Columns Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

How Mormons handle doubt: Blame the victim

Screen shot of the January 13 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints broadcast devotional for young adults, with Elder and Sister Renlund.

This week, Elder Dale G. Renlund and his wife Ruth led a devotional for young adults at BYU-Hawaii, a university of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The topic was doubt, which is an important and timely issue in Mormonism.

I was raised to try to find something good to say first, so here goes: I appreciate that this devotional acknowledges that leaving the Church is rarely about just one thing. Rather, it’s often catalyzed by a complex mixture of intellectual, social, and spiritual issues.

So there’s that. But overall, the talk conveyed a damaging message about doubt and, more importantly, doubters.

The problems begin at the start of the talk, with a childish cartoon about a young man who is cast adrift when his boat capsizes. He’s eventually picked up by a kindly old fisherman, who hauls him to safety and gives him water and crackers.

Rather than being grateful for this lifesaving measure, the young guy immediately begins to complain; the water he’s been given isn’t Evian or Perrier, and the boat is in poor condition. He’s not convinced it is seaworthy. He devolves into a full-on toddleresque meltdown twelve miles from shore, insisting that he be let off. The saddened fisherman obliges, leaving the guy again in the middle of the ocean—and this time there is the ominous specter of a circling shark.

Screen shot of the parable of the boat, from the worldwide devotional for young adults, January 13.

The parable, the Renlunds explain, is about the Church and those who doubt it. These doubters remove themselves from the safety of the boat because they can’t see beyond their complaints that this or that element is not to their liking.

Sister Renlund asks whether “dents and peeling paint” on the Church diminish its ability to provide authorized saving ordinances that help people become like Heavenly Father. The answer is no, and here I completely agree with her. It’s refreshing to hear an acknowledgment, however implicit, that the Church isn’t perfect. Too many times in the past, complaints have been dismissed with the old adage that the Church is perfect but its people aren’t.

In reality, neither is perfect.

It’s also refreshing to hear, without apology, several of the historical issues mentioned by name that many doubters have struggled with.

But the overall tone of the talk is dismissive, expressing little concern for the pain endured by people who are having what has been variously called a “faith crisis,” “faith transition,” or “dark night of the soul.”

Those people are instead depicted as selfish, childish “snake-oil salesmen” (yes, that phrase is mentioned) who focus excessively on insignificant details because they don’t really want to have true faith.

Elder Renlund tells a story of a young man he knew called Stephen, a returned missionary who married in the temple and served in the Church for many years. Stephen began having trouble with multiple accounts of the First Vision, so he was put in touch with a scholar who helped him to resolve that issue. But by then Stephen was concerned about something else: polygamy. Next it was race and the priesthood. And on and on.

The Renlunds don’t have a lot of sympathy for this, calling Stephen a “perpetual doubter” who seems to enjoy having something to complain about. They label this “church history whack-a-mole.”

Screen shot of “Church history whack-a-mole” from the January 13 broadcast devotional for young adults.

Stephen, they tell us, “let doubt and uncertainty occupy his mind” to the extent that he could no longer see the light.

Did you catch that verb phrasing? Stephen let doubt in. He opened the door and welcomed it. In doing so he destroyed his own faith.

Elder Renlund paraphrases the twentieth-century apostle John Widtsoe:

“Doubt, unless changed into inquiry from reliable, trustworthy sources, has no value or worth. A stagnant doubter, one content with himself, unwilling to make the appropriate effort to pay the price of divine discovery, inevitably reaches unbelief and darkness. His doubts grow like poisonous mushrooms in the dim shadows of his mental and spiritual chambers. At last, blind like the mole in his burrow, he usually substitutes ridicule for reason, indolence for labor, and becomes a lazy scholar.”

Doubters, then, are lazy, stagnant, and blind to the truth. Other takeaways from the Renlunds’ talk are that:

  • Doubt can’t be a precursor to faith.
  • Doubt and faith cannot exist in the same person at the same time.
  • Doubt causes us to harden our own hearts.
  • Doubt prevents us from receiving answers from God.
  • Doubt leads us to be taken captive by the devil.

The most damaging part of the talk seems to be addressed to the faithful, those in the pews who are, presumably, without doubt themselves. The Renlunds press them on why they should not trust doubters: Would you entrust your financial portfolio to someone who was broke? Your health to a quack doctor? (Here is where the “snake-oil salesman” comment comes into play.)

Of course not. So why would you ever dream of listening to or trusting those who are “spiritually bankrupt,” who have “ripped up in doubt what they once planted in faith”?

This rhetoric has the effect of reassuring people who have never experienced doubt that they’re on the covenant path—while blaming those who do have doubts. The devotional conjures a palpable lack of compassion for Stephen and others, who are portrayed as secretly wanting to lose their faith.

That has just not been my experience in talking to people in a faith transition. For starters, this whole notion that doubt can never be a catalyst to a deeper faith is fear-based hogwash. Some people who have a faith crisis return to the fold with even stronger beliefs. It’s not a large group, but it happens often enough that we can’t simply depict doubt as antithetical to faith.

But I’ve never seen a case where a doubter successfully returned to the Church through shaming tactics such as these. Not once.

