A short list of the issues that led me to leave The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (in no particular order)
In a few previous blog posts I hinted at some of the reasons that I no longer accept most claims made by the LDS church. I wanted to follow up and give the four of you who read my blog a list of some of my reasons. This list is not meant to be comprehensive and it is not in any particular order. If you are easily offended by having your beliefs challenged of even talked about then you might want to stop reading right now. If, on the other hand, you are honestly interested in what brought me to the decision I made, please continue. As I’ve said before, nothing in this post is meant to talk anybody out of their current belief. If you have found a way to make it work then by all means please continue doing what makes you happy and gives your life purpose. I just couldn’t do it any more.
1. Focus on obedience over every other principle. i.e. Even asking follow up questions about minor local policies were criticized as being disobedient and therefore, sinful. Especially on the Stake level, the instruction seemed to be less about love and more about keeping everybody in line.
2. Substantial meeting time wasted on pointless procedural issues that do nothing to add to spirituality. i.e. entire Sunday School lessons dedicated to which old English pronouns to use when referring to deity, which hand to use when taking the sacrament, etc.
3. Over-management of insignificant details. The pointless rules about when to stand for songs, when to help a child with a talk, which instruments are approved for musical performances, which nights and times we have to meet for any activities, etc, smacks of the Scribes and Pharisees of the New Testament.
4. Encouraging ignorance, or what I’ll call the “Study the Scriptures Paradox”. Study them just enough to feel good, but not enough to uncover the massive amount of internal inconsistencies.
5. Limiting resources. I can’t think of any other field of study that tells you not to read outside the curriculum. If I decide to read every biography of the founding fathers I could get my hands on in order to supplement an American history class no reputable professor would have any problem with that as long as I kept up with my required assignments too. Try telling the Gospel Doctrine instructor about something you learned in a biography of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young that wasn’t published by the church.
6. No substantive answers to tough questions. Why wasn’t so-and-so’s prayer answered? Why did their son have to die? Always answered with dismissive hand-waving like, “It must have been God’s will.”, “Some things are just to test our faith.” ,”Those details will be worked out during the millennium.” Etc.
7. No substantive answers to even straight-forward questions. Is Genesis literal or symbolic? Is the Book of Mormon literal or symbolic? Tithing on net or gross?
8. Nudge-nudge-wink-wink partisan politics from the pulpit. i.e. global warming dismissals, evolution denial, pro- war talks and other partisan jabs with little to no apology.
9. Overt partisan politics from the pulpit. i.e. Prop 8, multi-million dollar church PR campaign timed with an LDS candidate for president, etc.
10. Focus on missionary work over all else. i.e. a YM budget that was so slim it would not allow for <$100 to be spent on a pinewood derby, yet millions of dollars are spent on an ad campaign to bring in more members.
11. Revisionist History. i.e. With the possible exception of Warren Jeffs, Brigham Young is probably America’s most identifiable polygamist. Yet the Relief Society and Priesthood handbook about his teachings has not one single reference to his polygamy and polyandry. Similarly the current handbook about George Albert Smith has no reference at all to his well documented mental illness. I’m not saying you have to put it on the cover, but at what point is this lying by omission?
12. Revisionist History. i.e. for years I was told that Joseph and Hyrum were buried in a secret grave. Even General Authorities would claim from the pulpit that they didn’t know where they were buried. My first trip to Nauvoo I was stunned to see their graves in plain sight, albeit on Community of Christ property.
13. Doctrinal inconsistencies. i.e. the practice of polygamy in spite of the Book of Mormon’s strict denouncement of it, See the book of Jacob.
14. More doctrinal inconsistencies. i.e. Joseph and Oliver required the Priesthood by a literal “laying on of hands” before they could baptize. That’s why John the Baptist, a resurrected being with literal hands had to come do it. So why didn’t Alma require literal hands?
15. Still more doctrinal inconsistencies. i.e. If Joseph was able to “translate” the Book of Mormon without the benefit of the Urim and Thumim and eventually without even the plates being in the same room then why were they necessary? It seems rather insulting to the thousands of years of record keepers and preservers that he didn’t even use them for much of the translation. Why was their sacrifice even needed if Joseph was just going to divine the words?
16. Doctrinal inconsistencies ad nauseam. i.e. Trying to make sense of all the conflicting doctrinal claims made by general authorities will make your head spin. Just using general conference talks you could find a GA to support both sides of most doctrines. If you add books written by general authorities to your source material you could just about anything.
17. False Church History taught via LDS artwork. i.e. Joseph and Oliver sitting at a table translating the Book of Mormon without the Urim and Thumim or the sheet dividing them, The picture of Joseph reading from the plates and transcribing them himself, The pictures of the three and the eight witnesses physically handling the plates while they were all together, The picture of the Joseph receiving the Melkezidek Priesthood from Peter, James and John; In which standard work is this story written? Etc.
