“I totally disbelieve that the Almighty ever did communicate any thing to man by any mode of speech, in any langauge,or by any kind of vision, or apearance, or by any means which our senses are capable of receiving, ortherwise than the Universal display of himself in the works of creation, and by that repugnance we feel in ourselves to bad actions, and disposition to good ones. The most detestable wickedness, the most horid cruelties, and the greatest misteries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in the thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most dishonorable belief against the character of dvinity, the most distructive to morality and the peace and happiness of man, that was ever propagated since man began to exist. It is better, far better, that we admitted, if it were possible, a thousand devils if there were any such than that we permitted one such imposter and monster as Moses, Joshua, Samuel and the Bible prophets to come with the pretended word of God in his mouth and have credit aong us. Whence arose all the horrid assasinationns of whole nations of men, women and infants, with which the Bible is filled…It is incumbent on every man who reverences the character of the Creator, and who wishes to lesen the catalogue of artificial miseries, and remove the cause that has sown persecuations thick among mankind, to expel all ideas of revealed religion as a dangerous heresy, and an impious fraud. What is that we have learned from this pretended thing called revealed religion? Nothing that is useful to man and eveything that is dishonourable to his Maker. What is it the Bible teaches us?- rapine, cruelity, and murder. What is it the Testament teaches us?- to believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married and the belief of this debauchery is called faith.”
Thomas Paine, Age of Reason
If there is a God and Heaven, I think he would disapprove of all the things done in his name: things done by those claiming to have received revelation from God.
The Biblical prophets committed horrible crimes against humanity. Not only did Joshua kill the men of the lands he conquered, he killed their women and children. Samuel instructed to Saul to “utterly destroy” a people leaving nothing alive.
We speak of ethnic cleansers with disgust and rightly so. But somehow some Christians can justify some of the worst acts of ethnic cleansing in the History of the World by saying God commanded it. That’s messed up!
I remember watching Bill Maher come onto the Fox News Channel to discuss his movie “Religulous.” He was hosted by Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee told Maher that Faith should be open to inspection and criticism. Well said Huckabee!
Mormons shut the door to inspection and criticism. Some openly acknowledge that they are afraid of being persuaded and losing their faith.
We demonize critcism labeling it as “anti-mormon.” Want to know a little secret? Criticism of Mormonism is published either by scholars who do it out of academic integrity and Christians who do it out of sincere love. They are not out to get you.
If Mormons only believe that the Church is true then they should be open to the possibilty that they are wrong. Believing in the Church is like choosing to buy a car. Buyers want to know about possible defects. If Mormons through their study find out that they can’t believe in Mormonism than they have come closer to truth.
On the other hand if Mormons know that the Church is true as I believed I once did than nothing they find out from critics of the Church can change what they know.
Why are Mormons afraid?
Having been a Mormon, I understand at least part of the reason. Mormons are comfortable believing in the Church. Mormons shut the door to “facts” and “persuasion” afraid of leaving the comfort zone of the Church.
I believe that there is a healthy type of faith and an unhealthy type of faith. As a teenager, I possessed an unhealthy type of faith.
In Church, I was taught that faith is “believing.” It’s not to possess a “perfect knowledge.” It makes sense. When I turn on the light switch it is because I have faith that the light will turn on. I don’t know it will because perhaps the light bulb has burned out.
I feel that some Sunday School lessons communicated to me an unhealthy type of Faith. I was taught that if I possessed doubt or fear that I did not have faith. Peter walked on the water and he started to sink because he doubted. Jesus rebuked him for having little faith. However, if faith is not a perfect knowledge than there was room for Peter to doubt. He could have been thinking, I believe I can do this but I might sink. He showed “faith” by stepping outside the boat but it wasn’t rewarded because the possibility was present in his mind that he could sink. Now you can interpret this story different than I did but this is the confusing message I got as a teenager.
These lesson communicated to me that I needed to take the Book of Mormon on faith. I could ask if it were true. If I got an answer, I knew. But if I didn’t, I shouldn’t doubt. I should keep on trying to get a testimony.
