On TBMs, Parables and Dreams

Guest post: A young reader of the blog came for a visit recently. Carol and I enjoyed having him stay overnight. He introduced us to a new phenomenon called “couch-surfing.” You probably know all about it but we had never heard of it. Now we know. You want to come visit us here by the beach? The couch is available. He asked if he could share a few thoughts on the blog. With his permission, I have edited and combined a bit:

Part 1 – On TBMs

Today I ended a two week road trip and am going to write of something, a new thought brought to my attention by a new friend. This merry little remnant group often uses the acronym of TBM. I’m not sure how often I have used it myself, not sure if I even have. Either way, TBM sounds like a damn mental disorder or STD. Seriously folks, is there anything in the medical world that is good that has been given initials? Where did this term come from? It really doesn’t matter, what matters is the fact it is used.

The remnant, as it likes to call itself, doesn’t use the term Mormon. So why do we need to call Mormons TBM? Or why can’t we just say LDS? Never mind the fact I think both groups got it wrong with the whole name thing: “8 And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.”

If we call ourselves Mormons, we are a part of the church of Mormon and as Jesus so bluntly states it, that means we belong to the church of Mormon and not the church of Christ. So we have between the remnant and TBM….Latter-day Saints, Mormons, remnant, and TBMs…..just about everything except Christian or “Follower of Christ.” Hilarious irony somewhere in there. One thing I think we should work on: there is power in a name and probably a reason Christ says to call yourself the Church of Christ.

A Derogatory Term

tbm2But back to my point, this merry little remnant group has decided to use this name for a group of people, and use it in a somewhat negative manner. I suspect they mean to say “HAHAHAHA STUPID TBMs.” I have noticed that condescending attitude on the day of my rebaptism, and only one fellow (the guy who did the baptism) told them to knock it off. I enjoyed that day and at the request of the guy who re-baptized me, wrote down my thoughts to remember my feelings. Here are a few of them:

“I noticed in talking with people an ever so subtle Denver Snuffer worship that persisted. I also noticed an ever so subtle spirit of contention.” Indeed….perhaps I do agree with this new friend more than I think, but just happen to think rebaptism was what I really needed. I don’t regret it. It was for me the right thing to do, but I can certainly see and even did pen it down, that the remnant does possess a very subtle spirit of contention. It’s odd I noticed it because I also wrote: “I seemed completely at peace.”

Perhaps that’s why I noticed the subtle disturbance. Or perhaps my Satan detector is very finely tuned. Anyone that has visited the comments section of Facebook or any of the various LDS-themed blogs knows that contention is opening billion dollar businesses there. A bunch of folks shouting, “I have had revelation. No, I have had opposing revelation. No, I have had yet more revelation…”

Revelation Takes Time to Master

Well isn’t that a fine pickle we’ve got ourselves into? Sounds like we’ve just crossed into the Brigham Young succession crisis the lot of folks were upset about in the first place. We’re doing exactly what we claim the LDS church does – contradicting itself. If we all actually got revelation on the matter, we’d be in agreement. But we’ve taken a whole bunch of rookies, who’ve probably gotten less than three revelations in our lives, and suddenly we’re all masters. I have some bad news. Revelation takes time to master. It’s a gift from God.

But back to that TBM STD term, the more I think on it, the more I see this new friend is right. TBM is a damn STD or mental disorder. It’s as idiotic as any of those other racial slurs we’ve invented. No one, and I do mean no one I have ever seen uses TBM as a good thing.

I have a very simple piece of advice for you. I’m going to quote some general authorities here: Dieter F. Uchtdorf says: Stop it. I’m also going to quote some random folks from the scriptures too: Repent! So to summarize and put this together: Just Stop It and Repent! Of the general authorities I have always enjoyed Dieter the most. He seems a cut above the rest.

Many of you may now be left without a way to refer to one another. How about brother and sister? But I know I’ve offended you….so without TBM as a term how else will you:

14 Do not say: O God, I thank thee that we are better than our brethren; but rather say: O Lord, forgive my unworthiness, and remember my brethren in mercy—yea, acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times.

27 And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.

Ah yes, without the term TBM, how else will we do the highlighted things? You know what? Maybe me and my new friend don’t see eye to eye on the whole thing, and truth be told I’d like to ask this person a thing or two more about some stuff….but you know what? Charity is the greatest gift of all and I do not sense any bad intentions. And I think that counts for something, and this person showed plenty of charity.

We Ought To Be Much Kinder

You know….I don’t claim to get it right 100% of the time….but this past two weeks on the road with zero plans, I’ve seen more random acts of kindness, and participated in more random acts of kindness and felt closer to Christ than I have in a very long time. I’m a guy that has had visions since I was a child.

One time I had just finished eating and was daydreaming and thinking to myself, man they’ve gone and overcomplicated those stupid soda machines with a thousand flavors, as soon as I thought that some old guy walked up to it and couldn’t figure it out. Poor guy only wanted a simple old fashioned coke; taking five seconds to help him brought a smile to his face.

Another story: I was in a bar, and we were leaving. It was me and five other guys and we had all just met that night. Two of us just met two minutes previously. Someone spots two cops waiting for us across the street. One guy then invites us into his home (his apartment was next door to the bar) so we could avoid the cops. But somehow I am sure someone here is still throwing stones because I was at a bar.

Another point: I met a homeless guy….just passed him by at the Wal-Mart. I stopped and chatted for ten to fifteen minutes. In that time I was one of two people of at least one-hundred that actually stopped and looked at him much less chatted. Freaking random acts of kindness people.

2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Ministering to the Homeless

I wonder…are angels masquerading as homeless people? Are they reporting back to God telling Him all about how we keep driving right past them? Interestingly enough he and this homeless guy I just mentioned talked about that very thing….He claims he was named Gabriel and I am named Adam….some hilarious irony there.

We need to get off our damn phones. I saw the other day there are tons of these remnant Facebook groups with the same folks posting over and over and over on each group all the day long. We need to put down the damn phone and go help the beggar ten feet outside our door. We’re all so obsessed with achieving what Denver Snuffer acquired (bear in mind if his story to be believed it takes him a good twenty to thirty years), an audience with Christ, that we’ve forgotten Christ helped the most wretched and pitiful of souls.

He helped the drunks at the bars, the whores, the hookers, the sick, the possessed, and even the freaking dead. Christ even showed pity and mercy to the legion of devils He let go into the herd of swine. If Facebook and all that crap existed in His time I doubt He would be on it. I suspect He’d be out there helping the aforementioned and calling us out on how we waste our time. I met no TBMs this week…I met people. And I’m from the damn place that started the civil war.

