Conclusions


If you haven't read all the sections yet then please do so before reading this section. If you have read all the completed sections then you probably have come to one of the following three conclusions:

  1. The LDS Church is still true. The issues brought up by the critics are adequately explained by the Church members, LDS apologists and the Church itself. Anything not fully answered is either not that important or I can wait until the next life to find out those answers.
  2. The LDS Church is false. The evidence brought up by the critics is convincing enough to show that the LDS Church is not what it claims to be. It may have its merits, but the gospel was not restored through Joseph Smith as claimed.
  3. I'm confused. I don't really know what to believe.

Contents

Introduction

Advice for believers

Advice for unsure

Advice for nonbelievers

Consider another option

Why do we stay in?

What if we're wrong?

What about prayer?

Why people leave the Church

What would make Church true?

We want the Church true

You don't choose belief

Who to believe?

What else don't we know?

Should you inform others?

Raising kids non-LDS

Joining other churches

Updates

Donations

Facts vs motives

Elder Jensen - members leaving

Summary

Advice for people who still believe the Church is true

If you fall into category 1, and you fully analyzed all of the critic's arguments then you will be a better missionary. You can now fully refute the critics' problems with the Church. You needn't ever worry what an investigator or a critic of the Church may bring up. The following sites may be of comfort to you:

Advice for people who still don't know what to believe

First, make sure you have read all of the critics' arguments as well as the LDS faithful responses from this website. Check out the numerous relevant links for both sides and read what each side has to say in their own words. Read books by both sides, and listen to podcasts and watch informative videos. Use the Internet, google any topic and research all sides of the issues. There are lots of very informative websites from many viewpoints out there. Pray for definitive, detailed answers as you are comfortable with prayer. 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.

Don't feel that you need to make a decision today. If you are still uncertain as to what you believe is the truth, we would suggest not doing anything until you are comfortable with your decision. Take your time and explore your options. Visit the message boards of both critics and faithful church members, and get their insights. Some of the more popular discussion sites:

Former members and questioning members:

New Order Mormons (active LDS that don't necessary believe everything the church teaches):

Totally faithful member sites:
  • Mormon.org (run by the LDS Church)
  • Mormon Dialogue (run by FAIR - pro church - warning: they will ban critics at the drop of a hat if they challenge them too much)

Neutral:

List of Links:

Books:

  • Most recommended: An Insider's View of Mormon Origins by Grant Palmer. He's a former CES teacher of 34 years.
  • Another excellent book is No Man Knows My History, by Fawn Brodie. (This book is found in many public libraries).
  • Richard Bushman's book Rough Stone Rolling is also very popular and written by a faithful LDS historian from a faithful point-of-view.
  • Dan Vogel wrote a fascinating very-detailed biography on Joseph Smith called 'Making of a Prophet' which is very-well researched by one of the best Mormon scholars.

Other purely faith-promoting books suggested by faithful readers include:

  • Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002). An expert on intellectual history, Givens has read every single anti-Mormon book, tract, and website. He examines the best arguments against the Book of Mormon.
  • Kevin L. Barney, "Examining Six Key Concepts in Joseph Smith's Understanding of Genesis 1:1," BYU Studies39:3 (2000) 107-124. In this meta-study, Barney looks at (among other points) three radical teachings revealed to Joseph Smith about the nature of God: (1) God created the universe out of pre-existing chaos, not out of nothing, (2) The Most High presides over lesser deities, and (3) the gods met in a council. He demonstrates that these have all become, quite remarkably, the dominant consensus among mainstream Bible scholars. Available free.
  • Benjamin D. Sommer, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011). Written by a Bible scholar at Jewish Theological Seminary, this is the definitive book on whether the God of the Old Testament had a body. The conclusions buttress Joseph Smith's claims to prophethood.
  • Givens, Terryl and Fiona Givens. The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life (Salt Lake City: Ensign Peak, 2012), Popular among those currently experiencing a faith crisis.