I came to a healthier perspective ironically listening to Truman G. Madsen. He talked about the story of doubting Thomas. Thomas wanted to see Christ to believe that Christ rose from the dead. Christ appears to him and rebukes him for his little faith. Again it seems that Christ wants people who really don’t know that he is real to squash any doubts about it. However, I understood Madsen as saying that Thomas’ sin was not necessarily his doubts but his desire to see Christ to know that he existed. Madsen then said that one could know through the Holy Ghost of the reality of Christ. And if someone knows it, then there is no possibility that he or she is wrong. Therefore he should not doubt.
Meditating on what Madsen said, I came to understand a diffirence between my faith and my testimony. My faith is what I believed. I came to believe that I should always be open about my faith. I could be wrong about it. However, I would act based on my faith. My testimony was what I knew. That would never change.
This understanding grounded me in Mormonism. Eventually, I recognized that I “knew” that the Church was true.
During my mission, I didn’t want to “know” that the Church was true. I came to realize that I didn’t and eventually I lost even my “faith” in it.
Today I am guided by “faith.” I believe that the light will turn on when I turn on the light switch. I don’t know it; it might be burned out. That’s “faith.” But I think it’s a healthy “faith.” I no longer feel like I have to squash the possibility that I’m wrong about something and that has set me free.
Despite the “trial of faith” I had as a teenager in high school, I was excited about sharing the gospel.
Almost everyday, I’d brought it up in a conversation. For instance, there was a Jew in my high school history class. He mentioned something about Israel. I told him how the Mormons believe that they are Israelites too. I did two things wrong; I didn’t stick to the basics and I was way overbearing.
Word got around that I was spreading the “good news” and I became labeled “the Mormon”. Some other Mormons in my high school heard about my “teachings”. One of them confronted me. She told me that her friends thought that the church was a cult because I had said some disturbing things. Both Mormons and Non-Mormons alike shunned me from social life.
Deep down though, my motivation for talking to my classmates was my desire to make them Mormons. I believed that I had been called on a mission to my High School. When I met anyone, I imagined what they would be like with the “Mormon glow.”
There was a gay kid in one of my classes and I had a crush on him. One day I went swimming and I imagined him getting baptized. Then I dreamed that the Lord would permit us to have a relationship. I scolded myself and went back to thinking about him getting baptized.
I wanted one of my high school teachers to get baptized. He was a middle-aged smart, and humble man. He was by far my favorite teacher. I imagined that he could give many talents to the church. When I went on my mission, I wrote a letter to him explaining what I was doing but I never sent it.
As a missionary. I taught investigators who I learned to love for who they were. I didn’t really care that they weren’t Mormon. I had an investigator who had seen Joseph Smith on Southpark and made fun of him but we became good friends. I had another grandmotherly investigator who believed in things I had never heard before. I learned to appreciate her for her beliefs. My desire to make the World Mormon diminished!
When I came back from my mission, I spent some time with a non-member family member. We had a good time. After that, I was chatting with one of my Mormon family members who said that it would be amazing if that non-member family member were a Mormon. I didn’t really respond but inside I was thinking “No it wouldn’t.”
I cannot accept Mormonism at all because I cannot accept the Atonement of Christ.
It is the most basic principle of Mormonism; Jesus paid the price for our sins. I remember going to an EFY where the director stood up and announced that Christ had suffered everything that a man could suffer to pay that penalty. He suffered the pains of the starving child in Africa, the pain of losing a loved one, and the pains of depression. I used to look on these sufferings with admiration for Jesus’ love for me.
Mormons boast that they don’t believe in a literal hell but if Jesus suffered all the sufferings possible, he would have also suffered the pains of fire. If Jesus had not died for me, I would very literally have to burn in hell.
I don’t believe that I deserve to burn in hell. I have made mistakes. I’ve lied and I’ve treated some people in ways I shouldn’t but that doesn’t mean I deserve to burn in hell!
Christians say that God is so much greater than us that his standard is higher than our standard. His standard makes lustful thoughts equal to adultery and hate equal to murder. These so-called “high standards” do not make God more glorious. If a dictator in a Third World country said “I am so glorious that whenever anyone publishes something against me, I’ll place that person in a concentration camp where they will be tortured, and eventually executed,” we would be eager to have him thrown out of power.
