February 11, 2010

Wicked traditions of my fathers

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:20 am

I think the readers of this blog have basically figured out that I have a significant connection to Mormonism.  My current relationship with that church is rather difficult to label.  I shall attempt to explain my baseline state in hopes of being able to work through the more complicated layers which come later.

In the Book of Mormon, various villains are fond of criticizing the church by denouncing the teachings as wicked or foolish traditions of their fathers.  As I have learned more, I have come to be astounded by how very many of the things I was taught that were in fact utterly false.  The purpose of this blog post is to show that whether the Mormon Church is true or not (and what that might mean), many of the assertions I was taught and asked to have faith in under the concept that ‘the church is true’, are actually false.

Here is a sample:

Assertion:  The Kinderhook plates were proof that the Mormon view of a continent full of Lehi’s descendants really existed.

Reality:  The Kinderhook plates were a complete hoax and come dangerously close to proving Joseph Smith was a fraud.  This principle is no longer taught.

Assertion:  Quetzalcoatl was a symbol of Jesus Christ.  Also, the accounts of the conquistadors that they were welcomed by the Native Americans as Gods (Because they were white and had beards) show that the Book or Mormon account of Jesus visiting the Americas was a historical truth.

Reality:  The conquistadors made that up to legitimate their claim to the Americas.  It is an error of fact to attribute it to the Native Americans.  Quetzalcoatl is not regarded by Mesoamerican historians as at all likely to be a symbol for Christ.  These principles are no longer taught by the church.

Assertion:  The descendants of Lehi were the principle ancestors of the modern Native Americans.

Reality:  This is very unlikely to be true, so much so that the Mormon Church recently made a small but significant change to the introduction to the Book of Mormon to remove this claim.  Some think it is not an important change. To me this has high impact because it materially changes the assertion in which we are asked to have faith.  This item might need its own blog post.

Assertion:  The Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith looking at the golden plates through the Urim and Thummim.

Reality:  While no one can prove this never happened, it is now accepted that Joseph dictated most of the Book of  Mormon while looking at a seer stone in a hat, while the gold plates were hidden from view.  Much closer to what a regular person would consider revelation than translation.  While the artistic depictions hang around, this idea is no longer taught.

Assertion:  God cannot predict what you are going to do, because omniscience would fatally damage the Mormon concept of free will.

Reality:  I have concluded Mormon doctrine refutes this.  This is more an example of me being taught something wrong than Mormonism being wrong (although there is an argument for that).  Multiple Apostles have taught (authoritatively if not officially) that God knows everything you will ever do (by virtue of perceiving all time as one) and can predict what you would do (some people will be saved because God knows they would have accepted the truth if they had the chance to receive it (this is official doctrine)).

Assertion:  Prophets will not lead the church astray.

Reality:  This is a matter of definition.  Some Mormon prophets have authoritatively taught things that the church has dropped down the memory hole.  Some purists would say those inaccurate teachings were not official doctrine.  That might be true.  Arguably they were saying things, and people were following them.  An ex-officio model of leading?  Maybe, but the point is it makes it very difficult to discern what the official teaching is, what is true, and what the implications for the present would be.  What does it mean to lead the church astray?  How astray is astray?  I have come to conclude that the assertion is so poorly defined, it is practically useless.  Unfortunately, some folks use this as grounds to assert that we should mimic the dress, behavior and detailed lifestyle choices of church authorities.  Sigh…

Assertion:  The Garden of Eden was in Missouri.

Reality:  The Church has been de-emphasizing this revelation concurrent with the mounting pile of evidence against the claim.  Recently, official church sources have classified this as an un-important doctrine.  While it is clearly not very relevant to practical matters directly, it is profoundly related to the reliability of the folks claiming to be accurate mouthpieces for God.  The reliability of these representatives of God’s will is of paramount importance.  It raises troubling questions outside the scope of Adam and Eve’s mailing address.

This is not a complete list, but I put it out there to serve as examples that even though I have had a robust education in the Mormon church, with well-educated and well-meaning people, I was taught a large number of untrue things (I consider the number large (certainly large enough to be troubling to me)).   It is something that is very hard for me to deal with.


Update:  This list is actually such a small representation of the things I was taught that turned out to be false, I think I might make it a recurring blog theme to keep tossing these out.  Sort of a principle of the day kind of thing.  What do you think?