Doubt is not a path that people embark upon because they’re selfish, lazy, or somehow perverse—all of which are reasons hinted at here. Rather, doubt occurs because it’s a natural part of faith formation. (See James Fowler for more on this.) Despite the devotional’s childish cartoon about staying in the boat without question, we are not called to be spiritual children. Nor are we called to avoid doubt at all costs. Doubt is one of the stages of adult faith. Some people never arrive at that stage, and some people arrive but never leave; the healthiest and most mature are able to integrate doubt as a teacher in their ongoing faith formation.

Maybe instead of shaming doubters, we should listen to them. Maybe instead of trying to deliver answers to all their questions, we should listen to them again.

And maybe instead of simply asserting and reasserting that doubters need to stay in the boat, we should recognize that not everyone’s “covenant path” is going to look exactly the same. Sometimes you have to leave the boat for a spell in order to learn to walk on water.

 


Other RNS posts about Mormonism and doubt:


 

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

71 Comments

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  • This is a great article, but I read the quotation paraphrasing Widtsoe a little differently. He seems to be talking about a subgroup he calls “stagnant doubters,” not calling all doubters stagnant. The idea seems to be doubters who won’t let their doubts motivate further seeking, which is indeed stagnation, and sometimes results in the self-satisfaction and blindness he mentions. I’m right with you on how harmful the rest of these messages are, but he does seem to acknowledge a space for doubt that inspires humble inquiry. I’m wary any time a church leader talks about “reliable, trustworthy sources,” though. Too often they just mean official church sources.

  • I honestly don’t think that it’s possible to have faith without some element of doubt and skepticism. We often hear the phrase, “Taking a leap of faith.” Consider what that means: Choosing to accept something that is intangible–even unprovable for all practical purposes–as true without empirical evidence. The leap is what’s key. The leap is from a place of doubt and skepticism to a place of acceptance and faith. This doesn’t mean that doubt and skepticism are bad [nor lacking “value or worth.”] They are–in fact–a necessary step toward having faith. One cannot take a leap from nothingness. One must leap from a place of uncertainty because if you have no doubt, if you are not skeptical, then there is no need to take a leap of any kind at all.

    http://flippinutahmormons.blogspot.com/2011/09/on-doubt-skepticism-and-faith.html

  • This man who fancies himself as an apostle of the Lord is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Elder Dale G. Renlund will never be confused with Thomas Aquinas when it comes to philosophy or theology. This devotional drivel will drive even more people into doubt and despair, and will have even more people jumping ship. Twisting metaphors and parables into something so simplistic and distorted does nothing to keep people in the boat. Shaming young people like this and instilling fear does not instill faith but destroys it. I however doubt Elder Renlund is listening.

  • I agree with the thoughts Jana presented. I was quite disappointed listening to the talk. I have rarely had an intelligent conversation with active members about the real reasons people leave. These kinds of talks just reinforce the incorrect ideas members have on this topic. I could be wrong, but I think two things were going on. Renlund is involved in the same type of misconceived ideas as regular members and he is talking to those still in the cave telling them not to look.

  • I dunno. Thomas Aquinas — for all his philosophical and theological rigor — was down with setting the unorthodox on fire. So no, Elder Renlund will never be confused either with the Angelic Doctor, nor the chowderheaded heretic currently occupying Peter’s seat.

  • For all news article writers..

    Please find a way to make your article titles facebook friendly to draw in the audience that needs to read this. So when I post them publicly, I can get Mormons to actually read it.

    This article is a awesome article, but the title shuts off the brains of those that should be reading it & then we just get knee jerk reactions.

  • Here I am thinking not only did I pay a lot of money for passage on the ship, but I was also willing to help out a lot with upkeep. When I found the deal wasn’t quite as promised I get demonized…All this apparently cuz’ I’d rather play whack-a-mole. Right in line with Holland accusing apostates of taffy pulling levels of commitment.

  • I like the way you put that. Kierkegaard’s leap of faith was a great point. When you do the math, if you’re honest, you’re going to find gaps. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the discovery of all those gaps. Both the Bird Box faithful and the disillusioned have a tendency toward simplicity. They put a premium on it. They see what they want to see. The Bird Boxers shut out the pesky facts that create gaps and holes in their faith. The disillusioned often see those gaps and holes but are disillusioned because they don’t think they should be there. They yearn for that simplicity they can never go back to.

    Truth is, we live in a world of infinite complexity. Were we to be accurate and detailed – to match the reality behind it – we’d drown in the data. If the maps were truly accurate, they would be unreadable. Imagine a movie subtitled with every language running simultaneously. Imagine that same movie shot from every angle. What if I told you Joseph Smith had weight issues or a cracked tooth? What if I told you David O. McKay’s next-door neighbor wouldn’t join the Church, even after McKay told him he could get baptized before he stopped smoking – because the guy couldn’t accept McKay as a prophet? What if I told you missionaries in Chile were told to drink coffee, because that’s what people drink in Chile, so there were missionaries drinking coffee for two years only to come home to a branch or ward where investigators were turned down because they wouldn’t give it up?

