Response to Mormon apologetics, escape from a cult, and other fun stuff

6/16 - 9/22/98 Messages

The most recent messages can be found here.

received 9/22/98
It can be said that
Mike Wallace and Gordon Hinckley have different ideas about what it means to be "running the Church," but can you really say that this is example of Hinckley lying, or doing less than telling the truth the way James Faust described?

First of all, I didn't write the information on the above page. As the page states, it is a message off the morm-hist list.

It seems to me that Wallace asked questions and Gordon Hinckley gave the answers he thought were appropriate; I'm not sure how anyone could say that Hinckley was lying in his responses.

There is a difference between "appropriate" answers and answers that are the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. While Hinckley's answers to the media are frequently "appropriate" in that they don't embarrass church members for believing in strange doctrines, they don't tell the whole story (sort of like Bill Clinton's answers and other question dodging tactics). Hinckley likes to change the subject or otherwise not directly answer questions when the direct answer is not "appropriate".

If you want some blatant lies, check out his recent interview with Larry King. Polygamy was more than a passing interest which is what Hinckley erroneously made it sound like. It also didn't end with a revelation in 1890 as there was never a revelation on the subject, and it didn't really end until the second manifesto in 1904. It also began well before the move west. In fact, the move west probably wouldn't have even been necessary had it not been for polygamy. Members think that Hinckley is telling the truth. Historians think that Hinckley is merely ignorant of the truth. Some of us who know better (including the fact that Hinckley discussed post-Manifesto polygamy with Michael Quinn and is well aware of its history) think that Hinckley is dishonest.

received 9/23/98 in response to the above
I don't think James Faust meant to carry telling "the whole story" to an extreme. In every subject you run into material that is best left to advanced study, and deferring it to future discussion doesn't mean you're trying to hide it. For example if you're teaching a child introductory mathematics it is usually counter-productive to make sure they're aware of the implications of Godel's Theorem.

I guess I don't see anything in Hinckley's statements about women that strike as being less than "the whole story" of the response he should have given to Wallace's question.

He didn't need to go into great detail, but don't you think something like "We believe in holy scriptures and our scriptures don't allow for women to hold the priesthood (yet). Only priesthood holders can run this church since they have the authority to act on earth for God" in response to "Why must only men run the Church?" would be a bit more "truth telling, truth speaking" than saying that "'Only men' do not run the Church"? And in response to "But they don't have the power" saying something like "Priesthood power can only be held by men at this point" instead of obscuring the issue by stating that "They have office. They have responsibility. They have control of their organization." As the son of a former Ward and Stake Relief Society President I know what their "control" is, and it is very limited--even over their own organization. It is not "power" in any sort of Mormon Priesthood sense which is what Wallace was getting at and what Hinckley was dancing around.

I believe that every person deserves a fair trial, even O.J. Simpson, even Joseph Smith. If those two deserve a fair trial then I think Gordon Hinckley definitely deserves a fair one as well.

I totally agree.

In our society we have an extensive judicial system devoted to giving people like Simpson his fair shake. We don't really have the equivalent for people like Smith and Hinckley because any dishonesty on their part did not extend to breaking any laws, and besides that Smith has been dead for over a century and a half.

First of all, Smith did break the law. That is well documented. The two most blatant cases being polygamy and the Kirtland Bank. See Van Wagoner's books for starters. Second, I haven't accused Hinckley of breaking the law. He is dishonest in some cases which is plain from his Larry King interview.

For the last few months I've been thinking that the lack of a way to give Smith and Hinckley fair trials in current society really cries out for something to fill that vacuum. I've been thinking that we need some kind of a new organization, whose purpose is to evaluate religious claims in a way analogous to how the U.S. judicial system makes judgements on potentially criminal behavior.

Groups do this already. Check out CSICOP for starters (or my site). ;) CSICOP don't limit themselves to just religious claims, but since most religions (including Mormonism) make paranormal claims they do fill this void to some extent.

