33 Reasons why I left the Mormon Church
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”–Carl Sagan
“I hate men base in deeds but wise in words”–Pacuvius
Dear Family and Friends,
I think it’s necessary to put on paper where I stand with the Mormon Church. The 11th Article of Faith says that “we claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
According to the dictates of my own conscience, I have determined I can no longer believe in the Mormon Church. Let me put this in plain terms. Over the years, I have observed situations, and uncovered many facts about the church that have brought me to the inescapable conclusion that the church is not led by true and living prophets.
In fact, I’ve found the Mormon Church is actually a huge fraud; a fraud like the Enron Corporation. When this became clear to me, it also became clear that there is really no positive side to Mormonism that outweighs or balances the simple fact that it’s a fraud. As much as I’d like to be balanced in my discussion about it, the fact that it’s a fraud, makes that goal impossible.
I was an active Mormon for my entire life up to the age of 42. I’m a sixth generation Mormon on my dad’s side. My mother is a convert. I went through Primary and memorized all of the Articles of Faith (ages 1 1/2 to 12), Mutual (12-18), Seminary (14-18), served a full-time mission to Germany, and married in a Mormon temple. In Seminary (religious instruction for high school age Mormons), I memorized 159 out of 160 scripture passages. The only one I didn’t do was some 2 1/2 pages long. I’ve read all of the Mormon scriptures; some multiple times. I’ve also read many Mormon classics including Talmage’s Jesus the Christ, and The Articles of Faith.
I served in many positions (the church labels them “callings”). My greatest sins (against Mormon culture) were threefold:
1. I got married “late.” It wasn’t for lack of trying. Prior to marriage, I did my “Mormon duty” by systematically searching for a wife. In the process, I proposed to two women and was turned down (in retrospect, for many reasons, those events were fortuitous). Later, I met my future wife. We married two months shy of my 27th birthday. In Mormon culture, this is very late. An unmarried, marriageable man over the age of 25 in the Mormon Church is, according to Brigham Young, “a menace to society.” By marrying late, I demonstrated to many in Mormon culture that I was selfish (putting “worldly” interests like formal education, travel, hobbies, etc.) ahead of the “most important thing of all”–marriage and raising Mormon kids.
Which brings me to my second greatest sin.
2. My wife and I had just two children.
Believing Mormons generally have all of the children they can have, or adopt. This demonstrates loyalty to the church. Never mind the expense, the popular line is: “the Lord will provide.” Men who marry young, load up on children, and do everything they’re told, are “rewarded” with leadership positions in the church that show the Lord approves of them. On the other hand, men who marry “late,” and have two or fewer children, are seen as less faithful, and, as a result, are passed over when it comes to “promotions” in the Mormon hierarchy, or simply when it comes to determining the informal pecking order in the local congregation. Some Mormons would argue against the above, and I’m sure there are exceptions. But decades of observation on my part indicate such indeed are the exceptions. The rule prevails.
3. Early on, I was exposed to disciplined, logical, and systematic thinking. This was through earning an undergraduate minor in mathematics. More than anything else, it taught me to respect careful and rational thinkers. Along with that, I discovered a growing interest in the humanities, and the scientific nature of historical research. The combination of all of these factors set me on a path that led to the inescapable conclusion that the Mormon Church is a fraud. Now some Mormon apologists will read that and ask about the many Mormon mathematicians, scientists, and humanities professors employed by Brigham Young University (an extension of the Mormon Church). My answer to them would be a favorite quote by Upton Sinclair:
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Or in other words, never underestimate what the mind can rationalize when a career is at stake.
This is not a temporary phase:
I would love to remain loyal to the church, but its actions (as I’ve observed over my entire life span) simply make it undeserving of my loyalty. We are familiar with the worthiness interview process in which we are determined to be worthy or unworthy to participate in church ordinances. Well, in that vein, I’ve determined the church to be unworthy of my time, devotion, and service. If you think I’m just going through a temporary phase of disenchantment, let me share a few things with you:
1. I’ve had doubts about the Joseph Smith story since before my mission. On my mission, I wasn’t a true believer. Those who know much about my life then will certainly remember that I saw my mission primarily as a cultural, language-learning experience. Sure, I was a “good missionary,” and made it up the leadership ladder. But even back then, I was uncomfortable with the Joseph Smith story. I preferred teaching doctrines I truly believed in and still do, things like faith, love, and charity. To me, the mission was about living abroad, learning from people who lived through World War II, sampling German foods, visiting museums and historical sites, and becoming proficient in the German language. Surprisingly enough, even though I was ostensibly a Mormon missionary at the time, I feel I succeeded in those endeavors.
2. I asked to be released from all church callings in January 2004.
3. I haven’t paid a cent in tithing and offerings to the church since December 2002, and can’t imagine ever giving them any money again.`
4. I never attend meetings anymore.
5. I formally resigned from the Mormon Church on May 12, 2005.
So why have I turned away from the Mormon Church? The reasons are many, but here are a few that come to mind.