    Facts can be a real buzz kill. You want to believe in the main story line but how do you do that once you’ve run into so many weird little factoids that aggravate your efforts? It really is a leap of faith. Sometimes the facts – all of them – disrupt the elegant simplicity of the main storyline. You may find, when you add it all up, that the math isn’t enough. There’s still a gap. You’re still making “a leap of faith.” I don’t see that as a problem, if you “choose to believe” something because you think it leads you to live a lifestyle that is ultimately rewarding. Just a few years ago, the science was beating me up with stories about how a little alcohol is good for you. Now they’re saying that even the smallest amount is carcinogenic. But they’re also treating coffee like a wonder drug.

    I think faith gets a bad rap, even among Latter-day Saints seeking a sure knowledge of things. People often treat faith as a stepping stone to something else. In their minds, it’s faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost. They don’t see that faith is the glue that binds it all together. You never stop applying faith, even after you’ve had a spiritual experience that fills you with certainty. Why not? Because you’re epiphany about this is hardly an epiphany about that. There’s nothing inherently wrong about exercising faith in something you can’t explain, prove or fully understand. There’s nothing intellectually dishonest about acknowledging the gaps and admitting you choose to leap over those gaps so you can stay in the boat and give it a chance.

  • Jana,
    I’d like to bring something to your attention (a mistake you made in your article).
    You quoted the Renlunds, saying “[Stephen] let doubt and uncertainty occupy his mind.” You used this as evidence that they believed Stephen had “let doubt in.” That’s incorrect. Notice that the Renlunds said Stephen had let doubt ***occupy*** his mind (as in, he let doubt linger, fill, and immerse his mind). That’s much different than blaming Stephen for simply letting doubt in, as you claimed.

    This warrants editing your article, please.
    Thanks.

  • So then why is it okay for LDS Missionaries to cause doubts in people of other faiths so they will convert to Mormonism???

  • Doesn’t change the tone of his talk one iota. I have a sure knowledge that the church is a fraud and to hell with Renlund who history will look upon as just another jester in a true snake oil carnival.

  • Renlund should take the FDMAT 108 at BYU-I it goes over logical fallacies. How many did you count in this article?
    Straw man
    Gaslighting
    Hasty Generalizations/Stereotyping

  • If church leaders were really confident about the church and its dogmas, they’d WELCOME doubt, since they’d be able to address it well and reinforce beliefs and believers. Any good salesman–and that’s essentially what church leaders are–understands that a prospect who does not express doubt or skepticism about the product, will probably not become a buyer. And when you address doubts (SUCCESSFULLY, of course) that makes the buyer much more likely to commit.

  • Hey grandpa next time you make up a story, can it end with “Behold, verily I say unto you, for because of their righteousness, they all lived happily ever after”. Inthenameofchesseandriceconmen.

  • Notice that for them salvation is granted by the church… no wonder why they have to keep trying new things to convince people that they are Christian church.

  • Believers without doubt and doubters without beliefs seem to be opposite sides of the same coin. In that sense the talk might have been spot on.

  • Just another fluffed up diatribe from a supposedly called “Witness” of Christ. Yes, drink the Kool-aid, pay for our stipends and trips, and remember to not complain about FACTS. The issue here is that most of the reasons people leave the LDS,inc, is because of the facts. Not shaded history or mythical legends, or being offended, or “wanting to sin” bullshizzle, but actual facts, that they refuse to fully own nor apologize for. What these “seers” didn’t account for nor see, is the age of information and how we can now find all the facts so easily and quickly. Guess they should start using one of JS’s old seer stones…maybe they might actually “see” something.

  • Others can get into the specifics of the devotional, logical fallacies, etc. At a macro level, however, I am continually surprised at the weakness of the arguments this church with its massive resources puts forth. According to the church it is led by a prophet chosen to be the prophet to the world by God, himself. Does not this organization trumpet that it is the SOLE holder of authority to act in the name of God, and that it can confer the continual right to be inspired by the Holy Ghost? Yet, it cannot with any credibilty or coherency sustain an argument in its defense. Why doesn’t God help his chosen leaders more? I think the answer is obvious to anyone willing to rationally sort it out.

  • It’s amazing to me how two people can listen to the same thing and come away with totally different conclusions. I think this characterization of Elder Renlund’s talk is so off the mark that I had to make sure we were talking about the same thing. The parable of the young man in need of rescue is, as with all parables, simplified to demonstrate a point, not a characterization of all people who ever have questions. When you read the parable of the sower, are you offended that Jesus implies that anyone who has ever had a worldly care is a seed among thorns? Of course not! The parable is intended to make a comparison to people at the extremes. The reality, though, is a matter of degree.

    I think they could have been clearer, but there were references to the differences between doubt and inquiry, or having questions. More to the point, as is evident in the Elder Widtsoe quote, inquiry and “stagnant doubt” are not the same. So the commentary that “doubters, then, are lazy, stagnant, and blind to the truth” doesn’t carry the message. Stagnant doubters are lazy and blind to truth. This kind of intentional or unintentional contorting of the language to draw out the negative makes me think that Jana may benefit from taking another look at the Renlund’s somewhat shabby, but ultimately seaworthy boat that is their devotional.

