I’m drawn to Mormonism, but I have questions about the literal historicity of the Book of Mormon. Help?

Dear Ask Mormon Girl:

I am professional, working, single mom, in my mid-thirties, and am on a spiritual journey that has led me through liberal Protestantism and Catholicism, marriage and divorce, and single motherhood. Since the birth of my child, I began thinking, once again, more about religion and faith.  I have become increasingly curious about the Mormon faith. I have attended sacrament meeting and read many LDS devotionals. I’ve watched the PBS documentary; read books by Fawn Brodie and Robert Millet; browsed apologetics; followed Mormon Matters podcasts; and perused the LDS.org site many times.  I’ve read the accounts of the temple rites; I’ve read the issues with the historical account of the Book of Mormon, the issue of polygamy and past racism; I’ve read and heard the testimonies and Mormon responses to these issues of many faithful Latter-day Saints. I have witnessed and admired the strong testimonies of LDS members. I know there are issues (as any religion will have), but I still feel very drawn to Mormonism. I believe in Heavenly Father and the idea of a premortal existence and eternal progression.  But I honestly can’t get myself to believe in the Book of Mormon as a real, historical account. I believe Joseph Smith may have had wonderful religious insight and visions into the spiritual realm, but I am not convinced in the reality of the golden plates and the historical truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. I do, however, regard it as a great religious text full of many great spiritual truths. My question is this–is there room for someone like me in the LDS Church? I pray about this often. I think bringing a child along with me into the faith makes my decision all the more important for me to make a wise choice. I don’t want to confuse my child or have my child be ostracized later for my questions. I would love to find a home there, if there is room for me…

 A Tentative Investigator

Is there room for you in Mormonism as a non-literal believer?  Tentative, you’d be welcome to sit next to me and my kids in Sacrament Meeting anytime.

I love that your path has led you to Mormonism, and that you’ve taken it so seriously.  I also love that you’ve demonstrated enough respect for yourself and the Church to research it thoroughly (Fawn Brodie and Robert Millet!) and that you have enough maturity to take the good with the bad, knowing that all religions have their “issues.”  So true, so true. . . .

It’s also true that Mormonism has a large proportion of members who profess a literal belief in the totality of Mormon doctrine, including the literal historicity of the Book of Mormon.  There are Mormons who will tell you that you are wrong to go about the religion any other way, and they tend to take up most of the airtime in Sunday School.  But quiet in the pews around you there are also plenty of good Mormons who have adopted a less conclusive, more open-ended form of faith, for so many reasons:  for the love of the beauty and distinctiveness of the Mormon tradition, for all the goodness it holds, for its importance to their families, and for the power they’ve experienced there.

Should all those powerful reasons for affiliating as a Mormon be set aside because one has reservations about the historical truthfulness of the Book of Mormon?  For some, the question of the literal historicity of the Book of Mormon serves as a litmus test for faith.  But can you imagine if all the Christians who took a non-literal approach to the Bible were kicked out of Christendom?  Can you imagine if all the Jews who did not believe in the literal historicity of the Torah were made unwelcome in Judaism?  Most synagogues would be e-m-p-t-y.

It is by custom pretty much taboo for Mormons to openly voice questions about the literal historicity of the Book of Mormon at Church on Sunday, and you should think about whether or not you’d find this a nurturing religious environment.  (A good local congregation can make all the difference.  Mine sure does for me.)  But every day I find more and more hopeful signs that Mormons with unorthodox approaches to belief are creating a more solid and supported place in the community for themselves. Given that you’ll rarely hear non-literal approaches on Sunday, blogs like FMH and podcast-communities like Mormon Stories will help you feel less alone and give you the support you’ll need in trying to negotiate Mormonism as a non-literal believer. I’d especially urge you to check out this podcast with Book of Mormon scholar Grant Hardy and his wife Heather Hardy.  It’s one of the most encouraging approaches to the Book of Mormon I’ve encountered in a very long time.

I rarely get all scriptural up in the AMG column, but over the last few months, I keep finding myself in Mosiah 18, one of several chapters in the Book of Mormon that are so beautiful to me that when I read them I truly do not care if Lamanites ever actually lived in Guatemala or not.  In Mosiah 18: 8 – 10, Alma describes baptism not as an expression of absolute certainty but simply as a willingness and desire to join a community of believers.

