Thursday, July 16, 2009

He Said: When Gospel Conversations are a Waste of Time

Having grown up a Roman Catholic I haven't always been as open about listening to other religions as BiV. In fact I told the LDS missionaries to get lost on at least two occasions in my life. Both times I was miffed because they were obnoxious and inconsiderate of my opinions and a drain on my time. I talked with them when I had an interest after reading the Book of Mormon and solicited the missionary discussions all seven in one day because I didn't want to be pressured to join if I didn't want to. Theologically to me the argument wasn't openness but authority. I felt that the Catholic Church at one time held the keys but there was a falling away and the LDS Church and Joseph Smith were a restoration of the same primitive Church.

Even though I served a mission I had the same expectation while a missionary that I was seeking the honest in heart that would let me in only if they wanted and held a similar viewpoint. I never got too upset or depressed when people slammed the door in my face. I was on a mission to find those already prepared and fortunately I never baptized people that had to be persuaded from already established other religion. The thirty-eight people who joined the church just plain didn't believe in the existing religion they had once belonged to and where seeking the truth. I learned early as a missionary that "a man convinced against his own will remains of the same opinion still."

On my mission I saw the competition for finding new people was usually Jehovah's Witnesses. It was unfortunate for us because they sweep in a neighborhood. A group of ten or twenty of them go out together and knock the same houses. People were not inclined to even talk to us if they had been recently swept. I encountered them about a dozen times in my life and on my mission I once went to a couple of discussions with an elder in their church. He was trying to convert my companion and me rather than the other way around. I was very turned off by the depressing belief that our spirits are held in the collective mind of God and that our bodies rot in the ground unless we are one of the 144,000 then our spirits live on. I also considered it the height of arrogance that a non-Jehovah witness could not pray with them. I have caused Jehovah Witness women teachers to get up and leave when I start praying since only they believe they can pray to God in a gathering. Over the years my wife has let them in the door or accepted their literature whenever they come by. She even attended their once a year sacrament meeting. Of course she couldn't take of the sacrament since only one of the 144,000 can. On a couple of occasions I have driven them mad when I insist that I know that I am one of the 144,000 because I have had a couple of experiences where I have walked and talked with Jesus. In fact I would take the sacrament if I attended because I definitely feel I am one of the high priests that is mentioned in the Bible. I read a pamphlet on my mission by Mark E. Petersen that talked about some of these doctrines that he said are mistaken beliefs and I still remember that he said that they were sincere people, sincerely wrong.

I don't agree that we should listen to just anyone who comes along. On the few occasions when I listened to other religious groups it was some pretty whacked out stuff. Once I listened to a New Age guy read to me from the Book of Urantia. It was some heady stuff even Joseph Smith seemed tame compared to its premises which mingled Christian doctrine in. In fact they would accept Joseph Smith as a prophet. I also encountered many Bahai's who thought Joseph Smith and Muhammed great teachers as was Jesus Christ.

My concern isn't just the time you spend listening but when you aid someone that feels you are an unbeliever. When I was going to school at BYU I lived on the west side of Provo. One day I came home from school and my wife had invited six fundamentalist missionaries all who were between sixteen and eighteen to have dinner. When it became about nine o'clock and they hadn't left I started to get concerned. She never asked me if they could sleep there. Finally I was able to get her alone and she said they were going without purse and script and she told them they could stay with us a day or two. It miffed me because not only did I have to listen to them attack my religion I was aiding and abetting those who would destroy other members faith. I didn't feel good that they were using my apartment as a base for their efforts. When I engaged them in a conversation they weren't especially interested in honest discussion and conceded that neither of us was going to feel any different. The funny thing was that a year later one of them supposedly converted to Mormonism and was a student at BYU. Now that I know they infiltrate the church I wonder if this girl was pretending to convert so she could go to the temple eventually.

I unlike my wife don't see what they do as harmless. One time I was assigned to be a home teacher to an infiltrated fundamentalist who was attending medical school in Missouri. She had moved in to our ward and she and her children were attending church like members in full fellowship. On my first visit as I was walking downstairs to give them a home teaching lesson in their family room I looked up at the wall and saw a photograph with an older man surrounded by about four or five women and a couple dozen children. Without missing a beat I said is that your husband and his wives and children. She said how did you know? I said the spirit just revealed it to me. Needless to say when I reported it to the bishop things were slightly different. I did met the husband who told me his convoluted story with which I was totally unimpressed. I felt sorry for the women he caused to lose their membership in the true church, the loss of his first marriage and wife, and it confirmed my attitude that we should be selective in what we listen to. It gave me a sick feeling in my gut to see how devious Satan really can be. The only value I see in listening to everyone is that if you have the Holy Spirit you will be able to cut through the crap.

