This web page is dedicated to the accomplishments of Avery Wright and his dealings with the Mormon Church.
Avery Wright is an author, current Latter-day Saint & MT contributor.
Avery Wright: (pseudonym)
Is a convert from an early age along with his family.
Is currently not active but in good standing
Is studying all aspects of Mormon history
Is an award winning journalist.
Over the past twenty plus years I have been a True Believing Mormon, serving in virtually all Melchizedek Priesthood offices. I have baptized dozens and dozens of people, taught countless lessons, and born my "testimony" to thousands and thousands of members influencing them in their testimonies. Today I could not look anyone in the eye and say for sure that the Church is true. I have questions and I am searching for answers.For personal reasons I choose to write under my pseudonym. All issues and incidents portrayed in my essays and short stories are real and personal. They are meant to make the reader think and to challenge the conventional thinking of TBM's, apologists, and Church Authorities in general that have an iron clad "Patriarchal Grip" on the lives of millions of members who find it difficult, if not impossible, to escape.
Too Good to Be true - (on Mitt Romney)
The body of Bill Brodie lay in a state of honored reverence that reflected a life of service to his family, country, community and church. Hundreds of people crowded into the Latter Day Saint chapel where he himself had spoken countless times. Bill had been a Stake President, at one time, and a Temple President after that. He had personally served the families of our small LDS community for more than 50 years. And many of them, all who could possibly be there, were in attendance on his final trip to the chapel.
Bill was a man loved and revered by all who knew him. And this final tribute, though sad, was also a celebration of a life well lived by an exemplary man who, by any earthly judgment, would surely have earned the divine words "Well done thou good and faithful servant" from the Great Jehovah himself. It was what we all hoped for ourselves, suppressing our doubts of worthiness.
And, although Bill and his wife, were our close friends, and though I had served with him in his Presidency at one time, my thoughts turned inward. I should have been thinking of his grieving family, or of his many accomplishments. But all I could think of was would I garner this sort of final farewell when the time comes? Would people rejoice at my life and cry at my passing? Would a chapel be filled with mourners and friends, family that loved me and who would find it hard to go on with out me?
I feared, no, not likely; No because judging what I knew of his life against mine I came up severely lacking. If Bill had any imperfections, and there must have been some human defects somewhere, only his wife or mother knew them. At this moment no one even dare think he really had any faults.
My calloused soul plagued me constantly to the point that I was sure it blinked scarlet red "A's" in humming neon letters. Much of the time I spent battling the demons of my lesser self with the counterpoints of good deeds that I endlessly mentally listed.
"I was a good husband; I was a good father; I paid tithing, I prayed at night and at meals, I was a veteran, didn't smoke, drink or chase women and I only swore occasionally, more or less."
On the other hand; I lacked faith, I doubted, I questioned, I often found myself applying logic and science to the complex questions about solemn Church doctrines. And as a way of penance I tried really hard to believe that Lucifer had placed those negative, unfaithful thoughts in my head. If I prayed extra hard and earnestly repented I might be able to regain the trust of God and worthiness to hold His Priesthood.
His priesthood! That made matters even worse for me knowing that I hid doubts deep beneath my sunny smile and warm handshake. I still stood before congregations and testified that I knew, KNEW that the Church was true. There was no room for doubt in anyone's minds about my declaration.
I was powerful and eloquent, standing confidently on the podium, resting my scriptures on the lectern and using my deep baritone voice projecting into the microphone like a pro. I wrote and delivered countless talks in the same self confident manor. Only, I and God knew that it was a lie. Mark Twain was right, you can't pray a lie. But you can damn sure tell a big one in in front of a whole congregation at church.
That's what I was doing, wasn't it, telling lies in the name of God at church? Yes it was a lie. One meant to convince me as much as others that I had personally and even divinely receive knowledge concerning the restoration of God's true Church, its leadership, and authority on this earth.
But I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe everything the missionaries told me those many years ago. I wanted to believe everything I ever heard in the General Conferences we watched twice a year. I wanted to believe everything I read in the Ensign, in the book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price.
Why did I have to be a journalist? That was the problem. I wanted proof, multiple sources, corroborated eyewitness accounts from credible nonbiased witnesses. Why couldn't I just have faith? Why did I always have so many damned questions?
I bet Bill never questioned the gospel. I bet he never had issues with Book of Mormon animals, of which there is no historic trace in the western hemisphere, or those European and African based domestically farmed crops not found here until white men showed up, or chariots or steel tools and weapons, or minted coins…There I go again. Will I ever STOP? This was not the time or place to count and categorize my unworthy doubts.
Doubts. In truth, I even doubted a family of Jews ever sailed to the new world before Columbus as written in the Book of Mormon. Well, there was all this information on DNA mapping I'd read. And then there was no sociological or archeological evidence of "Lamanites or Nephites in any number much less by the millions. That would mean that I didn't really believe that Lehi or Nephi ever existed except in Mormon scripture. And that would mean not too deeply below the surface of my conciseness I didn't or wouldn't or couldn't accept the "First Vision" or the Book of Mormon or that Joseph Smith was an Old Testament style Prophet of God. Oh, and by the way, which version of the First Vision was I rejecting?
No wonder I would never be worthy of this kind of funeral. Everyone else was focused on the man we were mourning, President Brodie. I was surely the biggest phony in that House of Worship that day. I was the Doubting Thomas. I was a sinful man who was not really worthy to sit among them.
And as this gathering of respected people sealed the service with their in unison "Amen's" I felt a profound sadness. It was a selfish sadness; A sadness for me, not the Brodie family. I wanted his funeral to be my own, my life over with respected people paying tribute to my example and life's accomplishments. I wanted God to love me for who I am, only I knew that couldn't be possible, not by the Churches standards. I was a fake, a hypocrite, an unworthy son headed for hell while Bill Brodie was currently on his way to Heaven.
Could I fake it for another 30 plus years? Would I have to fool people into thinking I was something I could never be? And if I did, what about the other side of the veil, what would God say to me?
Would it be something like "It would have been better to not have believed and so testify than to lie for the Lord?
The clock was ticking loudly in my head.
On election day 2012, an ABC TV News exit poll found a surprising set of contradictory numbers; 53% of voters identified themselves more closely with President Obama than with Mitt Romney, despite the fact that 52% felt like the President was leading us in the wrong direction economically. The result is a second term for a man whom so many believed to be on his way out of the White House. In fact, President Obama won with 52% of the popular vote.
Why? Was it because Mitt Romney was rich, white, out of touch? Or was it because he is a devout Mormon? There was only one ill fated attempt to play the religion card during the GOP primary and that was by Texas Governor Rick Perry. The main stream media treated the "M" word much like the "N" word, never under any circumstances to be used. Only a Mormon could call another Mormon, a Mormon.