1. Numerous verbatim King James Version passages in the Book of Mormon; a book purportedly written by AD 421 whereas the King James Version is a 17th century document. Also, the biblical quotes in the Book of Mormon do not incorporate the changes made in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Add to this recent DNA evidence that destroys the claims of historicity of the entire Book of Mormon. Finally, where, besides church paid apologists or Mormon hobbyists, are the archaeologists who study Book of Mormon history? That’s right, they don’t exist. To objective scientists outside of Mormonism, the Book of Mormon has as much historic validity as The Hobbit, and is certainly a far less interesting read.
Also, where are the bones, swords and armor from the epic battles that took place at the Hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon? The Jaredite nation supposedly ended there with 2 million men slain, and then the Nephites and Lamanites had a battle there in 421 AD where 230,000 warriors who had steel weapons were killed. Where are the anthropologists of the world who are excavating what would promise to be one of the greatest ancient battle sites? Why has not a trace of evidence ever been found at Cumorah to establish these claims?
I contrast this lack of evidence for the Book of Mormon with the 1973 discovery of the Terra Cotta Warriors near Xian, China. This amazing “army” of some 8,000 thousand terra cotta figures was buried some 600 years (210 BC) before the purported final battle in the Book of Mormon. Surely, if there was battle at Cumorah in AD 421 that involved 230,000 men, there would be something to be found, wouldn’t there? In terms of archaeology, AD 421 is simply not that long ago.
When I was growing up in Southern California, I had direct contact with the Mormon Church’s Lamanite Placement Program. The Lamanites in this program were Native American youth from Arizona, and New Mexico who, during the school year, moved off the reservation to live with white suburban Euro-American Mormon families. Since this program was run by the church under the direction of prophets, I understood Lamanites lived in Arizona and New Mexico. Also, from reading the Doctrine & Covenants (one of the canonized Mormon scriptures), I understood from passages about teaching the Lamanites the Gospel, that Lamanites also lived in Missouri.
And I recall the photos in the introductory pages of the 1950s-1970s editions of the Book of Mormon of ancient ruins in Central America, and the Hill Cumorah in Upstate New York (where the Golden Plates were buried). From those, I inferred that, as the Book of Mormon claimed, the Native Americans’ “principal ancestors” were the people of the Book of Mormon. Indeed, the people of the Book of Mormon must have been all over the North and Central American Continent like Joseph Smith wrote about the Jaredites (only one of the peoples described in the Book of Mormon):
“Jared and his brother came on to this continent from the confusion and the scattering at the Tower [Tower of Babel], and lived here more than a thousand years, and covered the whole continent from SEA TO SEA, WITH TOWNS AND CITIES…” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 267.)
I grew up understanding that temple dedicatory prayers were prophetic. Indeed, the prayer at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple was canonized in the Doctrine & Covenants. It’s interesting that almost without exception in the past 75 years or so, every Mormon temple that has been dedicated in Central and South America, and the Islands of the Pacific, has, in its dedicatory prayer, been mentioned as a place that will bring the blessings of the Gospel to the Lamanites who presumably make of the principal population of that country.
Finally, as a missionary in Germany from 1981-83, I regularly showed the official Mormon Church produced filmstrip Ancient America Speaks. It presented what the rest of the world identifies as Inca and Mayan ruins, as ruins of the Book of Mormon peoples. The photos of the ruins in the filmstrip covered a wide geographical area.
So from all of those evidences I personally knew about or experienced, I believed the Book of Mormon people were spread all over the Western Hemisphere. Imagine my surprise when DNA studies in recent decades conclusively revealed virtually no Hebrew DNA among Native Americans. On the contrary, the DNA findings revealed that the ancestors of the Native Americans came from Asia. How could that be if the Book of Mormon was about Jewish ancestors, and was about a civilization that “covered the whole continent” and indeed, according to prophetic utterances, the entire Western Hemisphere?
We always clearly understood the Book of Mormon to be the “keystone of our religion.” As missionaries, we emphatically taught the principle that if the Book of Mormon is true, then the Mormon Church is true. Now that the Book of Mormon has been completely discredited, any member with a shred of intellectual honesty, who cares to remember their own past and life experiences, must conclude the entire religion is a hoax. There is no other option.
2. Book of Abraham source documents found to be nothing more than common funerary texts.
3. 1978 granting of the priesthood to blacks was over a decade after the landmark civil rights legislation of the 1960s. Surely God’s church would be ahead of society, not behind. As a child, I was repeatedly taught in the Mormon Church that the reason blacks were black and inferior was because in the pre-Earth life, there was a war in Heaven, and they were less valiant than the whites. So God cursed them with a black skin. Also, the Book of Mormon teaches the reason why the Indians have darker skin was because of a curse for being unrighteous.
