It seems like every few weeks we hear about some­one being called to a dis­ci­pli­nary court for apos­ta­sy for dar­ing to speak out about their unbe­lief. Usu­al­ly, the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion is that pub­licly ques­tion­ing the church’s teach­ings caus­es oth­ers to lose faith and to doubt, thus we are lead­ing peo­ple out of the church. Fre­quent­ly, they claim we are try­ing to con­vince oth­ers to leave. I think in some cas­es, this is prob­a­bly true. How­ev­er, my guess is the major­i­ty of cas­es are not an attempt to con­vince oth­ers to leave. At least, I think this is the case in the begin­ning.

Looking for answers

Pub­licly stat­ing our doubts is done in an attempt to get answers. There real­ly aren’t a lot of church sources to pro­vide answers to the ques­tions we have. We’ve looked. If they are there and we can’t find them, then the church has­n’t done a good job at mak­ing them avail­able. Seri­ous­ly, if there were good answers pro­vid­ed, they would spread like wild­fire through the ques­tion­ing com­mu­ni­ty. If you don’t believe me, just look at the essays the church recent­ly pub­lished. When each one was released, links were post­ed in the var­i­ous forums where we con­gre­gate. In fact, some peo­ple have scripts run­ning that mon­i­tor the Gospel Top­ics sec­tion of the church’s web­site for changes and new con­tent. We were the ones who let oth­er mem­bers know about the essays. We were the ones who let our lead­ers know about the essays. It was­n’t Salt Lake that informed the local lead­ers — that came lat­er. Many dis­cus­sions ensued. Peo­ple dis­cussed both the mer­its and the fail­ings of each essay.

These essays were writ­ten because peo­ple pub­licly spoke out about their ques­tions, doubts and con­cerns. Peo­ple left the church because the church had no answers, so the church final­ly pro­duced the essays. The peo­ple I have spo­ken with have hon­est­ly been search­ing for answers. They stopped car­ing as much where those answers would lead, they only want­ed to know the truth as far as it can be known. If that led them back to belief, great! Things would be so much eas­i­er if we could go back to the way things were before we start­ed doubt­ing. If that lead them away from belief, fine, as long as the answers were cred­i­ble and suf­fi­cient. It is a long­ing for truth, not just for a com­fort­ing answer.

Attempt to inform

Have you ever been in a sce­nario where you learn some­thing that affects the rea­sons why you do things? Per­haps at work, you have a rou­tine task and you learn that it isn’t hav­ing the desired out­come. If your cowork­ers are giv­en the same task, do you just let them keep doing it or do you let them know that it isn’t work­ing? Should­n’t you raise your voice and say, “hey, this isn’t doing what we thought it was doing”? Why should it be any dif­fer­ent for some­thing that impacts every facet of our lives? If deci­sions are made on bad assump­tions, and we know those assump­tions are bad, should­n’t we speak up and let oth­ers know so they can make informed deci­sions?

When I first learned of the myr­i­ad issues in church his­to­ry, I could­n’t fig­ure out why I had nev­er heard about any of them. How could I have stud­ied the gospel so much, served a mis­sion, grad­u­at­ed from sem­i­nary and insti­tute, and taught many class­es and nev­er hear about these issues? It did­n’t seem right that I should be igno­rant of so many things, or that those things should be with­held from me in my attempts to learn more. I would rather know the truth, than be bliss­ful­ly igno­rant. I felt I owed the same con­sid­er­a­tion to oth­ers. Pro­vide them with the infor­ma­tion and let them decide for them­selves how they want to han­dle it. It isn’t for me to decide what parts of his­to­ry are impor­tant to them. In spite of its sense of author­i­ty and respon­si­bil­i­ty, the church does not have that right, either.

Isolation

Peo­ple suf­fer when they are iso­lat­ed, but thrive when they can inter­act with oth­ers. That inter­ac­tion may only be with a small num­ber of peo­ple, or it may need to be large num­bers of peo­ple, but that need for inter­ac­tion is an inte­gral part of our basic needs. Lead­ers in the church often instruct us to not dis­cuss our doubts with oth­ers. Some peo­ple are even told they should­n’t dis­cuss their doubts with their own spouse. This is harm­ful to the human psy­che, and incred­i­bly harm­ful to the mar­i­tal rela­tion­ship. So, some peo­ple speak out to bat­tle the dam­age they feel being done to them. Oth­ers speak out in order to let oth­ers who are doubt­ing know that there is some­one who under­stands and they can talk to. I can not state this more clear­ly. Requir­ing some­one to remain silent about their doubts and con­cerns is harm­ful and abu­sive! This is why peo­ple are will­ing to speak up in the face of excom­mu­ni­ca­tion or shun­ning.

