General Authority training – advanced subjects

You’ve been active and faithful in the church all your life and have a deep and abiding testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  You have enjoyed success and found great joy in helping others come to a knowledge of the Lord through your missionary labors.  You’re proven to be a gifted administrator in the priesthood.  You love to study the scriptures and to teach the gospel.

Responding to difficult questions

The Brethren have decided that all potential General Authorities must now take some additional classes prior to receiving the call.  While we are a lay ministry, it is important that those who are called into positions that represent the church have skills developed in responding to difficult questions.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  President Hinckley was asked some of them.

Since you are on that potential General Authority list, you have been selected to participate in this class.  In order to ensure that the training is effective, we have selected some real-world examples of the kind of questions you can expect to encounter.  While you may have had no experience in studying church history, you will most certainly be asked questions like these.

The really hard list

1. Joseph Smith polygamy and polyandry – why didn’t we know about this?
2. Book of Mormon translation – Peep stone in a hat vs. Urim & Thummim
3. Why are there multiple versions of Joseph Smith’s First Vision story?
4. Why did the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon leave the church?
5. Why is there no real archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon?

6. DNA evidence proved that American Indians have no Israelite blood.
7. Egyptian scholars have proven that the Book of Abraham is a fraud.
8. Did Joseph Smith take the Temple ceremony from the Masons?
9. Could a real prophet have been deceived by the Kinderhook plates?
10. That is so exclusionary of us to claim to be the only true church.

11. Did Brigham Young teach that Adam was God and if so, why?
12. Do we currently teach that God was once a man like we are?
13. How can we really believe that man can become a God?
14. How could the Mountain Meadows Massacre have happened?
15. Why did the church practice polygamy after the 1890 manifesto?

16. Your church seems racist.  Why delay giving priesthood to blacks?
17. Why did President Hinckley deny that we teach long-held doctrines?
18. How was President Hinckley deceived by the Mark Hoffman forgeries?
19. Why do Mormons believe that Lucifer and Jesus Christ are brothers?
20. There are documented cases of spiritual abuse by priesthood leaders.

21. Why is the church opposed to work of LDS scholars and intellectuals?
22. Why did the church cover up President Benson’s Alzheimer’s disease?
23. How can the true Church of Jesus Christ reject those who are gay?
24. Why has church growth stopped in the U.S. – baptisms decreasing?
25. How can the LDS claim to be the true church with so few members?

Effect of the questions

These are legitimate questions raised over the years that can be found today all over the Internet.  Many of our young people are asked these questions by their friends on a regular basis.  They are not being malicious or trying to cause problems.  They simply want answers.  Even though they are difficult questions, some have studied them out in an effort to be able to provide the answers.

Sometimes they have discovered that even long-time members have never heard these questions.  They have been told by well-meaning leaders to just pray about it and they will get their answers.  But there is so much confusing information out there and no official LDS source that addresses these questions that they become discouraged and begin to doubt their testimonies of the church.

Rules of engagement

Your assignment as a new General Authority is to address these questions in a manner that builds faith and encourages continued study.  You must not act surprised if you have never heard any of these questions before or don’t understand why they seem so important to those who are asking.  And you certainly don’t want to be dismissive of those who are bothered by these questions.

You must not defer them to others, claiming that “we have apologists who answer this stuff for us.”  That won’t cut it.  You’re now a General Authority and need to know the answers yourself.  Yes, it’s true that most members of the church have never heard these questions and don’t know that these are issues for some.  And yes, some members would be shocked to learn about all this.

The challenge

So your challenge is great.  How do you answer these questions without causing confusion or doubt among the faithful members who do not question?  How do you respond to the one as the Savior taught?  Those who struggle with these questions are a relatively small number and yet they are very active on the Internet, where many people seek information on the church today.

At the same time, focusing on these questions and taking the time to research them, understand them and to be able to explain them is time consuming.  It takes away from one of the primary missions of the church to declare the gospel.  And yet, it fulfills another part of that mission by perfecting the saints.  Most of these questions are raised by disaffected and former members.

A possible response

It seems that we have failed a generation of bright and intelligent young people who have grown up on the Internet.  We did not anticipate what this amazing communication medium could do to supply facts and details about our history and doctrine.  It’s not that we’ve been purposely trying to hide anything from you. It’s just that you have been exposed to stuff earlier than we figured.

We wish it had been otherwise.  We would have preferred that you had knowledgeable mentors to guide you through your discovery of all these difficult issues.  We were aware of them and decided not to share them or at least not promote discussion of them in the church curriculum.  We are seeing now that this may have been a mistake.  It was not our intention to deceive you.

