The LDS Church just released a press release called “Approaching Mormon History.

It’s definitely an interesting read. My buddy was most concerned with this part:

“It is often asked, for example, how the Church can reconcile the authenticity of the Book of Mormon with the absence of archeological proof. This difficulty is inherent in all religious history and illustrates how spiritual matters are best verified by spiritual means…At a time when many religions are pressured to treat their sacred histories as myths, the Latter-day Saints on the contrary embrace their history as a literal expression of their faith.”

“Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, also interviewed by Helen Whitney, similarly expressed the need to take Church history literally. Articulating the difficulty of finding middle ground between myth and reality, President Hinckley said of the foundational story of Mormonism that “it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most important thing in the world.”

Does this mean that there is no room in the church for those who do not take all church history and scripture as literally as it has been presented to us?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Ricercar July 12, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    My favorite quote in the release is as follows:

    I look forward to my next visit to Salt Lake and spending some quality time in the church archives, so that I can look at the same material that made D. Michael Quinn and Leonard Arrington so popular with the church. I finished Rough Stone Rolling last night, where Bushman laments the lack of public access to records of the council of the fifty.

    Is this the leadership trying to tell us the church is a fraud – have they not read the evidence?

  2. Ricercar July 12, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    Sorry I always screw up the xhtml:

    Since the birth and growth of the Church has taken place right before the public’s eyes these past two centuries, it cannot escape public scrutiny. Nevertheless, this scrutiny does not require that the Church compromise or hide from its history. Far from being a liability, Mormons view their history as one of the Church’s greatest assets.

  3. Tytus July 12, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    I suppose one would really need to identify what is officially “supposed” to be literal and what is not.

    If I take Mormon’s words literally that the Book of Mormon may contain faults (see Mormon 8:17) doesn’t that give me a bit of freedom to think that cureloms and cumoms might not be real or some of the demographic information in the Book of Mormon by be fudged a bit, or for that matter, isn’t that a license to “metaphorize” whatever I have trouble with? Even Moroni seems to offer the reader that prerogative (see title page).

    Anyone who has been through the temple should understand that its true meaning and beauty is only grasped when you look beyond the literalness of what actually is presented/occurs in the ceremony.

    Jesus often taught in parables. A belief that he literally is the Son of God will do you no good if you are unable to look past the pearls, swine, sheep, goats, coins, wine, virgins, and husbandmen and see the symbolic nature of his teachings.

    Nephi taught us to “like the scriptures” unto us (1 Ne. 19: 23). How are we to do this if all we see in the scriptures is a literal historical narrative?

    I know I’m overlooking the big issues regarding the base level historicity of the Book of Mormon, and the actuality of Joseph’s revelations. But I would hope that as one matures spiritually, the essence of religion is found in applying the concepts and principles of salvation in our lives with respect to the way we interact with others and conduct ourselves personally.

    When that priority is in place, the literalness of of the unknown/unknowable aspects of religious history find their place in the realm of the irrelevant.

    As I hope I’ve made clear, accepting literalness still allows (or maybe mandates) a symbolic level of understanding. It’s also important to note that accepting things literally does NOT include a need to literally believe what Arnold Frieberg, Del Parson, Greg Olsen etc portray in their art (ie Joseph reading from the plates with Oliver at his side, God and Jesus physically floating amid the trees in the sacred grove, Moroni riding his horse, etc) because a careful examination of what our texts LITERALLY say is quite different from what is apparent in our artistic interpretations.

    I hope I made some sense here. I just think its important to realize that literal belief in fundamental events and facts relating to Mormonism actually leaves one with a good deal of conceptual freedom.

  4. HAL July 12, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    Reading this press release was most depressing. I have recently taken another chance at serving in the Church, this time as exec sec in my new ward (boundary changes moved me into a new ward, not me moving, so many of the members are the same). I had previously been released from being Gospel Doctrine teacher and counselor in the Bishopric. It is more complicated but could be summarized by my symbolic, as opposed to literal beliefs, in many of the foundational claims of Mormonism and my belief that the LDS church is not the “only” true church on the earth.

    My willingness to share my beliefs in private settings when asked by friends and family scared a few more traditional members who were more powerful than myself. Sadly, the general membership enjoyed and appreciated my service. As my Stake President recently put it, “Fear is a powerful thing.” They were afraid not of my affecting their testimony but others not as strong as them.

    This press release seems to be motivated by fear. Fear of too many people like me who want to continue to be a part of Mormonism even though we are not literal believers. I believe that one day these comments by Pres Hinckley will be treated like BY, JFS and others racists comments in our history. I understand why Pres Hinckley would say these things. I understand why he would be scared.

    However, as a current member who is trying to make it in the church today, these comments make me very sad that the chances of me making it in today’s church are going down.

    Sorry to make this post all about me, but these are my thoughts.

  5. annegb July 12, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    I believe in the flood, I believe in the parting of the Red Sea, I believe a lot of stuff that isn’t proven archeologically. Doesn’t trouble me.

    But I thought we did have that sort of proof about the Book of Mormon. There was a guy who was going around, Einer Erickson?–giving slide shows supposedly proving it.

    Either way, the older I get, the more I’m just happy to be here. We can complicated thinking our brains right into a knot.

  6. Razorfish July 12, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    I don’t know what percentage of active LDS people doubt the historicity of the Book of Mormon and other foundational claims regarding the visions and events around the Restoration.

    Is it around 10-20% at most?

    While I welcome everyone under the LDS tent of every stripe and flavor, and for sure one can extract a lot of great wisdom from living the tenants of the Church.

    But for me, if I doubted the historicity of the Book of Mormon and the reality of the 1st Vision and other claims, there are a lot of other churches that would be a better fit for one’s needs for spiritual yearning and spiritual connection with the universe. And more importantly, they would require an awful lot less time, commitment, and treasure. For me religion isn’t about picking what feels best for me. I don’t think the individual gets to define the terms of who God is and what he requires of us to return to live with him. God sets the terms and we can decide if we will abide them. The trick is deciphering who is peddling Truth, who is peddling their own agenda, and who is peddling non-sense.

    If the Church isn’t true: why serve a mission, why pay tithing, why pretend to hometeach 4 families a month, why go to the temple monthly, why sign the 1 of 20 sign-up clip board lists that the EQ sends around weekly, why serve as an EQP or Bishop or some other time intensive calling.

    Temple/Geneology work would be a COLLOSIAL waste of time if there was no efficacy in the ordinances (as framed by Mormonism).

    That said, personally, I think we waste way too much time trying to do too much in the Church in terms of how we are expected to act in living the faith. Drop in to your local High Council and look at the myriad of assignments and stewardships each has to manage and report back on.

    In terms of rendering service, some members can be abused (taken advantage of) by serving in certain positions. I mean I’ve seen it first hand as an EQP. That position should be renamed “Professional Mover” because that is what you are to every Tom, Dick and Harry who moves into your Ward boundries.

    In summary, I believe in the literal truths of the Church, but I still think we could prune back much of what is (unnecessarily) requested of us as members of the fold…Like any organization that’s been around along time, a lot of clutter and organizational overgrowth and duplicity in programs could use a healthy dose of pruning and streamlining for efficiency and for the emotional well-being of its members.

  7. HAL July 12, 2007 at 10:45 pm


    You ask a wonderful question that I have asked myself many times before. Why stay and continue to serve and be a part if you don’t believe it all literally.

    I cannot say for sure, but I can give it a shot.

    Maybe because I love the people who I go to church with. Maybe it is because I am comfortable with the people that I am around. Maybe it is because my wife does not want to hurt her parents. Maybe because it is easy. Maybe it is because I like to go and be around people who believe differently than me. Maybe it is because I am a chicken. Maybe it is not to dissapoint my extended family. Maybe it is to avoid conflict at work. Maybe because overall, it just seems like the right thing to do.

    I guess that what I am getting out of this thread is that there is not a huge amount of sympathy for people like me in my church. I guess that is what made this press release so depressing. Our leaders have historically done a great job of making policy that is very popular with the membership. I think that this is another such example.

  8. John Dehlin July 12, 2007 at 10:51 pm


    Take heart. I sincerely believe that a majority of members believe as we do.

