Posted by: nflanders | April 28, 2006

Guest Post by Enochville

I’d like everyone to offer a kind welcome to Enochville, who has graciously allowed me to post his story here. I think this makes an interesting companion piece to Ann’s guest post earlier in the week.

Without further ado, here is Enochville’s post:

Leaving the Church was a lot to give up, but I am pretty much at peace with that now. The only thing that is making things hard now is the way my wife’s family and my family are dealing with it. The greatest consolation is that my wife is leaning towards the same conclusions about the Church that I have come to. It is just taking her a little longer to give up the desperate hope that her old beliefs might still be true. It is one of those things that one has to study out for one’s self, and I had about a six month head start on her. She knows where her research will lead her; it is just a matter of emotionally preparing to accept it.

What caused me to come to the conclusion that the Church never was true had nothing to do with my inability to become ok with something Joseph did. I had the capacity to become ok with Joseph using his magic peep stone in the translation of the Book of Mormon, his hiding his plural marriages from Emma, and a host of other things. It was not an inability to match the scriptural record with any hard archaeological evidence. I found ways to perform mental gymnastics around no DNA evidence for a common ancestor for all humans that lived 6,000 years ago, or no DNA evidence that any native inhabitant of North or South America descended from the Hebrews, no evidence of pre-Columbian horses, elephants, or barley, etc. I could look past or around a ton of things and found the uncertainty or ambiguity in the arguments against the church so that I still had enough room for faith, however unlikely my explanations had to be.

But, I eventually came across evidence so strong, so indisputable, that it left no room for doubt/faith. I read all the pro-LDS explanations from Hugh Nibley to John Gee and none of them worked because they each ignored parts of the evidence that made their theories untenable. I emailed informed apologists to try to discuss these things, but the case is too strong. I combed it through, checking and rechecking, examining every assumption that might be flawed, trying to get my hands on every source material that I could. Eventually, I had to come to the conclusion that Joseph Smith was not a prophet, seer, or revelator.

I went back and re-examined all the evidence I thought I had that the Church was true. I found that I could no longer rely on the what I used to call the Spirit as a reliable source of truth, and all the supporting evidence of multiple witnesses of heavenly manifestations, the reintroduction of “lost truths” held in the primitive church, the “miracles of the Priesthood”, the archaeological findings that supposedly support the Book of Mormon or other scripture had easy non-supernatural explanations.

Once I knew that I could no longer believe I talked with my wife about it and when she knew that she could never believe again either we discussed what we should do now. We considered faking it, acting like we believed and going on like nothing happened. But, I could not do that. I had to act with integrity. I could not knowingly mislead my friends and children. We considered just being released from our callings and being the “foyer members”. But, that is too uncomfortable, because everyone suspects that you have sinned and keep trying to encourage you into greater activity. So, I decided that I would talk to the Bishop, turn in my recommend, and leave the church altogether.

The Saturday following conference, we talked with my mother-in-law about it. She wanted me to fast and pray, so I did, but by that point I had no faith in the Spirit. She did not understand that I had already been through all that and that I can still feel “the Spirit” just fine, but recognize the “burning in my bosom” as the psychological emotion of elevation, which is no more a reliable source of truth than any other emotion, such as confidence in your answer to a quiz question that you later find out is incorrect, or the sensation of your dreams being real.

I miss the sense of community in the church, the moral values that are reinforced in the Primary and Youth programs, the emphasis on service, and the feeling of elevation. And though I do not believe in God anymore (which would require a separate explanation), I am learning how to create the feelings of elevation and reverence and awe without a belief in the supernatural. I spend my Sundays now creating family home evening lessons for my future children that reflect my new beliefs and my new foundation for morals. I am in a sense creating an Atheist church, of which there are a few already in existence, but I am dissatisfied with them and they are far from here.

I purposely have not shared with you my evidence. I respect the right of Mormons to believe as they wish. Leaving the church ruins a lot, and most would rather stay content with what they have, and I can’t say that I could blame them. I began this quest so that I could be a great apologist and help struggling members resolve their concerns. I had been good at that on my mission and when I taught in the MTC. I thought the church could stand up to any criticism, or at least that the anti’s could never disprove the church was true so I would inspire faith in that opening. The church does not have a banned book list like the Catholics so I felt free to read anything so that I could point out the flaws in their arguments. I never dreamed in a million years that it would be the anti’s who were right all along.

Anyway, I am doing fine and will be better when my family finally accepts that I am no longer a part of the Church. I am so glad I have my wife. Strangely, she means even more to me now than ever before.

— enochville

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Responses

  1. The trasitioning is hard, from active member to nonmember…(my belief in the church ended on my wedding day in the temple, oddly enough)…it’s been 15 years and I’m still in a state of finding out my place.