According to Joseph Smith, the Atonement of Christ is the central doctrine of the Mormon faith. All other things are appendages to it. Because I can’t accept the Atonement, I cannot accept Mormonism.
When I was in the MTC, I wrote a letter of confession to my President. I told him about my homosexual inclinations. I was called into an Interview. He looked at me and said “Elder Hale, Tell me about your same-sex attraction.”
I told him that I was trying not to think about it. Then he said “Good. If you even express interest in someone, that’s cause enough for you to go home early.”
“O.K. President,” said I. I had a plan. Whenever a stimuli turned the gay on, I would simply turn it off. I thought that if I put my gayness in a drawer in the back of my mind it would die.
For my first year, I remember doing quite well at turning it off. I saw attractive men from time to time that caused the gay in me to turn on. I would look away and tell myself “nope can’t think about him that way cause i’m straight!”
Even though I could “control my thoughts” by “creating a place for them to go,” as Boyd likes to remind us, the gayness in the drawer never died. I never really felt attracted to the girls in my mission and the gay turned on frequently.
I had a mission companion who was absolutely delicious! We were really good friends and I wanted something more. However, the man had his girlfriend back home and had many before her. I felt like there was no chance.
When I came home, I was no less a gay man than I was before. I learned that no matter how long I tried to starve the gay, it was still there.
Shortly after coming back, I saw John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories Interview with Carol Lyn Pearson. She talked about her marriage to a gay man. Her life and the life of her husband were truly heartbreaking. She convinced me that a woman deserves a man who is truly satisfied in her.
I also saw the movie “Up!” What a touching love story! I realized that satisfaction would come by continuing in the adventure of life with another man.
As a youth, I was fascinated by Mormon History. I began studying it on the Internet only to find out about several controversies: Adam-God, Blood Atonement, Polyandry, and Racism.
As I was learning about Mormon History, I had friends in high school who were Protestant Christians who always told me that I was going to hell because I had the wrong Jesus.
I was very concerned that they were potentially right and the church was potentially wrong. After all, there were so many controversies in its history! I was scared that I was on my way to hell!
One day while walking home from school, I thought to myself: “if God wants me to become a Protestant Christian, he should tell me.”
I ran into my room and I prayed about which Church I should join. I felt an enormous comfort overcome me. I had a “burning in the bosom.” In my mind I “knew” that I was in the right Church.
At that time, I really wanted Mormonism to be true. I loved every bit of it and I didn’t want to split up my family. I clutched that experience desperately as validation for what I believed. I brushed off any evidence that the Church might be false by telling myself “I know it’s true.”
When I was a missionary, I realized that I could never be happy married to a woman. I wanted a man! When I no longer “wanted” that burning in the Bosom, I finally realized that the experience I had didn’t necessarily mean that Mormonism was true. After all, I cried when I watched the Lord of the Rings. Oh my Gosh! Tolkein must be a true prophet!
My Mom is a convert and the only member of the Mormon Church in her family.
My mom was conscious to the fact that she was offending her family by getting married in the temple. Then when my siblings got married, her family wasn’t allowed to go then either. I was alive for my siblings’ weddings. I saw that my Mom’s family came to the reception with a smile. But there had to be a hurt beneath that smile.
They must have longed to be in the temple with the couple. Families stand together in hardships and in times of joy. The Mormon Church prevented some of my family from experiencing perhaps the most joyous moment of my siblings’ life. If I were a non-mormon excluded from one of my family member’s temple wedding I would be suspicious. Are they sacrificing chickens in there or something?
The Mormon Church doesn’t need to exclude non-members from Temple Weddings. They can plausibly be included.
Understanding the words of the ceremony does not require any knowledge of the Endowment.
I think that non-mormons could be mature about the clothing. I think people are comfortable with religious clothing. Jews wear it publicly. Muslims wear it publicly. We see preachers and priests walk about in clerical vestments. Things become normal if we see them frequently. By allowing people to attend mormon weddings, I think that it will go a long way to make Mormon temple clothing seem less strange to outsiders. (Call me crazy but I actually like the Mormon Temple clothes!)
