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DBMormon

Richard Bushman'S Description Of Faith Crisis

187 posts in this topic

http://dan-christiansen.blogspot.com/2008_08_01_archive.html

Increasingly teachers and church leaders at all levels are approached by Latter-day Saints who have lost confidence in Joseph Smith and the basic miraculous events of church history. They doubt the First Vision, the Book of Mormon, many of Joseph’s revelations, and much besides. They fall into doubt after going on the Internet and finding shocking information about Joseph Smith based on documents and facts they had never heard before. A surprising number had not known about Joseph Smith’s plural wives. They are set back by differences in the various accounts of the First Vision. They find that Egyptologists do not translate the Abraham manuscripts the way Joseph Smith did, making it appear that the Book of Abraham was a fabrication. When they come across this information in a critical book or read it on one of the innumerable critical Internet sites, they feel as if they had been introduced to a Joseph Smith and a Church history they had never known before. They undergo an experience like viewing the famous picture of a beautiful woman who in a blink of an eye turns into an old hag. Everything changes. What are they to believe?

Often church leaders, parents, and friends, do not understand the force of this alternate view. Not knowing how to respond, they react defensively. They are inclined to dismiss all the evidence as anti-Mormon or of the devil. Stop reading these things if they upset you so much, the inquirer is told. Or go back to the familiar formula: scriptures, prayer, church attendance.

The troubled person may have been doing all of these things sincerely, perhaps even desperately. He or she feels the world is falling apart. Everything these inquirers put their trust in starts to crumble. They want guidance more than ever in their lives, but they don’t seem to get it. The facts that have been presented to them challenge almost everything they believe. People affected in this way may indeed stop praying; they don’t trust the old methods because they feel betrayed by the old system. Frequently they are furious. On their missions they fervently taught people about Joseph Smith without knowing any of these negative facts. Were they taken advantage of? Was the Church trying to fool them for its own purposes?

These are deeply disturbing questions. They shake up everything. Should I stay in the Church? Should I tell my family? Should I just shut up and try to get along? Who can help me?

At this point, these questioners go off in various directions. Some give up on the Church entirely. They find another religion or, more likely these days, abandon religion altogether. Without their familiar Mormon God, they are not sure there is any God at all. They become atheist or agnostic. Some feel the restrictions they grew up with no longer apply. The strength has been drained out of tithing, the Word of Wisdom, and chastity. They partly welcome the new freedom of their agnostic condition. Now they can do anything they please without fear of breaking the old Mormon rules. The results may not be happy for them or their families.

Others piece together a morality and a spiritual attitude that stops them from declining morally, but they are not in an easy place. When they go to church, , they are not comfortable. Sunday School classes and Sacrament meeting talks about Joseph Smith and the early church no longer ring true. How can these people believe these “fairy tales,” the inquirers ask. Those who have absorbed doses of negative material live in two minds: their old church mind which now seems naive and credulous, and their new enlightened mind with its forbidden knowledge learned on the Internet and from critical books.

A friend who is in this position described the mindset of the disillusioned member this way:

“Due to the process of learning, which they have gone through, these [two-minded] LDS often no longer accept the church as the only true one (with the only true priesthood authority and the only valid sacred ordinances), but they see it as a Christian church, in which good, inspired programs are found as well as failure and error. They no longer consider inspiration, spiritual and physical healing, personal and global revelation limited to the LDS church. In this context, these saints may attend other churches, too, where they might have spiritual experiences as well. They interpret their old spiritual experiences differently, understanding them as testimonies from God for them personally, as a result of their search and efforts, but these testimonies don’t necessarily have to be seen as a confirmation that the LDS church is the only true one.

“Since the social relationships between them and other ward (or stake) members suffer (avoidance, silence, even mobbing) because of their status as heretics, which is usually known via gossip, and since the extent of active involvement and range of possible callings are reduced because of their nonconformity in various areas, there is a risk that they end up leaving the church after all, because they are simply ignored by the majority of the other members.”

He then offers a recommendation:

“It is necessary that the church not only shows more support and openness to these ‘apostates’ but also teaches and advises all members, bishops, stake presidents etc., who usually don’t know how to deal with such a situation in terms of organizational and ecclesiastical questions and – out of insecurity – fail to treat the critical member with the necessary love and respect that even a normal stranger would receive.”

Those are the words of someone who has lost belief in many of the fundamentals and is working out a new relationship to the Church. Other shaken individuals recover their belief in the basic principles and events but are never quite the same as before. Their knowledge, although no longer toxic, gives them a new perspective. They tend to be more philosophic and less dogmatic about all the stories they once enjoyed. Here are some of the characteristics of people who have passed through this ordeal but managed to revive most of their old beliefs.

