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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Main reasons for my disillusionment

I have taken a break from blogging because of time constraints, but I am back from a half-year hiatus. I thought I would break back into this blog by talking about the main reasons that led to my disillusionment.
LDS Perception on why people leave the church

A common mis-conception in the church is that the only reasons people leave the church or stop believing in the church is because:

a. Some kind of grave sin that they committed and feel too guilty
b. A member offended them, maybe told them their orange Jello was over-cooked
c. They are lazy or are weak and have no faith
d. They haven't received enough baked goods from the fellowshipping members

I can't speak for everyone and I believe that some people do leave the church for the above mentioned reasons. However, many people also leave the church or stop believing purely for doctrinal reasons. I fall into that category.

Reasons for my disillusionment

As I talk to people inside and outside of the church, I have learned that what might be a big deal to some people are trivial issues to others.

Here are the weighted reasons that led to my disillusionment:







Book of Abraham

The reason I put the Book of Abraham on the top of the list is because I have studied extensively the topic and have read all the criticisms and all the defenses for the Book of Abraham, and I have not found a satisfactory response. I will go into further detail at a later time, but the book of Abraham is something that I undeniably consider to be a fraud and therefore discredits Joseph Smith as a translator. For a good video on the subject, I have embedded a video on a previous post. The video is a little over-sensationalized at certain parts, but it is 100% factual.

DNA and Native Americans

DNA has demonstrated that Native Americans are not Lamanites. This is most troubling since every prophet from Joseph Smith to Gordon B. Hinckley has taught that Native Americans are Lamanites. The church has recently started to back-pedal from that position, even changing the wording in the introduction of the Book of Mormon, as mentioned in a previous post.

Hill Cumorah Paradox

The Hill Cumorah paradox is troubling because the only way to defend the Book of Mormon is to dispute what Joseph Smith and every prophet up to Gordon B. Hinckley taught about the location of the Hill Cumorah, at least all the way up to 1990 about the Hill Cumorah in Upstate, NY being the same one as mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

Lack of Archaeology

The Lack of any single artifact or physical evidence for the Book of Mormon is tricky, because a lack of evidence doesn't prove that the Book of Mormon lands never existed. You can't prove a negative, and therefore it isn't as high on my list. How can you prove something didn't exist? Can you prove to me that Santa Claus doesn't exist? However, the LDS church has been looking for a long time and hasn't found anything. Not a single Book of Mormon artifact. None, nada, zip. The most likely solution is that the Book of Mormon lands never existed in the physical world.

Church History

Church history doesn't effect me as much as some people. The reason is because I know that people aren't perfect, and certainly obscure statements made by church leaders 150 years ago have little relevance for the church today. However, it does carry some weight as we are led to believe that these men were called by God.

-isms

I find the racism, sexism and homophobia in the church and the history of the church disturbing. Although the institutional racism banning blacks from the priesthood is over, there are many areas that big improvements can be made, especially with sexism in the church.

Other Criticisms

Other criticisms of the church have very little bearing because there are many things that are highly speculative and many times there are plausible explanations. For example, the idea that Joseph Smith copied his father's dream and inserted it into the Book of Mormon as Lehi's dream I find interesting, but not conclusive because the only account is from Joseph Smith's mother and she talked about it years after the publication of the Book of Mormon. We also have no evidence that Joseph Smith's father told Joseph Smith about the dream he had, so there is nothing concrete, but it does add to the overall mix of things.

I do not believe that I am any smarter than any member of the church, I just think that there is a difference in how one should obtain truth. I suppose that if one ignores information that is critical of the church and only reads and exposes themselves to church approved literature and prays that they will come to know in their hearts that the church is true. However, this is not how I believe one should obtain truth. I believe that people should look at all the information and use critical thinking and reason and logic to come to a solution that is the most reasonable and most likely.

How to obtain truth

I do not believe that the way to obtain truth is to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it, and if you feel good, then that makes it true. That is why God invented a brain. Muslims make the same claim and have the same conviction about the Qur'an You can have the same spiritual awakening with Dianetics, or other reading material for Buddhism, Hinduism or Wika. After doing brief research, I have found that these religious texts have the same criticisms as the Book of Mormon.

