Perhaps it is best to begin our story by sharing how my beloved wife and I were both born into the covenant, served honorable missions, held many leadership positions, paid a full tithe and faithfully magnified our callings. Our family perfectly fit the narrow LDS profile, comfortably ensconced in our unique world view.
Mormonism relies upon an extensive list of faith inspiring stories. Our parents introduced them to us, as their parents did to them; we are no different than so many others. Growing up LDS, we of course heard rumors of seer stones, treasure digging, polygamy, that Joseph Smith’s stories drew heavily upon the works of others, and of course the lack of evidence to support the notion of Lamanites. We took it on faith that our testimonies were not in vain.
The Church’s actions and official LDS Gospel Topic Essays prompted us to pause and look more closely at our belief structures. Our curiosity was further piqued when we heard Richard Bushman, one of the most prominent LDS scholars, state “…that for the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true; it can’t be sustained.” It quickly became apparent that what had been derided as anti-Mormon lies has been substantiated as truth. While we did not require our religion to be verifiably true, we did request that it not be verifiably false.
Of all the aspects of Mormon faith, it is the notion of spiritual confirmation which many struggle with above all. We knew! We testified! We dedicated our lives and substantial resources to the faith. While acknowledging that we had experienced numerous powerful spiritual events, we were forced to reassess what they meant. The desire to believe is understandably strong. Aside from the happiness and surety offered by religion in general, the multi-generational sunk costs within LDS families are incalculable.
As our understanding of true LDS history and doctrine expanded, we repeatedly inquired, encouraged and prodded for a more open and honest discussion within our own congregation. We soon recognized that no such dialogue would be forthcoming, as no credible alternative narrative exists. Relationships and lives are being damaged by the Church’s ill-conceived efforts to champion tradition and emotion over verifiable truth.
Having diligently followed the prophets, prayerfully evaluating their words and actions in context, we were compelled to make difficult decisions for the benefit of our family. Our experience was comparable to pulling on a small string, which quickly lead to the unraveling of an elaborate tapestry. We remain grateful for the honorable and true teachings of our upbringing, for countless individual contributions.
The Truth Claims essay project was an accidental endeavor that evolved as our notes, experiences and interactions with select scholars and subject matter experts expanded. As few today can dedicate hundreds of hours to navigating countless websites, books and private chat groups, our intent was to aggregate the fruits of our labors into a single place – to share the answers we found. Many excellent resources already exist, and we express gratitude to the many who came before us.
Note To Reader: Seeking truth within Mormonism is very time consuming and often confusing, as the discovery of new truth triggers significant cognitive dissonance. We regularly exclaimed “how can that be?” as we learned about our history. Of all the material in the Truth Claims project, the Chronology of Mormon History is one of the most powerful resources to aid the understanding of critical issues in context, particularly the Smith family’s early years, the late appearance of visions and visitations, evolving and altered doctrine, polygamy and the glaring absence of key pieces. We found ourselves returning to it regularly to maintain perspective.