The obvious difference is that Romney is very rich, very clean, and very Mormon. With the new David Campbell book, American Grace, you can no longer ignore the religious differences.
Blogger Jana Reiss raises the question "Why Are Mormons the Third-Most-Hated Religious Group in America?" The book says Islam, Buddhism, Mormons and Jews top the list, in that order.
I remember teaching a High Priest class once trying to get across the point that God is no respecter of persons, and that means us, Mormon's as well. Predictably there was an up-roar from the old men's "peanut gallery". "No" they emphatically said"We do hold a special place in God's heart…. We bare His Priesthood… We do His bidding… He leads us personally." "They", meaning all non-Mormons "belong to the Church of the great and Abominable Whore of the Earth."
Hmmmm….I can't imagine why "They" don't like us! The arrogance is as thick as the air around a Kansas City stock yard, and smells about the same. The message goes far beyond insulting, it's hateful, hurtful, and dead wrong on so many different fronts.
Oh, I know where this goes next; TBM's whip out the BOM and D&C and start quoting all sorts of Catholic and Protestant condemning scriptures direct from the mouth of Joseph Smith. That's when the bible thumping non–Mormon scriptorians whip out the New Testament and fire back.
And where does that leave us; with arrogant, self righteous Mormons on one side, and indignant Catholics and Protestants on the other.
The LDS Church wants converts and expects the rest of the world to conform to its world views, its morays, its scriptures, and to its ecclesial hierarchy.
There is a total "oneness" about the Mormon gospel very much akin to Islam. The definition of the word "Islam" is submission. While Mormons have their "free agency" "Choosing the right" is the key to success in the Church and "obtaining a celestial inheritance." "Choosing the right", for those who don't know, is Mormon speak for submission, and that means unquestioned submission to Church authority in all things. Maybe that's why Mormons and Muslims are grouped together among the most disliked religions in America.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that the majority of Americans are turned off by religions of any ilk. That means they are not looking for a "oneness", not wanting a religious leader to tell them how to live, or to judge them for their life styles. They are not interested in Allah, Buddha, or Elohim, nor any of their representatives.
Maybe the rest of the country doesn't like us because we rank right up there with the Jehovah's Witnesses as being irritating.
So how do we get more Americans to like us (LDS)? 48% of voters liked Mitt Romney enough to vote form him in the last Presidential election. That's a big number. Maybe the church should buy those votes lists that the politicians do and send Missionaries out after them. Or perhaps True Believing Mormons should remain a very exclusive group and be happy with that.
You've seen them in booths at shopping malls or perhaps in novelty stores. For a while even the Sunday funnies in major newspapers had sections reserved for them. Autostereograms became a pop culture favorite in the late 1980's and then died out in the 90's when people got tired of staring into the multi colored, often psychedelic prints to see a 3-D picture hidden in a picture.
Autostereograms are optical illusions usually generated by computer. On the surface they are pictures or patterns that seem to be nothing more than repeated shapes. But if you can refocus your eyes between the lines you're able to pick out a 3-D scene that is completely different and hidden in plain sight; well perhaps not plain sight. Those who wish to see the picture in the picture must first be alerted to it by someone else who can teach them to view the autostereogram image. Once they learn, the viewer can then focused on a completely different image that is shared only with those who know how to refocus their eyes as well, making it something of an exclusive club.
Is there a correlation between autostereograms and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? Is the "picture perfect LDS Family life "an optical illusion? On the surface that may sounds preposterous, but not any more preposterous than pictures hidden within pictures. Much like the flying geese, or the football players or spaceships in the autostereograms the LDS'ers are layered with subtle subsurface pictures that you are not likely to pick up on unless you know how to look.
Interestingly, autostereograms were marketed under the name"Magic Eye." And there has been plenty of "magic" in Church history. Joseph Smith used "Seer Stones"to look for buried treasure and to translate the Book of Mormon; the"Witnesses" who testified they saw the golden plates, later explaining it was with the "eye of faith", and so on.
In that way the Church is an autostereogram. It takes a trained eye to see what "True Believing Mormons" (TMB's) see; the picture within the picture tells the story.
From a traditional and biblical stand point non members get why we don't drink alcohol, coffee, or tea; or why we don't have sex before marriage, or why we fork over 10% of our income each month, and spend so much time at Church meetings, and leave home for two years to serve missions. They get it and maybe even admire it.
And, on the surface, the Church wants the rest of the world, Christian world, to think of LDS members as being family oriented, hard working, educated, dedicated, patriotic, and above all else, sharing their mainstream Christian values.
But that's on the surface. Outsiders can't focus in on the subsurface pictures of Mormon life, like the stresses that come along with our "holier than thou" life style."Be ye therefore perfect" is a never ending quest that consumes TBM's for a lifetime. While we strive for perfection we concede that there was only one"perfect" man. The cyclical rhetoric drives us crazy. We can't reach perfection…we must strive for perfection.
• Jesus Christ loves YOU, by cementing you to this LDS salvation system.
• Christ and all of your male-authority benefactors have blessed you by making the main decisions for you, as follows:
• Follow the prophet's choices for you:
• attend weekly Sacrament Meetings as you are commanded;
• have your daughters attend male-conducted worthiness interviews;
• marry a male authority in the temple;
• have babies and more babies;
• obey the Brethren because "when they speak the thinking has been done;"
• hold to the iron rod;
• don't ask questions that aren't essential to your salvation;
• endure to the end and you will be saved in the Celestial Kingdom where you will continue bearing millions of offspring for your husband-God forever."
Mormon men fare no better. From a very young age Priesthood holders are taught they must juggle three balls continuously through most of their lives. Label them Family, Career, and Callings. Drop one and the others come crashing down too. Not only that but the ideal LDS male is the head of the household and is the sole breadwinner, thus freeing up his wife, (whom he met and married after his mission, she being 19 and he was 21) to have babies and serve in various ward or stake callings, under the auspices of his Priesthood authority.
Being the sole breadwinner these days' means he must have enough education to earn at least a six figure income. He must be part financial planner, a handyman who has plumbing, electrical, and carpentry skills, he must be an avid gardener and an auto mechanic, lead the family in daily scripture study and prayer, and wisely solve every problem his wife and six children might have.
And, by the way, the Church will also tell you what is and isn't appropriate in the bedroom. In the 1970's Bishops were directed to ask questions about intimate practices between husbands and wives.
Did I mention that at the same time he is striving to find people he can convert to his life style? That's when he is not serving in the Bishopric.
Stress? Well if he or she has stress then it's their own fault according to Rachel Bruner who wrote "Stress from an LDS Perspective" on About.com
First: Stress Comes from Sin:
"Although committing some sins doesn't bring immediate consequences during this life many sins do, which can cause huge amounts of stress. Lili De Hoyos Anderson said, "It is not difficult to see that breaking the laws of God does, sooner or later, bring numerous negative results—the stresses of sin. Breaking the Word of Wisdom, for example, brings physical stress, illness, even premature death. Breaking the laws of morality causes injured hearts, damaged relationships, broken families, and sometimes the physical consequences of disease."