4. Polygamy was banned in the 1890s, yet D&C 132 which authorizes polygamy, was never changed. Also, the church distances itself from, and refuses to accept responsibility for polygamy (and its associated problems) in the Intermountain West today even though the Mormon Church was the institution that opened the can of worms in the first place. I’m troubled to find out through the Mormon Church’s FamilySearch website that Joseph Smith had 24 wives (reputable historians have examined source documents that put the number at 33), 11 of whom were married to other living breathing men at the same time (though some of those men were sent away by Joseph Smith on missions), and 11 teenagers, one being as young as 14 years old.
5. President Hinckley’s (the current Mormon President) public minimizing of the couplet of “as man is God once was, as God is man may become.” On the subject of God once being a man, President Hinckley said “I don’t know that we teach it.” Unfortunately, I know beyond any doubt this is something I was taught throughout my life, and understood to be one of the core beliefs of Mormonism.
6. The church today profits from blood sport through ownership of game preserves. This comes some twenty years after I personally heard President Kimball (former church president) admonish us in the April and October 1978 General Conferences, to not “kill the little birds.” Interestingly enough, the Primary lesson manual for children still has a lesson that quotes from President Kimball’s talk about not killing the little birds.
7. The whole idea of doing the right thing so I can get some reward in heaven, or avoid punishment, strikes me as childish. Yet this is a major premise of the Mormon Church taught from childhood up (i.e. Primary songs like “Families Can Be Forever,” and “I am a Child of God”). I like to think I choose to do the right thing because it’s right, and doing good is its own reward. Paying tithing to avoid getting burned, or to gain admission to the temple, seem like the wrong motives to me. If I give a gift, it must come as a free-will offering, not out of guilt. I feel living the best I can for today is the best way to prepare for the afterlife. Guilt should not even be a factor.
8. In an age of instant satellite communication, I find spending $400+ million to build the world’s largest indoor auditorium (Conference Center) extremely wasteful. Once again, I recall how President Kimball talked about satellites as the way to bring the church to the people, thus saving the need for more people to travel to Salt Lake City. Also, I find the timing of the completion of the Conference Center not long before the Winter Olympics somewhat suspect (to be used as a showpiece?).
I worry with the purchase of Main Street between North and South Temple, the Crossroads Plaza shopping mall, and now the intent to acquire the Triad Center, and the Old Navy Building, as well as constructing a luxury hotel in Hawaii as unsettling indications the church is perhaps a bit too obsessed with making a buck. I understand now that the tab for developing the downtown shopping malls and new residences in Salt Lake City is expected to run $1.5 billion. The Mormon Church claims they must do this in order “to protect the environs of the temple” (Dec 2003 Ensign Magazine). No, it has nothing to do with making a buck, right? And what about the Mormon Church’s approval for alcohol to be served in business establishments within the mall? It’s all about money. For a church that expressly forbids its members from drinking alcohol, I find that highly hypocritical.
Recently, I learned with a massive land purchase in Nebraska, the church is now the second largest private land owner in that state. Also, I recall reading in the BBC how the Mormon Church is one of the top ten land owners in the East of England (Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, and Norfolk). And, I understand the Mormon Church is one of the top developers in the Salt Lake City World Trade Center project. Contrast these facts with meager budgets of the local Mormon congregations worldwide, and one can’t be faulted for wondering whether the Mormon Church is really just a real estate development corporation disguised as a church.
9. Repeatedly, I’ve observed how so-called promptings of the Holy Ghost are unreliable, dangerous, and can do destructive things like tear apart families. Clearly, logic, common sense, and a spirit of true charity are far better ways to handle life’s difficulties.
10. Observed the First Presidency duped by Mark Hofmann, even to the extent of publishing in the Ensign what later proved to be spurious documents. Because the First Presidency failed to detect Hoffman as a fraud, a chain of events was set in motion that resulted in the deaths of two innocent people.
11. Repeated examples of the church attempting to whitewash its history. For instance, the recent Brigham Young manual used for Priesthood and Relief Society lessons portrays him as a monogamist. Also, in recent years, I’ve noticed the church has re-manufactured Emma Smith. She was once scorned for her independent thinking (not going along with polygamy) while married to Joseph, and then for her staying behind in Nauvoo after the church left for Utah. These days, in the Ensign (Church Magazine), she is hailed as the closest thing to the Blessed Virgin, the perfect, submissive wife who never complained when her husband had church duties to perform. For as much as I value history, I find such blatant institutional dishonesty very disturbing.