    I even believe that the brethren have lots of tolerance for folks like us. I just also believe that sometimes they have to say things like this for the conservative crowd…just like candidates running for president, in the primaries, have to occasionally throw red meat to their base.

    Just my opinion…but I don’t think you should feel alone at all. The more I speak with people, the more I realize that in so many ways, we are the silent majority.

  9. Dave July 12, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    The posting at just takes snippets from the interviews at the PBS site for “The Mormons” and makes them available (in the form of that short article) to a wider audience of LDS readers who visit

    While the substance of the remarks may sound like a rejection of the “middle ground” view, the fact that the post is directed at that question suggests they recognize there’s some tension there for a lot of Mormons. That might actually be viewed as a positive development. The only real problem is that a small percentage of local leaders might take this as a signal or even encouragement to start taking disciplinary action (formal or informal) based on these sorts of remarks.

    And I suppose it is worth pointing out that the Brethren quoted are quite correct that it is very difficult to find and occupy this elusive “middle ground” between myth and reality.

  10. Russ July 13, 2007 at 12:28 am

    “If its false, then we are engaged in a great fraud”

    Seems pretty clear to me. He is being very clear that it is a fraud.
    Because anyone that looks at the historical facts knows that much of the claims are false, and the foundation of many of the docterines, revelations, ordinances, etc are man-made…not what they claim to be. This is fact.
    So by his own assertion, it is a great fraud.

    Its nice to hear him say it because it is were my current feelings fall exactly.
    I have a very hard time with this middle ground thing and here is why…
    There are 2 sides to our church…there is the daily grind (service, callings, community, Sundays, sacrament, etc) and there is the mystical (ordinances, temple work, rites of passage, authority, revelation, priesthood power, polygamy, eternal marriage, “the great plan of happiness”, etc, etc, etc).

    So as I understand it, the middle ground is more about being part of the daily grind so that you have something to fill the religious void, but at the same time quietly knowing all the mystical stuff is very bogus and historically fraudulant.
    Living this way keeps you from facing the hardness of being alienated and labeled by friends, family, community if you actually did live up to your beleifs and leave the church.
    It keeps you from having to face the big hole that is left when a church that consumed every facet of your life is now gone.

    Ignorance, or postponement is bliss? Is that what the middle ground is?
    “Dang if I actually left the church and was able to get past caring what everyone else thinks of me…I still would have to put great thought into what the heck to do with my family and myself for the rest of my life. It would be me that had to come up with a “great plan of happiness” and figure out what it is all about. I would have to refigure out all the rules, steps, goals, and post-life secrets…..ugh!”
    Its alot to have to face. So its just easier to go along for the ride.

    What I want to know is for those of you that are comfortable with the daily grind, but the not the mystical/debatable side of the church….how do you deal with things like “temple recommend interviews” ?
    Do you lie or just redefine things for yourself?
    Or do you just skip the whole temple thing altogether and are content with being just a daily grind Mormon?
    “Do you believe JS was a prophet of God?”
    Either you have convinced yourself that he is in a very weird way, or you have redefined prophet.

    W/o a temple recommend (rite of passage…”good guy card”) you know how things go.
    What about garments? How do you deal with that?
    “Well, its really all I have in my drawer right I just wear them anyway.” :)
    You know what happens if others notice the “tell-tale sign of being a worthy dude” is missing from your person.
    But if you know from historical fact regarding all the Masonic stuff…doesnt that make the temple stuff a fraud? But do you keep wearing garments and wasting time in temple work, etc anyway?

    Whats scary to me is how much is required of members to continue the church growth. I cant help but see it as a mass manipulation as has been done throughout time.
    The church gets 10%, and free labor, and fast offering, and free clergy, free missionary work and they pay their own way, massive business interests purchased on our tithing, gains on investments and real estate purchased with the money, now even have members doing the custodial work for free (despite having a free 2 billion to put into a new SLC mall). They push hometeaching, meetings galore, etc, etc, etc. They get it all on our backs. And what we get back is something to suffice that innate need to believe..somethign to have faith in. A little bit cooler story and “more answers to the big questions” than the church next door.
    And the more our lives are inundated and absolutely absorbed in all of this stuff…the more it is so hard to leave. The bigger that hole and pain will be if we even think about it.
    It has been and given our answer to everything.
    To leave is to have nothing anymore. No answers.
    And so it is too painful. So we sit on the fence or live in ignorant bliss.

    Isnt that what the middle ground is? I want to be part of the community, but I cant buy the rest of it w/o lying to myself everyday?

    I do think it is a big fraud. One no different than most other start-ups throughout history.
    Think what would have happened if the Mormon militia that JS called upon to save him at Carthage had actually come? Civil war. Raising an army against the law of the country? This religion and its people would have gone down in bloody chaos like so many other short-lived cults.
    No different than David Koresh or Jim Jones.
    JS was spiraling out of control just like each of those others when the noose started tightening.
    Instead….he became a martyr. Something much more powerful (think Obi-Wan Kanobi :) ) and thus the church has plowed on base on that.

    However I am currently going over both sides of the argument again just to be sure I havent been misbalanced by one side of evidence.
    Currently I am falling more to the belief that religion is a very large and lucrative business to feed our innate need to have an answers to the big questions, to want to belong to something, and to want to believe in something higher…and have it defined for us.
    For that, we will give up massive money and time for the mental security blanket we need.

    Dont get me wrong…Im not suggesting there is not God or Christ…Im talking about religious organizations. Of which….LDS is one.

    my 2 cents based on my current feelings and research and this article.


  11. Sam B. July 13, 2007 at 7:26 am

    FWIW, no, anyone who’s looked at the historical does not ipso facto “that much of the claims are false, and the foundation of many of the docterines, revelations, ordinances, etc are man-made…not what they claim to be.” Beyond that, I can’t really follow what you’re arguing, so I’m not going to respond further.

  12. ungewiss July 13, 2007 at 7:59 am

    I think I understand you Russ, and I think a lot of what you’re asking is covered in John’s “How to stay after becoming disaffected” wiki.

    For me it boils down to accepting Good without demanding True. (Some will argue the Church doesn’t even hit “Good,” but it’s a matter of perspective.) I remain active, involved, and vested in the Church because I am determined to change the things I have power to change. That obviously doesn’t include doctrine and history, but I can make TBMs nervous and NOMs comfortable by giving voice to the doubts and inconsistencies instead of pretending I believe as much as GBH in the restoration.

    We all pretend we’re 100% on board, but like John I am becoming more convinced that a large portion of LDS harbor deep doubts. Far too often these doubts lead to unjustified guilt and feelings of inadequacy. I’m just a schmo who teaches EQ, but at least for those 40 minutes I can do my best to challenge the facade of perfect belief and let people know that at least one person in their ward isn’t a COB yes-man.

    It’s not for everyone, but if you can find a reason to stay that is bigger than yourself, the middle way is far less tenuous.

  13. John Dehlin July 13, 2007 at 9:33 am

    For Russell and for others we are really struggling w/ all of this, I do recommend my essay: How to Stay in the Church After Becoming Disaffected.

    There are good answers to some of these issues for those who are struggling, and for me, the answer is not to give up and leave.

  14. paul f July 13, 2007 at 10:17 am

    I have a different take on GBH’s comments. To take the church’s history could mean to allow for close scrutiny and to truly confront exactly what happened. It is possible to take church history literally and therefore allow for humanism and mistakes in its members. I think Richard Bushman’s RSR is an outstanding example of understanding the literal history in a faithfaul manner. Allowing for the warts in JS’s past but including those warts in a larger more complex and beautiful picture of faith.

    “it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most important thing in the world.” The work can be true and have made mistakes. There are rarely examples of prophets who didn’t make minor and/or major mistakes in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Why should our leaders by any different?

  15. Kevin Christensen July 13, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Russ says: “Think what would have happened if the Mormon militia that JS called upon to save him at Carthage had actually come? Civil war. Raising an army against the law of the country? This religion and its people would have gone down in bloody chaos like so many other short-lived cults.”

    I recommend reading Richard L. Anderson’s essay in Expressions of Faith: Testimonies of Latter-day Saint Scholars Susan Easton Black, ed Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1996.