So, as you consider whether the next step in your spiritual journey will lead you (and your child) to Mormonism, I would encourage you to ask yourself if you are willing to form a spiritual bond with people who believe differently than you?  Are you willing to serve and be served by people who take a more literal approach to the Book of Mormon?  Are you willing to sit through Sunday School and keep your mouth shut when others bear fervent testimonies of archeological finds in Central America?  Are you willing to set aside any feeling of urgency to correct others on their approach to faith, and adopt an attitude of patient, loving forbearance and dignity when others try to correct you?  And, most of all, are you willing to keep striving and searching?

What do you say, dear readers?  Is there a place for Tentative in Mormondom? What advice or encouragement might you offer?

Send your queries to askmormongirl@gmail.com, or follow askmormongirl on Twitter.

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86 Comments

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86 responses to “I’m drawn to Mormonism, but I have questions about the literal historicity of the Book of Mormon. Help?

  1. Ben S

    I would say Yes definitely. And I think Elder Holland would too, who explicitly made room for those who struggle to believe in the BoM as an ancient text (which does not necessarily entail strict historicity.)

    From his PBS interview-

    “… If someone can find something in the Book of Mormon, anything that they love or respond to or find dear, I applaud that and say more power to you. That’s what I find, too. And that should not in any way discount somebody’s liking a passage here or a passage there or the whole idea of the book, but not agreeing to its origin, its divinity. …

    I think you’d be as aware as I am that that we have many people who are members of the church who do not have some burning conviction as to its origins, who have some other feeling about it that is not as committed to foundational statements and the premises of Mormonism. But we’re not going to invite somebody out of the church over that any more than we would anything else about degrees of belief or steps of hope or steps of conviction. … We would say: “This is the way I see it, and this is the faith I have; this is the foundation on which I’m going forward. If I can help you work toward that I’d be glad to, but I don’t love you less; I don’t distance you more; I don’t say you’re unacceptable to me as a person or even as a Latter-day Saint if you can’t make that step or move to the beat of that drum.”

    http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/holland.html

    • Kathleen Jones

      If Elder Holland is being truthful here, why has Grant Palmer the author of “An Insider’s View to Mormon Origins” STILL being dis-fellowshiped? He’s been dis-fellowshiped for YEARS now, because he wont’ disavow his OWN BOOK! He just recently was told he can not even write comments or papers about his work, or he’ll be Excommunicated. So it’s fine to doubt as long as you keep your mouth shut. Open it and you will see the hand of GOD at work! … er, I mean, men with “control issues”. Elder Holland is a liar.

      • Kathleen Jones

        http://www.mormonthink.com/gptimeline.htm#7 (Grant Palmer’s “requirements” to be let back into the church as a full member.)

      • Major Bidamon

        yes, Holland speaks from both sides of his mouth. On the PBS documentary, he was talking to the entire world. At general conference, he was talking to members. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O57HTriXrIY&feature=player_embedded

      • BW

        Kathleen, I can see that you have some fairly strong feelings about the fact that certain leaders of the Church are against certain things being published and taught. I would say though that I know Elder Holland to be a good and wise man, with a good heart and sincere desires. Even more so I know him to be called of God. As to Grant Palmer and his book, I believe that the reasoning behind why Church leaders have asked him to “disavow his own book” at the cost of being excommunicated, is because it does not promote faith. I am a firm believer that milk should always come before meat. If we try to swallow the meat, we will most often choke on the bone. Many of the progressives of the Church fail to understand this. The are so anxious to show everyone the “way out of the cave” that they blind everyone in the process. Each person must find their own way out of the cave. We each must make our own journey. If we try to pull people out, they will only crucify us. Or in some cases we destroy their faith. My Grandfather was a perfect example of this. In his sincere desire to educate his children on the history of the Church to give them awareness, he cause a few of them to “choke on the bone”. They had not had sufficient milk. They were not ready for the meat. We must become more aware of this. There is a time and a place to “keep (our) mouth shut” and a time to open our mouths and the Spirit can help us to be aware of the timing.
        Kathleen, I am confident that you have some good feelings about the Church, otherwise you wouldn’t still spend you time reading AMG. Spend some time thinking about why you still feel a connection to the Church. I invite you to read some of Elder Hollands work. I promise you, he is a good man and he is only a liar as much as any of us are. We are all “striving to ascend” and can only “ascend in the striving”.

  2. HiJolly

    The baptismal questions (and the temple recommend questions) asked us do not include one about the historical literalness of the Book of Mormon. And I don’t think they should.

    Yes, I think ‘Tentative in Mormondom’ should be welcome in the Church. If it were my choice, there would be no question: She’s *in*!

    Sadly, I know about 60% of my home ward would disagree. But if you are to have diversity, if you are to allow others to believe & think in way different from your own belief/thinking, then this is a necessary by-product of our values. It has to be ok.

