In part, I think that coming out with a more developed doctrine of a Heavenly Mother would cause us to question the entire Bible, which never mentions her role or being. Further, God would need some explanation for her silence, and where she fits into the Trinity godhead. Why would she be so quiet all these years?
Did the Father have her locked away protected out of respect that her name not be blasphemed! The Church might even need to explain why God the Father overshadowed Mary, who was presumably not his wife, with a baby, hence violating his own commandment, and so on. Or is God himself a polygamist?
During many church lessons, my wife tried to show how to include more stories of women, to balance out lessons that were so male-focused. However, her efforts were pretty much futile. In one case she was promptly released from her calling in the Primary. Being a champion of women in the church only caused her an immense amount of frustration and discouragement. Eventually, she stopped getting ready for Church until the second hour and would miss more and more meetings.
Additionally, she felt that the stay-at-home role that she had been conditioned to accept did not fit her life very well.
She wished she had pursued a career. She did not like dealing with children and diapers, and the four walls of home were like a prison. She resented the advice from her patriarchal blessing that encouraged her role as a stay-at-home mother. It seemed to make her life miserable. One day while driving to church, she said she felt the Primary curriculum was grooming our daughters to be passive stay-at-home nurturers.
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She considered this teaching malicious and even satanic. We almost turned around the car and drove home, but we went to church that day anyway because she had to get volunteers to sign up for meals delivery as part of her compassionate service. How could the divine plan and eternal roles of providing versus nurturing result in so much frustration?
I had to ask myself seriously, why keep going down a path that was only making my wife miserable, especially when I had so many doubts myself? This was actually the turning point for me. When I joined the church at 16, the model of the solid, stable Mormon family was a huge motivator.
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I saw so many happy looking Mormon families that did all kinds of activities together, that had functional households, etc. But now I saw that the church was dividing my family. It made her angry and frustrated. Was the church, which I had grown to increasingly dislike and resent, worth holding on to? I realized it was time to make a decision. Just as the solidarity of the family influenced my decision at 16, the same concept influenced by decision at It really takes someone close to you who struggles with something to cause you to rethink and reassess your beliefs.
I might have continued for a few more years, increasing doubts, reducing the number of things I actually believed, whittling away my testimony until I had absolutely nothing left. I am glad that my wife helped me see religion more clearly. For example, I think the temple ceremony is weird and obviously Masonic in origin.
It is not the flagship symbol of my membership. Nor do I think people who spend hours and hours in the temple are contributing any meaningful service to society. I also think the idea of the atonement is basically unnecessary and perplexing. The story of my life is not one of needing to be purified from sin so that I can return to God. I think that tithing is far too much money to give to a church the equivalent of a donating a new car every year , that home teaching is a nuisance, and so on.
I have many disagreements, but the one thing that kept me going was the Book of Mormon.
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It seemed indisputable. The Book of Mormon seemed to be compelling evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet. All the issues addressed are pretty clearly 19th-century issues. Instead of addressing issues of our day, there are plenty of themes about secret societies and how these societies contributed to the downfall of society. There are themes related to Catholics, Republicans, Deists, and other groups. One overarching theme of Book of Mormon itself is that Indians are descendants of the Israelites. Additionally, many of the stories of the Book of Mormon fit into a revivalist culture. For example, consider Alma the Younger who is racked for torment and then delivered into the blessed arms of Jesus.
Or the queen of King Lamoni who falls to the ground, sees a vision, and then stands up to preach the love and mercy of Jesus.
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Probably the most difficult feat to pull off for any writer is the visit of Christ to America. Portraying Christ in a believable way at all is an extremely difficult task. In Jerusalem, Jesus speaks in parables, refers to himself as the Son of Man, is playful at times with his disciples, and more. In America, Jesus is just as you might imagine him to be in the 19th century — he blesses the children, heals the sick, prays for the people, teaches them the basic doctrine of faith, repentance, baptism, and the Holy Ghost. Jesus is serious and holy and gentle and weepy. I realize the context is different post-resurrection versus pre, America versus Jerusalem , but the portrayal is just a little too predictable for me.
What I would have liked to see is the Sermon on the Mount recast in different language and perspective. That concise poetic language would have been nearly impossible to spin in an alternatively beautiful way. This makes the idea that the text appeared word after word on a seer stone a little less believable. Why would Jesus not catch the errors as he gave the text to Joseph one word after the other?
