Reconstruction Part 1: Like a Wave, Driven and Tossed

February 1, 2008
By

Not so long ago I thought I knew certain things were true and wavering was a self-inflicted condition. I also really thought I was an independent thinker who had chosen to be a conservative Republican, and to believe that homosexuality was an illness, and that the priesthood ban was imposed by God for some reason we just couldn’t understand, and that polygamy was a holy practice when it was sanctioned, and that church leaders past and present were inspired in all things and represented the will of the Lord. I thought I chose those positions because they were simply the right, or true, things and I felt that it was of paramount importance to be right with God.

Something changed.

In my past I spent some effort as an apologist. I was not a typical apologist, but a calming voice. I’ve never really enjoyed the sparring or “Bible-bashing” as it were. I just felt like the critics’ arguments did not even stand up against my understanding of the gospel, in the sense that if they saw it how I see it the argument would become moot. I really did seek for understanding more than winning, but ultimately I still thought I was right. Eventually, the arguing became tiresome and I gave it up. Ecumenicism is hard work. In the time I spent in apologetics, there were a few of the classic critical arguments that I was faced with, but many of the real zingers remained hidden from me. I think that speaks a lot to what we can expect the bulk of members to have been exposed to. I was in the fray and looking for info and I somehow did not hear about Fawn Brodie (some of her discoveries, but never her name or book), polyandry, baseball baptisms, Joseph’s early magical involvement, etc.

My entrance into New Mormon History was similar to my earlier entrance into apologetics. The first time, I had a job in front a computer with a lot of downtime so I wanted to find places online where I could have interesting church-related conversations with people. In the more recent case, I got an iPod and heard about podcasts so the natural place to start was with podcasts related to Mormonism. A few years ago there were not many choices. I first found a couple blatantly anti-Mormon podcasts which were basically rants on tape. I moved on and landed on John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories.

For those not familiar, or who came to Mormon Stories later, or with short memories, some of the early topics covered on the podcasts included: missionary abuses (soccer and beach baptisms in Latin America), John’s own follow-up experiences of ecclesiastical abuse, racial issues in modern history (Greg Prince), Masonic influences on Joseph Smith and the temple rituals, polygamy/polyandry and their early secretive nature, Grant Palmer’s alternative explanations for the Book of Mormon’s origin, and more. I know, all of that sounds pretty heavy and maybe even like the agenda of an anti-Mormon convention. For years, from an apologetic point of view, I always treated these subjects with a partially closed mind. It was easy to associate these issues with the bitterness and vitriol that usually accompanied the messengers. Somehow John managed to come at these topics so neutrally that the classic defense of dismissal, discreditation, and denial was left in the chamber. An interesting thing happened as I listened to John’s podcasts. Perhaps for the first time, I began to… listen.

The sheer mass of issues and questions and concerns became so much that I could not sweep them under the rug anymore. We become complacent in our testimonies, don’t we? We take wonderful experiences and use them to give out free passes to anything that is uncomfortable. Pretty much every LDS woman I know who has vocalized their feelings about polygamy is confused and even sickened by the thought of it, yet… they feel comfortable just not dealing with it.

The recurring trouble that I continue to face is actually one of Mormonism’s greatest strengths. We believe that you can know for yourself by asking God about the truth or goodness of any thing. I love the idea that God cares about us enough to help us make sense of all this. Of course, the great variance of definition of what the witness of the Holy Spirit feels like can certainly be confusing, but an amalgamation of the purveying concept is that good things are confirmed by a positive gut feeling and/or peaceful and clear thoughts. This is the instrument we have been given by which we can determine the sham from the sacred. Yet, when we run into these troublesome questions, we don’t use the instrument. Perhaps we are afraid of what it might tell us. My wife has told me that whatever it is that I’ve learned that could change my testimony this much, she is afraid to hear, and thus does not even want to hear. I know I was afraid, and for good reason. The answers have complicated my life. Ultimately I think that’s a good thing, but I will get into that in the next post.

What happens when you use the instrument, and it says something you weren’t expecting? What do you do when you take counsel to seek the comfort of the Spirit on a troubling concern and it does not comfort you? Sadly, I don’t feel that we are trained to really trust the Spirit or ourselves. It seems as though we are trained to trust our leaders more than ourselves, and perhaps even more than the Holy Spirit. In the gospel picture that I see painted in the modern LDS church, it is the place of priesthood authority to tell us what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad, what is true and what is false. In this picture the Holy Spirit is there to help you know if you should give a pass-along card to that guy in line at McDonalds, or if you should turn left on 7th street today to narrowly avoid a fatal traffic accident, or if you should go on that skiing trip to Colorado with your friends that end up buying booze and drinking all weekend.