  • Zamp, no real debate from me on your point of view. Happy to argue some other day on some other topic. But in watching the video, what do you make of the body language and, I think, 9 times, Elder Renlund reaches out to touch his wife’s shoulder. Some (in another forum, very anti) thought those were dominant gestures to subtly reinforce his primacy as the family priesthood holder/patriarch. I can’t really say. I’m married over 35 years and from a different generation obviously. Not asking you to agree or disagree with the premise, unless you want to. Just wanted your take on the touching.

  • What do they propose we do about difficult topics such as polygamy and multiple First Vision accounts – topics that the church is now more willing to admit, at least, are valid? Just not think about it?

  • I think anyone who claims they know a specific purpose behind body language is engaging in pseudoscience. Body language can tell us some things, but it’s specific to culture and, in the case of two people interacting, the history and relationship of the people involved. That gesture could mean everything from giving/receiving reassurance or comfort, to simply not knowing where to put one’s hands in an unconventional speaking situation. If it were me, the most probable explanation would be just not knowing what to do with my hands and defaulting to a familiar and comfortable position.

  • Many Christians have been taught that to question, to have doubts is a SIN. They are to simply believe, to have blind faith, and be OBEDIENT–without question, challenge or complaint. Consequently they have then allowed themselves to be used for nefarious purposes–support for President Trump for one. In my mind it is the person who never questions or challenges that is unhealthy.

  • Many Christians accept what they believe are revealed truths.

    Assuming for a moment that these truths ARE revealed, it is difficult to imagine why they would question these truths, challenge these truths, or complain about these truths.

    And, of course, Trump has nothing to do with it.

  • Agreed on all points. But I’m willing to say after I recognized the bamboozle, I WAS offended. Pissed. Betrayed. In mistating and/or trivializing reasons for formerly devout members noping the hell out of their organization, they continue the abuse. They fail to acknowledge the trauma that arises when a person’s whole world view is completely upended, when that person realizes he/she WASTED countless days and years of labor, emotional investment, and money, in a fraudulent scheme.

    Steven Hassan’s BITE (Behavior control, Information control,Thought control, Emotional control) model of cults hits on so many points with this organization. For example, just this snippet from Emotional control:
    5. Instill fear, such as fear of:
    a. Thinking independently
    b. The outside world
    c. Enemies (“anti-mormons” – my addition)
    d. Losing one’s salvation
    e. Leaving or being shunned by the group
    f. Other’s disapproval

  • Thank you for sharing this opinion. I wish more members would do the same. Speaking out against things said by apostles from the pulpit is frowned upon, so I admire your courage in writing this.

    I enjoyed every part of this article until the end. There are so many good points I’m glad you’ve made.

    My only issues are these:

    (1) When you say, “the healthiest and most mature are able to integrate doubt as a teacher in their ongoing faith formation,” you’re also implying that those who lose their faith after doubting did so in unhealthy and immature ways.

    (2) When you say, “Sometimes you have to leave the boat for a spell in order to learn to walk on water,” it also implies, “don’t worry, they’ll eventually see the light and come back.”

    As someone who grew up Mormon, had doubts, explored those doubts, and left the church, I just wanted to say that those doubts were the most liberating thing I’ve ever experienced. They were not unhealthy, they were not immature — they were freeing.

    For me, “learning to walk on water” led me to the discovery that I never really needed the flimsy boat or the fisherman in the first place.

    I am only commenting because these types of statements are often made within my own family toward me — the “you only left because your testimony wasn’t strong enough,” and “someday you’ll see that it’s all true,” type of comments — and they have been very damaging to the relationship we have.

  • It’s apparent that Jana Riess, PhD, is making her living off the culture of Mormonism, writing about it apologetically as other professional Mormon apologists have made their money. If you go to the Library of Congress and search for books on Mormonism, you will find approximately 75,000 of them, and that doesn’t include lengthy journal articles written since 1900. Riess is supposedly a convert to the Mormon Church, as I was, but doesn’t say whether she was a Christian before her conversion. I wonder if she has read the 1877 “Women of Mormondom,” written by Edward Tullidge, which was dedicated to Eliza R. Snow and blessed by Mormon Prophet Brigham Young? Mormonism carries with it negative speculation about every theological, doctrinal, and historical aspect, if the correct historical and theological facts are closely scrutinized. Not the statements and representations that Mormon missionaries make to their Christian investigators, but the truth about Mormon theology, doctrine, and history, a great deal of which is revealed in the 13 essays placed on the LDS.org website in 2014, http://mormonessays.com/ and in “Lesson 21-Man May Become Like God,” from the 1984 LDS Melchizedek Priesthood Personal Study Guide, “Search These Commandments.” https://richkelsey.org/lesson21.html

    Jana Riess is supposedly an academician at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, teaching American religious history to undergraduates. Teaching young people about academic Mormonism would be like teaching the history of the church, the “Peoples Temple” organized by Jim Jones, or about the organization formed by the Chicago gangster Al Capone, if the true facts are taught. The Mormon Church created an heretical culture that was as crooked as a dog’s hind-leg, but as appealing in its misrepresented form as LSD-laced charisma. The only way that it can get its life’s blood (a term coined by Spence W. Kimball), meaning converts, is by lying about its theology, doctrine, and history on a systematic basis, as it does through its world-wide missionary scheme/program. Perhaps Riess should read the book by lawyer Kay Burningham, “An American Fraud: One Lawyer’s Case Against Mormonism.” Really, Riess should read what the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 1:1-10 about false accursed gospels brought by angels, and in Ephesians 2:1-9, about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that is denied by Mormonism in 2 Nephi 25:23.