Another common thread in my learning about various belief systems is that it is much more effective when you surround yourself with other people with similar belief systems. This leads me to believe that perhaps religion is more about a social experience than the doctrine. Otherwise, we would have more "do-it-yourself" religions. Perhaps that is a discussion for another time.

LDS Apologists

When faced with criticisms of the church, what I have found most troubling is that the defense often times contradicts scripture, contradicts prophets, or contradicts themselves. There is a saying that goes like this: "Nobody disputes Mormon prophets like LDS apologists."

Finally, the last resort when there is no answer is to say that it must be one of those things that we will not understand, but that in due time either in this life or next life we will have a complete understanding. This is not satisfactory for me.

I do not endorse any religious organization at this time and I look forward to your comments.


Disillusioned Mormon

33 comments:

Bishop Rick said...

In several instances, you mention the word "prey" instead of "pray". Was that a Freudian slip?

Zelph said...

That would be a late night slip, as you can see I started the post at around 11:30 p.m.

Edited.

Although maybe "prey" would be the appropriate term.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you back. I have been prAying that you can find your way to a good Bible-based church who teaches JESUS. God bless you.

Zelph said...

anonymous,

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

Cr@ig said...

I bet I check your blog at least a dozen times a week looking to see if you've posted anything...


I am so happy to see you've started your blog up again...PLEASE don't do that to me again...


I think you are brilliant!!

adam said...

Zelph--this is my first time here but I appreciate the tone of your writing. This post was particularly interesting to me. I am an active member, but I have my own issues, for sure.

What intrigues me is how people are bothered by different issues. Take the BoA, or the DNA issue, for example. I feel like I understand the issues there, but they don't really bother me, not like polygamy does, for example. I've mentioned this elsewhere, but it's definitely the most troubling issue to me.

Thanks again for your post.

Zelph said...

Adam, first, thank you for taking the time in reading my words. It is interesting that what is so important to some people is trivial to others.

My suggestion would be to study all the issues and listen to both sides of the argument. Truth can withstand any degree of scrutiny.

Have you studied all the issues? A good place to start is this website :

http://mormonthink.com/

It is produced by members of the church that are concerned about the inaccuracies and hyperboles out there, from the church leadership as well as from anti-Mormon sources.

I welcome you to comment anytime.

adam said...

Thanks for the link--There are so many already, but I love different perspectives.

Looking over the categories there I think I have read about most of the issues--not that I can't learn more though!

My spiritual life tends to progress back and forth through different stages, from very spiritual, to skeptic, to faith, to doubt, etc. There are a few main things that I have always held onto, despite where I am at though.

Right now I'm kind of in a zen type of state with all this stuff. Yeah, polygamy happened, and the BoA (and the litany of other stuff) can look dubious. So it goes. I take the good and am happy to be at peace with the bad right now. It's so much more relaxing.

Zelph said...

Adam,

My main concern is that as I speak vaguely to members on certain topics, without going into too much detail, it is surprising how little they know, or how many historical inaccuracies they are taught within the church.

The purpose of this blog is to help inform, and not to offend.

adam said...

I appreciate your style here. I think I can relate to wanting to inform rather than offend... Even as an active member, I have had to be careful in the way I present things to friends or other members. I do agree, that many know very little, and hold on to what I see as myths or folklore, or just plain inaccuracy.

Have any suggestions? For example, a home teacher of mine once told me about a co-worker who was leaving the church over the BoA issue, and asked me "Why would someone leave over that?" Obviously, I have a few ideas as to why, but how do you work with that type of member without upsetting the apple cart, so to speak?

Zelph said...

I would refer them to this video to start.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZQJc5SxnVs

It is straight forward and it comes from an active member.

Gospel of Christ said...

Been a member for 37 years and I haven't heard any of these things. Wow, where do I begin with you? Sounds to me like you are reading lies spread by anti-Mormons. Maybe you should spend some time reading the scriptures and think. I have been a member for 37 years, don't you think that if any of those things were true that I would know about them? If I wanted to learn about Catholicism, I wouldn't ask a Jew.