 

Other Mormon Books: Mormon Books

Advice for people who no longer believe the LDS Church is the one, true church

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. Instructions for resignation given here: How to get out by Richard Packham

Option 2) Become inactive. Just forget about the Church and dwindle into inactivity.

  • Pros: still a member if you ever want to be associated with it for any reason. Not looked down upon as much by LDS friends compared to resigning.
  • Cons: still listed as a member in the Church and inflating their membership records. Gives reason for continued, repeated contact by home teachers, visiting teachers, bishopric, etc. if you don't want this contact.

Option 3) Stay in. Some people that don't believe in the divinity of the Church don't want to leave it for various reasons so they become "New Order Mormons". The reasons often cited by NOMs are family (often a spouse is still a believer and would cause significant strife if one partner leaves the Church), job reasons (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 don't want to join another church and are just comfortable staying in the church they've been a member of all their lives, even if they don't really 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”:

Gary: Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life, and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you’re so high and mighty you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, buddy. @#*%!
Cartman: Damn, that kid is cool, huh?

We ask you consider another option

For those that no longer believe that the Church is true, we ask you to consider another option. First we don't blame anyone for leaving the Church if you no longer believe it's true. Also, those that stay in to keep the peace with their families and 'suffer in silence' have their crosses to bear, and we wish them well also.

For those that wish to do an altruistic service, we ask you to consider staying in and try to make the Church a more honorable institution. Several of us are doing that now, from 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 that 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 just 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, we ask you to stay in the Church, at least try it for a season.

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 done by John Dehlin, host of mormonstories.org.

John is a non-traditional believer that 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.

http://mormonstories.org/howtostay/HowToStay.html

also a more recent John Dehlin essay, "For those who are in the LDS faith struggle"

http://mormonstories.org/for-those-who-are-in-the-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 really 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 that do not necessarily believe in its complete divinity. Podcast #365

Why do we stay in?

Several people were involved in creating this site. Honestly, some have since resigned, some have dwindled into inactivity and some are still active today. Many of us are still active members even though most of us don't believe the Church is exactly what it claims to be. We stay in for various reasons, but mostly what makes us unique and different from the New Order Mormons is that the main reason for our continued membership in the Church is education.

We don't feel that it is appropriate for the Church leadership to hide things from the general membership of the Church. We want to get everything out on the table. People can do whatever they want with the information; we just want everyone to be informed on the issues and therefore make a decision based on accurate information. We encourage people to never lie or make the history sound worse than it is. Just be honest.

Our goal would be that no knowledgeable member should have to be afraid to speak the truth in church to avoid offending a naive member with the truth about polygamy, the BOM translation process, Masonry, or any other historical aspect of the Church. 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?

We're kind of like a subset of missionaries within the Church that try to take members to the next level of understanding but instead of going door-to-door, we let them come to us. Some of us are Sunday School and Gospel Doctrine teachers. We attempt to bring a little more honesty to the lessons than other less-informed teachers would. Others bring up relevant issues in classes to generate discussions. Some have even discussed these issues with our bishops to try to generate more interest in the total honesty movement. Anything shared is always done respectfully, honestly and in context with the lessons.

We don't share the truth in a belligerent way or by bearing our 'real testimonies' in testimony meeting or by disrupting classes with awkward comments - but rather in open discussions in Sunday School, Relief Society or Priesthood if appropriate. We only wish to communicate the in-depth issues with those members that express interest in learning the details of church history. We do not advocate forcing the truth on people that expressly say that they are not interested. We acknowledge that deciding how and who to share the truth with is a fine line. When in doubt, don't say anything to anyone unless they bring it up first.

Several faithful church historians like Richard Bushman have also supported the idea of 'inoculation' by informing members early on of certain historical issues that may be troubling. Many apologists claim that they also want the church to teach things in a historically accurate way. One of the reasons is that many members have said that they were more upset that they didn't know about these things rather than the actual historical issues. To that end, we agree with the LDS apologists and historians that the information should be shared and not hidden.