12. The Lamanite Placement Program I observed at close hand as a child and teen. As an adult I’ve come to see it for its inherent racism; that of stripping young Native Americans from their families and turning them into middle class suburban mainstreamers–often alienating them from both their families, and heritage. Such actions run contrary to my conscience. Also, if spirituality is the most important thing in life, why didn’t the church take white children from upscale suburbs, and send them away from their own families each year for 9 months to live with a Native American family on a reservation? Afterall, the Native Americans are far more spiritual than the typical whitebread suburbanite.
13. I find the punitive nature of church disciplinary councils excessively harsh, humiliating, medieval, and out of line with the parable of the woman taken in adultery to whom Christ simply says “go thy way and sin no more.” Why does the church need to excommunicate people precisely at the point in their lives when they could use church fellowship the most? It simply doesn’t make sense.
14. President Hinckley claims the church doesn’t get involved in politics. If spending large sums of money to support anti-gay, and anti-civil rights legislation isn’t “getting involved in politics,” then what is?
15. During the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, an article on missionary work “The Making of a Missionary” appeared on the MSNBC website (2/19/2002 by Clare Duffy and Dana Lewis, NBC News). In it, Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, referring to the missionaries, was quoted as saying:
“We plead with them not to worry too much about whether they have a lot of conversions or whether they don’t….we want them to feel that they had a great experience, that they served, that they loved the people and learned a lot.”
Having served a mission, I find Holland’s comments to be untruthful, and misleading. What I remember very clearly is the constant pressure to baptize, and the constant guilt trips if we didn’t. I also remember the pain and humiliation of having but one baptism my entire mission. That sort of thing isn’t easily forgotten. We had a weekly standard to meet which included how many lessons we taught, how many people we brought to church, how many baptismal challenges to investigators, how many hours we went door-to-door, etc. etc. “How many” refers to numbers doesn’t it? Holland obviously wants me to pretend otherwise.
16. In the Mormon strongholds of the Western region of the United States, I’ve observed (as a rule) that leadership callings in the church are largely determined by nepotism, popularity, and socio-economic status. I was on “the leadership track” myself during my days as an Air Force officer, and college professor to be. When I decided to become a self-employed carpet cleaner, I “fell from grace,” and haven’t been considered for leadership since. Along with this, I’ve personally observed a distinct anti-working class attitude among American Mormons. This is most ironic considering the church was built on the backs of blue collar members. Yet today if you’re a blue collar member in a white suburban ward (the default Mormon ward), you’re near the bottom of the social pecking order. Certainly, no one takes you seriously, gives you responsible callings, or seeks your advice. You’re a loser, plain and simple.
Church leadership should be about service, not status. Many of the local Mormon leaders are fine, dedicated, and well-intentioned people. But they have no training for their positions, and as a result, often make serious mistakes. The members who pay so much to the church deserve better than this. And the unpaid leaders who are often serving at the expense of spending time with their families, need to be let off the hook. One other point: I was always told our leaders were called by revelation. If this is so, then why is nepotism so rampant in the General Authority ranks in the Mormon Church?
17. As a rule, church meetings are bland, boring, and uninspired. General Authorities behave like business executives, not spiritual leaders. Frankly, there is nothing put out by the church that can inspire me the way the world’s great authors and thinkers can. A few years back, my wife and I picked up from the library the book Stand for Something by Gordon B. Hinckley. Even though I was still partially a believer, we both found the book superficial, vapid, and jingoistic. After reading a few pages, we both knew our stomachs wouldn’t allow us to get through it, so we took it back to the library. Such tripe is the standard fare being dished out by the General Authorities these days. If you have any taste for rich, thoughtful and mature spiritual guidance, you’re certain to find the words of current Mormon leaders to be quite unsatisfying.
Spiritually speaking, the Mormon Church is dead. Many members seem to be running on fumes. The meetings don’t nourish the spirit, but rather pile on the guilt. The lesson manuals are uniformly boring, and written at a very rudimentary level. They do not address the spiritual and intellectual needs of lifelong members. Heaven help any member who takes history seriously, particularly church history. He/she is branded as a pariah. Indeed once the glory of God was intelligence. Today in the church, the glory of God has become obedience.
The Mormon Church’s response to 9-11 was pathetic when compared with the response by faith groups in the wider world. There were faith vigils by these non-Mormon groups that far surpassed (in spiritual insight) anything the Mormons have ever done. In my lifetime, from what I’ve observed, the Mormon Church has only ever given lip service to Easter and Christmas. Their biggest celebrations by far have to do with things like the Church’s birthday, President Hinckley’s birthday, or Joseph Smith. As I look back at my four decades of experience in the Mormon Church, it’s increasingly clear that the Brethren are merely products of their prevailing culture with all of its inherent prejudices, homophobia, racism, and bigotry. True prophets of God would transcend all of that.
18. Since becoming a father myself, I have gained new insights about the role of Heavenly Father. I love my children quite independent of their works, and how much they serve me. And I would shudder to think of cutting them off from me because of some little mistake they might make. Also, I enjoy the presence of my children, and wouldn’t expect them to have go through a lot of hassle simply to be with me. Why can’t our relationship with Heavenly Father be the same? Why does He have to come across as a petty and jealous tyrant?