    He shows that the sources behind this claim amount to a Hofmann forgery, one second hand report of an unsourced rumor by Hosea Stout, who was not in Carthage at the time, and a late sourceless repetition of the rumor by a man who not yet a member and was living in England when the martyrdom occurred, and who had never been in Nauvoo. An eye-witness account by John Taylor, who ought to know, expressly denies the rumor that Joseph sent for the legion. The historical records show that the head of the legion remained in positions of trust till the end of his life, something that would not be the case had he refused such a request from the prophet. The historical records also show that the departure of Dan Jones from Carthage provided fuel for all sorts of rumors. The rumor that Stout reports bears all the earmarks of gossip for which we have first hand reports. In the sourceless gossip, the leader of the legion supposedly pockets the command, and tells no one (not even the one who delivered the message, or Richards and Taylor from the jail), but then loses the incriminating message in the street where some unnamed person conveniently finds it, and later, Mark Hofmann more conveniently fabricates it.

    I find the first hand, eye witnesses accounts to be far more plausible and consistent than the rumor. The Anderson essay is very instructive in the dos and don’ts of viable history. Very enlightening. A classic moment in my personal journey. Repetition and elaboration of the weak rumors and later a forgery, with a corresponding neglect of the first hand contemporary accounts, on the part of Brodie, Sam Taylor, and Michael Quinn, does nothing to convert such poor sources into gold.

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  16. Random Guy July 13, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    I agree with President Hinckley. Indeed, I think the Church will settle into a comfortable decline if a substantial proportion of its members do not accept the literal historicity of the Church.

    Most people won’t pay 10% of their income and spend 20+ unpaid hours a week working on behalf of a belief system that is nothing more than symbolic of some sort of . The Unitarian, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, RLDS (etc.) faiths dramatically declined after many members adopted a fashionable, non-literal approach to Christianity’s truth claims.

    Having said that, I am honored to worship alongside ‘New Order Mormons’, so long as they do not work to actively undermine the faith of the average member in the literal truth of the restored gospel.

    John, do you mean assert that New Order Mormons are a silent majority within the Church? I don’t think most Church members have the slightest idea about the Church’s historical problems. Haven’t you made this point many times?

  17. John Dehlin July 13, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Random Guy,

    Sorry…I was a bit unclear.

    I definitely agree that the overwhelming majority of LDS know very little about the tougher history.

    I also completely agree that virtually no LDS are aware of the NOM label, or consider themselves as anything but traditional.

    That said, many many LDS that I talk to in confidence live many of the principles of the NOM, including a “buffet”-type observance of rules/regulations/commandments, and are aware of big issues w/ the church that they simply choose to ignore or shelf.

    Finally, virtually every active LDS person I’ve spoken with, when you really dig deep regarding their testimony, say (in confidence) that their testimony is really based on a hope, not a knowledge, and that regardless of the church’s “Truthfulness”, what keeps them in the church are the culture, social structure, and the family.

    Many, many LDS in my experience live by Pascal’s wager…..maybe that’s the best way to summarize it. And I doubt this is particularly an LDS thing.

    Just my experience…..

  18. John Dehlin July 13, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    P.S. I really appreciate your respect for the NOM way.

  19. paul f July 13, 2007 at 12:47 pm


    Do the versus in Alma 32 shed a particular light on ‘knowledge’. Can’t members of the church claim a legitimate knowledge from the fruits of the principles they live. I struggled for a long time to express a knowledge, but Alma’s words on the subject helped me to speak definitively of what I have experienced…I think a lot of members would fit this category of knowledge. A genuine knowledge of the good fruits of their association with the church and its restored truths.

  20. paul f July 13, 2007 at 12:54 pm


  21. John Dehlin July 13, 2007 at 1:04 pm


    I totally support the legitimacy of LDS faith and knowledge.


  22. Random Guy July 13, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    John, I completely agree with your comment at 17.

    You might actually agree that both the Church and its individual members must constantly work to prevent a ‘cafeteria catholic’-type approach to its teachings.

    Most people who keep up with the sociology of religion (Rodney Stark readers, etc.) are acutely aware that the ‘lifecycle’ of a religion typically involves a period of decline as members compromise core beliefs that place the religion in tension with the larger society. (The Book of Mormon “pride cycle” is a somewhat similar.)

    I think the Press Release was a conscious attempt by the Church to prevent or retard this very well-known and widely accepted tendency.

  23. Random Guy July 13, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    Oh, and thanks for comment 18. I greatly enjoy your podcasts, and have listened to more than a dozen.

  24. Scott Stevenson July 13, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    I’ve never understood why so many people want to maintain symbolic belief in something that the guys at the top consistently demand is literal. I left the Church because I actually believe Gordon B. Hinckley means it when he says “it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most important thing in the world.”

    None of this means that the leadership are conscious frauds or bad people. I think that’s an unwarranted leap that too many post Mormons make. You can be involved in, and even perpetuate a fraud unknowingly. If you view the foundational claims of Mormonism as symbolic, Pres. Hinckley is saying that you believe the Church is a fraud.

    If you maintain symbolic belief in the Church then the Church become unnecessary since it’s something completely outside of the Church that allows you to pick and choose. This is like saying that you can pick out some great advice in the Horoscopes. That might be true, but it says nothing about the accuracy of Astrological charts. It says something of your own moral compass that has nothing to do with the alignment of the stars at your birth. It’s already in you. You don’t need “Dumbo’s feather” anymore.

  25. Christfollower July 13, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    It’s odd that the press release talks about how the church doesn’t hide from its history, when revelations have been rewritten, historical accounts like Lucy Mack Smith’s book have been re-written, and the basic events of Joseph Smith’s life become more sanitized every year.

    We don’t talk about the extent of polygamy, we don’t talk about the Danites, we don’t talk about why Thomas B Marsh really left the church, we don’t talk about the different versions of the 1st vision. People have filled entire websites with the history the church is hiding from.

    I love the church. It’s my culture, and the people are my people. The history is my history, with all its warts. But we can’t escape the fact that the church is just not totally forthcoming about the facts.

  26. Darin July 13, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    President Hinckley said of the foundational story of Mormonism that “it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most important thing in the world.”

    This assertion would be more meaningful if the brethren would tell us what the foundational story is.

    Many LDS perceive an institutional shift to “innoculate” members from the abundant amount of new mormon history, much of which (if not most of) contradicts the traditional story. To me GBH’s very black and white assertion is incompatible with this effort.

    Also FARMS, FAIR, and other apologetic sources have diminished the scope of the BOM beyond traditionally accepted beliefs. Is this not in light of the lack of archaeology or helpful science?

    I agree with HAL (#4) when he stated “I believe that one day these comments by Pres Hinckley will be treated like BY, JFS and others racists comments in our history.”

    I also agree with John’s analogy (#8) when he stated “I just also believe that sometimes they have to say things like this for the conservative crowd…just like candidates running for president, in the primaries, have to occasionally throw red meat to their base.”

    I believe this statement serves to insure that the tail does not wag the dog.

  27. ann July 13, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    It’s a Dave sighting! Hey, Dave! I like the new color scheme. Autumnal.

    One of the methods I have adapted to be happy in the middle way is to guard my boundaries with care. Statements by the FP and QoT are heavily, heavily filtered. I didn’t click on the link, and based on the comments, I won’t. I have enjoyed the discussion, though.

  28. John Dehlin July 13, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Ann is a very wise woman. Listen to her.

  29. HAL July 13, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    Ann is very very wise. I think I just ruined my bishop’s weekend by showing reading him the statement. He really hates to see the church back him further into a corner, a corner that he doesn’t think he can get out of.

    I also agree with John that the intended target audience is the ultra conservative who are worried about the media coverage and the average members’ lack of outrage at the recent coverage.

    However, there is still a part of me that wishes our leaders had the courage to not issue statements like these to pacify or preserve.

    Footnote…I do not believe in the flood, Jonah’s fish story or the Garden story literally. I still find meaning in these stories as well as many of the foundational myths of Mormonism.

  30. Clay July 13, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    “Why stay and continue to serve and be a part if you don’t believe it all literally?”

    I’ll admit that my consistent anchor is my wife, but beyond her my reasons continue to change. I am starting to realize more and more, and John actually triggered this vividly yesterday in a personal conversation, that there is incredible potential for good by using the church.