We have heard rumors that the church is planning on making some resources available that respond to these issues that trouble so many LDS. We hope that's true. If so, we think this planned movement towards openly and honestly discussing church history will only have come about because of sites like this one.

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.

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.

Why do we do this?

The Church asks an awful lot of its members. We're asked to pay 10% of our income every year for our entire lives, to devote some 10 hours every week in church meetings, temple attendance, home teaching, early morning seminary, preparing lessons, reading scriptures, doing service, etc. To sacrifice two years of our lives in total service to the church by serving missions, that despite what many people say, it is not really the best two years of your life for most people. We're asked to wear special underwear 24 hours a day that no one would ever pick out on their own. Many of us have suffered problems with our families for even joining the church. Many have also felt the strain of having family members not able to attend our own temple weddings.

That is a lot to ask of people and we simply feel that the people have a right to know everything about the organization before they make such life-long commitments. If people knew that perhaps the church, in some ways, really wasn't what it claimed to be then maybe they would not make those kinds of sacrifices without getting answers to all their questions. Either way, they have a right to know. We feel the same way about all organizations that ask us to make major sacrifices in our lives such as the government or charities we support.

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.

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

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 that either wish to remain in the Church or those that 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.

What if we're wrong?

People wonder what if by some chance the Church is 100% true, and that there is some sort of fantastic explanation for all the historical problems - would God punish those that brought up its problematic history?

God gave us a brain and expects us to use it. We're expected to use every means at our disposal to seek the truth and to live our lives in a desirable way. "The Glory of God is intelligence" is something we hear at church all the time.

If the LDS Church is somehow 100% true, we're not too worried about defending our beliefs on judgment day. If we end up 'on trial' for not believing what the LDS Church has taught, the information on this website alone would justify our actions.

We would ask God to explain the following:

  • Why doesn't Joseph Smith's translation of the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham and the Egyptian papyri match what Egyptologists say they mean?
  • Why does the Book of Mormon mention so many things that did not exist in the Americas when the BOM took place such as horses, elephants, wheat, barley, silk, steel, etc.?
  • Why were we told the Book of Mormon was translated from gold plates that were never used, when Joseph put his face in a hat and looked at a common stone he found while digging a well?
  • Why did Joseph marry 11 men's wives while they were still married to their husbands?

The lists of questions would go on for several pages. If God does indeed exist, and he's the fair judge that we all believe him to be, then how could He condemn anyone for not believing a story fraught with so many problems?

Likewise if the church isn't true, then I don't think a just God would punish anyone for believing in it if they really believed it, although perhaps some people would be chided for IGNORING the red flags and continuing to believe a lie out of fear or willful ignorance. If the church isn't true then it does not have the power to 'save' you anyway.

LDS people would probably have the same response if, in the next life, they found out that Scientology was really God's one, true church. They would bring up the absurd problems with that religion and expect absolution for not believing in Scientology.

According to LDS lore, Joseph Smith himself will have some role in the final judgment of our souls. Shortly before he died, Joseph said "no man knows my history; if I hadn't lived it I wouldn't have believed it myself." Well, if even Joseph wouldn't have believed it, then how can anyone blame us for not believing it either?

What about Prayer?

Although we don't necessarily accept prayer and good feelings as superseding facts, virtually all of us sincerely prayed about these issues after they were brought to our attention. None of us received any answers that would have comforted us enough to maintain our beliefs.

Believe me, as a contributor to this site, I prayed every day earnestly for several years about these issues, and I never received any comfort at all that the LDS Church was still the one, true church and all its doctrine was really 100% true. And before I agreed to help publish this site, I also asked God if this was something he would be offended by, and I again received no negative response. I would be the first person to remove myself from having anything to do with this site if I ever had a true knowledge that God wanted me to do that. That would be something else I would bring up on Judgment Day, if somehow this site offended Deity.

