February 17, 2010

A bit of cleanup #2

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:03 pm

@Cris –

– Not only were you taught these things, but you ostensibly taught them to others, also.

In most cases, I didn’t teach the principles I have listed so far.  Where I did teach provably false postulates, If I could, I would certainly correct those.

Were you successful at converting anyone during your mission?

Technically, Mormon missionaries are trained never to say they converted anyone.  We ‘participate’ in the conversion process.  In any case, my name was on the ‘white slips’ (paperwork sent in to record a baptism) of 83 people.  Not quite the 100 fold Jesus was talking about in the parable of the sower, but that just means I need to have 15 more kids to reach the threshold of being a highly profitable investment =)

/begin tangent

If I did feel the need to undo that, I would think I would want to do it completely.  When it comes to my Mormon footprint generally, that is a bit harder to quantify.  It would involve an un-doing of my Mormon resume, which would take some thinking.  I’ve ‘served in a wide variety of callings’ (that’s how we describe our church jobs (branch presidencies, young men’s leader, congregation mission leader)).  I’ve also held some uncommon callings which had the capacity to promulgate Mormonism and increase other people’s capacity to do the same (these tended to be executive office level callings during my missionary time (the specific calling is called Assistant to the President (there is about a 1 in 125 chance of holding this calling))).  If I was trying to undo all that, it would be very challenging.

/begin super-tangent

That particular phase of my footprint assessment is extra difficult, because when the mission president gave me the AP job (issued call from God to me) he said he was doing that because God told him that I (and one of my lurking readers) “were the APs for 300”.  Our mission had been trying to increase monthly baptisms from a historical 30-50 per month to 300+ per month.  Growth had stalled in the high 180s.  A month after I and this other fellow were called, the mission cleared over 300 baptisms.  Presumably, I had a non-zero impact in that.  What was it?  If I thought I should undo that, how would I?

/end super-tangent

/end tangent

It is also important to note that I have not yet decided if I should do that.  Can butterflies unflap their wings?

How do you feel knowing that you led others down a path that you’re realizing may be untrue?

I think there will need to be an epic post on this, perhaps more than one.  In any case, I shall address it more later.

I think there should be a form letter you send out to people you converted, saying that the person who led them to believe what they do currently does not believe it for himself.

If there is to  be such a form letter, I want to be able to pick the illustrations.

At what point do you think you’ll have identified enough untruths to consider yourself deMormoned?

This series of untruths is supposed to focus on things I was told were true, but weren’t.  In some cases, the assertions are arguably not part of Mormon doctrine.  This is to illustrate the difficult epistemology of ‘feeling the spirit’ and having that linked to things that are manifestly false, and the dissonance that results from it.

/begin tangent

For example, when you feel the spirit, that means accepting the notion that the Garden of Eden is in Missouri and the Lamanites are the principle ancestors of the modern American Indians.  That creates a lot of headaches and problems.  A TBM would want to argue that isn’t Mormon doctrine, and they may or may not be right.  It is mostly irrelevant.  The point is that is how Mormonism was pitched to me.  Little Matthew, you feel the spirit, it means you have to accept these assertions (which turn out to be false).  Later on, I intend to talk about that linkage and go into the details there.  At the least, it is entirely possible for me to have been fed a line of garbage, and the feeling the spirit part to still be true.  To an extent, this series is not actually relevant to the ultimate truthfulness of the church.  It is relevant to my experience in establishing knowledge about the church.

/end tangent

I don’t really have a coherent answer to your question.

It seems as though you’re focusing on things that are untrue about the Mormon church and haven’t yet talked more broadly about Christianity itself. Is that coming, too?

This is quite likely.


  1. As a Mormon child it was always confusing to me when church teachers would say things like “I really feel the spirit right now” because they could never really describe that sensation to me in a way I could relate to- the explenation being that each person feels it differently , although the term a “burning in the bussum” (sp) was common.

    I would often try to look inward and try and “feel” what was different than any other time, with mixed results.

    Comment by Terra — February 18, 2010 @ 2:18 am

  2. “In any case, my name was on the ‘white slips’ (paperwork sent in to record a baptism) of 83 people.”