Today I believe as I am getting older and have less time on this earth that we should have partially open minds and be discerning or selective in what messages we listen to. Even when I go to a job-related conference I get up and walk out if a lecture is boring or not of great value and I go to a different one. I don't have time to hear everything. I figure it is like when I first heard about Mormonism if the Lord wants me to hear it I will eventually hear it. If something resonates with me I listen if not I do other things.


  1. Dr. B ~ I was very turned off by the depressing belief that our spirits are held in the collective mind of God and that our bodies rot in the ground unless we are one of the 144,000 then our spirits live on.

    I don't think this is an accurate summary of JW beliefs on the afterlife. They believe that only 144,000 faithful will be resurrected to reign in heaven with Jesus; the rest of the faithful will be resurrected to a blissful existence on paradise earth. See here for example.

    That probably still isn't a great outlook to a Latter-day Saint since Mormonism teaches a demi-universalism, but it's worlds better than the common misconception that JWs believe only 144,000 are living on in the next life.

  2. That brings up an interesting point. When you aren't willing to let others into your home and into your life to have good gospel conversations, you often end up with an appalling lack of religious literacy. I think it's important for all of us to have at least some idea about the core beliefs of major religions. It makes for better relationships with our fellow man, and contributes greatly to world peace.

    1. Would you iterate on major religious and their core purposes?

  3. I remember an Australian atheist who flew to Salt Lake (as I remember) as a missionary to Mormons. He was, as far as I can tell, universally run off by Mormons. So, like those Mormons, you have a perfectly clear double standard--you and your kids should be listened to; others of different faiths, not so much.

    Good to know. FWIW, I always talk to missionaries of whatever belief. They're always Christian, bizarrely, but they never know anything but a handful of biblical scriptures, if non-mormon; if Mormon, they know nothing but a handful of bibilical scriptures which they're willing to cast to the wind when queried, and they know nothing but a handful of BOM/DC/POGP scriptures, too.

    The conversation is always pointless, as one half doesn't know enough to actually have a discussion. Maybe one day I'll get a literate missionary of whatever faith, but I somehow doubt it.

  4. ps. One man, multiple women and kids in the context of mormonism? That's not a revelation, it's good sense.

  5. The 144,ooo ,2 of which are the '2 witnesses"herald the 2nd coming o Christ thru song.

  6. And what say you about reincarnation? I am a returned missionary (multiple missions) who left the church because the leaders don't believe it and carry on a public charade while acting differently in private or saying differently in private.

    I waited for years and years for God to guide me to new paths of truth. Recently I have come to believe in reincarnation and karma.

    Mormonism is a step in the right direction, if you live your life right. What is the highest heaven? Never needing to reincarnate again because one has been so righteous that she/he no longer needs to suffer the travails of this world to learn life's lessons.

  7. PS I'll be surprised if you keep my post on reincarnation on this post. I note that it is the first one of its kind. . . .as it is far removed (or is it) from the original teachings of Christ? There is a book that I have read recently on how Christ's teachings on reincanation were removed from the gospels. It has been in studying Reincarnation, Karma, and the "I AM" that Christ taught that I have begun to have a clearer understanding of Jesus the Christ and who he was and what he taught that is mangled by modern Christianity and Mormonism.

    Example: When in the early 1970s, Catholicism and the infallible papacy were demeaned by LDS leaders with the adage that "Individual revelation confirms what the prophet says is the true word of God." By whom and when in the LDS church tradition was it that changed to "When the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done." No credit given, hence, for individual revelation on the part of the member. Sounds to me like good ol'LDS prophetic infallibility.

  8. I believe that LDS prophetic infallibility began when the church leaders observed their waning power and control over their congregations and members. It was a desperate grab at mind control. The same happened in the Catholic church where leaders used to have a stranglehold on their members. History repeats itself and unless we know it we are doomed to repeat it.

  9. Obviously truth and honesty are public prerequisites for a temple recommend.

    How are lawyers able then to be bishops and stake presidents?

    Look at the legal code of ethics. It also requires one to be a purveyor of truth, integrity, and uprightness.

    I believe it was LDS Ninth Circuit Judge Jay Bybee that crafted the "Torture Justification" for the Bush-Cheney regime.

    Would Christ have condoned this very appearance of evil?

    Would he have shunned the appearance of evil?

    Would he have nefariously devised a means to hurt others?

    No, Christ replaced and healed the ear of the Roman soldier. He had nothing to do with violence.

    Why have Mormon leaders fled Christ's pacifistic life? They themselves have refused to examine themselves and their militaristic leanings and their own anti-thesis to Christ's teachings in this regard.