Why People Leave the Church

Most LDS members believe that one, or a combination of the following, are reasons members leave the church:

  1. were offended
  2. want to sin, or have already committed a great sin
  3. couldn't hack it; got tired of church rules, need vacation
  4. read "anti-Mormon" literature
  5. were too proud to follow

Each one of those reasons doesn't apply to anyone that helped develop this site or for many of the former members or inactive members that post their experiences on LDS message boards daily on the Internet. 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.

We used to think that way too. I remember when I was a totally-believing member, an intellectual couple in my ward (both were schoolteachers) left the church. All I had known was that they left because of early Church History, but I jumped on the bandwagon of the people that were speculating as to what really happened to them. I said no one leaves the Church because it isn't true. They must not want to pay tithing, or somebody offended them, or they have some serious sin that they don't want to confess, or something else we don't know about.

I feel ashamed of myself now for thinking that way. For now I know that many good people leave the Church because they simply no longer believe it - and they have very good reasons for not believing it.

A well-done video summarizing the: Top 10 Mormon Problems Explained

An excellent presentation on why people leave by John Dehlin

John Dehlin 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.

Updated Video: 400: Top 5 Myths and Truths about Why Committed Mormons Leave the Church

Powerpoint presentation: can be found here.

What would make the Church true?

If the LDS Church is true, then we would expect the following things to have happened in this way. We don’t necessarily mean that these things would absolutely have been required for a restoration of the gospel to happen, but rather since we’ve been taught certain things about the Church happened in a certain way, then the list we’ve developed is in the context of what we were taught in church.