This would be pretty much a new religious organization, made up of people who believe in some form of God but who forego making any conclusions on that God and Her/His attributes until they have judged in this quasi-judicial system that those conclusions make sense.

How can any judicial conclusions be drawn when religion/God/faith is the underlying methodology?

Anyhow, I bring up this whole commentary because you made the comments about Hinckley being dishonest. I happen to believe that he's completely honest, but I'm not really sure there's a way to resolve which of the two of us are right about him--you or I--without having this quasi-judicial system to fall back on. Maybe you have a better idea; I'm open to suggestions on the matter.

It isn't too difficult to find out whether he is dishonest. First find out if Mormons practiced polygamy before moving west (or find out if they practiced it after 1890, or if "it is not doctrinal" [see D&C 132], or if "it was a very limited practice", or find out if some Mormon women haven't wanted the priesthood, or any of the other claims Hinckley made to Larry King). Then check to see if Hinckley was aware of any of these misstatements on his part. I know for certain that he knows about post-Manifesto polygamy, and I'm 100% sure that he has heard complaints from women regarding the priesthood (as I know of several women who have written to him and received replies, and I'm sure he is aware of the excommunications of people like Janice Allred and Maxine Hanks to name just a couple of the many). Perhaps he meant that the women of the church *who have not yet been found out and excommunicated* are not complaining about it, but that isn't what he said.

received 9/13/98
I was a Mormon for 24 years. I served a mission and went through the temple. I decided soon after returning from my mission that I only believed in God and Jesus because I was born into the Mormon church. Sure it sounded nice but that didn't make it true. I decided to re-evaluate my testimony.

Your site has been very insightful.

It's funny how good you feel when you start living life for your own reasons and not ignorantly following superstition.

Thank you for giving me access to information without the pathetic anti-Mormon carpenter worshiper spin.

Thanks for the kind words. It is nice to know the information is of use to others.

received 8/14/98
You have produced a seemingly well organized page. I'm just curious, why did you decide to spend so much energy on this subject? What is so facinating about "dem Marmons"?

Actually, I don't spend much time on Mormonism any more. I used to spend much time on the topic because I was an active Mormon.

and a response
Thank you for your prompt attention to my correspondence. I make the following remark in an inquisitive manner, not a way to start "contention". Because, we both know that that would be "
of the Devil" ;)

If you are referring to my review of Hellman's book, my usage of Mormon scripture was meant as a joke.

I simply observed your quotes to be a bit of a paradox. Forgive my possible misunderstanding. When I read these passages I was led to believe that although you currently are not associated with mormonism, you hold their teachings as, at least partially, valuable. That alone is, of course, without paradox. But many of the noted passages were speaking as "Mormons". Does this mean that in one sense or another, you still consider yourself "Mormon" but in a higher meaning? Please eNlIgHtEn me.

The quotes on my intro page refer to a Mormonism that is no longer practiced. In fact, the idealistic Mormonism that gathers truth from wherever it exists never existed. It may have existed with some members--but it never has really existed with the leadership as a whole, and certainly never with the doctrine in total. My new philosophy is just that though. I believe in sifting truth and gems of wisdom from various lines of thinking and incorporating them into my beliefs rather than adhere to any sort of rigid dogma. I plan on expounding on my new philosophy--particularly the methodology aspect--very soon on the new site.

received 7/21/98
I was reading "
Where is the Good Life" by Paul Kurtz. Thank you for the direction to that site. The last sentence is interesting to me.
"The point is that it does not depend simply upon nature or society, destiny or God, but on what each person chooses."
I am no longer a prisoner of what I think of Destiny or God or Nature. Now that I have seen the Wizard of Oz, (in my case, the reality of the LDS beginnings) I somehow, cannot get myself to go back and believe in anything like it again, and I don't want to try, although in some ways it was easy.

It is interesting that the orthodox sometimes think people leave the church because the various requirements are 'too hard'. What is difficult about having life's answers feed to a person (or victim) on a silver platter in a community of support and reinforcement? Being an active member was certainly easy in many ways. A life that requires continuous thought and decision making is more difficult (but far more rewarding).

