In the last couple of sections you really just boiled it down to "Who are you going to trust? The believers or the skeptics?" In reality, many of us find that non-mystical narratives just make more sense, so it's less about who we trust and more about what type of worldview we trust. Supernatural explanations or naturalistic ones? Do we believe in spiritual confirmations as a valid way to know things (epistemology), or do we believe we should be more rigorous in our acceptance of extraordinary claims? This to me is the crux of it. Contrary to your title, I think yes the evidence is breaking many shelves. The evidence paints a possibility that doesn't require the acceptance of mystical artifacts, mystical powers, and visions of mystical beings. The shelf breaks because we no longer want to say we believe something that just doesn't seem like the most plausible explanation anymore.
It appears that you’re making the assumption that those who have left the church *haven’t* done what you invite them to do. That would be a false conclusion.
Also, one can see light in President Nelson and his messages and still conclude that certain truth claims of the church are false.
Sincere question: Do you agree that there may be valid reasons to conclude that not all of the church’s claims are true?
“There is no truth so sublime but it may be trivial to-morrow in the light of new thoughts. People wish to be settled: only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I think you miss judge John and his work. I have listened to hundreds of hours of his podcasts. He is a kind soul trying to help people how are hurting. We are have "Mormon Stories." I for one came home from my mission early years ago when this was less common. This and other life challenges has made "church" a hard thing. I deal with issues that make it hard to be that "perfect member," which all too easily leads to depression. I have been a reader of LDSMag.com for many years. I attend church every Sunday with my wife, yet I am also interested in church history (I am a history teacher). I found this article one sided, giving the impression that John and his "Mormon Stories" is somehow apostate and the work of the devil. Let us not be so quick to judge until you know more of the facts and have taken the time to educate yourself. Read the Church's own Gospel Topic essays. The Church is trying to be more truthful with its history. We are all different, yet share a Mormon heritage. Lets not be sel righteous and judge others because their Mormon Story is not yours, but I would venture to say that if you listed to some of John's podcasts you might leaned you have many things in common with those he interviews. He have interview the Givens. Lets not condemn someone before we know the facts and have heard both sides. Many many members are hurting. Almost NO family in this church is not being affected. You likely know someone in your own family who is hurting and has left the church or become less active. Do you know why? All three of my children are not active. My son came home from his mission early and has not attended since. This is a growing problem. MANY are leaving. These people need our love, not to be told they are listening to the wrong voice and to repent. Believe me, you will only push them away further. These people are not dumb, they have spend hours and hours deciding what to do. They are you fellow ward members, your sons and daughter. They are hurting because life is hard and many time the church makes it even harder. John has done much good. He is a pioneer in what he is doing. The church is even making changes based on his work. I hope you will have the courage to post my comments. Thank you for all you articles over the years. I weekly come to your site, but found this article too one sided.
Thank you for a well thought out article. Like a ot of other people, I have a 'shelf', but I have another shelf as well, with undeniable evidences for the truth of the gospel. Sometimes I find the two hard to reconcile, but faith keeps me searching for the reconcilation, or waiting in faith that there will be one. Some of these issues have resolved themselves, some of them will be resolved, and for some I may wait forever.
By way of example, one such issue was changes in the Book of Mormon: 'did you know there were over 2,000 changes in the BoM?', implying I'm not exactly sure what, but presumably that it wasn't divinely inspired, because God wouldn't do that (?!). This led me to watch some videos by Royal Skousen, which were interesting and faith-affirming. He believes the number to be far in excess of 2,000 but he puts it in a very different context. The lesson I learned was that if you're going to question don't stop asking the questions until you get the right answer.
Some would see this as blind faith or confirmation bias (a trait that is so much easier to observe in others than in ourselves). I see it as recognising that trials of faith will come, and remembering that I have covenanted to persevere through them. Of course if the evidence becomes overwhelming I would be wrong to ignore it, but the evidence is not overwhelming unless I choose to let it overwhelm me. I find that by swallowing it in small doses and looking hard, and patiently, for antidotes my testimony has been strengthened.
I acknowledge the reality of the pain that some people feel in their 'faith transitions', and I wish I could make it all better. But that's not how it works. Based on my own experience all I can do is encourage anyone who is going through these things to look to the simple means we all know to find healing balm. Prayer, scripture study, service, following the counsel of church leaders - they're all cliches, but cliches become cliches for good reasons.