    Personally, I am not evaluating the value and usefullness of the church in my life based on how it benefits me either temporally or spiritually. As has been stated quite well already, there are many ways to get the same benefits and probably with less hassle outside of the church. But for me I have come to recognize that as I have gifts, talents, intellect given by God, I have a responsibility to use them for the advancement of all humans I can reach, not only myself. So when I look at the value, or the *potential* for value, in the church it is in how it can be a medium through which I can impact the world.

    One way in which the LDS church stands out from others is the level of commitment and activity from its members contrasted with the absence of that scary fanaticism you find amongst some Evangelicals and in many other parts of the world. I think a great majority of LDS members would prefer to do a minimum of work (a very normal human trait, not a condemnation of mormons), yet when they are asked directly, or they are asked indirectly by someone with enough authority, they serve in spite of any selfish instinct. When you consider the volume of the membership, and how correlated and unified church policy is across the world, the sheer horsepower of that service engine is likely unmatched.

    By small and simple things, great things can come to pass. Claudia Bushman demonstrated many great things that resulted from small grassroots movements, even within Mormonism. I believe that, even if only in small ways at first, great changes could happen. More understanding of diversity. Less pain for the outsiders. More connecting of humans to humans.

    I believe every Mormon who hits the wall and faces dissaffection or reconciliation must ask themselves this question:

    If I see my fellow Mormons as victims of deceipt, or discrimination, or intolerance… what does it say about me if I just abandon them? Do I have a duty to save them, at least try?

    Right now, this is the reason to stay that I try to keep in mind.

  31. Tytus July 13, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Just a side though that relates to the discussion in a roundabout way:

    It seems that even the Brethren have their own reservations about how far they accept the literalness of certain things that “Bible Believing Christians” (or TBMs) hold as literal.

    One example that comes to mind is Dallin H. Oaks in speaking about the transgression in Eden:

    It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. And thus Eve and “Adam fell that men might be” (2 Ne. 2:25).

    It seems clear that he is suggesting that Eve’s act may have had nothing to do with an actual tree or a fruit.

    On the same token, are we entitled to say things such as:

    The Book of Mormon’s Translation, whatever its nature…
    Joseph Smith’s revelations, whatever their nature….
    Gordon B. Hinckley’s prophetic link to God, whatever its nature…
    Salvation, whatever its nature….
    The Nephite Civilization, whatever its nature….
    [Ambiguous/Uncomfortable Religious Item], whatever its nature….

    I’m convinced that if we’re willing to look beyond the surface of most religious ideas and statements, we can find a lot more leeway than we might expect.

  32. Ann July 13, 2007 at 6:40 pm


    HAL, that’s kind of mean of you to ruin your bishop’s weekend on a Friday night.

  33. HAL July 13, 2007 at 7:38 pm


    In a sick and twisted kind of way, he actually enjoyed it.


    I hope you have a great weekend. I am planning on having a great weekend myself.

  34. Razorfish July 13, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    “I guess that what I am getting out of this thread is that there is not a huge amount of sympathy for people like me in my church”


    I hope that is not the inferred take away. We need more divergent points of view like yourself, and there should be plenty of room for all of us to worship and grow together. As long as we have a desire and hope to believe, that alone should qualify us for this work.

  35. Equality July 13, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    Sounds like the church is declaring war on thoughtful, intelligent, educated folks. Only the ignorant and superstitious need apply. Everyone else can go away or shut up. If that’s how they feel, I guess I am only too happy to oblige. It’s been a mostly good 18 years in the church. I agree with HAL also that Gordon’s statements about the literalness of Mormon historical claims being just as wrong as Brigham’s statements on race or Joseph’s statements on moonmen or Spencer’s statements on oral sex. Given that the so-called prophets have been so consistently wrong, why does anyone listen to them anymore? And why stay in a church that lionizes these men who so obviously have no more of a direct pipeline to God than I do to President Bush? Hey, if the church doesn’t want analytical thinkers in its midst, I will be happy to do my part to help the church fulfill its mission to purge the so-called intellectuals, feminists, and gays (2 out of 3 ain’t bad, in my case–I’ll let the reader decide which 2). Sayonara, Gordon.

  36. Doug G. July 13, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    The official statement made by the church is certainly not new or unexpected. The PBS special (which we were all encouraged to watch, Ensign Apr. 2007 pg. 79) raised many questions about our history and validity of restoration. Based on the comments received on’s website, our people seemed to be divided into two camps. We either, watched the first 15 or 20 min. and then shut it off because “Daren’t, I know what I believe is true and won’t allow anyone to confuse me with the facts.” or, we actually braved all four hours and thought perhaps the church may be starting down a enlightened new path of discovery and truth.

    Sadly, it is becoming apparent that we as a church are still not willing to move “beyond our beginnings” and truly see if we have the right stuff to inspire men and women to live a Christ centered life based on true discipleship. I have met true disciples in the church and out of it. Some of the kindest, most charitable, highest integrity people I’ve known have been of other faiths and are certainly well on their way back to live with Him because they are like Him. (And they don’t even know the Masonic signs and tokens…)

    Take heart my fellow NOM’s, I agree with HAL, (comment #4) President Hinckley’s comments will not stand the test of time as with so many of his predecessors. Elder Robert S. Wood said in his article (The Quest for Spiritual Knowledge, Ensign Jun. 2007) even “basic truths” are overthrown by additional evidence sometimes. His statement is all to true and cuts both ways.

    So, if you would like to be all believing but learned that Joseph Smith took his spouse’s teenage handmaiden to wife (Fanny Alger) without her knowledge and then threw her out when Emma discovered their love. Or that, 1900 year old papyri really does contain the actual writings of Abraham from his own hand somehow. And, believing in this God of lies and deceit seems to go against every grain in your body. Stay with us for there still may be hope, in the future, for a little less of the “all or nothing” talk and a little more of what truly matters…

  37. Scott Stevenson July 13, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    The funny thing is that I actually take these guys at their word. I think GBH meant what he said. I don’t think he was just saying it to pacify the more conservative base of Mormonism.

    If, as Ann said, “Statements by the FP and QoT are heavily, heavily filtered” what use is the Church besides a social club? This filtering demonstrates that your morality exists with or without the Church. Why perpetuate or pass on the excess baggage of the Church to anyone else? Your moral compass works just fine without the Church. This means that GBH for whatever he is has no more of a claim as moral leader than you do.

    Clay asked the question “If I see my fellow Mormons as victims of deceit, or discrimination, or intolerance… what does it say about me if I just abandon them? Do I have a duty to save them, at least try?”

    I’d love to try, but it’s like trying to convince someone that believes in psychics and tarot cards that its just cold reading tricks and probabilities taken personally. Also, what makes you think that leaving the church is abandoning them?

    It seems so strange that NOMs continually argue for middle ground that the leadership insists doesn’t exist. You have to disbelieve a prophet in order to believe a prophet.

  38. John Dehlin July 13, 2007 at 11:08 pm


    Do you live in Logan? I’d love to have lunch sometime.

    Your comment about “disbelieving a prophet to believe a prophet” completely misses the mark about what being a NOM is all about. Have you really read any NOMish writings? It seems to miss the whole point completely.

    Still, thanks for stopping by, and for taking the time to comment. I can tell you’re a smart, passionate guy. And please give Jeff Ricks my best.

  39. Scott Stevenson July 14, 2007 at 12:34 am

    Thanks John,

    Yeah I live in Logan. You name the time and place for lunch, it would be my pleasure.

    I’m very familiar with NOM writing but I must admit that I still don’t understand it. Not for a lack of trying though. I’ve listened to ever podcast you’ve done (except a few of the latest ones). I’ve listened to your personal story podcast probably 3 time. The third part of that podcast I’ve listened to even more than that to try and wrap my head around NOM reasons for staying in the Church. I’m familiar with, and have talked with many people that have chosen NOMism. The problem I have is all of the NOM reasons for staying in the Church are in fact the very reasons I left.