    It is one of those things that one has to study out for one’s self…

    I totally agree. I was really scared to tell my husband of my disbelief and just faked it for years. He was seminary president and we were married in the temple, so I thought he’d be alarmed. When I couldn’t continue pretending anymore, I found he felt the same way, but wanted me to figure things out for myself and didn’t want his feelings to influence me! What a gift, that we are on the same page with regard to the church but how sad that we have been playing along for so many years. How many members “play along” in order to keep the status quo?

    Interesting post, Enochville. Leaving is challenging, especially with children and extended family members thrown into the mix.

  2. Enochville,
    I hope that you get the support you need and come through this trying time in one piece. I must say though that, sight unseen, I have a hard time believing in the “Magic Bullet” of your evidence. Mostly this is because I don’t believe in magic bullets. Good luck in your journey.

  3. Please be patient with your family. Try to see from their perspective how it comes across when you completely throw away something that up till now has been the foundation of your life, and then you refuse to give them the reasons.

    As hard as the transition is for those of us who leave, I think it is a lot harder on the believing family that stays behind. I got to choose to make this change and do it when I was ready, but they were blindsided. While I feel more peace personally, more love for my family and a sense of more connectedness to the human family, my LDS family is feeling like I have rejected the gift they tried to give me, and they’re feeling fear that we might be eternally separated from each other. Both they and I get the cold shoulders and condescending looks that certain ward members give questionable/questioning types, but I only see ward members occasionally at the grocery store while they have to spend 3+ hours in close contact with them every week. They got the worse end of this deal, and I think it’s my responsibility to make it as easy on them as I can.

    Jonathan Haidt’s work has been helpful for me, too, in processing my experience.

    On elevation: http://tinyurl.com/7gmlb

    On moral judgment: http://tinyurl.com/hnoxz

  4. beijing:

    I haven’t much time, but I do want to clear up one misunderstanding: I have not “refused to give [my family] the reasons”. They decline to hear them and then assume I must be deluded. But, I do understand that it is very difficult for them.

    hp:

    Don’t pass judgment that there is no “silver bullet” until you have at least seen the evidence. I am willing to share my evidence through email, but I will not force it upon anyone who does not want to take the risk of discovering that they are convinced by it. I have not forced it upon my family and I won’t post it in an open forum.

  5. I am intrigued(?) to see this evidence. Not to debate or defend as that would be tacky at this point. My blogger profile has my email address on it if you would be so kind to send a copy my way if you have it set up.

    Thank you.

  6. Best wishes to your wife as well, Enochville. She is going to be under intense pressure from her family and probably (though it’s unintentional) you. Make sure you let her know that you’ll love her no matter what conclusion she comes to about the veracity of the Church’s claims.

    Regarding HP’s comment, I don’t think there is one “Magic Bullet” that will cause everyone to lose faith in the Church. There are tons of very difficult issues in the church: racism, sexism, Joseph’s polygamy, post-Manifesto polygamy, Book of Abraham, blood atonement, Adam-God, and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Any of these can be a deal-breaker for one person, and another member will just shrug them off.

  7. I’m assuming that this is Book of Abraham stuff since that didn’t seem to get mentioned in your list of stuff that you could accept.

    In any case this, “Secret, irrefutable evidence” this is a little grating. I’m not trying to be rude or combative though I’m sure I’m coming across that way.

  8. Gunner, Enochville has shared with me what the “magic bullet” was that destroyed his faith. It is one of the issues that I listed in my previous comment.

    I just want to reassure the reader that Enochville isn’t hiding some exotic evidence. Anyone with access to Google can find it.

  9. I’m sorry. I read too quickly. When I saw the part about purposely not sharing the evidence, I thought you were including your family in that. Now I see you were just referring to us strangers on the internet. 🙂

    But still, if you’re offering to share your reasons with your family the way you’re offering to share them with hp, with the dramatic warnings of “if you take one look at this, there’s a huge risk you will lose your testimony and never get it back”…well, of course your family doesn’t want to see it. That’s scary for them. Fear and love can’t occupy the same place at the same time.

    Instead of scaring them by alluding to your scary testimony-destroying evidence, just show love to them. Tell them how grateful you are for the good things they taught you. Focus on how much you still have in common with them. Let them know that you’re still on their side of the battlefield of good vs evil, even though you’re not in the same battalion anymore. When I take this approach, my family responds by being marvelously accepting. But when I get snippy and claim superior knowledge, they respond in kind. It is human nature.

    I’d like to see this supposed silver bullet evidence when you get a chance. Since I’m already out, it shouldn’t hurt me a bit! You can send me a private message via the New Order Mormon board. (Click on my name above for the board, then click on the padlock above any of my posts there for the private message form.)