    Joanna, I think you framed the tensions and potential conflicts well.

  3. Tom Milligan

    There is room for every honest, thinking, and sincere person in the Mormon Church. A great many faithful and thinking Mormons have not yet reached a place where they are 100% sure of the certainty of all things they are taught in the church. They are on a journey and are willing to open their minds to truth when and if it comes their way, not satisfying themselves with the certainty which sometimes is only bought at the cost of closing one’s mind.

    Step in, feel the water, and see if the temperature is conducive to your spiritual, emotional and intellectual well-being. If it turns icy cold then you can use that to help you decide on its goodness; if it makes you feel warm and comfortable and if your life is blessed, then perhaps you’ll stay awhile and break bread with the good people you meet there.

  4. BBKing77

    Let me preface my comment by stating that this is purely my own personal opinion.

    This is a great and interesting question. I have had, and continue to have, my own personal struggles of faith. I was born into this religion, and I have grown to love it for its positive influences and attributes. Had I not been born into the faith, however, and found myself in the situation here described, and yet with the benefit of knowledge of years in the church that I now have, I would say that the best course of action would be to attend and gain fellowship and a level of comfort with your local ward/branch, yet perhaps not pursue baptism just yet. Baptism is a big step and commitment. You’re testifying through your actions that accept the literal truths that the church proclaims, including the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and its origins. Perhaps in time you’ll either accept these truths, or you’ll feel comfortable enough to proceed to baptism without that acceptance, but I think it’s something that shouldn’t be rushed into without that acceptance.

    Anyway, that’s simply my opinion. Others may take more of the approach that you will gain that testimony by taking the steps first, which is also an understandable standpoint.

    • Kathleen Jones

      I couldn’t disagree more, BB. If this young woman were to jump in and let her ward members serve her, while she “investigates”, and then finds that she can sincerely not take the steps into Baptism, she will see those “friendships” disappear almost overnight. Mormons are notorious for staying away from people who “knew it was true” and rejected it. They are afraid it will spill over onto them. Go ahead and get baptized if she wants. Walk away when you finally decide it’s all a hoax and you can’t live it. But DO NOT be fooled that you will keep these people as your friends if you do not join them. You will be starting a brand new life with no one in it, but your daughter (if you are lucky and she doesn’t shun you for leaving). My suggestion is to hold on tight to the non-member friends you have now, you’ll need them when you get back.

      • BW

        Oh my dear Kathleen, I can tell you have had some bad experiences with the Church and some of its members. I am so sorry. I cannot even imagine what must have happened to you to cause you to feel this way. It is obvious that you still have some feelings of connection to the Church, other wise you would not be reading AMG. I would just say though, that no one should join the Church for “friendships”. No ones membership in the Church should be founded upon friendships, family pressure, tradition, social expectation, welfare, or just a need to fit in. Anyone who does so is bound to get hurt as you have fairly plainly pointed out. Although the Church provides and satisfies many of our most basic social needs, that has never been or will be its primary purpose.

    • Nathan

      I don’t think baptism necessarily implies acceptance of Book of Mormon historicity or various other claims. The Preach My Gospel manual for missionaries instructs them to ask the following questions (among others) in the baptismal interview:

      Do you believe that God is our Eternal Father? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world?

      Do you believe the Church and gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith? Do you believe that [current Church President] is a prophet of God? What does this mean to you?

      There are other questions, but these are the only ones that ask about doctrinal beliefs. I find there is a lot of room for differing interpretations as to what these questions mean and what is required for an affirmative answer. staylds.com has some good ideas in this regard. (See the section titled “An Approach [to] the Temple Recommend Questions.”)

      • Nathan,

        You’re pulling quotes out of context. If you read all of Preach My Gospel you’ll find that one of the main things missionaries are to focus on are helping people get a testimony of the literal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. In fact, PMG has a whole chapter on the Book of Mormon which begins “An essential part of conversion is receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true. . . This witness of the Holy Ghost should be a central focus of your teaching” (p103). The chapter goes on to explain that the BOM is the foundation of the testimony of the Church.

      • Nathan

        I’m not suggesting that Preach My Gospel doesn’t encourage a literal approach to Book of Mormon historicity, just pointing out that the baptismal interview doesn’t require it. I appreciate that Elder Holland confirmed in his PBS interview that holding a literal interpretation is not necessary for church membership.

