The LDS Church encourages members to seek the spirit to confirm truth. It has at times encouraged sincere investigation, but more often, it discourages questions and appreciates investigators only until they’re baptized. The LDS Church favors an “appeal to ignorance,” regularly asserting that various propositions are true simply because they can’t been proven false – wrongly shifting the burden of proof away from those making astonishing claims.
Faced with the unforeseen power of the Internet and the transparency it ushers, the Church laments its loss of control over members, while remaining committed to narratives which are demonstrably false. At times, the Church persecutes righteous inquiry while providing no answers in return. Even when presented with mountains of damning evidence, consider the Book of Abraham and the very notion of Lamanites as prime examples, it stands completely isolated, awaiting a vindication which will never arrive.
Seeking truth in Mormonism is particularly fraught with peril, as the eternal salvation of the entire family hangs in the balance. Occam’s Razor posits that, “Other things being equal, simpler explanations are generally better than more complex ones.”
LDS ENCOURAGEMENT OF INVESTIGATION
Prior generations of Church leaders encouraged intellectual honesty, while post-Internet leaders and traditional LDS narratives have been so cruelly eviscerated in full public view, they’ve resorted to asking thoughtful members to “doubt your doubts.”
“I think a full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret nor underhanded, and I for one want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation.” (Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v. 20, p. 264)
“If a faith will not bear to be investigated, if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined; their foundation must be very weak.” (Apostle George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses, v. 14, p. 216)
“We should be scientific – that is, open-minded, approaching new problems without prejudice, deferring a decision until all the facts are in.” (Apostle Hugh B. Brown, A Final Testimony, from an Abundant Life, 1999)
“I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent – if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression.” (Apostle Hugh B. Brown, A Final Testimony, from an Abundant Life, 1999)
“… convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the Word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds.” (Apostle Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 15-16)
“The attempt to suppress problems and difficulties, the attempt to intimidate people who raise problems or express doubts or seek to reconcile difficult facts, is both ineffective and futile. It leads to suspicion, mistrust, the condescending slanting of data. The more we deny or appear to deny certain demonstrable ‘facts,’ the more we must ourselves harbor serious doubts and have something to hide.” (Leonard Arrington: The Writing of Mormon History p. 129)
“The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding. And it has been wisely said that the man who knows only half of any question is worse off than the man who knows nothing of it. He is not only one sided, but his partisanship soon turns him into an intolerant and a fanatic. In general it is true that nothing which cannot stand up under discussion and criticism is worth defending.” (Apostle James E. Talmage)
LAMENTING LOSS OF CONTROL
Apostle Ballard openly admitted in 2016 that the Church has been totally taken off guard by the Internet and its ability to share a historically accurate version of Church history. In the good ol’ days, he argues, “Few students came in contact with alternative interpretations… It was only a generation ago that our young people’s access to information about our history, doctrine, and practices was basically limited to materials printed by the Church. Few students came in contact with alternative interpretations. Mostly, our young people lived a sheltered life.”
In classic LDS form, Ballard blames the victims of the Church’s deliberate obfuscations for not being able to handle the truths now being brought to light; as ”…not all of your students have the faith necessary to face the challenges…” Ballard instructs the Church’s teachers to “inoculate” students with church approved interpretations of issues like polygamy, seer stones, conflicting first vision accounts, Book of Mormon history challenges, myriad Book of Abraham problems, etc.
Perhaps Elder Ballard fails to comprehend that the Church’s own essays on these very topics are so full of wiggle words and carefully crafted denials. They raise far more damning questions than they could ever hope to answer; convincing nobody who doesn’t already wish to remain convinced. (LDS.org, Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES teachers in the 21st Century, 2016)
The good ol’ days Apostle Ballard pines for, the ones when the Church controlled and limited available information, are eloquently on display in Boyd Packer’s infamousThe Mantle Is Far Far Greater Than The Intellect. Boyd’s talk ridicules intellectual rigor and academic training; standing as one of the most infamous assaults on reason and honest inquiry.
How frustrating it must have been as the aging, patriarchal authoritarians were confronted by credible voices other than their own – and those were good ‘ol pre-Internet days. Boyd provides us with gems like “I have a hard time with historians because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting; it destroys…Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting.” (Apostle Boyd K. Packer, as related by D. Michael Quinn, “Pillars of My Faith,” talk delivered at Sunstone Symposium, Salt Lake City, August 19, 1994)
TRUST NO ONE
“We can accept nothing as authoritative but that which comes directly through the appointed channel, the constituted organizations of the Priesthood, which is the channel that God has appointed through which to make known His mind and will to the world. …by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. False prophets and false teachers are those who declare that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a duplicitous deceiver; they challenge the First Vision as an authentic experience. They declare that the Book of Mormon and other canonical works are not ancient records of scripture.” (Beware False Prophets, M. Russell Ballard, LDS General Conference, Oct 1999)
Compare Ballard’s 1999 False Prophets talk to his 2016 To Whom Shall We Go? “Where will you go to find people who live by a prescribed set of values and standards that you share and want to pass along to your children and grandchildren? …Where will you go to find others who share your beliefs in personal loving heavenly parents…? The danger comes when someone chooses to wander away…” While delivered in the expected loving tone, his words primarily deliver false dilemmas and unveiled appeals to fear and emotional uncertainty.
Is the LDS world view so narrow that it fails to see or acknowledge their neighbors, the innumerable families and individuals who build a better world every day without any LDS encouragement or prophetic hand holding? Perhaps the appropriate question should be…why won’t you go and see for yourself what’s outside the bubble? LDS leaders warn members of half truths and misrepresentation, while awkwardly relying upon the same.
“A lie is not always told in so many words. It may be a creature of concealment or a misrepresentation by action or a half-truth.” (Apostle Dallin Oaks)
“Half truths are used to mislead under the representation that they are whole truths.” (Prophet Gordon Hinckley)
“Remember that the power to lead is also the power to mislead; and the power to mislead is the power to destroy.” ( Prophet Thomas Monson)
“It is unfortunate for the cause of Mormon history that the Church Historian’s Library, which is in the possession of virtually all of the diaries of leading Mormons, has not seen fit to publish these diaries or to permit qualified historians to use them without restriction.” (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1966, p. 26)
Q: Why does the Church hide behind non-official apologetic sites, like FAIR, rather than directly answer the legitimate questions of its members?
Q: Is plausible deniability the highest standard the Church strives to achieve?
Q: Do the methods and tactics outlined in the BITE Model closely align with Mormonism?
- 150 Years of Truth and Consequences about Mormon History, Quinn, Sunstone, Feb 1992.
- The Hiding of Church History
- Freedom Of Mind – The BITE Model