1. They often say they learned the Prophet was human. They don’t expect him to be a model of perfect deportment as they once thought. He may have taken a glass of wine from time to time, or scolded his associates, or even have made business errors. They see his virtues and believe in his revelations but don’t expect perfection.

2. They also don’t believe he was led by revelation in every detail. They see him as learning gradually to be a prophet and having to feel his way at times like most Church members. In between the revelations, he was left to himself to work out the methods of complying with the Lord’s commandments. Sometimes he had to experiment until he found the right way.

3. These newly revived Latter-day Saints also develop a more philosophical attitude toward history. They come to see (like professional historians) that facts can have many interpretations. Negative facts are not necessarily as damning as they appear at first sight. Put in another context along side other facts, they do not necessarily destroy Joseph Smith’s reputation.

4. Revived Latter-day Saints focus on the good things they derive from their faith–the community of believers, the comforts of the Holy Spirit, the orientation toward the large questions of life, contact with God, moral discipline, and many others. They don’t want to abandon these good things. Starting from that point of desired belief, they are willing to give Joseph Smith and the doctrine a favorable hearing. They may not be absolutely certain about every item, but they are inclined to see the good and the true in the Church.

At the heart of this turmoil is the question of trust. Disillusioned Latter-day Saints feel their trust has been betrayed. They don’t know whom to trust. They don’t dare trust the old feelings that once were so powerful, nor do they trust church leaders. They can only trust the new knowledge they have acquired. Those who come back to the Church are inclined to trust their old feelings. Their confidence in the good things they knew before is at least partially restored. But they sort out the goodness that seems still vital from the parts that now seem no longer tenable. Knowledge not only has given them a choice, it has compelled them to choose. They have to decide what they really believe. In the end, many are more stable and convinced than before. They feel better prepared to confront criticism openly, confident they can withstand it.

- - - -

The members of the seminar on “Joseph Smith and His Critics,” a group of Religious Education and CES faculty who met at BYU for six weeks in the summer of 2008, are among those who have known Latter-day Saints in this state of confusion and doubt. We have had many opportunities to talk to questioners about their problems and admit that we have often fallen short in our answers. We came together in hopes of learning to do better. Besides gathering information on a series of specific issues, we have discussed how best to deal with questioning Saints. What way of speaking is most likely to win their trust and convince them we have their best interests at heart?

We began by agreeing that criticisms of Joseph Smith should not be dismissed as foolish or purely evil. The negative attacks that disturb first-time readers are usually based on facts, not merely prejudiced fabrications. To play down the force of the criticism, we believe, only convinces the seekers that we do not understand. We appear to be sweeping trouble under the rug. They may have been devastated by a criticism; we must show that we understand why. Consequently, the seminar took as its first principle to state the negative argument as fully and accurately as we can. We try not to minimize the difficulty or prejudice the case against the critic. In no other way can we persuade the doubters that we understand the problem.

Secondly, we try to avoid dogmatic answers. Rather than replace the dogmatic negative attacks of the critics with our own dogmatic answers, we attempt to show that a more positive interpretation is possible. Critics often claim that Joseph’s sins were so egregious as to utterly disqualify him as a prophet. We can understand their viewpoint, but we think there is another side to the story. Rather than destroy the critics, we want to loosen their grip. In the long run, we believe this approach will persuade questioners more effectively than claims to certainty where none is possible. We believe in stating our own strong convictions about the church as a whole, but we do not to pretend to perfect knowledge about complex historical questions.

We know that airing criticisms troubles many Latter-day Saints. Like most Church teachers, the members of the seminar do not want to draw attention to questions that will only unsettle faithful members. But we also feel that silence is not the answer. The absence of instruction troubles questioners more than anything. They feel they have been betrayed because they came through their Church classes ignorant of the devastating information now a few clicks away on the internet. The gaps in their education leave them disillusioned and angry.

To counteract this lack of preparation, the seminar members have taken as our motto the scripture that begins: “As all have not faith, teach one another” (D&C 88:118). We are encouraged by the scriptural recognition that not all have faith, and by the appealing remedy, “teach one another.” For many questioners, loneliness is the heart of the problems. No one seems to understand. We are enjoined by this scripture to find these seekers and bring them into a fellowship of inquiry. We hope that our papers will help Church teachers create safe havens where questions may be asked and answers explored--where we can teach one another.

QUESTIONS

1.) Does this seem to describe well your understanding of the problem and the solutions

2.) Do you see anything it is missing

3.) How do we make Wards and Stakes members aware of a person within who is able to help the person struggling. Someone who has gone through it, who has some answers as well as ways to work through this process of reconciling one's faith

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I wonder if Bushman has ever produced anything less than excellent.

