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Friday, April 12, 2019

8. What Made Me Lose My Faith Part 3 – Problems the Church Doesn’t Acknowledge


Just as a reminder, as in the last post, don’t read this if you don’t want to know or believe your life would be significantly negatively impacted by a faith crisis or faith transition. If you do read on, do so with your spouse. If you look up information, either on the Gospel Topics Essays, at Fair Mormon, or outside sources, take the journey with your spouse. I will also ask the same question as I did in the last post: If the church is not true, would you actually and honestly want to know?

Before I get into this post, I need to put something out there. I’ve been struggling to complete this post. My first five articles were based on my personal experiences, feelings, and reactions. I felt really good about writing those and putting words to what I was going through. It helped me to cope and externalize as not too many church members close to me reached out to specifically ask how I was doing or what I was going through. While I can definitely understand the whys behind those decisions, it was still difficult. I felt isolated and writing helped. But my last two posts, as well as this one, have been about specific issues within the church. I have not enjoyed writing or posting these. I feel like it is important to write about the issues I came across in my research, so those that desire to understand my journey can have that opportunity, but I feel anxious about posting these. Three of my kids continue to attend church activities. When I go to the church to drop them off, I worry what the reactions will be from members there. I worry that I am driving my church attending family and friends away. I understand that I don’t get to have my cake and eat it too. I don’t get to choose the consequences of my actions; the dice fall as they will. But I want people to know that I am not gleefully posting these issues with the purpose of ruining the church for people. I am actually looking forward to moving on from posting about the issues and going back to writing about my experiences.

But before I do that, this post needs to be completed, which is about issues I have discovered that have not been acknowledged by the church. This will not be an exhaustive list. There are many problems that I just don’t have the space or time to write down. But I will include the major ones that I believe were most impactful for me in my faith transition. The issues that I will discuss in this post are:

1.       Book of Mormon Problems
2.       Validity of Spiritual Experiences in Determining Truth
3.       Prophets’ Testimony and Revelatory Process
4.       Discernment/Hofmann Forgeries
5.       Church Finances
6.       The Second Anointing

1.       Book of Mormon Problems
In the church we are taught that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on the earth. This statement came from the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith. We were told that because this book came directly through revelation from God that there were no problems with it. There were no translation or copying errors, as there were in the Bible, because it came directly from the source of scripture, namely God. Some members are aware that there have been changes to the Book of Mormon over the years, but we were reassured that these changes were grammatical or to correct mistakes in printing, essentially to bring it back to what it was when it was spoken from Joseph Smith’s mouth. What many members aren’t aware is that there have been close to four thousand changes over time. There have been around fifteen editions of the Book of Mormon over the years. Sometimes the changes have been spelling and grammatical, it is true. But even these changes are problematic when you know how the book itself was translated. Multiple accounts from different individuals, including Joseph’s scribes, tell us that Joseph would place his seer stone in his hat then place his face in the hat in order to block out light. A character in “Reformed Egyptian” would appear in the stone and below it, a word in English. The next character and word would not appear on the stone until the previous word had been documented correctly, without mistakes. So, following this pattern, there should be absolutely no mistakes in spelling or word choice. But there were a significant number of these exact changes over the decades. I have read the 1830 version of the Book of Mormon and confirmed these changes for myself. Sections that used to say that Jesus was God or the Eternal Father or the Everlasting God were changed to the Son of God or the Son of the Eternal Father, etc. The incorrect plural of seraphims/Cherubims was changed to the correct plural seraphim/Cherubim at a later time. As discussed before, a racist section stating that the Native Americans would become a white and delightsome people was changed to pure and delightsome. Several places where there was excessive usage of “And it came to pass” were removed. Spelling mistakes such as “phrensied” were corrected. Misusing the word subsequent. Making up the word “numerority”. None of these errors should have crept into the earliest print of the Book of Mormon considering the method of translation.

