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Beginnings

My LDS resume would have these “qualifications”:

  • I was raised Mormon.
  • Two active parents, three active siblings.
  • 100% seminary attendance (early morning) for four years.
  • Eagle Scout in the local LDS troop. Served a full, faithful mission.
  • Studied at BYU, including numerous religion classes, for 4 years.
  • Veil worker in the Provo temple for a year.
  • Married in the temple.
  • Active for more than 30 years.
  • Full tithe payer since I was very young.

Faith of our fathers

My testimony was mostly built on two main things: being raised in the church and believing what others around me were saying. I imagine that most people in the world are, either actively or in a less active role, members of the religion they were part of as a child. It’s familiar, comfortable, and easy. Your own family members understand you and agree with your religious beliefs. That’s completely understandable to me, but it doesn’t bear witness as to the truth of the religion. Would I have been a Catholic if my parents were Catholic? Probably. Muslim? Likely.

Don’t get me wrong though: I’m grateful in numerous ways for having been raised Mormon. I’m sure it helped me avoid drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. It led me to my wife, who I met in Provo while attending BYU. It kept me chaste until marriage, allowing me to share that special intimacy only with my companion. But none of that confirms the truth or falsehood of the LDS church.

So what about hearing and believing the testimony of others? Attending church for so many years, I was bombarded with testimonies. Even aside from testimony meeting, which was 45+ minutes of straight testimony bearing, most talks, church lessons, hometeaching visits, seminary lessons, scout meetings, etc. included a testimony of some sort. These were often from people I knew, respected and loved. It included my own parents and siblings. Of course I was inclined to believe them. I trusted them. I trusted their judgment, wisdom, and conviction.

How does that play into the truth of the church? Should I believe those people? Weren’t millions of other people also sure that their religion was true and mine was false? How much faith should I put in these testimonies if they weren’t truly freely given? I had seen countless children declare their knowledge of things far beyond their comprehension as their parents whispered the words in their ears. And the church has taught that there is a leap of faith: that you gain a testimony by first bearing it. As Elder Dallin Oaks put it once,

“Another way to seek a testimony seems astonishing when compared with the methods of obtaining other knowledge. We gain or strengthen a testimony by bearing it. Someone even suggested that some testimonies are better gained on the feet bearing them than on the knees praying for them.”

So essentially we are supposed to bear our testimony when we don’t have one, lying until it becomes true in our minds? How many of these other people around me were saying that they knew the church was true in order to believe that what they were saying was indeed true?

Regardless, I desperately wanted to believe the church was true. I wanted to be Peter Priesthood, have that strong conviction and be a shining example of faith.

Searching out truth

But I eventually realized that finding out the truth for myself was of the utmost importance.  I had already spent 30 years of my life pursuing a belief system that I didn’t know everything about.  I discovered a very interesting psychological phenomenon called confirmation bias. Basically, when we want something to be true, we readily search out and accept evidence of its truth and at the same time avoid or ignore evidence against its truth.  Even if the supportive evidence is suspect or false, we are inclined to believe it simply because it confirms our desires for it to be true.

This is very evident in the Mormon church. There is a strong yet subtle guidance to only gather spiritual information from church sources.  Anything that might be critical, even if it is legitimate debate or scholarly research, must be “anti-Mormon” and therefore not worth looking at.  Unfortunately, that’s a terrible way to determine whether something is right or wrong.

Let’s say, for example, that I sent out one of two emails to all my Mormon friends.  One email claimed that certain proof of the Book of Mormon’s veracity had been discovered.  The other email claimed that certain proof of the Book of Mormon’s falsehood had been discovered.  Each had a link to a page.  I guarantee the first email would get a far, far higher click-through-rate than the second.  Pure and simple confirmation bias.  The same thing has happened as I tell people of my conflicts with church history.  They have no desire to learn about their own religion’s history.

Regarding basic events in the founding of their own religion, most Mormons are unaware of the actual historical accounts, taking instead whatever the church tells them.

I knew that for something as important as my eternal salvation, I needed to know the truth.  I had always simply trusted the church, my parents, family, and friends to guide me in this.  I avoided objective research on the topic, instead studying only biased pro-LDS history.  That had to end.  Skepticism is healthy, not a sin.  Those who fear skepticism, intellectual research, or respectful debate are usually hiding something.

This “blog” is basically a brief summary of some of my research over the last decade.  I have cited most of my sources and the majority of them come directly from official LDS publications.

I may never understand why faithful Mormons aren’t interested enough in their own church’s history to look at things like this.  I guess it comes down to one loaded question: “If the church is not true, would I want to know?”

Most Mormons never ask that question.  They never even give a half-second pause to the idea that it may not be true.  And many are happy in blissful ignorance.  That doesn’t mean they are necessarily wrong, just that their lack of knowledge of the events and church history leaves them depending on others for the truth.  I wanted to make an informed decision for myself, one way or the other.  Personally, I would rather have an uncomfortable truth than a comfortable lie if it came down to that.

Carl Sagan:

“But for me, it’s best to see the world the way it actually exists, rather than persist in delusion, no matter how comforting that might seem.”

Gordon B. Hinckley:

“Each of us has to face the matter-either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and the kingdom of God, or it is nothing.”

J. Reuben Clark:

“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation.  If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

Who am I?

I’m a regular guy.  I’m not particularly intelligent.  I don’t have any remarkable talent.  I’m just a person searching out truth, no matter where it leads me.

I wrote this blog for three main reasons:

  1. It was cathartic for me to lay it all out.  It helped me understand my motivations, fears, logical fallacies, and shortcomings.  It’s the first time in my life I wrote an honest, public introspection into my beliefs.  Ironically, most of my family and friends have no interest in reading it.
  2. For any family and friends who do read it, my desire is for them to make an informed decision one way or the other.
  3. Since I wasn’t aware of important details in these basic historical events, I have unwittingly participated in spreading falsehoods.  This blog is hopefully a way of making amends.

Next step: Are We In Control of Our Own Decisions?

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