  • Not as many as those opposing Mormonism, since Mormonism is basically the antithesis of New Testament Christianity. Islam and Judaism oppose Christianity since they aver that Jesus was not the Messiah and the Son of God, but other world religions, like Buddhism, embrace Christianity. When you create a false gospel by permutating the true gospel by using the same defining terms with different meanings and purpose, you are adding insult to injury. That is what Mormonism has done in its polytheistic work-based theology and doctrine, while lying and misrepresenting its origins and history.

  • Once a person has been deceived by Mormon missionaries into believing in the BOM and basic undisclosed Mormon doctrine, cognitive dissonance sets into the convert’s mind causing that person to reject reason and thrive on delusion and irrational purpose. Understanding that Mormonism is heretical to New Testament Christianity amounts to the same process that went through a Roman Catholic’s mind when he realized the false basis of Catholic doctrine and theology after reading the New Testament under the influence of the Holy Spirit, as the Reformers, such as Luther, did. But even the Reformers did not get it all right in their attempts to purge Catholicism. Mormonism thrives on deception and “lying for the Mormon lord” in order to induce gullible people into using emotion, instead of reason and true fact, to embrace the religion. For instance, the 13 essays that have been placed on the LDS.org website were placed there for liability purposes, transposing the lies that have been told about, and for, Mormon theology, doctrine, and history, into what the Mormon hierarchy regards as lesser lies; such as the transposition of the word “dictation” of Joseph Smith, Jr. for 170 year use of the word translation, as to how he produced the Book of Mormon. When a person realizes the true facts about Mormonism, they can either deny them or accept them.

  • Uhhh….I’m pretty sure there are far more books opposing Christianity generally than Mormonism in particular.

    Mormonism is not the antithesis of New Testament Christianity. You may think it is, but you saying so doesn’t make it true.

  • It is because those “revealed truths” are in many cases direct opposition to reality as people experience it that they begin to ask questions. NOTHING should ever be accepted without question and challenge. Especially “revealed truths”!

  • “NOTHING should ever be accepted without question and challenge.”

    Gee, you seem to get rather cranky when folks question and challenge what YOU say.

    In fact, you tell them to “grow up”.

    The logical process is that the individual first satisfies herself or himself there is a deity.

    The individual then satisfies herself or himself that the source IS accurately presenting the revelation.

    Once that is accomplished, the need for questioning and challenging should be over unless the individual believes she or he gumballed the first step.

  • I have seen this all mormon board , look and judge gentiles , and with only doubt no concrete evidence, they sanction their licenses . Mormons really are messed up , and it is no wonder people do not like them once you have been a victim of the wicked ones ! AZ STATE BOARD OF NURSING CORRUPTION WATCHDOGS

  • It’s called “spiritual arrogance”, and it isn’t just the Mormons that practice it so assiduously. ANYONE who insists that their particular version of their particular faith is the one and only true faith, and that anyone believing any other gospel, even one delivered by an angel, in the immortal words of st. Paul, is accursed. You can’t argue with that sort of certainty.

    This is what I was told this morning:

    It is my right, my responsibility, and my duty to try to save all souls, even those who do not yet have a relationship formed with their Father. As a former somewhat militant atheist once I have a deeper appreciation for the depth of despair those who are lost have even though they may not have yet reached their breaking point. There is nothing vile you have to say that has any affect on me because I’ve heard it all before.

    Followed by this little gem:

    Spoken with the true conviction of cowardice, afraid to love and be loved, afraid of hearing the answer to the questions that bring lasting peace. And for the record, I have multiple advanced degrees and design, build, test and certify some of the most complex things in the universe. Not that it matters, they are gifts I’ve been given to me for a purpose, but gifts none the less that have no doubt saved your life and brought you comfort without even knowing. Do not be afraid to love and be loved in return Ben.
    Back to me: this little loser has declared himself clearly. Megalomania of the spiritually elevated. At least he can od it in complete sentences.
    The Buddhists have a saying: If you meet the buddha in the road, kill him. I think it is the best spiritual advice I ever heard.

  • You do know that the Mormons make that claim, as do the Catholics, as do the protestants, as do the orthodox jews, as do the shia muslims, as do the sunni muslims, as do the hindu fundamentalists.
    How aobut the Buddhists? “If you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him!”

  • While stating that “the Mormons make that claim, as do the Catholics, as do the protestants, as do the orthodox jews, as do the shia muslims, as do the sunni muslims, as do the hindu fundamentalists” you fail to indicate what “that claim” might be that they make.

  • “It’s called ‘spiritual arrogance’, and it isn’t just the Mormons that practice it so assiduously. ANYONE who insists that their particular version of their particular faith is the one and only true faith, and that anyone believing any other gospel, even one delivered by an angel, in the immortal words of st. Paul, is accursed. You can’t argue with that sort of certainty.”

