Thursday, January 31, 2008

"If You Had Experienced It, You'd Believe Too" Nonsense

Mormons say that once you experience the Spirit testify to you that something is true, it is pretty hard to convince yourself that you did not feel the Spirit. I felt what I used to call the Spirit many times, I now feel forced by the evidence to have to think differently about those powerful experiences. I now believe that those experiences are produced entirely by the biological brain.

When I was nine, I had an experience that I interpreted as being visited by an angel. I no longer interpret it that way. When I was 14 years old, my mother passed away. On the day of my marriage in the temple, I believed I felt her presence there. I now believe that that experience was entirely produced by my brain.

Experiences are always vulnerable to reinterpretation when we adopt a new perspective. So, the argument that "if you had only experienced what I have experienced, then you'd believe" does not have any validity for me.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Excellent article expressing why I love Obama

What Counts as an "Issue" In the Clinton-Obama Race?

"Obama understands the importance of values, connection, authenticity, trust, and identity."

My Peace with the Idea of No Afterlife

I am one who is completely at peace with my belief that there is no continuance of my life after my cells stop metabolizing. What is so difficult for many to entertain (that there is no continuation of one's life or consciousness) is easy for me to accept.

I don't believe any of our lives matter at the cosmic scale. I don't believe there is any god/cosmos defined purpose for anything. I believe it is possible, as some Buddhists have done by overcoming attachment, to continue to live without a sense of purpose. But, many of us need meaning and purpose. I matter to my wife and child(ren). My life has meaning to those I live and work with. I have given my life purpose to help others in their lives. So, although my life may not matter at the cosmic scale, it does matter locally in space and time, and that is enough for me. I don't need or desire my life and influence to extend farther than that, infinitely in space or into eternally in time.

Monday, January 28, 2008

My critical response to "Irreantum"

Here is a copy of a recent email exchange I had:

Hey there,

I know you were very active in apologetics and such before leaving the
church. Could you give me your opinion about the "Irreantum" evidence that
apologists like to bring up? If you could steer me to any resources about
this that would be great.

(Name Withheld)
I assume the apologist "Irreantum" argument that you are referring to is the one best expressed in this article:

I cannot find a link to a critical response to this specific argument. I am not a linguist, but it seems to me that the author's approach is way off and he does a lot of post hoc reasoning. For example, Nephi is supposed to know Hebrew and Egyptian. A person would expect Irreantum to be derived from one of those languages, and if the author would have found an Egyptian connection, he would have been bragging that it is exactly what he would have predicted. But, Irreantum has no connection to those languages, so after discovering that, he claims he would have predicted that it would not have been Hebrew or Egyptian because Nephi gives a translation. That is unfair, anyone can come up with explanations (many of them wrong) for why something is the way it is after the results are in. If you want to show that your position has strength, you have to make a prediction before the results are in, and then see if the results support you or discredit you.

The other way the author cheated is he took the shotgun approach and examined all the words for water in all the many languages in the area looking for anything even close to any part of the word "Irreantum". You are likely to find something in the ballpark of one of the 4 syllables that means water if you look at enough languages, even by chance. And what the author found isn't really remarkably close: 'rwy (which even he admits not knowing how to pronounce). So, the author took advantage of random chance without any guiding theory as to why he would expect one language over another. So, his results mean nothing. He makes it appear as though he has a strong argument because his post hoc explanations are reasonable. But, it is analogous to coming up with an explanation for won someone won the lottery.

In my opinion, the whole Irreantum case is much ado about nothing. In short it is shotty scholarship and you won't find one non-Mormon linguist impressed in the least.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My Resignation Letter

12 Oct 2006

Member Records, LDS Church
50 E North Temple Rm 1372
SLC UT 84150-5310

Often times the author’s tone is not properly interpreted from written correspondence, so allow me to say that my tone is direct, not angry. By this letter I am formally resigning from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As I am no longer a member, I would like my name permanently and completely removed from the membership rolls of the church.