18. Arrogance. i.e. the belittling of members who had doubts and the cocky assertion that doubts were evil and that they had certainty.
19. Anti-intellectualism. The badmouthing, belittling and excommunication of those people who actual understand what they are talking about and have facts to back it up, not just dogma.
20. False Dichotomies. i.e. the “you are either with us or against us.” and “The church is either true or it’s a hoax.” type logical fallacies do a serious disservice to those struggling to keep a testimony and force them to remain silent or be perceived as enemies.
21. Persecution complex. i.e. most member’s feel that if things are going well that is a sign that God is helping them. They simultaneously believe that if things are going badly that is a sign that Satan is trying to stop them. How convenient. Heads I win. Tails you lose.
22. More Persecution complex. i.e. my Ward poured the foundation for a new sign and did not get the appropriate building permit prior to beginning the work. Work was halted by a county inspector because the sign was right were a new turn lane would soon be built. Rather than seeing this as a hint that it might be a good idea to follow local codes local leadership spun it as persecution from government.
23. Still More Persecution complex. i.e. Mormon’s love to talk about Han’s Mill as an example of persecution of the saints. But they will quickly cry foul when Mountain Meadows is mentioned. Personally, I think that any history that omits either is biased.
24. Wasting of tithing dollars. i.e. see above story about having to pave over a foundation just because they didn’t follow local codes.
25. More wasting of tithing dollars. i.e. after the dust settles on this “I am a Mormon add campaign I’d really like to see how much it cost the church per new member it brings in. My guess is that the same campaign didn’t do much for Scientology, I don’t see why it’d work any better for the LDS church.
26. Still more waste of tithing dollars. The City Creek Mall is completely funded by the church and is costing billions more than planned.
27. Focus on prophets, temples and modern day revelation over the church’s name sake, Jesus Christ. i.e. my daughter went to a primary Christmas party and came home with a picture of Joseph Smith to color and a temple shaped word-find devoid of any reference to Christmas or Christ.
28. Polygamy, whitewashing of the historical practice.
29. Polygamy, not enough condemnation and apology for their role in the current FLDS practice of it. I’d be willing to bet that 95% of those who practice polygamy in the US cite Joseph Smith for their authority. The remaining 5% Muslim and other.
30. Polyandry, whitewashing of the historical practice. Even among members who are aware that Joseph Smith had multiple wives most are completely unaware that many of those wives were married to other men who were still alive at the time.
31. “…mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.” The biggest irony in LDS doctrine is that this scripture is contained in D&C 132 which established the plurality of wives, polygamy, as doctrine. I can not think of any single doctrine that has brought less order and more confusion to the church.
32. Occult magic, complete whitewashing of Joseph Smith’s practice of it. Glass looking, peep stones, dowsing, dressing in all black to collect the plates on the autumnal equinox, etc.
33. Book of Mormon historicity. i.e. I’ve gotten conflicting advice from leaders as to whether I had to believe it was a literal history or not. For the record: there is nothing proving it to be literal and volumes of evidence showing that it clearly cannot be literal.
34. More Book of Mormon historicity. If we are to accept that the Book of Mormon is literal then there are volumes of technological anachronisms that need to be accounted for.
35. The “Perfectness” of the Book of Mormon. The thousands of well documented revisions since it was claimed to be such a perfect book makes one wonder how perfect it really was.
36. Reformed Egyptian. Why has there never been another example of this language found? Back in high school I took Martin Harris’s description of the plates and did a few calculations. Given the number of characters shown on each plate, the fact that the plates were engraved on both sides, the thickness of each plate, the thickness of the stack that was not sealed, and the total number of English words in the Book of Mormon I came up with an interesting conclusion. The characters of Reformed Egyptian must be ten to fifteen times more efficient at expressing an idea than a similar language that uses pictograms, like Chinese. Why would such an effective written language vanish without a trace?
37. The Book of Abraham, The original parchment has been located and it does not resemble the Book of Abraham at all. It’s clearly not a translation and the modern spin that the document has a “spiritual translation” is a textbook example of special pleading.
38. The Doctrine and Covenants revisions. If these revelations were supposedly received in English directly from God why was there any need to revise or update them? My college had several different versions of the Doctrine and Covenants. A few versions from the LDS church and a few from the RLDS. It was interesting to see how the “revelations” changed.
39. The Bible historicity, General authorities disagree over which sections of the Bible are meant to be literal and which are symbolic. Official church study guides even have literal children being born to figurative mothers. (See Hosea) Most members are afraid to even discuss questions like “Did the flood really happen?”, ”Did Adam exist?”, etc. Since modern revelation records Joseph literally having been visited by some of these biblical prophets it seems to support that they literally existed. If so then how much of their history is literal?