Personal responsibility

We understand that many of you have felt shocked and betrayed when you first learn about these things.  Please don’t lose faith in the entire church teaching system that has brought you to the point you are now.  We should have found a way to inoculate you before you encountered these troublesome issues but were concerned that exposing you to them early could also be disastrous.

Please accept our apologies for not teaching you about these things in a more open and honest manner.  We accept the responsibility for our failings in this area and will work harder in the future to ensure that the upcoming generation does not have to suffer what you went through.  But we hope that you will also be just as responsible for your own church history education.

Summary and conclusion

This is obviously just a thought exercise.  Please don’t seriously think that my ponderings here have anything to do with the reality of the way the church is responding to this problem.  You may legitimately wonder if some leaders in the church are even aware that this problem exists.  Perhaps those that are aware feel just as frustrated as you that we don’t address it more openly.

For those that have struggled or are struggling with questions like those I have listed, please be aware that there are many thousands of us who have faced and answered the same questions.  We recognize their potential impact to destroy faith, but have found that God is faithful and will send peace to the troubled heart.  Sometimes satisfactory answers will only come over the test of time.

22 comments for “General Authority training – advanced subjects

  1. June 5, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Great list.
    And wouldn’t it be great if this were actually required training? It is just what was discussed and addressed in a summer symposium by Richard Bushman at BYU this last summer.

    Why are 6 and 7 statements of fact and the rest are questions?

  2. June 5, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Hi Blake,

    Thanks for stopping by. In my opinion, General Authorities are called because of a combination of administrative abilities, years of faithful service in progressively responsible positions and some talent in public speaking, although the last point is subjective. Having a command of current LDS apologetic issues is not required.

    I seriously suspect that some of the Brethren would be shocked if they knew how much these issues are discussed in the Bloggernacle and especially on the forums for LDS discussion, both pro and con. They just don’t have time to read what we write. Besides, could you imagine General Authorities lurking on Stay LDS?

    For those who aren’t familiar with the 2008 symposium, I believe one of the best overviews can be found on Life on Gold Plates, written by Blair Hodges who was in attendance. There were many others who blogged about the symposium but Blair provided a transcription of Dr. Bushman’s introduction from a recording.

    As a Californian, I am somewhat jealous of those who are able to attend seminars and symposia like these that are often held somewhere along the Wasatch front. Alas, we just don’t have the saturation of membership out here to warrant attention from the LDS scholarly community. I miss the Know Your religion lectures.

    The point I hoped to get across more than anything with this intellectual exercise is the idea that I don’t think the church or the Brethren have purposely deceived the members by not having these issues included as a part of our curriculum. I think they are genuinely concerned that some members just couldn’t handle it.

    This may not be true with so many of the young and smart people I see growing up in the church, but I can tell you that many people of my generation have no clue about this stuff, and what’s more, they don’t care. Am I reading this wrong? I think the Brethren are careful through correlation to not introduce difficulties.

    A common complaint I read from my fellow bloggers is that they wished they had been trusted and given all the facts when they were younger so that they could make their own decisions. I truly believe that the Brethren felt that any negative stuff would cause many to lose faith. I can’t say that I blame them. It happens.

    I feel so blessed to have learned about most of this stuff when I was young and have had a lifetime to digest it, accept it, add to it, see it differently, or in some cases, to just keep it up on the shelf until the Lord sees fit to help me resolve it. A loving mother helped me set this pattern early in my life which I have followed.

    Questions six and seven are not the only two points that are statements. They are presented in the same manner that they have been shared with me many times by visitors to my previous essays on the subjects: as if they are facts. The implication is that everyone knows this is so and you’re a fool to think otherwise.

    Interestingly, these two points have provided some of the most intelligent dialog on my blog. I still have a longstanding and open discussion with one of my more persistent Christian visitors about the Book of Abraham being a key to prove that Joseph Smith was a fraud, at least in his mind. Obviously, I see it otherwise.

    Again, thanks for stopping by Blake. I’m honored and appreciate your comment.

