Saturday, February 26, 2011

Go to God...And then go looking for WMDs.

Well, I know it's been a while, but I thought I'd be back to say hullo. It's been a crazy week with a stolen bike here and a broken car window there, and some general frustration with the world. But anything I wanted to write about regarding my petty problems has once again been overshadowed by something I saw at MollyMuses. From her post:

"The following was forwarded to me by a friend. A Facebook comment made today by Natalie Hess, a Provo-based real estate agent, read:

This is going to be bold, so be prepared. I’m so sick of hearing about lds people who are watching & reading anti-lds propaganda & then actually believing it as 100% truth. Seriously use your brains people! Don’t believe everything u watch/read. Consider the source, usually it’s begrudged people coming up w/ this crap!

Richard Dutcher, yes the Richard Dutcher who made “God’s Army” and “Brigham City”, replied:

And this is going to be unpopular. So be prepared.

You have a point, Natalie. But, as one who has studied and researched more Mormon history and doctrine than anyone I know (other than some scholars and published writer friends of mine), there is another side to that coin.

There are so very many church members who are familiar with only material published by the church/Deseret Book. And then they come into contact with something controversial from an outside source (not all outside sources are “anti-Mormon” by the way) and turn to Deseret Book or the church for an explanation and…guess what? There’s little to nothing.

And so they research a little more and find out not only that what some of these outside sources are saying is true, but that the church deliberately hid and/or lied about the information. And then they’re really confused. They’ve trusted in the church, they’ve sacrificed for the church, they’ve LIVED for the church, and then they find out that the church has lied to them, repeatedly.

It can be quite a faith shaker. In many cases, a faith destroyer.

Yes, there are anti-Mormons who lie and cheat (using partial information) and do anything they can to fight against Mormonism. But there are very many historians and scholars with no axe to grind who simply put forth material that is contrary to the church’s official story.

Some of us can manage to live with the cognitive dissonance of holding two contrary realities as somehow both true. Some of us can’t.

Be patient with those who are struggling with information that is shaking their faith. They’ll need your support. It is a hellacious ride which will most likely end in a very painful collision with reality.

It is also a painfully confusing experience to realize that the church you love and have sacrificed for is withholding information from you, while your “enemy” is telling you the truth. So very painful and confusing."

As always, I'm skeptical as to whether or not it was actually the Richard Dutcher sitting in front of the computer screen, typing away on Facebook, but I find that this makes for interesting conversation all the same. While I have great appreciation for Mr. Dutcher's courage in being so blunt and honest, the ensuing conversation was what caught my undivided attention.

A favorite highlight was the feigned surprise at 'ol Joey Smith being imperfect (an attitude that still manages to insinuate that he ultimately was) and Dutcher's clever reply of "I think if Thomas Monson sends you off on a trip and then humps your wife while you're gone you'll feel somewhat differently." (also, some poor bastard named Devin advises we "get on [our] knees and ask for it." hah!)

Humor aside, what I loathe is the attitudes and the generic "solutions". Generic is not a strong enough word. Here are the problems these people believe they are addressing:

1. People are looking at anti-mormon literature and believing it, which is stupid of them because ALL anti-mormon literature is the inflated fiction of disgruntled ex-mormons

2. People are looking for reasons to cease believing because walking away from something you've known, trusted and sacrificed for your whole life, while facing social rejection is waaaay easier than being mormon.

3. People have doubts and, being mindless sheep, have NO idea how to deal with them.

What multiple commenters advised we doubting Thomases do is go to God. As one who has "gone to God" on numerous occasions and come back with only an empty stomach and a feeling that I spent an hour in prayer, banging my head piously against the East wall, I feel like these people owe me something a little more substantial.

From a psychological perspective, here's what'll happen when you "Go to God" without being a truly objective judge: you'll get a "feeling" in favor of the church being true, because ignoring or rejecting what has more evidence but happened a long time ago is a more powerful catharsis (yeah, I'm going Freudian on your asses) than leaving the beliefs you've been socially punished for doubting, immeasurably reinforced for believing, and looking at the people closest to you and saying "I don't think I agree with your core lifestyle and beliefs anymore." Here's what I meant by that run-on: as a species, we're terrified of change. Our present status is what we know; it is cushy and comfortable to us. We adjust to the changes that are thrown at us, but to consciously invite change, specifically change that leads to unknown consequences and the possible loss of social trusts, is not something we do very naturally. More natural is to look at a conflict, like "My patriarchal blessing seems a little generic" and simply reject it. That burning you're getting in your bosom for rejecting the aforementioned statement is really your mind saying "yes, this is comfortable and safe, this does not invite change or any form of rejection from my peers. They will probably applaud me for coming to this conclusion. I like applause."

The fact is, when the leaders of the LDS church say "ask God and find out for yourselves" what I really hear is "ponder it and come to the right conclusion-*nudge*nudge*wink*wink* You know, the one we're spoon feeding you."

My response to all of this genericness is one generic word: Think. Think for yourselves, choose what is strong and sensible, not what feels fuzzy and soft, because if some one goes breaking into my proverbial house I'd rather have a Rottweiler than a Pomeranian. In other words, if I should explain why I believe the way I do, I want a solid argument that will mow an unwelcome invader into the ground. The truth is what it is, not what you feel it to be.

To close, our friend Devin also had this to say: "Isn't it great that testimonies aren't based in fact finding or knowing the exact truthful history of what actually happened?" No, Devin. That is terrifying. Basing everything that you are, everything you believe, everything you live, on something for which you haven't found facts is dangerous. People who live this way have been known to go looking for WMDs in Iraq.


  1. I partially.. more than half... agree with you. The one thing I disagree with is the praying thing. Sure, some people tell you to pray and find for yourself while giving you that wink and nudge, but others (like myself I hope) do it with the intention of letting people know that there is independence in the LDS religion. You don't just follow blindly, you put things into your own hands. I really believe that some people get the answer that the LDS religion is not right for them, or that they should re-visit in a few years. Just because someone prays for something doesn't mean they'll get the "right" answer... it doesn't even guarantee they'll get an answer at all. I think many LDS people are less independent than they could and should be. They assume that they'll pray and get God's answer (which, by the way, would be freaking sweet if that were the case), but that's just not what happens. God wants people to be self-reliant. He gave us a brain with the hope that we'd use it. No wonder people get bitter when they think God is ignoring them and leave the religion. Self reliance people. It's a good thing. Get some. Anyway, long babbling story short, Praying is a good thing. People just need to take responsibility and self-reliance in hand along with their prayers.
    I miss you something fierce girly!!!!! I miss our chats. And your face!

  2. I loved what you said concerning testimonies not being built on facts. While I think there is definitely something to be said for certain aspects of life beyond the facts, there is something terribly wrong when the facts that do exist are completely contrary to what you're being taught in church every Sunday. My feeling is that if there a good and loving God out there somewhere, the facts should lead you closer to him/her/it, not farther away, which seems to be the case for many. If God is really that deceiving, then there's no way in hell I'm wasting my life trying to make sense of all that dissonance...

  3. Erica,
    The idea that people can pray about the church and get the answer that it isn't right for them is not one that's common in the church, despite it being (in my opinion) a reality of any religion. My honest question though, is if the church claims to be the only true church upon the earth, through whose ordinances we can receive the Celestial kingdom, how is it still the true church when genuine, open-hearted and objective people get the answer that it is wrong for them? Why are they steered away from what preaches to be the fullness of the gospel when it's right in front of them? I'm really not meaning to sound antagonistic, this is just part of what happened with me and I couldn't reconcile that conflict of ideas.