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I wonder if Bushman has ever produced anything less than excellent.

+10! I have yet to find anything he has ever produced that has not included real mental power and attempts to understand, not dogmatize with this chimera we hear about all the time in church known as "true doctrine."

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My honest suggestion? It won't matter because, of course, I ain't in downtown S.L.C. I think this kind of stuff needs to be drummed into us in a steady beat in all three church meetings for the next 50 years like the former pap and pablum has been. ONLY when the leadership decides to honestly enlighten us instead of dogmatize things to boring death with this "true doctrine" stance will they begin to have an enlightened people. This is the age of information, and every single religion on our planet is in the process (or should be if it wants to literally survive) of recognizing that the pap and pablum now has to honestly give way to real information, real scholarship, and real understanding. The internet will either make or break religion. At this point, I don't see religion having much of an easy time of it since now everything is on the table for all to see anytime they want to. There is no longer control of the press where a church can give only the information they think is good for the members. Now all of it gets incorporated and understood. Even if the history hurts, even such an one as Boyd K. Packer has no choice but change his tune and change his attitude about history, doctrine, and truth and reality. The internet is vastly more effective at getting information to people than God or His Holy Spirit ever dreamed of. Call it what you want, I am truly serious. Can't remember which atheist I read recently (I've been over loading reading atheists, scientists, Relativity, Quantum Physics, Mathematics) but the sentiment is serious, deadly serious. If the Holy Spirit HAD been doing its job as described in scripture, there would be no problems with all this information coming out. Sure it doesn't sound very nice about God or the Spirit, but it's more important than nice, its factual. All this information which none of the churches could have possibly imagined hitting us all over the heads has completely and totally changed the entire picture and importance of theology. Nothing, and I mean nothing can be swept under the rug now. It's more totally open than was even possible to imagine when I was just a kid lo those few short years ago. The churches as well as every organization simply has to deal with it. It will be more than of passing interest to see just how they go about it, and which ones, if any, will even succeed.

Edited by Kerry A. Shirts
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Kerry - I agree with the idea we have no choice but to change our tune..... but I add it is changing.

Perfect in Christ's by Grace in the covenant relationship v.s. perfect obedience as the expectation for salvation

Follow the Holy Ghost at all costs v.s Follow the Prophet at all costs

The Spirit trumps a church leader's opinion v.s. Mantle far greater then the Intellect

Saved by Christ's Merits Mercy and Grace v.s. saved by keeping the law of commandments

Protect those who are losing testimonies over discovering truth v.s. protect those who believe in myth from the truth

Faith is a choice and there is reason to believe both ways v.s. Ignore all problematic stuff and just know the church is true

By the way Kerry, I wish you the best and have appreciated your work over the years.

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Kerry - I agree with the idea we have no choice but to change our tune..... but I add it is changing.

Perfect in Christ's by Grace in the covenant relationship v.s. perfect obedience as the expectation for salvation

Follow the Holy Ghost at all costs v.s Follow the Prophet at all costs

The Spirit trumps a church leader's opinion v.s. Mantle far greater then the Intellect

Saved by Christ's Merits Mercy and Grace v.s. saved by keeping the law of commandments

Protect those who are losing testimonies over discovering truth v.s. protect those who believe in myth from the truth

Faith is a choice and there is reason to believe both ways v.s. Ignore all problematic stuff and just know the church is true

By the way Kerry, I wish you the best and have appreciated your work over the years.

I think one of the things leading people astray is lack of recognition of false dichotomies.

Kerry: if man's inventions have outsmarted deity, why pursue worship of Him? Why not switch deities?

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My honest suggestion? It won't matter because, of course, I ain't in downtown S.L.C. I think this kind of stuff needs to be drummed into us in a steady beat in all three church meetings for the next 50 years like the former pap and pablum has been. ONLY when the leadership decides to honestly enlighten us instead of dogmatize things to boring death with this "true doctrine" stance will they begin to have an enlightened people.

I agree 1000%

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I think one of the things leading people astray is lack of recognition of false dichotomies.

Amen.

Edited by volgadon
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Kerry - I agree with the idea we have no choice but to change our tune..... but I add it is changing.

Perfect in Christ's by Grace in the covenant relationship v.s. perfect obedience as the expectation for salvation

Follow the Holy Ghost at all costs v.s Follow the Prophet at all costs

The Spirit trumps a church leader's opinion v.s. Mantle far greater then the Intellect

Saved by Christ's Merits Mercy and Grace v.s. saved by keeping the law of commandments

Protect those who are losing testimonies over discovering truth v.s. protect those who believe in myth from the truth

Faith is a choice and there is reason to believe both ways v.s. Ignore all problematic stuff and just know the church is true

By the way Kerry, I wish you the best and have appreciated your work over the years.