  3. June 6, 2009 at 10:15 am

    I know that this may sound like the “Sunday School” answer, but I have come to understand it so much more completely as I have taught this principle over the past few years. The priesthood leaders are only responsible to teach the first four principles of the gospel, introducing baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost to those who would receive. The recipient of the Holy Ghost can then call upon that avenue for all other instruction. The simplicity of it is so beautiful; we simply complicate it so much. (I know, you might think I am naïve and not experienced with the “Anti” techniques in the Blogosphere, but I have had a couple of years experience in this area under a couple of different Blogger names and am well aware of the questions raised.) IMHO these other concerns and questions are all very important to understand and know the answer to as well, but the Brethren are given the assignment by the Lord to simply cover the doctrine that will provide the tools for one to find out “the mysteries” for themselves.

    On the flip side, my first round of teaching Seminary I was told that we were not to teach the Mountain Meadow Massacre at all in the context of the Doctrine and Covenants or Church History year. This was very frustrating for me because I felt very qualified to discuss it having had ancestors on both sides of the conflict and investing years of study into the incident. I obediently left the conflict out of all discussion. Four years later when that same curriculum was to be taught, the Ensign had just released the landmark article about the Mountain Meadow Massacre, and we were told it was now ok to discuss it. That article was written in the exact same way I would have taught it! I could now simply add my witness to it.

    I believe your analysis of times past, where we pushed unpleasant history under the rug, is right on. However, think about society as a whole at the time… most people individually shoved unpleasant topics “under the rug” and did not openly discuss them with the world like they do today. I don’t believe this was exclusive to the Church. We, as a society, have “come out of the closet” so to speak with all kinds of uncomfortable topics and are learning to address them head on at a much earlier age. IMHO President Hinckley was the perfect example of one who understood the value of learning from past mistakes and discussing them more openly amongst ourselves and with our friends. The Bushman Symposium is just one example of the “change that is in the wind.”

    As far as your observation of apathy, on the part of the general populace of the Church when it comes to learning about these select topics, why limit it to these few questions. I am more concerned with the apathy shown when it comes to understanding the scriptures and the doctrines and principles contained therein. As for me, I am receive great comfort from the fact that I will never be in the position of a General Authority. Simply filling my own priesthood responsibility is plenty for me to handle, that of wife and mother.

    Sorry for the “book” in the form of a comment! lol

  4. June 7, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Great post Brother Malone, and good reply “In the Doghouse.”

    I find that even when I didn’t understand everything, and had some doubts, it was the assurance of the Spirit and remembering spiritual experiences I had earlier on that made the difference, and helped to fortify my faith. In a way, I am grateful that as an investigator I came in contact with all the supposed “shocking” history that we have, for I was able then to know later on that even though i didnt know all of the topics, I had recieved a witness at baptism that the Church was true.

    I have since been able to truly look into Church History and doctrine(just got the first volume of History of the Church the other day actually) and been able to analyze and sort things out. And believe me, I analyze everything, have since I was a kid.

    I just want to say how grateful I am that I have a testimony, and that while I realize that the people and organization may not be perfect, the Lord who leads it is.

    Oh, and I love apologetics now. I find it helps strengthen my faith and gospel knowledge!

  5. Closet Doubter
    June 7, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Tim,

    It is great that you as a TBM are familiar with all these issues. You have been able to “put them on the self” and carry on with you church life. Because of this, you can post your name for all to see. If your SP reads your blog, you are OK because you answer everything in the orthodox way, you say it does not bother you (because its on a shelf). I’m glad it works for you, but it does not work for me.
    My analytical mind requires a logical answer. I question what kind of God would send an angle with a sword to threaten JS if he did not practice Polygamy. I wonder why the Prophet says polygamy ended in 1890 and only a few practiced it when my GGGrandfater took 4 wives as late as 1910. He was a patriarch in good standing when he died. The deception is just too much some times.

    Because of my questioning, I’ve learned to be quiet in church, and not ask questions. I can’t be myself or I’ll be called in by the bishop or SP. (BTW, I live in your stake and see you at stake functions) I’ve held all the same leadership positions you have and even higher, but remain silent with my concerns. Since you have come up with “acceptable answers” , you can publish your blog without concern, while because of my doubts I must remain in the closet.

    Closet Doubter

  6. Jay
    June 7, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    What Closet Doubter said. I too know all the answers Tim gives. I’m not in Tim’s stake but have also have had ward and stake leadership positions. And I too find all the answers increasingly insufficient. The inconsistencies won’t stay on the shelf. So I too have learned to be quiet in church, not asking questions, focusing on the basics of my faith and how I can implement them in my life. Lately I find myself doing more of that independent of formal Church programs, a lot of which feel often like busywork and going through the motions. I’ve been doing them all my life and I’ve decided they are far from the only ways to spread the love of Christ in the world. Emerson said “Give me truths, for I am weary of the surfaces.” The doubts and questions about the bases have finally prodded me to start looking for additional light and knowledge in other places.