I didn't read the entire lot because im not feeling well but...the beginning gives me the gist of it. I have found that no matter what anyone else says that it all amounts to you having your own experiences. I have been a member of the church since 1977. I was about 26yrs old and my husband 30yrs old we are 68 and 72 now. we weren't born in the church so our testimony didn't come from other family members. we weren't taught these principals..i was catholic and my husband was Baptist. we were both baptized at the same time. we had to earn our testimonies. yes earn them through experiences both bad and good. each one of us has different experiences and feels differently about everything so it would be only through the gift of the HOly Ghost could one know truth. also one has to desire or want or choose to believe in God and the Savior and the Holy Spirit. we have to choose this and then God works on us and through us. God gave us a gift ...and I learned about that gift once through someone else. I was reading a book that someone in the church wrote and I didn't agree with all of it...so I called the person who lent me the book and she said of course silly use your gift of discernment. don't believe everything you read just because you read it...but pray about it and the Lord will attend you. this friend's words has stayed with me all this time.also, my husband and I had an experience at church in one of the places we lived as my husband was military. our bishop had died and we waited a long time to get another bishop. we were bishopless for 3 months or more. then one day the stake president got up and started speaking telling us that it took him and others that long because the bishop they had called refused the calling because he felt unworthy. so they went and prayed again about it and still came up with the same answer and the same person. so they went to him and spoke with him about this and this man agreed to be bishop but he had to get himself straight before doing so. that is why it took so long. well, that day they were going to announce who it was....my husband rocked in his seat and he told me who he thought it was...he said he knew it was him....well, I thought what naw it cant be him. well, It was him....and when asked to raise our hands...because my husband said what he did ….we both knew that this man must have been chosen because my husband had the revelation of who it was before it was told to us. so we did but....there were a few who didn't raise their hands and were asked to go out into the foyer and speak to the leaders. well, we waited in the church and slowly one by one each came back in and we were asked the same question and everyone raised their hand. it was a man who needed to repent of his behavior and actions. but the Lord called him to be bishop. and my husband received that revelation about it. so these experiences do happen and the Lord knew that we had had problems with this man and that is probably why my husband had this experience that helped us both to raise our hand. God does work in mysterious ways....and not in our ways...but HIs own....so my beliefs aren't hinged on history or books anyone wrote or places these things happened its based on my own experiences with my Father in heaven through the Holy Ghost. I have had many more experiences like this and when I feel doubting...I remind myself of this...
I enjoyed the article and the author's insights. I've watched a handful of John Dehlin's interviews. I find them tiresome. They seem to be the same. A faith crisis is at the center of each interivew. Each crisis is a variation on the same theme. He never breaks new ground, pushes back or challenges. Dehlin puts on an air of objectivity, but Dehlin has his own set of biases that come through loud and clear (i.e., smart people can't be expected to take this stuff seriously) and he injects himself too much into the interview. He often seems unprpeapred, he jumps from hot button issue to hot button issue, but questioning isn't well thought out or particularly interesting.
I honestly believe you have succinctly stated the whole problem: history is always recorded by people using their own perspective, slant, bias or honest interpretation. I am an attorney. It always amazes me how several eyewitnesses will honestly testify to an event they saw but their versions of what happened can sometimes vary dramatically. That is why juries are asked to determine for themselves what is the truth. You are also so right that it is not always a 50-50 choice but there must be a choice. That is the plan. I wish that everyone in and out of the church could read this essay. Thank you so much!
Jacob has some good points and I enjoy this series, but he needs to "eschew verbosity" since he's not getting paid by the number of words used. What I gather from laboring through the rhetoric is this: Everyone views "facts" in a way that is biased by their own experience and pre-suppositions. In a classic experiment, two people thrust their hands into the same bowl of warm water. One of them has previously chilled his/her hand in a bowl of ice water, so he/she says the warm water is "hot". The other has held his/her hand previously in a bowl of hot water and therefore perceives the warm bowl as "cold".
If a person is spiritually hot or cold, their perceptions of historical "facts" will be different. To some extent (but not totally), people believe what they WANT to believe. Dehlin and other critics simply provide excuses or "justification" for those to leave the Church who wanted to do so anyway. Many will deny this, but it's true.
The scriptural comment on "ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth" has a good deal of relevance to those who criticize and then leave or faith. It is the arrogance of the detractors that bother's me the most.
Absolutely LOVE the Nibly footnote. Worth reading the article to get to it.
When I was young and learning about police work and taking statements, the officer teaching said the following: "There's the defendant's side, the plaintiff's side, and then there's what REALLY happened."
It applies not only to eye-witness accounts and individual realities of a crime/event, it applies to pretty much everything we hear/see/ understand. Nothing's REALLY objective/without bias. Even how we interpret what the Holy Ghost has/is/will reveal to us.
As I age, I continue to marvel at how much is left up to us to do/ believe ..or not. Amazing how the Gospel Plan has been laid out. Love it.
I have always thought that it was vastly more important and critical to focus on 1) The Scriptures (Bible, Book of Mormon, D&C, PofGP, First vision in scriptures ... because they are the real, original, totally truthful accounts. Read with the Spirit and you will learn and understand vastly more then what you can get from 20 second or third party books. 2) Focus on the General Conference Addresses. 3) Be very, very selective about various people and various accounts out of Church History. Don't base your faith on any 2nd or third party historical account. Don't base your understanding on any 2nd or third party historical account. Don't base your faith on an account or book written by an Apostle. It isn't scripture.
