Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Faith in Fiction is a Damnable False Hope

As a recently returned missionary and Uber TBM, I was heavily involved in the LDS Institute of Religion as the chairman of one of the student run committees. My committee was called the Sacrament Meeting Committee or something like that. The group was designed to give LDSSA students the opportunity to speak in local congregations. My committee would provide a pre-packaged Mc-program filled with beautiful music and well rehearsed talks that we would regurgitate each week at different wards. This was back in the day when you could actually sing music NOT found in the Mormon Hymnal so the program was always well received and a welcome break from the traditional sacrament meeting fare.

During one particular sacrament meeting my group was surprised to find that General Authority H. Burke Peterson would also be on the stand with us. Wow, a General Authority would sit and witness our program... I’m sure that each student felt a special glow just knowing that we were in the presence of one of the Lord’s anointed, I know I was.

I was one of the main speakers. I remember my talk well even to this day, it was titled “Modern Day Evidences of the Book of Mormon”. During my talk I would give so-called fact after fact of recently discovered modern day proofs that supported the claims made in the Book of Mormon. I would go on and on with Central American archeological evidence and discussed all of the linguistic, plant and animal evidence that had recently been discovered that supported the claims made in the Book of Mormon.

I remember giving particular focus on horses and wheels. It was well known that critics of the church had used the lack of this evidence to destroy testimonies. But I boldly testified that only recently God had allowed new evidence of both horses and wheels in ancient America to be discovered and that this evidence supported the claims of the Book of Mormon.

After sharing all the evidence for the Book of Mormon with my audience I would then caution them... stating that a testimony can not be built on these evidences...but must be soundly built on foundation of faith and through a confirmation from the Holy Ghost as Moroni promised through the Spirit. But know that although a testimony of the Book of Mormon must be based on assured that the Lord is slowly revealing factual evidence to support its claims.

To be honest with you... My talked was well rehearsed and it rocked! I always had my audience eating out of the palm of my hand...they loved this shit.

Following my talk, H. Burke Peterson sought me out and placed his arm around my shoulder. He looked me in the eye and complimented me on my talk. He commented that the spirit was so strong during my talk. He thanked me and encouraged me to continue on my path in righteousness...that I was on the pathway to great things inside the church and that the Lord had a great work for me to do. (reading between the lines, I arrogantly interpreted his statement as prophetic, that I was on the road to high church callings in my future...perhaps even becoming a Bishop, SP or even GA someday...every Mormon boy’s dream).

Now the irony. It was all a lode of crap. I was merely regurgitating the shit that I had been fed... there was no archeological, linguistic, plant, animal, horse, wheel or any other modern day evidence that supported the Book of Mormon. In fact there were volumes of evidence that discredited the Book of Mormon’s claims...but I had failed to mention any of those... H. Burke Peterson knew it and allowed me to spew forth that drivel and said nothing... The reason the spirit was so strong when I gave that talk was because I was giving the people what they wanted... its called confirmation bias... they wanted PROOF that the shit was TRUE...but the sad reality is that I was feeding them the same bull shit that I had been fed... Oh the Irony...that I had in fact built my testimony on the assumption that the claims made by the church were supported by some evidence.... In the end.... faith and a spiritual witness were NOT enough to support my beliefs in Mormonism when I discovered that there was no foundational proof to support Mormonism's claims...

Thomas Edison said it best when he said..."For faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction - faith in fiction is a damnable false hope."

For those of you who want to read what Mormons of today use as this link...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Mormon Art of "Spin"

Somewhere between the truth and a lie, there is "spin." We hear about politicians spinning bad news in their favor. We see journalists and pundits spin news stories to reflect a certain point of view. It’s commonplace and we’ve come to expect it from these people. But what most of us, who have discovered the truth behind Mormonism just weren’t prepared for, was discovering that the Mormon Church is also a master at spinning the truth..