I’ll close by repeating this: Just Stop It and Repent!


Part Two – A Parable

apple-pieI shall tell you a story…A Parable even. There was a man who had an apple tree and it produced much good fruit. It was very delicious to the taste. The man took the fruits of this apple tree and one day learned to make an apple pie. This was the only apple pie around then. You see people were still learning how to till the ground. This man however soon after some years learned to truly perfect this apple pie. This man took great care of his apple tree as he wanted to pass it on to his descendants. He taught them all he could about making apple pies but soon grew old and passed on.

This special apple tree however lived on and his descendants went on making apple pies. His son had learned firsthand from his master father and to most they could not tell the difference but he was not quite as good as his father. He then had sons and they too learned how to make apple pies. This continued on for many, many generations.

One day many years later a stranger was passing by. He had heard of the legendary apple pie and decided since he was so close by he would try this famous apple pie. He soon arrived with much anticipation but immediately noticed the house was falling apart and the trees of the yard did not look well taken care of. However he had heard the stories and figured what does he know? He comes from a land that doesn’t even have an apple tree so perhaps this is just the way it looks. He however craved good food and had heard the stories and the legends of this famous treat. You see in his homeland you do not get to eat such good food, the food is stale, dry, and often rotting or close to rotting. His people simply cannot seem to learn to cook.

The Legend of the Great Apple Pie

He knocked on their door and was invited to come in. He asked about the origins of this apple pie and was told all the stories. As he had listened with great anticipation and even hearing new stories he had not heard before he soon realized these descendants did not even know as much as he did. But he figured, “No matter at least they can bake a delicious apple pie.”

The man had become so overwhelmed with excitement he barely gave heed or notice to the fact the place smelled very similar to home. He figured all food looked terrible having never seen good fruit before. After some time the baked apple pie came out and he had it in front of him, ready to taste and eat.

He looked on with great anticipation exclaiming “I AM HERE, I AM FINALLY HERE LORD” as this was the place of legends. He took his fork to the pie and brought it to his mouth. He noticed it looked familiar. He asked the bakers about this before he took a bite and they said “This is how all food is, don’t you know that?”

He then proceeded seemingly satisfied with the answer. He took his first bite and noticed this was nearly identical to the food he was used too. He wondered could it be….could the stories all be a lie. He took another bite to be sure, and sure enough the pie tasted similar to his homeland’s rotting food.

Not All Pies Are the Same

He then recalled a story as he looked around. He recalled hearing how the original owner of this place would spend 4 hours a day cleaning and grooming and tending to the apple tree outside. He remembered thinking how clean this inside had to have been, which cleanliness made him different from his friends and family. He then asked the bakers how often they cleaned the apple tree to which they replied “Why should we clean it? It has always been that way and always produced this same fruit just as it did for our father and his father before him, we have always had this same fruit and this same tree.”

The stranger finally understood….the poor descendants had lost their way. They were stuck in their methods of baking and while this may have once been a legendary place all it was now was a story. The stranger explained this to the bakers but only one of the six bakers listened and so he and the stranger finally convinced the others to leave and let them be while they cleaned up the place and did things as close to the stories they had told them to do.

They worked hard and long as they had to plant completely new soil and build much of the house anew. It was tiring and time consuming but after several years they finally finished. The other five bakers repeatedly called them crazy but had agreed to this….in the meantime they opened up shop.

The Great Apple Pie is Restored

The stranger and the one baker finally opened….and this time it was good apple pie….the stuff of legends. In time the five grew angry at the stranger and the one baker but what could they do? They had a plan they thought. They would encourage the stranger to return to his homeland knowing a partner is needed they will pay someone to sabotage the new place.

And so they went to work on their plan and it succeeded. Soon a generation or two later passed and you could barely tell a difference between the two, yet strangely some folks swore one place was better than the other yet they were nearly identical in origin and story and taste.

As we near the end of our story one last stranger appears….it is the son of the original stranger from just two generations ago. He noticed this was wrong and told them of the apple pie stand in his homeland that he learned from them, but both stands laughed at him and would not heed his warning calling him crazy.

The Restored Pie is Rejected

He was cast out, but determined to try and get them to see reason, he went back to his homeland and brought with him the fruits of his labor. He soon returned and showed them proof of his claims yet he was still mocked and laughed at. His father had warned him this might happen, but he tried anyway. Sadly, he was fighting a lost cause. The people had their apple pies and could not fathom there being another apple pie, they presumed they had a monopoly on apple pies.

The poor stranger returned home, defeated and sad as the place truly was now nothing more than a good story, a legend, but a farce claiming to be what it once was. As he lay on his deathbed he died asking “How could a place with good food learn to enjoy eating rotten food? We once ate rotten food and now eat good food, yet strangely some among us prefer the rotten food? How can this be?”

To all who read this parable I say this….The meaning is not just the most obvious meaning, it has many meanings. I was foolish and did not write down all the meanings I have heard. THIS IS NOT JUST A PARABLE ABOUT THE MODERN CHURCH! Either way I’ll leave it to those that: 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: If your eyes are opened and your ears are listening, you’ll figure it out.


Part Three – A Dream

I once somewhere read of a dream by someone. Perhaps the dream is real or perhaps not. I don’t know. In this dream, a man was looking for Christ in church. He looked and looked but could not find Him. However, he happened by a boy who was in need of comfort because his parents had gotten divorced (I can’t remember the exact reason). He noticed the boy was all alone, but there was an old man sitting there in the room with him but not saying anything.

He briefly talked to the boy and found out what was wrong but soon enough left him in his search for Christ leaving the boy with the quiet old man. Some years later in the dream, he saw the boy again but with friends and noticed was even worse off. He asked the boy about it and the boy who was now a teenager explained that no one came to help him. The dream ended.

The explanation given by the author of the dream was this: do not get so stuck on your desire to see Christ that you forget to minister to the poor around you. He suspects had he ministered to the boy then and there that Christ was actually the old man in the room and would have revealed Himself, but because he did not, he failed to minister to Christ, and thus was unworthy of His presence. So do not forget the poor, the homeless, the sick, the needy, and so on, for by ministering to them, you minister to God Himself.


Sinning Against the Greater Light

MoroniAndJosephWhen I resigned from the LDS Church, I thought I would continue to support Carol in her desires to sing in the choir. I grew up playing the piano for a few years, performed in a school band and have generally loved music all my life. I married a woman who has a beautiful voice, who loves to sing and understands, as I do, that singing with a choir is a way to worship God.