When you face the issues, you not only have to fight the pain of disillusionment, but you also have to fight through the guilt that you must be somehow spiritually inferior if you can’t get right with priesthood discrimination or polygamy or Masonic temple connections or Book of Mormon historicity. After all, the Spirit witnesses the truth of all things to the honest in heart.

I don’t know why, or what is different about me, but this process has not hurt as much for me as it does for a lot of folks. I came into the church from a world of poverty economically, spiritually, and emotionally. The gospel liberated me and gave me confidence in my own worth. I went from a very shy and fearful nobody to a fairly vocal and confident person. Maybe it is that confidence and determination to not be a victim that has taken me through the passage mostly uninjured. The biggest challenge I face personally in this journey is resisting the instinct to anger. Anger and bitterness will not bring about peace for myself or the changes that need to happen for others’ sake.

It can be difficult, having been spiritually raised in the Mormon faith to revere justice, to deal with the apparent injustice of what is really implied when we say our leaders are fallible. I feel like that is a backup defense when apologetics fail, and the implications are rarely taken seriously. So much of what we believe is built upon foundations of other things also being true. Its easy to oversimplify the situation by presenting it as one bad brick taken from a pile of good bricks. In reality it is more like the party game Jenga, where you have a tower of blocks and you carefully remove blocks and hope the structure stands. Eventually, you start to see how certain blocks can’t be removed without failure of the whole because many others stand only on its strength.

You can easily find yourself in the very place from whence the church claims it will rescue you. Like a wave on the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That feeling is extremely uncomfortable when you feel that your spiritual health, both now and eternally, completely hangs on being right. The Great Apostasy concept declares that it is an unacceptable relationship with God to be wrong about doctrine and practice, and the Restoration of the God’s organization and priesthood represents fixing that problem. So why does it still feel broken?

This may seem bleak, because it is. Its important to understand the thought process, and the seriousness of the challenge to faith. However, this is not the end of the story. The obvious question is, what next? Once you get here, it is usually not acceptable to simply shelve your concerns and pretend to be the Happy Mormon again. I hope you’ll stay tuned for part two, where I will approach the “what next” as best I can.

Update: you can find part two here.

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25 Responses to Reconstruction Part 1: Like a Wave, Driven and Tossed

  1. February 1, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Sadly, I don’t feel that we are trained to really trust the Spirit or ourselves. It seems as though we are trained to trust our leaders more than ourselves, and perhaps even more than the Holy Spirit.

    While Mormonism doesn’t claim infallibility on the part of the president of the church, let alone other leaders, modern LDS culture certainly does. By both precept and social pressure, LDS members are taught that if they believe the Holy Ghost tells them something different than what their priesthood leader has said, they have “been listening to the wrong spirit,” and are clearly wrong. Despite the counsel of early Mormon leaders to seek spiritual confirmation of leaders’ words, modern LDS culture considers it axiomatic that the Holy Ghost will confirm what priesthood leaders have said. In fact, with many “iron-rod saints,” praying for confirmation of what the LDS president has taught is very nearly seen as an act of rebellion, as if it is presumptuous to even conceive that a different answer could result.

  2. NM Tony
    February 1, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Clay,

    What a great post and thank you for the honesty! The parallels between our stories, based on what you’ve written, are uncanny. It is also interesting that we’ve gone in different directions. I assume that you still have faith in God, whereas I do not. If I had read posts like this before I actually lost all faith, I wonder if I would be where you’re at now. Nevertheless, I have no regrets for my decision and feel very at peace with where I am.

    I also agree that John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories are valuable, and it was/is a big part of why I continue to attend church with my family and avoid confrontation with the true believers around me. I still love the people of my ward, still have a respect for the importance they place on family, and have fond memories of my mission. Mormon Stories and this blog has also helped me maintain a respect and cordiality for things LDS, keeping me in touch with some church-related issues.

    Nick,

    Unfortunately, I think you are right. I know that when I did believe, I never prayed to see if the president was right. He was, after all, the mouthpiece for God. If he said it, it must have been true.

  3. Chris W.
    February 1, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Fantastic post, Clay. I’ve been there and I agree with you. I’m excited to see your follow-up.