  1. Joseph would have told the same version of the First Vision throughout his life. He would have gotten the details correct surrounding the most important, spectacular moment anyone could ever have in this life.
  2. Joseph's five brothers (and probably the rest of the household) that were sleeping in his room (including some that shared his bed) on September 21, 1823 would have been awakened by the presence of Moroni. They would have testified of his visit as well.
  3. If the angel did indeed take back the gold plates and the urim and thummim from Joseph when Martin Harris lost the first 116 pages, he would have returned the urim & thummim to Joseph when he returned the gold plates to him, instead of having Joseph finish the translation using a common stone he found while digging a well.
  4. Joseph would likely have actually used the gold plates in the translation process, instead of putting an ordinary stone in a hat without even looking at the plates.
  5. When the 116 pages were lost, Joseph would have simply retranslated the 'stolen' pages. If the pages were really stolen by evil men bent on foiling Joseph, the pages would have resurfaced in some form - either as a ransom attempt or foiled attempt to discredit Joseph. The stolen pages wouldn't have simply been destroyed by men who went to such trouble to obtain them.
  6. The translation of the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham would match what Egyptologists say they mean. The rediscovered papyri would also support the Book of Abraham as well.
  7. The Book of Mormon would not mention things that did not exist in the Americas during Book of Mormon times such as horses, elephants, cattle, goats, wheat, barley, silk, steel, etc. It would probably mention things that did exist such as corn, yams, beans, squash, llamas, sloths, jaguars, and monkeys.
  8. The BOM would be supported by archeological and linguistic evidence. Perhaps not so much evidence that we still wouldn't need faith, but something to show that the ancient Jews could have been in America.
  9. There would be some remains of two large battles at the Hill Cumorah where over two million people fought and died.
  10. DNA evidence would support that the American Indians and South American peoples descended from Israel.
  11. Joseph would have either denounced the Kinderhook Plates as a fraud, or at least said he didn't know what they were.
  12. The witnesses would have said more objective statements testifying of the BOM's divinity. They would not have said things like "I did not see them as I do that pencil case, yet I saw them with the eyes of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see anything around me - though at the time, they were covered with a cloth", 'he never saw them only as he saw a city through a mountain', etc.
  13. Some of the witnesses should have been critics or skeptics and not related to each other. Each witness should have written their own testimony instead of merely signing a pre-prepared statement.
  14. God's true church would likely have been one of the first churches to proclaim equality for blacks instead of the last major religion in America to accept blacks as equals.
  15. There would never have been teachings such as blacks received the curse from Cain for being less valiant in the pre-existence, or that they are destined to be servants only in the next life.
  16. Polygamy would have never been practiced. If it was really commanded by God, then it would have been done differently. It would have been practiced openly, honestly and with dignity, with no marriages to women already married or to underage girls. Joseph's wife would have full knowledge of the marriages and would have had to give her permission for each one. And probably one additional wife would have been sufficient instead of at least 33 wives for Joseph.
  17. Joseph would not have proclaimed that a Greek Psalter was really a dictionary of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. He would have either said what it really was, or that he just didn't know.
  18. The prophets since Joseph, including the current one, would have the same prophetic abilities Joseph had. They would finish the translation of the Bible that Joseph started, and they would get answers from God for the many troubling issues members have about the history and doctrine of the Church like blacks & the priesthood, polygamy or the Book of Abraham papyri translation problems.
  19. The temple endowment ceremony would not have come from the Masonry rituals that originated in the Middle Ages.
  20. The temple endowment ceremony would likely be a spiritual, uplifting experience for everyone that goes through it, and it probably would not be so secretive.
  21. The temple endowment ceremony would never have had the five points of fellowship in it, which came directly from the Masons, and has nothing at all to do with religion. The uncomfortable penalties, oath of vengeance, etc. would never have been in there either. If any of these things were really from God, then they'd still be in the ceremony now.
  22. The Church would have always had the same, correct name since it was formed in 1830 and not changed four years later to a name that didn't even include Christ in the name. It would not have to change it again another four years later to yet another name.
  23. Testimonies wouldn't have to override facts and conflict with science.
  24. If testimonies are real, then everyone that prays about the Church or the Book of Mormon should get the same confirming answers.
  25. The true church would be the most honest of organizations. It would never publish artwork or articles in its official magazines that mislead readers as to how the Book of Mormon was translated. It wouldn't sugarcoat its history. The true church would be totally open and disclose what the leaders get paid (even public corporations do that). They would publish their financial statements and budgets as do many other churches. The true church would teach everything honestly and lead by example. It would not change the wording in its lesson manuals to act as if Joseph Smith and Brigham Young only had one wife each. You should never have to worry that there is another side of its history not taught by the church itself.
  26. The church would be much, much bigger. Because the essence of the Church’s “one true Church” claims boils down to its claim to exclusively possess the “priesthood keys” necessary to perform “saving ordinances,” our central question has long been: “Why would God choose to create something like ‘priesthood keys’ that are required to perform ‘saving ordinances,’ and then restrict the availability of those keys and ordinances to less than .01% of the world’s population both anciently and today, and also allow those keys and ordinances to be completely unavailable to anyone on Earth for hundreds and thousands of years?” (e.g., from the destruction of the Nephites around 400 A.D. to Joseph Smith around 1830?). Much of our critical examination of the Church has been aimed, directly or indirectly, at getting an answer to that question.

There are so many more but those are a few to think about.

We want the Church to be true

Some people are under the mistaken idea that we don't like the Church, and we don't want it to be true, and we are finding ways to harm members' testimonies. Nothing could be further from the truth. We all want the Church to be as true as we believed it was growing up in the Church. It was devastating for all of us to find out that at least some of what we believed all our lives, wasn't entirely true.

The Church has many appealing things. Certainly the prospect of progressing to be a god in the next life is appealing, but that would be independent of whether the LDS Church is really God's one, true church. We would prefer the Church to be 100% true, but we cannot deny the evidence contradicting what we've always believed - as humbling as that may be to us.