This is to say nothing of thousands of grammar errors that have been later corrected. Jesus quotes the same passage of Malachi but fails to mention this point about the priesthood. Or maybe this was an oversight by the Book of Mormon author. On the topic of translation, the Church mainly teaches and portrays Joseph translating the text from a set of gold plates. Actually, the real history is that most of the translation was done through a seer stone rock a kind of magical rock that Joseph would use by looking into a dark hat.
Joseph used this same rock to look for buried treasure several years before he received the Book of Mormon. Other parts of the Book of Mormon seem to have source material as well. There are odd parallels with other texts, such as the Spaulding manuscript. Oliver Cowdery, one of the scribes, attended a church where the pastor taught many of the ideas about the Indians being one of the lost tribes of Israel, and such.
Regarding the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, this seems more difficult to dismiss until you read about the other spiritual visions the witnesses had see An Insiders View of Mormonism. Clearly this was a different time, one in which a magic world view permeated the common beliefs of the people. Even if Joseph dictated it word by word as he looked in a dark hat, it still seems a remarkable achievement.
As I mentioned earlier, the Book of Abraham is supposedly a text he translated at a time when Egyptian was undecipherable. But the same papyri that has been found and translated in the present day shows it to be a regular funerary text, not the writings of Abraham. Perhaps his degree of unlearnedness is underestimated.
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Hardly any of the controversial aspects of Mormonism have their roots in the Book of Mormon. Temples, eternal progression, polygamy, garments, prop8 funding, eternal nature of gender, conservatism, etc. Except for the exclusion of women and a passage that supports a racist mindset about skin color, the Book of Mormon is fairly benign. What the Book of Mormon does seem to have is an abundance of original stories, which at times is inspiring.
And the book makes many references to Christ, which might appeal to many Christians. But I think the references to Christ are a bit unbelievable. Are we to assume the Old Testament scribes and prophets removed this specificity about Jesus as the Messiah? Yet the Book of Mormon prophets discuss Christ plain as day. Perhaps the main problem with the Book of Mormon is lack of archeological evidence.
A society as massive and extensive as the Nephites and Lamanites and Mulekites should leave more of a footprint. In 2, years, are we to believe that all trace of the weaponry, armor, cities, highways, temples, and so on disintegrated into dust despite the hundreds of thousands or even millions of warring peoples?
For a people who worked with metal to smith swords and other weapons, with concrete to build highways and buildings and temples, they should leave some trace. The lack of archeological evidence of the Book of Mormon people is perhaps the strongest argument against it. When Joseph sent missionaries among the Lamanites, he considered the Indians to be the Lamanites. How was the prophet so misinformed? What are we to make of the DNA evidence that undermines this connection?
Was Moroni mistaken? Was the DNA of modern-day Indians diluted beyond recognition due to intermixing? This brings me to my larger point. Taken alone, with just a few issues, one could accept a simple explanation as a workaround. Why would all of these other tribes, who have left no record of a Christian religion, have been brought over by the Lord, yet leave no evidence of Christianity? Interestingly, the Book of Mormon authors leave a lot of geographical clues about narrow necks of land and such, almost giving a trail of their routes. Unfortunately, no one has been able to conclusively map their location.
In summary, although the Book of Mormon seems to have some compelling internal evidence, mainly because the narrative is complex, I have to ask, which is more likely, that a book with. Suppose I guess incorrectly. Suppose it turns out everything in the Church is true. Will an omniscient God punish me for using my brain to arrive at a logical conclusion?
In the end, what is the real value of acting out of faith rather than reason? Does a blind obedience and embrace of something hoped for with little evidence help us become more god-like? Is it right to deliver truth through such suspicious means and then fault people for not believing it, especially when the message bearer practices a secret form of polygamy and resembles all the characteristics of a cult leader?
We give a positive name to a behavior that is little valued in other contexts. It seems having faith is a positive way of describing hope combined with wish fulfillment and fantasy. There are a couple of other topics to wrestle with. First is the spiritual confirmation of the Book of Mormon.
Brandon Pearce has a great essay on this topic see Why I left the Mormon church. There are a great many people who feel spiritual peace, burning in the bosom, and other spiritual experiences within the church and gospel.
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The problem is that people in other religions have similar confirming spiritual experiences. Otherwise, why would religion be a worldwide phenomenon? To deny that a Roman Catholic nun, a Sufi Muslim, or an Evangelical also have confirming spiritual experiences is naive. But if the Spirit testifies of truth, it seems inconsistent of the Spirit to bear witness in so many different religions and ideologies. A recent series of lectures I listened to helped me get a better understanding of the biological underpinnings of spiritual experiences.
