Is reason OK in the Mormon Church? and other feedback [an error occurred while processing this directive]

1/3 - 1/17/98 Messages

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received 1/17/98
I have enjoyed your web site. My compliments on a refreshing and honest religious internet site. I am a life-long 5th generation Mormon.

Me too. I wouldn't exist if it wasn't for Mormonism. Polygamy and the commandment for large families were both necessary for my existence.

Some of my ancestors were in an ill-fated handcart company. My great great grandmother died en route to the Great Salt Lake City a few days before the rest of the group arrived. Like many tragedies, foolishness often times leads to disaster. I have always viewed the pioneers who set out ill prepared and at obviously poor travel times to be foolish and pitiful despite their "faith" in a god who would encourage "prophets" to require such blind obedience to their directives.

Yes. I agree. The white-washing of the history during last year's 150th anniversary celebration was tragic.

I have found myself lately to be in the same quandary as Ferguson, Roberts, Brown (yes he knew) and others who simply can not reconcile so many holes in the swiss cheese of the church doctrine for several years now.

I now consider myself to be a closet "hopeful" agnostic. I hope that God does exist, but I have given up on ever having a "knowledge" of His/Her/Its existence.

Me too. I'd love an afterlife, but I'm going to live this life to its fullest since I don't see any evidence of such a future existence. I'm reminded of the quote that "It's an incredible con job when you think about it, to believe something now in exchange for something after death. Even corporations with their reward systems don't try to make it posthumous."

I served an honorable mission 20+ years ago, and I have since held every position in the church except stake presidency (my brother is currently my stake president) or general authority. I am a successful, busy executive who travels widely and frequently and thus enables me to be "inactive" without being conspicuous.

I maintain my "activity" in the Church (such as it is) for the sake of my parents who are devout, respect for my brother, who is one of the most decent men I know, and my wife and children, who enjoy many aspects of the Church.

I did this activity-for-family-reasons bit for a while also. Luckily my wife saw the light too so I no longer have to live a double-life.

I also believe the basic tenants of the church (not to be confused with the petty culture of the church) that teaches principles of basic right and wrong human behavior that are at least on par with the best of other religious or fraternal organizations. The mormon church has their share of pious, obnoxious jerks, but really no more than exist in other religious organizations or the population in general.

The problem with the "basic tenants" is that although many are great, some are total BS which can seriously ruin people's lives. Not many in the church can successfully separate the two--nor do the basic tenants themselves encourage a pick-and-choosing of what is right. The leadership takes an all-or-nothing approach.

I never had a problem with the Mormon culture. There isn't a person in the church I can think of who I hold a grudge against. One or two people have made up lies about me since my wife and I left, but I never disliked those people when we were active.

Sorry about the rambling, but from reading your comments I trust that you can relate to its therapeutic benefits of actually expressing these thoughts.

My comment is really related to the God/Man doctrine of the Mormon Church and so many comments regarding the same by anti-mormons, christians and the like on your site and others on the web.

It has always amazed me that this concept could be viewed as so foreign and absurd by so many who profess a belief in the Bible. Genesis clearly states that God created man in His own image. In the image of God created He him. Male and female created He them. The old testament prophets talked to God face to face. Jesus Christ was born as a man. Jesus Christ was resurrected a man. He later appeared as a resurrected man to Mary, his apostles (handle me and see, etc.) and several believers after his resurrection, not to mention Paul, and according to the account in the New Testament, those who witnessed the ascension of Christ into heaven say a man floating up out of their midst after hanging out for 40 days. So if you believe the Bible, and worship Jesus, don't you really worship a resurrected "glorified and perfected" man?

I agree (except I don't think Paul ever claimed to have ever witnessed or met Jesus in anything but a vision). So why is Gordon B. Hinckley now backing off of this teaching? Is he hoping to move Mormonism into the mainstream of Christian fundamentalism? If so, that is a shame. Imo, Mormonism is (and can be) a much better religion in many regards than Christian fundamentalism.