Belief is not something you choose

Many sincere family member and bishops may try to tell you to just believe in it because they do. You can't "choose" to believe anything. Your brain either believes something or it doesn't. You can try to believe something desperately and still not believe it. We know; we've tried it. But in the end, common sense and careful study of the facts overrides merely believing in something for the sake of believing, when the evidence is so strongly against the beliefs.

Should you believe the critics or the LDS apologists?

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.

But do any of these sites link to MormonThink.com? Do any of these sites link to Richard Packham's site, The Tanners Utah Lighthouse Ministry, exmormon.org, i4m.com, lds-mormon.com or any of the blogs or so-called 'anti-Mormon' sites?

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. Well, guess what - 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

What else is out there that we don't know about?

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.

Should you inform others?

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 believe is true.

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:

  • "If the Church wasn't true, would you want to know?"
  • A good follow-up question: "How would you know if it wasn't true?"

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.

http://www.mormonismi.net/pdf/myth_creation.pdf

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:

Since publishing my work, I have been approached by a number of people who have been coming to terms with the truth, asking my advice on how to approach other family members with the devastating news that their Church is not true. Experience has shown that if someone studies everything out privately and concludes for themselves that the Church is false and only then faces a spouse or other family members directly, fait accompli, with all the evidence at once, claiming they have discovered the Church is not true, then immediately an almost impenetrable and extremely defensive ‘wall’ is put up; the evidence (and invariably also the messenger) is rejected without conscious consideration. Any and every aspect will be strongly argued and not ‘considered’ at all. The Church programmes us to subconsciously reject anything that may ‘offend’ a testimony without due consideration. (Members already 'know' what is deemed to be true through ethereal means alone). The unwelcome messenger is considered to have lost the spirit; they are under the influence of Satan and viewed as ‘apostate’. Many a Mormon Bishop has advised an active member to divorce an apostate spouse and find someone else who is worthy to take them to the 'Celestial Kingdom’. There are countless heartbreaking stories on exMormon web sites concerning broken Mormon marriages.

In discussing this problem with a number of worried and concerned members who were studying their way out of the Mormon Church, it transpires that by far the safest and most successful method of tackling it is to immediately discuss initial concerns with a spouse in terms of the first thing that they discovered which indicated there may be a problem with the authenticity of Mormonism. When someone approaches their partner in a manner such as: “Look at what I accidentally discovered (specify an aspect) concerning the Church. This can’t be right, surely? It contravenes all we were ever taught and yet appears verified as true. If so, it brings the truth of the Church into serious question. What do you make of this? What do you think?” In instances that I am aware of, members who have entered into some such early discussions have usually succeeded in continuing their study of the truth together, subsequently leaving the Church as a couple. They have then been much more easily able to take the same approach with children who are then much more likely to follow them.

If you find yourself in this situation, I strongly advise early, open and non confrontational discussions, allowing you both to reach the same conclusions together, gently and with care and love, before moving on to the next topic. It is truly devastating to have to face the truth and many people would rather not have to. However, the ‘joint study’ method of gaining an understanding of the truth, then being able to both arrive at a final decision together, will, more often than not, at least save a good marriage, whereas facing a partner down with an already made personal decision could cause irreparable damage to an otherwise healthy relationship. For a happy outcome, find a way to ‘discover’ the truth together.

Raising Children Outside of the LDS Church

For those that decide to leave the LDS faith or become less active, many people 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 which explores 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

Joining Other Churches

We are often asked "What do you believe about Jesus?", "Is mainstream Christianity true?". Should I join another church? Is there a God?

Frankly, we don't feel qualified to give definitive answers or advice to these questions even though they are continually asked of us.. Also, the contributing members of MT all have our own opinions and don't have a universal consensus. Some contributors to MormonThink 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 other alternatives to the LDS church, some people have been happy going to other more, mainstream christian churches, others have found their place in non-denominational churches and some find peace adopting some form of universal spiritual belief and many former LDS have found piece supporting an Agnostic belief.