I am on the ward and stake choir email lists. I received invitations to practice for our upcoming stake conference and for our annual Christmas concert. The ward choir director approached me personally about participating in the choir. There are only three or four tenors who will sing. I suggested he check with the Bishop to make sure it was okay with him. Apparently it was not.

Come Sing Praises Unto the Lord

Having been a counselor in the bishopric over the ward choir in years past, I know how hard it is to get people to sing. Sometimes, we have even issued callings to people to sing in the choir as a way of getting them to come out to practices and perform. I clearly remember asking members to invite their friends who are not LDS to come join us in the choir to bolster that worshipful sound.

I won’t take the time to review the handbook. If someone else wants to look it up and correct me, they are welcome to do so. I’m confident there is nothing in the handbook stating someone who is not a member of the LDS Church can’t sing in the ward or stake choir. In fact, I am fairly certain I remember places in the handbook where inviting non-members to sing is encouraged.

Where Much is Given, Much is Required

Carol and I discussed this. She said she also spoke with the bishop about me singing in the choir. I wasn’t there so I can’t share exactly what was said, nor can Carol remember the exact words. However, the phrase, “sinning against the greater light” (D&C 82:3) was brought up. That took me by surprise and got me pondering and praying about that scripture. So I took it to the Lord.

“For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.” I have a few questions for discussion by this group if you are willing engage me in dialog. First: Is it a sin to resign from the LDS Church? If so, why? Do we automatically assume one who resigns from the LDS Church has sinned against the light?

No Claim Until the Work is Completed

Look, I’ve been clear all along. I have not had that personal visit from the Lord. I have not had that physical embrace with the Lord. I have heard His voice and I have been born of the spirit. I can even make an argument for saying I have had my calling and election made sure, but I won’t because the Lord and I are still working that out. Some of you know what I’m referring to here.

I think I understand the bishop’s concern. Because of my blog, my case is well known in my ward and stake. I think it was a shock to many people when I resigned. It would make people uncomfortable to see me singing in the choir. I get that. I agree with the Bishop’s decision. But I don’t agree with the statement, either said or implied that I have sinned against the greater light.

The Holy Ghost Brings Light and Truth

The Bishop doesn’t know how much light I have. I know the scriptures and the LDS Church place the Bishop in a position of being a “Judge in Israel.” I believe the Bishop is entitled to inspiration. I have seen it in action. But my judge is not an LDS Bishop, nor is it an apostle in the LDS Church. My judge is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is to him I answer. I seek to please the Lord.

I’ve raised this point before. I prayed deeply about resigning. The Lord and I discussed it often. I studied and prayed about the message delivered by Denver Snuffer for over two years. I knew I wanted to be baptized as a sign to the Lord I accepted His message and His messenger. I knew it would not go over well with my local priesthood leaders. Thus I resigned. That’s old news.

The Holy Ghost Comes to Those Who Obey

AlmaAndAngelThe definition of light in the scriptures is synonymous with intelligence and truth. Light comes to us as we study truth, ponder and pray about it. The glory of God is intelligence or light and truth (D&C 93:36). We know it is impossible to please God without exercising faith. Faith is a principle of action. It is one thing to believe something is true. It is another thing to act upon it. Faith requires action.

As Carol and I discussed it, we agreed just about any bishop in the LDS Church would have done what our good Bishop did. He called me in for counseling. He expressed his loving concern for me. We discussed my spiritual growth and my testimony. My testimony was moving away from accepting the LDS Church as being authorized to administer the ordinances of salvation.

Keys of the Kingdom Were Lost

Joseph was and is a prophet. The Book of Mormon is scripture. It contains the word of God. The LDS Church was at one time “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” (D&C 1:30) I was willing to sustain President Monson as a prophet, seer and revelator because that’s the title we have given to our leaders. I agree with Denver’s claim that the LDS Church lost something.

The higher priesthood was lost when Joseph was killed. The remaining authority, the keys of the kingdom, was lost when the LDS Church exercised unrighteous dominion in casting off Denver Snuffer for apostasy. He did what the Lord told him to do in publishing PtHG. I have asked the Lord. I have discussed it with Him. He has told me in no uncertain terms Denver was authorized.

Never But One on the Earth at a Time

ProphetJosephSmithStatements like these are annoying to true believing Mormons. I used to be one of them. I think I still am – a Mormon, that is. I claim the right to call myself a Mormon because I believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. I am simply not a member of the LDS Church. There is only one man on the earth at a time that can exercise all the keys of the priesthood. (D&C 132:7)

If the Lord told me Denver was authorized to speak in the name of the Lord, that the message he has delivered was authorized of the Lord, that he had the sealing power as well as all the keys of the priesthood that can be bestowed upon man while in the flesh, then where does that leave President Monson? Who do I believe? Do I believe the Lord or do I believe LDS truth claims?

Light Comes In Acting Upon Truth

As always, the bottom line lies in personal revelation. There is only one counter to a claim from someone who says he is authorized to speak on behalf of the Lord and has a message for all. We normally reserve that for a prophet. Therefore, Denver is a prophet. The counter claim, of course, is that Denver is a liar and I have been deceived. This is not new. I’ve been told this many times.

Back to the original point of determining how much light an individual has. In my pondering on the subject, I have decided the more light a person has the more quickly they recognize truth and act upon it. Wealth is not a determining factor of light. Social position does not determine light. Even position in the church does not help us ascertain the amount of light someone has acquired.

Careful and Ponderous and Solemn Thoughts

The only determining factor I have been able to use for my own purposes in deciding who I should listen to and allow to influence me is how deeply they have sought for light and how quick they respond to new light they gain. I am impressed by a man who can not only use the scriptures in preaching the gospel but can use his own personal revelations to confirm them.

“The things of God are of deep import, and time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O Man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost Heavens, and search into and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss, and expand upon the broad considerations of eternal expanse; he must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart, none but fools will trifle with the souls of men.”

The Lord is the Keeper of the Gate

Joseph taught clearly the need we each have to commune with God directly, to spend our time in careful, ponderous and solemn thought. In other words, if we want to be filled with light, we must search and contemplate the things God has revealed through others, and then verify them for ourselves in our conversations with the Lord. We must then act upon the light we receive.

Each of us can know for ourselves the things of eternity. We do not need to rely upon another man to tell us the way things are in the heavens. While we are yet tender in our knowledge, it is understandable we would lean upon others more experienced and wise in the ways of the Lord. But in the end, it is the Lord we must meet at the gate which is meant to be opened in this life.