    What I mean about “disbelieving a prophet to believe a prophet” is the ability to disbelieve Gordon B. Hinckley when he said the Church was either true or false. I believe it was Hal that said he believed that GBH’s statement would be relegated to the current status of BY’s and JFS’s racist remarks. If you pick and choose what you like and don’t like (which I’m totally advocating) at some point you’ve already left Mormonism. I know everyone is a buffet Mormon but you must admit not like you or other NOMs. You’re buffet includes literal vs. figurative belief in Mormonism’s foundational claims while at the same time the leadership demands literalism. Other member’s buffets include “should I pay tithing on my gross or net income?” It’s not really in the same ballpark.

    When Joseph Smith describes something as a literal event and every Prophet since has seconded literalism, it’s strange to disbelieve the literalism so that you can remain in their club. So you believe they’ve formed a nice place to raise a family and you like many other things about Mormonism, but you disbelieve them when they describe a foundational event as being literal. It doesn’t seem like they have any special ability to create a productive place to raise a family than you do.

  40. Tatiana July 14, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    For me, and I keep throwing this out into the blogosphere, the BoM is literally true, it just doesn’t necessarily take place on the North American continent. I start with the assumption that God understands a lot more about physics than we do. What I know of modern physics tells me things like the fact that there are extra dimensions (11 or 12 in all depending on whose theory you like best today), there are probably other universes, even. I read an article in Scientific American a few years ago saying it might be possible to make new big bangs in the laboratory, and they wouldn’t displace our spacetime continuum at all, they’d be in their own that didn’t impact ours much. The universe is now a multiverse, when you look at string theory, and how the different values of the fundamental constants became what they are (they’re local minima on a multidimensional surface that describes the possible combinations of fundamental constants),. All these things tell me that God can put his other sheep places we don’t necessarily know about now, and some of them might be able to connect or tunnel into a hillside in NY.

    There’s no reason for us to get all worked up about historicity, that I can see. I have faith that it’s historical, at least as much as any historical document is historical. =) As for the details of whether it was in mesoamerica, or in a different universe entirely, I leave those to God. It’s not time for us to know that yet. But internal evidence convinces me that it isn’t a 19th century invention by an uneducated farmer. And the external evidence of how many lives have been miraculously changed for the better is more convincing still. Finally, I know it first and last because I have the spiritual witness that it is true. Those things trump the naysayers’ points.

  41. Equality July 14, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    “Finally, I know it first and last because I have the spiritual witness that it is true. Those things trump the naysayers’ points.”

    I wonder if I can use this in the brief I am writing to submit to the court on Monday. “Your Honor, I know my client should prevail because I have a spiritual witness that the other guys really did break the law and that trumps whatever they might say.”

    Incidentally, John Hamer and I predicted that apologists would soon be touting the “parallel universe geography theory” on the New Order Mormon discussion board back in September 2006. Check it out here

  42. Equality July 14, 2007 at 4:34 pm
  43. Chris G. July 14, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    “As for the details of whether it was in mesoamerica, or in a different universe entirely, I leave those to God. It’s not time for us to know that yet.”

    The problem with this is that numerous prophets and apostles have said that the BOM takes place in Mesoamerica and is the story of a family of Israelites. They are the same prophets and apostles now telling us that we must believe Joseph Smith’s story as literal history or it’s all a fraud. There’s no wiggle room according to the Lord’s mouthpiece.

    I would really like to know the real motivation for this release that potentially alienates a growing segment of the membership.

  44. Equality July 15, 2007 at 12:01 am

    Chris G.:

    You don’t understand. Maybe Joseph Smith actually lived in another dimension and wasn’t a “real” physical person at all. Maybe his 33 plural wives were only his wives in the spiritual plane. Maybe the pioneers didn’t actually physically cross the plains in wagons–they did it in a parallel universe and the people who wrote those stories just thought they actually happened in the same physical world the rest of us inhabit. Only God knows for sure. Maybe our entire universe can fit into a single atom a Giant’s fingernail. . . .

  45. Kent Huff July 15, 2007 at 12:51 am

    As a random passerby, and serious church history student, I want to make a comment. Here is my way of dealing with some of the myth versus fact dichotomies. As far as I am concerned, so much of our “church history” amounts to a bugs-eye view of the minutia of what went on: “Just one [dang] thing after another,” as I believe Henry Ford is attributed as saying about history in general. How about trying the eagle’s eye view of history on occasion?

    What if I told you that the LDS Church is largely responsible for the end of slavery in the US? By keeping the South from gaining control of all the new territories, including the “free” Utah territory and the new “free” state of California, the South was unable to impose their goal of making slavery the law throughout the entire US through bluster and bullying. They then only had the choice to back off and stay within their enclave, or to impose slavery by force of arms on the remainder of the US. They were foolish enough to choose the latter, and were ultimately smashed, as they ought to have been.

    You can blame the whole thing on the Mormons, who were always in the middle of the slavery battle, no matter how hard they tried not to be. Being believers and good Christians, they had no real choice but to go to Utah, and then had no real choice but to resist the Southern attacks. The Mormons being anti-slavery (in Missouri, Illinois, and Utah) was far more important than any of their other more esoteric beliefs.

    Instead of looking for the low, mundane, and venal in church history, and easily finding all they were looking for, why don’t people look a little higher? I assure you it is there, but rarely looked for seriously.

    There are perfectly sensible, even brilliant reasons for every “crazy” idea you ever heard of from the Utah period, whether it is polygamy, blood atonement, Adam-God, united order, etc., etc. But who even wants to know the truth? Was it Franklin Delano Roosevelt who supposedly said “Never tell the truth when a lie will do?” We have a whole raft of people, in and out of the church (and in the middle?) who are perfectly satisfied to believe a lie, it seems. And, I hasten to add, for those who have not the time to examine these historical issues in depth themselves, we have plenty of “historians” who are happy to supply those lies as needed. That is a continuing pet peeve of mine. They do a lot of damage, but only because people accept as definitive the dirt they “find” or invent.

  46. Chris G. July 15, 2007 at 8:33 am


    I appreciate your comments and agree that if you take a bird’s eye view of the Church’s history, you can find some good. This applies especially to the history I learned in Sunday school :) But as another “serious” student of Church history, and seeker of the truth, it’s when I take this bird’s eye view of church history that I’m so troubled by what I’ve learned. I have a hard time reconciling the conflicting and omitted accounts in the early Church history, the details of the life of Joseph Smith, and some of the teachings, practices, and policies of the Church leadership. I cannot ignore these things. What this release says to me is that I must accept all of this, without question or explaination. I don’t think so.

    Additionally, while you can argue that the Church was against slavery under Joseph Smith, I think you’ll find that under Brigham Young, slavery existed in Utah. The first slaves arrived in 1847 and they continued to work on farms and businesses in the Utah territory until 1862 when the US abolished slavery in its territories. These slaves were owned by members of the Church and in some cases, the leasership. See Newell Bringhurst, Saint Slaves and Blacks: The Changing Place of Black People Within Mormonism (1981); Ronald G. Papanikolas, ed., The Peoples of Utah (1976).

    By the way, I’d be happy to hear your perfectly sensible and brilliant reasons for polygamy (especially polyandry), blood atonement, and Adam-God.

  47. Lunar Quaker July 15, 2007 at 9:13 am

    “All these things tell me that God can put his other sheep places we don’t necessarily know about now, and some of them might be able to connect or tunnel into a hillside in NY.”

    If God was going to hide Lehi and his family away in an alternate dimension, then why go through the trouble of having Nephi build a ship?

    Now that I think about it some more, perhaps the Jaredite vessels were actually flying saucers. After all, they were “tight like unto a dish.” So tight, in fact, that God instructed Mahonri Moriancumr to bore a breathing hole in them so the people wouldn’t suffocate. Perhaps the dangerous waters were only a metaphor for the harsh environment of space! And the sixteen small stones, in addition to providing light, could have been energy sources akin to the dilithium crystals aboard the Starship Enterprise.

  48. Equality July 15, 2007 at 9:25 am


    You are on to something. See, the internal evidence of the Book of Mormon proves its veracity. How could Joseph Smith have known about dilithium crystals more than a century before Star Trek hit the airwaves? Someone call Jack Welch–another bullseye for FARMS!

  49. Doug G. July 15, 2007 at 2:05 pm


    I’ve got to put my two cents into this blog about Tatiana’s thoughts because I feel like the discussion is not going in a good direction.