In tests that scientists have done, they can consistently tie spirituality to various parts of the brain. Although one might say God imbued man with the very equipment he would need to communicate with him, I find this hard to believe. My experience of the Spirit reflects a lot of inconsistency. On my mission, I think I felt the spirit maybe because of the tension of the situation, the anxiety of meeting someone new combined with the anticipation and euphoric imagination in relating the Gospel message, which perhaps released the right endorphins at times, and other times not.
I think the spiritual experiences we feel in religion are concoctions of our brain. Just like sex makes you feel good, so that you are more inclined to procreate, perhaps our bodies release similar endorphins when we find comforting stories that explain and answer the unknown. He has a plan for us. He watches out for us. Not even a sparrow falls without his notice. These ideas make you feel good, calm, so you adhere to a set of principles and laws that make society more efficient.
The rules of religion bind society together with common stories and principles. Religion provides a cohesion for a well-functioning and efficient group to interact and be successful. It means evolution favored people with this inclination. The final part of my notes here deal with Jesus. One of the best biographies of Jesus is Zealot, by Reza Aslan.
Jerusalem was under oppressive Roman occupation. Jerusalem was land given to the Jews by God, so it frustrated the people immensely to be under foreign rule. There were also many miracle workers. But the worldview at that time inclined people to see many more miracles in their environment. Mostly, Jesus was a zealot who wanted to restore Jerusalem to the Jews, liberating it from Roman rule. He constantly preached that the kingdom of God was at hand, even noting that there were some who would not taste death before they saw the kingdom of God ushered in.
Unfortunately, the kingdom of God Jesus talked about which would have eradicated the Romans and restored the Jews to independence never came to pass. His disciples never wrote anything down because they were waiting for this kingdom, but it never happened. The Romans crucified Jesus just like all the other would-be messiahs.
Was Jesus just a poor communicator, really indicating that the coming Kingdom of God was a spiritual one, or that the Kingdom of God was the millenium that would take place several thousand years from now? Interestingly, Jesus never proclaims himself to be the Messiah. There are some Old Testament references to the Son of Man, but the figure is not necessarily a messiah. Further, throughout his ministry, Jesus actually tells people not to tell others that he is the Messiah. Most of the people who wrote the New Testament, who proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, never lived with him.
I think Luke may be the one questionable exception, but by and large scholars say that the Greek influence the Jewish hellenists who came after Jesus converted Jesus not only into a Messiah, but into God himself. John takes Jesus to a whole new level. Scholars say that after Jesus failed to usher in his kingdom, his disciples had to reimagine how he could be the messiah.
They reinterpreted Jesus to be much less of a zealot and more of a spiritual teacher indifferent to goals of political liberation. One of the most radical reinterpreters was Paul. Paul had constant conflicts with James, the recognized leader of the early church who remained more fixed on the Law of Moses and temple worship. Rather than focusing on a law-based, temple worshiping way of life, Paul preached belief in Christ as a means of forgiveness and elevated Jesus to not only be the Messiah, but God himself.
Paul has 14 letters in the New Testament, compared to just several from others. Paul won over the people because his theology more closely appealed to Roman ideology. The Zealot book I mentioned earlier is really eye-opening. This makes me doubt even more the Book of Mormon, since the Book of Mormon focuses so much of its attention on Jesus. Further, from my first day in the church to my last, I never felt a particular love or gratitude or deep interest in Jesus.
A lot of people get teary eyed when they think about Jesus paying for their sins on the cross. For some reason this story has never moved me. Perhaps this lack of emotion towards the Savior is a failure on my part, but it also defies the purpose of the Book of Mormon. Despite my having read and studied it for years, my soul was never brought to Christ. Without drawing too many parallels, it seems people are ready to believe a messenger who tells about a time soon to come. After Joseph Smith organized the first meeting of his religious followers in , they were kicked out of numerous states in a violent manner.
The early days of the Mormon Church were quite tumultuous. Before the group settled in Utah, they moved around quite a bit. They would get to a new location, build a church, and then be forced to leave when locals turned against them. However, early Mormon Church history involves more than just fleeing from one place to another, or even the creation of interesting Mormon sex practices. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also joined the Sierra Nevada gold rush and massacred a group of emigrants from Arkansas, proving that they could dish it out as well as they could take it.
These stories of early Mormonism are quite bloody indeed! He married Miriam Angeline Works in , but she died in In , he wrote in his diary how much he enjoyed being married to her alone. She turned him down. He wasn't discouraged. Some of these women were already married to other prominent members of the Mormon church, but that didn't stop Young - he married them anyway.