In short, if the LDS lifestyle doesn't make you happy, if you are stressed in anyway, you are obviously sinning and must repent. Stressed couples, obviously sinners, cannot expect to have the "Celestial Marriage" with an "Eternal Family" promised in the Temple.
Does the "Magic Eye" reveal too much?
Now switch the autostereogram to a different picture, a picture of thousands of former TBM's becoming angry toward their Church, resigning their membership and taking action to expose the organization they once loved as a massive fraud. Again, outsiders cannot understand that any more than the life style of faithful Mormons.
Generally speaking Catholics and Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians know little of their own history much less the doctrines that govern their sects. And those they disapprove of can simply be ignored. And if they feel like changing churches, it's not any more complicated than a drive across town.
They don't feel an apostate Mormons pain or anger in the separation process. Their church has probably not dominated their life style, their friends and their families.
"Why can't you just ignore it, why do you feel the need to leave?" was a question I got more than once from friends who know my status. But what they can't see in the autostereogram is the total picture of the LDS Church.
It would be a picture of total submission to a self-righteous, autocratic authoritarian theocracy that requires members to raise their hands in support of everything said and done by its leadership. They must profess these men to be Prophets of God and must be obedient to every word and command from them, even if that means some of the doctrines are ludicrous and change with the times; even if that means science proves major tenants to be dead wrong; even if history proves the foundations to be flawed.
If you were to stare into the autostereograms of LDS history what would they reveal?
Joseph Smith;,"revered" as a Prophet of God by TBM's, may be viewed by others as a simple fraud or charlatan. But a look beyond the surface may reveal him as a megalomaniac, a child molester who coerced very young teenaged girls into"spiritual marriages", lured other men's wives into polyandrous relationships, ordered the assassination of political rivals, publically lied to his followers at every turn, and had himself ordained as the "Prophet, Priest, and King of the Earth.
The Book of Mormon; Regarded as scripture by TBM's, may also be seen as an amateurish work of fiction by others. But a deeper look exposes more. The BOM is said to be "The most correct book of any on the face of the earth" trumping anything written in the New and old Testaments.
Polygamy: An old Testament practice that can be argued both ways. On the pro side it's a marital relationship recognized by God in past times, so why not now between consenting adults? On the other hand LDS Church Authorities were in charge of polygamy, choosing who would marry whom, deciding what age (as young as 14) was appropriate, often taking married women for themselves or giving them to other men.
Racism; America was a country that embraced slavery. The LDS Church preached Black Africans were the children of the devil and were fore-ordained to be slaves and lesser human beings.
Those are the old autostereograms hidden images of the past. LDS General Authorities dismiss their historicity with claims of continuing revelation. In other words "God has revealed a clearer truth to us today. What was said or done in the past is no longer germane."
But it takes much time and training to see beyond the traditional façade of the Church, to see the picture hidden inside of the picture. Some, whether in or outside of the Church, will never see it. But then some people, we are told, are incapable of focusing in on the hidden images of an autostereogram. Stare all they want, and all they will ever see is a fuzzy incomprehensible picture…hiding the real picture from their view.
When the story began to unravel it was hard for most Americans to believe. A young charismatic preacher claimed to be a Prophet of God. But more than that, both he and his small band of followers in the obscure sect regarded him as a "President and Prophet, Seer and Revelator", someone all powerful in terms of his spiritual authority on Earth, and his hold of their everyday lives.
Despite statements to the contrary, they had little regard for "earthly laws and lawmakers" which inevitably lead to conflicts. But when one speaks directly with God and receives revelation from Him, what Earthly authority would non-believers have over a "President and Prophet, Seer and Revelator?" He would proclaim that their unique set of scriptures, "The Book of Mormon" would bring you closer to God than any other book of scripture on earth. And his brother, who was his closest advisor, stood beside him to the end.
But the "Prophet" ran afoul of man's law when it was discovered that he had plural wives. How many, twenty, thirty, or more? No one on the outside knew and no one from within his religion was willing to say; that included the wives. But his biggest problem was that authorities had proof that at least two of his wives were actually under-aged girls, just 12 and 15 years of age, who were coerced into a marital relationship with the Prophet, who in return, promised exhalation for them and their families. Civil authorities saw it as nothing more than rape.
From his prison cell the Prophet issued stirring proclamations that his followers regarded as prophetic warnings, scripture in fact, that outlined the destruction of those who jailed him. The revelation speaks of the judgment of God on the "rulers of the land" for "putting the innocent in prison." But despite his warnings or eloquence his band of true believers would be forced to turn to another in the accession of God's chosen Prophets.
The story may sound familiar to the estimated fourteen million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and it should. It is so similar to the Joseph Smith story, the 1830 founder of Mormonism, that it's easy to make that mistake.
But this "President and Prophet, Seer and Revelator's" name is Warren Jeffs, not Joseph Smith who's history seems to have been repeated by the "modern day prophet" of the FLDS, or Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a renegade off shoot of polygamist Book of Mormon believers. The LDS Church based in Salt Lake vehemently disavows any kinship what so ever, leaving the Fundamentalists ecclesiastical lineage in doubt, or at least unspoken of, much like a bastard child who looks uncomfortable like the legitimate children.
Jeffs is, or was, the President and Prophet of the FLDS which operates in Utah, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, South Dakota, and British Columbia, Canada. Best estimates are that the FLDS have some 10,000 members all descendents from the main body of the Salt Lake based Mormon Church before it discontinued polygamy in the early 20th century.
FLDS formally organized themselves in 1935 when the LDS Church cracked down on polygamy that had continued unabated in some southern Utah communities. The leaders from Salt Lake had been trying to stamp out polygamy for 30 years at that point, although there is some debate over the timing and effort.
The case against Jeffs stemmed from documents recovered in an April 2008 raid on the FDLS Yearning For Zion Ranch, a 1,700-acre compound which housed as many as 700 people just outside of Eldorado in Schleicher County, Texas, about 45 miles southwest of San Angelo. Jeffs is believed to have 78 wives, 24 of them under the age 17, according to prosecutors. A DNA report showed that Jeffs had fathered a child with the 15 year old. Prosecutors also played an audio recording of Jeffs allegedly engaging in sexual intercourse with the 12-year-old. The recording was seized when Jeffs was arrested in 2006. Prosecutors also found that 53 FLDS girls aged 14–17, had children or were pregnant at the time of the raid.Under Texas law, children under the age of 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult.
In 2011 a Texas jury sentenced Jeffs to life in prison for aggravated sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl and 20 years in prison for the sexual assault of the 15-year-old girl. He must serve at least 35 years of the life sentence and half of the other sentence before being considered for parole.