  7. RickM
    June 7, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Hello Brother Malone,

    I was wondering if you might be considering posting your thoughts about Rodney Meldrum’s theory and #6 above. I’ve watched the latest version of the video and it is quite compelling.

  8. June 7, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    In the Doghouse:

    I am also greatly honored by your visit and comments. No, your response was more than a Sunday school answer. It was more of an “I’ve pondered this subject a lot” kind of an answer. I like what you said about responsibility. It reminds me of how we spent our time as missionaries. If the people we visited weren’t ready to make commitments then we needed to move on. Our responsibility was to help them recognize and feel the spirit.

    Joseph was accountable for his mission, today’s General Authorities are responsible for what they are called to do and we have our own lives to live. Me, I’m just your basic, average, every-day member. I don’t aspire to any office and have no dreams of doing anything in the church other than what I’ve already done. I have a lot of respect for good seminary teachers like you. Carol and I have both taught seminary. I know how hard it can be. Thanks for sharing your experience in dealing with MMM in your teaching.

    I’m with you when it comes to receiving instruction from the Holy Ghost. That’s the way it should be. That’s why I can get good things out of reading “No Man Knows my History,” or “In Sacred Loneliness.” Someone who knows me well in my ward or stake might be shocked that I just invested several hundred dollars in some titles I have wanted for a long time from Signature Books. I think I related in an early essay that I once had a Stake President who told me to burn stuff like that as anti-Mormon trash. And we did!

    Today, because I am at a different point in my spiritual maturity, I can study Compton’s book and Quinn’s books and Palmer’s book and Greg Prince’s book and find much good and truth in them. The difference, to use Blake Ostler’s terminology, is in the lens. Of course I can’t say that I have been completely inoculated but I see things so differently now than I did when I was young and just beginning my service in the church. Today, my lens is colored by many years of sweet spiritual experiences in teaching the gospel.

    I am so grateful for the Bloggernacle and for the opportunity to add my voice to what I see as two polar extremes out there. Besides the wonderful Mormon Mommy blogs, the majority of LDS blogs are either naïve in that they don’t address the complexities of our faith or, for those that have delved into the depths of our history and doctrine, from their writings, it is obvious that they have become disenchanted with what they have found. I don’t believe it has to be that way. We can dig deep and remain faithful. You are an example of that and so are many hundreds of other faithful CES educators all over the church. Not every teacher has the kind of experience that Grant Palmer wrote about.

    I’m with you on the idea that there is change in the wind and it has everything to do with the Internet. I am so grateful to Elder Ballard for encouraging our youth and all members to be more involved in the conversations about the church going on throughout the wide world of the Internet. It is fascinating to be a part of it through blogging, FaceBook, Twitter, Hubpages (I just signed up because of your example), YouTube and a half dozen other methods of communicating our message to the world. Regular members like you and me are sharing our lives and our viewpoints. The world can decide if they like it.

    I loved your closing point about fulfilling your priesthood responsibility. If you have read my story you know how powerfully I was influenced by my mother, who as a professional educator gave me a love of learning and teaching. One of my greatest joys in life is standing in front of a classroom or at the pulpit teaching the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The more I deepen my knowledge of our history and our doctrine, the more fulfilling it becomes to teach the simple basics – to love the Lord, to seek the spirit and to serve one another. Studying the issues like these I have presented makes the lens through which I see life so much more meaningful. Thanks for reading and for your comments.

  9. June 7, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Tony,

    You are a remarkable young man. I can see that you have invested hours in reading my essays. I have enjoyed reading your experiences as a recent convert preparing for a mission. If more young men would prepare as you are obviously doing, there would be fewer grey hairs on the heads of our mission presidents. Be careful when you get out there. You will find that not every missionary is as prepared or conscientious as you.

    Your point about remembering spiritual experiences is more to the heart of this matter than anything I or anyone else has said so far. You have an advantage as a convert that many who grew up in our church do not have. You can point to specific moments in your life where you received revelation and knew you were receiving it. You have memories of things that some of our long-time members have never experienced. What a blessing!

    I’m with you in the way I approach the things I read on the discussion boards and blogs that are, shall we say, less than faithful. I confess that I am, and have been for many years, a reader of RfM, Post-Mormon, FLAK and many other LDS discussion boards that have come and gone over the years. I go there for intellectual stimulation that goes right to the heart of my faith. I enjoy answering the questions that I have found raised there.