Thanks for saying what I've wanted to say and more.:)
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The internet will either make or break religion.

A bit overbold a claim. The internet certainly provides many challenges, but it is also a powerful tool for spreading and consolidating religion. Religions have often been amongst the pioneers of such approaches, something which tends to be overlooked in technological and atheist discourse.

This is the age of information, and every single religion on our planet is in the process (or should be if it wants to literally survive) of recognizing that the pap and pablum now has to honestly give way to real information, real scholarship, and real understanding.

If anything, the internet makes "pap and pablum" more prevalent and accessible. Look at wikipedia. I can almost gaurantee that the easier it is to find a quick answer, so much the fewer the people looking beyond it will be.

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I think one of the things leading people astray is lack of recognition of false dichotomies.

Yes dichotomies will never be perfectly accurate, but I promise if you look up the word grace you will find it spoken of more in the last two years of conference talks then any other two year period. You will find more discussion on trying and being willing over obedience compared to past years

You will find more on empathy and understanding then past years..... just take this months ensign for instance

- Converted unto the Lord

- My Dad’s Apology - Dad was right and still apologized beacause it was his way of handling that wasn't right

- Discipleship at All Times, in All Things, in All Places - while speaking of obedience, it also emphasizes no one is perfect and in the end it's Christ atonement that perfects us.

- Balancing Truth and Tolerance - tolerance

- “Stand by My Servant Joseph” - partly in spite of his flaws

- Lifting the Hands Which Hang Down

Whether you agree or not, the tone among the top 15 has changed in an effort to stop the sieve that Elder Marlin Jensen spoke of and which others in general leadership have confirmed

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The challenge for me, and I suspect others, is moving through the process of losing faith in the current leadership (the last many iterations) as men that serve as prophets, seers, and revelators. It is so very disappointing to excuse their actions, decisions, and words used in their ecclesiastical positions to enforce their own personal, very human choices. All my life I have held my priesthood with the echo "Amen to the priesthood of that man" sounding in the background. Yet, here I have leaders that have consciously, purposely withheld the blessings of the temple from countless individuals with absolutely no direction from God. Frankly, this has been stewing for decades and it has only gotten worse for me. I have always believed that the Kingdome of God, the Church of Jesus Christ was built on revelation both for the individual and for the leadership. How do they so blithely toss out revelation when it comes to a pet cause? Then they have the temerity to demand obedience for their choice? The way of faith is a difficult path has been long understood, but I will not easily follow the foolish traditions of our forefathers or the teachings of men. As a disciple of Jesus Christ I struggle to know how best to deal with these things. I have so long just put it on the back burner hoping that better understanding will come; however, what has actually occurred is that I have become highly circumspect of anything the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, or any other leader says. It may not be an unhealthy situation, but it sure is not the blissful days of yesteryear when I blindly followed the prophet and swallowed most things whole.

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Bushman's comments are spot on. But I hate to say I am not optimistic in seeing much of what he suggests implemented. If you could only have sat in on a recent High Priest discussion where some how we got on the topic of wearing white shirts to all church meetings. Comments about following the brethren and obedience being paramount and because they wear white shirts so should we, etc. I felt like a heretic for stating I wear non white shirts to non Sunday meetings quit often and that I thought it wrong to prohibit an Aaronic priesthood holder who had say a blue shirt on from administering the sacrament. Most TBM do not welcome comments that are outside the party line. And I used to be like that too so it is hard for me to expect others to be different.

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Kerry - I agree with the idea we have no choice but to change our tune..... but I add it is changing.

Perfect in Christ's by Grace in the covenant relationship v.s. perfect obedience as the expectation for salvation

Follow the Holy Ghost at all costs v.s Follow the Prophet at all costs

The Spirit trumps a church leader's opinion v.s. Mantle far greater then the Intellect

Saved by Christ's Merits Mercy and Grace v.s. saved by keeping the law of commandments

Protect those who are losing testimonies over discovering truth v.s. protect those who believe in myth from the truth

Faith is a choice and there is reason to believe both ways v.s. Ignore all problematic stuff and just know the church is true

By the way Kerry, I wish you the best and have appreciated your work over the years.