Confidence in the Presence of the Lord

TimBaptism2aCroppedI am grateful I can say I have done as the Lord has asked me. I am grateful to feel my confidence waxing stronger in the presence of God. (D&C 121:45) I have felt the power of the Holy Ghost in my life to a greater degree than ever before over the past six weeks since I was baptized. The promises of the Lord are real. The Holy Ghost is real. We can obtain and know the Mind of Christ for ourselves.

Have I sinned against great light? I don’t think so. I simply resigned from the LDS Church. I do not recommend this for everyone who comes to know the message delivered by the Lord through Denver was inspired, revealed and authorized. In my case, it was the right thing to do. I have felt the sustaining hand of the Lord in my decision, in the gift and companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Hearing the Voice of the Lord

But that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Is resigning from the LDS Church a sin? Is it more important to remain a member of the LDS Church than it is to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost? Can we be confident an invitation to be baptized anew is authorized of the Lord? How confident are you in your relationship with the Lord? Have you heard His voice to you?

The signs of change are all around us now – both within the Church and in the world. No man knows the hour, but we know the Lord sends prophets to warn us. (Amos 3:7) Is it possible the Lord can endorse a man’s decision to leave the LDS Church? I claim He did – for me. On the other hand, he may tell you to stay and work within the Church to help prepare others for the coming of Zion.

Top 50 Most Viewed Essays

If you are a new visitor to my blog, you may want to take a few minutes to browse through some of my top essays. These are ranked by page views over the past two years. I have a different list of some of my favorites but these are the most viewed. I hope this gives you a flavor for the kind of material I like to cover in my essays – current LDS topics.


1. General Authority Training – Advanced Subjects
2. How Americans View Mormonism
3. About Tim
4. There is no middle ground
5. It Came From Behind the Sun
6. Elder Packer Was Right about Bearing Testimony
7. My Interview with Mormon.org
8. What they don’t tell you about Bishopric Meetings
9. The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith
10. The Mormon Corporate Empire
11. Getting past prejudices with Rent – the Musical
12. An Evening with Richard Bushman
13. The Endowment is more than the ordinances
14. When Prophets need to know
15. Divine Manifestations must have a purpose
16. Come Unto Christ – my Christmas talk
17. A different kind of knowledge
18. Rachel Esplin video continues to be a hit
19. Shades of grey and relative truth
20. Walt Whitman – the great American poet
21. Mormon visitors from outer space
22. A website for the average Mormon
23. Thoughtful discussion of controversial topics
24. 2012 the movie
25. Revelation and emotional response
26. Add your profile to Mormon.org
27. The attitude of mocking
28. Objections to the Book of Abraham
29. A letter to a reader – burning of the bosom
30. The ambush – a fictional background story
31. Spiritual experiences as a foundation for faith
32. Seer stone in a hat – book of Mormon translation
33. When a prophet gets Alzheimer’s disease
34. The personal power of Hester Prynne
35. Red Sky – an early version of my novel
36. Unique Religion of Benjamin Franklin
37. God even loves computer geeks like me
38. Moving toward gospel promises
39. Sandinistas – missionaries in Nicaragua
40. Mormon mommy blogs are the traffic queens
41. Multiple versions of the first vision
42. And the stars shall fall from heaven
43. Miracles and angels – a car wreck in Oklahoma
44. The government of the United States will collapse
45. Just where exactly are the lost ten tribes?
46. Mormon Church is not the fastest growing
47. Just what was Portnoy’s Complaint?
48. Changes to the Book of Mormon
49. Changing requirements of perfection
50. Public rebuke from an apostle

How Americans View Mormonism

We spent an hour with Gary Lawrence last night. He was gracious enough to come up to visit our stake in Camarillo from his home in Orange County. Dr. Lawrence is an American opinion pollster who also happens to be a Latter-day Saint. He has been travelling around the church sharing the results of a poll he conducted in the spring of 2007 on American’s perception of Latter-day Saints in the United States.

He published a book in 2008 with the findings of his poll, How Americans View Mormonism: Seven Steps to Improve Our Image. Dr. Lawrence received a PhD in communications psychology from Stanford University in 1972. He said that of over twenty doctoral candidates in his group, he was the only LDS, Republican, conservative hawk among them. So he knows a little about being in the minority.

Lawrence Research

Now if you know anything about recent events in California, you’ll recognize that Gary’s business, Lawrence Research was the opinion polling company that was heavily involved in Proposition 8. Gary was also the state LDS grassroots director for the Protect Marriage coalition. Brother Lawrence, who has served as a bishop has spent over 35 years studying opinions and behaviors of the American public.

From the results of his survey, Dr. Lawrence maintains that the misconceptions, distortions, and untruths being told about Mormons have slowed the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that the average member is best positioned to turn things around. By the way, the name of his next book, due from Deseret Book later this year is “What Part of Our Name Don’t You Understand?”

Survey Results

For me, the most interesting result of the survey was that our perceived image is upside down. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable impression of Mormons. Only thirty-seven percent had a favorable impression. They say that we have weird beliefs and are secretive. Yet they also say we are good neighbors, hard workers, believe in clean living, have high moral standards and help others.

Lawrence said that thirty-seven percent of all Americans do not know a Mormon, and fifty-five percent of all Americans do not know an active Mormon. In fact, those who know one Mormon have a worse opinion of us than those who do not know any Mormons. We are viewed unfavorably more than Jews or Baptists (3.5 to 1) and Catholics (2 to 1). Mormons, less than 1 to 1. That’s a terrible ratio.

Negative Image

Simple ignorance is often blamed for Mormonism’s negative image, but Gary also concludes that it is driven by fear — fear of a supposed political agenda, wealth, organizational ability, unwavering doctrine, and a unique vocabulary that is often misunderstood. He gave some wonderful examples but I’ll have to defer in sharing some of the better ones until I receive his book that I ordered from Deseret Book.

His book explains that individual members in their daily interactions with others are the key. In his presentation, which he has probably delivered dozens of times, he pointed out that friendly and natural conversations, the facts, simple claims, individual latitude, non-threatening invitations and gentle mentoring are the ways Mormons can combat distortions, improve our image, and spread the gospel.

Unique Vocabulary

A central claim of our church is that we have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Gary explained that this phrase is not well understood by those outside our faith. They equate the word restore as something you do to an old car or a piece of old furniture. He suggested that a better phrase to use would be: “We claim to be the re-established Christian Church.” I like that. It is simpler and easier to understand.

