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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Why I Choose to Remain in the Church

The most common question I am asked is if I no longer believe that the church is what it claims to be, why do I remain in the church.

Social Aspect

First off, if I stopped attending the Mormon church, where would I go? After looking at other churches, it appears that nobody else is any better. The church is good at what it does best: Provides a social network and social programs. My entire social life is based around Mormons. My family is almost all Mormon, and most of my friends are Mormon. Would it make any sense to start attending a Catholic church, or a Methodist church? No, it wouldn't make any sense at all since I hardly know anyone outside of the Mormon church. The Mormon way of life is the only one I know.

The Mormon church teaches many good principals.

I have learned many good things in the church that I will always cherish, particularly the strength we can draw from having a strong family. Families are an essential element in the LDS church, and you could say that the family is the core unit in the Mormon church. Other principals I have learned growing up include trying to provide service to others, be kind to others, avoid addictions and addictive behavior and the benefit to having a monogamous relationship.

The family is a very important aspect in the Mormon culture. There is no reason to burn bridges and create a disharmony in the family by leaving the church. By rejecting the church, I would be rejecting my family, because the church is a part of who they are.

I think the church is for the most part well organized and well structured. The church gives life meaning for it's members, a purpose, structure and a feeling of self worth. Is the LDS church the only organization that provides these? No, but as I said, it is the best organization for me, since most of my family and friends are associated with it.

Perhaps if I could simply leave the church without any recourse from friends and family I probably would. However, at this point I see no reason not to keep the peace and harmony at least for now. I have looked around at other churches and don't see any reason I should join any of them either. To be honest, I feel comfortable and rather enjoy the Mormon culture because as I pointed out, it is the only life I have ever known. I just wish there was more honesty within the organization. I know what you are thinking-attending church on Sunday and pointing out all the flaws of the church the remaining days of the week is dishonest. That may be true, but in a sense, I feel rationalized, because I feel I am spoofing a church that spoofed me first. I have a sense that I must undo the damage I have done by deceiving people into getting baptized, particularly on my mission.

Is there room in the church for open interpretation?

I have seen a dramatic shift in the church in my lifetime. The old way of thinking was that Joseph Smith in a very literal sense translated physical gold tablets that contained writings of actual people that wrote about events that actually occurred on this continent. The old view is also the idea that God speaks to us through prophets and therefore everything a prophet says is literally the word of God. There seems to be a growing number of LDS members that do not share this view. In fact, in my previous post, I talk about an official church press release that outlines this new view. There is also a new view that many members are taking, particularly LDS scholars, which is a non-literal view of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. That is, that the Book of Mormon is true spiritually, but not physically. The story of Joseph Smith is simply that-a story, as is the Book of Mormon.

LDS members are faced with a challenge when they discover that there is absolutely no evidence to support the Book of Mormon, or the claims to it's origins. Many members leave and some become embittered since the church has dominated their lives for so long. Other people, however, react differently. Many take on the notion that although the Book of Mormon isn't a true history, and Joseph Smith wasn't actually a prophet of God, the church today has evolved into a more modern mainstream christian church.

I can't help but wonder why has the Book of Mormon had such a dramatic impact on myself and people around me within the Mormon church. If it was simply made up, why do people attach themselves to it so strongly, even in the face of countless evidence that disproves it. It is possible that people are simply insane, but I think there is more to it than that. From my point of view, it is possible that the Book of Mormon teaches universal truths. In other words, just because the stories are fictional doesn't mean that they don't have good morals, or lessons to live by.

The Book of Mormon is the Adult Santa Claus

Why do parents lie to their children about Santa Claus? If it helps children behave, the parents don't care if Santa is real or fictional. Why do physicians still prescribe placebos? Because giving someone a sugar pill still seems to work and have a positive impact on people's health. Would it do any good to tell someone taking a placebo that their medication is inert? That would be 'the truth'. I think it is important for LDS parents to tell children that Santa Claus is real when they are little. That way they are prepared for the same shock they will experience when they find out the Book of Mormon isn't real when they are older. When children learn that Santa Claus isn't real, they understand immediately that it is now their job to play along and convince the younger siblings that Santa is real. Many LDS members are feeling the same way about the Book of Mormon.

Spiritual Vs. Physical

By spiritual, I mean the intangible aspects of our lives. Things we can not weigh or measure, like emotions for example, are spiritual. Physical objects are things we can see, touch, hear, measure, weigh, etc.

If I wanted to know if the Book of Mormon was true spiritually, I would ask myself these questions: Do I feel better when I read it? Does my life improve as I read it? Can I apply these aspects to my life? Does applying these principals help my life? Even if the answer were 'yes' to each of these questions, it only qualifies for the spiritual truthfulness of the Book, not the physical truth.

If I wanted to know if the Book of Mormon was true physically, I would have to ask myself much different questions. If I wanted to know if the Book of Mormon is a literal history of people that actually existed and lived in actual cities that was in a physical place on this earth, I wouldn't ask the above questions. The questions on how spiritual the book is has absolutely no bearing on how physically accurate the book is. The only way to know if something is true physically is to look at the physical evidence through your physical eyes. Right now, the physical evidence demonstrates very clearly that the Book of Mormon never actually happened. There is not a single artifact or location that verifies any of the claims made in the Book of Mormon. Recent DNA testing has confirmed that Native Americans are not Israelites, but they are in fact from Mongolia.