    Of course you do exactly the same thing except your arrogance is anti-spiritual.

  • Nrnowlin, I’m not familiar with you. I don’t go to other Religionnews articles, as a general matter. There seems to be a group of commenters that comment everywhere. So, quick question, no snark intended, just so I know, are you of some denomination or generally a Christian believer? I just like to know where a person is coming from. And THEN I’ll be snide and sarcastic. 🙂

  • I’m a sympathetic ear to “pseudoscience”. For to long in my state, blood spatter analysts, fingerprint analysts, etc., asserted their methods as science. After enough court humilations, they no longer do and admit their analysis is more interpretive than science. I agree body language is the same.

  • My “doubts” about the validity of Mormonism come from decades of soft persecution within the Church for having to find recourse for the PTSD stemming from child abuse. Trying to follow Church teachings while recovering from child abuse eventually became a bridge too far, because of constant, consistent victim-blaming within the Church. I survived child abuse as a kid by never simply submitting to it, but without being violent about my rejection of it, both approaches due to my dad helping me deal with a sometimes violent, out-of-control, emotionally unstable mother. Church mythology about motherhood being a woman’s “priesthood” caused local church leaders to blame my dad for my mom’s instability instead of helping him hold our family together. Only the fact that I could see and appreciate how my father kept our family together and as safe as possible kept me from buying into the blaming of him for my mother’s actions. Sadly, however, I ended up marrying a woman with her own issues and experienced myself a small portion of the blaming that my dad experienced. Victim-blaming is what the Church does best.

  • If I were to just judge the church on its leaders, which I don’t, I would definitely lean toward their wisdom, intelligence, and secular success over many of the ‘doubters’ here. Line their minds up with what I see here, not much of a contest, not that they are parading themselves as such either. Just saying….

  • Danny, I spent 30 years, from 1970 until 2000, as a Mormon elder/missionary/ward mission leader, and in the year 2000 I had my own Road to Damascus, much like the Apostle Paul had around 42 AD, wherein the Holy Spirit told me in no uncertain terms to exit Mormonism and that I would be led into what Jesus, the real Jesus, would expect me to do. Within the last 19 years, I have sought to help Christians realize the deceptions of Mormonism, and have been taught by the Holy Spirit the gospel of grace through faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus. I believe in what the Apostle Paul stated in Ephesians 2:1-9, and realize that 2 Nephi 25:23 in the Book of Mormon is the exact heretical opposite of what Paul said in Ephesians. If you believe in what the 13 essays on LDS.org say about Mormon polytheism and the Mormon mother-goddess in heaven http://mormonessays.com/ , you don’t what the Holy Bible states in 1 John 5:7. If you believe what is stated in the 1984 “Lesson 21-Man May Become Like God,” from the 1984 LDS Melchizedek Priesthood Personal Study Guide, “Search These Commandments,” https://richkelsey.org/lesson21.html , you do not believe what the Apostle John stated in John 1:1-16. Mormonism is a cultic culture borne of man and not of God, as much as Greek mythology dominated Greek minds for centuries.

  • No, Zampona, the Holy Bible, the source of the Christian word declares that Mormonism is the antithesis of Christianity. Read Galatians 1:1-10. The Apostle Paul is predicting that a false gospel will be brought by an angel, and he is telling Christians to not believe such a gospel brought by an angel. Since that day in the 1st Century, there have only been two heretical gospels supposedly brought by angels, Islam and Mormonism, and they did not bring the same gospel of grace brought by the Apostles of Jesus. Jesus loves you and me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.

  • An excellent example of Poe’s law right here.

    How do you know that your version of Christianity isn’t “another gospel”. In my view, my beliefs are aligned with the New Testament, which I have read and studied many times. And Paul is not prophesying about another angel, he’s saying that it doesn’t matter who it is speaking to you, anyone preaching something contridictory to the Gospel should be turned away. Angels are not the problem; John received his revelation that you’ll find at the end of your Bible by an angel.

    Anyway, yes, Jesus does love you and me. This I know, because personal revelation informed by experience, reason, and studying God’s revealed word tell me so.

  • the BITE model has helped me truly understand how religion…any organization can be used and is used to find sheeple, this “true” church is no exception. Thank you for discussing the BITE model. All should take some time to review it. It really opened my eyes months ago when I found and studied it.

  • If the LDS church is the right one, then their message, however untactful, is absolutely correct. And they have to phrase their message in such a way that reflects that underlying assumption of being correct. But messages so firmly grounded in that assumption make very little sense to those who do not share that assumption – which, with a touch of irony, is more or less their target audience. i get why they do it, but reinforcing a sense of absolutism in those who agree with you, while subtly and probably unintentionally mocking those who don’t – i really don’t think they do themselves any favors. It’s equal parts understandable and tragic, all at once. May God have mercy on us all.

  • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult fronting as a religion.

  • Appreciate the writer’s ability to see how insulting the talk was and appreciate the willingness to call it out in an authoritarian organization. But like this author felt about the talk, that is just about the only thing I appreciate in this piece.