Have you tried talking to your bishop? Maybe he can help you with your testimony problem.

Jeremy said...

"Gospel of Christ" you seem very quick to judge. I highly recommend reading up on both sides of the argument before saying the words you have spoken.

I say this because you follow the typical pattern of an under-educated follower of the LDS church. You have assumed things and accused and last posted with an anonymous account to avoid future retribution from the people who you are assuming are in the wrong.

How very offensive you have just been.

Zelph said...

GoC,

You might want to check your facts. I can refer you to strictly LDS sources that can verify all the things mentioned. This blog is meant to inform and not to offend, and it is also here to serve as an open forum to discuss matters regarding Mormonism that you might not be able to in your standard LDS forum or setting.

Mormon Heretic said...

Zelph, I just happened upon your blog, and it sounds like we have much in common. I am aware of many of the issues you speak about. Some are more troubling to me than others. I just read Rough Stone Rolling, and found that quite interesting. Have you read it?

I haven't read your posts on Abraham, but posted something on my blog about it. While the Book of Abraham may or may not be true, what is interesting to me is the fact that Muslims have a similar story about Abraham breaking up his father's idols. I speculated that Joseph may have found a Muslim text. What do you think of this coincidence?

Zelph said...

Mormon Heretic,

you are welcome to post anytime.

I have read RSR, and am looking forward to reading "No man knows my history".

I haven't heard about the Muslim text you are referring to, but I am certain that the papyri that Joseph Smith came across was not the Book of Abraham as he claimed.

I do not believe that Joseph Smith used any other source than his imagination. The reason is because the text iteslf in the Book of Abraham refers to the drawimg.

I do not believe that Joseph Smith copied any authentic document by Abraham as the first verse of the first chapter in the BoA says "In the land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of my fathers"

Problem with that is that the land of the Chaldeans didn't exist until hundreds of years after Abraham died. So I believe Joseph Smith just got that one wrong.

That would be equivalent to a document supposedly written by Joseph Smith saying "My dad Joseph Smith Sr. was an astronaut and visited the moon" We all know that there were no rockets back then that could take people to the moon.

Historians that are familiar with this time period in the Middle East find the use of the word "Chaldeans" during this time period just as ridiculous.

Gospel of Christ said...

I have found these sites to be helpful. Have you tried visiting these sites?

http://www.fairlds.org
http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDS_Intro.shtml

I guess that is what is so great about the gospel. There is always more to learn and as we progress, we gain a better understanding. I will admit that these are knew topics for me, but in a way, I am glad because it is not a sin to question and it will only strengthen my testimony in the end.

Mormon Heretic said...

Abraham destroying the idols is in the Koran.

I just wonder if Joseph may have found something related to the Koran. For example, the Gospel of Judas was obviously not written by Judas. The first 5 books of Moses couldn't have been written by Moses because it says "Moses died." Obviously, it is pretty hard to write after one is dead. So, the Chaldean reference could have been edited by a later author, who was aware that the Chaldeans inhabited the land of Ur.

Perhaps this explanation of the Chaldean reference is a stretch, but how do we explain that Moses wrote the Pentateuch after he died? Obviously, this was not completely written by Moses.

Just curious, have you spent much time looking into all the archaeological inconsistencies in the Bible? The problems you describe with the Book of Abraham, BoM, etc, are not unique to mormonism. There are catholic priests who raise questions about the historical Jesus, Jews who question the Exodus, and all other sorts of interesting inconsistencies in other religions as well.

Zelph said...

MH-

You have drawn some excellent points and observations.

I don't know very much about the archaeological inconsistencies in the Bible, but I have heard of some of them. I do know that the exist and that many of the same criticisms about the BoM are found with the Bible, particularly the OT.

From what I have studied and learned, I believe that many parts of the Bible are allegories and not literal stories.

When you use DNA to "prove" that Native Americans are not Lamanites, DNA also "proves" that humans have been around much longer than 6,000 years.

There are many stories in the Bible that are neat when you are a child, but as an adult, you can see them as fables and not literal histories.