    Gadzooks. Good luck compensating for that. Given your current status, you’d have been better off beating your head against an impenetrable wall in Italy. Even back then I knew they were the worst two years of my life, emotionally speaking. But I did sincerely believe at the time I was doing the right thing, so I told myself my feelings didn’t matter.

    Comment by P — February 18, 2010 @ 2:45 am

  3. I remember an Elder Smith who served in Morganton whoe’s parents had pretty much disowned him for joining the LDS church. The thing that I didn’t understand at the time and still don’t is that by his admission he was what is described as a “wild child” doing drugs and partying with no direction before his conversion.

    I didn’t understand how people can be against teachings that lead people to be healthy, competent members of society. While this situation is not to say that anyone who doesn’t live the “mormon” lifestyle aren’t competent members of society it still seems to illistrate how people can look negativly towards lifestyles that are different than their own.

    This has been demonstrated multiple times through history by Christianity, Muslims, Israilites, Pagans, Wiccans, and pretty much any other religion…I haven’t heard of any rouge Buddhists though :)

    I don’t see how disparaging groups of people who are trying to be more empathetic individually as well as on whole is actually any different than the above mentioned behavior that these groups are often accused of.

    Comment by Terra — February 18, 2010 @ 7:10 am

  4. I agree with Terra’s last comment. Non-Mormons tend to preface their talk about Mormons with, “the Mormons I know are some of the smartest, nicest people I’ve met,” and then go on to say that the whole lot of them are loopy and the church is evil.

    There are some great family values that Mormons are expected to uphold, and are seen to uphold to a higher degree than non-Mormon Christians. I have no idea how accurate this is.

    If Mormon life is really like those “Foundation for a Better Life” commercials (which, admittedly, since I had mah bayybeee, make me tear up sometimes), then I think we should all swallow our cynicism and don our magic underwear.

    It seems like it would benefit the church to streamline their message, though, and tone down the odder assertions. I’m sure missionaries spend a lot of time fielding questions about blacks in the church and magical underwear. (And yes, Christianity in general requires a pretty magnificent leap of faith, but Americans seem to have gotten used to it so Christianity doesn’t seem as freaky as it really is.)

    Do you think that the internet has been a net gain or loss for the church? They are able to reach out to more people, but I’ve known a few Mormons now who are researching the minutiae and coming away disenchanted with the church. It’s hard to say whether those people would have been willing/able to research as effectively without the internet.

    Comment by Cris — February 18, 2010 @ 8:26 am

  5. @Terra – I am totally getting a t-shirt that says “Rogue Buddhist”

    @Cris – I think you and Terra are highlighting an important issue I was trying to get to with my earlier post on happiness. There is an assertion within Mormonism that it is the *best* way to be happy. However, when it comes to measuring that, it appears that Mormonism as a mechanism doesn’t really produce more happiness than mainstream Christian religions in similar cultures. Also, Mormonism would never be happy with the slogan “Pretty much as happiness inducing as the next religion”, principally because of the assertion that they are all apostate, and Mormonism is the one true way.

    Curse you! I think I shall have to turn your comment into another post…

    Comment by admin — February 18, 2010 @ 9:12 am

  6. @P – Yes, Italy may have served me better. At least I have the comfort of doing ‘it’ big, whatever ‘it’ turns out to be, or if ‘it’ is good or bad…

    Comment by admin — February 18, 2010 @ 9:18 am

  7. I’m having a hard time understanding the importance you’re giving to happiness factoring into Mormonism. I thought most religions value delayed happiness over immediate happiness, so how much relevance does current happiness hold? I don’t think happiness is an adequate predictor of “true” faith. Feeling content in your faith doesn’t mean that your life might not be terrible. I know first-hand that it’s incredibly difficult to mathematically determine the link between happiness and ptsd symptoms or depression – particularly when using self reported data or divorce stats.

    I would love to see a study using lie detectors to see if people of many different religions really believe the things they say they do. We know now that even Mother Theresa had doubts. I don’t know how reliable the data would be, but it would definitely be an interesting study.

    Comment by Cris — February 18, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

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