    This person is honestly trying to make sense out of the senseless, struggling perhaps to keep his or her testimony intact given the recent statements made by the church. We shouldn’t make fun of it, but rather be grateful that people of conservative, orthodox faith are willing to listen and read John’s work here. It’s the first step into a much bigger universe of truth and understanding. I believe it also gives credence to the whole reason most of us are participating as we would like to find some middle ground we each can live with in light of the avalanche of historical information that is now available to anyone who wants to study it.

    Having said all that, reading the Book of Mormon and believing it literally means you believe that Christ visited America as written, that early American explores found the promised land as prophesied in the book, and that the American Indians are the literal descendants of Lehi. You can’t pick and choose or ignore parts of the work that don’t fit your particular paradigm. These statements have been made by every prophet from Joseph Smith to our present one.

    It’s too bad that members are being put into a position of having to explain these things in far out ways to keep in the faith. Perhaps the leadership will see the error of pursuing this path to far and pushing out a goodly portion of the membership of the church. Most everyone as problems with one point of doctrine or another and/or historical information involving early church practices…

  50. Lincoln July 15, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    This discussion brings to mind our “Land of the Lost” parallel dimension theory of the BoM on FLAK a few months back. The issues of literalistic interpretation, peculiar anachronisms, and 19th century religious ideology, will always haunt the BoM. Forever. Yet, the BoM remains the “foundation” of Mormonism. Despite archaeological counter-evidence, DNA counter-evidence, linguistic counter-evidence, anachronisms, plagiarisms, typographical errors, and blatant revisionism, the BoM continues to attract/repel hordes of students. For each discrepancy and inaccuracy discovered within its pages, there will always be an equal number of needlessly ridiculous apologetic theories and contradictory analyses generated. The parallel universe theory is just the most recent lame attempt to portray the BoM as some type of accurate historical document, in a cosmic way. Laughable.

    People will choose to believe the BoM based on feelings, and that is their choice. As science progresses further and further ahead, the Mormon church will be left further and further behind, to the point that eventually the Church will simply attract lunatics. Maybe at that point, the geriatric leadership will deem the literalistic claims to finally be mythological, in the hopes of maintaining some membership base in the face of massive counter-evidence to the truth claims of the Church. Not to mention the eventual discovery of the huge cover-up that has taken place. The scale of evidence is already weighted heavily against the Church’s truth claims, but it keeps getting heavier and the leadership appears oblivious to the clear conflict this creates in the direction the active membership is moving. I myself am an active member, but am constantly debating the worth of a Church with such a flawed power structure as the Mormon church. It seems my only real connection to Mormonism is through my family heritage, for the organization continues to teach half-truths and revisionist history as gospel truth, while I try to find ways to justify my continued participation in the Church. The reasons for staying continue to diminish as time passes.

  51. John Dehlin July 16, 2007 at 9:53 am


    You should say “For me, the reasons for staying continue to diminish as time passes.”

    That’s where DAMU folks always take it a bit too far. Instead of just saying what works for them, they have to ridicule or mock others who feel differently, or who arrive at different conclusions. Religion has always been a faith proposition. So you don’t like religious faith. We get it. Just know that lots of people smarter than you or I feel differently than you do. Logic, facts and science live in one realm — religion in a different one.

    I wish ya’ll could just learn to respect those who choose to believe…in a sincere, genuine manner. :(

  52. Mayan Elephant July 16, 2007 at 10:09 am

    Whoa there John.

    I think anyone that would take Lincoln’s comments as anything more than his belief, and his own position regarding the BOM, would immediately be eliminated from that class of people that you describe as “smarter than [him] or [you].”

    perhaps you could describe how his position is any different than yours regarding the diminishing reasons for staying. if the church were to amp up the commitment to the one true history of the one true continent, would you consider that an improvement and a plus-one to the reasons for staying? or, like lincoln, would you consider that a hurdle for members?

    I think you are more like the DAMU than you think and it is the semantics not the sentiment that blew up your skirt on this one.

    DAMU folks are dang darn smart and Lincoln aint no dumber fellar at.

  53. John Dehlin July 16, 2007 at 10:23 am


    Dude! I really did try to get a babysitter on Saturday. No luck. :( I hope all went well. Please give me an update!!!!

    I know Lincoln and all of you are smart cookies.

    I’ll make it really brief…

    –It’s rude to call people’s religious belief “laughable” — period. Just plain rude. Would you tell a devout Jew that their belief in the Talmud or OT is “laughable” — to their face? I doubt it. So why is it ok for you to do it here, or anywhere else?

    –Using the word “lame” to describe how people try to reconcile thought with faith is, again, rude.

    –Science has been correcting religion for centuries now. This is not a new phenomenon. That doesn’t mean that only lunatics remain religious. There are good reasons for faith that very smart folks knowingly choose, as supplements to reason, science and intellectuality. To me, Lincoln infers that only dumb and uninformed people (or lunatics, as he says) choose faith — even when parts of their faith tradition contradict science. This has simply not been my experience. Lots of really bright, informed, science-loving people still choose faith, in spite of all the contradictions. Faith serves a different purpose than science…that’s all. Totally different realms (for me, at least).

    I know Lincoln is a cool dude, as are you ME. But each of us needs to follow our own heart and journey, I think, and show LOTS of respect to those in their journies. Language like this, to me, does not show the respect that it should.

    But I can still love you both!!!!

  54. Lunar Quaker July 16, 2007 at 10:30 am


    There was no ridicule in DV’s post. When you read DV’s last sentence in context, there should be no ambiguity about what he is saying. Of course he is applying that statement to himself.

    I am also very disappointed that you resorted to the “smarter people than you or I still believe in the church” bit. By now I thought you would have realized that a high IQ or a first-class education does not guarantee against the propensity for some people to self-justify irrational beliefs.

    I feel like I’m a pretty darn smart dude. I’m not educated in history or languages, but I’ve got a Ph.D. in engineering from a prestigious university. I was just as smart when I believed in the church as I am now. I bet Dallin Oaks has a higher IQ than me. Big deal.

  55. Lunar Quaker July 16, 2007 at 10:39 am

    Another comment about science and religion occupying “different realms.” That would be fine if the church were to admit that the BoM should not be considered a historical document. But when the church makes claims that are testable in the real world that we live in, those claims can no longer be considered questions that occupy a “different realm.”

    Do you honestly think that the parallel universe theory ISN’T laughable? DV only applied the adjective “laughable” to an apologetic blunder designed to salvage the historicity of the BoM. That can hardly be considered sacred territory.

    I no longer believe that outlandish religious beliefs should be immune to ridicule. The world is much more tolerant of ridicule when it is applied to political or even scientific opinions. But for some reason, religious beliefs get a special pass.

  56. John Dehlin July 16, 2007 at 10:42 am


    Come on, dude!!! We’re all pals here.

    Using the words: lame, laughable, lunatics…while the alliteration is wonderful….we’re really falling off our rocker if we can’t acknowledge that those word denote ridicule.

    As for the intelligence thing….it was in response to the inference that I interpreted from DV’s comment, which was that “smart, science-respecting folk arrive at the obvious conclusion that religion is silly, while deluded, ridiculous, laughable ignorant folk remain inside the walls of faith.”

    If I misunderstood the nuances of what DV was saying, I sincerely apologize, but that’s how it came off to me.

    I’m sure that I’m way more closely aligned to you all than I am the average TBM Mormon in my religious world view…but I wish ya’ll would show more respect to traditional believers. That’s all.

    Can ya’ll seriously tell me with a straight face that you respect traditional LDS believers?

    To me, much of what you write on blogs does not give me that impression, and it makes me sad. Everyone deserves respect. And religious beliefs, to me, deserve extra respect and sensitivity.


  57. John Dehlin July 16, 2007 at 10:46 am


    Personally, I’m not crazy about words like “lunatic” and “laughable” and “absurd” when it comes to people’s sincere beliefs — religious, political, or otherwise.

    I’m sure I’m guilty of using such words at times, but I’m trying to be better in that way.

    People deserve sensitivity and respect, in my opinion….not ridicule. It’s the best way, in my experience, to help move folks along.