  10. “Magic bullet” was hp’s term not mine. I am just encouraging people to not pass judgment on things they have not examined. What I meant by “silver bullet” in my response to hp was that for me it was conclusive and all alternative ways to view it could not fit the data, IMHO.

    a random John: The evidence is not “secret”. I have already emailed info to Gunner and beijing.

    Thanks, wendy, ned and beijing. Ned, do you know why I can’t see this post in Isles of the Sea at Mormon Archipelago?

  11. I both agree and disagree with Enochville. While I think his evidence (can we just come out and say what it is yet?) is compelling, I’m sure that HP and Random John are already aware of the issue, and have made their peace with it.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with people coming to different conclusions as long as we are all looking for the truth.

    Enochville– A Mormon Archipelago administrator emailed me to tell me that they’ve pulled VivaNedFlanders’ feed off the site until your post no longer appears on the front page. I have my own thoughts about this… but I’ll let you guess what they are.

  12. OK, it is about the Book of Abraham and Joseph’s Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar.

    The problem with giving the general topic without the actual evidence is that people often think that they know all about it when they have only been exposed to a small portion. I know that was the case with me. I had read every apologetic work on the topic and it had given me a false sense that I understood the controversy. I choose one of the apologists explanations and that worked fine with the little I knew.

    The best and strongest case against the Book of Abraham that I have found is “By his own hand, upon papyrus” by Charles Larson. I think that if one is unfamiliar with that, there is a good chance that one is not familiar with what I consider to be the conclusive evidence.

  13. Interesting post, E. If you are really “pretty much at peace with that now,” you’re doing better than most who take the long walk. I suppose it helps immensely that you and your spouse are in tandem on this — if you’re going to jump off a cliff, it’s nice to have someone’s hand to hold on the way down.

    I don’t mean that in pejorative way. A change in one’s life direction of this magnitude really is like jumping off a cliff, especially for someone who was a lifelong Mormon, as opposed to a convert who at least had a life before Mormonism that might be the basis for rebuilding a new approach to one’s life.

    Best of luck in finding a new source of community, value, and service for you and the family. Where does one start … the yellow pages? Google? The ‘ole leaf through the Bible and point to a verse trick?

  14. Dave: Yes, it is nice to have my wife with me. I have started by trying to anchor myself first by figuring out what to base my life and morals on now. And, yes, Google has been my friend. I have looked into humanism, but it is not quite the right fit. But, there are many atheist resources that talk about guiding philosophies.

  15. You’re still on the MA site, Ned. I don’t know if you’re still feeding, but you’re still linked.

  16. interesting. best wishes to enochville from a similarly situated on-the-way-out mormon.

    my experience with the book of abraham etc is that most relatively sophisticated Mormons are fully aware that it’s BS and are just fine with it.

  17. BB: Help me to understand that. How can one know it is BS and be fine with it?

  18. BB: Help me to understand that. How can one know it is BS and be fine with it?

    Well, go to the travelling King Tut exhibit. Listen to them lecture on the Egyptian mystery religion or endowment. Look at the Gods with their postures, handshakes and passages. Very similar to the Chinese endowment.

    There is obviously something going on there. Once you edit out the grimoire part of the book of breathings, you have a memory text similar to the masonic ones used to remember the rituals and steps.

    Leads one to think, just what would you extract from what was going on and what roots you would find.

    Which leads people back to comfort, God having transmitted knowledge to us through the tools at hand.

  19. Stephen: Yeah, that doesn’t do much for me because I have other ideas about where Joseph got the idea for mystical rituals from that doesn’t have anything to do with the supernatural. But, thank you for offering that. I find it fascinating that people could know its fully BS and be fine with it. Although, your explanation seemed to suggest that it is only half-BS.

  20. BS in the sense that it’s not what it (literally) purports to be, no different from the Book of Mormon or the Old Testament in that regard.

  21. E, it sounds like you ought to go check out your local UU (Unitarian Universalist, or maybe Universalist Unitarian) congregation. They’re the church for people who don’t really believe anything but still want to go to church. Bright people, love to talk, smart ministers (who give clever sermons), not much baggage.

    You visit, the first conversation some casually dressed older fellow (their greeter maybe?) will say hello, get you a nametag, ask where you came from, and depending on your denominational reference X, they’ll say, “You should talk to George over there, who used to be X; or maybe the Johnson family.”

  22. dave: Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll check it out.

  23. I enjoyed your post, Enochville. Congratulations on your cool attitude towards the whole affair.

    Personally, I did not even know about the Abraham problem until I found out about the September Six. The latter led me to conclude that our religious leaders are reenacting Galileo Galilei in our life time.

    I did not want to remain complicit by contributing time and money and giving testimony.

    I found the Book of Abraham a reassuring piece of evidence though.