I read most of the essay in agreement, but I cannot see how I (as a member of my family who I love and don't want to hurt) can live audaciously, etc. (Or act out any but the mildest fantasies. See paragraph three under "True Joys" in the essay)

The key in this paragraph is "as long as they are not self-destructive or destructive of others". I didn't get the feeling that Kurtz is advocating that we act out fantasies that would hurt others.

I do think that your own immediate society does play a role in what kind of life you can live, regardless of what you may choose. What do you think?

I think when he says "does not depend *simply* upon nature or society" he doesn't mean that nature and society don't have any impact--certainly they do. His main point is that there are happy people *who make themselves happy* regardless of nature and society and there are unhappy people *who make themselves unhappy* despite being fortunate in nature and societal realms.

received 7/12/98
Just a note to show appreciation of you page. I was in the LDS church for a number of years. I visit the site of
FARMS and SHIELDS and am amazed at their logic (or lack of it). Sometimes makes one wonder why I spent so much of my life there.

Ah yes--FARMS and SHIELDS. They certainly have the 'answers'. 'Question' isn't in their dictionary though. ;)

received 7/11/98
I very much enjoy checking in frequently to see "
what's new". I always find something to spark. I have educated myself out of mormonism and christianity and see much in common with your reading lists and viewpoints.

I recently was introduced to a book that I think you might enjoy: "The True Believer" by Eric Hoffer

It is the best description of mass movements of all types- religious, social, national, etc. I have come across. It was published in the early fifties but is right on.

I've heard of this book--but have yet to pick it up. Steve Benson and John D. MacDonald both favorably mention this title too.

I'm sure you receive e mail from some interesting locations, but how about from an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Take care and thanks for your work on behalf of the active minds "floating around" out there.

This is a first (that I know of at least). Thanks for the note and the recommendation.

(regarding this page and the response to it)
First of all, and I think you noticed this too, he assumed you were a Christian of one sort or another and so there were a few questions he didn't answer at all because it would hurt your "faith" too. :0

I have a scale for rating apologetic theories that I'm thinking about, here is the current version.

1. Convincing
2. Encouraging
3. Fishy
4. Strained
5. Damn lie

Most of his answers, Imo lie on about 4.

Of your questions regarding the presence of things in the Book of Mormon that are not known to have existed in Pre-Columbian America - cultural references, plants, animals, metals, weapons etc. etc. - Ross has to fall back to the old "maybe it was something else" quasi-argument that I never bought, even when I was a TBM. This has always made me wonder why Joseph Smith would "translate" using a common word for an object unknown to him - like "cimiter" for a maccuahuitl or "silk" for expensive rabbit hair cloth - when he could provided no familiar reference for "cureloms and cummoms." I think the apologetic line is that these animals might have been extinct and Moroni didn't known what they were, so the words are transliterations rather than translations... but then Joseph Smith translated by the "gift and power of God," right? The whole line of reasoning seems silly to me and always has. Too many mights and maybes to avoid Occam's Razor.

When he mentions current apologetic thinking on things like Book of Mormon geography or Hebrews mixing races with indigenous pre-Columbians that ignore or downplay the beliefs of Joseph Smith and others as "opinion," to me that rates a 5. (I wonder if anyone has speculated on how large an ancient civilization would have to be to field an army of 240,000 for a final battle. I've read that the largest of cities in Central America had perhaps 100K, but I'd have to look it up. Seems to me that even if the armies included old men and young boys it would have to be a bigger civilization than could fit in the limited model.)

Some things that really irritated me:

You state:
Why did Alma not know when Christ was coming (Alma 13:21-26) even though he possessed plates and Lehi and Nephi had written precisely when he would arrive?

To which he responded: "Verse 24 refers to the time of Christ's coming "in his glory." This could mean the Second Coming, or his visit amongst the Nephites, or perhaps even Christ's birth. It is also possible that Alma, being a very busy man, had not yet had time to review all of the Small Plates. It is difficult to tell, although the reviewer tends to believe it is referring to his visit to the Nephites."