  5. I remember Elder Nelson in his last conference talk (October 2010) said that the Book of Mormon is not a history book, which seems to me that he was not claiming any historicity for the Book of Mormon, or at least moving away from it as a literal history. I am not sure how far he would take this line. I think that the same issues regarding historicity in the Book of Mormon are applicable to the Bible. So I think it is healthy and needed to see them for their spiritual and symbolic value not as literal documents. The book of Job is fictional yet, that does not stop us from gaining valuable lessons from it. I think if more people started seeing them like this, then they would get more out of them then just reading them. Their value is not because of insight into Lamanite and Nephite culture, but rather, the fact that they help communicate divine principles to us. The truths in the Book of Mormon transcend historical truth. The question is not is the book of Mormon literally true as a historical document, but is the book of Mormon a book that will help get me closer to God?

    • Kathleen Jones

      Jacob, if it’s not true, the *entire* premise of Joseph Smith being a Prophet falls like a house of cards. The entire foundation of the church is built around *that story* being true! A story that wasn’t recorded until 17-18 years after he supposedly had the “vision”, mind you. Early members of the church never heard about the 1st Vision. Without IT, the story of the plates, and the people in the BofM being real, you have no true church/story. Just a liar who made up a book (with friends) to start making money. (and getting chicks!)

      • I don’t think that the entire premise of the church or Joseph Smith falls on this point. If it isn’t a translated document that does not prove that it is not of divine origin. I think it is easy to make the jump from saying that the Book of Mormon is not a historically correct, therefore its not from God, therefore Joseph Smith is not a prophet but that is not a sound argument. I think it is equally as extraordinairy that Joseph Smith could write a book, even with help from others, as profound as the Book of Mormon, as if it was a record of the Lamanites and Nephites. If he did that then I don’t see why God could not have inspired him to write it.

      • Kathleen Jones

        Jacob, what part of a lie do you not understand? We ALL have been told it’s a TRUE HISTORICAL DOCUMENT! Now it’s ok that he lied, that they ALL lie to you, it still makes it true? I now see how the “birther” movement has gotten so carried away….Only the completely brainwashed will find any way to make something not true, true.

      • Kathleen,

        When a story is recorded really has no bearing on its validity. I’m sure there are many stories from your past that have not been put to paper and published widely that are nevertheless true.

        As for your contention that the premise of the Church stands and falls on these origin stories, I think you’re right. The Mormon message has never from its beginnings purported to be symbolistic generalities. It has claimed to be literal. It hasn’t claimed infallibility for any of its members, including its prophet leaders. But it claims to be literal. There is a literal God. That God literally communicates. He’s called prophets. There was a literal savior who was literally resurrected.

      • BW

        Oh Kathleen Kathleen! :) Forgive me for replying to all of your posts. I can just sense a lot of unhappiness that you are feeling. Again I am so sorry you feel that way. I would ask you though, If the LDS faith is so false and wrong and deceiving, why waste your time writing on this blog? You seem to have had your feelings hurt or have been deeply offended. For this I am truly sorry. But please consider that the LDS faith provides hope and happiness to millions of others. It provides sound principles upon which to have a happy and successful life. It teaches the good sort of things that this world needs more of. Things like forgiveness, kindness, patience, to bear your burdens with dignity and recognize their importance and value. It provides answers to questions that our souls yearn to know. There are so many good things that the Church provides and gives us. Why tear it down? If indeed the Church is false and its history hidden and covered with a dark cloak, why waste your time writing about THIS “false” religion? Why not the Church of England? (Not that their religion is entirely false, or bad I just personally feel that it is. That is a personal feeling) Why not the “false” views of the evangelicals? ( again personal feelings) Kathleen, again I ask you to consider why you are doing this. Maybe perhaps, somewhere deep down, you still remember those good feelings that you felt at Church. If you have indeed left the Church for good and have not intention of ever returning, its best to always remember the good. I certainly hope that I will be remembered for the good influence I had and not all the bad. I know I was my fair share of bad influencing, but I certainly don’t want to be remembered for that. I am sure you don’t either Kathleen. :) So let us give to the Church and its members the same respect that we would want others to have of us. :) Lets think of the good things we remember and the good things that we learned and grew from. In doing so, we will be happier (and healthier I might add) and better human beings for it.

    • SS

      Job is fictional? Although it states in scripture that the bible is the breathed word of God. No where does the bible say that any part is fictional. Which is why I no longer practice mormonism as the book the religion is based on is fictional. Only truth will get you closer to God.

      • Yes, biblical scholars, have pretty much concluded that the person called Job could not have existed on the basis that the land of Uz is so nebuluous that it could refer to pretty much anywhere and that he lived for 140 years after it all (like our happy ever after), along with the fact that the Job motif is found throughout literature that predates the Book of Job. Its pretty rare for academics to agree on anything so the fact that their is consensus on this is remarkable. Its seen as a writing of various folk tales in israel that are adapted to tell a story of how israel should respond to being in bondage. No where does the bible say that it is historically accurate either. Just out of curiousity what verse are you refering to when you say that the scriptures are ‘the breathed word of God?’