    Anyways, since I am looking at Church leaders as self-interested actors, it has become so much easier to make sense of my Mormon experience. I found my mission to be a heart rending experience trivializing the sacred with salesmanship.

    Now that I look at the LDS Church as just another human organization, I can finally make sense of it and move on with my life.

  24. Stephen: You might be interested in this article: http://www.webcom.com/gnosis/jskabb2.htm

    Hellmut: Thank you so much for your kind words. I was hoping to find you again. I remember dialoguing with you when I was still a true believer on some of the lds blogs. I am glad that you know that I found my way out.

  25. I have other ideas about where Joseph got the idea for mystical rituals from that doesn’t have anything to do with the supernatural.

    What is fun is that the resident gnostic, Harold Bloom, feels that just about everyone who will, can tap into a deep spiritual vien that pours out the same forms. Doesn’t make him inclined to join the LDS or Swaggert or any of the others he writes about and finds entertaining.

    Takes one full circle to the question “what is truth.”

    Interesting stuff.

  26. If you feel like chatting sometimes, Enochville, then shoot me an e-mail, please.

  27. Enochville, thanks for sharing.

    Can you tell me if your decision was in any way influenced by the unkind behavior of others?

    Because I’ve thought if I ever leave the church, it will be because someone has hurt me so deeply that I can’t forgive. Someone in authority.

  28. And this is another thing I think:

    If the church is true and you decided in good conscience to cease activity, in the next life God will say, “it was true.” And you will say, “oh, okay.” and God will say, “come on in.”

    Unless you murder a child or something.

    Also, if the church isn’t true and you get there, God will say come on in.

    I mean, I don’t hold with those who say Mormonism isn’t true and those of us who believe are damned any more than I do with those who say that Mormonism is true and those who don’t believe THAT are damned. We all need to clean up our own backyard.

    That’s my opinion. That those of us who choose the church are none the worse for wear whether or not it’s true. I think it all has to do with motives and God’s going to fix it all. I do. And this life is just a blip on the radar of our existence.

  29. annegb: No one offended me. It is really quite odd. I was happily active serving as a counselor in the Bishopric one month, then completely gone in the next solely due to my realization (in my opinion) that Joseph never was a Prophet, seer, or revelator, and that none of the scriptures he brought forth were inspired by anything supernatural.

  30. I’ve never taken myself or my own opinions seriously enough to think that I could ever single-handedly discredit or validate the truthfulness of my religion. The whole internal debate you describe never seemed that appealing or useful to me.

    But I guess if you aren’t finding what you need here, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Best of luck.

    Seth R.

  31. I have not visited this site very often. It sounds like a lot of the regular visitors here feel like Ned. Out of curiosity, what do you think of those of us who have studied most if not all of the “troubling” aspects of LDS Church history, and still believe. Do you ever wonder how we do it? How we could really wrestle with these facts and still believe in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, etc? I am being as honest and sincere with myself as I can be, and yet I believe. I do not believe it is solely out of some psychological need for God. After all, I am more interested in truth, I could find another way to deal with the need just as non-believers do.

    Yet, I do believe. I am very close to having a PhD in Clinical Psychology. I am familiar with studies that have been conducted looking into the biological substrate of what some interpret as spiritual feelings. Yet, knowing all of this, I still believe. I am sure each of your answers may differ, but why do you think Mormons like me believe despite all that we have become familiar with?

    Now an atheist.

  32. Ned writes of Unitarians:

    “They’re the church for people who don’t really believe anything but still want to go to church.”

    I’m laughing – that is an awesome description of UUs, and I’ll have to pass along to my UU friends.

    (Based on my understanding of UUs, it’s not an entirely accurate decription, but it’s damn funny).

    (Btw, my own understanding of UUism in a nutshell — you can and should believe anything that helps you in your own spiritual journey. If you want to believe in Joseph Smith and Jesus, and that helps in your spirituality, then go ahead; if you prefer Zen, do that instead. So yeah, it may fit Enochville’s needs, or perhaps not. In any case, good luck.)

  33. Nice research, anonymous! Amazing how one can change, huh? Yeah, I only thought that I had read all that those who did not believe had read. I thought I knew about the Book of Abraham controversy. It wasn’t until aI had read, “By his own hand, upon papyrus”, that I saw the strength of the position against Joseph Smith. I used to use apologist explanations that don’t work.

  34. As for the origins of the endowment it seems clear enough that there are multiple sources, with the Masonic angle being a pretty obvious one. That said, as an exercise I once wrote down a list of the building blocks of the temple ceremonies and then went through the first six chapters of the Book of Mosiah. This happens to be my favorite part of the Book of Mormon. In any case, I was able to find almost all the building blocks of LDS temple worship in the preparations for King Benjamin’s speech, the speech itself, and the audience participation.