He even broke it down for us into three bite-sized pieces: 1) Christ organized a church. 2) Men changed it and 3) It has been brought back. Amazingly, 84 percent of Americans have had exposure to our church, yet only 14 percent can tell you that this is our main differentiating claim from other Christian churches. While people may not agree with our claim, we want and need them to understand it.

Meaning of Gospel

They can then decide for themselves how they will respond to that claim. But if they never get the real message, how can they make a legitimate choice? Naturally, some people will reject the gospel truth once it has been presented to them. And that’s another word that we use differently from the rest of Christianity. To us, the gospel means more than the words of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and Paul.

Most Mormons equate gospel to mean the overarching plan of happiness that was presented in our pre-earth life. We have come to see the gospel as more than just a theology, but as a way of life, and that it encompasses all truth that we embrace. But in reality, the gospel is the good news of the doctrine of Christ, that all will be resurrected and that we can be forgiven of sins through repentance and ordinances.

Higher Education

That’s why we can say that the fullness of the gospel is contained in the Book of Mormon even though there are many additional doctrines we believe that are only found outside the Book or Mormon. In fact, some within our church have gone so far as to claim that obtaining a degree of higher education is a part of the gospel. Does that mean that early saints and prophets without a B.A. degree are not saved?

Of course not; that would be a ridiculous example. While we believe in continuing education and encourage our members to get all the education we can, an advanced degree is not a requirement for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. A high school diploma is not required. There is no requirement for any type of certified education to meet God’s conditions to enter into his kingdom; only obedience to his laws.

Mormon Scholars Testify

In our Mormon culture, besides placing great emphasis on education, we also hold those who have received advanced degrees and yet remained faithful in very high esteem. Dr. Lawrence has shared his testimony in greater detail on the website, Mormon Scholars Testify, which was created by another visitor to our stake, Dr. Daniel C. Petersen, speaking about BYU’s involvement in the Dead Sea scrolls.

My fellow blogger Steve Faux introduced me to the site a few years back when he was asked to share his thoughts and feelings about being a believing Mormon who teaches evolution at the University level. I have watched participation grow over the years until there are now more than 200 testimonies recorded there. Compare that to twenty being promoted on the opposing site Ex-Mormon scholars testify.

Opposition in All Things

One of our fundamental doctrines is that we believe there must be opposition in all things. I love the Internet for the very reason that it allows us to see the very best and the very worst of the extremes on just about any issue. I’m not a scholar and will probably never have an advanced degree, but I have come to appreciate both sides of the debate on controversial subjects I have written about over the years.

I can judge for myself when someone is presenting the truth in a distorted manner because I have been counseled over the years to study things out and come to my own conclusions about the truth of an issue. Some things can never be proven and will have to wait until the next life to determine who is right and who is wrong. That’s one of the purposes of life – to exercise faith and choose what we believe.

Choose What We Believe

I recommend you read the testimonies of Dr. Lawrence, Dr. Petersen, S. Faux and any others that you may recognize. They come from a variety of disciplines such as the Arts, Business, Management, Accounting, History, Religion, Social Science, Language, Literature, Law, Medicine, Psychology, Philosophy, Science, Mathematics and Engineering. Yes, Mormons believe in the value of education.

I hope this helps to dispel any misconceptions that Mormons are ignorant, closed-minded, brain-washed or uneducated. We do not follow our leaders blindly, nor do we worship our prophets, living or dead. But we do value loyalty and respect to those who we sustain as prophets and apostles. It is my testimony that they are leading us to Christ. I choose to follow their direction and counsel for my family.

For a great discussion of our image, or rather reputation, listen to what Michael Otterson had to say to Robert Millet on this episode of Mormon Identity on The Mormon Channel.

My Interview with Mormon.org

On this Pioneer day, I decided to answer all the personal questions that you are asked when you fill out the profile on Mormon.org.  There are a whole lot more under the FAQ section (about 80) but that will have to wait for another day when I have more time.  I thoroughly enjoyed the process of answering these questions and felt like I was being interviewed, thus the title of this blog post.

01. Please explain the part prayer plays in your life?

Having grown up with daily prayer, I can’t imagine a day go by in which I don’t communicate with my Heavenly Father in prayer.  We start the day in prayer as a family asking for the Lord’s blessing upon us as we work.  We end the day in prayer the same way, usually kneeling by the bed, reporting our activities to God and thanking him for his help.  We give thanks for the food we eat at mealtimes and participate in public prayers in our weekly worship service.  It is through prayer and reading scriptures that I feel close to God and directed in my life.

02. Which of the Savior’s teachings have influenced you in your life?

The most powerful admonition of the Lord that has helped me find happiness in this life is his commandment that we love one another.  I remember this whenever I feel that I have been misunderstood or hurt by someone else, either intentionally or not.  It is so easy to take offense in this world but the end result is that we only hurt ourselves when we do that.  To love others is to trust in the Lord that he will help make everything all right, even if it doesn’t appear that way at first.  He also requires us to forgive others since we all make mistakes and errors in judgment. We show our love by forgiving.

03. Please share your feelings/testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel.

Even though I grew up hearing the Joseph Smith story I am still amazed as an adult to realize just how powerful his history really is.  Think about it!  Angels, gold plates, visits from God, Jesus Christ and ancient apostles and prophets – these are all miraculous events that we just don’t hear about everyday.  It is truly a marvelous thing to learn all that the Lord did through Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God.  I am especially grateful for revealed doctrines that clarified and corrected the errors of man in the many religions of the world.

04. Please share your feelings/testimony of Joseph Smith.

I have read at least a dozen biographies of the life of Joseph Smith, and continue to be amazed that the Lord was able to accomplish so much through this one man.  He was a prophet in every sense of the word in that the Lord revealed his will for us through him and continues to do so through the prophets that have followed.  But it was Joseph who paid so dearly with his life even though he did what the Lord told him to do in bringing forth the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I hold Joseph Smith in high regard and look forward to meeting him in the world to come.  I want to thank him for his faithfulness in translating the Book of Mormon.

05. Why do Mormons go on missions?

I went on a mission because I watched a video of the prophet asking all worthy young men to serve the Lord as missionaries.  As he shared his vision of how the gospel would go to all the world, I deeply felt a desire stirring within my soul to be a part of that great army of missionaries.  It was a major sacrifice for me to leave my studies and spend two years in Central America seeking out those who would respond to the Lord’s invitation to come unto him through baptism.  I loved my mission experience and found joy in testifying to the world that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  We go on missions because we are commanded to share the gospel and feel the desire to seek out and bring the message of the truth to all who will receive it.