The Book of Mormon is full of anachronisms. This was a major issue for me during my faith crisis. The definition of anachronism is attributing something to a period to which it does not belong. An example of this would be saying that I found a long-lost play by Shakespeare in my attic. Upon reading the script, I discover that the main character owns a Walkman. I know that Walkmans (Walkmen?) weren’t invented until 1979. Shakespeare lived from 1564-1616. That means it is impossible that this play was written by Shakespeare because a Walkman is anachronistic. It is not possible for Shakespeare to know what a Walkman was during his lifetime as it was not invented until later. When writing the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith took things that he was familiar with and placed them in the Americas; things that did not belong there at the time the Book of Mormon was supposed to take place. Examples of anachronisms in the Book of Mormon include: horses, elephants, cattle, domesticated swine, wheat, silk, chariots (including wheel technology), and steel (including swords, and the technology used to create them). Joseph Smith didn’t know that these things were either introduced to the Americas after Columbus arrived or they never were present in the Americas at all (I’m looking at you, elephant). Along with these anachronistic problems, Joseph did not include extremely common things that were native to the Americas at the time. Things like jaguars, monkeys, bison, turkeys, dogs, llamas, deer, corn, squash, cocoa beans, etc. He did get serpents and goats correct though…But by placing these things in the Americas during a time when it was impossible for these things to be present, Joseph reveals that he was not writing a true history.

Which finally brings me to the meaning of tapir in the title of my blog. A specific LDS apologist suggested that the word “horse” in the Book of Mormon didn’t actually mean horse. It could mean some other four-legged creature that was similar to a horse but that was actually native to the Americas, such as a tapir. While this theory has fallen out of favor, it caused the post-Mormon community to accept the tapir as a mascot. The image of the Native Americans riding tapirs into battle or tapirs pulling their (anachronistic) chariots was humorous to say the least. So instead of the term “Straight from the horse’s mouth,” I decided to substitute horse with tapir for the title. “Straight from the tapir’s mouth.” I thought it was clever, anyway…

Other issues with the Book of Mormon include King James Version Bible translation errors and passages from Deutero-Isaiah. Members of the church consider the King James Version of the Bible to be the most correct version. Bible scholars agree that this is not the case as there are many other versions that were translated more closely to the original, ancient documents that comprise the Bible. There are translation errors in the KJV that are also found in the Book of Mormon. If God were directing Joseph Smith on the exact words to include in the Book of Mormon, God would have corrected these errors by giving Joseph the correct translations. But this was not the case. This greatly increases the chances that Joseph was copying from the specific 1769 edition of the KJV Bible which the family owned, as these errors were from that specific edition, and including these passages in the Book of Mormon. Bible scholars also agree that Isaiah was written by more than one author. Early Isaiah passages are from Proto-Isaiah while later passages are from Deutero-Isaiah. The problem here is that Deutero-Isaiah wasn’t written until after the people from the Book of Mormon left Jerusalem. So, there would have been no way for these passages of scripture to be brought with them when they left Jerusalem or to have been included on the Gold Plates, since they weren’t written yet. Joseph Smith would not have known about the KJV errors or about Deutero-Isaiah before adding these Bible verses into the Book of Mormon.

Many of the themes in the Book of Mormon were common in the early 1820s. The revival culture in the Palmyra area where Joseph lived is extremely similar to several sermons in the Book of Mormon. In both there were settings where the people would camp/pitch tents; preaching was designed to produce a powerful emotional impact; the conversion pattern of being convinced of sin, prayer for forgiveness, receiving a calming assurance of being forgiven, accompanied by trembling, tears, falling, etc.; denunciations of those that believe all will be saved no matter what they do in life; denouncing the belief that God doesn’t interact with mankind; and descriptions that humans are in a fallen, degenerate state. Anti-masonic temperament was high at the time and is akin to secret combinations in the Book of Mormon. Richard Bushman, the believing member who wrote the book Rough Stone Rolling stated, “…there is phrasing everywhere - long phrases that if you google them you will find them in 19th century writings. The theology of the Book of Mormon is very much 19th century theology, and it reads like a 19th century understanding of the Hebrew Bible…” Blake Ostler, another LDS scholar stated, “Many Book of Mormon doctrines are best explained by the nineteenth-century theological milieu.” Joseph should not have been able to add 19th century theology into the Book of Mormon considering every word was supposed to come by revelation from God.