  4. Heather Brown Martin
    February 1, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Nick,

    ITA. How many times have we all heard that even if a priesthood leader is wrong, we should still be obedient, and will be blessed for our obedience? Or that our leaders will never lead us astray, but if they do, it will be on their heads not ours, so we should just do as we are told. When the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done, ect.

    Clay,
    I think it’s ok to be angry, or go through an angry phase, as long as you decide that you aren’t going to be angry forever. It’s a natural part of the grieving process, and denying it can only lead to more confusion and angst. You have to grieve what you have lost to move on, even when you choose to stay in the church.

  5. Bruce Nielson
    February 1, 2008 at 11:13 am

    >>> Somehow John managed to come at these topics so neutrally that the classic defense of dismissal, discreditation, and denial was left in the chamber. An interesting thing happened as I listened to John’s podcasts.

    This shocked me a little. I had always assumed you had explored some of the more controversial aspects of Mormonism on your own and Mormon Stories had helped you stay in the Church. To find that it actually “de-converted” you, so to speak (pardon the label that I’m sure doesn’t really fit, as no label ever does), was not what I expected. Doesn’t that sort of go against the mission of that site?

  6. February 1, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Heather,
    I agree about anger being healthy, but I would limit it to anger in feelings, not anger in action. I was speaking mostly about anger in action in my post. There have been people in our history who chose to act out of anger, from William Law to some more recent intellectuals, and while I think of these people as even heroic, it is clear that their course did not work. Paul Toscano said in 2003 that he didn’t regret getting angry, just that it appears to have done no good.

  7. February 1, 2008 at 11:25 am

    “To find that it[Mormon Stories] actually “de-converted” you[...] Doesn’t that sort of go against the mission of that site?”

    I think the mission of the site was to have truly open discourse about Mormonism through people simply telling their stories. I would not say MS was what affected my testimony, but rather that the issues existed at all. MS served to be a way for me to acknowledge the issues, and I also think John’s approach made it easier to handle them in a healthy way.

    In my view, “healthy” is to face them completely and seek for understanding. I see apologetics and the anti or exmo style as being unhealthy, at least in the long term. I keep my mind and heart open to the possibility of any given principle being true or good, but I also am open to any given principle being false or bad.

  8. John Nilsson
    February 1, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Clay,

    Thank you for your post. This is my favorite post since Mormon Matters “converted” to the group blog format. I look forward to your next post!

    Bruce, NM Tony said:

    “If I had read posts like this before I actually lost all faith, I wonder if I would be where you’re at now. Nevertheless, I have no regrets for my decision and feel very at peace with where I am.

    I also agree that John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories are valuable, and it was/is a big part of why I continue to attend church with my family and avoid confrontation with the true believers around me”.

    This is a testimony :) to me of John Dehlin’s necessity in modern Mormonism. It is reassuring to me that John Dehlin can take people whose traditional testimonies have been shattered and help them stay connected to Mormonism. You don’t want to kill the messenger, do you? It is always more helpful to learn the facts about Mormon history in a venue where the organizing force (in this case, John Dehlin) is a devoted Church member and sympathetic to those with legitimate questions. Exposure to the facts Clay mentions is very disconcerting, no matter from whom you hear it.

  9. February 1, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    I’ve struggled with some of these same issues recently. Coming up in the church, one often encounters a very strong culture and is not encouraged to range beyond a certain point. A lot of people never go beyond the basics. I call intellectual and spiritual apathy. They just don’t care to know if there is more. They don’t want to question because questioning might hurt.

    I didn’t have that choice. When I was a teen, my best friend, whom I had known since birth (literally) decided to investigate the church for a variety of reasons. His parents were not members and had never been interested but he had always spent a lot of time with my family, so I suppose it is not surprising that he eventually became more curious. Of course it took an evangelical Christian preacher spouting hate-filled rhetoric about the ‘evil Mormons’ to get him to really look into it. Anyway he decided to start asking me a lot of questions, so I started questioning myself. So I did what I should have done–I started taking my prayers and scripture study seriously. I learned a LOT. I also picked up a lot from seminary. That, combined with the fact that dad taught middle eastern history and was always talking about it, gave me a pretty good background knowledge.

    When dad got sick, I dug even deeper, so that by the time dad was fully diagnosed with cancer, and we knew he was dying, I was very certain of the church. Prayer and scripture study can do a lot to give you a lot of quick insights into the gospel without really understanding the ins and outs of church history. All the time I learned little snippets of anti-Mormon pieces. You can’t avoid it in central Kentucky, after all. The evangelicals are pretty vociferous there.

