Friday, May 05, 2006

Why I Don't Believe in the Mormon Church

I'll apologize up front for the long post. I wrote this a couple of years ago to accompany my letter of resignation which I still haven't sent.

The following points summarize my main reasons for not believing in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am sure that the church is well aware of the issues even though they are understandably unwilling or unable to address them. I don't list these items because I have questions or wish to debate. These issues and conclusions are the result of long and earnest study and my sole intent is to make you aware of some of the reasons behind my resignation. The complete facts behind these issues are easily available from a variety of sources for those that are willing to search them out and expand their education beyond church-approved documents. Unfortunately, I accepted the churches condemnation of "anti-Mormon" literature for 39 years and never read it. Since I have started reading more widely I have realized that the church fails to disclose many facts that contradict its official versions of its history and call the truthfulness of its teachings into question. This is a conscious policy on the part of the church to only teach "faithful" history and actively suppress contradictory evidence including excommunicating members who publish material that the leadership dislikes regardless of its truthfulness or accuracy.

  1. The need to fall back on blind faith and the rejection of reason and intellect as a means of discovering truth. I understand that some things, such as the existence of God, must be taken on faith. But the items below do not. A wealth of evidence strongly argues that the church is not what it claims to be. When contradictions become apparent it is proof that something is false. Faith is no longer necessary, and is in fact impossible, once a fraud can be proven. To meet facts with pleas for faith is disturbing. I find the church's use of "intellectual" as a demeaning word to be personally enlightening since it would seem to indicate that reason, truth, and light are not on the church's side and that the leadership knows it.

  2. Dishonesty of the church. I believe the church's policies to actively discourage and punish scholarship that challenges official church versions of history are overtly dishonest. Rather than openly investigating the truth and accepting the facts, the church whitewashes the results and teaches that historians should only publish that which is "faith promoting" and agrees with the official party line. Those that do not comply are excommunicated. If the church were true then it would not need to concern itself with honest scholarship and full disclosure and would not be afraid of open discourse. Excommunication is the ultimate power to brand a person's work as apostate without having to actually address the facts with reason or evidence.

  3. Joseph Smith lied about his ability to translate ancient documents. This is proven beyond a doubt by the discovery of the "Book of Abraham" papyrus and the subsequent discovery that they are pagan documents that have nothing to do with Abraham or Joseph. This is further corroborated by the discovery that the Kinderhook plates were a hoax that Joseph erroneously believed to be ancient brass plates. Joseph Smith was a seer (in the magical sense) and treasure digger before he became a prophet and used the same tools for translating the Book of Mormon as hunting for treasure. I don't believe (and he admitted in court that he couldn't) that he could find treasure by looking into a stone and find that to be compelling evidence that he was a fraud and con artist. In fact, New York court records prove that he was convicted of "disorderly conduct" for money digging and according to witnesses admitted in court that he could not see such things in his stone. He also confessed the same thing to his father in law. I furthermore don't believe that the same fraudulent tool would be used as the source of revelation, but witnesses clearly state that this stone was the Urim and Thummim used to "translate" the Book of Mormon. Parley P. Pratt claimed that the Book of Abraham was being translated using the Urim and Thummim just like the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham has since been proven to not be a correct translation. I see no reason to believe that the Book of Mormon was translated any more correctly than the Book of Abraham. They are both the products of Joseph Smith.

  4. He never had a real job and never supported himself or his family. His job was being the president and prophet of the church and he personally benefited greatly from that role. Throughout his adult life he constantly received monetary support for his role as prophet. He also received power and sex in his role.

  5. The Book of Mormon is not a historical document. It is at best a 19th century allegorical revelation to Joseph Smith and at worst a conscious fraud on his part to gain money and a livelihood. The historical record clearly shows his intent to make money from the enterprise when he received a revelation to sell the copyright. DNA evidence, textual analysis, archeology, linguistics, demographics, etc. call the historicity of the Book of Mormon into question. In fact, analysis of the Book of Mormon and its origins strongly suggests that Joseph Smith is its author. Even B. H. Roberts was forced to admit that the structure and ideas in the Book of Mormon are consistent with the common knowledge of Joseph Smith's culture and that Joseph Smith had sufficient imagination and creativity to have been the author of the book. Combined with the lack of evidence supporting the Book of Mormon's claims leads me to strongly believe that Joseph Smith was its author and that he drew on the ideas of his time and his own genius to dictate the text.