Any especially sacred symbols can be covered with a white cloth.
A non-mormon would “feel the Spirit” if they were permitted to attended. Temple Weddings are beautiful in their own way. The mirrors, the altar, the talk given before the ceremony, the clothing, and the kiss can inspire.
Now imagine what the presence of those who cannot presently attend would add to the spirit of the wedding. The couple could feel the love of all those they love in that very room and not from the waiting room. Imagine the babies crying and the children laughing in the sealing room. It would be a celebration that families can be together forever.
I don’t blame my family for doing what good mormons are told to do. (get married in the temple) Rather I wish the Mormon Church Leadership could open their minds to this possiblity. I know this is wishful thinking but I think that Mormon Temple Weddings in the fashion I have proposed would have made my own extended family feel included in our lives.
As a youth, I felt power in everything about the Mormon Church, I possessed an “unwavering” faith in it and I wanted everyone to be Mormon.
When I arrived at the MTC, I wanted to obey every single one of those rules and have a mission which I would never regret.
My experience in the MTC was bueatiful to me at the time. I felt an enthusiasm for the work in which I would participate. We talked a lot about people’s needs. Our teachers taught us that every one was unique and that the gospel was a cure for their problems. I was excited to meet people and help them resolve their problems.
When I arrived at my mission, I remember learning that it was not what I had expected.
First, I saw that my companion and the leaders focused on numbers more than I thought they would. Numerical achievements were complemented and rewarded with position in the mission. When we didn’t achieve our numerical goals, we would get calls from our leaders to tell us that we were not working. In the pursuit of numbers, I felt that people’s needs were not the primordial concern. Addressing people’s needs was merely an ends to a mean. Some justified this saying that numbers were a representation of people but one of our leaders verbalized what we were really doing when he told us in a meeting “We are not looking for people, Elders. We are looking for numbers!”
The mechanical approach to missionary work squashed my enthusiasm.
Second, I learned that missionaries were not really concerned with the rules. Those who were got labeled “rulers” and became the laughing stock of the mission. I came wanting to obey but out of fear of being so labeled I allowed my companion to do whatever he wanted.
When I became Senior Companion, I chose to continue doing things contrary to mission rules. I learned that our mission had actaully formed a secret combination to disobey the rules and soon I considered them my “brothers.” “Loyalty” was the greatest virtue and “Betrayal” the greatest vice.
Of course, our Mission President found out about some of the things we were doing. He became aware of the combination’s existence and began a relentless Inquisition.
During the Inquisition, I began to realize that I couldn’t believe in the rules. I also recognized the source of these rules: the President of the Church. He had recieved them by revelation and if I tesified that he was a prophet, I needed to be following him.
I was torn. I believed in the prophet but I also couldn’t believe in the rules that we had. But I began to think about what it would be like if the President of the Church weren’t a prophet at all. I knew I was gay. I had known it since I was 14 years old. My gayness was intensified because I had a huge crush on my companion at that time. I thought that perhaps my life could be happier without the church.
When I had six months left, I wanted to leave my mission and my church. I realized that I could disbelieve the prophet. However, I always went back and forth about it in my own mind. In addition I didn’t have the courage to come home early from my mission.
Just before I left, I came full circle. In my last area, I couldn’t really be disobedient because of the missionaries that served in surrounding areas were “rulers” and the areas in that part of the mission were very small and close together. They would obviously hear if I did something disobedient and report it to the Mission President. So I worked hard, and I had many baptisms. I felt really good. I began thinking about what I would do when I came home from my mission. A life in the church sounded really good at the time. When I was on my airplane home, I realized that I had learned that the church was true as a missionary and I felt good.
When I got home, I realized that family prayers, sacrament meetings, scripture study, temple rituals, and sunday school lessons didn’t hold the same power in my life that they did before my mission. I realized that I could only modestly believe in the Church. My faith was by no means unwavering. I no longer cared whether someone was Mormon or not. I just wanted to appreciate them for who they were.
I can no longer be who I was before my mission. There are certain things that keep me in the church at the moment but I realize that I am on my way out.