The only thing this answer is good for is preventing total silence. Anyone can stretch prophecies and make excuses.

On the question about Greek names, his answer was similar to Kerry Shirts'. They go to great lengths to provide examples of how Lehi MIGHT have met a Greek once upon a time. Even so, this does not explain how Greek names worked their way into the Nephite culture enough to have parents naming their children after them hundreds of years later and a whole world away. Kerry says that this is one of the greatest evidences there is for the Book of Mormon's authenticity. No wonder I don't believe in it.

Asking why "Reformed Egyptian," especially if it really was Demotic, "abnormal hieratic," or Meroitic is a legitimate question. Especially when you imagine Moroni sitting somewhere in the Mississippi valley scratching Egyptian shorthand onto gold plates. If this writing were used in the 4th Century BCE, why are there no examples elsewhere in the area? To say he was the only one who knew the language is ridiculous. (And is Demotic or Meroitic really more compact than Hebrew? If not, then they're not viable possibilities.)

And I have a question about this as well: How is it possible that Hebrew idioms (with which the Book of Mormon is supposedly rife) survived over a 1000 year period from a language that "hath been altered by us" (Mormon 9:33), committed to writing in a totally different language (Reformed Egyptian) and then translated into a third language? (English) I'm not a linguist, but I know there are Spanish and German idioms that are meaningless in English. Again Occam's Razor (and my gut) tell me that the Hebrew idioms are really just flowery, Biblical-sounding English.

You also ask:
[Why are the] Book of Mormon prophecies of Christ [all unusually] specific [while all of the Old Testament] Bible prophecies [are] veiled (or actually non-existent unless scripture is misquoted or "prophecies" stretched to have two meanings)?

He responded:
This is quite odd. Weren't we comparing similarities.

He did this a few times. Shall we just avoid the issue?

Finally, you ask:
Why were there missionaries in the Book of Mormon before Christ? That certainly wasn't the case in the Old World.

He responded:
And where in the "Old World" is it known that people were aware of Christ? John the Baptist can certainly be seen as a 'missionary;' Jonah also. Certainly, proselyting was not going great guns, but there were some who went to the unbelievers.

He "answered" your question essentially by restating it.

If I had to choose an answer of his that was good, I would have to say his answer to the "silk" problem was well put and had solid backing. It might even rate a 2 if it were not part of a long list of things that have no such strength.

Also his apologetic line about the Feast of Tabernacles is pretty good when read in a vacuum, but it comes down a few notches when it's seen in perspective.

There's lots more, but these are a few things that stood out in my mind.

received 6/25/98
[regarding your reply to the comments
here] I just came across this quote from Aldo Leopold [1887-1948]:
"We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see the land as a commodity to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."
I now know that my reply was not entirely accurate. There were many before Rand who spoke out on the issues she neglected.

[regarding your comments here] Education of the female is found to be a deciding most cases.

I agree, but it still takes two to tango. All should be educated on the subject.

But, when children born in the U.S. consume 800% of what a child in Africa or other 3rd world places consumes, we need to focus population control here, don't you think?

Yes. It should be a focus here and everywhere. I discuss this a bit here and here.

received 6/23/98
I enjoy many of the Steve Benson editorial cartoons, find him on par with many of the other great editorial cartoonists and deserving of the professional recognition he has received to date. With that said, however I must protest his "
Pointed Hats" and the "Scout Oath" editorial cartoons that you recently added to your web page. While the latter is a grotesque distortion of what Boy Scouts is all about, the former is factually false in the moral parallel that it attempts to draw.

The message of "Pointed Hats" is clear: that the Boy Scouts as a private organization is morally and ethically on par with the Ku Klux Klan. Even a cursory knowledge of what each organization is about ought to cause the average objective reader of this editorial cartoon to understand that the parallel Benson is attempting to draw is not just unfair; it is foul slander upon an organization that has done much good. And what does the KKK stand for? White supremacy, racism, lynchings, etc. Do you really believe that the Boy Scouts and the KKK are morally equal? Or, are you saying that, given your inclination to embrace naturalism and atheism, you find offensive a private organization excluding those that don't fit within the standards of membership they have established?