  6. Doctored history and revelations. The revelations in the D&C have been edited over time with additions and deletions to hide problems with the original revelations. Official church histories have been edited to remove any details that might not be faith promoting. The doctrine of two priesthoods was added after the fact and edited into the revelations after members challenged Joseph's authority. If the revelatory process is so error-prone then how can we trust that what is there doesn't require further editing.

  7. Current prophets method for receiving revelation seems to be even less trustworthy than Joseph Smith's methods, whatever they were. I would refer you to Gordon Hinckley's account of how the “revelation” allowing blacks to hold the priesthood was received. The experience is no different than what ordinary members go through in trying to feel inspiration. They pray and try to let their feelings guide them. If it feels good then they believe it is the Spirit prompting them. Experience shows that this isn't a reliable method. I find it incredible that this is how the church's prophets, seers, and revelators receive revelation. No voice from heaven, no vision, just what feels right to them after prayer and thoughtful discussion. Not that that's a bad method, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the result is indisputably God's will.

  8. Polygamy was not ordained of God or revealed to Joseph Smith. He engaged in polyandry as well as marrying teenage girls as young as 14 years old. This was not godly or righteous. It was simple adultery and seems typical of the predatory sexual behavior of many charismatic religious leaders. It appears that Joseph Smith introduced the doctrine of polygamy in order to provide divine justification for what would otherwise have been illegal and immoral behavior. His actions are not even justified by D&C 132. The strongest witness to this fact is the behavior of Emma Hale Smith Bidamon before and after Joseph's murder. She knew what was going on and that it was an evil practice. Unfortunately, Joseph Smith led the entire church astray with this false doctrine that was hurtful to so many women and children in the 19th and 20th centuries. Despite the church's discontinuation of the practice of allowing multiple living wives, men may still be sealed to multiple wives if the previous wives are deceased or divorced. Polygamy is still accepted as a true doctrine of the church. 19th century doctrine was that plural marriage was necessary for achieving exaltation. Either this was false doctrine or we can no longer be exalted. Or maybe the requirements for exaltation are changeable.

  9. The First Vision was a "work in progress" and evolved over time to bolster Joseph's position as prophet. It started as a simple theophany/dream/vision similar to many others recorded in that era and subsequent retellings over the years added additional details. Simple details that are now fundamental to church doctrine, such as the identity and number of the beings in the dream and the message, have been modified to strengthen Joseph's standing as prophet. It has also been transformed over time from being a subjective dream/vision to being an objective reality. It wasn't taught in the early church at all and didn't seem to be a key doctrine and only received its pre-eminent position many years later and after Joseph had written the current official version nearly two decades after the fact. The various versions are substantially different and the changes are most consistent with someone trying to strengthen their claim to divine authorization by embellishing their experiences.

  10. The temple ceremony is not a restoration of an ancient ordinance. Much of it was copied from Masonic rituals. Despite claims that it is a restoration and that it can't be changed or tampered with, the church has modified it over time to adapt it to cultural norms and removed parts of the original "revelation" that are disturbing such as blood oaths and oaths of vengeance against the United States and covenants of obedience of wives to husbands. It is "sacred", really secret, despite the fact that it contains nothing not openly taught outside the temple except secret handshakes, passwords, and (originally) penalties that were directly borrowed from masonry. It seems mostly to be a tool to maintain control over members through regular "worthiness" interviews that Joseph Smith himself could not have passed. I found it personally disturbing and in conflict with church teachings such as the Book of Mormon condemnation of secret oaths and blood oaths.

