The Shins will change your life.

Spo­ken by a young Natal­ie Port­man in the cult indie clas­sic Gar­den State, The Shins real­ly have changed my life, pro­vid­ing a ther­a­peu­tic sound­track to my tran­si­tion out of the church.

They have always been a favorite band of mine (cred­it the impec­ca­ble music taste of my wife) but it was­n’t until I expe­ri­enced my own per­son­al faith cri­sis that I began to real­ly under­stand what front man James Mer­cer was talk­ing about.

His songs describe in cryp­tic poet­ry the expe­ri­ence of dis­cov­er­ing the world anew after a life­time of blind­ness. The song Young Pil­grims has a vivid­ly famil­iar lyric;

… and of course I was raised to gath­er courage from those lofty tales so tried and true, and if you’re able I’d sug­gest it ’cause this mod­ern though can get the best of you…’

I too was raised on ‘lofty tales’.

For bet­ter or worse, the tales told to me about my pre­ex­is­tence and my poten­tial exal­ta­tion did in fact give me courage. They embold­ened me to walk through life with my chin held high, con­fi­dent in my pur­pose and in my tra­jec­to­ry. This cer­tain­ty of pur­pose, repeat­ed and rein­forced, inspired me and made life eas­i­er than it oth­er­wise might have been.

That is, until more ‘mod­ern thought(s)’ got the best of me. I could­n’t help the devel­op­ment of a skep­ti­cal mind any more than I could help the devel­op­ment of facial hair. And even if I could pre­vent it, why would I. Every major achieve­ment in mod­ern civ­i­liza­tion seems to have come about when curi­ous skep­tics ques­tioned the sta­tus quo.

I admire men and women who have devel­oped the ques­tion­ing spir­it, who are unafraid of new ideas… Thoughts and expres­sions com­pete in the mar­ket­place of thought, and in that com­pe­ti­tion truth emerges tri­umphant…’ ‑Hugh B. Brown

There seems to be a war rag­ing with­in the church against this very free­dom of inde­pen­dent thought. Strict adher­ence to author­i­ty is val­ued above all else. It flour­ish­es under the guise of pro­tect­ing mem­bers from the cun­ning adver­sary. He coun­ter­feits truth with such pre­ci­sion that even the elite can­not pos­si­bly dis­tin­guish the difference.

This mes­sage has been firm­ly plant­ed in the minds of a devout rule-fol­low­ing mem­ber­ship. Mem­bers of the church are will­ing to raise their hand to the square and con­se­crate EVERYTHING they have to it. It is no sur­prise then that wide­ly accept­ed schol­ar­ly evi­dence refut­ing the legit­i­ma­cy of the Church’s truth claims fall on deaf ears and blind eyes.

I am con­vinced that The Church of Jesus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints is not what it claims to be. I would not have renounced my Mor­monism if the facts did­n’t add up to this con­clu­sion. It is con­found­ing to me, how­ev­er, that what is so obvi­ous and clear to me now is nei­ther obvi­ous nor clear to everyone.

For exam­ple, the recent church hand­book pol­i­cy changes deal­ing with LGBTQ offend­ers and their chil­dren are so obvi­ous­ly wrong in my eyes, but the defend­ers of the faith seem to col­lec­tive­ly share remarks sound­ing some­thing like this:

… God’s ways are high­er than our ways.… we don’t under­stand every­thing now but all will be revealed through his mar­velous plan of hap­pi­ness… stand with the brethren. They are spe­cial wit­ness­es of Christ and God won’t let them lead us astray. PERIOD, THE END.

And here­in lies the prob­lem. It is con­tra­dic­to­ry to believe that the brethren are ONLY act­ing in accor­dance with God’s will while also believ­ing that the new pol­i­cy change is a ter­ri­ble big­ot­ed witch hunt. It is con­tra­dic­to­ry to believe that Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus in a vision and was called by them to trans­late the Book of Mor­mon while also believ­ing that the Book of Mor­mon can’t pos­si­bly be his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate. It is con­tra­dic­to­ry to believe that the Church is true while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly rec­og­niz­ing and acknowl­edg­ing all the rea­sons it could not pos­si­bly be.

To para­phrase Ayn Rand, ‘Con­tra­dic­tions do not exist. When­ev­er you think you are fac­ing a con­tra­dic­tion, check your premis­es, one of them is incorrect.’

Too many mem­bers arrive at their con­vic­tions using premis­es that are in all like­li­hood incor­rect. There seem to be three promi­nent premis­es that pre­vent lev­el head­ed log­ic from influ­enc­ing believ­ers to ques­tion their conclusion.

1. The Church is true, what else is there to say.

The church has enor­mous grav­i­ta­tion­al pull on your thoughts. From time to time, believ­ing mem­bers might shoot up a skep­ti­cal though or idea after read­ing upset­ting details of Joseph Smiths polygamy or after dis­cov­er­ing that there is NO arche­o­log­i­cal evi­dence to sup­port the his­toric­i­ty of the Book of Mor­mon. But while evi­dence is strong and a prece­dent of dis­sent has been estab­lished, grav­i­ty works its mag­ic and betray­ing thoughts even­tu­al­ly fall back to the warm­ing embrace of ‘the church is true’.