My own heretic theory at this point is that the only limit to mankind's knowledge will be time. Given enough time, all things may become known. Certainly many things man does today (genetic engineering, transplants, cloning, etc.) would have been unthinkable and considered the exclusive domain of "God" only a few short decades ago.

I'd like to think that eventually everything will be known. When I read up on such things as quantum physics and the origins of the universe though I wonder if such a feat will ever be achieved.

I sincerely appreciate your open and neutral positions and attitudes, and lack of hateful mormon bashing that so many others engage in. I condemn no man for his beliefs and remain open to all logical and plausible ideas. If there is a God, He/She/It has never revealed His/Her "will" to me, (why should (s)he?) so I'll just continue to plug along as best I can and enjoy life for what it is.


What will be after death simply is [or is not] regardless of what anyone "believes".

And amen.

received 1/16/98
Concerning this message...

I grew up in a reasoning Mormon environment. My father was a high ranking Mormon educator. I had personal contact with all the well known Mormon intellectuals (and many General Authorities). My father's Doctor's Dissertation was on the thinking of Talmage, Roberts, Widsoe, etc. It was a time when reason seemed to prevail--an exciting time. In the mission field in the 1960s the discussions were built with a distinct heavy logical thread. Since my mission, I have attempted to pursue many fundamental [Mormon] ideas to their logical foundation--to find the truth that should be there below the surface and to continue my fathers work. I have been met with nothing but disappointment and dead ends.

I expect that my experience is not unusual. To survive in it's present condition the Church had no choice but to fall back into fundamentalism, replace reason with emotion, fact with mythology, individualism with conformity, curiosity with loyalty and questioning with duty.

The Church was like Tevi in "Fiddler on the Roof" it tried to bend a little, but it could not bend that far without breaking.

The changes in the missionary discussions, the bland, "how do you get your children to pray umpteen times a day," lessons, the advice not to read outside of the "manuals" etc., etc., . . . are all reactionary, to avoid reality and the reasoning modern world.

Reason is no longer "in" in the Church.

When my father started his research for his Doctor's degree he ask President McKay if he should go on with his inquiry. President Mckay's answer was "all we ask is that you be truthful and fair."

Today he would probably be told: "Don't look and keep you mouth shut".

received a while ago, got around to posting it on 1/15/98
We were the perfect TBM's [True Believing Mormons], Mission, Temple Marriage, five kids, high callings.....etc. (This I tell you just so other TBM's can't say we left because of "SIN" or errant ways--no, we did it all and the extra mile too, and maybe that's why we can so clearly have no regrets.)

Since we have now survived four years of inactivity without harm or incident to our family requiring that we go back and beg for forgiveness (or food) ;), we have started to lighten up and really enjoy life.

The first things we did that we never had time for (or a mindset that would allow us to so) was spend fabulous fun Sundays at home with our children having time to lounge around, make Sunset Magazine-type breakfasts and just have a wonderful time at home together.

Next, as the scales of darkness fell from our eyes, we began appreciating the wonderful world God created for us. All very reverently. (We went to the beach and mountains while fearing car wrecks and the destroyer on the face of the waters--since we were out where we weren't supposed to be.)

Then we actually started doing improvements to the house and we are having a blast. We've just started building a home theater and stereo system, and we made a wall of art niches and little halogen pencil lights with dimmers. It's so neat! I never would have had the time to go to the hardware store and look at all the things I need to do these things. Generally, Saturday is now taken up with scheduled sports and scouts [instead of getting ready for Sunday--note that you will have to be a Mormon to understand the preceding phrase]. These things have made our home more orderly and peaceful and satisfying. I actually have time to spend at work on work too.

I know this is not too exciting, but finally being 'normal', and part of the rest of the human race, is very stimulating to us.

Far from being sad that we aren't "In" with the LDS ward anymore, we are so happy to have joined the human race.

Life is so exciting.

I must say again thanks for your wonderful pages. My reading has vastly broadened after our escape.

received 1/13/98
How would you differentiate between an atheist and a non-theist?