Church Authorities have taken church history, filtered it through their biases, and taught this new and improved church history not as it actually happened but rather how they wish it had happened. The rationale behind this “Wishful History” was that the raw truth just wasn’t faith promoting enough.

The church has sold its soul on this conclusion; that it isn’t really lying… it’s just putting it’s bias, it’s spin on how these historical events should have happened… and besides that, would anybody really want to join the church if the church were honest and told the raw truth? After all the church does make bad men good and good men better right? So don't these end results justify the spinning of the truth? So what's wrong with that?

Here’s what’s wrong. The Mormon Church hold’s itself up as “The” one true church on the face of the earth…the only church that God is pleased with…the only means by which we humans can return to live with God. The Church claims to be the moral authority for the entire earth. One of the most difficult aspects of my discovery of the unspun history of the church was having to conclude that my moral ethical church, was immoral and unethical. It was the realization that the church placed a greater value on control, manipulation and self preservation than on being honest and truthful.

The ends DO NOT justify this unethical communication with its membership…and it is because of this reality that I have concluded that the Mormon Church is morally bankrupt despite it claims to the contrary.

At one time in my life I would have given my life for this church.

The Mormon church taught me that I should be truthful and honest in all my dealings with my fellow man. Yet the Spinning done by the church, is like any other kind of dishonesty, it is wrong. It makes good old fashioned lying sound clever and trendy and it sends a mixed message to the enlightened member that lying is ok…when it is done for the Lord.

By accepting this ethical gray areas as "normal" the Mormon church is talking out of both sides of its mouth. Honesty is always the best policy. When a Church member is taught a lesson at church they have the reasonalbe expectation that they are being taught the truth and not spin.

An orderly society needs to operate on the premise of truth and honesty. Without some standard of truth, people will tend to satisfy their own interests, desires, and feelings. Who wants to live in a world where everyone sets their own behavioral standards? Yet this is exactly the world of Mormonism.Each of us have a universal expectation that people tell the truth.

Fortunately, we don't have to worry about getting ripped off every time we buy something. We can generally trust that when we shake hands on a deal, the other person is being straightforward with us. Of course, wisdom and good judgment still mandate a healthy amount of caution, but you can go through life with a fair amount of trust in your fellow man. But by Spinning its history the Mormon church has thrown its moral authority out the window.

By accepting that a little spin is justified, the Mormon Church has sacrificed it’s precariously balanced moral trust and thrown it out of whack. The urge to spin the truth has worked its way very subtly into the very fabric of Mormonism. The truth is no longer valued…it’s value is now placed in its new and improved faith promoting stories…that are loosly based on the truth or complete fabrications of how they wish things would have happened. It started with Joseph Smith when he stretched the facts or just plain out and out lied about his experiences. He was quick to rationalize and weasel out of jams with his spinning and lies. He became a master at shifting responsibility or leaving out undesirable facts. Before we knew it, spin became a regular part of Mormonisms communication practice with others.

Ethical communication is not only about what IS said, but what is NOT said. Rule #1 in spinning is to only tell people what they need to know. The LDS Church is a master at this. Some very important parts of the truth always seem to get conveniently left out when telling their foundational stories. Withholding information has become so easy to do without guilt or effort because all it requires them to do is to do nothing. No fibbing, no stories, no sweat, just a closed lip and the hope that no one reads between the lines. But make no mistake, lies by omission are still lies and are still wrong. The church fell to the temptation and left out undesirable details that would hinder the conversion of some prospective investigator. They feel their spin and lies are justified.

The moral of this story: Let the words that come out of our mouths be honest and devoid of spin. There should be no higher compliment than to have other people say that they can, "count on you for the truth." You will be believable, trusted, and respected. Ethical communication is an obligation. People expect it from you. In the world of Mormonism, where the spin-doctors operate, keep ourselves in good ethical health. Now that IS a lesson we can learn from our Mormon Experience

I incorporated ideas from and based this post on an original article written by Mark S. Putnam , Ethical Communications: Spinning the Truth.