Joseph Smiths demise also revolved around the public disclosure of his often denied practice of, not only polygamy, but also polyandry. Some of his estimated 50 or more wives were as young as 14, while many others were actually married to other men, often high ranking Church Members of his day. Smith led his band of believers from state to state, hoping to find a refuge for their life style. The quest for "heaven on earth" eventually led the Mormons to the Salt Lake valley where the Church is headquartered today. But that was after Smith was "martyred" by a mob in Carthage, Illinois in 1844.
Like Smith before him Jeffs may have found the media scrutiny to be more than his "authority" could control. Smiths exploits were well documented by newspapers around the country back in his day, just newspaper because that's all the 1830's-40's had. The FLDS raids seemed like "made for the media" events with television, radio, 24 hour cable news, and internet coverage. Reporters and talk show producers from around the country converged on the Yearning For Zion Ranch compound like news hungry vultures. But in either century the story would prove to be a "must cover" sensation. Mix together under aged sex, violence, intrigue, coercion, all in a religious setting, and there are too many hot button issues to pass up because "Sex Sells" especially sex mixed with religion.
Despite an apparent legacy, the LDS Church quickly corrects any mistaken connection between the two religious entities. There are differences, most of which are doctrines once held in common in the early Mormon movement. And while there is no "Carthage Jail" martyrdom in the Jeffs story, the similarities continue.
From FLDS 101:
The family unit is highly valued by the FLDS.
It is the foundation of their belief system. Unfortunately in their leaders' zeal to protect the family, they have highly restricted freedom of choice, and destroyed hundreds of families along the way as obedience to the prophet in all things takes precedent.
The FLDS believe families can be eternal, that is, that they can exist after this life. "Here, you earn the right to live as family in the next life. In time, you will be raised out of the grave and live in families in heaven" (WSJ 10/31/95)
But families are only eternal under certain conditions.
Until the 1890 "Manifesto" ending polygamy in the LDS Church, which didn't really take effect for another 20 years, there is virtually no difference between the two. Current LDS leaders will, of course, vehemently deny that analysis claiming Gods authority for themselves. The renegade FLDS, they would contend, have usurped the Book of Mormon, many of the teachings, and the structure of the Church itself. And the FLDS would counter with the same argument, that the Salt Lake Church and its Prophet are mere pretenders to the Joseph Smith legacy.
But from the outside, the biggest difference between the two is that the FLDS continue to fight civil authority to retain its treasured beliefs and way of life, which includes their Prophets absolute authority over a commune life style, racism, blood atonement for certain transgressions, and polygamy. They are all tenants of the early LDS Church which has since abandoned them, working long and hard to become more "main stream" hoping to erase the old theocratic, authoritarian, polygamist and racist images.
In other words, one might conclude that Warren Jeffs has nothing on Joseph Smith or Brigham Young…three Prophets cut from the same cloth.
Current LDS Apostles remind the world that living Prophets trump dead Prophets. And no matter what any past authority said on any given subject, it bares no weight against current standards and teachings even if they are 180 degrees from original dogma. That, they contend, is what "continuing revelation" is all about.
Besides, we are told, it's difficult to put history into the correct context, especially when you are talking about Joseph Smith and his 14 year old bride who was promised exaltation for herself and family for consenting to become a plural wife of the Prophet.
The other pseudo defense from Mormon Apologist goes like this; "I don't have a testimony of Church history. But I do have a testimony of the Gospel." Call that logic taming cognitive dissonance; if the facts don't support the beliefs, ignore the facts and cherish the beliefs. That is, after all, what faith is about, isn't it?
Does the disconnect from reality come from indefensible LDS Church history? Mainstream Mormons do not even try to defend the Mountain Meadows Massacre. And see if you can get anyone to talk about polyandry, the early practice of women having more than one husband or marriage to young teenaged girls as their 'way to salvation.". Most polyandrous relationships were limited to Joseph Smith, although Brigham Young is reported to have had "Celestial" marriage ceremonies and relationships with "other men's" wives as well. And early Mormon Apostle Parley P Pratt was shot dead by a jealous Husband whose wife he converted in San Francisco and carted off to Utah. An Arkansas jury, where the shooting took place, acquitted the husband.
Of course, a similar disconnect must be taking place for the FLDS parents of a 12 year old to give their daughter to a man grown man to be his wife, maybe his 71st wife at that. Outsiders can only wonder; does this childs parents really think the girls wants to get married and have sex with a 50 year old man when she should be playing with Barbie dolls?
There is another poignant and striking similarity. LDS and FLDS alike are experiencing defections at a high and alarming rate as young members discover the outside world.
"It has been reported by former members that the FLDS Church has excommunicated more than 40 teenage boys for offenses such as dating or listening to rock music. Some former members claim that the real reason for these excommunications is that there are not enough women for each male to receive three or more wives. Six men, aged 18 to 22, filed a conspiracy lawsuit against Jeffs and Sam Barlow, a former Mohave County deputy sheriff and close associate of Jeffs, for a "systematic excommunication" of young men to reduce competition for wives."
On the LDS side of the ledger, Church "insiders" have reported to mormonthink.com that there may be as many as 100,000 resignations per year from the "mainstream Mormon Church." There is no way to verify that numbers as it doesn't show up in the LDS annual general report.
But no matter which of these two Churches we are talking about, voluntarily leaving, or being excommunicated exacts a heavy emotional price. Member's social, political, and economic lives are wrapped in Temple ceremonies that promise Godhood and eternal families, and ones own ability to "create worlds without end", and "all that the Father hath." Departing the group means leaving all behind, all, including your family and friends, your Mormon view of the world, often your since of self worth and security, and in many cases your economic base and livelihood.
LDS readers may well recognize this paragraph from "FLDS 101" as if written about themselves.
"Those who are shunned most often lose their faith in the FLDS beliefs, but they don't lose their love for their families. One former member wrote: "I miss my family out there too. Some days I want to cry, but the tears don't come, because I KNOW that underneath all the stuff that is between us, my family really does love me. And it is hard, but I don't have to see them to remember. I know they are just trying to do what they think is right, and I don't think it is my place to push them to believe what I believe. I only need to understand. And, I keep things. I keep the last birthday present my mother gave me and it's on my dresser every day so I can remember that she loves me and every year that goes by without a phone call, I know she is thinking of me and loving me, and maybe shedding a few tears for me that day. And that is enough."
There is one more interesting comparison between the two churches. Once outside the FLDS sect the former members say they are finding happiness.
(Lindsay Whitehurst: The Salt Lake Tribune Published June 16, 2012)
"Despite being cut off from their families, the vast majority — 87 percent — said they were happy to be living outside of the sect's home base of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, and were more optimistic about the future. They're happy to be gone, but it's a complicated happy," Merkley said, speaking from her experience as a therapist for former FLDS teens."