I like your list. I see it some. Still there is a long way to go. I recall the time I served as a bishop. Your list was my platform. I preached it, talked it,walked it and so on. I have not served in that call for over five years now. Members of my ward still struggle to move from to the higher level attributes you list. Sometimes I feel as if my successors have gone a long way undoing what I was trying to do. I know that sounds arrogant and I don't mean it that way. But I cannot tell you how often members of my ward told my when I was bishop how much they appreciated the perspectives I was trying to bring.

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I guess I am going to present a contrarian viewpoint here, but I do believe that God foresaw exactly what would be happening in these last days. He has warned us repeatedly about prizing our own intellect above the gifts of the spirit.

Jeremiah 8:9 The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them?

Isaiah 29:14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.

2 Nephi 9:28 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

2 Nephi 9:42 And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.

1 Corinthians 3:

18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;

So, what kind of "fool" was Paul talking about. Maybe the following will give us a clue.

In an 1829 Conference talk, President Heber J. Grant said:

"When I was a young unmarried man, another young man who had received a doctor's degree ridiculed me for believing in the Book of Mormon. He said that one lie in the Book of Mormon is that the people had built their homes out of cement and that they were very skillful in the use of cement. He said there had never been found, and never would be found, a house built of cement by the ancient inhabitants of this country, because the people in that early age knew nothing about cement. He said that should be enough to make one disbelieve the book. I said: 'That does not affect my faith one particle. I read the Book of Mormon prayerfully and supplicated God for a testimony in my heart and soul of the divinity of it, and I have accepted it and believe it with all my heart.' I also said to him, 'If my children do not find cement houses, I expect that my grandchildren will.. He said, "Well, what is the good of talking with a fool like that?" (April 1929 Conference Report, p. 128 ff.)

There have been a lot of people who have thought their way out of the Church. I am going to name a couple of names here. I am not making this personal, just representative. One of the people was Don Bradley. He also thought his way back into the church. Don's story has been brought up here before, so I will not repeat it again. Those interested can find the threads and links.

Kerry Shirts also seems to be doing that, thinking his way out of the church, that is, I respect the intellectual prowess of both Don and Kerry, but I distrust the mechanism by which they have reached their conclusions.

Again, Kerry, if you read this, do not take it personally, It is just an observation. At one time you were a staunch "apologist". I have read many of the articles you compiled on your mormonism researched pages at http://www2.ida.net/graphics/shirtail/mormonis.htm. You did a prodigious amount of research in producing those pages and provided some of your own insights and analyses of the data.

Now, you are devouring material by atheistist intellectuals and now proclaiming that what they say makes sense and seeminly the Church and Gos makes no sense.

Without the ability to run I.Q. tests on Kerry and Don at various times in their lives, I am just assuming that their intellectual capacities have been more or less constant in the span of time I have known them, or rather known of them. So, the question I ask of myself, why should I trust the processes they used in coming to their conclusions?

Don thought himself out of the church and through a maze of different beliefs and finally back into the church. While I am happy for him, is it not possible that using the intellectual process primaritly, something else may present itself to him that will cause him to take another journey out of the church?

With Kerry, after all of the intellectual efforts he put forth in the arguments he presented on his Mormonism Researched pages and his more recent "Backyard Professor" series, what should now inspire my confidence in his new proclamations that basically religion is all hogwash?

Since there are and have been many people of roughly equal intellectual capablities on both sides of the question, with some changing sides here and there, just how are we, the un-gifted hordes, going to know which of those intellectuals has it right?

There is no intellectual way of knowing.

I ask myself the same question that Nephi asked his brothers.

1 Nephi 15:8 And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?

Glenn

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Glenn proves my point DB. His view really predominates.

I find that rather sad.

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I like the scriptures that DB uses, I just think that they don't really apply directly to the comments being made. Joseph does not bother me, the Book of Mormon does not; neither of these topics has ever been of concern. BY is my favorite prophet, but also one of my greater stumbling blocks. How I have come to hate all things not received by revelation yet used as a measuring stick within the Church. They have created an inestimable degree of harm within the hearts of humanity. What is worse is the way we excuse those actions and continue to excuse those actions by not addressing them forthrightly, honestly, and as those committed to being true servants of the Lord rather than running about in desperation in order to "save" the reputation of the Church. When we act in the name of God we need not excuse from man or any other person. When we act in the name of man, there is no excuse capable of covering our action.

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Bushman is right on in describing my standing fast in the church. I think by recognizing the realities one can actually increase in testimony and recognize how remarkable the restoration and growth of the church have been in spite of the human failings of those God has called. This shows me who is really in charge as well as how much authority he gives his prophets and how careful he is to respect that authority by letting them find their own way within that authority. In other words he eventually fixes what men do wrong by teaching them correct principles and letting them learn by their mistakes. No one is more patient and long-suffering than God.

