“I had doubts for years, but I did not want to disappoint my family”
“I gave up believing a long time ago but I love what the church stands for.”
“I wanted to leave and stop pretending but I had too much to lose”
“When I got high enough in the church, I thought they would have answers but they told me they did not believe either – just keep marching on or you will lose everything.”
“Don’t say anything about Joseph Smith – even if it is true I don’t want to hear it”
I enjoy talking to others about their faith experiences and reading about them. I particularly enjoy talking with the young men of the LDS Church when they visit my house. I completely disagree with their doctrine and pray that they be saved, but my heart aches for them as they do what they do often thinking it is for the Lord. I love talking with them about the Jesus of the Bible particularly because He is so different from the version put out by the Mormon faith. Saved by faith alone not by works so that none can boast is worlds away from the complicated works based self justification program that they call grace.
In one encounter with two very nice young men on my front porch it became apparent quite early on that one of them had no interest in what I had to say, no shock there. What was interesting this time was that he also had no interest in Mormon doctrine or history either.
He was there because he had to be and did not care one way or the other whether it was true. He did not even want to know if they were. His family was Mormon, his friends were, his neighbors were and his future employers were, he just did not care if it was wrong, that is what he was going to be. He was going to follow in his families footsteps and check all the boxes necessary to do so regardless of whether it was true or not.
The truth of the claims of Joseph Smith simply did not matter to him, he was marching on regardless of truth.
I was shocked at the time, though I probably shouldn’t have been. What I have discovered since then that has been more surprising is just how common this attitude is – it is even evidently joked about in the Broadway play about the Mormon Church.
From the outside what looks like a solid monolith of a church, dedicated missionaries with their starched shirts and soaring temples in actuality seems to be far from that.
With the free availability of information particularly through the internet that soundly destroys the historical basis for the church as claimed by Joseph Smith, it seems that there is a long line of people within the Mormon faith who are questioning things they had previously taken for granted and coming to unsatisfying conclusions. They are testing the narratives they have been told to cling to their whole lives and finding them empty, hollow and false.
The strange thing is the response. It seems there is a large number of the Mormon faith who having discovered the glaring and obvious flaws of the church doctrine and particularly the claimed history and despite not getting any answers from the church….they just decide to soldier on.
Without truth, without hope, just holding onto the structure of the church without any sort of faith involved they trudge on with a smile plastered on their face as they wither away inside. It is incredibly sad.
Because of the cultural cost of leaving the Mormon church, an all encompassing organization, is so high they decide to stay quiet and gut it out for reasons that have nothing to do with God.
A rationalization and reconciliation process seems to take place where they decide what they need to hang their hats on in order to keep going. What do I need to tell myself to keep marching to a tune that I know is false? Some simply say that the structure is good for their family, some say that the church does good things otherwise, some are just afraid of leaving the protective envelope of the church, different thought processes dealing with the same ugly truth.
They then live with that compromise rather than make a change, some for their entire lives. One father recently admitted that he hadn’t believed in 40 years but raised his 7 kids and encouraged his many grandkids to be raised in the church. He did not want to lose that family connection that the church so emphasizes. Sure he was miserable pretending because he realized his faith was based upon lies, but they did not know that and they seem so happy.
Even more surprisingly, when one of his sons became a Christian, he tried to talk him back to the church then cut him off from further family interactions….because of a faith he did not believe in. The cost of cutting off the son was less than the cost of admitting what he knew was true and cutting off the church.
As one former Mormon put it, “Everyone knows that the Book of Abraham is obviously false, it is the reason there is no Mormon Egyptologists, but the overall message of the books was good. I was so far in by that point I had too much to lose.”
Another stated, “I kept expecting the next group of peers that I became part of in the church to be different from my current one, to have answers to the huge doubts I had. Each time I would get to the next level, they would just say wait, it will be better when you reach the next point. Finally, I reached a leadership position where I thought all the secrets were kept and they would finally have the answers. There everyone just agreed that there were no answers and it wasn’t true but we needed to keep that to ourselves so that we wouldn’t hurt those around us.”
Keep smiling and pretending so that others who are smiling and pretending don’t stop smiling and pretending.
Familial, cultural and economic ties are so strong that people are left in the strange position of being like the young man on the front porch, just not caring what the truth is – God or no God, he was going to be a Mormon and did not want to hear it.
There also apparently develops (or perhaps it is taught to them) a strange survival instinct that pushes anything that is threatening to their faith or beliefs as far away as fast as they can so they do not injure their “testimony”. A very different concept in Mormonism. Anything remotely critical of Joseph Smith, even if it is Joseph Smith’s own inconsistency or facts from his own very troubled life is actively avoided. A critical look at the uncontested history of the church must be avoided because it would require a judgment on the truth of the statements that underlie the church so keep that history away even if it is the church history.
The mere thought of examining the question of truth itself becomes stressful and wrought with emotions. Stop, whatever you do don’t go anywhere near questions about Joseph Smith or you will feel bad becomes the negative association. So much so that anger is used to protect oneself against the very idea of finding truth. “Don’t make me make a decision” was the cry of one of the family members of a former Mormon who was trying to talk with him about what he had discovered – “I don’t want to know!!!”
I don’t want to know. I don’t want to hear it. Don’t tell anyone. Don’t talk with anyone about your doubts. Hide those questions. Avoid anything negative about Joseph Smith. Don’t question, don’t ask, just keep going and pretend you don’t have doubts. This pattern is just not from God. Was Jesus afraid of questions? Did He have anything that could not withstand scrutiny?
I think you know the answer to this question.
When Thomas doubted Jesus’ Resurrection, a doubt that Jesus made sure was preserved in the Bible btw, and Jesus appears to the disciples with Thomas present, what happens?
Does Jesus tell Thomas to hide his doubt? Does He tell Thomas that his doubt is shameful and wrong? Does Jesus tell Thomas to starch his shirt and his smile and just keep going?
Does Jesus tell Thomas to pretend so not to hurt those around him? Does He tell him that he is bad and evil for doubting and none of the other disciples should go near him for fear of damaging their testimonies?
No, no, again of course no!
Jesus puts out His hands and side and says go ahead touch away – explore – question all you want. Jesus is never afraid of questions and doubts.
He understands the doubts, Thomas is just a lowly human, and offers proof of truth. Jesus is not challenged. He knows without a doubt that He is truly the Eternal King of Kings and nothing we do will ever change that – true authority is not effected by questions.
Jesus is not afraid of questions. Jesus wants us to get everything out in the light and work through it with Him.
Jesus understands and is more than big enough to answer every single doubt we have with Himself – The Way, the Truth and the Life.
He just says come, bring it to me and I will answer – He will give the doubting, the pretending, the miserable and the lost rest, true rest like Joseph Smith’s false messiah never offers.