….Which is the same message that thousands of former members of the LDS church are posting on dozens of internet message boards as they learn to live in a world they were taught to shun at all costs, or else…. Or else live in misery outside of the control of Gods chosen Prophets…LDS or FLDS.
"Truth of fraud?" It's a "To be or not to be" sort of question. But alas, poor JF Smith! We knew him well. It was Joseph Fielding Smith (President of the LDS Church 1970-1972) who first challenged us with those very words.
"Mormonism must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a Prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground."
Later President Gordon B. Hinckley repeated the challenge; "Well, it's either true or false. If it's false, we're engaged in a great fraud. If it's true, it's the most important thing in the world. Now, that's the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true."
Perhaps presidents Smith and Hinckley regarded the major challenges to Church history as improvable either way, and therefore must be judged by faith and faith alone. "Fideism;" (Latin: to trust) which we will come to later.
To seek and embrace a knowable truth or to live and die embracing a comfortable fiction, the only choices before the rational mind; to ignore or to be ignorant, to voluntarily forfeit intelligent life and its freedoms, or to conform to groupthink out of fear, hoping for the promised eternal inheritance.
The debate is not original to the question of the Mormon version of religion. It is central to man's relationship with deity. "Mysterium tremendum et fascinans" The mysterious, the fear and trembling and the fascination evoked by coming close to the power and presence of
"the supernatural, the sacred, the holy" an experience referred to as "numinous" by the German theologian Rudolf Otto."Numen", not a common word in our daily lexicon, but it is an underlying concept that has governed the reality of our lives for many thousands of years. Numen is a Greek term used by the 18th century German religious philosopher Immanuel Kant which refers to the "unknowable reality of all things."
That God exists and governs us from heaven, or from Kolob, is a "noumenon", or an unknowable reality in the Mormon world, supported by faith. That would be a "noumenon" … an unknowable belief which can neither be proved nor disproved but only believed or disbelieved, an exercise in "Fideism". But the sun rising in the east each morning is a phenomenon, or a certainty, a tangible reality that can be observed, explained and predicted. Phenomena comes from experience and needs no faith to make them real.
The Idea of the Holy, ( 1917) Rudolf Otto: "If one cannot prove that a thing is, he may try to prove that it is not. And if he succeeds in doing neither (as often occurs), he may still ask whether it is in his interest to accept one or the other of the alternatives hypothetically, from the
theoretical or the practical point of view."
Unknowable realities that cannot be proved, only believed or disbelieved, are the cornerstones and the basis of the Mormon experience. Such as:
neither be proved nor disproved.
though could neither be proved nor disproved.
True believing Mormons testify that they "know the Church is true" and they "know that Joseph Smith was a prophet" and so on. But their "knowledge" is a controversial form of "fideism;" a religious philosophy which holds that true belief can only arise from faith, because reason and physical evidence alone cannot lead to truth, or at least truth of a divine nature. Advocates argue that the proper domain of faith concerns questions which cannot be settled by evidence. Faith, then, would need to be held independent of reason, making reason and faith hostile to each other. Perhaps without knowing it Smith was relying on the battles of fideism to persuade and control his followers.
But on the other extreme side of the argument lay "logical positivism", the idea that observational evidence is indispensable for real knowledge, and which denies the validity of any beliefs held by faith alone. Logical positivism would leave faith in the "unknowable" an exercise in futility, especially when there is an overwhelming abundance of "knowable" evidence to consider. Where there is certain knowledge faith is unnecessary.
We know now, for instance, that the "First Vision" story was an effort to revise Josephs earlier concept of the Christian concept of the Trinity (monotheism or "God in three persons"). We know that the Book of Mormon was a compilation of early 19th century beliefs about the "Hebrew" origins of native Americans, mingled with political and moral views and a liberal dose of the King James Bible.
We know through DNA that the aboriginal natives of the American continents were of Asian origins, not Hebrew.
We know that the tools, the weapons, the agriculture, the animals the gold standard monetary system, and many other important aspects contained in the Book of Mormon were not found on this continent before European immigration.
We know that the LDS Temple ceremonies are derived from the Masonic Scottish Rite.
We know that the "Book of Abraham" has absolutely no correlation to the papyrus scrolls from which the hieroglyphics were copied.
We know the Kinderhook Plates were a hoax.
And the "Zelph" story is a complete enigma.
We also know that the LDS Church has revised its scriptural canon, language, and teaching to conform to much of the knowable evidences that cannot be ignored.
We know that past LDS "Prophets" taught that people who looked like Quakers live on the moon, that God lives on the sun (Kolob), that Jesus was also God come to Earth, (The King Follett discourse, JS, April 7, 1844) that black Africans were the descendents of the devil, that a man must have multiple wives to get into heaven … all of which were taught by the LDS Church but are now disavowed.
All of these "Non Faith" promoting truths are knowable. And yet millions of faithful LDS refuse to consider or even recognize them. And that brings us to "Foundationalism" which holds that all knowledge and justified beliefs are ultimately based upon "properly basic beliefs" and do not depend upon justification of other beliefs, but on something outside the realm of faith alone.
Ultimately, the battle between faith and reason leads to cognitive dissonance, a phrase coined by Leon Festinger in his 1956 book When Prophecy Fails. The LDS Recovery community uses the phrase liberally in describing the inner conflict created when their faith falters in the face of facts.
If Joseph Smith was a prophet of God why did he:
Cognitive dissonance sets in as an ugly truth surfaces.
True believing Mormons, as everyone else, don't like to believe that they may be wrong. The common defense, according to John M Grohol, PSYD, Founder & Editor-in-Chief World of Psychology, is to "limit the intake of new information or thinking about things in ways that don't fit within our pre-existing beliefs. Psychologists call this confirmation bias."
But the internal conflict of unrewarded faith, or cognitive dissonance, does not easily go away.
John M Grohol, PSYD: "People may run into problems with cognitive dissonance because it can be, in its most basic form, a sort of lie to oneself. As with all lies, it depends on the size of the lie and whether it's more likely to hurt you in some way in the long run … . So while cognitive dissonance resolves the internal anxiety we face over two opposing beliefs or behaviors, it may also inadvertently reinforce future bad decisions."
"If your explanation for something is, "Well, that's the way I've always done it or thought about it," that may also be a sign (of cognitive dissonance). Socrates extolled that "An unexamined life is not worth living." In other words, challenge and be skeptical of such answers if you find yourself falling back on them."
"A part of that self awareness that may help in dealing with cognitive dissonance is to examine the commitments and decisions we make in our lives. If the resolution of cognitive dissonance means that we move forward with a commitment and spring into action, making us feel better, maybe the dissonance was trying to tell us something. Maybe the decision or commitment wasn't as right for us as we initially thought, even if it means overcoming our "no second-guessing" bias and making a different decision."