I have given this matter considerable thought. I understand the seriousness and the consequences of this action. I am aware that my resignation "cancels the effects of baptism and confirmation, withdraws the priesthood held by a male member and revokes temple blessings". I also understand that I would only be "readmitted to the church by baptism only after a thorough interview" if I ever desired it.

My resignation should be processed immediately, without any waiting periods. I am not going to be dissuaded and I am not going to change my mind. I expect this matter to be handled promptly, with respect and with full confidentiality.

Now that the legal statements are out of the way, permit me to say a few other things. I know that there are a number of people who will read this letter. My language to my local leaders will be a lot less formal for after all, we know each other well and I love you and still consider you friends. We have served one another and have had a lot of great conversations which I cherish. There is nothing that any member of the church from the Stake level on down to the ward level has ever done that negatively impacted me or my feelings for the church. You are all wonderful and I love you. Please be able to separate in your minds my choice to leave the church from my feelings and relationships with you. There is nothing you can do or could have done to get me to stay. Contrary to statements made at the recent General Conference, I am not leaving because I have been offended by any local member of the church, nor have I committed any grievous sin (although I recognize that many interpret leaving the church a grievous sin).

Let me comfort my local leaders. I know that my leaving brings sorrow to you and you most likely worry and pray for me. Please know that I am doing quite well and am very happy. Contrary to what the Church would have you believe, one really can be just as happy and richly blessed even after one no longer believes and leaves the Church. I still feel what I formerly called the “Spirit” and the great peace and warmth that accompany it. I no longer believe that it reliably reveals truth and I believe it naturally arises from the physical brain. I know that you feel that I am mistaken about a lot of things now and may suspect that I have been deceived by things I have read. This saddens me, but I understand, because you cannot consider that I might be right about the Church without at the same time having to consider that you might be wrong, and that is very difficult to do especially when you have collected years of experience that you feel support the truthfulness of the Church. I once believed as you now believe, so I have empathy with where you are in your thinking about the Church and those who no longer believe in it.

Perhaps it is quite puzzling to you how I could no longer believe in the Church after having believed in it so strongly and after having received “witnesses from the Spirit” that it was true. I hope that you continue to find it puzzling and do not satisfy that nagging wonder with some incorrect pat explanation like, “he just wanted to sin,” or “Satan can deceive the very elect”. Pat answers are not what you need right now. You have had respect for my judgment in the past and trusted me. Don’t easily dismiss my judgment now that I believe differently from you. Frankly, you are without all the facts that you would need to come to any accurate conclusion about why I no longer believe.

The evidence is quite strong that all of the doctrines Joseph ever “revealed” were nothing more than man-made ideas for he stole many of them from contemporaries and used his active imagination to create the rest. His scriptures were fraudulent fabrications – we have so much evidence of that. The temple signs, tokens, and penalties date back only to the Middle Ages and do not go back to Solomon’s temple. The foundational story of how he obtained the “golden plates” started off tied to the mystical occult and gradually morphed into a completely different story full with heavenly interactions. Joseph was a despicable pervert – he took his teenage foster daughters as plural wives (look it up, no one who is informed denies this), he married the wives of men who he sent away on missions, and he married girls as young as 14 (examining census and marriage records show that even 19th century people thought 14-yr-olds were too young to marry). I know all of the apologetic responses for these things. I was formerly an amateur apologist defending the church against its threatening facts. There is so much more I could demonstrate to you. I knew all of this and more and continued to believe because the “Spirit” had told me the Church was true AND there was some way to justify these things through intense mental gymnastics….