  6. Bertrand Russell

    I would compare this to deciding on whether to move to a new country or not. You love the clean cities, roads, kind people and numerous aspects of the culture. But there is a one problem – their leader is naked – all the time. But everyone in the country raves about how beautiful the leaders clothes are. They talk about it – a lot. They go into detail: fabric, colors, patterns and how it makes them feel when they see it and think about it. This focus is one of the primary reasons for the country’s success. If you move there you will have to listen to all this and go along and keep your viewpoint to yourself (you will upset others and be unpatriotic in a very patriotic country). But worst of all, the whole time you’ll be seeing the leaders nakedness without the comfort of the illusion. Not a sustainable situation for many – especially for a mother with young children. A good place for someone evil intending to take advantage a population that has a high capacity for self delusion. Maybe invisible clothing sold via network marketing…

  7. David Lindes

    I would first say that I think Tentative should feel welcome in the Mormon community, along with many others who choose this faith in spite of our pending questions. Additionally, I would ask: Tentative, are you willing to continue asking (by prayer and study) to learn the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon? I think being open to its truthfulness is important, even if you’re not completely convinced. Do you have, as Alma describes, a “desire to believe” that the book is real and its message accurate? This desire is often the beginning of faith. And faith is what all of us need when we are not completely convinced, or have a perfect knowledge of things.

    Faith can lead us to a more complete understanding, little by little (Read Alma, chapter 26). But if faith (or the willingness to act before we know something perfectly) is replaced by cynicism (a closed-mindedness to things we do not yet understand), then such growth cannot come.

    My best to you in your desire to find a community of faith that will nourish you and your family.

  8. backandthen

    If I may, through my excommunication and what brought me back I have understood that if others are not comfortable with my doubts and my questions God is. I have quickly come to the understanding that one of the down reasons our Heavenly Father wanted me back was not because of my “crazy lunatic questions” but because He knew I would voice them and never be afraid to speak my mind.

    If you have a desire to join this church then maybe you should, maybe you shouldn’t.

    The only way to find if this is right to you is to gain what missionaries call a “testimony”. A testimony is one of the most overlooked and overused word in the church.
    It means that your relationship with the Divine is clear enough on a subject that you can have a personal answer to a question that nobody can have. It sometimes sounds like we can all have the same because any human language is so imperfect that we end up using the same words to describe what I firmly believe is different for each. Thus it sometimes feels to me we are being blasphemous but I am probably wrong on this.
    Anyway I think that AskMormonGirl gave you the best answer ever, specially at the end, I just wanted to add my two cents.

  9. Ben S

    Kathleen, I don’t want to get involved in a Palmer debate. Suffice it to say, I think there’s more than one issue there. You can’t go around in any company or group publicly undermining its very basis and essentially advocating against it without some kind of action.

    Holland says later in that interview, “There are plenty of people who question the historicity of the Book of Mormon, and they are firmly in this church — firmly, in their mind, in this church — and the church isn’t going to take action against that. [The church] probably will be genuinely disappointed, but there isn’t going to be action against that, not until it starts to be advocacy: “Not only do I disbelieve in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, I want you to disbelieve.” At that point, we’re going to have a conversation. A little of that is more tolerated than I think a lot of people think it should be. But I think we want to be tolerant any way we can. … “Patient” maybe is a better word than “tolerant.” We want to be patient and charitable to the extent that we can, but there is a degree beyond which we can’t go. … “

    • Kathleen Jones

      Yes, my all means, please act like a typical Mormon and brush aside a story such as Grants. The “brethren” decided what to do, so there must be “much more to the story”. He’s done some “grievous sin” that they can’t tell us about, that’s the REAL reason his still dis-fellowshipped, right Ben? Couldn’t be the letter and the rules he was told he must obey to regain his full membership (that I gave a link to above, but you clearly didn’t read)… Those questions aren’t even asked for a regular investigator to become a member!

      Holland is a liar. He was lying for the lord in a public interview. Tell the public one thing to make it look like a beautiful shiny thing, but in reality, the “treatment” is much different. You just basically stated so above.

      • James

        Kathleen,

        I can tell someone within the church said or did something to hurt you deeply. It may have been a person with malevolent intent, a person who meant well but clearly made a mistake, or maybe a leader like a bishop or stake president who tried to hard to push his authority and agenda and ended up doing terrible damage. Your words have such anger behind them and I feel for you. Anger can sometimes be corrosive and taint our perceptions in dark ways, so I truly hope you can come to terms with the actions of others that have caused you such pain and thereby increase the Lord’s peace in your life.