There are numerous impossibilities written about in the Book of Mormon. I will only write about one: the Jaredite submarines. We are taught that around 2200 BC, God commanded a group of people to build 8 submersible boats in order to traverse the ocean. Considering transoceanic travel was unheard of for thousands of years, this would be an impossible feat. These ships were constructed to be submersible when waves crashed against them, generally like a submarine. They were completely closed off except for a hole at the top and bottom of the ship that could be opened or shut when needed. Now imagine taking a year long voyage in one of these with flocks and herds (male and female of every kind), swarms of bees, and fish. These submarines would not only carry human passengers and these creatures, but enough food and water for all for a year’s journey. There being only one hole that could be open at a time, there was no ventilation for breathing or the gasses that would be created. Can you imagine how much even one cow eats, and excretes, during a year long journey? Where were the stores of grass and water that would have to have been hundreds if not thousands of pounds themselves? And factor in that these ships were made to be tossed on the sea. With bees. And poop. And extremely heavy animals. The food would be ruined, the water spilled, bones broken, etc. And this is considering you could even fit the amount of food and water in these ships with the animals and your family. This does not sound like the design of an all-knowing God. It sounds impossible.

There is an account of Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon, taking characters that Joseph Smith copied from the Gold Plates to a scholar named Charles Anthon. In the church we are taught that Professor Anthon stated that “…the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. [Harris] then showed him those not yet translated, and said they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic"; and that they were "true characters." According to Harris, Anthon wrote Harris a letter of authenticity declaring the fragment to contain true Egyptian characters. Anthon was also reported to have confirmed the translation of these characters as correct. When informed that an angel of God had revealed the characters to Smith, Anthon reportedly tore up the authentication stating that there was no such thing as angels and asked Harris to bring the plates to him for translation.” Except there are numerous problems with this account. First, Professor Anthon repeatedly denied ever authenticating these characters. He stated, “The whole story about my having pronounced the Mormonite inscription to be 'reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics' is perfectly false .... I soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick, perhaps a hoax…” Anthon stated that it was all “a scheme to cheat the farmer [Harris] of his money.” In a later account, Anthon stated, “The import of what I wrote was, as far as I can now recollect, simply this, that the marks in the paper appeared to be merely an imitation of various alphabetical characters, and had, in my opinion, no meaning at all connected with them.” Considering that the ability to translate Egyptian by way of the Rosetta Stone had not made its way to America at this time makes Anthon’s supposed account that the characters were true Egyptian characters impossible. Anthon could not translate ancient Egyptian because no one in America could translate ancient Egyptian at that time. I have included two links, one from Wikipedia showing the “Caractors” that Martin showed to Professor Anthon, and another showing the similarities of many of these characters to English letters. Scholars today do not recognize any of these characters as legitimate letters or words from any language.

Scholars have identified many of the sources that Joseph Smith used to write the Book of Mormon, as well as the Book of Abraham (which, if you recall, is acknowledged by the church as being incorrectly translated), and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.