    Now a few things could have happened here. One is that Joseph is legit and there are aspects of temple worship in the BoM that he had no clue about when translating the work. Two, Joseph was an evil genius and planned this all from the start. Three, Jospeh (or his successors) shaped the initiatory ceremonies and the endowment to have elements from this passage of scripture after the fact. I’m probably missing some but I would guess that most people reading this fall into one of those camps.

  35. a random John: Or perhaps, King Benjamin’s conference was a lot like a religious revival in preparation and audience participation and the temple endowment is a lot like free masonry, kabbala, the magical world view and other hermetic traditions of which Joseph was variously exposed to throughout his life. Perhaps any similarities between King Benjamin’s conference and the temple are incidental.

  36. Perhaps any similarities between King Benjamin’s conference and the temple are incidental.

    You probably owe it to yourself at this point to check that one out for yourself. I agree that there is room to see what you want in such an exercise, but I think that the above conclusion (which you neither cliam nor disavow) seems like an unlikely one.

    The first one seems unlikely as well as any temple elements in the BoM would probably not come from free masonry or kabala if Joseph wrote it himself at that point in his life. Besides the book is railing against masonry in general.

  37. E,
    I haven’t ever sat down for a serious study of By His Own Hand- I just read through it for a couple hours in a bookstore a few years ago. It certainly did make me think- and also made me conclude that none of the apologists really have that good an answer to many of the claims.

    That said-
    I also never had it seriously shake my beliefs either. I suppose there are a lot of reasons for this, but I guess each person’s belief in their conversion and how they know- and the “spiritual” experiences of their past are interpreted differently. I do understand how someone would feel that the spirit is simply “the effect of a frenzied mind” and I don’t really fault anyone for feeling that way. It’s just that I, personally, can’t.

    However- I have often thought that if Joseph Smith was a fraud (either delusional, or intentional and calculated) he was good at it. I think that had I studdied communications as a field then I would certainly look at innoculation theory within religious frameworks- and the story of Korihor would be the subject of at least 1 paper.

  38. mike – Thanks for your comments. For me my spiritual witnesses were pitted against the physical evidence and my rational mind. Both seemed solid and sure, so it became a question of epistemology. And for me an emotion can’t win out over such a throughly researched and questioned thought process over physical evidence.

    You see one can question a rational and logical analysis (one can be a skeptic) and logic and reason can provide a rebuttal which can be examined. But, if one questions an emotion skeptically, there is nothing to push back.

    And all other rational arguments with supporting physical evidence in support of the Church have equally plausible explanations that don’t need the church to be true to work. So, they don’t provide an effective rebuttal either.

    So, I was left to conclude that I had interpretted my feelings incorrectly when I thought they told me things were true, but clearly are not.

    (I like this post, I think I’ll use it again in future conversations. Thanks for bringing it out of me.)

  39. “I found ways to perform mental gymnastics around no DNA evidence for a common ancestor for all humans that lived 6,000 years ago”

    While I warned eunuchville some time back about where his orthodoxy was leading, am sad for him. Orthodoxy always leads to apostasy. Here I am, a free thinking “pagan” who writes off the BKPs, JFSIIs and BRMs who preach carp like that quote as false prophets, and yet I remain believing and active in the church. JS playing around with mummies and papyrus isn’t consequential to my faith.

    And regarding Nibley, the guy was big fake, a naked emperor and a half. So what? Nibley’s silly and flawed arguments are hardly a reason to lose faith.

  40. steve em: Yes, I am sure there are many who could say to me, “I told you so”.

    I am happy for you that you are getting what you want out of your brand of LDS belief. But, that is not satisfying to me.

  41. Old joke: What do you get when you cross a Mormon and a UU? Someone who goes door to door for no apparent reason.

  42. E,

    A few things of note.
    First, I think that part of what caused me to not be too shaken was that I already was less orthodox (yet still believing) than many members.
    I certainly believe Joseph Smith to have been a prophet- but what that means to me is probably different than what it does to many other faithful members.

    Second,
    I do think that when weighing evidence vs feelings that it makes sense to view evidence as superior to simple emotional responses. If you feel that your only spiritual confirmations were some feelings than I understand your belief that you shouldn’t trust those feelings. I suppose that for me I have things that I can’t really explain away. Many of those things weren’t given for signs- but they serve as signs to me now.
    That leaves me with conflicting evidence. I don’t really buy many of the apologetic explanations- but I also don’t think the case opposing is water tight. I further think that it could be and it wouldn’t really negate the evidences in favor. So at that point I’m left not with the feeling “well crap, it’s all been proven false” but more of a “I’ve looked at this again- this portion may very well be not at all like what I believed- but other evidence that is just as compelling tells me that other parts are exactly as I believe. How do I reconcile this portion being different?”