The bottom line is that faith is important but reality is knowable. Distinguishing between numen and phenomenon is also important for making decisions in our lives. A church, any church, asking followers to ignore facts and simple have faith is a sure path to cognitive dissonance.
The last word again from John M Grohol, PSYD; "Sometimes we're just plain wrong. Admitting it, apologizing if need be, and moving forward can save us a lot of time, mental energy and hurt feelings.".
Comedian Jeff Foxworthy made us laugh with his art of observation "You might be a redneck if:
The list is hysterically endless. But the really funny part is that some "rednecks" are offended, or don't get the joke. … the rednecks who's homes are mobile but cars aren't … who's stereo speakers came from a drive-in theater … .who have home-made fur coats, chigger hygiene problems and burn their yards rather than mowing.
So, you "might be a redneck" if you fail to see the humor in the way you take for granted your low class, white trash life style. That may be blunt, but "I don't care who you are, now, that's funny!"
Rednecks might laugh at themselves or at each other but when "out-siders" guffaw at their wardrobe of cutoff sleeveless shirts, hand tooled belt with their name on the back, and custody battles over a hound dog, it becomes offensive … to the redneck.
Each of us see's our lifestyles as relatively normal, because "normal" is what we have been taught. Yes, it's hard to believe that some people don't eat road-kill possum pie … while others believe that NASA is a fraud and man has never set foot on the moon, when we already know that a colony of six foot Quakers have lived there for more than a century.
So, is it any wonder that Mormons bristle at the very idea that their Church may be a cult?
No one wants to be in a cult (not as funny as rednecks ..usually). Cult's are full of pathetic, brainwashed dupes who follow charismatic leaders that require their devotion, time, and money, and who make their followers say, do and wear ridiculous things to prove their worthiness.
Now, does that sound like a devoted true believing Mormon to you?
Hmmmm, well, but unlike Mormons, cults have strange beliefs, perform bizarre rituals, and attempt to isolate themselves from the non-believing world.
Hmmmm, well, unlike the LDS, cults also claim exclusivity on truth. authority, and direction from God, that criticism of leaders is a sin, and that any contradictory literature or information comes from the devil.
Hmmmm, well, that strange bird we've been taught to call "The only true Church on the face of the earth" is beginning to look like a duck! It walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, it has feathers, webbed feet and a big yellow bill like a duck … BUT.."I know this duck is true … I mean Church" … don't I???
Well, if you are beginning to wonder, here is a little test I found on the internet that may help you discern cults and cult like behaviors. The author says no one religion has been targeted and that the test can be applied to any political party or organizations that wants your full attention.
Mind Control Test
(Have I done any good in the world today?)
(Lengthen your stride)
(Personal Priesthood Interview, Tithing Settlements, Visiting Teaching Report)
(No speaking ill of or questioning Priesthood Leaders … Do you sustain your Ward and Stake leaders as presently constituted? Do you sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as Profits Seers and Revolaters?)
(The Only true Church on the face of the Earth)
(The great and abominable Whore of the Earth)
("No Latter-day Saint who is true and faithful in all things will ever pursue a course, or espouse a cause, or publish an article or book that weakens or destroys faith."- Apostle Bruce R. McConkie)
("I have a hard time with historians … because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting; it destroys. Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting." Apostle Boyd K. Packer)
This is a well known information control technique to stop the member from discovering the clear and documented errors of the cult. Members abilities to think for themselves is effectively disarmed in this way. Instead, they will think more and more as the rest of the group thinks. Take a look at the way the group looks and acts. Does everyone dress, act, and talk more or less the same? One observer, speaking of his particular involvement with a cult, said that the group encouraged its members "to do everything in exactly the same way- to pray the same, to look the same, to talk the same. This in psychology is a classic example of group conformity. Its purpose is to ensure that no one tries to act differently or become dissident, thus nobody questions the status quo." (Andrew Hart, Jan. 1999).
· Does the group discourage association with non-members (except, maybe, for the possibility of converting them to the group)?
(Worthy young men and women should never date outside of the Church)
· Does the group give you"black and white" answers—what the group agrees with is right and what the group disagrees with is wrong?
(When the Prophet speaks, the thinking is over)
· Does everyone in the group believe exactly the same things (i.e. what the group leaders tell them to believe)?
(Follow the Prophet..follow the Prophet..Follow the Prophet … ect..)
· Is there no room for individual belief, or opinion even in minor areas?
(No true Latter-day Saint will ever take a stand that is in opposition to what the Lord has revealed to those who direct the affairs of his earthly kingdom. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie)
· Have you attempted to disable your own God given critical thinking abilities by "shelving" various doubts about the group or groups teachings etc
(Fast and pray always lest ye are tempted away)
· Are those in the group who do not conform to the requirements of the movements teaching treated with suspicion, as if they are second-class members?
(Only worthy members are called to leadership positions)
· Does the group tend to withhold certain information from the potential convert?
(Milk before meat)
· Are the more unusual doctrines of the group not discussed until an individual is more deeply involved in the movement?
(Temple ceremonies, Mysteries of the Kingdom)
If you answered "yes" to most of the questions on the previous pages, the group which you are involved with is certainly using manipulative mind control techniques.
The website goes on to advise;
Now that you know this, what will you do?
You need to realize that whatever group you are part of does not have a monopoly on God.For many people in mind control cults, leaving the movement is usually considered the equivalent of leaving God Himself and forfeiting ones salvation. However, the truth is that there are Christians in all denominations who have found salvation in Christ alone, and not the church group itself. Many people who are trapped in a spiritually abusive religious system often feel as though they would have nowhere else to go even if they did manage to make the break from the group.
"You need to leave the group.This may be difficult, but by staying you will only continue to be spiritually and mentally abused. You will also be contributing to a system which, in your heart, you know to be wrong. Don't let pride keep you from leaving the group.
Don't feel as though you will be alone in your decision to leave. There are many individuals who have been in the same situation as yourself. These people come from many different religious groups, but have all been victims of the same dominating mind control techniques. Today, many are living new lives of liberty, security, and hope. For encouragement, you may wish to read some of the stories posted or linked to from this site.
So, you might be a Mormon if:_____________ (Fill in the blank with Mormon oddities such as; Funny undies, Grandpa 13 wives, Quakers on the Moon, Zelph the Ultimate Lamanite Warrior … ect … .
"How long does it take?" It's a common question among those who have abandoned the all encompassing religion/life style commonly referred to as "Mormonism." The answer, of course varies with the person, their background and previous commitment to LDS tenets and their personal circumstances. What the departing members are waiting for is a new since of normalcy. What was "normal" as a Mormon is often unnecessary, or even inappropriate as a "Gentile", the name Mormons give all non-Mormon's.
Two things are clear in the process, feeling normal again does not come easily for most Mormons in transition, and it takes time.