BTW, this post is my attempt to be sincere, non-threatening, and substantive.  I hope that is clear from the text.

Should I continue describing the ideas I have been taught, and asked to have faith in as part of the truth of the church, that turned out to be false?

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  1. I hate to disrupt any pattern that might emerge of you listing the erroneous traditions of your fathers, but the ill-chosen adjective “wicked” raises a question that really intrigues me.

    Is Mormonism a net good, a net bad, or a perfect wash for humanity?

    My own answer to this question waivers between the latter two possibilities. You have to admit that some, if not much, good in this world is done by people inspired by delusions. So even the non-believer should seriously evaluate the hypothesis that Mormonism is not really a thing worth fighting.

    Should I spend any of my precious time publicly criticizing a belief system endorsed by less than .2% of the world’s population?

    Comment by P — February 12, 2010 @ 1:40 am

  2. An ill-chosen adjective!? harumph

    I do agree that good things are done by folks inspired by delusion, it does not then follow that those good things must be the result of the delusion. The opportunity cost must also be examined. Would better good have been accomplish by the devotion of similar resources to a non-delusionally founded (or less delusionally founded) endeavor?

    In any case, my purpose in starting with this is to establish my personal baseline for approaching issues of Mormon doctrine (difficult to establish though it is). My plan is that this will help me determine if Mormonism is something I wish to continue investing in or not on a personal basis. If this follows the arc I expect it to, I will end up addressing the competitive value of Mormonism.

    In my case, I am/was part of the .2% so it has relevance to me.

    Comment by Matthew — February 12, 2010 @ 10:24 am

  3. Hmmm one of my favorite things to discuss. Religion. And Mormonism is near the top.
    Let me preface my part in this discussion by saying this. I have generally found Mormons to be some of the kindest, gentlest good natured people I have ever known.
    I actually fell deeply in love with a Mormon girl not to many ages ago. She was to me, and still is in some ways, one of the most amazing people I have ever met. (Didn’t hurt that she was also the most beautiful women I had ever seen either.)
    We would have short conversations on Mormonism. She would always comment “our church has some weird beliefs”
    and sometimes would almost appear defensive when I asked her questions. Anyway, I began to earnestly read all the information
    I could find on Mormonism. Including taking the time to read the Book of Mormon and some of The Pearl of Great Price.
    There was lots of information from former Mormons on And a host of other information out there.

    Being raised in a very strict, legalistic almost cult like atmosphere of Independent Baptists. I always find this type of discussions very interesting.

    If the Mormon Church is true, in there beliefs, and Joseph Smith was a prophet. Appointed to restore the gospel. Then why so many changes through the ages?

    Book of Mormon is wordy and not written in the style of speaking, or writing of America in the 1820’s.
    Did the Urim & Thummim (sear stones) actually translate the text this way? Why would this translation be in style of 17th century English? Like the King James Version of the Bible.

    Why is “Reformed Egyptian” is unknown to linguists? Had this “language” been seen anywhere outside of the Mormon church? This just doesn’t tie out for me very well as to the validity of the Book of Mormon.

    And where are these stones? Am I mistaking that the “Church” states they have one of these? Maybe Im wrong here
    but if these stones , are part of bringing the great revalation of the reformed gospel. Wouldn’t the proof of their existence
    bring millions of followers to the Mormon Church?

    American Indians = Lamanites: This part especially interested me in that my genealogical makeup is 215% Cherokee Indian of the Ohio Hills. I had read information on the DNA evidence before this,
    disproving this claim. So now the Book of Mormon has been changed again? I would agree that this is a HUGE issue. And would love to see more exploration of this topic.
    Are the Lamanites and the Lehi the same people? I’m thinking yes, but looking for clarification.

    I hope this is actually something you would pursue for a little while. I think those of us who are not Mormon or who have had little exposure would be interested in your take on many things Mormon such as:
    Polygamy (come on you knew someone was gonna bring that up)
    Mormon Undergarments
    Men as Gods etc…etc…

    Also, let me make one closing statement. I think the whole focus on family and some of the moral precepts are good in the Mormon faith. At least from the outside appearance and natural appeal to most people. But I actually believe there maybe be some not so healthy reasons for this type of focus.

    Comment by Paul W — February 12, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

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