    That goes back pretty easily to my not having entirely orthodox views- or more than anything just not believing the orthodox views are the only option and being open to heterodox views.

  43. mike said “If you feel that your only spiritual confirmations were some feelings than I understand your belief that you shouldn’t trust those feelings.”

    Well, I have had a lot more than feelings. I’ve had answered prayers, flashes of insight, given blessings where my words meant something to the person I was not aware of, had what I thought of as miracles, felt the presence of deceased relatives, and when I was very young, had something like a vision. Maybe more types of experiences than that which I am currently unable to remember, but all of those things can be explained without supernatural means.

    I think our real point of difference is that your belief in the church isn’t orthodox. Now, I don’t know how you construe things, but if I can’t take the founder of the Church at his word even when he is supposed to be most in tune with the Spirit by writing scripture, the word of the Lord, the ultimate Truth, then I see no reason to believe anything in the church that is not also found outside the church.

  44. Kaimi, it was Dave who called the Unitarians “the church for people who don’t really believe anything but still want to go to church.”

    I don’t remember Ned ever talking about the Unitarians, but it was Homer who said about them, “if that’s the one true faith, I’ll eat my hat.”

  45. Whether or not the Book of Abraham is a faith breaker depends, I suppose, what you expect of prophets. If you expect the prophet to be the mouthpiece of God then the Book of Abraham contradicts the notion that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

    If you consider a prophet an inspired person the same way Beethoven was inspired then the Book of Abraham is less important. The fact that Beethoven might have written a poor piece of music does not detract from the quality of his best work.

    The problem is that LDS prophets have always invoked their status to exercise power over the believers. Sometimes the prophets have asked for actions that would have to be considered immoral and criminal were it not the will of God (Nephi slaying Laman, for example).

    I have come to believe now that we are individually responsible for the believes we hold. More importantly, we are responsible for the actions we take and how they impact others. No matter how I feel about a person, I can’t leave that to somebody who has been so spectacularly wrong.

    It might be a different matter if we were to see prophetic advice as non-binding. But then the word prophet would become almost meaningless.

    On the other hand, that’s how Quakers approach inspiration. They teach that we do not know who the mouth piece of God is. The mouth piece does not even know it him- or herself. The solution is free speech. In the long run, inspiration will prevail because of the quality of its ideas.

  46. hellmut,

    I don’t think that the prophet must always represent “the direct mouthpiece.”

    Thinkers in mainline Christianity don’t make this claim. They have always stated that the office of prophet does not guarantee a continual direct conduit to God. Their thoughts and God’s thoughts are not one-in-the-same.

    In the Old Testament, for example, the instances of direct physical meetings with God were relatively rare, as were instances where a prophet claimed to have directly heard the actual voice of God.

    Most often, communication took the form of dreams and visions (ala Lehi’s Tree of Life). The story of Joseph in Egypt (among others) seems to indicate that interpretation of such dreams was a skill that varied from person to person. Some had a particular knack for it.

    The instance of Aaron and Miriam shows that it wasn’t just the “head prophet” (Moses in this case) who could prophesy. Neither were ancient prophets always unified under a monolithic authority structure, as we see with the story of Balaam. Sometimes they seemed to act almost independently.

    The story of Jacob and his family (Old Testament) shows that it isn’t required that you be either a good husband or a good father to be a prophet. In fact the whole of the scriptures are a story of flawed holy men in search of God’s will.

    This is why it wouldn’t matter to me if Joseph Smith was entirely wrong in his translation of the Pearl of Great Price. Because:

    a) Whether it was a faithful translation is a separate issue from whether the book was inspired and whether it was a true representation.

    b) even if the history is not true, that doesn’t address the question of whether the book is still intended by God as binding scripture

    c) Joseph Smith may indeed have overstated or misinterpreted the nature of his status as “mouthpiece,” but that doesn’t necessarily make him less of a prophet.

    d) God has required his people to follow imperfect men before. The conferring of Priesthood authority does not automatically confer infallibility. Whether Joseph Smith was right or not may have nothing to do with whether we are still required to follow him.

    Even assuming for the sake of argument, that everything Enochville read in critque was true, that tells me absolutely nothing about whether the Pearl of Great Price is inspired, and whether it is binding scripture for me.

    Seth R.

  47. Seth said: “Even assuming for the sake of argument, that everything Enochville read in critque was true, that tells me absolutely nothing about whether the Pearl of Great Price is inspired, and whether it is binding scripture for me.”

    I have no problem with a prophet sinning from time to time, or saying things that are wrong, like claiming there are men on the Moon. But, when he writes scripture that believers are bound to accept as the word and will of God, he darn well better be right.