I would say that there is absolutely no difference.

received 1/12/98

I appreciate all the effort you have put into your excellent Freethought site. I was also born into a Mormon family. By the time I was 12, I realized I didn't believe in the Mormon doctrine. By the time I was 16, I realized I didn't believe in God at all. By the time I was 19, I realized I didn't believe in anything supernatural. I remain a skeptic to this day.

There is much on your page I appreciate, and I couldn't possibly comment on everything. I did want to ask if you have noticed a disproportionate amount of atheists being Mormon apostates?

I don't know about that, but apparently studies have been done to find out where former Mormons end up. Those that were born in the church tend to end up as atheist/agnostics and those that converted from Christianity tend to fall back into some sort of Christianity after leaving Mormonism.

In my experiences in bulletin boards and chat rooms, this seems to be more common than I would expect. After reading the comparison of Paine's Age of Reason to the Book of Mormon, it made me think of why this could be. Is it possibly because Mormonism tries to appeal to reason, that we are more able to use reason against it? Trying to use reason on most fundamentalists, in my experience, merely seems to backfire. They only condescendingly "pity" you for relying on reason instead of making a "leap of faith" (aka wishful thinking).

Mormons, on the other hand, try to use reason to prove the Church is true. This obviously seems to be very effective for many people, but could it also encourage some of us to not be afraid to use reason to see past the church?

Just a thought. Keep up the good work!

This certainly sounds reasonable. This is one of the reasons why I think Mormonism, in some respects, is a better religion than fundamentalist Christianity. Some Mormons try to go beyond blind faith. This is a very good thing. Unfortunately, the leadership appears to be swinging things back to a more rigid fundamentalist orthodoxy. For instance, the recent issue of the "Ensign" claims that LDS members can only believe in the literal global flood (like Christian fundamentalists). This is in direct contradiction to what some more forward thinking leaders like Widtsoe, Roberts, and even Brigham Young have said. Young said, "we differ from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular". If this were really the case, I (and probably many other former Mormon thinkers) wouldn't have a problem remaining active in the LDS church.

received 1/11/98
I just wanted to drop you a line to let you to know that I think your site is still the best and most informative on the topic of Mormonism.

Keep up the GREAT work!!!!

received 1/6/98
Deer are peace seamen,
(can you tell I'm using voice dictation software)

I'm reading the book, entitled The Postman by David Brin. It's the one that the movie was made from. I haven't seen the movie. But, the book poses some very interesting questions about what fables do for mankind. It also seems to me to be exactly like Fawn Brodie's description of how the beginnings of Mormonism took off. People began to believe someone's half jest, and the person doesn't have the heart to tell them it's a lie. Anyway, I am only halfway finished so I'm not sure if I can give you a whole hearted endorsement. But, so far the book is a very engaging, fascinating read for LDS thinkers.

Love your pages as always,

received 1/3/98
Although I have not made an in-depth exploration of your page, I can make snap judgments with the best of just let me say, what an excellent site! There looks to be plenty of interesting information for careful perusal later, but I just had to write and say how much I appreciate the basic tone of the page. Just look at the title: "Page of Honest Intellectual Inquiry." That is indeed always a comforting thing to come across when it so often seems that there is only blind obedience in the world as far as the eye can see.

I would like to suggest a short story, "The Stranger" by Albert Camus. I did not see it on your list already although goodness knows I could have missed it.

Also I have included at the end of this email something I recently wrote called "A Young Woman's Testimony to the Church." I sort of feel it my duty to show this to as many people as possible, and so I'd be quite grateful if you would put it on your page, along with my email address, if you can find the space. It is as diplomatic as possible, since it is mainly directed towards people in the church. My desire here is not to contest the existence of God or the authority of the church or any of the many other doctrinal problems, but to help people. My mom's reaction, after me letting her read this and telling her who I'd already given it to, was "It's nice you still have hope that people can change." *grin* Perhaps she is right and I am the proud possessor of a bit too much youthful hope, but I'm going to take full advantage of it before I grow old and bitter, while I still have the chance! And I don't really expect much more than my bishop calling me into his office for a nice long talk from the papers I gave out at church. But I AM hoping I can make some difference in some person's life, no matter how small. This is always an issue that has concerned me and now that I feel I've found a path for my life, I wake up and look around me and see and even feel the pain of the other women in the church. Even the ones that say they are fine, often aren't. I would like to help just one less alone and guilty, even if it is only a subconscious thing.