The story of Adam and Eve with magic trees and talking snakes is one example. Another example is Noah's ark and a global flood.

This has led me to question if Jesus, or Abraham, or Moses were ever real historical people. Or perhaps they were based on real people and their stories were exaggerated.

I think what is suspect about the New Testament is we have this image that the apostles followed Jesus around writing everything he said as he went along. However, this is not what transpired. The books in the New Testament were not written until decades after the death of Jesus. This makes me think that perhaps the authors "filled in the blank" by looking at all the prophesies from the OT and injecting them into the writings to make it appear that Jesus fulfilled these prophesies.

However, as I said, I don't know very much and I believe that having just a little bit of information can be very dangerous as you can reach premature conclusions.

However, I do believe that the Bible is not a 100% literal history.

Zelph said...

Er, GoC,

Not only have I visited those websites, but I don't think you noticed that I have a link to those websites, along with
dialogue and FARMS.

What I want is for people to look at both sides of the argument and then determine what you want to do. As I have said many times, my intention is not to bring down the church, or to try to convince people to leave the church. My intention is to bring to light some of the criticisms of the church so that members can have access to ALL the information, not just what the church gives.

I think the best website I have found that gives a fair and balanced look at many of the criticisms of the church is:

mormonthink.com

This site gives the facts with sources and provides the criticisms as well as the defenses.

I think we all have ultimately the same goal, and that is to do as the church always taught, to seek out truth. What I don't like is that the church wants us to seek out truth, as long as this truth does not conflict with the doctrine or teachings of the church, or paints the church in a bad way.

Anonymous said...

Dear Zelph, Things of the Spirit are only discerned by the Spirit--how grateful I am to have Him as my constant companion to decipher between truth and falsehoods; hopefully, you will live long enough to repent, strip yourself of pride and to exercise faith unto repentance. Truly, you have become deceived and are relying on "mammon" rather than the Spirit. I'm sorry for you.

Mormon Heretic said...

Anonymous, get a life, tell us who you are, and quit spouting "you're sinning" palaver. You have no idea what you're talking about. Didn't Jesus say "do not judge"? You're not following Jesus when you make these snap judgments. (OK, I repent of my rant now--sorry for the offense I just gave.)

Zelph, I encourage you to look at the biblical inconsistencies. I think you will find a great many inconsistencies there as well. While it is often comforting to people like Anonymous to mythologize prophets, when we dig deeper, we will learn they were very human, and did all sorts of mistakes. However, even with these mistakes, that doesn't preclude them from being prophets.

For example, we all look at Jonah as a great prophet. Jesus even gives homage by the "sign of Jonah" prophecy, comparing his 3 day death to Jonah's 3 days in the belly of a fish. However, Jonah was a flawed human being, just as we are. First, he willingly disobeyed the Lord, and didn't go on the mission as directed. This was because he HATED the Ninevites, not because he was scared of them. He wanted them dead. Now, this doesn't sound very Christian does it?

After he repents, he sits on a hill, waiting for God to destroy the city, but instead the people repented. Jonah got really ticked off, and then we have the funny story about the gourd, and him getting sunburned.

This story could have racial overtones, similar to how mormons once thought (and some erroneously still think) that blacks were not worthy of the priesthood, in the same way Jonah thought that the Ninevites were unworthy of the gospel.

Now, the traditional telling of the story is still a great tale, and still shows God's power. But looking at it through modern eyes, I am appalled at how unloving Jonah was. So, even as flawed as Jonah was, I still believe he was a prophet, and that we can all learn from his poor example, as well as his repentance.

This is the type of analysis I am talking about that we all need to do as church members. Look past the traditional stories, understand their merits and weaknesses, and still have a testimony of the gospel.

Hopefully we can get past the name calling of so-called Christians like Anonymous (or should we call you Jonah) and learn to embrace those who may have a different point of view, and want to look past the surface of the story. There are incredible spiritual insights that can be learned from stories that are thousands of years old.

By the way, there are 2 links at http://www.ldssundayschool.org/Lesson_33 showing some modern day people swallowed by a shark and a whale and lived to tell about it. So, the Jonah story may be literally true, not just an allegory.