Also, having a daughter, I’ve become very aware and appalled by the sexism inherent in the Mormon Church. No matter how much talent or success my daughter achieves in life, she will always be a second-class church member with no voice or authority in the Mormon Church. This is simply wrong. Finally, contrary to the media image the Mormon Church portrays as the “family church,” I’ve found in many instances personally, and from others that Mormon families are usually only close when everyone in the family believes in the Mormon Church.
When it came out that I had left the church, I was horrendously slandered by close family members. Some of the slander included: adulterer, Internet porn addict, mentally unstable, a bad influence on my children, a bad influence on nieces and nephews, a commandment breaker, possessed by the devil, and more. My dad had passed away just months before I came out of the closet–I had contemplated telling him, but he died unexpectedly in an accident. Shortly after my announcement, one family member said she was sadder about my leaving the church than about my dad’s death. So, do I think the Mormon Church is a good family church? Nope.
19. The church is obsessed with numbers. I encountered this in the Aaronic Priesthood, on my mission (especially), and then later as an Elders Quorum President, and in virtually every other leadership capacity. It’s all about percentages, attendance, etc. This numbers obsession runs counter to what I feel should be the emphasis of a church which claims to be the only true one. What truly floors me is to hear the leaders claim it’s not a numbers game!
20. I’ve seen how Priesthood Correlation has gutted the church; turning it into a soulless corporation. Before Correlation, for instance, the Relief Society had its own budget, manuals, and lessons. Now, everything flows through the men at the top, and the RS is but a mere shadow of its former self. The same is true about the other auxiliaries.
21. There is no real spirit of community in the local wards I’ve attended over the past 15 years (4 wards in four entirely different stakes). When long time members move away, they no longer get a chance to speak in sacrament meeting because the Brethren have already correlated the meeting schedule for the year and there’s no room left. Missionary homecomings and farewells have similarly been banned–anything that smacks of community spirit or personalizing the worship services. This is sad. I enjoy community spirit. The Mormon Church offers only dull standardization. Also, the church administration in Salt Lake takes in vast amounts of money from its members yet only returns a pittance to the local wards for their activities.
When I was in my youth in the 1970s, I recall there were many fun programs and ward activities. We had bazaars, dance festivals, speech festivals, roadshows, great youth activity nights, regular youth dances with live bands, seminary scripture chase competitions, a full complement of sports competition (softball and basketball) spanning several months a year, etc. These are the types of things that weld young members to the church, that give them a love of it.
Nowadays, due to many reasons (financial being the prime one), most of those programs are gone, or are a mere shadow of their former greatness. The youth programs are often dull, underplanned, and half-hearted. The church is in dire need of injecting fun back into the experience of being a member. Yet, if anything interesting is to be done, it has to come out of the members’ pockets. Salt Lake gives very little back. Luckily, in some “rich wards,” wealthy members can pick up the slack. But the fact remains, in virtually every ward I’ve observed over the past decade, the activities program is an afterthought, and the social life of the ward is seriously lacking.
22. Pervasive racism
The core story of the Book of Mormon is racist. It’s about a family in which two of the sons turned bad. God therefore cursed them with a dark skin. Dark skin, according to the Book of Mormon is a curse from God. There is no way Mormons can deny this fact. And the only way they can distance themselves from it is to denounce the Book of Mormon. But how do they do that when for decades they’ve claimed it’s “the keystone of our religion,” and “the most perfect book”? Some more thoughts to ponder: The following quote: Spencer W. Kimball, General Conference Report 1960, Improvement ERA, December 1960, pages 922-923
“I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today… The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos, five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation.”
Why is whiter skin color associated with righteousness? Isn’t that racism? A few more quotes from church leaders:
“Now WE ARE GENEROUS WITH THE NEGRO. WE ARE WILLING that the Negro have the highest kind of education. I WOULD BE WILLING to LET every Negro DRIVE A CADILLAC IF THEY COULD AFFORD IT. I WOULD BE WILLING that they have all the advantages they can get out of life in the world. BUT LET THEM ENJOY THESE THINGS AMONG THEMSELVES.” LDS Apostle Mark E. Petersen, “Race Problems – As They Affect The Church,” Address delivered at Brigham Young University, August 27, 1954, as quoted in Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s book entitled, “The Changing World of Mormonism,” p. 307, emphasis added.
“Those who were LESS VALIANT IN PRE-EXISTENCE and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the NEGROES.” LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 527, 1966 edition, emphasis added.
“THE NEGROES ARE NOT EQUAL WITH OTHER RACES where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, …but this inequality is not of man’s origin. IT IS THE LORD’S DOING, is based on his eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the LACK OF SPIRITUAL VALIANCE OF THOSE CONCERNED IN THEIR FIRST ESTATE [the Mormon pre-existence].” LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 527 – 528, 1966 edition, emphasis added.