What is the real problem?

These ques­tions, doubts and con­cerns aren’t the real prob­lem. Peo­ple speak­ing pub­licly about them is not the real prob­lem, either. The real prob­lem is the answers to the ques­tions, doubts, and con­cerns, or in many cas­es the lack of an answer.

Let’s be hon­est. For the major­i­ty of the time, the church has remained silent regard­ing the many ques­tions peo­ple have about church his­to­ry. His­to­ri­ans and writ­ers have been bring­ing up the issues for decades. Some were excom­mu­ni­cat­ed for pre­sent­ing them in a neg­a­tive light. Some were excom­mu­ni­cat­ed for pre­sent­ing them in an aca­d­e­m­ic man­ner. Some wrote about them from a faith­ful per­spec­tive and escaped pun­ish­ment. How­ev­er, until the church released their essays, they sim­ply remained silent. In a few rare cas­es, they briefly men­tioned an issue or two in pass­ing, but with no mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sion. Remain­ing silent has kept the church free from crit­i­cism for say­ing the wrong thing and caus­ing large num­bers of peo­ple to stop believ­ing. How­ev­er, it has not kept them free from the crit­i­cism for remain­ing silent, and thus being accused (right­ly in my opin­ion) of hid­ing things. This is what the church would term a sin of omis­sion. Accord­ing to their own man­u­al, this is con­sid­ered lying. “We can also inten­tion­al­ly deceive oth­ers by a ges­ture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. When­ev­er we lead peo­ple in any way to believe some­thing that is not true, we are not being hon­est.”

When the church does decide to speak about one of the issues, the answer can also be a prob­lem. In many cas­es, the essays val­i­dat­ed many of the claims of “anti-mor­mons”. For years, they have been say­ing Joseph Smith mar­ried young girls and already mar­ried women. The church’s essay con­firms these facts. This nat­u­ral­ly makes some­one curi­ous to know what oth­er things have been denied by the church that are real­ly true. Addi­tion­al­ly, the essays are couched in lan­guage that sounds like a polit­i­cal speech, or the speech of some­one apol­o­giz­ing for being caught doing some­thing wrong. Had I not already researched many of the top­ics, I might not have seen through the spin. Being informed of the issues before­hand, though, I could iden­ti­fy many cas­es where the essays left out details that did not sup­port the church’s posi­tion. So, in my case, the answers the church pro­vid­ed did more harm than good. I held out hope that the church would address the issues in an upfront and hon­est man­ner. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I felt like they were try­ing to con­tin­ue to deceive me. Many times I want­ed to scream out, “Just be hon­est with me!”

Ques­tions are not the prob­lem. Doubts are not the prob­lem. Speak­ing pub­licly about ques­tions and doubts is not the prob­lem. The real prob­lem is that the hon­est and com­plete answers do not sup­port the church’s claims. The real prob­lem is that the church does not want to relin­quish and dimin­ish their pow­er and author­i­ty over the mem­ber­ship. They are afraid that peo­ple will see through the lies and obfus­ca­tion and leave in droves. Some would remain, but a large por­tion would not wish to con­tin­ue ded­i­cat­ing so much of their time and mon­ey to an orga­ni­za­tion that has lied to and defraud­ed them. Some would see those lies and fraud as jus­ti­fi­able since they believe it is God’s only true and liv­ing church and helped peo­ple to believe. Per­son­al­ly, I have no use for a god who would endorse or jus­ti­fy such dis­hon­est and abu­sive behav­ior.

cross post­ed from https://​uncor​re​lat​ed​mor​mon​.word​press​.com/​2​0​1​5​/​0​5​/​2​2​/​o​u​r​-​q​u​e​s​t​i​o​n​s​-​a​r​e​n​t​-​t​h​e​-​p​r​oblem/

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