That was true until I thoroughly examined the Book of Abraham. The evidence is so strong in the case of the Book of Abraham that it would be intellectually dishonest to ignore the inescapable conclusion. Shelving the issue is not an option because there is no ambiguity or wiggle room. There is nothing even God could put forward that would change the absolute fact that Joseph, while acting as a prophet and supposedly revealing the Word of God, knowingly cheated his followers by fraudulently creating scripture and bestowing upon his piece of fiction divine authority that it never deserved. I am not just saying that the BoA is not a translation, which even the apologists admit, but we have conclusive evidence that it is not even a revelation from God (that is the theory Elder Oaks wants to put forward [Doesn’t it disturb you that not even the Apostles believe the BoA is a translation from ancient papyri that was written by the hand of Abraham as it claims to be in our scriptures? It would be nice if the Apostles were honest with us about that and a half a million other things]). Apologists like Hugh Nibley, John Gee, Kerry Shirts, Daniel Peterson, and many others like to nibble around the edges of the case, but no one (not even prophets, seers, and revelators) will ever be able to escape the fact that the BoA is a fraud, plain and simple. Once one knows that for sure, one no longer needs to give Joseph the benefit of the doubt for anything else. He really was a power hungry pervert from the days of his magical peep stones that he used to defraud Josiah Stowell to his sand filled boxes that he used to defraud the Kirtland Safety Society investors to his hiding most of his plural marriages from Emma. There is so much more I could say.

Well, one might ask, “What do you do with all of the evidence in favor of Joseph’s prophetic call?” Let’s talk about the “Spirit” for a moment. The “Spirit” told me that the Book of Abraham was true scripture. I now know for an absolute fact that the Book of Abraham is not true (for a hundred reasons, but I’ll list a few) due to its anachronisms, incorrect reconstruction of history, stolen concepts like “intelligences inhabiting planets” and “governing stars” from Thomas Dick and others, blatant incorrect reconstructions of facsimiles #1 and #2, etc. Therefore, that impression or feeling that I called the “Spirit” cannot be relied on to accurately identify what is true, even on matters as important as what is scripture and what is not. My inability to accurately interpret the “Spirit” is not unique to me, for many members (unaware of the controversy surrounding the BoA) believe the Spirit has testified the BoA was true to them as well. Even the Prophets and Apostles could not detect its fraud or the fact that they did not know “the Spirit” was not telling them the truth. We have all been duped and taught to follow a transcendent feeling as though it were god when it is nothing more than a normal brain produced sensation. Once one realizes that the “Spirit” does not tell the truth, one has to start relying on physical evidence and rational thought, and the Church’s claims melt like warm butter once you do that and objectively look at its claims. We have been fed a lot of BS in our Institute manuals about archaeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon. No professional archaeologist outside of apologetic researchers buys this so called evidence. In fact, much stronger evidence like DNA evidence shows that Native Americans have no Hebrew Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA. There is no evidence of steel swords, barley, elephants (bones or drawings) in the pre-Columbian Americas. The sermons in the BoM sound exactly like early 19th century sermons not like 1st century Native American religions.

“Well, what about the eleven witnesses?” says one. First, one should know that all of these men were knee deep into 19th century magic (talismans, peep stones, parchments), in fact that is how many of them met Joseph to begin with. Most believed in something called “second sight” in which they see things in vision (aka, their imaginations), and that second sight is just as valid as seeing things with their natural eyes. In fact, Martin Harris confessed in the Kirtland Temple that none of the eleven witnesses saw the plates with their natural eyes, but only through their spiritual eyes. Now, one guy can’t speak for everyone. However, some of the witnesses went on to “witness” miracles in some of the break off movements from the Church which the Utah branch consider not real. So, the Church is in the awkward position of having to support the credibility of their witnesses on the one hand and downplay their credibility on the other. The fact that Joseph had plates of some sort is fairly clear, but my guess, and it is purely a guess, is that they were made of common tin, which was often used in roofing in the area.