        Also, I think you may have read Ben’s comment a bit too quickly, because you responded to arguments he didn’t raise. Ben’s central point, from how I’m reading it, is that their are institutional reasons why the church took action against Palmer. Ben isn’t arguing here for the accuracy or inaccuracy of Palmer’s work, but simply pointing out that whether or not it is accurate, the church will protect itself from hostile or subversive public voices. Ben also wasn’t claiming that there are reasons other than the obvious for the action against Palmer, because his book was enough to get him disfellowshipped. I don’t know where you got the idea that Ben or Holland were asserting that there needs to be grievous sins for action to be taken, because both of them make it pretty clear that the problem is not with some sort of sin, but with subversive public action against the church.

        I’m not sure where in the passage Ben quoted you see Holland lying. He seems to be pretty straightforward to me, sending a message that you can have subversive views, but if you start publicly advocating those views then the church will bring action against you.

        Anyway, I sincerely do hope you can make sense of your anger. I bet it was your anger that caused you to misread Ben, mostly because I know when I am even temporarily angered by silly things I misinterpret things people say, so I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to deal with substantive anger caused by real events.

        Also, thanks for the links you provided above with Palmer’s letters to and from the church. I hadn’t read those before and they were pretty interesting. I feel for Palmer’s situation. I understand why an institution has to sometimes distance itself from certain groups or individuals, but I also understand how frustrating it must be for Palmer who is right to request substantive refutation from his peers as a scholar as well as to request similar expectations as anyone who must go through a temple recommend interview. I get the sense that Palmer really does like the church and wants to be part of it, but he’s encountering the difficulty of trying to reason with church authority, as heretics throughout history have encountered and finding that process to be authoritarian rather than discursive.

        Lastly, please forgive me if I’m off on what I’m seeing as anger in your words. We’re all prone to interpretive mishaps, so if that’s the case I’m sorry for the awkwardness. Also, sometimes things like deep-seated anger can be very personal, so if I happen to be right and you feel it was inappropriate for me to get personal, then I apologize for overstepping my bounds. Gauging propriety and such in discussions with people we don’t know on the internet is quite the mine field.

      • Kathleen Jones

        James, there is no “reply” button under you post below, so let’s see how this lines up on the page (sorry for the delay, I just saw this response just now). I’ll leave you with this. Yes, I’m angry sometimes. As are thousands and thousands of ExMormons these days. Finding out Joseph and Co. made the entire thing up, that everything you believed in is a lie, is heart wrenching. Am I offended? You bet your fanny I am. I’m offended that old men with VERY large bank accounts (you poor followers only believe they don’t receive financial gain from the church…you REALLY need to do your homework), continue to push a myth, that cost you 10% of your income! I have spent 12 plus years now helping others as they discover the lie, while they lose their families, spouses, some times even jobs (Utah Mormons are SO special that way). Lives turned completely upside down, and many don’t even know how to begin to live their lives now that they no longer believe. Most are, with in nano seconds, abandoned by their ENTIRE Ward population. Their entire world has dropped out from under them. You have no idea what pain this church has caused people. We’ll leave it at that.

  10. A helpful quote:

    “I beg you…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer…” – Rainer Maria Rilke

  11. Carlyn

    Hi Tentative!
    I am blessed to belong to this church and although i am one of those who do not have a problem with the teachings of the church and the BOM i know quite a few people in my ward who do.
    They are married to wonderful men who are not baptized in the church and yet serve in callings in our ward and very active.
    My husband who was not a member of church then said these words, “even if i do not believe that the church is true i would still join for what it does to keep the families together and the teachings that it has”.
    I love our prophet and and the leaders of this church.
    At the end of the day, we are all trying to live a life that is in keeping with what Heavenly Father wants us to live.
    And i believe that includes encouraging those like you who want to join my church that i believe to be true and good for all of us.
    It includes looking at the good and looking for that feeling of warmth that the Spirit gives when it is telling you that something is right.
    Let the Spirit tell you what to do.
    Good feelings, warm feelings come from Heavenly Father.