For the Book of Mormon, Joseph used copious amounts of the King James Version of the Bible. Not only did he copy passages straight from the 1769 or later edition, he mimicked several stories. For instance, the story of Alma and Paul are extremely similar. Joseph also had access to the Apocrypha, in particular 1st and 2nd Maccabees. The name Nephi is contained in 2 Maccabees. The book View of the Hebrews discusses how the Native Americans were one of the 10 tribes of Israel and came to the American continent and spread throughout the land. Joseph Smith did specifically mention that the View of the Hebrews supported the Book of Mormon (even though VotH was written before the Book of Mormon), so Joseph was very aware of it. Some would say that Joseph Smith plagiarized from this book but I disagree. Joseph got ideas from VotH and integrated them into the Book of Mormon rather than specifically plagiarizing from it. The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain was another source but it is clear that this book was plagiarized by Joseph Smith. The following link describes the parallels found through statistical analysis: This book was common reading material in schools of the day and uses a scriptural style. Chiasmus is contained in this work. The phrase “It came to pass” was common throughout. Warfare was discussed at length. Hebraisms, negative questions, adverbials, all of which were items that apologists used to claim the Book of Mormon was authentic and historical are also found in The Late War. And finally, The First Book of Napoleon was another book whose phraseology and word usage is extremely similar to the Book of Mormon. As with The Late War, The First Book of Napoleon contains rare 4-gram phrases, word strings of four words that are not common to the English language, that are shared between the Book of Mormon at a rate that is statistically significant. Meaning that Joseph read and used these phrases that he found in these books when writing the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Abraham’s sources are essentially completely accounted for in five 19th century works. All were available to Joseph in the Nauvoo library. These are: The Works of Flavius Josephus (biographical information about Abraham), a 1769 or later edition of the King James Version Bible (86% of Abraham 2, 4-5 come from Genesis 1, 2, 11, and 12), Philosophy of a Future State by Thomas Dick (19th century astronomical concepts), The Six Books of Proclus on the Theology of Plato by Thomas Taylor (especially volume 2, Newtonian astronomy and model of the universe, which have been discredited by modern Einsteinian models), and Joseph Smith’s study with Hebrew scholar Joshua Seixas in the winter of 1835-36 (Hebrew names and phrases). Another source for some of Joseph’s doctrine came from Emanuel Swedenborg, who wrote the book Heaven and Hell, which Joseph had access to. Similarities include three levels of heaven, compared to the sun, moon, and stars; marriage being essential to exaltation; the spirit world; one way to qualify for perdition is to know the truth and deny it; the law of consecration; and God as a man. For those that argue that the Book of Abraham makes sense, that Joseph couldn’t have come up with these ideas on his own, or that they just feel right must take account of these sources before determining the divine nature of these writings.

In a paper published in March 2017, two students at BYU, Haley Wilson and Thomas Wayment, stated they had “uncovered evidence that Smith and his associates used a readily available Bible commentary while compiling a new Bible translation, or more properly a revision of the King James Bible [The Joseph Smith Translation]. The commentary, Adam Clarke’s ‘Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments’, was extremely well known for Methodist theologians and biblical scholars alike, and was one of the most widely available commentaries in the mid-1820s and 1830s in America. Wilson and Wayment state that “the number of direct parallels between Smith’s translation and Adam Clarke’s biblical commentary is too numerous and explicit to posit happenstance or coincidental overlap. The parallels between the two texts number into the hundreds…”

This information severely discredits the authenticity and historicity of the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Joseph did not receive revelation in order to write these books. He utilized the information that he had available and copied others ideas while calling them revelation.

2.       Validity of Spiritual Experiences in Determining Truth
Whether we are talking about missionaries teaching people about the church or members trying to gain or strengthen their faith, a scripture in the Book of Mormon is always discussed. Moroni 10:4-5 reads, “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” So, essentially the way people can know if the Book of Mormon is true, or if the LDS church is true, is to pray about it. The belief is that God will answer your prayer by the Holy Ghost. Either a still small voice or a burning in the bosom will occur to tell you what is truth.

Except the problem with this idea is that every person from every religion has spiritual experiences testifying either that their church is true or they are part of the religion that God wants them to be in. How can people from different belief systems have experiences where God tells them they are doing what is right but they all come to different conclusions? If this is God’s perfect method of telling us His will, how is it possible that people can get completely different answers to the same questions? And to say that one person’s spiritual experiences are somehow more valid than someone else’s is the height of hubris and arrogance.