  11. The unrighteous use of power in the church. The church wields immense spiritual power over its faithful members. Authorities such as bishops are assumed to be acting for God and their actions are rarely questioned. In the minds of believing members the leaders of the church hold their salvation in their hands and control it through tools such as worthiness interviews that can be used to coerce members into compliance. When this power is abused (as it often is) the church members have no real recourse. Members have no equivalent to a "Bill of Rights" to protect them from spiritual abuse. For stark documentation of examples of such abuse and recommendations on how to deal with it I would refer you to the Mormon Alliance web page.

  12. Denial of the priesthood to all worthy members. Although blacks were originally given the priesthood (one of the original seventy was black), they were later denied until 1978. No revelation or official church statement has been given that authoritatively states why they were denied the priesthood and what changed to allow them to hold it only that it was God's will that it be so. The church simply stated, without clarification as to the reasons, that all worthy males could hold the priesthood. Nonetheless, women continue to be denied the priesthood despite inconsistent statements in the temple that they are ordained as priestesses and despite any scriptural reason why they should be denied the priesthood. They only reason seems to be the reason why blacks were denied: either the prophet hasn't asked or the brethren can't reach a consensus.

  13. Racism. Leaders of the church including Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Joseph Fielding Smith, Mark E. Petersen, Bruce R. McConkie and others taught that blacks are members of a cursed race and that spirits that were not valiant enough in the pre-existence were cursed by being born as members of the black race. A 1949 statement by the First Presidency stated that it was a commandment and a doctrine that blacks could not hold the priesthood at that time. This was taught as doctrine and continues to be accepted as doctrine by members of the church even though blacks can now hold the priesthood. The fact that the church has not publicly renounced these statements indicates that this continues to be the doctrine of the church. The church now seems to want distance itself from such statements although it has never officially repudiated them. The Book of Mormon also teaches that dark skin is a curse that results from wickedness. I do not believe that God is a respecter of persons, that he curses children for the sins of their parents, or that the spirits of black people are any less valiant than anyone else. My experiences with people of various races and nationalities indicates to me that all people were created equal and should be treated as such regardless of race, gender, or other superficial differences.

  14. Demeaning attitudes toward women in the church. The church can make whatever flowery statements it likes; women are subservient to men in the church in all decision making and all positions of true power. Young women are taught that their highest mission is to uphold the male priesthood as wives and mothers. In practice, females are marginalized in LDS culture. I have reviewed the Young Women's curriculum and find it demeaning. I do not want my two daughters to be brought up in the church if this is all that they are taught. Even the women's organization that the church is so proud of is run by men. All of its leaders are selected and must be approved by men. It's curriculum and programs must be approved by men. Any decisions that they make can be overridden by men. The women must swear in the temple obedience to their husbands and covenant to follow priesthood leadership. The church's statements of their respect for women are patronizing and attempt to hide the objective reality of life for women in the church.

  15. The gross ineffectiveness of the church as an organization. The meetings, curriculum, programs, policies, etc. of the church do not meet the needs of many of its members. Everything is driven from the top down and any local independence is strongly discouraged. Since the church claims to be directed by revelation, it does not seem to sense a need to solicit input from its members or to survey them to see how well their needs are being met. The church does not meet my needs and I don't see that it even cares. I would expect a church led by God through modern revelation to do a better job.

  16. The lack of financial disclosure or accountability to the members of the church. The church demands 10% of all members and 100% of those who have gone through the temple. Yet it doesn't disclose its budget or how those funds are used. Members get assurances that auditing procedures are in place that ensure that the money is being spent as directed by the leadership, but it has no way of knowing what the leadership is doing. What does the church fear? If the budget is set by revelation then wouldn't it be uplifting to see the hand of God in it? If not, then the membership deserves to see what decisions are being made and a forum for giving feedback. I would never contribute to any other charity that hides its income and expenditures and would actually find that practice to be extremely suspicious. The church's behavior raises similar suspicions on my part and I find at least certain expenditures that I'm aware of to be extremely questionable. The climate of secrecy and the lack of external accountability has created an environment that is ripe for corruption and waste.

  17. Lack of concern about physical and sexual abuse or effective policies to deal with it. Despite documented cases of sexual abuse by church leaders the church does not have youth protection policies like Boy Scouts that are aimed at prevention. Instead, it focuses on denial and liability control after the fact.