“We’ve always counseled in the Church for our Mexican members to marry Mexicans, our Japanese members to marry Japanese, our Caucasians to marry Caucasians, our Polynesian members to marry Polynesians. The counsel has been wise. You may say again, “Well, I know of exceptions.” I do, too, and they’ve been very successful marriages. I know some of them. You might even say, “I can show you local Church leaders or perhaps even general leaders who have married out of their race.” I say, “Yes–exceptions.” Then I would remind you of that Relief Society woman’s near-scriptural statement, “We’d like to follow the rule first, and then we’ll take care of the exceptions.” LDS Apostle Boyd K. Packer, from the talk “Follow the Rule” given at Brigham Young University, 1/14/77.
“I will remark with regard to slavery, inasmuch as we believe in the Bible, inasmuch as we believe in the ordinances of God, in the priesthood and order and decrees of God, we must believe in slavery. This colored race have been subjected to severe curses, which they have in their families and their classes and in their various capacities brought upon themselves…
“I am a firm believer in slavery…Those servants want to come here with their masters…and they commence to whisper round their views upon the subject, saying ‘Do you think it’s right? I am afraid it is not right’. I know it is right, and there should be a law made to have the slaves serve their master, because they are not capable of ruling themselves…I am firm in the belief that they ought to dwell in servitude…
“When a master has a negro, and uses him well, he is much better off than when he is free. As for masters knocking them down and whipping them and breaking the limbs of their servants, I have as little opinion of that as any person can have, but good wholesome servitude, I know there is nothing better than that.”
(Speech by Brigham Young delivered in joint session of the legislature, Friday, Jan. 23rd, 1852, recorded by Geo. D. Watt, Brigham Young Papers, Historical Dept. of the Church).
“If there never was a prophet or apostle of Jesus Christ spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are.”
“Again to the subject before us: as to the negro men bearing rule, not one of the children of old Cain have one particle of right to bear rule in government affairs from first to last. They have no business there. This privilege was taken from them by their own transgressions, and I cannot help it.
“I am as much opposed to the principle of slavery as any man in the present acceptation or usage of the term – it is abused. I am opposed to abusing that which God has decreed, to take a blessing, and make a curse of it. It is a great blessing to the seed of Adam to have the seed of Cain for servants…”
“Therefore, I will not consent for one moment to have an African dictate (to) me or my brethren with regard to church or state government…No, it is not right. But say some, is there anything of this kind in the constitution the United States has given us? If you will allow me the privilege of telling it right out, it is none of their damned business what we do or say here. What we do, it is for them to sanction, and then for us to say what we like about it. It is written right in the constitution ‘that every free white male inhabitant above the age of 21 years’, and etc…I have given you the true principle and doctrine.
“What the Gentiles are doing, we are consenting to do [he’s referring to the “evil” abolitionist effort going on in the USA at the time]. What we are trying to do today is to make the Negro equal with us in all our privileges. My voice shall be against it all the day long. I shall not consent for one moment.”
(Speech in joint session, Feb. 5, 1852, Brigham Young Papers, Historical Dept. of the Church)
Sorry, but the above quotes indicate a pervasive racism. I can’t in good conscience be associated with an organization that holds such beliefs, or refuses to apologize for them.
23. I think facts matter, and therefore cannot accept the following:
“Our individual, personal testimonies are based on the witness of the Spirit, not on any combination or accumulation of historical facts. If we are so grounded, no alteration of historical facts can shake our testimonies.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “1985 CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium,” Brigham Young University, Aug. 16, 1985, page 26).
I’m sorry, but historical fact is, always has been, and always will be important to me, and I can’t simply ignore it even if the Brethren want me to. Call it a weakness. I plead guilty. The church makes extraordinary claims, and consequently, must be held to higher standards of honesty and integrity. Yet the church repeatedly fails to meet those standards. Also, the church encourages us to “get over” history such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, polygamy, and blacks and the priesthood, but never get over history such as the story of the Martin Handcart Company. Why?
As a lifelong history buff, and as an active tour guide at the Oregon Historical Society since 2001, I’ve learned firsthand that professional historians follow painstaking procedures to uncover and document the past. They use primary and secondary sources, and without exception (in my observations), only make claims when they have significant documentable evidence to back up those claims. For reputable historians, there are no hidden agendas or predetermined outcomes. The peer review system virtually ensures that. The Mormon Church would have its members believe that any history which casts the church in anything but glowing terms is agenda-driven, and anti-Mormon, and to be avoided.