    You see, the problem I have with your argument, is upon what basis do you know when to stop saying this is wrong, but this is Truth. I think the only reason any believer acknowledges that the BOA is both historically inaccurate as illustrated by anachronisms and that the BOM is almost certainly not tied to any real historial civilization and that Joseph was wrong when he took a series of random Egyptian characters to fill in the damaged facsimile number 2 and “translated” it, is because it can pretty much be proven.

    But, why stop there? Why is there any greater likelihood that his stories about the preexistence or order of governing stars would be more correct? Especially when it appears that the populated governing stars idea appears to be plagerized from Swedenborg. Joseph at best seemed to not be able to tell when he was telling the truth or a lie even with the “Spirit”, I don’t believe anyone else can do better with the Spirit.

    You see as we keep proving more and more things incorrect, believers will have to keep giving more and more ground, conceding that Joseph was incorrect about a lot more things, even in supposedly inspired things.

    In any case, one cannot know with confidence what in his scriptures is true and what is not, which makes him no better than any other sage. And if no one can tell, how can God expect any of us to obey him.

    Using Joseph’s own words in his Lectures on Faith, in order for a man to have faith in God he must know that the course he is pursuing is in accordance to God’s will. And how can one know, when Joseph made no distinction within his scripture of when he was telling the truth and when he wasn’t?

    (The apologists want to say the Grammer was a failed attempt to match the revelation with the Egyptian characters so that they could learn how to translate Egyptian the convential way. But, that dog doesn’t hunt.

    Some of the actual Egyptian text of the sensen papyri, which Joseph believed was the source of the BOA (for those are the characters he tied to the translation), was missing due to damage. So, in the Grammer you see beside each Egyptian character in the order they appear on the sensen papyri with the translation beside it. But, when they come to the damaged sections, Joseph invented fake characters, that he then translated.

    I’ve already mentioned how he took a series of characters from one of the papyri and inserted them into the missing section of facsimile number 2 (note the inserted characters are not in the same form of Egyptian as the characters that were already in the facsimile).

    On Oct 1, 1835, Joseph also spoke that the principles of astronomy that Abraham taught were discovered while laboring on their research on the Egyptian Alphabet.

    You may believe that it is a revelation, but it is intimately tied to the false premise of translation. The facsimile #2 “restoration” strongly suggests to me that this was an outright fraud rather than just a seriously mistaken young man.)

  48. Way to ignore just about every point I made and bring it back to your single issue of focus.

    I’m saying revelation, divine authority, and scripture are simply not as cut and dried as you want them to be.

    I don’t blame you since the LDS Church highly encourages rigid, black and white thinking about the prophetic function. But I simply don’t see the world that way.

    But in the end, it boils down to gut instinct. Mine remains with the Church while yours has apparently gone elsewhere.

    While serving my mission in Japan, I was a little taken aback to find out that the Japanese, quite frankly, didn’t give a damn one way or the other about logical proofs, archeological evidence, literary consistency, or any other of the numerous little evidentiary snacks I was raised on in Sunday School and Seminary.

    All they cared about was their relationships with fellow churchgoers, their emotional connection with God, and the power of their acquaintances to model Gospel living. Fruits of the Gospel, plain and simple.

    The intellectual proofs you find so earthshattering were utterly unimpressive to them.

    Years later, I find myself identifying more with my Japanese brothers and sisters than my hyper-intellectualized American brethren.

    Life is a primarily a matter of instinct. It’s only secondarily about intellect.

    I imagine I’m coming off more abrasively than I intended. Don’t worry about it. I’ve had a long day. I’m really not mad or upset at you (even if the post sounds that way).

    Seth R.

  49. Seth – I get it now. Those things don’t “address the question of whether the book is still intended by God as binding scripture” for you because you rely on instinct first. You didn’t say that in your first post. You spent a lot of time talking about the flaws of prophets and then said that my evidence didn’t address whether the book was intended by God as scripture. I thought, “The heck it doesn’t,” that is why my reply focused on how it does.

    But, now I see where you are coming from. For me, instinct cannot override my intellect. I know too much about how instinct is created and can be manipulated by others for their advantage. I consider the Japanese emporer during WWII, manipulated the “instincts” of the masses to get them to support him in trying to conquer the world. As did Hitler. As have American Presidents against the Native Americans, as did Karl Rove and Bush. Instincts can be changed based on some rules that psychologists have discovered and marketers take full advantage of.

    I apologize if I have come off as too bold. Nothing irritates me more, than to see nice people unknowingly taken advantage of. Great manipulators can get people to think that the manipulator doesn’t have anything to do it, that they chose to do something based on experiences they had that had nothing to do the manipulator. But, the manipulator has taught them how to interpret their experiences and it doesn’t even feel like they have been taught. Instincts sure feel trustworthy and untaught.