"Normal" as a True Believing Mormon (or TBM), in essence, requires total submission to Church authority. And the Church has something to say about virtually every aspect of life. It includes adhering to a strict health code governing what you can and cannot eat and drink, what you watched on TV and movies, the kind of music you listened to, the books you may read, sexual experiences before and after marriage, how you dress, how your kids should be raised, how children should be educated, political affiliation, personal relationships … and the list is endless.
Add to that the pressure of perfection. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect." If you are not a Temple Recommend Holder you should be and there are programs and pressure to get you there, (in the temple) where you can give your dead ancestors a chance to accept the Mormon gospel. And, if you are not doing missionary work, as a family, you should be and there are programs and pressures to get you involved. "Every Member a Missionary." EVERY Member … . including your children who should be inviting their little friends to primary. Your daughters should be inviting non-member boyfriends to church where they can prove their worthiness of her affections. Your sons, however, need to avoid "gentile girls, who apparently threaten purity of future missionaries.
And while the Church lauds education, it's only for approved education. Banned studies would include anything, science or history, that might cast doubt on official LDS Church approved science or history.
Rejecting Church authority means taking back the responsibility of self determination. The LDS Church's template for happiness is a check list of "Do's and Don'ts" . Do this and suffer, Don't do that and happiness follows. The not so subtle absolute control is an ingenious technique of self governance. "Teach them correct principals and let them govern themselves."
And while the Church gives lip service to "free agency" Latter Day Saint authorities make it clear that any decision not in harmony with Church teachings leads to misery, and a forfeiture of a "Celestial inheritance" leading to eternal segregation from the "richeous" and ultimately from God. Anything less is "hell" in Mormon thought.
Mormon's call their gospel "A message of love", while virtually all other Christian sects call it a cult, adding brainwashed as an adjective. LDS Leaders want members, and the rest of the world to believe that there is actually little difference between "Us and them" the LDS Church and the rest of main-stream Christian Churches. The major difference, which Church authorities are too polite to point out in mixed company is that only Mormons communicate directly with and hold the Priesthood of the living God, giving LDS Priesthood holders the exclusive right to act in His name.
No wonder that the newly independent thinking ex-Mormon, or Ex-Mo's, find the cognitive dissonance overwhelming, even choking. Once outside, you are really OUTSIDE. And at that point you are something worse than a Gentile, you are an "apostate", a special designation given to those who once embraced Mormon beliefs and the life style, but now have "called a spade a spade." Apostates leave behind not only friends but also family members, who are asked to "pray for them."
"After exiting a cult, an individual may experience a period of intense and often conflicting emotions. She or he may feel relief to be out of the group, but also may feel grief over the loss of positive elements in the cult, such as friendships, a sense of belonging or the feeling of personal worth generated by the group's stated ideals or mission. The emotional upheaval of the period is often characterized by "post-cult trauma syndrome":
Dr. Singer adds " The period of exiting from a cult is usually a traumatic experience and, like any great change in a person's life, involves passing through stages of accommodation to the change:
Passing through these stages is seldom a smooth progression. It is fairly typical to bounce back and forth between different stages. Not everyone achieves the stage of accommodation / acceptance. Some return to cult life.
The Exit and Support Network, " Aiding those spiritually abused by the Worldwide Church of God, the Philadelphia Church of God, and all off shoots", nothing to do with the LDS Church per-say, classifies reasons for leaving as follows:
The authors of the site outline a ten stage process of "Finding Normal" again.
STAGES IN LEAVING THE CULTIC SYSTEM
THE WITHDRAWAL PROCESS
The control in the cultic system is so strong that people report they have been affected for years afterwards. It is for this reason that the WITHDRAWAL STAGES should be well understood by everyone.
This often begins almost immediately after acknowledging something is wrong. The mind and will may be completely taken over by the logic presented by the members and leaders. However, the gut feeling, emotions, or conscience often indicates that something is not quite right.
This doubt causes a feeling of guilt which the person attempts to stuff and deny. The guilt drives him or her to deeper resolve to "do right" or submit and to ignore any information that conflicts with the leaders' message. However, the conscience continues to exert itself causing the person to question things. Most people don't know what to question. They may question the "standards", the existence of God or the truth of the scripture. They rarely have enough wisdom to question the history or the doctrine of the group.
The person will give lip service to the group but in reality often behaves or does things that are against the rules. This causes even more guilt and more resolve to "get right."
If the person is observant and alert, he or she may notice some discrepancies between what the scripture says and what is done within the group. Or he may hear of a scandal or problem that bothers him. This may worry some people but many others just think, "Oh, well, the people aren't perfect but the WAY [or "God's government"] is perfect." Or "Oh well, what can I do?" or "Oh well, God will take care of it."
The person may hear of the history of the church and begin to wonder why he was lied to regarding the founder of the group. An inquisitive person may begin an investigation. At this point, the person usually becomes very quiet and fearful about letting others know of his questions. By this time he has found out that it is socially unacceptable to voice any doubts.
The denial stage in which the person decides to ignore all the warning signs. They are actually afraid of or angry at anyone who has information that exposes the deceit of the organization. Some people NEVER get past this stage. They are hostile towards any information that spotlights the deceit and errors of the group.
The "Don't know what to think" stage. MANY people get stuck here. They will try to figure things out on their own. They are suspicious of everyone. They don't trust the friends or ministers and they don't trust themselves. They don't trust traditional Christianity. They don't trust the information that exposes the group. They may not trust the scripture and might try to find reasons to believe the Bible wasn't translated correctly. This stage is very critical. The stress of it can cause illness, anxiety, nightmares, emotional problems, marital problems, divorce, and destructive accidents because of so much mental preoccupation, suicide [suicidal feelings], hostility and anger. Some report a problem with nausea, clenched teeth or other outward signs of tension. This stage is extremely painful and frightening. Usually the longer a person or his family has been in the group, the more painful it is. At this stage, some people try to reason with the leaders. They will either arrange for visits or write long agonizing letters. Some hope that they can change the system or get some members to agree with them. They are AMAZED at the total inability of the members to hear what they are saying. However, some members will agree with their arguments, pat them on the head and try to smooth their ruffled feelings.
The state in which a decision is made to leave the group. The person may go in several directions. They may become angry at God, or become an agnostic or atheist. They may try to start their own spiritual quest or church in the home. They may reach out to secular psychology for relief. Or, they may hook into another cult. They may decide to just let the spiritual part of their life hang in mid-air for awhile. Some people get stuck in a yo-yo syndrome: they will leave the group, go back to the group, leave, go back, leave and go back. They rarely ever figure out what the group believes or even what they believe. Or, they may become born again as a result of doing some intense praying, in-depth study and reaching out to normal Christian information. This stage is extremely crucial. If a married couple doesn't agree or reach this stage together it can destroy their marriage. Almost total rejection from the group and family inside occurs if the person announces his new allegiance to Christ instead of to the cultic system.