As I have stated before, I have had spiritual experiences myself, but I had to re-evaluate what they actually meant. I determined that feelings and spiritual experiences cannot tell us what is objective truth. Two of the most powerful videos I have seen in regards to what I am talking about here are in the following links. The first depicts real people from numerous religions and faiths saying exactly the same thing: that they know their church is true or their belief is correct. The method by which they know is prayer and feelings that God sends to them. In the second video, the important part starts at the ten-minute mark. It shows a man by the name of Marshall Applewhite. He suggests a way for people to know if what he says is true. He tells them to go into a private place and ask God. He says that God will tell them that his message is correct. The video goes on to show members of his following bearing their testimonies that they KNOW that what he teaches is the truth. This group was known as the Heaven’s Gate and in 1997, thirty-nine members of the group committed suicide. They did this because of their belief that God had answered their prayers, told them Applewhite’s message was true, and to join this group and follow its leader. We look at this now and believe they are naïve. They should have known better. But in the LDS church we are told that the prophet speaks for God. If he told us that Jesus was coming soon and to sell everything we as members have and to move to Utah, or Missouri, we would be expected to do so. It’s no different just because it’s a different religion. Trying to determine objective truth from a feeling is in no way accurate.

3.       Prophets’ Testimony and Revelatory Process
Most members of the church believe that the modern prophet and apostles see God or Christ regularly in order to run the church. Or perhaps they only see them on occasion or once, when they are called as an apostle or prophet. But members believe that these men have sure knowledge that Jesus runs this church. I will include several quotes from apostles and prophets to clarify this belief.

“I don’t think we’ll get it [a testimony] like Paul did on the road to - where an angel appeared to him, where Alma the Younger had a startling experience. The Lord used a few of those kinds of experiences, and they’re recorded in the scriptures to catch our attention and teach us the answer. But I’ve never had an experience like that and I don’t know anyone among the 1st Presidency or Quorum of the 12 who’ve had that kind of experience.” – Dallin H. Oaks, Multi-Stake Youth Fireside in Bellevue, WA, January 23, 2016.

Interviewer: As the world leader of the church, how are you in touch with God? Can you explain that for me?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I pray. I pray to Him. Night and morning. I speak with Him. I think He hears my prayers. As He hears the prayers of others. I think He answers them.
Interviewer: But more than that, because you’re leader of the Church. Do you have a special connection?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I have a special relationship in terms of the Church as an institution. Yes.
Interviewer: And you receive........
Gordon B. Hinckley: For the entire Church.
Interviewer: You receive?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Now we don't need a lot of continuing revelation. We have a great, basic reservoir of revelation. But if a problem arises, as it does occasionally, a vexatious thing with which we have to deal, we go to the Lord in prayer. We discuss it as a First Presidency and as a Council of the Twelve Apostles. We pray about it and then comes the whisperings of a still small voice. And we know the direction we should take and we proceed accordingly.
Interviewer: And this is a Revelation?
Gordon B. Hinckley: This is a Revelation.
Interviewer: How often have you received such revelations?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh, I don’t know. I feel satisfied that in some circumstances we’ve had such revelation. It’s a very sacred thing that we don’t like to talk about a lot. A very sacred thing.