    I too can point to specific memories of spiritual experiences early in my life when I was first gaining my testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I have written about some of them and others are too sacred to share. While these powerful revelatory experiences were few and far between when I was younger, the memory of them is strengthened and renewed each time I study, prepare and teach or speak in church.

    Congratulations on building your library of LDS historical books. After a lifetime of collecting, I still use the basic History of the Church as a primary source for many of my studies. Even though so much is available on the Internet, or on CD, there is nothing quite like holding a book in your hands and obtaining knowledge from its pages. The investment of time and energy makes those books into old trusted and reliable friends.

    It is in the reading and pondering that the spirit works with us and bears witness to our souls of the things that are true. Our testimonies are strengthened, our knowledge is increased and our ability to defend the faith is improved. I too analyze everything I read and try to figure out how it fits with everything else that I have learned and experienced. Apologetics is an acquired skill, one that I’m still learning. I will never be as proficient as some who practice their skills here on my blog.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Tony. I appreciate your visits. God bless.

  10. June 8, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Closet doubter,

    Don’t read too much into that phrase that we banter about in the church. I’m not sure I even understand what it means to put something on the shelf. Of the twenty-five questions I listed, I have answered probably eighteen of them for myself in previous essays. That simply means that I took the time to look up and write up the answers I found from various sources, almost all of them being presented in a standard orthodox manner from respectable General Authority quotes.

    I hope to answer the other seven or eight that I have not yet addressed and then there will be another list of twenty-five and it could go on and on and on. So for me, having something up on the shelf simply means that I haven’t studied it out in detail, considered what the objections are and researched what others have said in reply. So there will always be things on the shelf because there is never enough time to answer all the possible objections to our rich history.

    When I started my blog I did not intend to turn it into an apprenticeship in amateur apologetics. I simply wanted to know if there were logical answers for some of the most common objections. I think the focus of my blog changed on Easter Sunday 2008 when I wrote my essay that of course Mormons are Christians. Some kind soul gave me six or seven objections to my claim and I was off and running with my first experience in apologetics as I answered each of his objections.

    Some 230 essays later, I have yet to discover an issue that doesn’t have logical explanations. I take that back. The one thing that I cannot logically explain is why I have never doubted the testimony I worked for and received as a youth of seventeen and eighteen while I prepared for my mission. I used to buy anti-Mormon books after my mission because I wanted the challenge of intellectual engagement on the issues of our faith. You won’t find that in our Sunday schools.

    I learned a long time ago that you just can’t bring these things up in Sunday school or even in our priesthood quorums. I understand why. It can be too disturbing to those who are new in the faith or whose testimonies are weak. And why are their testimonies weak? It is because they won’t study. They won’t learn about these issues for themselves. Some may debate me on this, but I don’t think you can really say you study the gospel unless you look at these questions.

    How can you be an effective missionary unless you know what people are saying and asking about us? Yes, you can argue that your time would be better spent studying and understanding the doctrines as opposed to the history, but even then, if you’re going to communicate with any degree of intelligence with those who have studied religion, you’ll need to know their arguments. I hate the idea of arguments, but that is what defending faith is all about – convincing arguments.

    And see, that’s the problem with logic and religion. In some ways they are incompatible. There are just some things that I’m going to have to take on faith. I’m going to have to decide what I will and won’t believe. I can’t logically explain everything and neither can you. Nobody can. Yes, it sounds crazy that God would send an angel with a drawn sword to force Joseph to start the practice of polygamy. But you know what? I don’t have to prove that to believe in Joseph.

    I’ve written extensively about plural marriage and if you’ve read anything I have written on the subject then you know that I believe that it is an eternal doctrine that is not currently practiced. I don’t know if an angry angel was required to get Joseph to do what he was told, and I don’t care. That’s Joseph’s problem. Did he just make that up to justify the practice? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. I have enough evidence of revealed and sacred feelings related to so many other things that Joseph brought forth that this little story of an angel and a sword is insignificant.

    But I can respect that it is a big deal to you, as you have expressed it to be so. The same can be said for post-manifesto plural marriage. Yes, it was wrong of the leaders of the church to declare publicly that we were no longer sanctioning plural marriages after 1890 when it is obvious that we were doing so. Apostles finally had to be excommunicated before we got the message that this wasn’t acceptable. It’s sad that Richard R. Lyman took dishonesty to the level that he did.