  12. Badger

    I think this will be a real difficulty, but a lot will depend on your own outlook. As the discussion about Palmer suggests, the expectation will be that you keep your questions to yourself. There is some room for admitting that you have them, if you are comfortable framing the discussion in terms of struggling to strengthen your testimony. There would be an presumption that your questions reflect a deficiency in you (didn’t pray with “real intent”, etc.), and there isn’t much room to treat your questions as serious.
    For an extreme example, have a look at some apologetic writing about Palmer. You aren’t likely to be on the receiving end of anything remotely like this unless you publish a book like his, but you will be part of a culture in which this kind of reaction to criticism is not necessarily viewed as bizarre or out of touch, a reaction I think most nonmembers might have.
    If you do join, you won’t be the only member with such reservations, and at least on the internet it is easy to find groups (e.g., New Order Mormons) in which you can discuss such doubts openly. In your own ward (congregation) it’s harder, both to identify such members and to deal with repercussions of activity that could be viewed as damaging another’s testimony.
    If you see historicity of the BoM as a foible of LDS culture, and don’t feel compromised or hypocritical allowing others to assume you have the expected beliefs and doing nothing to challenge the assumption, then I don’t think you’ll experience very much distress. I think skeptics really are welcome on that basis. If you see it as a very important question, especially if it calls into question Joseph Smith’s status as a prophet, and you would be uncomfortable dissembling or hearing people like yourself described as faithless, it may be a deal breaker.
    There are similar, but many would say more severe, questions about the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. I think it’s easier to be an LDS nonbeliever in the BoA than the BoM, but again you would need to be comfortable avoiding the issue.

  13. Dan

    Good question. I think my answer would depend on a variety of factors.

    As an active unorthodox Mormon who is skeptical of many of the founding claims, my first – and possibly selfish – instinct is to welcome the company.

    That said, I would also want to be straight with such a person and make clear that such a view would be a rarity among active LDS, and whatever level of “acceptance” he or she feels would depend both on the personalities of the local ward as well as how that person chooses to interact within. My own approach is to treat my fellow ward members with kindness and respect and to answer any question honestly. It has worked so far, both because I think people value kindness and courtesy over doctrinal oddities, and most don’t really want to know much about the latter anyway.

    The best way to test the level of acceptance would be to simply be up front with the ward missionaries and bishop. The approach should be to outline what you find compelling in the message and the community, why you want to be a part of it, and then explain that you just simply don’t believe the BofM is a historical document. Their response to this would say a lot, and may be a deal-breaker.

    But, to put it bluntly, I think one should only go down this path if they have a personality that is comfortable being the square peg in the round hole. It’s not for everyone….

  14. Tom Milligan

    B. H. Roberts of the First Council of the Seventy, wrote in 1909:
    And let me here say a word in relation to new discoveries in our knowledge of the Book of Mormon, and for matter of that in relation to all subjects connected with the work of the Lord in the earth. We need not follow our researches in any spirit of fear and trembling. We desire only to ascertain the truth; nothing but the truth will endure; and the ascertainment of the truth and the proclamation of the truth in any given case, or upon any subject, will do no harm to the work of the Lord which is itself truth. Nor need we be surprised if now and then we find our predecessors, many of whom bear honored names and deserve our respect and gratitude for what they achieved in making clear the truth, as they conceived it to be — we need not be surprised if we sometimes find them mistaken in their conceptions and deductions; just as the generations who succeed us in unfolding in a larger way some of the yet unlearned truths of the Gospel, will find that we have had some misconceptions and made some wrong deductions in our day and time.
    The book of knowledge is never a sealed book. It is never “completed and forever closed;” rather it is an eternally open book, in which one may go on constantly discovering new truths and modifying our knowledge of old ones. The generation which preceded us did not exhaust by their knowledge all the truth, so that nothing was left for us in its unfolding; no, not even in respect of the Book of Mormon; any more than we shall exhaust all discovery in relation to that book and leave nothing for the generation following us to develop. All which is submitted, especially to the membership of the Church, that they may be prepared to find and receive new truths both in the Book of Mormon itself and about it; and that they may also rejoice in the fact that knowledge of truth is inexhaustible, and will forever go on developing.

  15. Maybe the conflict you feel in your heart is as much a part of your life’s calling into Mormonism as the pull to join a warm community with meaningful scriptures and ceremonies.

    Maybe the questions that tug at you will never go away, or will be replaced with still more/other questions. Then you know your call to the fold isn’t just a place to settle down, it’s the start of a journey.