    Doubt is not a stage in the healthy formation of faith. Plenty of faith-oriented people completely embrace their faith approached way of life without doubt and they are no less faithful than believers who doubted. Further, plenty of people who doubt belief in religious ideas may have arrived to a mature and rational place that there is no need to progress past. Maturity has nothing to do with faith and saying that it does is just another brand of shaming nonbelievers, not much different than the ridiculous parable making fun of nonbelievers as spoiled and foolish and… well… childish.

    IMHO, maturity is recognizing that faith is a personal choice and not feeling the need to denigrate, however mildly, other people’s choices in order to bolster confidence in your own choices.

  • Fruitcake Nelson declares every nutty thing he says “the Word and Will of God” to keep from being laughed out of town.

  • It all comes down to the mind-rape that starts with your first Bishop’s interview when you turn 8 and can be baptized. The bishop sets you up for unconscionable intrusion into your closest thoughts and feelings for the rest of your church experience. Nutty things from “Profit” Nelson are heavenly blessings compared to the emotional abuse done in the bishop’s interview.

  • All of these are basic elements of the “personal worthiness interview” with your Mormon Bishop, starting at age 8, and with no other adult in the room.

  • How interesting. Nice to meet you. I was raised a member from my infancy, my parents were converts. Punched my ticket much like most, mission, married in temple, seminary teacher, high counselor, bishopric, etc., and in my early fifties had my own epiphany and voluntarily left the church (resigned) with my wife. Immediate sense of relief ensued and our lives have been much happier since. Now, I mostly feel bad for those still on the treadmill wasting precious time, energy and money in support of this organization.

    I am no longer “spiritual”. I acknowledge the possibility of other dimensions, other states of being, but do not feel inclined to seek out some supernatural theory. The theory of relativity contemplates all this and more. The universe is wondrous enough to render needless a search for magically-grounded explanations. When I left Mormonism, there was no bright line telling me to stop at its edge. Many of the failings of Mormonism extend to religion in general, such as treating ancient texts as authoritative in spite of dubious origins and obvious later additions. Regarding Christianity specifically, I do not subscribe to the notion that 1) we are sinful, 2) subject to some contract formed at the beginning of time, 3) thus estranged from God due to said sinfulness, 4) needing a mediator to make us right with God, etc., 5) or subject to some awful eternal fate if we don’t toe the line.

    To paraphrase Hitchens, it seems preposterous that after mankind had lived for roughly 180,000 years, filled with disease, pestilence, hunger, famine, war, rampant infant and mother mortality during childbirth, etc., without God’s intervention, that he suddenly wakes up to help things. How? By offering up his son, conceived by rape, as a human sacrifice to some desert hill tribe in the armpit of the planet. Why not just tell primitive people to boil their water and wash their hands with soap? He could have saved millions in so doing. Anyway, that’s where I’m at on all this.

  • Danny, it has always constantly been a battle between right and wrong, good and evil, that was consummately waged for us by the one and only Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and Redeemer of mankind as the perfect sacrifice for sin. Do you realize that nine out of ten men and women born and raised in Mormonism become agnostic or atheistic if they decide that Mormonism is a fraudulent heresy and leave it. That’s because they were never taught the real gospel of grace taught by the prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus and his Apostles in the New Testament. You see, the whole Holy Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is about the coming forth of Jesus, the Word and God from the beginning, to the earth to be the perfect sacrifice for the sin of mankind. By not understanding the love that Jesus had for us from the very beginning with God, a person can get lost in humanism and skepticism. You see, Joseph Smith, Jr. was a very charismatic flimflam man who based his manmade religion on fraud and deceit, and created his very changeable gospel of works on the egoism of man in believing that the Mormon father-god came from man and man can change into a father-god, and he changed the Holy Bible to conform to his theology. I was deceived by two Utah Mormon missionaries in 1970 into believing what they and other Mormon leaders told me, but I didn’t lose my faith in Jesus that my mother taught me as a child. When I listened to the Holy Spirit, what I was told in the year 2000 sunk into my mind, and I knew that I had to do what Jesus wanted me to do. Read Galatians 1:1-10 in the NIV and then read Ephesians 2:1-9, and pray to Jesus to open your mind to the truth about the gospel of grace. Jesus will speak to you through the Holy Spirit, or he might do it himself. You are probably a very good person, and so your soul is worth a lot to God. That’s why the devil, or the power of evil, has worked so hard to harden your heart against Jesus.

  • NR, I have to politely disagree with the statement, “cognitive dissonance sets into the convert’s mind causing that person to reject reason and thrive on delusion and irrational purpose”, at least in my case. It could be I don’t read that line the same way you do, or interpret it as you meant.

    It wasn’t until I left the church that I recognized my cognitive dissonance for what it was. Dumbed down to my level, I define cog diss as the husband found in bed with another women asking his irate wife, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

    Cog diss caused me to stop believing the husband (the Mormon church) and start believing my lying eyes (reason, rationality, evidence-based conclusions) I went toward the light, not away from it.