  18. Book of Mormon witnesses were unreliable. The character, impartiality, and reliability of the witnesses are questionable. They never denied their witness of the Book of Mormon, but they also never clarified their witness independently. This is pretty strange. You'd expect that with eleven independent witnesses we'd have many retellings of their experiences. But we don't. We have Joseph Smith's prepared statements. We don't have any first hand accounts of the circumstances surrounding the eight witnesses. Martin Harris' account of his witness sounds a lot like more like a hallucination and wishful thinking than anything else. We also have Martin Harris stating publicly that none of the witnesses saw any of it with their physical eyes. For him it was was probably compelling that they'd seen with their “spiritual” eyes, but to me it leaves open the probability of a dreamlike experience that was influenced by Joseph Smith preparing them for what they should see. David Whitmer never denied his witness, but he also stated quite plainly that he knew with as much certainty that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet as he knew that the Book of Mormon was true. So, if he is believable then should Mormon's that accept his witness of the Book of Mormon also accept his witness against Smith? Beyond this, if these witnesses are compelling evidence then Mormons should be following the James Strang branch of the church instead of Brigham Young's. Like Smith, Strang claimed to have translated new scriptures and also had witnesses that never denied their claims.

I have spent countless hours studying the church and weighing the pros and cons of the above issues and many others. I find the vast preponderance of evidence to be against the church and find very little if any to substantiate its claims beyond blind faith. Although I appreciate the many good people in the church and the good work they struggle to do, I can find that outside the church without subjecting my family and myself to the church's dishonesty and the unhealthy aspects of LDS culture. The church has lied to me my entire life and its leaders either know or should know better. I feel comfortable disassociating myself from an organization that is built and maintained on lies.

13 comments:

Rebecca said...

Well written -- it's clear and reasonable. My resignation letter will probably be much less articulate -- something like, "I quit. Don't call me."

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Good information.

Joseph's Left One said...

About as thorough and concise a summary as you could have written. That should be part of a standard letter every exmo sends.

For me, I don't feel like I need to justify why I'm leaving. They already know, don't they?

MattMan said...

I didn't give any explanation -- I figured it was like teaching a pig to sing; or at the very least, I didn't owe them anything, not even an explanation. Just let me out. So long and thanks for all the bread and water kinda thing.

considering said...

Why didn't you send it? You plainly want out.

Bull said...

Fear of divorce and losing my family?

Anonymous said...

I am 25, a member of the church, a convert, married in the temle to a third generation returned missionary bishopric member. I serve as a youth leader and sunday school teacher and I really do not believe any of it. But what can I do? If I leave, I will lose my husband. I know it. I will lose all my friends. I will be on my own. It takes up so much of our time that I fear my life will be empty without it. Although I would have a lot more money to spend on myself ;) I wish I had your courage, you state my reasons so well, but if I tried to tell anyone, I'd get talked out of it, be told I feel like this because of something I've done or not done and I'd feel even more guilty and ashamed than I do already. I am such a good actress I tell you!!

Bull said...

Anon, I'd suggest you read the following article:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/9363363/inside_scientology

I've posted in the past that reading about Scientology is what brought me around about Mormonism because they have a lot of parallels. I think that this is something you could share with your husband along with a comment like, "Can you believe how insane they are? I'm glad we don't belong to a mind-controlling personality cult like that."

If he doesn't see the parallels, then so be it.

As far as your life being empty without the church, is it really full right now or just busy?

I don't know what to tell you. You can do what many (and I suspect a very big number) do and just play along as a non-believing or selectively believing member and take whatever good out of it that you can.

I would suggest being as honest as you can with your spouse. This is a mistake that I made with my wife. I studied until I was sure and then just dumped it on her.

This year the church is studying Joseph Smith. I would suggest that you read "Rough Stone Rolling" and "No Man Knows My History" together as a couple. The good thing is that the facts in the two books are essentially the same with the only substantial difference being how the facts are interpreted. This would at least give you and your husband an opportunity to discuss Smith and the church and to express your doubts.