06. Why do Mormons do family history or genealogy work?

Besides being a commandment to seek out our ancestors, we do family history research because we feel a desire to know and appreciate the story of those to whom we are indebted for our very lives.  I am a product of all those who came before me.  My parents were influenced by their parents and they were who they were because of their parents and so on back as far as we can discover.  Once we have the basic facts of their lives such as names and dates, we are privileged to go to the temple and perform proxy ordinances for them so that they too may meet the commandments of the Lord to be baptized and enter into covenants of exaltation.  We do family history work so we can be saviors on Mt Zion (Obadiah 1:21).

07. How has attending Church services helped you?

One of the highlights of my week is to attend church services each Sunday.  I serve in a leadership capacity in my church, and attend a few more meetings besides the regular three-hour block of Sacrament, Sunday school and Priesthood meetings.  I love the interaction with others who believe as I do and feel as I do about trying to follow the teachings of the Savior.  I say try because nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes each week.  That’s another reason why I love to go to church each Sunday – I get to renew my baptism covenants by taking the Sacrament each week.  I learn more of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these church services and feel a unity with God and with my fellow saints as we worship God and Jesus Christ together.

08. What has helped develop greater harmony in your home?

Like everyone else, I have experienced moments of argument and disharmony in my home which leave me feeling frustrated, resentful, hurt or angry.  I do not like such feelings, especially in my home where I want to relax and feel happy, safe and secure.  So over the years, I have made a greater effort each day to promote harmony and unity by not arguing and not finding fault with my family members.  I was not very good at this as a youth and so I appreciate the blessings that have come to me as an adult as I try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to love others, especially members of my own family, who need and deserve my love the most.  We can have a harmonious home by practicing kindness and forgiveness.

09. What have you done successfully to shield your family from unwanted influences?

Of all the teachings of the church about family, this idea of keeping out the world has been the most difficult but the most rewarding.  Television and the Internet are two of the most challenging types of media to monitor and control.  We believe in freedom so we encourage each other to seek after virtuous and uplifting material.  So the shield we put into place is not anything controlling such as “thou shalt not!”  It is more of making sure that we understand the differences that certain material, music or entertainment can produce, compared to the results of worthy content.  We seek out and support worthy entertainment and uplifting media content and pray constantly that we will each desire such material over the worldly offerings.

10. Could you talk about your baptism?

I was eight years old when I was baptized and for me, that is a long time ago.  My father, who was a recent convert, had to work the evening of my baptism, so he was unable to perform the ordinance.  I was baptized by a young man who was preparing to serve a mission.  My father was able to confirm me a member of the church the next day and I remember the special feelings that came to me as he conferred upon me the gift of the Holy Ghost.  I remember my primary teacher was there and gave me a picture of the Savior mounted on a small piece of wood.  I still treasure that memento and the words of encouragement that she penned on the back.  I’m sure I did not understand all the implications of the covenants I was making at eight years old, but I have come to appreciate the blessings of this ordinance more and more each Sunday as I take the Sacrament and remember what the Savior miraculously did for me in taking upon himself the effects of my sins upon conditions of repentance.  It is baptism that makes my repentance possible.

11. Why/How do you share the gospel with your friends?

I am not a very outgoing person so I believe that the best way I can share the gospel with others is through providing a good example of following the teachings of the Savior.  I have been amazed over the years as I see the influence that my behavior has on others.  I feel it brings respect and a kind of trust that can come in no other way.  I am sometimes surprised that people, including co-workers, will unsolicited confide in me details of problems they are working out and seek my advice and opinion.  I am then able to share my beliefs that following the teachings of Jesus Christ can and does help me deal with problems and that it can help them too.  Because I am shy, I find great comfort in sharing my feelings about the gospel online and am an active LDS blogger.  I also use modern technology like Facebook and Twitter to share my life.  The gospel comes up in the natural course of sharing things online and results in online dialogs in non-threatening and informative way.

12. How does making right choices help us make more right choices?

When we choose the right even when it is hard to do, we strengthen our character and develop integrity.  Deciding to do the right thing one time makes it easier to do the right thing the next time.  Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the added advantage of the gift of the Holy Ghost.  This gift helps us understand what the right thing to do is in difficult situations.  When we decide to follow the impressions of the Holy Ghost in making life’s choices, we show God that we value and appreciate this gift.  The impressions of the spirit will then become stronger or easier to recognize and we can grow in always making right choices.  Of course, being mortal, we will all make mistakes.  The Holy Ghost can also help us repent and make better choices in the future.

13. In what ways have your prayers been answered?

There are so many countless examples over the years that it is hard to share just one or two.  Perhaps the most dramatic for me was on the day that I proposed to my wife.  After I returned home from my mission, I had been praying for quite some time to find a woman who believed as I did and with whom I could be happy.  I was dating my wife’s best friend but the chemistry was just not there.  One day my wife invited me to a ball game and I told her about my troubles getting her friend to like me.  I could see that her feelings were hurt. The next day I visited her in her home and had a long conversation about life and marriage and family.  I had some very powerful spiritual feelings as I was talking to her that I knew were an answer to my prayers.  I proposed on the spot and we were married a few months later.  The Lord helped me with one of the most important decisions of my life.

14. What are you doing to help strengthen your family and make it successful?

My role in the family is to provide security and stability – both financial and spiritual.  I enjoy my responsibility to work and earn the money that we need to have a home, food, clothing and other necessities of life.  But more importantly, I enjoy my responsibility to provide spiritual direction for my family.  We are strengthened by attending church together, by praying and reading the scriptures together and by pursuing worthwhile family goals.  For example, my wife and I take classes at the local community college in the evenings in an effort to improve ourselves and keep our minds active.  We are strengthened as we work together as a family to accomplish good things with our lives and to provide service in our church and our community.  The gospel of Jesus Christ helps us in this endeavor.

15. How has your knowledge of the Plan of Happiness changed/benefited your life?

Sometimes this life can be a drag on the spirit because of all the disappointments and setbacks that come as a natural part of living in this world.  Understanding the Plan of Happiness helps me to realize that such setbacks are temporary.  I remain convinced that the Lord is very involved in my life and wants to help me through my journey until I am ready to return to his presence in the life to come.  Knowing that I lived before I came to this world to experience mortality helps me to have a bigger picture of things.  Knowing that I will live in the world to come and that I will someday be resurrected with a glorious and eternal body give me hope that goes beyond the drudgery and dullness that this life can sometimes be.  The Plan of Happiness is just that – a plan for me to find and achieve happiness through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance and enduring to the end of mortality true to what I know.