40. The Church’s propensity to buy documents and artifacts that potentially reveal the truth about the early history of the church and then hide them. This issue alone created a market for a mediocre forger to sell documents knowing that they would receive little to no scholarly authentication. I’m not blaming the church for Hoffman’s crimes. Merely pointing out that having deep pockets and a desire to keep their skeletons in the closet made the church an easy mark.
41. The ever-evolving 14 Articles of Faith, and their questionable authorship. Yes, I said 14, not 13 and Joseph Smith is obviously not the original author.
42. The Book of Mormon and the lack of defining doctrines inside it. The claim is made that it is the most perfect book and that you can grow closer to the lord by living its teaching but it is interesting how many defining doctrines of the church are nowhere to be found in its pages. Temple work? Baptism for the Dead? The plan of salvation?
43. The Book of Mormon and the doctrines it preaches that are directly conflicting to LDS teachings. The claim is made that it is the most perfect book and that you can grow closer to the lord by living its teachings, but it is interesting how many defined doctrines of the church run counter to what was practiced in the Book of Mormon. Jacob specifically renounces polygamy as evil. Lehi claimed to be a prophet at the same time another existed in the same country. Alma baptized without the priesthood. Sons encouraged to defy the righteous traditions of their fathers. Etc.
44. Appeal to emotion. Logic and reason all take a back seat and there can be no further argument once somebody claims “I know…” and tells a tear-jerking anecdote.
45. Scriptural abuse. i.e. knowingly using a scripture out of context because it seems to support your position. The most abused example is the “why else are they baptized for the dead?” scripture in Corinthians. I’ve also seen D&C 89 used to condemn someone for choosing to be vegetarian.
46. Unfathomably evil actions perpetrated by a so-called “loving” deity. 1 Samuel comes to mind but there are many other examples, Abraham and Isaac, Noah’s flood etc. etc. We stopped reading scriptures at night as a family because it was giving my daughter nightmares.
47. Human sacrifice. The whole “justice and mercy” doctrine is confusing. It implies that an all-powerful creator is powerless against an arbitrary law called justice. And the only way to appease justice is a human sacrifice. And this is a plan that Christ came up with and we all agreed to. Really? Do LDS really believe in a deity that is powerless before justice?
48. Gerontocracy. How can any organization adapt and grow in the 21st Century when it is lead almost entirely by men born in the first half of the last Century? This is a recipe for always being 50 years out of touch. The giddiness with which most members reacted to the appointment of the relatively young Bednar is a pretty good indicator that most members are tired of being lead by men older than 70.
49. Ridiculous line of ascension. The church’s official position is that the President of the Quorum of the Twelve is next in line for the Presidency and the only way he does not become the next President of the Church is if he doesn’t outlive the current President. They seriously believe that the only way god can control who is running his church is to make the guys he doesn’t want running it die a little earlier.
50. Misogyny. Women are not allowed the Priesthood or most leadership positions even though most men joke that church programs would be improved if they were. “If you want X done right let the Relief Society be in charge of it.”Once when I served in the Sunday School presidency I suggested that we call a woman to be second counselor. We were told it had to be a priesthood holder. Why?
51. Diversity and the lack thereof. Sure on the local level there is a nice mix of ages, flesh tones and accents, but the top 15 are all white males, most even born in Utah. Only one even has an accent and that’s German. Considering that the church made a big deal about >50% of its members speaking Spanish and not English you’d think the leadership could adapt to that.
52. Confirmation Bias. Most members will jump all over any study that seems to support a claim made in the Book of Mormon but conveniently ignore those that go against it. Every Mayan carving that looks remotely like a tree is held up as proof that they were aware of Nephi’s vision, but DNA linkage of their decent from Asia and not the Middle East is ignored.
53. FAIR, FARMS and the Maxwell Institute. Nearly every article I read from any of these groups is a tortured exercise in motivated reasoning. They start with the premise that the Church can never be wrong and then work backwards to justify any apparent wrongdoing or inconsistency.
54. Empiricism and the abuse thereof. If faith really trumps proof then stop telling me about your proof that god answered your prayers, or he healed you, etc. wouldn’t the very existence of anything you could call “proof” run counter to the idea of faith?
55. Homophobia. Correct me if I am wrong, but whether homosexual or heterosexual sex out of wedlock is a violation of the same commandment, The Law of Chastity. So why the out of proportion focus on one over the other? I personally disagree as to whether homosexuality should be a sin however even if I believed it was, Christ clearly was more condemning of divorce than homosexuality. And as far as the “sin of Sodom” goes, read it more carefully. The sin of Sodom was pride, not homosexuality.