In my experience, most members don't know any of the non-faith promoting aspects of the church history and would be very troubled if they did.

BlueCodeRed said...

Well said. I'm still working on forming my letter. But great information. Thanks for sharing it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting. I feel very similar to the other anonymous post. My wife & i were both raised in the church, i'm an RM, we were married in the temple, both graduated from BYU and are both currently active with callings (I'm EQ President)...but over the last year or so, neither of us can get our head around all of the discrepancies, problems and cover-ups. Alli can say is i'm so grateful that we both are thinking the same and are on this voyage together as a couple.

Our doubts started when learning more about Joseph Smith & polygamy...reading historical FACTS from official LDS sources...from there it has has snow-balled, leading us to ask more and more questions (and not liking the answers).

The problem we are facing is similar to "Anon"...we are scared of rejection and feeling alone. Our families and friends are all LDS...it's all we know. Our first child is about to be born, and people are talking to me about the baby blessing etc

I wish I did believe it all...life would be so much easier, plodding along (how we have for so many yrs previous)...I don't want to fake it anymore...but i also don't want to be cast out and disappoint my family (or have my wife's family blame me).

Anyway...this is the first time I've put all these feelings in writing. Sorry for the rant. Thanks for letting me blabber on!

Anonymous said...

Thank-you for this post. Last night actually, I dumped it all on God that I don't believe the church is true. I poured it all out there. I wish I could say it made me feel better but I still woke up in the morning next to a believing husband and 3 beautiful children who love primary. My husband has known for a year how I feel, sees me drink the occasional glass of wine but certainly does not agree with my feelings on religion. We actually just had a huge fight because I wanted to talk about 'it' and although he tries, he just can't handle my feelings. That is what brought me to this site.
I left the church when I was 16 to the utter shock and horror of my family and returned when I was in my late 20's out of a desire to find a good guy and settle down. Even though I wasn't active all those years, I was still taught by my parents that I would only find true happiness if I came back to the church.
Now, 8 years back in the church, I can't deny the feelings in my heart that took me away in the first place. They are still there. But now my situation is so much more complicated than it ever was at 16.
One thing that remains the same, even at 36, is the incredible guilt I feel for feeling this way. Worse than that, is knowing the incredible disappointment I'm about to bring on to my parents and my family if I am honest with my feelings. I see it in my husband's eyes every time I try to talk about this. I hate that look. I lived my whole youth seeing that look in my parent's eyes and nothing feels worse than that.
A part of me wishes I never knew the Mormon church. But as much as I hate the guilt and disappointment I feel now and have felt in the past, at the end of the day, I'm grateful that I was raised by good parents who didn't abuse substances and who tried to be good people.
The church isn't true in my eyes but it has some damn good people in it.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm a 24 year old RM. I have always done my best to be faithful to the church. All of family is mormon. Recently I've been doing some personal study of the church's history, and I've done a lot of digging. I've come
To realize that the church is false. And after studying evolution, i know With certainty that there is no god. The problem for me now is that my family and friends all belong to the church. I also have a serious relationship with a super mormon girl friend. She doesn't know nor does anyone in my family know how I feel. I'm happy though. I'm happy to know where I actually came from and where I'm going when i die. I'm happy to know the truth. I think a part of me knew all along that this church was false and god is only an idea. I feel so free, but I'm still stuck in this time consuming religion. I keep thinking in my mind that I'm going to keep faking it and that this will some how benefit me. I'm not 100% sure I know what to do. I've got one friend who used to be mormon, and he's now an atheist like me. Maybe I'll talk to him. I'm not to sure. I think the most important decision I can make right now is to continue studying the truth about ethics, evolution, math, and other important topics. I'm gonna focus on being happy with what time, light, and circumstance has given me.

Allan said...

Please be true to yourself and those around you. I can't help but think that the world would be a much better place if we could just have the strength to be honest with with each other and the graciousness to respect each person's beliefs. I don't think you will do yourself any favors by faking it. There's no need to try to convince anyone else that the church isn't true. But there's also no need to continue to pretend that the emperor has any clothes either.