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What to Expect

October 4, 2011

First of all, I sincerely hope this doesn’t come across as “anti-Mormon”.  I’m not writing this to convince anyone of anything.  I’m not writing it to damage the church or anyone’s faith.  It’s a personal record of my journey, what I learned through study and prayer, and how my belief system has evolved.

Instead of just recounting the events of the last decade with a timeline, a history of my ever changing beliefs, I will be making a new post for each major point uncovered and studied.  But the overall picture is helpful.

Until I was on my mission, my entire knowledge of the LDS church was based on what the LDS church and members told me.  I avoided outside sources like the plague.  The church of course encourages this attitude, labeling anything that could provide a second (and often less-biased) viewpoint as anti-Mormon.  Whether it was specifically told to me or not, it felt as though reading anything about church history from a non-approved source was a sin.

Of course, that’s a ridiculous way to go about uncovering truth.  I don’t listen just to Toyota about what the best car is.  They may present a compelling case if I only paid attention to them, but how could I possibly uncover the truth (or at least which car I prefer) without investigating their competitors and consulting third-party comparison information?

For me, the process of uncovering truth about LDS history was a very long process.  I would uncover something I hadn’t previously been aware of, study both sides of the issue, and then set it aside in a dusty corner of my mind for months or years before moving onto the next issue.

There is a very influential and thoroughly studied psychological phenomenon called ‘cognitive dissonance’.  Wikipedia describes it well: “Cognitive dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying.”  As my studies led me more and more to hold conflicting ideas, I also became more and more motivated to reduce the dissonance and was faced with a choice:  I could change my beliefs or find justification for them.

One important thing to note here is that I desperately wanted my faith to grow.  I wanted to be the priesthood holder my wife hoped I would become.  I wanted to be the guy at the pulpit bearing a powerful witness of the truth.  I was afraid of going against my family, my wife’s family, and a significant number of my friends and acquaintances.  And throughout the nearly decade-long process of study and prayer, I always assumed that I would eventually have that kind of faith in the church.  There were scriptural promises guaranteeing it!

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

I know there will always be skeptics.  People, who without any real knowledge or understanding of me or my situation, would say I didn’t have a sincere heart, real intent, or enough faith in Christ.  Let them think or say what they will.  I know the truth.  I did ask.  I was earnest.  I had and still do have faith in Christ.  No answer came for almost a decade.

So what do I have to say about people who claim they did get an answer?  Great!  Awesome!  I hope you are happy in your conviction and I have no intention of changing it.  But if you are curious about my journey, as to what I discovered and what I now believe, read on.  I only ask you to do so with an open mind.

Next step: Sources

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