Everything else, including various accounts out of Church or Bible History, Podcasts, of which modern people are putting their spin/interpretation on events of the past are of a far lessor, secondary or thirdary category of information. In essence treat it as unreliable or about as reliable as drivel or dog slobber.
The test Hugh Nibley assigned has the problem of being way too long to address, and as he himself said, it wasn't given seriously. But there is a test that was assigned by the Lord Himself and was to be taken very seriously. It is found in D&C 67:
4 And now I, the Lord, give unto you a testimony of the truth of these commandments which are lying before you.
5 Your eyes have been upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and his language you have known, and his imperfections you have known; and you have sought in your hearts knowledge that you might express beyond his language; this you also know.
6 Now, seek ye out of the Book of Commandments, even the least that is among them, and appoint him that is the most wise among you;
7 Or, if there be any among you that shall make one like unto it, then ye are justified in saying that ye do not know that they are true;
8 But if ye cannot make one like unto it, ye are under condemnation if ye do not bear record that they are true.
9 For ye know that there is no unrighteousness in them, and that which is righteous cometh down from above, from the Father of lights.
So, those of you who feel that they have come to a place that is superior to the church and the revelations, have at it.
Now I'm pretty sure that at least some of the former Mormons will say that their problem is with corporate church, not the scriptures. Well, I see lots of problems with the human failings of people, even leaders, in the church. But I am not about to throw out the glorious promises the scriptures and ordinances can lead us to. Those promises are beyond the imaginings of mortal men and I am constrained to say, "The Holy Ghost bears witness to my soul, this is the work of God."
The arguments over “evidence” never end, and they never will end, but that doesn’t bother me at all. I could not care less whether the Church is “true” or not. I don’t belong to the Church because of “evidence” or even because of spiritual confirmation. I belong because I have never found a better way to live. There is value even in the hard parts of Church membership, at least in my opinion. And the fact that it is MY opinion and no one else’s makes all these arguments moot. What confounds me is why any of the non-believers spend so much time and energy trying to prove that the Church is “wrong” and that so many believers care what their critics say. Personally, I wouldn’t waste 10 seconds listening to some radio clown whose opinion is no more valid and of no greater worth than my own.
Great article, thank you! This could probably be summed up by the last line in 2nd Nephi 26:22: "yea, and he (Satan) leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever."
Dehlin, and others like him, are too self important to give honest comment or advice. The phrase "ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth" fits them very well.
Their mental and spiritual error is think that their self-promoting claim to honesty and "historicity" simply demonstrate a Satanic influence they have chosen. History is more subjective in content than objective.
I listened to a podcast several years ago that seems to dovetail nicely with the points you’ve made in this article. The first half of the podcast is interesting, but long. The real meat is later on when the participants discuss Dr. John Gottman‘s theories about “negative/positive sentiment override”--originally applied to discussions about marriage, but amazingly relevant when applied to discussions about religious beliefs. The theories discussed there and have been amazingly helpful in my understanding why some leave the church while others of us stay. The podcasters clearly illustrate how we are affected by our own biases, as you pointed out in your article. https://mormondiscussionpodcast.org/2015/07/steven-garff-gottmans-ratio/
Being born in England and raised by a faithful, strong-minded single mother whose human frailty never overpowered her convictions, I was struck by your reference to history and it's interpretations. As I have discussed the impact of historicity with a dear friend I could not help noting, and being grateful for, my clearly extra-Utah perspective on the Church.
My experience is observing and talking with those who have departed from the faith, is it nost often (if not universally) started with them being critical of a leader at some level; a scoutmaster, bishop, mission president, general authority, a specific prophet, etc. They take an accusatory stance about some issue they have found to be offensive; then their discontent grows. To resolve their unhappiness they choose to consult anti and negative sources. They are clearly on the path of apostasy by following such a method to sort out their concerns. They have not the fortitude to be straightforward and resolve it with the person they perceive has caused their heartburn. Satan is the great accuser and loves that tactic.
This is one area where Adam Smith’s ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments’ really proves its worth. The affectation of pure reason is a sham; we are all, almost always guided more by learned, prerational sentiment rationalized post facto. We rarely if ever reason at all, except to justify what we already feel to be right or true. The very act of listening to an anti-Mormon, whatever mask he wears, demonstrates in itself an already existing desire to FIND a reason to leave. Personally I have read and listened to lots of anti-Mormon dreck, but so find it tedious rather than compelling, and do it because I fancy myself obligated to look at the arguments of the enemy. I’ve read Hitler and Marx and Mao and Dawkins and Darwin for the same reason. There is no more tedious book in the world than ‘Capital,’ except perhaps Gould’s ‘Structure of Evolutionary Theory’ which also weighed about 30 pounds. At least I sold it for as much as I paid for it!
Recognizing that we absorb many beliefs in childhood without rational thought is helpful when deciding what we believe as adults. We all want to think of ourselves as reasonable but rationalization is much easier, far more common and oh so soothing to pride and vanity.
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