    By the time dad passed away in 1995, I was only 18, but I had permission to go the Temple before he died. Some people have different experiences there. Mine was poignant and bittersweet, but very powerful. I cannot honestly say, however, that I can separate the emotions of the Temple that day from the emotions of seeing my dad there for the what was my first time and his last time. That was August, and he died October 1. I recieved my mission call in either February or March of 1996 and served from May of 1996 to May of 1998 in Tuscon Arizona then Lisbon Portugal.

    When I got back I started school at a small liberal arts college where the local religion was ‘anything but Mormon’ and drove a considerable distance to attend a singles branch two towns away, where I met my future wife nearly a year later. While at Berea College, I slowly became more and more exposed to the anti-Mormon arguments, both the false accusations and the twisted truths and the inconvenient truths. Additionally I became increasingly acquainted with the idea that the records themselves were poorly kept for much of that time (which is why the church obsesses with records at this time, I think).

    I served as EQ president for a time, but ultimately asked to be released when my second shift job kept me from being able to fulfill the calling. That job damaged me spiritually and in reflection I would recommend that anyone in the church who is working in certain jobs should be extremely careful to make sure that you are extraordinarily careful to stay grounded in the scriptures as you do so.

    I then started graduate school, where I encountered even more things that made me wonder. I have struggled. Until recently. I’m still not where I want to be, but recently those things that bothered don’t impinge on my testimony the way they used to. Here’s why: one of the bishopric in our new ward (we recently moved) asked me to give a talk on why I believe. I almost said no when I heard the topic. I struggled, then I realized that yes, despite everything I do believe, and it is simply because despite what modern science says about empiricism (and trust me when I say, as a PhD candidate in Industrial Psychology, I understand empiricism very well, and I understand statistics extremely well), and despite what psychology says about eyewitness testimony and Occam’s Razor and all of that, I have had certain experiences that I cannot deny. I have felt the Spirit, and I cannot deny the power of the Priesthood in my life.

    So when I start to doubt, I do what I think Clay is driving at: pray. God, I think does provide answers. Sometimes we are given answers that are meant to be kept private about things that we don’t need to share. There’s a great verse in the BOM about that–about being given to understand mysteries privately as long as we keep them private (somewhere in Helaman, I think), but if we take it upon ourselves to expound them to the church as doctrine or anything MORE than merely speculation, then we are in danger of losing access to the insights we have been given. The reason for this is to teach us about trust, I think. We are given a mystery, and if we show we can be trusted, we are given another, then another. Eventually we show ourselves that we can be trusted with whatever the Lord gives us and we realize that because of that we are worthy of far greater experiences. That is when those things happen. When we constantly blather about the insignificant insights into whatever minor detail of the gospel that we find amusing that the Lord has given us, however, we betray that trust, and then we show that we are not to be given any other trust, and I believe we are then denied any major trust, left to dabble in insignificant mysteries.

    I’ve got more I could say, but now this is an insufferably long post, and so I’ll shut up.

  10. February 1, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    “So when I start to doubt, I do what I think Clay is driving at: pray.”

    What I’m driving at is to take ownership and responsibility for what you believe and what you do. If you will believe in God, have a personal relationship with Him, so that you have solid reasons for believing everything you say you believe. I personally feel this requires the courage to cast off some of our Mormon cultural traits and possibly even some institutional loyalty. I plan to explain that in my next post.

  11. Kent
    February 1, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    I’m with you Benjamin Orchard, and I think I am with you Clay in your general thrust. In the end belief has become a choice for me, and since I have made the choice to believe and put more doubt in my doubts, most things don’t bother me anymore.

  12. February 1, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    the implications are rarely taken seriously.

    I really think that everyone needs to begin their study of the gospel, once they’ve gotten past the basics, with a review of the Old Testament. That should help them learn the implications of fallible leaders and imperfect prophets.

    Then you are ready for Paul’s confrontations with Peter over hypocrisies, over dramatic changes in what everyone thought were doctrines (such as unclean meats) and the entire revolution that is the New Testament.

    It is unsettling to recognize that such times are not behind us, but that they are always with humanity.

  13. February 1, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Stephen, I appreciate what you are saying. Its just that we are talking about the gospel as it exists for Mormons today. Whether its culture or doctrine, Mormonism today sees church administration as “inspired”, and to most people that means something like this:

    When leaders write talks, or make decisions in meetings, or create programs, or create press releases, or write teaching materials… they humble themselves before God and seek true spiritual inspiration beyond their own failings. They pray for guidance and because the effects of their actions affect so many good people, God will inspire them in the right direction. Thus, the things that come from leaders should be honored as if directed by God.