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I love what Brother Bushman had to say. I was afraid he was going to stop at the two alternatives (leaving or a disillusioned stay) but he got to the "revived LDS" part. I would also like to say that there are plenty of people who see some of these issues as overall positives--when I learned about polyandry, it came at a time when I was seeking the Lord regarding whether I could have two husbands, because I did not want to discard either of them in the "plan" I thought I had learned all my life, and as an answer to my prayer, or as I felt, within a couple of weeks I learned about the polyandry in the Church history (I already was aware of the polygany). So then I felt that the "plan" isn't all here anyway, and that I should trust that I will not lose anyone I love. Point is, learning about polyandry has been a positive for me and supports my appreciation of the work Joseph Smith did, or the work Jesus did through Joseph--it's not a wound I have to heal (polyandry specifically).

But I do appreciate the experience, because there have been plenty of other startling discoveries (?). While I have experienced them in ways that caused me to adjust my understanding of God and church and life--necessary important adjustments i.e. personal revelation even--I have also had them be things I needed to learn to adjust my understanding of myself and my perspective. That the adjustment is in me, not "out there". So it's everything.

Not to mention that I will not cede to "the Church" the responsibility for my perspective, HOWEVER, I learned that bit only by having the struggles of perspective I thought I had been learning in the Church and found out could not be sustained by reality. So yes, there is plenty of disillusionment to go around. It's like a marriage--where the dillusionment is part of the process, not evidence that the marriage/church or covenant relationship isn't life giving or has amazing potential for fulfillment.

I think an element of this situation that is overlooked and that is my opinion about it or my own reconciliation but I offer it if others want to look into it. "The Church" never took on a project to hide from its members (over the years historically speaking). I think that from the early times especially in the Brigham Young day forward the Church often had to "hide" from the world things that its members understood without so much saying. But the problem is that BOOM you have a worldwide church and now you don't have an understanding from just being in the geographical community. For example, people say polygamy is hidden but where I'm from, it never has been. We know the houses of all five wives, the descendents of all five wives, etc. It just is and there's no apology for it. But one "forgets" to mention this situation to a new convert from Japan, so to speak, because you ARE teaching them about baptism, revelation, tithing, etc. So the "hiding" from the world has ended up being "hiding" from the members only because of the process of time not because of some deliberate project. And because nobody these days has to participate in polygamy, it's moot or dormant; if it was active, I'm sure it would be part of missionary discussion number 2 even in "Japan". So there is a problem, I agree, but I don't agree it's some huge plan by a THEM.

the tone among the top 15 has changed

I absolutely agree.

in an effort to stop the sieve that Elder Marlin Jensen spoke of and which others in general leadership have confirmed

I disagree that this is why. Why is it some PR maneuver? I don't understand why this is the only possible alternative. I personally have been enjoying the sense that the leaders of the Church have continued to be acted upon by the Spirit and revelation and teach us what we need to know because we still need to change to be a Zion people (including the church, and "The 15" are part of the church as we all are).

I mean, I can understand if people feel that there is something calculating going on, that's an alternative also. We each have to decide for ourselves what we think is happening.

I also think that people who are having a faith crisis and leave or make adjustments feel judged by those who remain, BUT I think people who have a faith crisis and remain or reconcile almost wholly, also feel judged by those who leave. It's not a one-way judgment. There's not a block of faithful tbm who are pointing fingers. There's not a block of "ex-mo's" pointing fingers. Is there anyone who doesn't have a personal faith crisis of some sort? It's the human condition to point fingers at each other and say "YOU did it the wrong way." I know I feel very attacked for when I "believe" and the person attacking me almost always tells me I am attacking them. So it's a human condition and we just have to be gentle with each other.

The challenge for me, and I suspect others, is moving through the process of losing faith in the current leadership (the last many iterations) as men that serve as prophets, seers, and revelators. It is so very disappointing to excuse their actions, decisions, and words used in their ecclesiastical positions to enforce their own personal, very human choices. All my life I have held my priesthood with the echo "Amen to the priesthood of that man" sounding in the background. Yet, here I have leaders that have consciously, purposely withheld the blessings of the temple from countless individuals with absolutely no direction from God. Frankly, this has been stewing for decades and it has only gotten worse for me. I have always believed that the Kingdome of God, the Church of Jesus Christ was built on revelation both for the individual and for the leadership. How do they so blithely toss out revelation when it comes to a pet cause? Then they have the temerity to demand obedience for their choice? The way of faith is a difficult path has been long understood, but I will not easily follow the foolish traditions of our forefathers or the teachings of men. As a disciple of Jesus Christ I struggle to know how best to deal with these things. I have so long just put it on the back burner hoping that better understanding will come; however, what has actually occurred is that I have become highly circumspect of anything the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, or any other leader says. It may not be an unhealthy situation, but it sure is not the blissful days of yesteryear when I blindly followed the prophet and swallowed most things whole.