I don’t want you to take my word for anything. I will show you where to verify all of the things I’ve said if you ask me to. I am not relying on statements made by his enemies, but on his own statements, the journals of his scribes, his canonized scriptures, and the words of his faithful followers. It would not be right to discount these things without looking into them. I want you to study these things out for yourself. As a priesthood leader in the church you ask an awful lot of your members and they follow you because they believe you have authority to represent God. You are currently comfortable with that because you firmly believe you do have that authority. With many spiritual things it is impossible to falsify claims; even when things don’t work out as expected we have some available explanation for it. But, the great thing about the Church is that it makes some claims that are falsifiable like the historicity of the Book of Abraham and Book of Mormon. Now, although there is a lot of evidence against the Book of Mormon, creative apologists can find some excuse for it (although they often have to discount the conventional understanding of things as taught by the prophets to do it). However, there is no and will never be a workable explanation for the evidence against the Book of Abraham because the evidence closes all doors to alternatives. One has to work within the tight confines of the numerous data points we have and there is nowhere for the apologist to take cover. Some have gone so far as to admit that it is a work of fiction, but that is ok because Joseph did it to bring others closer to Christ. The ends justify the means. That is not very satisfying because once one knows that LDS prophets and scriptures will mislead you if they think it is in your best interest, the entire foundation of authority and trust erodes. Then one can question the counsel to have children even if you can’t afford it or to discriminate against homosexuals, etc. The Church operates under the principle of when the leaders have spoken, they have spoken God’s will and you are not in tune if you disagree with them. But, once you learn that they are only giving their opinion on what they think and feel is best, you know that they are only men and can be wrong and are not speaking for God. So, the power one yields is enormous.

You owe it to yourself and your flock to find out if there is any legitimacy to what I am saying. You must admit that so much of your confidence comes from the meaning you give to the feelings you interpret as the Spirit and if there is a chance that you can prove that the Spirit is not a reliable source of truth, you would need to know that because it changes everything. Granted there would still be a few other experiences you would need to account for like answered prayers or priesthood blessings that were fulfilled. Confirmation bias – remembering the hits and forgetting or excusing the misses explains a lot. Watch for stubbornness or resistance to investigate these things. Why might you not want to look into these things and are they really legitimate reasons? If you are sure that you are right or think you have read all of this before, then you have nothing to fear from it, right? I assure you that you have not heard it all before if you have not read, “By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus” by Charles Larson, and “Examining the Book of Abraham” by Kevin Mathie. I have included a brief online article that hits the highlights of the Book of Abraham. The article is far from conclusive, but if you read the other books you will have a conclusive argument. It would not hurt if you also read “Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power” and “Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power” by D. Michael Quinn. There is no need to trust the words of these authors, they quote original sources that you can examine for yourself.

The Brethren have shown that they know more about these things than they reveal. It is dishonest and upsetting that they perpetuate a fabled faith promoting propaganda when many know it is not true. I trusted those men so much. Their own words condemn them, not the words of an anti-Mormon. I think for the most part, they believe the church is true. I do not think they have thoroughly examined the evidence against the Book of Abraham. But, they do know about Joseph’s hidden plural marriages, they do know that the Book of Mormon was “translated” by Joseph burying his head in a hat looking at his rocks that were found in a well and that he used in his money digging adventures, not by using the Urim and Thummim that were supposedly buried in the Hill Cumorah. But, they prefer to give Joseph’s revisionist 1838 history. They should know that Joseph did not even believe God the Father and Christ were two separate beings until after the church was founded which disproves the story he gave later that he saw God and Jesus before he was told about the golden plates.

But, as Boyd K. “We don’t have to apologize for our history” Packer says, “Church history can be so interesting and so inspiring as to be a powerful tool indeed for building faith. If not properly written or properly taught, it may be a faith destroyer…
"There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful” (Boyd K. Packer, 1981, BYU Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 259-271).
And as Dallin H. Oaks says, “My duty as a member of the Council of the Twelve is to protect what is most unique about the LDS church, namely the authority of priesthood, testimony regarding the restoration of the gospel, and the divine mission of the Savior. Everything may be sacrificed in order to maintain the integrity of those essential facts. Thus, if Mormon Enigma reveals information that is detrimental to the reputation of Joseph Smith, then it is necessary to try to limit its influence and that of its authors." (Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith: Psychobiography and the Book of Mormon, Introduction p. xliii f28)