I certainly hope that one day I can express my non-literal view of the Book of Mormon openly without criticism or threats of excommunication. There does seem to be a growing number of non-literalists within the Mormon community, but they must remain anonymous. One such online community that I associate myself with is known as the "New Order Mormons". The Internet has provided a way for people to communicate anonymously.


Skeptical Mormon

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Zelph,

This saddens me a bit. You obviously aren't the only one who has remained in the church after discovering it's falsehoods. It's actually more common than not.

But, this proves the simple fact that Mormonism has hijacked simple Christian values and try to hold them as their own!

Do you really feel that other Christians don't believe in family? Christians believe in the strength of the family unit. They believe in fellowship with one another. There are many very special Christian opportunities to volunteer and interact with each other. The only difference is that you aren't forced to attend. A nose isn't turned down to you if you don't show up at a church activity four days a week. And you won't get called into the bishop's office if a fellow Christian saw you drinking tea or coffee.

I totally understand that the Mormon social life is all you know. That you don't have a life outside of Mormonism. And the thought of starting over can be crippling. This reminds me a lot of long-time prison inmates who have hard time adapting to the real world after being set free.

But, staying in Mormonism after discovering it's falsehoods is equivelent to staying with your wife after discovering she's been cheating on you EVERYDAY!

I'm sure too that the Branch Davidians had a tight social community, as did the Heaven's Gate community, or I bet the People's Temple people felt a connection together when Jim Jones led them to mass suicide when they all drank their koolaid together.

I realize that when your whole belief system crumbles before your eyes, it's very hard to believe in anything else. But, the Mormon Church is charactarized as a cult for a reason.

It's a cult of Christianity, because it has twisted the indisputable truths of Christianity for it's own benefits. It has preyed on the good hearts of their faithful members of wanting to please God. I pray that you don't let the misrepresentations of God by the LDS church leaders to harden your heart.

Now more than ever, I pray that you reach out to a church who puts their focus on Christ himself, and not the works of its members. I pray that you continue to seek truth, and not lose that natural connection your heart has for God. There are many great churches and communities out there that will welcome you and your family with open arms.

Providing you many social activities, keeping you busy, and wrapping your entire life around the church is a very basic characteristic of a cult. Not having anytime but for the cult itself engrains the cult into your life, slowly making you dependent upon it, and feeling as if you won't survive without it.

Don't let the cultish ways of a false church win. Reach out to a real Christ centered church, and let the love and grace of Christ give you comfort.

I'm reminded of a Mute Math song called "Without It". (If you don't know who Mute Math is, I highly recommend them!)
-----
Isn't life bizarre?
It likes to take from us and throw it out
We'll carry on
What's done is done
Yeah, we'll do without it somehow

The world is gone, don't think about it
Cuz life is short we'll do without it
They say the road is long, don't think about it
Cuz life is short we'll do without it

We can move on forward
Don't worry
The best we've known is yet to come
We can move on forward
Don't worry
The worst won't get the best of us

Some memories, a crippling
Don't let the disease bring us down
There's nothing else to know
Just let it go
Yeah, we'll do without it somehow

The world is gone, don't think about it
Cuz life is short we'll do without it
They say the road is long, don't think about it
Cuz life is short we'll do without it
----

God bless,
tiredoflies

Zelph said...

Tiredoflies,

Thank you for your comments. I never said that other Christians don't believe in family. In fact, I would say that many, if not most Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics and Muslims believe in families, or at least the concept of families.

What I am saying from my perspective is that MY family is mostly Mormon. There is no reason for me to burn any bridges at this point in time.

You are right that the Mormon Church is a cult. I can't disagree with you there. However, what isn't a cult?

The United States is a cult. The constitution of the United States was founded on principals of slavery. Although slavery is no longer practiced, there is still widespread corruption in American business and politics. Does that mean I am going to renounce my citizenship and move to another country? Some people choose to do so, and I understand why, but when you look around at the alternative, you see that there aren't many better choices out there. Most of my friends and family are U.S. citizens. That doesn't mean that families aren't important to Mexicans, or Canadians or South Africans. That simply means that unless my family all moved to Australia, there is no reason for ME to move anywhere else.

Again, I thank you for your comments and will take them into consideration.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if there was a secular social network that filled the role that the Mormons seem able to fill, which is why the author has chosen to stick around.

Anonymous said...

I sincerely hope you do stay in the 'mormon culture'; leaving or excommunication will only bring hurt and sadness to your family, both wife and extended family.

Also I hope you stay and sometimes read Book of Mormon and D&C and others and try to feel and see with your 'spiritual' eyes (which I know you know what I'm talking about) and give spirituality a try. Also eventually you could find answers to these Many questions about mormon doctrine, but find them yourself and not be coached to them as one is when in primary then young mens and especially mission. Because the main issues there, like DNA of laminites have good answers from those "LDS scholars" as you call them. Remember that 'laminites' actually changed their race, became something else different from their nephite brothers and so would have different DNA to what hebrews have today. What you have misread is the Book of Mormon not the DNA results. It’s the same with the 'creation' of Cain’s descendants who where CHANGED into another race and another DNA. Maybe you should be attacking the notion that a white person can change into another race instead of claiming that DNA 'proves' the book of mormon false.
But, anyway, this comment is too long already. And please don’t leave the church altogether even if you doubt some aspects of it.

Regards

John

Anonymous said...

Zelph,
Please check out this website:
www.bornagainmormon.com
Watch some of the shows there.
He will lead you to what you're looking for.
My prayers are with you,
MJ