Your brother in the gospel.

Zelph said...

MH-

I am very interested in the topic of biblical inconsistencies, and I admit that I know very little on the subject. Do you know any good references or some good places to start? Thank you in advance.

Zelph

Zelph said...

anonymous- Often times the church teaches us that spiritual things can only be deciphered with the spirit.

Does that mean that physical things can only be deciphered with physical evidence?

It should go both ways, so if the church makes a claim that the Book of Mormon is a literal history, that claim can only be verified by physical evidence, not spiritual evidence.

Spiritual evidence can only determine if something is true spiritually, not literally.

For example, one can feel the spirit by reading a fictional story, but it doesn't make the story a literal history. For example, if you feel the spirit watching "the Testament", that doesnt make it a literal history. It is a self admitted fictional story. However, it makes people feel good, just like the BoM. However, that doesn't make it a literal history.

Mormon Heretic said...

Zelph,

I used to love to watch "Mysteries of the Bible" on A&E. The series is no more, but you can often find videos of the episodes on eBay for quite cheap. Some of the interesting things I found dealt with the city of Jericho dating to the wrong time period, a Philistine temple found which matches the story of Samson, that Eve was the 2nd woman (Judith was Adam's first wife), that Joshua commit genocide when he sacked Jericho, that there is no evidence of the Exodus (although the land of Goshen has been found in Egypt, so the story is not completely made up), etc. The series is generally pro-Bible, but it does try to be accurate about inconsistencies.

From there, I just found "Digging for the Truth" on the History channel. It does not limit itself to biblical topics. You can download episodes via Amazon if you have broadband, and they're about $2 per episode.

Two fantastic videos are "From Jesus to Christ" which showed on PBS a few years ago. You can learn lots about gnosticism, and early church Christianity (before the Orthodox and Catholic churches were organized.) The other video is "The first 2000 years of Christianity" from the History Channel. It reviews the Council of Nicea, the split between Orthodox and Catholic churches, and even mentions the mormons. (These videos are 4-6 hours, so you'll need to invest some time.)

I recently started downloading podcasts from Covenant Theological Seminary. They have some outstanding classes for download on the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Inter-testamental period (400 BC to Christ). You can download the podcasts for free, or you can actually get a theology degree if you pay tuition. I believe they are Presbyterian, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it's a good free way to learn some amazing facts about the Bible. They talk about how to rationalize certain things in the Bible, and I find their approaches interesting, even if I don't always agree.

When I'm not buying videos, I check out many websites. I like ldssundayschool.org because it has some good Old Testament stuff, but it hasn't been maintained very well lately for other topics. www.jewfaq.org is a great website for Jewish origins and questions. I also like Catholic Encyclopedia.

That'll keep you plenty busy. I'd mention more, (even wikipedia is interesting, and often leads to other interesting topics), but I'm sure you're already overloaded. Remember, I've been studying this for a while.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you are so big and bad now that you have exposed the Mormon Church. Who do you think you are you idiot!

Its people like you who are a waste of air. Put a gun in your mouth and pull the trigger. We don't need anymore people like you walking around!!!

Jeremy said...

Wow, Anonymous, That wasn't very Christ-like now was it?

I hope you do "live long enough to repent" of that sin.

Zelph said...

Anonymous-

Thank you for those kind words.

Bishop Rick said...

anonymous can't be LDS, because no true LDS person would spew such hatred...well, there is Brigham Young.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Zelph,

I'm new to your blog and have just begun to browse, but I think I understand a lot of what you're thinking and feeling. Like you, I was born and raised in the Church. I'm still active and usually attend the 3 hour block as normal on Sundays, but I decided to resign my calling in RS and although I'm an endowed member, I don't feel I should attend the temple at the present time, not because of anything I've done, but because of how I feel.