    The apostles are not perfect. They are just men. Joseph Smith wasn’t perfect. He was just a man, and by some accounts, a man with a huge libido. But to me, it is wonderful that God uses imperfect men to reveal his will to his children upon the earth. That gives me hope. I feel my own weaknesses and imperfections terribly. But I also have felt God working through me on so many occasions that I know repentance, the atonement and the priesthood are very real powers.

    I wish I could help you with your problem of not being able to put things on the shelf. I wish that there had not been deception among the leaders of our church. I like to think that we are being much more honest and open about our history these days, especially among the Brethren. I am especially sorry that you are bothered by having to keep quiet in church. There is nothing wrong with having doubts. I think I am a rarity in the church because I do not have doubts.

    I offer you my friendship and love, closet doubter. I suggest that it’s time to come out of the closet and face your doubts head-on. If you haven’t read John Dehlin’s story or viewed his presentation on how to stay LDS in spite of doubts, then I suggest you do so. He has helped many, many people like you to stay in the church and to eventually find peace with their decision. Honesty and integrity are virtues to be cherished. God bless you in your journey.

  11. June 8, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Tim, I echo your comments:

    “And why are their testimonies weak? It is because they won’t study. They won’t lea[r]n about these issues for themselves.”

    It amazes me that there are long-time members that cannot even begin to speak about 1/2 of the questions you have posed. I used to think that becoming a High Priest meant that you were prepared in all these issues. Not so much anymore.

    I have truly found that knowledge is power, especially when it comes to Gospel doctrine. As an attorney, I have an analytical mind that needs the internal debate to assure myself of the answers. I too have found many answers, but have also had to make a few concessions. The concessions, however, need not erase what I know to be true and good.

    I like Elder Packer’s statement: “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behaviors.” Once we truly understand the doctrines of the restored Gospel, things seemingly fall into place. The problem most people have, is that they refuse to learn that doctrine on their own and instead rely upon sub-par teaching each week in their Gospel Doctrine class.

  12. June 8, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Jay,

    Thanks for the visit and the comment. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I wonder if what I’m reading in your comment about “busywork and going through the motions” can be attributed to the mundane administrative activities that are always a part of ward and stake priesthood leadership positions. In my experience, the repetitive nature of these actions can produce the same kinds of feelings in me that you describe. I hope we don’t confuse administration with ministering. I am currently serving as a ward clerk and can totally relate to the busywork idea.

    Jay, I’ve gone through what you’re describing. After nearly thirty years of serving in quorum leadership roles, umpteen bishoprics, and on the High Council, I’ve decided that I would much, much prefer to be in a teaching position. For me, teaching the gospel, either in the home, in a small classroom, or from the pulpit has proven to be the most rewarding activity in the church. I’ve said many times before that my favorite calling was teaching the 11-year olds in Primary. The wonderful challenge there is making the doctrine simple enough for their pure young minds.

    Besides the sacred memories of several remarkable spiritual manifestations in my youth, another powerful motivator for me is studying and preparing the essays I share in my blog. I write them in a format that is easily transferable to delivery from the pulpit. Bruce R. McConkie used to go down the street making outlines in his mind of gospel subjects and how he would present then. I do the same in my personal gospel study – I make outlines and turn them into essays that I share on my blog. I feel prepared when I am asked to share spiritual thoughts in leadership meetings.

    I think I am very different from most members of the church in that I love to stand at the pulpit and teach the gospel. My years on the High Council were very rewarding for me mainly because of the opportunity to speak in a different ward each month. I looked forward to the challenge of seeing if I could keep the High Priests from snoring in Sacrament meeting. I never did quite achieve that goal but found great delight in sharing fascinating stories from our history that were applicable to our everyday lives. I couldn’t do that if I didn’t study and learn the difficult parts.

    Jay, I think you are right on in your observation that we do not have any exclusivity in finding ways to spread the love of Christ. There are so many good people and organizations out there that can use our organizational and administrative abilities. I find myself desiring more and more to volunteer my computer and network skills with non-profits in our community. It brings great joy to be able to use something so basic to me in a way that seems like magic to others.

    Seeking additional light and knowledge is admirable. We are not the only source of light and truth. It is all around us if we just seek it out. There are many things and causes that are worth our time and energy. We can do much good in the world. Indeed, if we don’t, we will become stagnant and stale. I think that’s why the Brethren have done so much to cut down the number of meetings we have to attend and have encouraged us to become involved in our communities.

    Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your comments. They are much appreciated.

  13. Closet doubter
    June 8, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Tim,

    I have interacted with you at church and know you to be an upfront guy. Thanks for taking the time on this blog.