The state in which the old personality disintegrates and a new one is formed. The person will get rid of old clothes, old hairstyles, old possessions. Some people experience a lot of anxiety in adjusting to a new identity because their whole self concept was so closely tied to the group attitude towards themselves. New interests, charitable activities and hobbies are found. Bible study and Bible classes become the new excitement if one has been born again. The person rejoices at every new day and has a sense of peace. The world looks beautiful, people seem wonderful, nature seems to glow with the power and beauty of God. If a satisfactory church is found the person finds a great deal of happiness.
The person is in constant amazement at the difference between the old life and the new life. The person is able to pity those who are still in the old group and will eventually be able to laugh about his old experiences. The person will often want to reach out to others whom he has known while in the group. He feels a strong need to talk about the experience in order to understand the strong emotions and confusion he felt while inside the group. Talking to other ex-members seems to be the best therapy for those going through this process. Writing down what one has heard, experienced and believes [is also very helpful].
Most of these symptoms subside as the victim mainstreams into everyday routines of normal life. In a small number of cases, the symptoms continue.
How quickly does "normal" happen? Again, it depends upon individual circumstances. There is a parallel between Ex-Mo's and military veterans. very few vets ever talk to non-vets about their military experiences. The main reason is the vets have shared experiences that are impossible to explain to non vets. The same holds true for Ex-Mo's. It's very difficult for non LDS world to understand the passion TBM's hold for their beliefs. It's equally difficult for the non LDS world to grasp the anger and since of loss Ex-Mo's go through upon exiting the church.
Associating with and talking to other Ex-Mo's going through the exit experience may be the fastest, if not the only way to recovery and finding "Normal" again.
* This information is a composite list from the following sources: "Coming Out of Cults", by Margaret Thaler Singer, Psychology Today, Jan. 1979, P. 75; "Destructive Cults, Mind Control and Psychological Coercion", Positive Action Portland, Oregon, and "Fact Sheet", Cult Hot-Line and Clinic, New York City.
~Adapted from an article originally posted by the late Jan Groenveld of Cult Awareness
Center in Australia. [Words in brackets inserted by Exit & Support Network™]
LDS Presidency Second Counselor Dieter F. Uchtdorf: Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (source)
Has the LDS Church leadership really earned the trust of people seeking answers to divine and eternal questions? The current First Presidency, and all of those that came before this one, back to Joseph Smith, have all claimed to be directed by God, "the Creator of the universe [who] knows far more than we do." And yet they tell us to ignore the discredited and controversial teachings of 'prophets and apostles' who came before them. While they were all selected for leadership roles by the same process and criteria, we are told to remember that they were and are fallible, ordinary men just like the rest of us, who are prone to make mistakes and speak for themselves rather than God.
'Follow the Prophet' (and Apostles), blindly … without questioning, knowing that he is (they are) fallible and may be speaking his (their) opinion as an ordinary man (men) rather than as an oracle of God?
Isn't that abdicating my free agency?
For eons, religious leaders have exploited the ignorance of common people seeking the meaning of life. Alchemists, magicians, and conjurers went to great lengths to create fear and awe in people who could neither read nor write, nor hardly reason for themselves. Even the educated of each time period were lulled and bullied into accepting the 'power' of a god exclusively vested in a high priest. In each of these "religions" death was meted out to both apostates and infidels which solidified their power over a captive audience.
And now we are told to "doubt our doubts" … that "We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." (source) President Uchtdorf is essentially saying that only through LDS leadership and the Mormon church will we be able to find love and peace and meaning in this life and the life to come.
Perhaps the twelve, along with the big three, have missed the point of the recent mass exodus of thousands of once devout Mormons around the world. It is not God that so many doubt, it's any connection between God and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that is being rejected. The LDS Church's ever-changing narrative of its origins, theology, and history would lead any reasonable human being to conclude that God has not, and does not, dispense knowledge, wisdom, or eternal principles to them or anyone connected to the Church, currently or historically.
The information age connected to a world wide web is stamping out the kind of ignorance that enslaved common people to corrupt or misguided religious and political leaders who claimed divine sovereignty. The argument that faithful people may be misled by "detractors" sounds much the same as warnings from the 14th century that the earth is flat and sailing too far out would lead to sure disaster. Such authoritative warnings kept many from ever seeking truth, and in fact, a "Flat Earth Society" still exists today.
Despite the best attempts of the LDS Church, it has not destroyed my faith in a greater power…in God. Many who defect leave their once cherished beliefs in God behind, which is damaging and disorienting, but understandable. The "real" first tenet of the LDS faith is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Only true Church on the face of the earth. "I was answered that I must join none of them (Christian churches), for they were all wrong.their creeds were an abomination in [God's] sight; that those professors were all corrupt" (Joseph Smith—History 1:19), when in fact, the LDS Church may have been the most distorted and corrupted church on the face of the earth claiming to be Christian. I was asked by an LDS CES Director "if not us, then what?" The meaning of the question was clear. "If Joseph Smith was not the handpicked servant of God, then there is no God."
Despite President Uchtdorf's admonition, doubts do not hold us prisoner but rather open the way for greater understanding. Old ideas that were once accepted as absolute truths were replaced with new radical ideas because of the doubts of skeptics who wanted to know why and how. As a result, science replaced alchemy because of a "heretic's" doubts. The knowledge that the world is round and it revolves around the sun slowly gained acceptance because of doubts. Slavery has been abolished, at least in this country because of doubts that God instituted it and sanctioned it. Evolution and the actual age and composition of this planet are much better understood because of doubts. Medicine has replaced both priest craft and witchcraft because of doubts.
Every advance made by mankind started with the courage and determination of a doubter. The only ones who benefit from faith over knowledge are those who are supported by the willful ignorance of the faithful.
In fact, had faithful Mormons always followed the "doubt your doubts" doctrine the LDS Church might still be practicing polygamy and polyandry, the word of wisdom would still be just a "suggestion," black men would not hold the priesthood and be thought of as the lesser spirit children of God, women would be relegated to baking bread and raising children no matter what their God-given talents were. We would believe that the Kinderhook plates were real rather than the hoax they have proven to be, that Quaker-like people live on the moon, that the sun is the center of the universe and is the home of God. We would practice blood atonement and believe in the King Follett Discourses. And we would all be dressed alike still trying in vain to follow the United Order.
In other words, LDS folk would be a delusional and ignorant people lead by intolerant and vindictive leaders bent on rooting out dissenters and questioners, shaming them, segregating them, and eliminating them as "apostates," all in an effort to maintain their power and authority.
It is clear that the LDS Church will continue to change its narrative as circumstances dictate, thus preserving as much of its faithful base as possible. But that base will continue to shrink as people find the courage to think for themselves. Until one day, when what was the "Fastest growing Church" will be reduced to the size and relevance of the "Flat Earth Society."