    This modern imperative for loyalty and obedience is extremely strong and important in the LDS church. That is what differentiates us from Jews and other Christians when it comes to studying out the Old and New Testament to see these fallible prophets. Other faiths that revere those texts can handle the reality because they do not live on a foundation of institutional authority. The personal relationship is paramount to them.

    In my opinion, your view involves some of that casting off of Mormon culture and loyalty that I mentioned.

  14. February 1, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Bruce — My site is DEFINITELY not intended to de-convert people. And from the overwhelming majority of the emails I’ve received — it’s served the opposite purpose for many.

    See here for just a few of the early examples: http://mormonstories.org/?page_id=46

    I’m all about helping people figure out a way to stay — even when they feel inclined to leave.

    See here as well: http://mormonstories.org/HowToStay.html

  15. Bruce Nielson
    February 1, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    I believe you, John.

  16. Devin
    February 1, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I can attest to the strength of Mormon Stories. Although it hasn’t given me a testimony, it has wiped away any of the hate, hurt or anger towards my situation and the church. It has helped me to understand my past, history and thought processes and learned a greater love and appreciation for the people, my family, and the church.
    I currently attend church as an atheist – I simply cannot figure out and reasonable way to know and understand the existence of God, but I like Levi Peterson’s idea of Christian by yearning. I understand myself as a Mormon by tradition – the entire way that I see the world is through Mormon goggles: my morality, ethics, behaviour and religious disbelief all stem from Mormonism. I fell trap to the black and white dichotomy presented by the doctrines of the Church and emphasized by its leaders. Given that I can see that I fell trap, I can also see that faith is not so simplistic. And so I seek to understand faith and faith development.
    At this point I cannot see how prayer is the answer given that throughout history the answers have been so different and varied. This idea has led to a concept that all faiths have validity and absolute truth is not necessary. My Mormonism cringes at this thought, but I seek understanding and believe for the first time that my faith (or lack of it) is becoming truly authentic. It may be that faith is completely and totally irrational and ludicrous – which may be why I am so interested in it. But, I have concluded that faith has to be a choice, a choice to take a stand on an issue and believe despite the world.

  17. Bob H
    February 1, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I found John’s site about a month ago in an effort to find someplace where I could find a conversation about the problems that I was having with the history and doctrine of my church. The openess and frank discussion about some issues has really helped me with the direction that I want to go. Thanks to places like MS and this blog, I feel more free to believe what I want and what feels true to me, without feeling guilty about rejecting the stuff that I don’t like or believe, or have a hard time with. I think the term that spoke to me was being a mormon on your own terms. That concept was brand new to me and makes it possible for me to stay in the church.

  18. Cliffy
    February 1, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Excellent comments. I too have dabbled in apologetics, which led me to truly and openly study Church history and the claims of various detractors.

    It has been a wonderful experience for me. Enriching my beliefs and deepening my understanding of God. I am SO pleased to be a member of the Church, after all I have read & heard. Joseph was a marvelous man, doing an incredible work.

    I clearly see, now that I have somewhat of an understanding of psychology, archaeology, history, science and comparative religion, that truly faith IS the first principle of the Gospel. Just as I was always taught.

    I know, I’m too happy.

  19. February 1, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    1) Clay fantastic post. Very cathartic. Very human. I think many who have come into contact with John’s stuff have had similar experiences. I have learned to rise above the fray, so as to speak and focus on the simple and sweet parts of the gospel that really ring true. Your story reminds me of something C.S. Lewis said, “The paradox of repentance is that it is intended for a bad man, but only good men can do it.” And I think it is kind of the same with your story and mine. To really truely question what you believe is scary….very scary. Yet I think it takes a “good man” to do this. And in it is where we can find truth, we find ourselves and as Christ said, be set free. Thank you again for your post. I will look forward to the next one.

    2) John’s podcasts are informative and inspiring. I give his indefatigable efforts and sacrifice much credit for keeping me in the church when every waking moment of my life was consumed with cognitive dissonance about how the church and my inner gut feelings differs. John’s podcasts, along with some other material, have helped me to be at peace again and refocus on the Savior.