    I have addressed my doubts head on. I’ve read everything I could get my hands on for over 20 years. I’m very active on the DAMU, and you have probably read some of my posts on various groups under another name. I also know John and have traded e-mails with him in the past, and listened to most of his pod casts. So for me the DAMU is the outlet I need to keep sane since I can’t find it at church.

    Your answers to many of those questions don’t cut it for me. The cognitive dissonance is too much for me to accept those answers.

    But I have reached a place where I’m content with the church. I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. I have too much invested at this point. I enjoy the friendship at church. I enjoyed serving the people in my past callings.

    But unlike you I have to hide behind an pseudonym on the internet. The church has no room for my doubts. As I hear in General Conference almost every time, it is either true or it isn’t. It is black or white. JS either saw God and JC as he said in his 1838 canonized version, or he didn’t. Nobody in Testimony meeting yesterday said “I believe the church is true”, they all said “I Know the church is true”. Well, I don’t know! I believe many things, but I just don’t know.

    I believe I have moved on to what you’d call a “cultural Mormon” or NOM. I’ll take the good, and drop the bad. The church has made me a better person, father and husband.

    And let me comment on your statement: “And why are their testimonies weak? It is because they won’t study. They won’t learn about these issues for themselves.” A few years ago I was talking with a very high leader in the stake. I asked him if he had read “Rough Stone Rolling” He said he had started to read it, but stopped because he didn’t want to know those things about JS. Is this the type of leader that I can go to for help? He stuck his head in the sand instead of hitting the issues head on.

    Thanks again for your concern. If you don’t mind, I’ll add your blog to my list of outlets that I can vent from time to time. And next time I see you at church I’ll make sure to shake your hand.

    Closet Doubter

  14. June 8, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Tim, thank you for your kind comments. You are a man I have truly come to admire.
    And I wish I could have a primary calling, but realize that I need to magnify my current calling, though I have the great privelige of working with a new deacon.

    To Closetdoubter, I am just wondering, have you ever prayed to recieve a testimony of the First Vision after reading the account and pondering on it? Have you ever just said, God, I don’t know what to think, can you direct me as to the truth and tell me once and for all if this really happened?

    Please understand that I am not trying to be rude by asking you that question, and if I have crossed the line I sincerely apologize. I am simply curious.

  15. Closet Doubter
    June 8, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Tony,

    Yes, I have prayed and felt “tingling all over, and tears well up in my eyes”. I took this as a sign that what I was praying for was true. But then something happened. As I got older, I noticed that I got those same feeling for very non religious things. I get the same feeling when watching a “chick flick” (much to my embarrassment). At the end of the movie when the guy comes swooping in and takes the girl, I get a “tingling all over, and tears well up in my eyes”. I’ve recognized that it is the same feelings that I felt when I prayed! Ever since I was little I’ve always cried easy when something touched me. At first I was told it was the “spirit” But then I had the same feeling in very non-spiritual events.

    I do believe in God. I don’t “know” that he lives because I’ve never seen him. I have faith that he lives. Once I see him, then my faith will go away and I’ll know.

    Closet Doubter

  16. June 11, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Thanks for your response.
    And loving those sappy movies myself, and getting emotional at times, I know what you mean. However, when I recieve such a powerful manifestation that I just feel filled with light and happiness, and know that it wasn’t having anything to do with some film I was watching or what have you, and I am not getting emotional and crying but still feeling the Spirit whisper to me “You Know,” I find that I can’t deny it.

    I respect how you feel about it, and that you have faith in God. I wish you the best in your own spiritual journey, and may God bless you. I believe you have more faith than most!

  17. June 12, 2009 at 7:56 am

    This post, including the comments, really resonate with me as I’ve concerned myself with people on both sides of the “knowledge” divide. And I can relate to both sides. It’s disconcerting to me that someone would stop reading Rough Stone Rolling “because he didn’t want to know those things about JS”, but yet at the same time I must respect that. It can be tough.

    I recently posted about my “Concern For Those Who Are Struggling”, and it was actually quite refreshing to talk through some perspectives about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon in the comments section of that post. It’s not something people usually feel comfortable or confident enough to do in person, so that’s a great thing about blogging. It’s good to be honest with ourselves and the knowledge we have. Just in case you’re interested, here’s the link:
    http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/06/concern-for-those-who-are-struggling.html

  18. Tender Mercies
    December 14, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    I’d like to respond to the post about polygamy. I hate to break it to people, but marriage is an eternal, not temporal, union. Consider: we look upon divorce as a suitable way to treat marriage as a temporary pleasant past-time rather than as a permanent commitment. Multiple consecutive marriages are common today.