-          Gordon B. Hinckley, Compass Interview, November 9, 1997

McComas: I should like to ask one question.  You say that the councilors are appointed by the president of the church.  How are the apostles selected?
Smith: In the first place they were chosen by revelation.  The council of the apostles have had a voice ever since in the selection of their successors.
McComas: When vacancies occurred thereafter, by what body were the vacancies in the twelve apostles filled?
Smith: Perhaps I may say in this way: Chosen by the body, the twelve themselves, by and with the consent and approval of the first presidency.
Hoar: Was there a revelation in regard to each of them?
Smith: No, sir; not in regard to each of them.  Do you mean in the beginning?
Hoar: I understand you to say that the original twelve apostles were selected by revelation?
Smith: Yes, sir.
Hoar: Through Joseph Smith?
Smith: Yes, sir; that is right.
Hoar: Is there any revelation in regard to the subsequent ones?
Smith:  No, sir; it has been the choice of the body.
McComas: Then the apostles are perpetuated in succession by their own act and the approval of the first presidency?
Smith: That is right.
Chairman: You have revelations, have you not?
Smith: I have never pretended to nor do I profess to have received revelations.  I never said I had a revelation except so far as God has shown me that so-called Mormonism is God’s divine truth; that is all.
Chairman: You say that was shown to you by God?
Smith: By inspiration.
Chairman: How by inspiration; does it come in the shape of a vision?
Smith: “The things of God knoweth no man but the spirit of God;” and I cannot tell you any more than that I received that knowledge and that testimony by the spirit of God.
Worthington: What was the last revelation that came to the church from the one authorized to give it as the law of the church?
Smith: Well, according to my best recollection, it must have been about 1882 [21 years prior].  The purport of the revelation was calling to the apostolate or apostleship two men, who are named in the revelation.
Worthington: Who was the president through whom that revelation came?
Smith: President John Taylor.
Worthington: You say that was the last one?
Smith: I do not now recall any since then except the manifesto.
Worthington: Except the manifesto?
Smith: Yes, except the manifesto.
Worthington: Then do I understand you to say the only revelation that has come to the church in the last twenty years is the one that says polygamy shall stop?
Smith: Since 1882?
Worthington: Yes, since 1882 – twenty-one years.
Smith:  Yes, sir; I think it is
-          President Joseph F. Smith, Reed Smoot Congressional Hearing, 1903

These quotes tell us several things about revelation to leaders of the church and how exactly prophets and apostles know that what they are doing is the will of God. The quote by Dallin H. Oaks tells us that none of the 1st Presidency or the Quorum of the 12 Apostles has ever seen God, Christ or angels. That is not the way God communicates with the leaders and it is not how they received a witness of the truthfulness of the LDS church. The interview with Gordon B. Hinckley tells us that the way God communicates with the prophets is that they pray and they “think” those prayers are answered. Hinckley specifically says the church doesn’t need a lot of continuing revelation. It is only when there is a problem that needs an answer. The way the leaders receive the answer is they pray, they discuss it as a group, and they feel the still small voice of the spirit. They do not see God. They do not see Christ. They do not have visions. They pray and feel the spirit in the exact same way everyone else in the church does. The final interview, with the president of the church at the time, Joseph F. Smith, tells us that apostles since the 1830s-40s are not chosen by revelation, they are essentially chosen by vote. Joseph F. goes on to say he had never received a revelation. He gained his testimony by the same way everyone else does, the spirit. A feeling. From his perspective, the only revelation that had been given in the 21 years prior was the Manifesto in 1890, ending the public practice of polygamy. Church sanctioned polygamous marriages continued until 1904, but that is a story for another day. So, to conclude, leaders of the church don’t know better than the regular members that Christ is real or that the LDS church is the one true church on the earth. They do not see Christ. They do not have visions. Revelation is infrequent and is through the exact same process as regular members get it, through feelings. Which begs the question, why don’t we see miracles like we hear about in the Bible? Joseph Smith saw numerous angelic beings, why don’t current leaders of the church?

The recent change in the November 2015 policy of exclusion is evidence of the process of decision making in the church. In November of 2015, the LDS church made an announcement. The children of gay parents would no longer be permitted to be baptized into the church. If they desired to join the church, they would have to wait until they turned 18 and renounce the lifestyle of their parents. Many members were extremely upset and hurt by the decision of the leaders of the church to withhold blessings to children. Jesus always allowed children to come to him. This decision was not Christlike. In describing this pronouncement, Russel M. Nelson, then an apostle, explained “This prophetic process was followed...with the recent additions to the Church's handbook, consequent to the legalization of same-sex marriage in some countries. Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord's will in this matter. Ever mindful of God's plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise. We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer and sought further direction and inspiration. And then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord [to prevent baptism for children of LGBT parents], each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as Apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson. Revelation from the Lord to His servants is a sacred process...” Then, several days ago in April 2019, the leaders reversed this decision. A message from the First Presidency stated “These policy changes [to allow baptism for children of LGBT parents, reversing their previous decision] come after an extended period of counselling with our brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and after fervent, united prayer to understand the will of the Lord on these matters.” How could both of these decisions be revelation or the will of God? Did God change His mind less than four years later or is He the same, yesterday, today, and forever? Would God honestly cause that much pain then arbitrarily tell the leaders of the church to reverse the change? Or were the leaders of the church mistaken? Were they wrong in their belief that God led them to make that decision? Do they really know the will of God? Or does God not lead these men at all?