  20. Dude
    February 1, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Let me describe my own conclusions on this kind of stuff. From the beginning somehow I was never affected negatively by any of this. I don’t know why. I know the Book of Mormon is historical by the Holy Ghost. I know the Prophets are prophets by the Holy Ghost. I’m still an apologist in the sense that I always look for the explanations of good in things rather than focus on the bad, I look for the uplifting and am not bothered by the negative. I now look for where the evidence takes me. But I also think of people with tender testimonies and not a lot of faith as people that I have to protect, even if that means not telling them stuff that wont help their tender faith. I know Gordon B. Hinckley has the keys by the Holy Ghost, but guess what. I also know he was deceived by Mark Hoffman. I think its because early on in my life, my faith was truly shaken when I ran into a Born Again Christian who was my karate teacher, who tried to get me to quit the church. Then somehow the Holy Ghost helped me through that when a bunch of other Mormons in my karate class apostatized. That was when I was 14 years old. Now I’m 35, and none of this has bothered me one bit. I think that is the key, that this stuff isn’t what shook me. My shaking was much earlier on in life, and I was prepared for this stuff emotionally and spiritually. And my testimony is no different than when I didn’t know this stuff.

  21. February 1, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    In my opinion, your view involves some of that casting off of Mormon culture and loyalty that I mentioned.

    I’m not terribly integrated into the culture, but I think my view is about being loyal to the vision Joseph Smith had and what the Church is.

    how prayer is the answer given that throughout history the answers have been so different and varied reminds me of Hebrews, about how God has spoken to every age and people.

    Something that struck me is that with discipline and strong desire people can make contact with the infinite and receive knowledge from and of the Holy One. How far it takes them varies. One can take a Harold Bloom gnostic approach that there is an underlying Spirit that true prophets tap into that guides them in certain patterns (it is how he explains the authentic parts of the Church that he recognizes that are in sync with prior generations).

    Or, one can take the approach that God speaks through the light that permeates the world, that for the most part what is important is how we react to that light, but that in some areas ordinances actually matter. How much? A great deal in some ways, hardly anything in others. That is the effect of the lens of the world.

  22. February 2, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I think my view is about being loyal to the vision Joseph Smith had and what the Church is.

    I think that represents a dramatically divided loyalty, Stephen. The Mormonism of Joseph Smith is hardly even the same religion as modern LDS-ism. Even Harold Bloom could see that, as noted in his comment at the end of the PBS documentary, “The Mormons.”

  23. Chris Justice
    February 2, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Clay – I very much appreciate your post, as it reflects many of my own feelings and thoughts about the church at this time. I have been a life long member of the church, served a mission, served as a counselor in a bishopric for over five years, temple marriage, etc. I have read the Book of Mormon several times and believe it to be the word of God, though I am not sure of its historicity (I hope it is). I have always loved the thought of studying history, especially church history. I am fascinated by the theology of Mormonism, finding great comfort in many of its teachings.

    In this thought I ran across John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories site. I started to download many of the podcasts which I appreciate very much. John, I just want to thank you for all you are doing. You are doing a great service for people like me who need help in finding answers the many of these questions. I do not know where to turn to find credible answers to many of the questions regarding Mormon History i.e. Money Digging, Polyandry, actual physical evidence of happenings in the Book of Mormon, revised First Vision accounts, Witnesses to the Book of Mormon credibility, transition of power from Joseph to Brigham, etc. There are many issues that must be dealt with at some point. I really do not like the “anti-mormon” sites, but I find the apologists answers also troubling. I think it was B.H. Roberts who said that he was afraid the church was passing many of these issues of history to be dealt with by future generations, well here we are.

    The common answer in todays Mormon culture is to follow the Brethren, they will not lead you astray. I don’t believe the would purposefully lead us astray. I believe these are good men who really are doing the very best they can. I do believe that God can and does speak through them at times. But I would have to ask: is this culture of strict obedience really what God intended in the Church? Would we really get a free pass in doing something we do not know, in our heart, is truly right or wrong. The principle of moral agency in my mind trumps the principle of obedience. Though obedience should not be minimized.

    To me the Church is at a cross roads, they can try to deal with some of these issues with a frontal assault (the brethren), in trying to help us understand from a faithful perspective. Or, the can continue to in minimize these issues at the expense of those (like myself) who are trying to find answers to legitimate questions.

  24. scottypancakes
    February 4, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    I’ve also got to admit that MormonStories has helped me the last few months as I’ve struggled with some of the more difficult parts of New Mormon History. (It also introduced me to this website.) Admittedly, it brought up more concerns–but that’s a good thing. I think people who want to reconstruct their testimonies appreciate the “honest” approach. This requires laying everything out on the table.

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