I understand your questions and concerns with the validity of things like Abraham's Book and the Book of Mormon, etc. Those things puzzle me as well, but I find that other things trouble me more, particularly how certain things came to be regarded as doctrine, only to be viewed as false now. Also, it bothers me deeply that most members don't want to dig too deeply into Church history. I know why they don't, because it's troubling and painful! But personally, I'd rather that leaders would discuss things more openly in order to clear the air. I have seen so many misconceptions and misinterpretations by many members, that I once believed myself.

I don't want to say that I've lost my faith in God. I don't even feel angry with God. But I do ask myself now whether He's what I've been taught to believe all my life. I would love to have a simple faith, and on the other hand I have this insatiable curiosity about God and religion that makes me question and ponder about everything.

I say in my blog that the only reason why I'm still active in the Church is because despite everything, I still think there's more to Mormonism than meets the eye. There's something that I can't quite put my finger on and what I've been taught about why we're here and where we're going makes a whole lot more sense than I can find in any other religion or philosophy. I don't think I'll find what I'm looking for anywhere else. (Call that the Mormon Curse, if you will :) I still believe most things about the Gospel, but I have lost my faith in being able to believe everything that prophets and leaders teach us. I have begun to believe that because of their human imperfections, they can lead us astray due to their mistakes.

So, I guess I can say that I still have faith and I'm a believer, but you won't see me standing at the pew saying "I know the Church is true." I hope it is, but I can't say that I know and I doubt I ever will. Nevertheless, I don't have any desire to abandon the faith I was raised with.

Zelph said...

The Faithful Dissident-

I appreciate your comments, and they really hit home to me. I was where you are now about 2 years ago when I first started to seriously question.

Part of the point of this post was that there is always something quite troubling to some people, and other people might look at the exact same issue and think it is a trivial matter.

I think as I begun my quest to dig into church history, as I started to learn about certain things, I was hopeful that I could 'prove' the criticisms wrong. I was devastated as the more I dug, the more everything started to unravel before my eyes. I was still hopeful, but the final straw was when I read about the Book of Abraham. I did extensive research, have read both sides and have concluded that the Book of Abraham was not an authentic document as claimed by Joseph Smith.

Have you been to the site

www.newordermormon.org

You might find you have a lot in common.

Have you studied all the issues? I always thought I had heard all the criticisms, and then as I dug, there was always more and more.

My advice would be to try to study everything you can.

a good site is:

Mormonthink.com

This site does a good job of laying out all the criticisms and includes all the defenses. As I have said before, the goal of this site is not to try to take down the church, or try to convince people to leave the church. My position is to simply draw awareness so that people can listen to both sides of the argument. In my view, after looking at all the evidence, there is only one conclusion someone can make, and that is that at best, the church is not what it claims to be.

I am curious what specific points of doctrine you are most concerned about. The 2 that come to mind are the racism, particularly blacks and the priesthood and polygamy.

I have always been more interested in things like Book of Mormon geography and papyri, because it had always fascinated me.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I would say that all the things you write about in your blog are a "concern" to me, but I do find the doctrines of polygamy and priesthood ban to be of most concern to me. Polygamy is troubling for obvious reasons, but I think what troubles me most is racist teachings of past leaders. While the ban in itself can be scripturally defendable, all the "reasons" why it was so I find to be appalling and downright offensive. What I find so deeply disturbing is that some of the myths have stood the test of time and the Church has done very, very little to admit past mistake and to make darn sure that the myths are not perpetuated by ignorant members. My sister-in-law is black and LDS and it amazes me how she is able to live the Gospel despite being aware of these teachings by previous leaders. I struggle with it a lot more. My husband is a non-member and I find that sharing the Gospel with him is only good up to a certain point. He knows about it, but I think he knows all he cares to really know about and frankly, I don't want to get into it any deeper with him because I am downright ashamed to read what some leaders taught and said.

Mormon Heretic said...

Zelph,

I know this post is long over, but I was doing some research on the Abraham and Ur of the Chaldeans. It seems there is quite a bit of debate about where Ur is located. I found a Baptist blog, and Wikipedia, which seem to corroborate Abraham as being from Ur of the Chaldees. It seems you have some problems with that.

Anyway, if you're still reading this, check out this Baptist blog and this Wikipedia. I'd be curious to learn more about your objections.