56. Idol Worship. I’ve lost count of how many talks and lessons have degraded into name dropping and personal anecdotes about meeting famous Mormons. “Once at a Dale Murphy fireside…”
57. Spiritual Experiences and the encouragement to have them without defining them. In LDS doctrine anything that makes you feel good and leads you to believe the church is interpreted as being from the spirit and good. Yet those exact feelings are interpreted as evil if they do not lead you to believe the church. The message is little more than “Trust your feelings if they lead you towards the church. Distrust them if they lead you away from the church.” I asked my Stake President exactly this question and got exactly this answer.
58. Confusing concept of Deity. The church officially does not believe in the trinity. It preaches that they are three distinct beings with different roles but the same ultimate goal. The various names to refer to the three make it very confusing. Sometimes the son refers to himself as the father and the father refers to himself as the son. It was once explained to me that sometimes when the son speaks he dictates word for word what the father said, making it even more confusing. How convenient. Anytime it appears to be a conflict, just pretend one is quoting the other. Spin it however you need to make the conflict disappear.
59. The Holy Ghost v. the Gift of the Holy Ghost. If investigators can feel the spirit before they have the gift then why is the gift necessary? What makes it different? The best explanation I’ve heard from official sources says the gift just makes it stay around longer.
60. General Authorities with no backbone. When you have a national stage on a TV show on which you agreed to appear, don’t get all wishy-washy on official doctrine. “I don’t know that we preach that.” Yes, you do know that we preach that. You just know that is sounds a little weird and don’t want to own up to it on camera.
61. Telling members that the reason people leave is because the doctrine is too hard to follow. The implication here is that some people just can’t cut it and want to sin. Preaching this from the pulpit betrays the fact that LDS leadership is either ignorant of the data about why people leave or they are deliberately deceptive. I’m far from perfect but my Sundays are now spent doing charity work for the Red Cross or the Boy Scouts and spending time with my family. I’m such a sinner.
62. Telling members that the reason people leave the church is because they were offended by another member. Since I’ve stopped attending I’ve lost count of how many people have been all saccharinely sweet to me. It’s not personal. I just don’t believe it anymore. It wasn’t your fault. You were always nice to me before you don’t have to go over the top nice to me now. That’s just placating.
63. Watering down and changing of doctrine that was once taught as essential. As a kid it was official doctrine that we would become gods and get our own planets. (Journal of Discourses Volume 6 page 275 --Brigham Young) Now it is official doctrine that this is not true.
64. A view of Heaven that depends on others’ obedience for you to be happy. The whole concept of the Celestial Kingdom is pretty flawed. Even if you made the cut could you really be happy with the memory of all of your friends and family who didn’t make it? No matter how good that place I would be haunted by the fact that my family members would be getting much less. The only way I could ever relax and enjoy it would be if I could forget about those that didn’t make it. Like driving to Disneyland and having most of the people I came with being told they had to wait for me in the parking lot. I’d have to choose to be ignorant of the condition of my loved ones. Hence the paradox: Choosing to be ambivalent about the ones you loved in order to be happy yourself. And would I really want to spend time with people who would do that? The hardest part about leaving was telling my mother. I took a little piece of her heaven from her by telling her I no longer believe.
65. Amateur counseling advice given when professionals should be involved. I don’t have any problem with clergy giving basic advice like, “See your doctor”, “avoid debt”, “honor your commitments” etc. But all too frequently Bishops presume that their calling makes them an expert in financial planning, medicine and/or social work. It doesn’t. Outside the church nobody would ever consider getting marriage advice from an insurance salesman, medical advice from a warehouse manager, or financial planning advice from a chicken farmer. Yet I’ve seen all three of these examples happen.
Thank you for reading this far. Now that I’ve posted this I would welcome any discussion on any of these topics. This list is littered with my personal bias, some snark, and sarcasm. I recognize all of that. I mean no offense by that. If you would like to discuss any of these issues I will be respectful and do my best to avoid those in our dialogue.
I will be updating this page as time permits. My goal is to add hyperlinks to my sources for each where it is available. For the record: I could create a list of things that the LDS church does right as well. There are many. The list would be almost as big as this list. Reflecting on that list is why it was such a difficult decision for me to leave. I spent the last decade weighing the items on both list. However, at least for me, it became obvious that one list was getting smaller and smaller and the other just kept growing and finally reached a tipping point.
Corrigendum. The Week in Review for 04/30/2017 - Stroke from chiropractic. Measles in Minnesota. Fraudulent methodologies? How do your remove homeopathy from a product. Acuwhatever. And more.
39 minutes ago