We can't in good conscience critique the Mormon faith and give the general christian faith a free pass without analyzing it as well. The chief difference is the Mormon Church is fairly new and there is much information to examine and many of us are very comfortable in coming to very definitive conclusions regarding Mormonism. We consider ourselves very knowledgeable on Mormonism. However, we are not Bible scholars and do not pretend to be historical experts on Jesus. The biggest problem is that the Jesus and Old Testament accounts happened so long ago and before history could be reliably recorded, it's hard to analyze and to determine what was fact and what was likely myth.

As author of this section, I would just say that regardless of whether Jesus was truly the Son of God or was the first person to say these words, I truly believe that no more inspiring words were ever said than those attributed to Jesus when he said "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". The "golden rule" is certainly the way I would hope everyone would want to live their life. Few people find much fault with the basic teachings attributed to Jesus, it is primarily the religious interpretations by the modern religious denominations that are the points of contention.

For those interested in these alternatives, we would suggest you visit the various message boards and ask others what their experiences have been and perhaps try them yourself.

For reference purposes, here are some differing perspectives on post-Mormonism and Jesus and religion in general from 3 different sources. We don't necessarily endorse any of these but think they may be of interest 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.

George Carlin on Religion

Comedian George Carlin has a 10 minute bit on why he believes that all religion is phony. Although comedic (and irreverent), it does make you think. At last count it had over 12 million views on Youtube.

George Carlin - Religion is BS (note: clip was pulled by HBO for copyright violations at one time, so you may have to search for it if it doesn't show up).

Updates

This site is a work in progress. We will continue to update all the sections with any further, relevant information that comes to light, corrections of any errors and strengthening of arguments from BOTH 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 mormonthink@hotmail.com and someone will return your email.

Also, the site continues to evolve as members, past and present, continue to submit articles, essays, comments, etc. to expound or refute some of the information presented by the critics on this site.

We'd also like to give special notice to Jerald and Sandra Tanner. The majority of the information, that virtually every Mormon website uses that relates church history differently than what the LDS Church has historically taught, can be traced to work pioneered by the Tanners. Their website and books are very comprehensive on many Mormon topics.

Donations

Bear in mind, this is not a commercial site so we receive 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 help cover the cost of maintaining and improving the website. Further information on donating can be found at Donations.

Facts vs Motives

In reviewing many LDS responses against critics of the Church, many of the true believers seem to focus an inordinate amount of time on the critic's motives or their personal lives. We have to ask why they aren't arguing the facts or interpretation of the facts instead of the motives of the critics. We've seen Simon Southerton, who published a book demonstrating how DNA disproves some claims of the Book of Mormon, attacked by the LDS faithful because he had marital problems. The LDS apologists spent the first part of their attack on Grant Palmer's book An Insider's View of Mormon Origins complaining about the title of the book because the publisher used the word 'Insider' which they object to. Non-LDS Egyptologist Robert Ritner was attacked for his lack of religious belief when he was asked to evaluate Joseph's translation of the Book of Abraham papyri, which he showed Joseph was in error. Michael Quinn, author of many very factual, but unflattering LDS history books, is attacked because he is gay. So what do any of those things have to do with their research on Church history?

So often in Church we've observed that the first thing out of someone's mouth when discussing a critic's unfavorable research into the Church is 'he's an anti-Mormon' or 'he's gay' or 'he committed adultery' so any pre-conditioned LDS member will automatically reject any research done by the 'sinner' before they even look at their information.

Why do the LDS apologists so often resort to personal attacks on anyone that seems to have evidence disproving the Church's claims? Why can't they just argue the facts? Our opinion is that anyone that attacks someone's personal life must have a weak response against the person's arguments. If you ask a mathematics professor to solve an equation, what possible difference does his motive, his religious beliefs, his marital fidelity or anything unrelated to mathematics make in evaluating whether or not he solved the equation correctly? The same is true with church history.