Also, I know that these simple few paragraphs have been said before by different people in different ways and have done everything to been ignored to gotten the author excommunicated. Still though, I believe eventually the church will have to adapt or die concerning gender issues, just like it eventually did with race issues and every little bit of raising a ruckus I can do helps bring that day closer.

Well....enough of my ranting. Thank you very much and let me again commend you on a wonderful site. It made my day.

A Young Woman's Testimony to the Church

I have never believed men and women are inherently different. But the fact remains that we are treated differently all our lives and thus I have experiences some could never imagine, yet I feel it my duty to try and tell you.

I had always thought I was mostly alone in my problems with the church, and then I heard that young girls, even of ages 11-12, are being lost at a terrible rate. That didn't really surprise me at all. In fact it made me glad to know I am not the only one. Then it made me sad. It seems that so often people, and the Church, try to hide their problems. Thus instead of getting support from one another and working together to solve them, people just feel lonely, guilty, and confused. No person is perfect. Institutions are made up of people. Thus no institution is perfect, sanctioned by God or not. This very problem of pretending everything is ok is the thing that most needs to be changed, because then fixing everything else would be so much easier.

I empathize with all these young girls leaving the church, and so young too. Eleven or twelve was the first time that I began to be doubtful and confused. This is where they boys and girls are first separated. The boys have scouting and they begin to enter the priesthood. Scouting helps them prepare for life and the priesthood path prepares their spirituality. They begin to enter the deeper parts of the church, begin to learn things they didn't know before, begin to feel like a valued part of the church. Or so I jealously observed my male peers and brother to be doing. "What was there for me?" I wondered. I enthusiastically started the personal progress program, intending to finish it the best I could, but then quickly lost interest when I realized that the goals and projects were usually superficial and helped little with my everyday life and saw how the Eagle Scouts were praised and admired while the young women were rarely even recognized, even in sacrament meeting, for something that took just as much time as what the boys did. And then there was the matter of my spiritual development. There was absolutely no path or encouragement from church. All I got were lessons on things I already knew and amorphous goals of having a temple marriage and bearing many children set before my eyes with no lesson on why this was important, how it would help my spiritual journey, or even what was the best practical way to go about it. With absolutely no guidance and a burning desire to KNOW who I was, who God was, and how it all fit together, what was I to do but find my own path? That story is too long and too personal to tell here, but suffice it to say I did eventually find the answers to these questions.

I don't feel having to find my spiritual path was necessarily a bad thing. In fact I think it's a deeper experience because of that. I can not really explain what it is like for me to stand outside at night and commune with God, but it is a beautiful experience. I know God loves and understands me and I know the choices I've made were the right ones. God sees what I do and is here for me. So I'm not really worried necessarily that young women are leaving the church because I know they can find their own spirituality like I did. What I am really afraid will happen is some will leave the church and abandon spirituality all together and others will stay in the church, be afraid to find their own spiritual path, and spend their lives cut off from God, feeling confused and guilty.

I felt inspired to write this after what happened last week. I know the Church knows there is a problem and is trying to fix it, but I don't think handing out yellow rolls of paper prettily tied with blue ribbon with nice quotes on them will fix a thing. Words are cheap; actions speak louder and the Church says many wonderful things about women, then shows us the opposite in actions. The total effect of this I think is that many women feel devalued and guilty. I am only one person with one experience. I can't change much and I can only tell my story, but I can try at least to change something. If but one man realizes more fully the predicament of women in the church today or one woman feels slightly less alone, then this has not been in vain.

--Raina Janel Olsen

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