When we accept the Mormon Church’s spin on history, it’s very easy to see bogey men in everything, and to lose the critical trust that truth does exist. Sure, good historical research isn’t infallible, but for the most part, it’s highly reliable. My point is when we apply these standards to Mormon Church history, all sorts of embarrassing things appear. Unfortunately, rather than come clean with their history, the church would rather run from it.
24. We are told this is a family church yet we also hear crazy stories about members of the past (who are held up as role models) for their sacrifices. Here are two from a recent regional conference held in Salem, Oregon. President Faust’s wife talked about her grandmother who raised 8 young children for two years while her husband was off serving a mission for the church? If being a present father is so important, why did the church take him away from his family? Another story was about a widow who spent nearly every waking hour of the final 12 years of her life doing temple endowments so she could reach her goal of 20,000 during that time frame. By my calculations, that would be 12 hours a day, 5 days a week for well over a decade. What about time for friends, family, nature, learning, and just enjoying Heavenly Father’s creations? To me this lady went clearly overboard, and should not be held up as a good example.
25. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young reported their revelations all of the time. Biblical and Book of Mormon prophets did as well. Yet, our prophets today tell us their revelations are too sacred to talk about. Why the difference? Were the earlier prophets’ revelations just not sacred enough? Logic suggests today’s leaders are pulling our legs.
26. The church teaches its members to get all of their answers through prayer. While I see prayer as very important, I think using it as the ultimate answer key is a recipe for disaster. Logic, common sense, thorough research, and patience are incredibly important in decision making. Sadly, the Mormon Church doesn’t emphasize these essential tools. Sorry, but life has taught me that prayer and inspiration are not excuses for failure to do proper research and apply some elbow grease.
27. The church is insensitive to individual members. The following is from Gordon B. Hinckley in General Conference, October 5, 2002:
“Now we have an interesting custom in the Church. Departing missionaries are accorded a farewell. In some wards this has become a problem. Between outgoing missionaries and returning missionaries, most sacrament meetings are devoted to farewells and homecomings.
No one else in the Church has a farewell when entering a particular service. We never have a special farewell-type meeting for a newly called bishop, for a stake president, for a Relief Society president, for a General Authority, or anyone else of whom I can think. Why should we have missionary farewells?
The First Presidency and the Twelve, after most prayerful and careful consideration, have reached the decision that the present program of missionary farewells should be modified.
The departing missionary will be given opportunity to speak in a sacrament meeting for 15 or 20 minutes. But parents and siblings will not be invited to do so. There might be two or more departing missionaries who speak in the same service. The meeting will be entirely in the hands of the bishop and will not be arranged by the family. There will not be special music or anything of that kind.”
Why have a missionary farewell? Because in terms of devotion, age, and commitment, nothing compares with what a 19 year old boy or 21 year old woman is expected to sacrifice to serve the church–and not get paid. The least the church could do is recognize them when they leave on their mission, and allow them to personalize the meeting. This policy from 2002 is one of the most insensitive things I’ve ever heard from the Brethren. What an insult to the young people who serve so faithfully on their own dime.
Comparing missionary service to the calling of bishop, stake president, or RS president is a slap in the face to the missionary. If President Hinckley doesn’t see the difference between sending a 19 year old boy away from his family and friends for two years, and calling a Relief Society president, then I pity him. Some more words from Gordon B. Hinckley:
“….We hope also that holding elaborate open houses after the sacrament meeting at which the missionary speaks will not prevail. Members of the family may wish to get together. We have no objection to this. However, we ask that there be no public reception to which large numbers are invited.”
Yet another evidence of how the church is deadset on ruining anything that smacks of personalization.
28. LDS scout troops are, on the whole, pitiful when compared with non LDS scout troops. I know this firsthand from my experience in scouting in the Mormon Church, decades of observation in a variety of places, and now my experience with my son in a non Mormon troop. Here are some of the reasons (based on my observations over several decades) why LDS troops are so lousy:
a. Leaders aren’t allowed to volunteer, rather they’re assigned by the bishop. Also, unlike virtually ever other organization outside the Mormon Church that offers youth programs, the Mormon Church fails to do background checks on its youth leaders. In this day and age, such negligence is disgusting.
b. Parental involvement is almost universally lacking; but do you blame the parents what with all of the time-consuming things the church heaps on them such as HT/VT, other callings, temple attendance, leadership meetings, etc.?
c. Camping trips don’t include Sundays (what’s wrong with having Sacrament meeting in nature, the church used to do this?), and this results in boys not having time to develop scout skills to the extent non LDS boys do.
d. LDS leaders are often untrained, and serve only a short time. Every year we read about a new tragedy. Recently, there was the scout in Utah who got lost and died in the wilderness. And, not long ago there was the scout troop in Utah that caused a fire that caused millions of dollars of damage. I recall many years ago hearing my brother tell stories about our ward troop on a trip to Death Valley in which the Mormon boy scouts were guilty of repeated blatant shoplifting and arson.
e. LDS troop size is typically very small (6-10 boys being common). The church could combine wards in creating troops, and thus provide a viable troop size with real leadership opportunities, but they don’t.
f. LDS troops typically emphasize getting rank to the exclusion of providing a well-rounded program. LDS Eagle Scouts have a poor reputation in the wider scouting world as boys who invariably cut corners to achieve their rank. Just how much can a 14 year old Mormon Eagle Scout have gotten out of the program compared with a 17 year old non-Mormon Eagle Scout who has been active in scouting since turning 11?