Regarding our motives: Dozens of people have contributed and have been involved in the production of MormonThink. We don't always agree on everything and some of us may have different motives for helping develop this site. Some honestly like going to church and being a part of it - they just wish it was true, some still believe it to be mostly true, some have decided that the issues are just too troubling and no longer wish to be members and others stay in for family reasons. Some contributing members of MT are actually still believers but want inaccurate faith-promoting stories corrected and desire that only true history be taught. But the one thing we all have in common is an altruistic desire to share the truth if asked, as we understand it, with our fellow Latter-day Saint friends and neighbors. We only want people to know what we know and then they can do whatever they want with that information.

How important are motives really in determining truth? What if LDS President Thomas Monson said that the world is flat and Osama Bin Laden said that the world is round, who would you believe?

Something to think about: When Mark Hoffman brought the infamous Salamander letters to the First Presidency; the President of the Church declared them to be valid documents and purchased them for the Church at a high price. However the biggest 'anti-Mormons' the Tanners, said that the documents were forgeries, even though the documents would make the Church look bad. If we were back then, who would you believe was right - the humble Prophet or the bitter, lying 'anti-Mormons'? Well, the 'anti-Mormons' were correct. The documents were proven to be a forgery after Mark Hoffman was arrested and convicted for killing a Mormon bishop and duping the Church into buying forged documents.

Bottom Line: The facts speak for themselves, regardless of who says them and why. Don't shoot the messenger.

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?”

Jensen's response:

“The fifteen men really do know, and they really care. And they realize that maybe since Kirtland, we never have had a period of, I’ll call it apostasy, like we’re having right now; largely over these issues. We do have another initiative that we have called, “Answers to Gospel Questions”. We are trying to figure out exactly what channels to deliver it in and exactly what format to put it in. But we want to have a place where people can go. We have hired someone that’s in charge of search engine optimization. We realize that people get their information basically from Google. They don’t come to LDS.org. If they get there, it’s through Google. So, we are trying to create an offering that will address these issues and be available for the public at large and to the church leaders, because many of them don’t have answers either. It can be very disappointing to church members. And, for people who are losing their faith, or who have lost it, we hope to regain to the church.”

Note: The Simple Mormon Spectator, that wrote the synopsis of the session has since removed it from his blog. HOWEVER, the audio is still available here.

Summary

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 presented 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 that there are many legitimate issues that many LDS members are concerned about and many Latter-day Saints have left the Church over them. Our hope is that the church will start discussing these issues openly so everyone can know the facts from all sides so everyone can decide for themselves how important they think these issues are.

If it was just a matter of having no evidence to support the Church's claims, then 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 was just a couple irreconcilable items that needed an extra measure of faith, then that would be a hurdle most of us would be willing to shelve until the next life. But the sheer accumulation of significant issues that contradict what we've been taught makes it seem somewhat inconceivable that all of these things somehow have some sort of extraordinary explanation.

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 inconceivable that the Church is 100% what it claims to be.

Maybe there really are fantastic explanations to explain all these things 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, the scribes were responsible for all the errors and misquotings of the prophets, blacks really are cursed from God through Cain, Joseph's brothers sleeping in Joseph's own bed with him just slept while Moroni visited him all night, 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, many more fantastic explanations for all the numerous 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?

We think that anyone that knows the complete, true, historic details of all of these events, and many others not listed here, and is then asked to still believe in them as taught by the Church without any further explanation provided by the Church, is asking for more sheer faith than anyone should be asked to have.

Our church claims to have a prophet that gets revelation from our 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.

In conclusion, we don't have all the answers but the Church members have lots of unanswered questions that we want the Church 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?

 

"When the facts change, I change my mind - what do you do, sir?" - British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946)

 

Outline

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.