  10. Anon, this is a Mormon-friendly blog, and what's more, you're WAY off topic. But I will address a FEW of your points. First, what evidence do you have that the leaders don't believe and are carrying on a public charade? I have conversed personally with one of the prophets and several Apostles, and I just don't see it this way. I feel sure they are quite sincere. Next, there are fringe groups who believe in reincarnation (Multiple Mortal Probation). For example, Sterling Allen and James Harmston. However, recently I have started to see some more reputable sources discussing the doctrine (see NCT and the Mormon Transhumanist Society.

  11. We don't mind you discussing the topic of reincarnation here, but only if it is on topic with our posts, and while being respectful to the LDS Church. Thank you.

  12. I would appreciate you advising me where I had been disrespectful.

    I simply stated what my experience had been with church leaders all the way to current church Prophet Thomas S. Monson.

    I wish to avoid personalizing my experiences on this blog. They were similar to that of President Benson's grandson before he and his wife asked that their names be taken off the church rolls.

    I am not an atheist as Steve Benson is. I believe in God. I believe that church leaders and some members have strayed far from the teachings of Jesus Christ . . . and how could they be so different 2000 years later than they were at the time he walked the earth?

    I am interested in what Mormon groups are discussing reincarnation. Thank you for that insight.

  13. I believe I was reacting to the statement and I quote:

    "The conversation is always pointless, as one half doesn't know enough to actually have a discussion. Maybe one day I'll get a literate missionary of whatever faith, but I somehow doubt it."

    I am literate and possess two Masters degrees; I have contemplated seeking a doctorate. I had been an LDS missionary four times before leaving the church. I have no animosity to church members. Members have treated me well for the most part. The members are good people fundamentally.

  14. These are not my words. These words appeared on in March 2009.

    This is the sentiment that I believe is growing with countless members contemplating leaving. I have left. I hold no resentment at this point. This person does for the deceptions foisted upon him. I easily walked away and met many kind and some not so kind LDS who chose to judge me. Unlike this brother, I am single and have no binding bonds of family to hold me in the church. These words remind me of an elder I knew for a number of years. His words are tragic and desperate.

    from "Open Letter to the First Presidency" March 2009

    Your understanding of the culture you created and perpetuate through established programs is dismal. You preach adherence to the guidance of the brethren; you promise blessings for obedience to programs and leaders; you build a structure of dependence and hierarchical authoritarianism; you inculcate an environment of conformance without regard to individuality; and you do all of this with the stated intent of blessing and improving lives, relationships and family bonds. Your programs have evolved into a culture with the opposite effect than the one you intended; members feel constantly inadequate regardless of their effort; families pressure struggling children with bad advice that comes from your talks and books; you raise the bar, a blatant slap in the face to those who do not fit within your misguided program. Programs flounder not because of poor execution but because they are poor programs. When such negative results reach your ears, you are saddened that the poor members just do not see the vision; that they cannot learn the vital lessons. It never occurs to you that your inspiration and leadership is the flawed element. Either you are uninspired or uninformed, but your leadership is causing more suffering than blessings. But this is not really about bad programs. Rather, it is about faulty foundations. I do not expect you to acknowledge that the church is not what it claims to be, but I demand that you acknowledge your part in the failures. Stop blaming failure on the members. It is cheap and dishonest.

    So, I am angry to the point of despair. I do not expect you to do anything with this information, except try to track me down and deal with me through your secret “committees”. I would resign today if I thought my family could remain intact. But I will continue to coax my family closer to the truth with longsuffering and gentle persuasion, and when they can see the real story without demonizing their father, son, and husband, then I will relish our departure and be rid of you and your unrighteous dominion. Someday I will not be so afraid of your influence, and I will confront your abuse of power directly.

    Your success is over. You had a small window of opportunity to be forthcoming and open, and you have missed it. History is against you. Science is against you. TRUTH is against you. As you become more closed and protective, you will appear more ridiculous from the outside. Even though you will probably interpret this result to be “prophecy fulfilled,” the result will be the same. Enjoy your last breath of illusory comfort, because it will not last.

    I am not alone. I am part of a growing community of knowledgeable members who will not be silenced for long. You have no idea how to deal with us because you fear our power. You fear it because you know that truth is on our side. I would feel pity for you except for the inexpiable arrogance that you currently display without remorse. The law of the harvest will be your undoing. You have sown seeds of benevolent deception; you shall reap a harvest of faithful rebellion..


    Faithful Apostate

  15. For the full (unedited) transcript of the above letter . . .

    I took the ending only see the article "An Open Letter to the Leadership of the Mormon Church."

  16. And . . . .