The prob­lem is being worked out in the wrong order. The answer has already been estab­lished. The premis­es can be estab­lished lat­er. Or not at all, what dif­fer­ence does it make? Like I said, the answer has already been estab­lished. The church is true.

2. The lead­ers talk to God

It’s unfor­tu­nate that one of the worst scrip­tures in the LDS can­non is also one of the catchi­est and eas­i­est to memorize.

Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my ser­vants, it is the same.’

How do you argue with that!? It’s pret­ty clear. When church mem­bers sus­tain mem­bers of the gov­ern­ing body of the church as prophets, they pro­fess belief that these men speak to God in a more lit­er­al sense than ‘reg­u­lar’ peo­ple speak with God. It is wide­ly under­stood by church mem­bers that a spe­cial con­nec­tion exists between church lead­ers and God in which God tells them direct­ly (face to face) how do run the church. They are self pro­fessed mouth­pieces of God, and when they stand in con­fer­ence and say ‘these are not the droids you are look­ing for’ it is no dif­fer­ent than God him­self issu­ing the warning.

As long as church lead­er­ship con­tin­ue to put them­selves on a pedestal equal to that of Christ and for­bid mem­bers from crit­i­ciz­ing their author­i­ty, mem­bers will con­tin­ue to give them the keys to the king­dom and fall on their every word.

3. Pas­cal’s Wager

Para­phrased, Pas­cal’s Wager sug­gests that because it is impos­si­ble to prove or dis­prove the exis­tence of God, you might be bet­ter off guess­ing in the affir­ma­tive. The stakes are very high and guess­ing oth­er­wise might have dire consequences.

I con­cede that as long as you are con­scious­ly aware of your wager, this par­tic­u­lar premise for believ­ing is less illog­i­cal than the pre­vi­ous two, but still seems to fly in the face of Christ’s para­ble of the tal­ents. You are choos­ing fear of dis­be­lief just like the wicked and sloth­ful ser­vant feared mis­han­dling the tal­ent giv­en him by his master.

We don’t know what hap­pened to the guy who received tal­ents from the mas­ter, invest­ed them, and lost them all. This guy is miss­ing from the sto­ry, but the Jesus I could believe in would hope­ful­ly tell the ser­vant, ‘nice try, you came up short but it was bet­ter than doing noth­ing. Sor­ry you bet on the wrong side. That’s what the atone­ment is for. Let’s go grab some coffee.’

It seems intu­itive­ly supe­ri­or to make the wrong deci­sion based on actu­al evi­dence than to make the right deci­sion based on no evi­dence. James Mer­cer’s sug­ges­tion that you stick with your wager ‘if you’re able’ is a sar­cas­tic crit­i­cism of the indif­fer­ent and apa­thet­ic, and not an actu­al invi­ta­tion to con­tin­ue in ignorance.

Com­mit­ted mem­bers of the church (my for­mer self includ­ed) find it dif­fi­cult to imag­ine a world in which the church is not true and the prophet is not a prophet. Even in the face of strong evi­dence and sound rea­son it is prefer­able to feign belief rather than face a fright­en­ing reality.

But those who man­age to jump from the hook and ques­tion the premis­es upon which their beliefs are found­ed might dis­cov­er that they don’t stand up to healthy scruti­ny. Only after you have dis­cov­ered cor­rect premis­es can you come to a cor­rect conclusion.

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Dave Mack
January 11, 2016 5:15 pm


When you say “there is NO arche­o­log­i­cal evi­dence to sup­port the his­toric­i­ty of the Book of Mor­mon” you could­n’t be fur­ther from the truth. Although there is no evi­dence in meso amer­i­ca. There is archae­o­log­i­cal, dna, his­tor­i­cal, cul­tur­al and arti­facts that sup­port the Book of Mor­mon in North Amer­i­ca see links below.

Tech­nol­o­gy and animals‑3/


Native Amer­i­can ties to Hebrews‑4/

Jared­ites and a Cau­casian race of Indian‑1/

Sources cit­ed‑6/

New Geog­ra­phy model‑5/

Reply to  Dave Mack
January 11, 2016 6:32 pm


Thank you for tak­ing the time to read my post.

I dis­agree.



Dave Mack
Reply to  Scott
January 12, 2016 4:57 pm

If you can dis­prove any of it let me know.

Reply to  Dave Mack
January 13, 2016 8:22 pm

Hi David,
Like Scott, I dis­agree too and can dis­prove your claims. Let’s not do it on Scot­t’s post. Email me at tapirrider1@​gmail.​com

Dave Mack
Reply to 
January 15, 2016 10:26 pm


I would pre­fer to dis­cuss this in the com­ment sec­tion of each sec­tion. Feel free to pro­vide your evi­dence in the core­spond­ing topic.

Tech­nol­o­gy and animals‑3/


Native Amer­i­can ties to Hebrews‑4/

Jared­ites and a Cau­casian race of Indian‑1/

Sources cit­ed‑6/

New Geog­ra­phy model‑5/