those that wish to find alternatives to the LDS church, some people have been happy joining mainstream Christian churches, others have found their place in non-denominational churches, some find satisfaction adopting a form of universal spiritual belief, and many have found peace embracing agnosticism.
While mainstream Christianity has its merits for some, we cannot in good conscience critique the Mormon faith and yet view the Christian faith as outside the bounds of deconstruction. The chief difference is the Mormon Church is relatively recent and there is much more archival information to examine in relation to the religion's truth claims. Both the New and Old Testament accounts happened before history was reliably recorded, so it is difficult to determine what was fact and what was likely myth. Moreover, while we are very knowledgeable on Mormonism, we are not Biblical scholars. Therefore, we do not pretend to be experts on the historical Jesus.
For your reference, below are two different perspectives on post-Mormonism and religion in general. We do not endorse them but think they may be useful to those pondering their path:
A Christian group made a DVD about transitioning out of Mormonism and into mainstream Christianity. Grant Palmer appears in several small clips "LDS Transitions"
What about Jesus? by Richard Packham. An excellent article by a very knowledgeable critic of the LDS church that gives his personal opinion on Jesus.
MormonThink is a work in progress. We continually update all the sections whenever new, relevant information that comes to light. We also correct errors and strengthen arguments from all sides of the various issues as we have time.
If you have a question or wish to strengthen an argument from any viewpoint, correct an error, or to submit an essay for inclusion into the site, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our editors will respond as quickly as possible.
The site continues to evolve as members, past and present, submit new essays and commentaries
We would also like to offer our gratitude to Jerald and Sandra Tanner. Virtually every website that relates church history differently than the received view relies on work pioneered by the Tanners. Their website and books are very comprehensive.
MormonThink is not a commercial site. We gain nothing but peace of mind for providing information that many people are interested in reading about. It's truly a labor of love.
However, some readers have asked if they could make a contribution to help cover the cost of maintaining and improving the website. We are grateful for any donation you feel comfortable making. You can find more information at Donations.
In our opinion, nothing on this site 100% proves or disproves whether or not the LDS church is God's one, true church. We merely present some of the strongest critics' arguments used against the church and then found the strongest defenses against those arguments. (We also added our own opinions as we kept getting asked what we thought so we decided to just put any thoughts we had in each section after reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of both sides from reviewing the many arguments found on both the critical websites and the faithful websites.)
We believe there are many legitimate issues that LDS members are concerned about and some have left the Church over. Our hope is that the Church will discuss these issues openly so members can decide for themselves how important they think these issues are.
If there was no evidence to support the Church's claims, that would be one thing; we would just need a certain amount of faith to accept the Church's claims. However it is not the lack of evidence but rather the contradictory evidence that makes the claims of the Church so challenging to believe.
If it were only a few irreconcilable items that needed an extra measure of faith, most of us would be willing to shelve them until the next life. But the sheer accumulation of significant issues that contradict what we've been taught makes it hard to imagine that all of them have extraordinary explanations.
Maybe none of the individual items listed by the critics in the various sections of MormonThink, perhaps with the exception of the Book of Abraham translation issue or Book of Mormon problems, is in itself a deal-breaker. But the sheer volume of significant issues makes it doubtful that the Church is what it claims to be.
Maybe there really are fantastic explanations to explain everything, like God changed the American Indians' DNA from Jewish to Asian; Egyptologists don't really understand Egyptian; archaeologists just haven't yet found the evidence of the steel swords, horses, and elephants mentioned in the BOM; Joseph didn't really know where the Hill Cumorah from the BOM was; scribes were responsible for all the errors and misquotings of the prophets; blacks really are cursed from God through Cain; Joseph's brothers slept in bed with him but slept through Moroni's all night visitation; evil men really did steal the lost 116 pages but just decided to destroy this valuable document; the Masons really did have the original temple ceremony from Solomon's time; God brought all the dinosaur bones from other planets to the Earth; etc.
If these and many other improbable explanations for the many problems were really true, then that would be even more amazing and unbelievable than the story of the restoration itself as taught by the Church! What are the chances that ALL of the damning evidence against the Church will suddenly reverse itself?
Anyone who knows the complete, true, historic details of the Church, and is then asked to still believe in them as taught by the Church without any further explanation provided by the Church, is asked to have more faith than anyone should be asked to have.
Our church's prophet is said to receive revelations from Heavenly Father. How many more members have to leave the Church over these issues, before the prophet will get divine answers to give to his children in order to answer their legitimate concerns?
Church members have many unanswered questions the Church needs to officially address. We appeal to the Church to please consider teaching the members the complete history of the Church, warts and all. Our hope is that the Church will put these issues, that are troubling to so many Latter-day Saints, on the table, out in the open so we can discuss them without fear. We hope former Church historian Elder Marlin Jensen is correct and the Church is planning on addressing these issues publicly in the near future.
We want the Church leaders to be 100% open and honest with the members so we can be 100% open and honest with our children, families, friends, investigators and fellow members. Is that too much to ask?
Facts vs. Motives
MormonThink is often accused of having questionable motives. Instead of focusing on whether or not the facts are accurate or not, they concern themselves with who we are and what we've done. If this is your concern, we encourage you to read Who Are We? and an entry on the ad hominem fallacy.
Here's an outline that we originally used to help develop this site. Some readers have asked that we publish it for use as a reference.