  58. Lunar Quaker July 16, 2007 at 11:00 am


    Of course we’re all pals! My statements should not have been construed to suggest that I harbor some kind of animosity toward you or anyone else. I’m sorry if that’s the impression I gave.

    And when I say ridicule, I’m not really talking about using pejoratives. I’m talking about pointing out the absurdity of a belief.

  59. Lincoln July 16, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    John, I really don’t like it when my honesty stirs up a firestorm of unanticipated anger. It is a straw man argument to characterize what I said as “mocking” of religious faith in general. That is very much a straw man, and your sophistication with this subject matter should tell you that. To clarify, I find the whole concept of 11 or 12 parallel dimensions to justify another limited geographic theory of the BoM to be utterly ridiculous. It is not in bad taste or rude to openly admit that Tatiana’s parallel dimension geographic theory (comment #40 above) of the BoM is baseless and ludicrous. Or have I missed out on the evidence somewhere on the Bloggernacle that points to this as being the most reasonable geographic theory available now?

    The issue that troubles me further is your characterization of me as a DAMU member and therefore lacking in the ability to provide meaningful comments. IIRC, you used the DAMU yourself to wade through many of these tough issues. I hardly participate in the DAMU discussion boards anymore, I have many other outlets for my emotions. I am studying Church history even more than ever with my current calling. I would have loved to participate in the Bloggernacle, like so many enlightened Mormons but BBC and Nauvoo queued me once they recognized my IP address. I was marked as a “DAMU” participant.

    I made some very generalized comments, but I was not allowed to participate. Unlike the ‘Nacle, Mormonstories has always encouraged open participation, and I appreciate that. That is why I am surprised to see you use a straw man argument with my comments. You and I are in much the same place John, you realize that. We have multi-generational heritage in the Church. We both have teaching callings. And yet, since I have participated in the DAMU as I learned the extent of the Mormon white-washed history, I have now been relegated to the role of a heretic (and an apostate, in some people’s minds.) It’s too bad, because my Bishop still thinks highly of me. It really is, because I constantly am given cudos for my insights into Mormonism from other ward members, many of whom hold advanced degrees such as yourself. But on the internet, my arguments can simply be classified as “rude” or “mocking” and summarily dismissed. Yes, I find the reasons for continuing participation in the Church as an institution to be lacking, as time goes on. But this does not necessarily mean that I find no redeeming values in Mormonism. I do, or I wouldn’t still be affiliated with the institution. But I see that your treatment of Scott Stevenson’s comments are much more pleasant even though he dismisses Mormonism as completely lacking in any value whatsoever.

    Remember, those of us shunned by the ‘Nacle, embraced by the DAMU, are worthy of just as much tolerance as Naclers and Post-Mormons. I serve in a teaching calling and find enjoyment in the intellectual pursuit of truth that it provides me. There are many DAMU-ites in the same boat as me, you understand that. I simply see the Church as regressing when it comes to it’s approach to the future. The CoC has provided a good model for what the LDS church should do in the future. Honesty is the best policy. The Catholic church’s recent elimination of the doctrine of Limbo also provides a good model for the LDS church to follow. Progress can be made. Changes can be made. Mistakes can be corrected, after the proper repentance process is followed by the Church itself. But clinging to the myths of the past, and attempting to portray things as literally true, when evidence clearly shows that approach as inaccurate at best, is NOT in the best interest of Mormonism. Mormonism will only grow and flourish when it is honest with itself, and I fear that may only be when it is too late, and many of the truly honest and intelligent members have left the Church in pursuit of a more honest institution.

    I hope that I am allowed to participate in Mormonstories discussions into the future. I really did not try to abuse this forum, in any way, and I am sorry if my comments were offensive.

  60. John Dehlin July 16, 2007 at 1:18 pm


    We need to meet. I want to get to know you better. I know we’d have a ball. Email me where you live, and I’ll try to schedule something next time I’m in your neck of the woods (or vice versa).

    Sorry if I flew off the handle. I know your heart is in the right place, and I’m sure that my response was a compilation of feelings from not just your comment, but from other comments as well.

    All I hope for is that we can be super respectful towards each other’s beliefs. That’s all. I want us to all learn to use language that uplifts and motivates at best, and at worst, simply says, “Here’s how I think and feel, but I respect those who think/feel differently.”

    I guarantee you and everyone else who is frustrated w/ the church or its culture/teachings that in the end, this will be the most effective path towards constructive improvement for all.

    Sorry I came down so hard on you specifically. I didn’t mean to take it out on you. I really didn’t. My bad.

    And seriously, let’s try to get together this year for lunch or something.

  61. Equality July 16, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    I think it is fine to say that people with religious beliefs ought to be respected. I respect people with religious beliefs as well as people who have entirely secular viewpoints. But I do not think that all religious beliefs (as opposed to the people who hold those beliefs–there is a difference) are worthy of respect. A belief, assertion, allegation, or hypothesis needs to earn respect. Not all beliefs are equal, either in the scientific or religious realm.

    Nor do I think that religious beliefs ought to be entitled to more respect than non-religious beliefs simply because they are religious. I can’t think of a reason why that should be so. John, can you explain why religious beliefs should be entitled to more respect than other types of belief? An example: if I say that it is my scientific opinion that the sun gets its light from the planet Kolob, I would expect people with even the most rudimentary to find the notion ridiculous and not mince words in conveying their assessment. If I then say that it is my religious belief that the sun gets its light from Kolob, not my scientific opinion, why should the belief be accorded more respect?

    If religious ideas stay in the non-scientific realm, I think it fine to respect them. When someone takes an idea that has only a religious basis and makes claims about the natural world, however, they become fair game. That’s exactly what the Church is doing with its continuing proclamations that the Book of Mormon is historical. If a religious person says “I believe in life after death and science cannot disprove it,” that is a purely religious notion. And I respect it. If someone says “the entire earth was covered in a massive flood and only eight people (Noah and his family) survived in a boat that carried all the animals and it really literally happened,” well those are claims about the natural world. They are ridiculous claims and as such rational people are free to ridicule them. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect people who might hold that view, just that the idea itself is ridiculous. Not all religious ideas are created equal. Not all are worthy of respect.

    Lunar Quaker, Lincoln, and I did ridicule the “alternate dimension theory” for the Book of Mormon. If others disagree and think it not ridiculous, they can certainly use their mental faculties to try to persuade me. But I see no reason why one cannot point out a ridiculous idea when one is encountered. As an aside, I imagine most TBMs would also consider the idea ridiculous, perhaps for different reasons. But I seriously doubt that the denizens of the DAMU are the only ones who would find that particular explanation for the lack of extrinsic evidence supporting the Book of Mormon’s historical narrative unimpressive.

  62. Equality July 16, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    4th line, second paragraph: should read “rudimentary scientific education”

  63. Lincoln July 16, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    I would really enjoy meeting you in person John, you know that. Hopefully we can get together sometime soon. You’re a class act.

  64. Mayan Elephant July 16, 2007 at 4:54 pm


    are you suggesting that only a lunatic would believe the earth was covered in water and the dna of every animal and human was preserved in a boat?

    or, is it lunacy to believe that it happened only than 6,000 years ago?

    i think the flood is literal. It really happened. however, it really happened in the seventh dimension of the seventh universe, not here on earth.

  65. Random Guy July 16, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    John, I’m a little surprised the thread is still going, but thank you for insisting on mutual respect.

    As a more conservative believer, I have always understood that you reserved the right to censor any comment I might make that showed substantial disrespect for less orthodox believers. I’m glad to see you apply the policy evenhandedly.

  66. Blake July 16, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    Lincoln: With all due respect, you show very little respect and your comments are simply asserted as if anyone who disagrees with you is a moronic lunatic. E.g.,

    “People will choose to believe the BoM based on feelings, and that is their choice. As science progresses further and further ahead, the Mormon church will be left further and further behind, to the point that eventually the Church will simply attract lunatics. Maybe at that point, the geriatric leadership will deem the literalistic claims to finally be mythological, in the hopes of maintaining some membership base in the face of massive counter-evidence to the truth claims of the Church. Not to mention the eventual discovery of the huge cover-up that has taken place.”