    I know that this is slightly different from the instincts you rely on, but I think the following with add to the discussion. I spend a lot of time as a counselor helping people re-educate their emotions. Sometimes people know intellectually that they are not worthless, but have a hard time getting their emotions to recognize that. So, I help them learn how to feel differently.

    All that being said, I am fine with us using different approaches to life. And I am happy for you that the Church works for you.

  50. Well, my comment on instinct is kinda a separate issue from the breakdown of the Old Testament prophetic role.

    I still don’t feel like you addressed my views on what a prophet is. And I still think your expectations of a prophet are too rigid and unnuanced.

    But I also feel that the intellectual constructs are secondary.

    My experience is that even people who claim to be acting on purely rational motivators are still, underneath it all, making a gut instinct decision.

    I also believe that pure instinct is actually a more reliable guide than artificial intellectualized responses.

    People like to say that tyrants and opportunists “appeal to emotion.”

    I’m not sure what that means.

    In my experience, tyrants and opportunists actually appeal to the intellect. They present the evidence, the people think about it, and the people buy it. It’s equally possible that following Hitler was primarily a rational decision for most Germans.

    Post “Enlightenment” academics don’t like to admit this possibility. They are so wedded to the idea that pure cold logic will conquer all, that they refuse to contemplate the very real possibility that some very bad results sprang from rational endeavors.

    Racism, contrary to popular belief, originated in post Renaissance Europe as a RATIONAL endeavor. Thinkers saw that different cultures had differing levels of technology and sophistication. They started to ask why.

    Racism was a logical attempt to explain why people are different. Cultures before the Europeans felt no need to understand why people are different. They simply drove you out or killed you if you didn’t fit.

    In my mind, humanity’s primary sin and downfall has just as often been thinking with its head as thinking with its “heart” (or whatever you wish to call it).

    Book recommendation:

    “The Gift of Fear” (I forget the author)

    It talks about how our instinct is actually a more reliable guide in keeping us safe from dangerous people. Pretty easy read.

    But don’t think that my detour into emotion vs. reason lets you off the hook on the issues of scripture and prophesy. Like I said already, I don’t feel like you’ve addressed my points on those subjects.

    Seth R.

  51. . . . by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

    I believe this, despite not believing in the Holy Ghost.

    I believe in the Book of Abraham, despite disbelieving the Book of Abraham. Likewise with the Book of Mormon, the Bible, the temple, and the teachings of the prophets.

    Once literalism is tossed aside, what value do religious doctrines have? One answer is, none at all. But like parables, like music (thanks Hellmut), and like literature, religious doctrines are myths — vehicles for talking about something else. In practice, that something else is often lost in translation, but that does not extinguish it, nor does it nullify the translating exercise.

    Enochville, I agree wholeheartedly with many of your critiques. Much of Mormonism is a house of cards. The question remains, what will we do with those cards once the house tumbles?

  52. seth: It will take me a little while to get back to you.

    bb: I think that there is a lot of value in myths, as long as they are acknowledged and recognized as fiction. I imagine telling some of the Book of Mormon stories to my kids because they illustrate some true life prinicples and I am very familiar with them. I will also use myths from other cultures and times.

  53. I’ve been busy, but thought I’d respond.

    We all know that Joseph Smith encountered a collection of documents, some we have and some we don’t.

    We all know he struggled with them, and did not feel like he was making progress.

    In the midst of that (or rather at the cusp of it), he suddenly came out with the Book of Abraham, which is an authentic work of its kind. He also received a great deal more on the endowment.

    You can look at his writings and documents and the misc. material as the end state or as his struggles. Much like looking at how Spencer W. Kimble worked through the issues of Blacks and the Priesthood (I’ve been enjoying his latest biography, right after having read the David O McKay one).

    If you decide not to believe in God, that the Spirit is a frenzy of mens’ minds (a traditional explanation for it, going long before the Book of Mormon discussions) and that tangible miracles just do not count since they do not replicate well and we seem to have fewer of them these days, or if you decide that God is a Bonewits Construct, then you come to one set of conclusions, the “proofs” don’t really matter.

    If you accept God, then you come to another. Or, like Alcoholics Anonymous, maybe you straddle (they rely on God, a power higher than themselves, but have a definition that works for atheists, etc.).

    BTW, Wendy, “seminary president” — that doesn’t strike me as a significant LDS title, and not one I’m familiar with. Makes your post read like one of the psuedo testimonies I run into once in a while.

    Interesting thread, start to finish.

  54. Stephen, “Seminary President” is nothing more than the title given to a senior in high school, who is nominated to the position by the seminary teacher staff and works with the teachers throughout the year planning activities. No, it doesn’t carry a lot of clout (it’s high school!), but yes, it exists.

  55. Wendy

    Makes sense, you just need to know that the way the title was thrown in is part of a stock narrative form and takes away from your post.

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