16. What is hope and what do you hope for?

Hope is the belief and conviction that there is purpose and meaning to this life.  Hope is the understanding that even though we pass through trials and troubles, we can have the assurance that our experiences are for our good and will cause us to grow.  I hope for a glorious resurrection.  I know that this is dependant upon my personal righteousness and my works of faith in this life.  Yes, the resurrection is a free gift to all men, but we believe that the quality of our lives in the hereafter is very much dependant on our actions here.  This life is a time of testing and proving and we can hope that our efforts in struggling against opposition in this world will be rewarded by a just and merciful God who wants to bless and help us through it.

17. How has the Book of Mormon helped you understand the purpose of life?

In the Book of Mormon we read that “men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).  I can’t think of any more concise and explicit scriptural reference that helps us understand the purpose of life.  Of course, the Book of Mormon provides a lot more insight into how we go about finding that joy and even helps us to understand what true joy is.  One of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon is the prophet Lehi’s dream about the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8).  In his dream he partakes of the fruit of the tree which is desirable to make one happy and is sweet above all that he had ever before tasted.  Eating of the fruit fills our soul with exceedingly great joy.  The fruit of course is the love of God and we obtain it by holding fast to the Word of God that is represented by the Rod of Iron in Lehi’s dream.  What a great story!

18. How has the Holy Ghost helped you?

I consider the Gift of the Holy Ghost one of the greatest blessings in my life.  There have been so many instances in which I have been helped by the Holy Ghost that it is hard to imagine getting through this life without this wonderful gift.  The Holy Ghost inspires me and encourages me to do things that are hard to do but that result in happiness for me and for others in my life.  The Holy Ghost has warned me of danger many times, prompting me to stay away from certain things and places.  The Holy Ghost has helped me by prompting me to a certain course of action that I otherwise might not have considered.  The Holy Ghost has been my constant companion in my work, helping me to remember things that, if forgotten, could have been the cause of much distress or pain.  The Holy Ghost has comforted me in times of sorrow and distress, helping me to feel the love of my Heavenly Father and my Savior even when I do not feel worthy of their love.

19. What blessings have come through your faith in Jesus Christ?

It is because of my faith in Jesus Christ that I am able to get through some of the more difficult aspects of my life.  For example, it is hard for me to do things in a public setting.  But I have been taught and believe that it will be for my good.  The Lord has promised me through the scriptures that he will help me through these difficult circumstances as I exercise faith in him.  And like everyone in this world, I am no stranger to making mistakes and poor choices, even when I know better.  It is through my faith in Jesus Christ that I put into practice one of my favorite little sayings that helps me keep going: “Success is not in never falling, but in getting up each and every time we fall.”  I know that I can be a better person than my fallen human nature would dictate, and it is through faith in Jesus Christ that I am willing to make greater effort each day to be the man that I know he would have me be.

20. How can we develop greater harmony in our homes?

One of the best ways I know of to live in harmony as a family is to do all within our power to avoid criticism, cutting remarks or any attempt to make another family member feel less than loved.  We do this by sharing the same ideals and goals – to seek happiness in living the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Where some family members may not have fully accepted the vision of the gospel, we can provide an example of tolerance and patience with them, just as our Heavenly Father and our Savior do with us.  Fighting, arguing, bickering and contemptuous behavior toward any family member is not the way to have peace and harmony in our homes.  Thus, we pray each day that such undesirable activities are mitigated by expressing love and kindness in all that we do.  We are each at differing levels of maturity in our understanding of this concept, so it is up to those who do, to live it better each day.

21. Can you think of a specific challenge in your family that Gospel Principles helped overcome?

Like most families, we have experienced our share of challenges that have tested our faith and caused us to lean deeply on our understanding of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ to overcome.  For example, my wife and I have both lost parents to death, have had our share of serious health problems, including cancer, and have suffered through multiple seasons of financial stress due to unexpected unemployment.  In addition, we have been pained as not all family members have accepted our faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  But it is because of the teachings of Christ that we are encouraged to be patient, that we are comforted when discouraged, that we are inspired when distressed and that we are given strength when we feel weak.  We go on and we press forward, believing that it will all work out for our good, either in this life or in the life to come.  We meet those challenges with strength knowing that we are not alone and that God has promised to help us through them if we will but exercise our faith in Jesus Christ and remain true and faithful to him.

22. How can your talents and gifts bless others?

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that God gives gifts to each member for the purpose of blessing and supporting each other in this life.  Some of those gifts and talents are more obvious, such as singing, musical ability, acting, performing or even a talent to be able to speak with confidence in front of the congregation (trust me, not all members have this talent).  But the scriptures teach that God gives some gift or talent to every member.  Perhaps one is blessed with the ability to be a good listener, another to share heart-felt testimony of how they know the church to be true, others with the gift of teaching children or even just the talent of being able to live peacefully among their neighbors.  When we share our talents and gifts with others, God blesses us and we are “magnified” or made more effective so that others can receive the same benefits that we enjoy.

23. Think about your everyday activities. What are things you act upon each day where you cannot see the end results? How does faith move you to action?

A very simple everyday activity for me that is an act of faith is prayer.  I have never seen an angel or heard a voice in response to my prayers, but I continue to pray each day, believing that God does hear and answer my prayers.  And indeed he has – by sending the comforting feelings of the Holy Ghost to bless and confirm to me that he loves me and wants me to know the truth for myself.  My faith in God and my trust in the words of his prophets as found in the scriptures causes me to continue to pray both as an individual, with my family, in my congregation and in the homes of other members of the church that I visit.  The end results of my prayers are not always evident right way but are just as certain as if I had seen the effects at the time of the prayer.  I am confident; yes I can say that I know, that God hears and answers our prayers that are offered in faith and with real intent.

24. How has the Book of Mormon brought you closer to God?

I first read the Book of Mormon when I was very young – probably 5 or 6 years old.  I read it out loud with my mother, who was a schoolteacher.  Our family had recently joined the Mormon Church so this was also my mother’s first time reading the Book of Mormon.  I remember the special feelings I had as we read it together.  I felt a warm and comforting spirit as I read. I have read the Book of Mormon many times in the many years since I first read it.  In fact, there is not a year that goes by in which we do not read from it either individually or as a family.  No matter how many times we read the same passages, we always seem to learn something new or have our faith in the truthfulness of the book reaffirmed.  The same warm feelings always return. But it is by following the principles of the gospel that are written in the Book of Mormon that we draw closer to God.  It is in the pages of the Book of Mormon that we learn more about the purpose of life and God’s plan of happiness for us.  The Book of Mormon teaches us to study things out and to pray about them that we may know of their truthfulness for ourselves.