We know that prophets can be wrong. They have been in the past. Brigham Young taught that Adam is God. He taught this over and over, in General Conference and in the Temple. If Brigham Young, the president and prophet of the church at the time, did not know the nature of God, how can prophets be trusted to teach us His will? Brigham Young also taught Blood atonement. This doctrine was that some sins were so terrible that it would be better to kill yourself, to spill your blood on the ground as a sacrifice to God, than to continue living. Some of these things that were considered terrible sins were mixed race marriages and having mixed race children. The church now disavows the theories that black people were cursed even though there are scriptural passages in the Book of Mormon and in the Book of Abraham stating that black skin is a curse. If modern prophets can be wrong, what is the point of following them? Why should we unquestioningly follow them when we know they can be mistaken? What else are they currently wrong about?

4.       Discernment/Hofmann Forgeries
In the 1980s, a man named Mark Hofmann claimed to have found several LDS church history documents from the early days of the church. These documents included a blessing given by the church founder, Joseph Smith, to his son, naming him as his successor as prophet and leader of the church rather than Brigham Young. Another was the White Salamander Letter. This document discussed Joseph Smiths involvement with treasure digging, magical practices, and replaced the angel that gave Joseph Smith the Gold Plates with a supernatural white salamander. Needless to say, these documents would be very problematic for the church’s truth claims if they came to light. With the case of the White Salamander letter, Hofmann himself leaked the documents existence, which forced Dallin H. Oaks, an apostle, to present an explanation in 1985. In a presentation to Church Educational System educators, Oaks asserted that “white salamander” could be equated to an angel because in the 1820s salamander also meant a mythical being thought to be able to live in fire. He told them that a “being that is able to live in fire is a good approximation of the description Joseph Smith gave of the Angel Moroni.”

Unfortunately, Oaks apologetic explanations were unnecessary. When Hofmann’s debts began to pile up and collectors began asking for their documents, he murdered two people with homemade bombs. After the murders, Hofmann met with several high-ranking leaders of the church, including then president Spencer W. Kimball, future president Gordon B. Hinckley, and apostle Boyd K. Packer. These men purchased his documents for thousands of dollars with the intent of hiding them. Hofmann was eventually arrested and it was discovered that his documents were all forgeries. How did the prophet and several apostles not know they were meeting with a murderer? Why did God not tell them that these documents were all forgeries? The practice of hiding documents that do not substantiate the truth claims of the church is extremely dishonest. And the principle of discernment that members of the church believe the prophet and apostles have does not exist.

5.       Church Finances
Although the principle of tithing has evolved significantly over time, the church has made it a requirement for members to pay 10% of their income since 1941. If members don’t pay this amount, they are not considered members in full fellowship and are not permitted to engage in the highest form of worship in the church, namely temple attendance. The president of the church recently visited a poverty-stricken African country and told the people there that the way to get out of poverty was to pay their tithing!

The church reports a membership of 16.3 million people worldwide. While only about a third of these are actively attending, the church still makes a significant amount of money. Estimates of the total worth of the church seven years ago were 35 billion, making it the richest church in the world, richer even than the Catholic church (approx. 1 billion members but worth only 30 billion dollars). The church brings in 8 billion dollars per year in tithing and investments. One would expect that a large percentage of this income would go towards humanitarian aid, but this is not the case. Reports of the amount the church donates to humanitarian causes is approximately 40 million per year. This equates to half of one percent of its annual income. That’s 1/200th of its income.