29. The book Drawing on the Powers of Heaven by Grant Von Harrison, was heavily endorsed in my mission in Munich, Germany (1981-1983). We were told to read it before we entered the field, and then keep it for frequent reference once we were there.
I found this book perhaps works for missionaries to Latin America, but it caused me a great deal of pain and suffering in Germany. It was only later through years of observation, and the application of honest logic that the reason some missionaries baptize and others don’t is not personal righteousness. No, the decisive factors are 1. where they are serving, and 2. their salesmanship skills.
Missionaries who serve in areas where the educational, and socio-economic levels of the general population are lower than the USA, tend to have the most success. In areas like Central Europe where literacy exceeds that of the USA, and with access to information, and the socio-economic level roughly equivalent, missionary success is practically non-existent. Yet Von Harrison (who served his mission in Mexico) places all of the blame for not baptizing on the shoulders of the individual missionaries. It’s a matter of personal faith and personal righteousness, he argues. As a young and impressionable 19 year old, I was in no position to defend my mind from such abusive and manipulative teachings. It took me years after the mission to finally realize it wasn’t me who was the problem.
30. The church actually breaks up families. From 3+ hours of meetings on Sunday, to time demanding callings on fathers and mothers, to constant pressure to attend the temple, to missions for boys at the age of 19, to pressure on young adults to marry early, to missions for grandparents, to cleaning the chapel, to various other demands, the church is constantly pulling family members away from spending time together. Since distancing myself from the church, I’ve noticed a marked improvement in our family life, and particularly, an increase in the time we spend together.
31. The church teaches against evolution, yet it employs dozens of professors at BYU in areas such as biology, geology, genetics, and anthropology, who, without exception, teach that the earth is millions of years old, and that evolution is scientifically verifiable. So whose side do we take? The church’s, or that of the church-employed BYU professors?
32. Back in the 1970s, the Mormon Church openly opposed passage of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). In fact, they distributed a small pamphlet worldwide which thoroughly covered the reasons why they opposed it. One key reason was their belief in maintaining the balance of powers between the federal government and the states. They argued that the states should retain authority over questions such as marriage, relationships of the sexes, etc. They made it clear a constitutional amendment for such a matter would be wrong. Ironically, these days the Mormon Church is a vocal proponent for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Why the complete turnaround in just 30 years? Did they think no one would notice?
33. General Authorities regularly give advice that makes no sense, and actually damages peoples’ lives. For instance, consider the pressure to marry young and have children immediately. Such a life course is foolhardy, and often is the catalyst to divorce, depression (anti-depression drug use), absent fathers, no time for fun\bonding, etc. In February 2005, Elder Russell M. Nelson delivered the latest installment of such lousy advice. A few quotes from a Deseret News article by Rodger Hardy dated February 7, 2005: College students should not put off creating families until they have completed all of their studies, an LDS Church apostle said Sunday. He urged his listeners to seek first to follow the teachings of the church before seeking wealth, which includes the commandment to create families. He added,
“Satan is waging war directly at the heart of God’s plan — the family,” he said. The age of couples getting married for the first time is increasing, as is the number of unmarried couples, he said. “It takes real faith to withstand this attack.”
Similar counsel from General Authorities when I was college age, resulted in significant amounts of added stress because I was having a hard time “finding a wife.” Just the term “finding a wife” now sounds weird to me. Why the huge mandate? Because of my “failure” to follow this commandment at the “right age” (21-23), I suffered from a low self-image. I had supposedly done everything right in the rest of my life, but why couldn’t I keep up with “more righteous” Mormon peers who were getting married and having kids right away? What a crock! In retrospect, I look back on the single years of my Twenties as some of the greatest of my life (I didn’t get married until I was nearly 27).
Clearly, such stupid counsel coming from a man whose career was that of a highly paid cardiologist, is a clear and unmistakable evidence that the Mormon Church leaders truly don’t have our best interests in mind. Curiously enough, in May 2005, the US Census Bureau published a report (see Table 1) that shows Utah has the lowest median age for first marriages (21.9 for women and 23.9 for men). So apparently, I’m not just imagining things.
And there are many other factors behind my unbelief. I hope and pray you will find it in your heart to understand what I’m saying, and respect my freedom to worship with integrity, “according to the dictates of [my]…own conscience.”
John O. Andersen (Guest)