If you feel comfortable, would you elaborate here? I couldn't understand what you were referring to and it seemed to me some important thing you were sharing--withholding blessings of the temple from countless individuals?

Edited by Maidservant
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I feel disillusioned by finding out that Jesus/Christianity is a re-working of the old Egyptian religion. But still I stay at least until I work it all out. It's one thing to be following the wrong prophet. It's another to be worshipping a made up God. I'm serious. My disillusionments start far before Joseph Smith and the current leadership hit the scene.

Edited by Maidservant
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I sent a link to this page to my brother, along with this personal observation:

I find myself not quite illustrated by any of the examples given. My original position was one of disinterest, but Mom and Dad were sincerely interested, as evidenced by their life and the life they gave to us children. By the time I was in high school I was paying serious attention in church classes/meetings. And I even went on a mission, more to "grow up" than to share the gospel, but I did return with something like a "testimony" of the Church. Then my life took the normal track for a Mormon young man, and while the years flowed by I kept active in the Church and accepted that I was one of those who don't "know" but believe on the words of those who do know.

I was never willing to discount the assertions of others, wishing always to give the benefit of the doubt as to their honesty and integrity. I still do.

But now I see that people everywhere believe what they want to believe, and "observer bias" is impossible to avoid. Most people don't know what "observer bias" is, or that the concept even exists, i.e. they operate in the Church without serious consideration as to why they believe as they do, or how they came to that condition. They think that because they followed the pattern of reading, pondering and praying, that this proves the truth. Yet people in all religions, and outside of religion, receive convictions as strong about other, even mutually exclusive things. I was okay with my level of testimony, expecting that someday, probably after I die, I would know for certain all the truth claims of the LDS faith. I was disappointed in my search of scripture and historical evidence, even "facts", if we allow that written documentation are often factual. But when you put me onto "In Sacred Loneliness", everything altered almost in a heartbeat. I had never heard of Joseph Smith's polyandry. To this very moment it still offends me.

Out of that altered paradigm emerged a world of much more intimate and complex relating to "God", without dogmatic "prophets" or organized religion. "God" never made up any such things as religious dogma asserts for itself. But "God" does work within everything that we create for ourselves. So the paradigm that I fought against from within the religion of our fathers, was the one that answers most of the questions for me: religion is intensely personal, and the only time group religion is efficacious is when it pools our energies to accomplish good for the world of men. Relationships with "God" are direct and personal and individual. At no time has "God" ever required sacrifices, especially death sacrifices, particularly "atonement" sacrifices. "God" accomplishes all that is required without resorting to man-made concepts of sacrifice.

The religions of the earth are born out of all that preceded them, which means that going back to prehistory mankind was religious and the seeds of dogmatism originated at the same time as civilization. Control, it's all about controlling others to accomplish conformity. The most atavistic motivation of human beings is to be in control of their world, and anywhere a vacuum exists controls will be set up to further regulate society and avoid chaos and anarchy.

Religious anarchy is unacceptable to many, yet it is the mainspring of religious change today. I am not sorry to belong to that shared mindset, or rather, to acknowledge for the last c. nine years, that I have always believed in a paradigm of the world where "God" is infinitely bigger than anything that dogmatic religions assert about "God"....

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Bushman is right on in describing my standing fast in the church. I think by recognizing the realities one can actually increase in testimony and recognize how remarkable the restoration and growth of the church have been in spite of the human failings of those God has called. This shows me who is really in charge as well as how much authority he gives his prophets and how careful he is to respect that authority by letting them find their own way within that authority. In other words he eventually fixes what men do wrong by teaching them correct principles and letting them learn by their mistakes. No one is more patient and long-suffering than God.

I have a Catholic friend who says the same thing.

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http://dan-christian...01_archive.html

...

QUESTIONS

1.) Does this seem to describe well your understanding of the problem and the solutions

2.) Do you see anything it is missing

3.) How do we make Wards and Stakes members aware of a person within who is able to help the person struggling. Someone who has gone through it, who has some answers as well as ways to work through this process of reconciling one's faith

1.) It is a beginning to the problem but it does not go far enough. Bushman focuses on historical distortions perpetuated by either church members or leaders but in my mind this is not the core of the problem.