    I see post-dated promises like this all of the time making prophecies of what science will some day prove. Everyone who believes is simply a lunatic and the leaders are all liars. How can you expect folks like me to take you seriously when you engage in such histrionics. The greatest irony of all is that you become a prophet, suggesting that evidence is needed for beliefs, but your beliefs about the future are not based on evidence but mere prophecies without the gift of prophecy.

  67. Mayan Elephant July 17, 2007 at 7:36 am


    “without the gift of prophecy??????????” That was awesome. truly awesome.

    i really believe that the reactions to lincoln are more to his tone and word choices than his literal argument. and further, the reaction to lincoln shows the real big huge pink elephant in the room – there is not a comfortable place for people that do not toe the line, including, ‘knowing’ the church is true and ‘knowing’ that the book of mormon is true.

    for a website that launched with john’s description of his mission, where children were baptized and a mission president rewarded loose baptisms, it is strangely ironic that someone who describes converts as lunatics is dismissed so quickly. perhaps lincoln should have used another word, but, that would not have made this conversation as interesting.

    i will not be so much of a broadbrush painter by calling people lunatics. but, i have no issue whatsoever in saying that it is absolute lunacy to expect the converts to read excerpts of that book, listen to the abbreviated and correlated doctrines and history of the church and the BoM, and then ‘know’ it is true. bwaahahaahaaaaaaahahahah.

    seeing the responses to the alternative dimension theory, versus the ‘you gotta be nuts’ theory is fascinating. and more, seeing which is welcome in the cinder-block plastic-steeple chapels and lds friendly websites is even more interesting. whatever it takes to believe – good. whatever discourages you or dissuades you – bad. regardless of facts or common sense.

  68. John Dehlin July 17, 2007 at 7:47 am


    Just to be clear on my end…

    –I’m not dismissing any arguments
    –All I’m saying is….arguments aside…civility and respect matter….in fact, if you have a “cause”, you often undermine it if you can’t show proper respect.

    I’m not a BOM literalist….so you know I’m empathetic with your arguments. I just want to encourage respect for believers (and in general) when I can.

    And I respect you, and I respect Lincoln.

    Get it?

  69. Blake July 17, 2007 at 8:25 am

    Thanks Mayan. I’m glad I could tickle your funny bone.

  70. Lincoln July 17, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Calm down Blake.

  71. Equality July 17, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    I’m wondering how Blake knows that Lincoln does not have the spirit of prophecy? After all, Lincoln is active in his ward, holds the priesthood, and is in full fellowship in his ward. At baptism, he was given the gift of the Holy Ghost. The church promises that the Holy Ghost will be a church member’s “constant companion” and that the Holy Ghost is the source of prophecy. So, how does Blake know Lincoln does not have this gift?

  72. Clay July 17, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    “there is not a comfortable place for people that do not toe the line, including, ‘knowing’ the church is true and ‘knowing’ that the book of mormon is true”

    Sure there is. My personal testimony is void of “knowledge” of either of those things. I would easily accept a limited geography before an alternate reality. Although I’ve really come to a point where I don’t care how the BoM is or isn’t literal history. I feel completely comfortable on sites like this and there are other places, too.

    What you are picking up on is that this might not be a place for people to be obnoxious. That is the elephant in the room, although who exactly is ignoring that elephant is a different issue. I’ve seen topics on this site where you and Equality were being treated rudely and the offender was equally censured.

    Its all in HOW we say things, not WHAT we are saying. Open and honest is not a license to be rude.

  73. Equality July 17, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    I thought “Mayan” was the elephant in the room. :-)

  74. Pete Howlett July 17, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    I’m writing from the UK and I have to say that all this navel gazing angst passes us by here in old Blighty. NOMism is just about the weirdest thing out. It says in the scriptures you are either for me or against me. It doesn’t say you can be 80% for me and 20% undecided – well not when I last read it…so I don’t really see the point in picking and chosing. Furthermore you either follow the Prophet or you don’t. When did it become so complicated that you had to pick at everything just to find the blemish and thus triumphantly say “There, I told you so! Wasn’t I right? It’s only nearly true…” I’m glad I’m not confused.

  75. Lincoln July 17, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Knowing Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s inadequacies, I have come to the conclusion that it is only proper for Mormons to follow Jesus Christ. After all, it is his Church, right? Pete, free agency gives you the right to choose whom you will follow. You can choose to follow the arm of the flesh (human leaders) blindly, but as for me and my house we will follow the Lord.

  76. Kaimi July 17, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Let me pitch in for a second in support of Tatiana’s “laughable” approach.

    There is no way, on the face of it, to reconcile general relativity and quantum mechanics. They just don’t work together. General relativity explains gravity, and quantum mechanics explains the other forces. They are both very well-accepted theories. General relativity does a great job of explaining the larger universe, and quantum mechanics does a great job of explaining what happens at the teeny-tiny atomic scale.

    There is no way on the face of it to make the two work together. And so scientists come up with all sorts of potential ways to try to make them harmonize – none of which work very well.

    The current approach that seems to be most popular is string theory, which solves the problem through a number of complicated steps including the addition of six or ten (or more!) extra dimensions.

    Take two facts, both of which are known to be true, which do not reconcile — and make them work, by adding several extra dimensions.

    This is known as cutting-edge science.

  77. Lincoln July 17, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Well now Kaimi, its nice to see you. I’d love to participate with you and your friends on BCC, but was queued after one post. It’s nice to be able to associate with believers such as yourself, who support new and weird theories. I guess if people can call NOMs weird, then its OK to call unfounded irrational theories weird.

    A true believer such as yourself must find beauty and awe in the ability to take whatever fanciful scientific theories exist in the world, and twist them inside out, in an effort to support 19th century religious documents. String theory is just that. A theory. Quantum mechanics gives some people just enough “evidence” to believe in a God. Neither of these theories have anything to do whatsoever with Book of Mormon geography. Come on. You’re a smart guy. You know that.

    Unfortunately, unproven theories of physics have nothing to do with a 19th century document comporting to be an actual history of a Hebrew people that traveled to America. (In our dimension)

    Your loyalty to the cause is commendable. Your intellectual ability limits your ability to argue for an extremely improbably theory. I understand the bind where you are caught.

  78. Equality July 17, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    Pete, part of the difficulty in just saying “follow the prophets” is that the prophets are not consistent. So, to follow the prophets you must pick and choose which ones you follow. Even following just one prophet is difficult because they are not internally consistent. What I mean is Gordon B. Hinckley not only contradicts John Taylor and Brigham Young but also Gordon Hinckley. You cite the “scriptures” as your authority, but the scriptures are also internally contradictory. Now, all sorts of apologetic arguments can be made to reconcile the contradictions in the scriptures and the words of the prophets, but the fact is even the most faithful, dedicated “follower” of the prophets and the scriptures will have to “pick and choose” which words to adhere to and which to disregard.

    Incidentally, it has been my experience, and I am just speaking for me here and giving my own personal opinion, that the most confused people tend to be the ones who most forcefully attest to their own lack of confusion.


  79. Clay July 17, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    “It says in the scriptures you are either for me or against me.”

    Pete, one thing you have to understand about NOMism, OK I can only speak for myself, but I AM “for” God and that is precisely the motivation for the color and shape of my faith today. The common misconception about alternative-view Mormons (whether they stay in or not) is that they somehow are less spiritual, care less about the Gospel, or are less devoted to God than those that hold a traditional testimony.

    There are many of us who come to our conclusions because we cared enough to really want to know everything about our faith, discovered some inconvenient facts, and have come to a different conclusion than you. Its certainly disturbing to imagine that someone could seek the truth using the same prescribed methods (prayer, fasting, study, even temple attendance, etc.) and then receive a sort of anti-confirmation about things someone else felt confirmed by the same process. But it does happen.

    I am glad you are not confused, too, Pete. I am also glad I know what I know. I like that my faith is not static and that it only exists by its strength to stand against challenge, because in the end all that will be left of it is what is strong enough to endure. Sort of a wheat/chaff thing.

  80. John Dehlin July 17, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    Love you all. Maybe it’s time to close the thread?

  81. John Dehlin July 17, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    P.S. For the record, Kaimi wanted the following to be known, “could one of you be kind enough to point out to the 16th President that I don’t blog at BCC? And that as a non-BCC blogger, I really don’t have anything to do with his banning (or whatever else) there.”

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