First of all, I don't ever consider editorial cartoons to paint a completely accurate picture. They are intended to shock and make a point--not to be scholarly. By definition they are over-the-top distortions of reality.

Do I think the KKK and Boy Scouts are morally equal? No. Do I think Steve Benson thinks this? No. Nor do I think that he feels that the Mormon church is really going to put Louis Armstrong on the temple. To draw this conclusion based on an editorial cartoon is silly.

Do I find it offensive that any organizations discriminate based on race, sexual orientation, religious belief, or gender? Yes. This is the point I think Benson is trying to make.

"The Scout Oath" cartoon is simply a distortion of what is factually correct. First off, in the time I spent as a Scout I knew members of the Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and even Hindu faith, so the use of the Cross to represent Scouting is simply not true. Secondly, Scouts are not taught to discriminate against gays and atheists. Now while you may not like the fact that they have taken the stand they have on these two contentious social issues, it is their right to do so.

It is also the right of the KKK to foster hate and racism. Does that mean I should approve of their actions?

I doubt very much if an atheist group would take very kindly to me as a theist attempting to become a member or a leader. Does that mean that atheists practice discrimination? Yes, they do, as do all organizations.

Which atheist group(s) have denied you membership because you are a theist? I am a member of a couple and neither have asked what my beliefs are. In fact, opinions from theists are frequently printed in their periodicals.

I would like very much to join Mensa, yet a learning disability keeps me from passing their test administered in order to gain membership. Is that not discrimination? I guess if I had the chutzpah I could get a lawyer and sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act; it would certainly be in keeping with the zeitgeist.

There is a big difference between selecting based on qualifications (test scores, skills, special abilities, etc.) and discriminating based on race, gender, religious beliefs, etc.

Finally, I was never taught as a Boy Scout to hate people who are different from me. To the contrary, I was taught both by word, example and deed to help those different from me. In attending two national Jamborees I learned that there is humanity in the stranger and that the hand of help must always be extended to those in need. And, the values I learned in Boy Scouts were merely a reinforcement of what I first learned in church.

I learned much from the Boy Scout program when I was one too. Some of the recent policies however are less than desirable. I don't want my son to join groups that discriminate. I applaud Benson's efforts in bringing the recent hate fostered by the organization into the public spotlight.

received 6/16/98
I discovered your site today and I want to express my appreciation for it.

Just over a year ago I discontinued 23 years of involvement with a cult whose leader is called Maharaji (formerly known as Guru Maharaji). It felt like I swam up out of the depths of delusion and back to sanity where I found much of what I valued when I was 13 years old and began my search for answers to questions like, "Is there a god?". I am 43 now and 30 years is gone that I would have rather spent exploring the world as a scientist does. There is so much to learn and it is comforting to know that my thoughts are in good company.

I have a quote that you may have posted already but since I haven't read everything yet I thought I'd send it just in case.

Where there is doubt, There is freedom. -- Latin Proverb

It is good to know that my site is of use to others. Nothing is more enjoyable than regaining your mind after losing it to a cult, cult-like organization, or other similar set of rigid dogma. At the same time, nothing is worse than thinking of all the time, energy, money, etc. wasted.

Steve Harris described the feeling (and optimal outlook) well when he said:

"Now it seems, I'm just a stranger to myself
And all the things I sometimes do, it isn't me but someone else...
Don't waste your time always searching for those wasted years
Face up...make your stand
And realise you're living in the golden years"

Anyway, good luck. Remember that the search is much more enjoyable and rewarding than the mere thinking that one has grasped *the* unchangeable truth.

For older messages click here.

Book Reviews
More Reviews
Some More
history of science
popular science
science fiction
discussion list
what's new
link here