    The difference between divorces/remarriage and polygamous unions is, of course, that in a divorce, the first spouse is discarded before taking another, and the first spouse has no say in the former spouse’s choice of second, third, and so forth marriage partners.

    I know this might rattle a few cages, but why is this so much better than polygamy? The way the Lord ordained polygamy was for marriage partners to mutually agree on who else would enter the marriage, and that these marriages are binding forever. In other words, in polygamy, you don’t throw out your spouses and go and get other ones in their places.

    Sure, nobody seems to look at it this way. But, as my mom puts it, what is divorce and remarriage, but serial polygamy?

  19. NOM
    July 21, 2010 at 12:51 am

    I appreciate the comments on this blog a lot. I also understand that I’m about a year behind…no one may ever see this comment.

    However, as a closet doubter myself, I find these questions very disheartening. I have been a true believer my whole life. I still read my scriptures, say my prayers, go to church, etc. I continually pray for the answers. I even attempted a “Joseph Smith” and went to a secluded spot while in the woods (a bit extreme…) I feel nothing. I’ve received no answers. I’ve been asking for over five years. I’m still attending the temple…

    As soon as I discovered my questions, going to church made me feel a little…angry. Why don’t the majority of the people who are so invested in this church not know this stuff? My integrity will never allow me to hold a prominent calling in the church. I refuse to lie to the people and refuse to tell them the truth to avoid causing them the hurt I felt when I discovered these issues.

    And as far as spiritual confirmations go, not only do some of us feel that when watching “chick flicks,” but what about people who feel the same convictions about their church and beliefs that we feel about ours?

    And, no offense, but fundamentalists, followers of Charles Manson, and even the poor victim of Brian David Mitchell have all felt the same convictions about their church, leader, or abductor. The human mind is VERY susceptible to brainwashing… Group Think and conformity are common in all organized religions… As is deception. And hiding the truth/sweeping things under the rug…

    I have a few other questions.

    1. What about the Masons? People say that the temple is an old ceremony passed down from Solomon’s temple… Wrong. The Masons borrowed their ideas from the Scottish Guilds that were started in 1717.

    2. People say that our church is the only true church… Why then do LDS men still participate in Masonry? I understand that it’s just a glorified fraternity, but being a member seems wrong to me. I can’t be a Jew and a Mormon at the same time.

    3. Jesus Christ had 12 followers. That makes 13 people in authoritative positions. The current church has 15… Why?

    4. In the introduction to the Book of Mormon (which has been changed to better accommodate recent DNA evidence) why does it say the Bible and the Book of Mormon together are the “fullness of the Gospel,” and yet, no one can answer my questions…? Instead I’m told, “We don’t have all the answers…” According to the introduction to the Book of Mormon, we DO.

    5. Joseph was married to more than 20 (documented) women before he told Emma about polygamy. Almost half of these 20 women were married to other men. However, Emma reportedly asked Joseph if she could have other husbands since he can have other wives. She was reprimanded by God in D&C 132 verse 54 for posing such an abominable question: “And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.” I find it oddly convenient that Joseph’s first and supposedly favorite wife was not allowed to have other husbands but his other, not favorite wives were. In fact, most of them continued living with their first husbands…sleeping with them AND Joseph. And supposedly not many children came from the unions these women had with Joseph…but we’re taught that polygamy is for “raising up seed unto the Lord.” I’m confused. I also find it odd that the majority of them (maybe all – except the white-haired, old ones that he didn’t sleep with – were brunettes).

    6. Also, according to our own scripture, Joseph Smith committed adultery. In D&C 132 it states (emphasis added): 61. “And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.”

    This tells me a few main things. 1). Joseph Smith did NOT tell Emma about his plural wives until he had more than 20 of them. According to verse 61 of D&C 132, he has committed adultery because his first wife has not consented. 2). Before Joseph Smith was martyred, he ended up marrying 11 (documented) women who were already married. They were not virgins. They were “vowed” to other men. According to that, he has committed adultery. In addition, note the word “desire.” I thought that polygamy was about god giving men other women…and that even the men didn’t want it. According to some, polygamy is hard for men, too. According to D&C 132 verse 61, they have to desire her first, then gain their first wife’s consent, then make sure she’s a virgin and isn’t “vowed” (i.e. married or engaged) to another man. Again, I’m confused.

    Anyway, I hope someone is still checking this post so they can answer my questions.

    Thanks.

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