2.) The issue at its center is the fact that some member's testimonies have been, at least in part, placed on imperfect men. This distortion takes the form of "when our leaders speak, the thinking has been done". In order to support this notion of infallible church leaders history has been white washed. Yes historical facts must be corrected and truth be brought to light but we must go further. A person's testimony must be re-assembled and centered on a firm foundation even Christ the Lord. We should understand that when a person questions such matters not all is lost and that it indeed may even be a positive occurence. Such a person instead of leaning on a man can now be centered on Christ and on the heart of the gospel message. We must help the person understand that they must work out their own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord. That they must not let any person come between them and the Lord.

But further we must focus again on the core truths of the gospel in these latter-days. That Joseph Smith spoke to God, that the Book of Mormon if followed will indeed lead a person the Christ. That in the ordinances of the gospel the power of godliness is still manifest to men in the flesh.

3.) We do not need "special" people to help a person through their crisis of faith. What we need are leaders who have looked under the rocks yet still have their feet firmly planted in the gospel of Christ. We need bishop's and stake president's who know the truth and will speak it and once they speak it will direct the questioner back to the core of the gospel. Once this is done, they must not seek to "compel any man to believe as [they] do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.” (HC 5:499)

I welcome such a day. To do any less is to not give members of this church the credit they deserve.

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[Edit: just to clarify, Questing Beast, cinepro, and janderich posting while I was writing, so I haven't read or responded to what they've written in this post.]

Bushman is the man. Rough Stone Rolling should be required reading for Missionaries.

Isn't it interesting, though, how differently everyone interprets these things? (I'm not being piously sarcastic here, or trying to downplay anyone's struggles with these issues, if that's not clear. I'm extremely sympathetic to faith crises of any kind, and I'm honestly fascinated by how competing paradigms get worked out in the public sphere.)

For instance, there are some who are very disturbed when they learn about polygamy, especially since the horrific abuses by Warren Jeffs and others are so consistently played up in the media as being the only conceivable model by which such a system could function. In a way, I can definitely sympathize; personally, I'm a jealous ba$tard and sincerely doubt I could ever willingly enter a polygamous marriage. But the point is that that's just me. There are other people who would be perfectly fine in such an arrangement, or at least willing to work through what qualms they do have; yet such people are often looked at as freaks because they are not conforming to Victorian social mores.

Note, of course, the inevitable comparison: it's deeply ironic that Mormons -- who were once literally run out of the country in large part because of their "perverse" sexual practices -- are so often so judgmental of (you guessed it) gay folks. Just My Opinion: we should have been the first people to recognize marriage between anyone of legal age. The fact that there are, of course, dysfunctional polygamous and homosexual relationships should not invalidate those models entirely any more than dysfunctional heterosexual marriages should invalidate that model. (I don't think polygamy is "the" system that is practiced in Heaven and is necessary for exaltation any more than I think heterosexual monogamy is; what I think is involved in the highest degree is keeping promises, which is what I interpret section 132 as really being about.)

Some of the other things mentioned here are again interesting to me because of what they reveal about where we're coming from as individuals: I can very much relate to the frustration at fallible human leadership in Kerry and Storm Rider's posts in some ways; in other ways, since I was never "illusioned" in the first place, I don't have that same sense of betrayal. (Growing up non-Mormon, it was sorta the opposite for me: no one ever told me about all the cool stuff in that ol' treasure digger's theology!)

To be honest, I actually had to chuckle a bit that Bushman felt a need to acknowledge that some people are actually shocked to hear that Joe Smith drank! Hell, I wish we still took wine for the sacrament, since the symbolism is so much more resonant. (Yes, Living Waters can be appropriated, but it's just not the same!)

All the supposedly scandalous stuff in, say, The Refiner's Fire? Meh. Masonry is cool. Folk magic and Renaissance Magi are interesting, even if I don't believe in dowsing. Neopaganism is interesting. Hermeticism and Alchemy and everything else feeding into the cultural stream ... it's all good, peeps. Maidservant mentioned being bothered by the Egyptian connections; in my book, they're a definite plus! (Have you read Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, Maidservant? Fantastic book, if not.) Some people want to downplay God the Mother because She is apparently too pagan or something, and we're trying to look as much like good classical monotheistic Christians as possible; me, I think we should be shouting Her from the rooftops! Etc., etc. ...

Edited by JeremyOrbe-Smith
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I think one of the things leading people astray is lack of recognition of false dichotomies.

Kerry: if man's inventions have outsmarted deity, why pursue worship of Him? Why not switch deities?

W

hat? You have got to be kidding right? Where have I ever intimated that man's inventions have outsmarted deity? One thing I have noticed is man's inventions have come about because deity isn't here helping. Why give a deity an credit for what man accomplishes? That is a more realistic question I think.

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