Thursday, October 8, 2009

Arm Yourself

This was written by Adam and posted elsewhere {the context isn’t all that important}. I thought it was really great and wanted to share it here.

The bottom line is that I just don't think that Religion and Reality coincide. How many times have you thought to yourself, "Gee, I really wish God hadn't set things up so that they look like a hoax." I would read the Book of Mormon and say "I wish God hadn't included so many references to things we can't find any archaeological evidence of." "I wish God hadn't changed the Lamanites’ DNA so it looks like they migrated from Asia ten thousand years ago."

Eventually, those things add up. You keep coming across pieces of information that don't fit, and you say "I don't know what to do with this, but I know that what I have is true, so I won't worry about this new information." It's like doing a crossword puzzle. If you get a word wrong near the start, you start having to think harder and harder to force other words to fit in. Eventually, you get to a word that you know the answer to, but it doesn't fit with what you've got. In Mormonism, the approach is to discard the word, assuming that there is some synonym that you don't know. "We'll find more archaeological evidence later that shows that there really WAS ____(Horses, Barley, Steel, Armies of millions dying in one place)."

But at some point, the cognitive dissonance adds up. You have to re-evaluate your initial assumptions. You have to say "what if that first word I put in was incorrect?" I've had a few members tell me that they ask this question constantly, and keep finding the same answer. I would have said I did that too. I was wrong. I had questioned my faith, but I had never really ASKED and looked for all possible answers. So I went back to my crossword puzzle, and I said "What if that first word was really *this synonym* instead?" And you know what? Now all the words start fitting.

The reason archaeological evidence directly contradicts the Book of Mormon account? I used to say God is testing our faith, and the evidence that will support the Book of Mormon has yet to emerge. Now I say the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction. It fits better.

The reason BILLIONS of people worldwide have spiritual experiences that lead them in directions other than towards the church? I used to say they were being led towards small nuggets of truth that exist in other religions, or that they were being caught up in emotional fervor, and mistaking it for the spirit. Now I say that the same is true for members of the church. A Pentecostal feels the rapture coming and is CERTAIN that Christ will take her. A Terrorist straps a bomb to himself and is CERTAIN that Allah will accept him. A Mormon reads the Book of Mormon and is CERTAIN God is telling him it's true. Is there really a difference? Can you compare your experience to that of someone else and say that yours is stronger? That yours is truer? That they are being emotionally misled, but you are immune to that? The simpler explanation is that this is a common human trait. When we hear a story about unfairness, we feel angry. When we hear a romantic story we feel romantic. When we hear a spiritual story we feel spiritual. Paul H Dunn has shown us by example that the story need not be True to make people feel "the spirit" and be convinced.
After I decided that there were too many coincidences to ignore, too many stretched explanations to replace one beautifully simple one, many things started to click into place.

"Aha!" I said. "THAT's why the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew doesn't match the 3rd Nephi versions of the same sermon! Either Jesus gave the JST version in Jerusalem, then it got mistranslated to EXACTLY MATCH the DIFFERENT version he gave to the Nephites, (in which case, if it was good enough for the Nephites, why did it need to be fixed in the Bible?), or Jesus gave the Jerusalem version in both places (in which case the JST is incorrect), or Jesus gave the Nephite version in both places (in which case the BoM is incorrect). The simpler explanation? Joseph Smith didn't think of the JST until after he had written the BoM, and forgot to make them match.
And why do Egyptologists unanimously disagree with the Egyptian translations Joseph gave of the Papyri? Mysteries of the Kingdom? No. Joseph didn't speak Egyptian.

And there are dozens more: The Hoffman documents, The Kinderhook Plates, the sexual scandals (I was never taught about Joseph's other wives: he had 27, several of which were already married at the time. And yes, he consummated). There is just a TON of stuff that doesn't fit into "The Church is True" conclusion, so the church tells you to avoid it. “Don't read anti-Mormon propaganda, it is lies crafted to deceive you.”

“If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.” —Journal of Discourses, George A. Smith

"Convince us of our errors of Doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the Word of God and we will ever be grateful for the information and you will ever have the pleasing reflections that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings."
- Orson Pratt, The Seer, pp 15-16, (1853).

"Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground."

- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol 1, Page 188-189
If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed."

- J. Reuben Clark, D. Michael Quinn, J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983, p. 24.
"Each of us has to face the matter-either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing."

- Gordon B. Hinckley. "Loyalty," April Conference, 2003.

Have you taken Hinckley up on his challenge? I did. It's true: there is no middle ground. I don't hold a grudge against those who investigate and still believe - that is your prerogative, but I think that it is intellectually dishonest. I do however prompt people to do the investigating. You don't even have to look at anti-Mormon materials, just go to Wikipedia. All sources are cited, and almost all of the sources are from within the church. Check, look at Joseph's marriages. Look up some of Joseph's prophecies. Read about Brigham Young.

If knowledge is power, you need to arm yourself.