I hate that these men don’t have enough integrity to tell the truth. They require sacrifice under false pretenses. Perhaps they know that if members or investigators had the chance to hear the whole truth they might recognize it as a fraud. I don’t exactly know how the church convinces its members to not read anti-Mormon literature. They don’t outright forbid it, but too many members won’t look at evidence that challenges the truthfulness of the church, and that is scary. It reminds me of cults or communist countries that limit open discussion and conceal threatening facts. If you really have the best thing on the block you welcome challenges because you are confident that your message will win over any opponent. But, the Church somehow scares its members into not learning the true history. Perhaps they do it by making fun of anti-material during conference by giving the impression that it is all as silly as the idea that Mormons have horns. Or, perhaps they try to discount all the people who leave by saying that they were offended. Well, I suppose I am offended at Joseph Smith for lying to us all and I should be, and I am offended that the Brethren authorize teaching materials that misrepresent the truth.

I am not leaving the Church because the Church is not true, for I now believe that no church is true. I would stay except for the fact that the Church is intolerable for those that no longer believe. My skin crawls to hear members sing praises and bear testimonies of Joseph who was such a fraud and they don’t even know it. Now that I don’t believe anyone holds the priesthood, I will not pretend to use it. Family and others suspect some great sin or transgression in men who will not exercise their supposed priesthood. I don’t need people judging me when I have done nothing wrong. Members will pester those that they see as less active to get them more involved and into greater activity, when the less-actives have no desire to go to the Masonic-derived temple, or do missionary work and introduce anyone else to a bunch of lies. Less-actives are viewed as inferior. I do not support the way in which women are treated as second class citizens. I cannot put up with the indoctrination of my children as they get older; I would have to spend the greater part of each day deprogramming them. I dislike how free discussion is discouraged in Sunday School and Priesthood (your comments are only welcome if they follow the party line). Hours of talks on doing one’s duty are unbearable if one no longer believes. You may not feel that you need to cater to or accommodate the needs of the disaffected members. That is fine, but if you choose that route you also need to be willing to have droves of members resign or go completely inactive. And those who can escape are the lucky ones. Others feel compelled to stay due to family concerns, and it is pure hell for them. I talk to them on a daily basis.

But, I, for one, am done with Mormonism entirely. I am so grateful for a wife who was willing to look into these things and study it out for herself. Leaving together as a couple is much easier than leaving without one’s spouse. We both have family who now think less of us, which is totally uncalled for. It is not our fault that the Church is not true and is unbearable to attend once you know that.

Greg Dodge,

First, I would like to sincerely thank you and your staff for all you do to help us resign. I have no idea if you ever share any comments from the resignation letters to the First Presidency during your weekly reports, but this is what I’d like the First Presidency to know. I am a BYU grad, returned missionary, former teacher in the MTC, married in the temple, and former counselor in the Bishopric. I was among the faithful stalwarts of the Church. As you surely know there are many even more faithful that have also left the Church after learning its real history. We all feel betrayed by the leadership of the Church for not telling us the truth. Strange, but it is often the most faithful who sincerely love the Prophet Joseph that end up doing the research to find out the Church is not what it claims to be.

I know that the heritage of Mormonism means a lot to you, and you don’t want the Church to collapse under your watch. You have inherited a history that you cannot change. Please care more for the individuals than for the institution. Please listen to the progressives among the Brethren. Please focus more on Christ in your messages. Please be more straightforward and honest with the members. Show the members where their money is going and give more to charities. Strive to be more inclusive and less exclusive. Above all else, tell the truth about the church’s history, not the faith-promoting, sanitized version. There is no better way to honor the living than to tell the truth. Become transparent, open up the church vaults and hide nothing. Only then will you earn back the respect of all those who know the truth. Think of your grandchildren. Do you want them to find out about your involvement in perpetuating the lies? End the charade. Come out from behind the curtain and let the members know that you don’t have any special access to God. Bottom line: Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and let the consequence follow. Find some integrity and have charity for those who know the truth and share it.



(The rest of the letter came from: )