  • You’re one very prescient and self-aware person, unlike 95 percent of all Mormon converts within their first five years in Mormonism. Like buying a lemon of a used car with many obvious faults, when those converts are baptized they buy-in to the Mormon package and refuse to believe that they were suckered into joining. They fork over a tenth of their income willingly and accept what they are told by their bishops, stake presidents, elders’ quorum presidents, high priest group leaders, and their home teachers. I saw this happen with 65 souls that I deceived into joining Mormonism in the 30 years that I was an elder/missionary/ward mission leader. You are a very select person, like Kay Burningham, Esq., who wrote the book “An American Fraud: One Lawyer’s case Against Mormonism.” Kay also grew-up in the LDS Church. The Holy Spirit works on all true-blue Mormons, but just think how differently you saw Mormonism when you were on a full-time mission than, later, when you began to see the truth. Micah Wilder is another example of a Mormon who was offered the truth when he was on his mission in Florida. He’s on a musical mission now trying to reach out to Mormons about Mormonism, and Christians about the lies of Mormonism. Check-out the following link: https://www.adamsroadministry.com/ Micah brought his entire family out of Mormonism and into the light of Jesus. Kay, on the other hand, has become more like yourself. I sincerely pray that you will believe in, and accept, the grace of Jesus through faith in his redeeming blood. It will change your life!

  • It is not okay! It is fraudulent and against the law, and very soon a federal indictment for racketeering is going to be handed-down by the DOJ against the Mormon Church. A federal investigation has been ongoing against the Mormons and the Scientologists for over four years. It is as much against the law for the Mormon missionaries to lie to Christians about Mormon theology, doctrine, and history as it is for an insurance company to sell fraudulent insurance policies to gullible people.

  • Kelli,
    I understand why you made the final two comments. Jana didn’t go into depth on the processes of the faith journey but she did provide a reference to James Fowler with a link to a brief summary of his landmark book “Stages of Faith.”

    Most devoutly active religious people are in faith stage 3 and may remain there their entire life. However, some enter the doubting of stage 4. At the end of stage 4 some enter into stage 5.

    In stage 5 some may return to the faith of their upbringing, however they will not be orthodox believers. They will see the good and the bad in their community and see the value in other communities. They understand that their community might work for some but they see that other communities have as much and maybe more to offer.

    Symbols no longer hold power, but the idea behind the symbol may hold power. For example, for Mormons baptism is an essential ordinance of salvation. A stage 5 person will not believe this. However, a stage 5 person may see value in baptism as a rite of passage in entering into the adult phase in a community.

    Hopefully that makes some sense. Having read the book on Stages of Faith helped me see Jana’s comments in a more positive manner than you saw them. Follow the link to James Fowler and read the summary. And better yet read the book, Stages of Faith. I found it helpful in understanding the faith journey. A doubt that the LDS religious leaders have ever read this book. If they had and understood its message they, wouldn’t see doubt as something evil.

  • What?? Nothing wrong with casting doubt. That’s how conversion takes place – you convince them that your way is better. That’s how religion gets spread (well, other than by the sword). He didn’t bring up fraud in his post – he said casting doubt.

    Do you have a source for this indictment?

  • The investigation actually had its roots in the civil lawsuit filed by ex-Mormon Tom Phillips in England, which was predicated on a great deal of evidence and admitted by a British magistrate for trial and a deposition from Mormon Prophet Thomas Monson, but was subsequently improperly dismissed by a senior British magistrate, a Mormon judge, who overstepped his bounds. As there is always far more evidence in a civil lawsuit than in a criminal matter, a couple of American lawyers picked up the evidentiary ball and ran with it toward the USDOJ and a federal racketeering indictment, with the same criminal elements that would have formed a judgment against the Mormon Church in the UK. There actually might be a federal class-action lawsuit in the works in 2019, with other 500,000 potential plaintiffs.

  • Beautiful and needed, especially coming from the the thinking flock, from bottom to top, within a top-down patriarchy.

    “Doubt is one of the stages of adult faith. Some people never arrive at that stage, and some people arrive but never leave; the healthiest and most mature are able to integrate doubt as a teacher in their ongoing faith formation.”

    This is an important and excellent article, but is that really “the healthiest and most mature”?

    When the evidence and honest, critical inquiry fully justifies not only doubt, but entirely legitimate negative conclusions at every turn, perhaps the most healthy and mature are those who are honest enough to recognize and admit it, reject the faith, and move on with belief and life formation. Whether or not that included religious faith.

    Or is that what Jana Riess meant?

  • True but a nitpick. Doubt ***occupies*** a mind for a reason, often for years, as the Mormon desperately seeks for legitimate answers that makes sense. And that might hopefully actually remove the doubt and restore faith.

    And when the first question and doubt, lead to two more, and those to four and then a cascade of more and more, how can it not occupy the mind of the honest and thinking person?

  • Mormon leaders have become profoundly aware that they have absolutely nothing more to offer than the embarrassing and mind-numbing jr. Sunday School pablum of the Renlunds. That’s sad. No wonder they need to inoculate their youth with their highly glossed essays.

    The thing is, you inoculate against contagion and disease. But in no small irony, it’s inoculation by their own admission…https://clyp.it/gq0cdhf1#

  • Jana believes that the Ban on BLACK men in the QUORUM of 12 is Acceptable. It is Not Jana. Foe Decades & Decades & Decades & Decades & Decades this Secret Ban is not So Secret anymore. This CULT is the Laughing Stock of the World when it comes to Racial Equality in the Leadership.

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