25. Can you talk about the missions of the Church and your participation in them?

Up until recently, we as members of church recited the mission of the church as follows: to preach the gospel, redeem the dead and to perfect the saints.  Within the past year, a fourth mission has been added: to care for the poor and the needy.  We now call these four areas of focus simply the purposes of the church.  In my life, I have participated in each of these areas by serving a mission and continuing to share the gospel, by doing family history or genealogy work and by magnifying my callings to serve in the church as a teacher, leader or whatever I’m asked to do.  I’m grateful to be able to assist in caring for the poor and the needy by contributing money to the fast offering funds of the church and by volunteering to serve food at the local homeless shelter on a regular basis.  These missions or purposes of the church help me as an individual member focus on what is really important to our Heavenly Father – to save his children, both temporally and spiritually.

Add your profile to Mormon.org

I haven’t been this excited about something the church has done in a long time.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the blessings of being involved in church activity each week, especially as I watch the young single adults grow and develop (I serve in the Bishopric of a YSA ward).  But for me, this is probably the single most exciting development I have seen come from Salt Lake City in many years.

I’m talking about the new Mormon.org, a complete redesign of the companion website to lds.org, the two main websites of the Mormon church.  Since I make a living with computers in IT support, I have been watching the church embrace and use technology for my entire adult life.  In the early nineties I wondered for a long time when the church would finally get a website.  When they did, it took me a while to not think that it was just a little bit behind the times even when it was new.  I felt the same way when Mormon.org first came out.  But with release 4.0 of the site, I confess that I am just blown away.  Why?  Because of the interactive element.

The church has embraced social media in a big way.  I confess that I am a little shocked at the amount of openness and trust that is exhibited in allowing members of the church to create their own profiles on the site.  It’s especially progressive that links to FaceBook, Twitter and blogs are not only allowed but encouraged.  The Brethren are putting a lot of faith in the members of the church to show the world who Mormons really are.  The profile and links are reviewed but they are left totally up to the members to maintain – warts and all.  It is an awesome way to share the gospel.

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to add your profile to the new Mormon.org.  It’s a simple process and takes just a few minutes.  All you need is an account on LDS Account.  Most members of the church have already done that as they participate in the new Family Search or access their ward and stake websites.  I can’t think of a better way to share our beliefs with the world and help dispel all the misconceptions that are still out there, especially on the Internet.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, come be my friend on Facebook.  That’s where I do most of my online social interaction these days.  It’s just so much quicker to share my life with family and friends there.  I’m glad that I spent several years writing essays on Latter-day Commentary because I wanted a place to explain in depth how I feel about the church and the powerful doctrine.  But you may have noticed that my essays have become few and far between.  Social media is not just for the young.  I have reconnected on Facebook with 500 friends from school, work, church and life.

What an amazing thing that the church has done.  I think we’re going to hear a lot more about this.  Now go create your profile on the new Mormon.org.

A Website for the Average Mormon

I’ve been reading the arguments on MormonThink.com off and on for several years now.  I have a lot of respect for the individuals behind the site, even though most of them choose to be anonymous.  I am confident that I have been visited by several of the contributors there or at least by those who read their site and others like it such as Ex Mormon and Post Mormon.

I am by no means a scholar or intellectual.  I think I’m pretty smart and that I’m pretty good with logic.  After all, I have made a living for thirty years demystifying computers for others.  But I know there are a lot of people out there who are smarter than I am and who have the academic credentials to prove it.  I like to think that I’m just a regular, average, typical Latter-day Saint.

I like smart, thinking people and especially people who present logical conclusions well, either in writing or verbally.  Critical thinking is a skill that I am constantly striving to improve.  I confess that I am impressed when someone can speak or write with confidence, especially when it comes to doctrines and practices of the church.  That’s why I continue to take college classes each year.

Choosing to believe

But I’d like to take exception with one of the common threads I find in the essays on sites like MormonThink.com.  It has to do with choosing to believe.  The concept of voluntary or involuntary belief has been discussed by philosophers for millennia.  But it’s such a basic part of how I deal with the sort of intellectual issues on Mormon Think that I want to share it with you.

I disagree with those who contend that beliefs are not voluntary acts of will.  There is no doubt in my mind that I am a voluntarist when it comes to my beliefs about the church and our history.  This is especially true in light of, or in spite of all the fascinating historical facts that I have read over the years that are just not taught to or even known by the majority of the Latter-day Saints.

Invariably I have found that those who label themselves atheists also claim to be involuntarists.  I am coming to the conclusion that those who embrace the title of Ex Mormon, Post Mormon or Former Mormon also see their position as involuntary.  “It was inevitable,” they say, “based on what I have learned, I had no other choice but to now disbelieve what I had formally believed.”

Encouraging Faith

Well, that’s where we differ.  I have spent many years studying the same material that has been so troubling and bothersome to so many of my fellow seekers of knowledge.  I can honestly say that my faith has been strengthened and my belief deepened that Joseph was who he claimed to be – a prophet of God – and that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be – Holy Scripture.

I have no doubt that there are many in the church, who, if they studied the same material we have written about on our blogs and websites, would be absolutely freaked out and would soon leave the church.  They are either social Mormons only or are not strong in their desire to know more about the history of our church.  I don’t think these kinds of people are your typical Mormons.

What’s missing from sites like MormonThink.com, and what you’ll find in abundance on the official church web sites, is the role of faith, and especially encouraging faith.  There is way too much emphasis on the intellect and not enough focus on feelings.  The section on Testimony and Spiritual Witness relegates the role of feelings of faith as something to be dissected and derided.

Announcing new website

That’s reason why I decided to start my own website, LatterdayCommentary.com.  This blog is hosted on that domain, which I registered years ago.  It’s not much to look at today.  In fact, I almost consider it a prototype.  I’ve put together some commentary and links to my essays on some of the same subjects that you will find on MormonThink.com.  It will grow with time.

I know that I’m just one of thousands of LDS members who have a website where they share their beliefs and testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I like to think that I’m not much different from your average Mormon.  I grew up as a member of the church but I come from a convert family.  And my viewpoint is definitely that of a laid-back California boy.

I’ve been happy as a member of the LDS Church all my life.  I loved my mission and I love going to the temple.  I love General Conference and I love serving in a local Bishopric.  I hope you’ll take a look at my website and then come back here and make some suggestions as to how I can make it better and more useful in promoting the doctrines of our LDS faith to the world.


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