So, the question is, where does the church spend its money? The fact is, we don’t know exactly, as the church has not disclosed its finances since 1959. Obviously, there is maintenance and upkeep of buildings. These costs have been decreased as much as possible in recent years. Paid cleaners for church buildings were let go and members are expected volunteer to clean meetinghouses weekly. Temples are multi-million dollar buildings. Despite the church teaching that we have no paid ministry (this is true, however, for local leadership), General Authorities are given $120,000 American per year. This is after all their debt is paid off by the church. The City Creek Center, a shopping mall in Salt Lake City, was paid for by the church at an expense of 1.5 billion dollars. The church owns 2% of the entire state of Florida! I have issues with the church spending money on investments rather than making a positive difference in the world. The Seventh day Adventist church, founded in 1863, has almost 21 million members. They have purchased almost 200 hospitals, 133 nursing homes, and roughly 8500 schools. While the Seventh Day Adventist church makes one third of what the LDS church makes in a year, they contributed 22 times the amount of humanitarian aid in 2014. These financial discrepancies should not be occurring if the LDS church were the one true church on the earth.

6.       The Second Anointing
The final point that I will make is about the ordinance of the Second Anointing. Also described as making your calling and election made sure, this is an ordinance that is not known among most members of the church. There have been three first hand accounts that I personally know of regarding this ordinance. Essentially, a high-ranking member of the church (stake president, mission president, etc.) is called in by a General Authority under the direction of the prophet. They are told they will receive their second endowment or the second anointing in the temple. They are asked to prepare by reading what Bruce R. McConkie had written on the subject of making your calling and election made sure in his book “Mormon Doctrine.” The ordinance includes an apostle washing your feet, you are anointed with oil and blessings are pronounced upon you, your wife washes your feet and then your wife gives you a blessing. This is unusual in the church, as women are not permitted to hold the priesthood, which is required in order to give blessings. One of the blessings pronounced is that you are sealed up to eternal life. From that point onward, no matter what sin you commit (except murder or the unpardonable sin of denying the Holy Ghost) your exaltation is guaranteed. This goes against everything the church teaches. We are taught that we have to endure to the end of our lives and can only receive exaltation if we have done so. The idea that high ranking church leaders are giving each other blessings that signify they are guaranteed salvation no matter what they do from that point onward is not okay with me and shouldn’t be okay with anyone else.

I apologize for another long post. I didn’t want to make this into two separate ones because, like I have said earlier, I want to move on from discussing issues with the church and get back to discussing my experiences. But I hope that by going through these problems that other members of the church can see that my issues were not trivial. I have legitimate issues with many aspects of the church. If this church told its members that it is one of many good places to worship, it would be easier for me to go. But because the church claims itself as the one true church, it needs to be able to back up this claim. And unfortunately, at least in my opinion, it does not. That is why I have taken a step back, why I do not attend regularly. I believe that I can be a better person outside of the church than I could ever be inside it. I can allow people to live their own lives, by their own conscience, without judging them. I can choose the charity and causes that I donate my money to. I can decide on my own what is right and what is wrong. I don’t have to listen to any other person tell me the “right way” to live. I still have high standards and good morals. I can follow my conscience and be a good person not because someone else tells me to but because I want to. In a lot of ways, this process has been extremely liberating. But in other ways it has been terrifying.

In the next post I will discuss the stages of grief I experienced due to losing my faith in the LDS church. I want people to understand that it was a horribly difficult event to have to go through, not at all the easy way out. I hope it helps members of the church to love those that leave rather than pushing them away, and hopefully to accept their choices, because they are honestly made due to integrity and their conscience. We are all trying the best we can to live our lives in the best way possible. And all roads are legitimate.


  1. Another enlightening post -- very interesting portion of where the church's finances are spent!

  2. I enjoyed reading your post. I struggle with many forms of religion because of the very reasons you describe. I went on a spiritual journey, asking myself what will my journey be. I found educational material on comparative religions to be very helpful. But your journey is your own and I am a fan of self exploration..continue!