  16. Ryan

    Tom,
    Thanks for posting that quote from 1909. That summed up a lot of what I’ve been thinking lately. I also appreciate everyone else’s comments on here. As a fellow LDS faithful, I have lately been thinking along the lines of so many of you, and am glad that we have forums like this to share our views. If we have questions, that doesn’t necessarily make us less faithful. At the end of the day, if we are trying to do what we feel our Heavenly Father wants us to do, then who can really question our actions? To some is given the gift of testimony. I have a burning testimony of God’s Love. I also know that God has given me an incredible desire and ability to show that love to my wife and children. If my testimony in the historicity of the Book of Mormon is not on equal grounds with my testimony of God’s Love, does that mean I’m a broken Latter-day Saint? I think not. To me, is simply means that I’m thankful to God for blessing me with a desire to love my wife and kids, and recognizing that the LDS Church really does promote and foster that type of love.
    And thanks for the Elder Holland link. It too was much needed in so many ways. I have a strong testimony that the Gospel is true, for me. But that doesn’t mean that everyone else in this world needs to feel the same way at this point in time. Someday, we will all see the big picture. My belief and hope rest with the LDS faith being the big picture, but at the same time, I expect those of Jewish faith, of Buddhist faith, of Assembly of God faith, to likewise be betting that their faith will reward them likewise with Eternal blessings due to their mortal obedience to what they believe.

  17. Wes Young

    What a crack-up. Where do you guys get the time. I’m up doing expense reports and got bored and found this link on facebook. Wow! Kathleen, why don’t you just tell us all who ticked you off and be done with it. OH, I almost forgot, who believes in Jesus here? Let’s find out if that’s true and then these forums will take on a different tone. I love it! If nothing else, it’s entertaining. I guess keep it up.

    • Kathleen Jones

      Wes! Thanks for dropping by, man!

      James, no, no anger anymore. (not usually, anyway) Just the reality I now live in, to help others make sense of their nonsense beliefs. And trust me, there are thousands yearly leaving the church needing help figuring out their new lives, now that they don’t have a dogma to subscribe to. You are welcome to believe in the fantasy. I don’t want “Tentative” to join the church, while not actually believing, hoping she’s found a community that will “be friends with her”, and then finding out she can’t believe, loses them all. I’ve been a Mormon most of my life and I KNOW what we do/did to those who fall away. They forsake their entire lives and families to join us, and then when they leave us, we drop them like rotten garbage. You are all liars if you pretend we don’t do that. WE ALL DID IT! Many of you still do, while wrapping it up in some nonsense of “they were influenced by Satan, we need to stay away from that”.

      Yes we might have sent the VT and HT over for a year or two, to harass them, pretending to actually give a damn, but that was all. Nobody in the ward really took action, called them anymore, etc. For the most part, (I’ve heard hundreds of stories now), when you see them in the store, you pretend you didn’t’ and go down another isle, etc. Look yourself in the mirror and tell me you NEVER did that.

      • Tom Milligan

        Yes, Kathleen, it does happen. You won’t be surprised to hear that when I walked out of the ward I belong to a few years ago, while still serving as an uber-active elders quorum president, I never received a visit from anyone after that. When a later EQP phoned me and asked if HT’s could call I said that I didn’t want HT’s but everybody was more than welcome to call if they were passing my way. Nobody ever did call, so I’m supposing that unless I was part of the ‘program’ and part of someone’s assignment then I wasn’t going to get a visit. Believe me when I say that it didn’t bother me, for I had moved on and was peacefully living the decision I’d made – as I still am. By the way, isn’t it a little annoying when people assume that you’re not going to church because you’ve been hurt? Something similiar to missionaries, et al, who assume that you’ve lost the ‘spirit’ because you no longer read the Book of Mormon. Oops! I hope I didn’t appear angry there. ☺

      • Jon Shurtleff

        Well, you don’t qualify ‘nonsense’ beliefs, and you equate it with DOGMA, which you don’t justify. Which is quite a stretch, considering that many, many, many members of the Church, such as myself, are intelligent, well-educated skeptics who use critical thinking skills to examine their beliefs. But even if no one in the Church practiced the teachings in full, which many don’t, their behavior has no bearing on whether the beliefs are true or not. That’s faulty logic. You hope that people will live by their beliefs and be loving, kind, accepting to everyone to everyone but they often don’t and that is very, very high standard to achieve for anyone, member or not. I’ve taken a lot more abuse outside the Church than I ever have in the Church. It’s unfortunate that many in the Church, particularly cultural Mormons who have not invested in understanding the core beliefs of the Church which is belief in Christ, the Atonement and treating others with the pure love of Christ, all other things being appendages to it, behave as they do. It’s really unfortunate that hundreds have been treated as you describe, but we in leadership are very, very concerned about that and try to educate and improve the situation. It’s also true that many members think that people become inactive or leave for the wrong reasons. From my experience that is mostly our of misunderstanding and is a unfortunate cultural thing that has nothing to do with the Gospel and what is taught.

        But I know that I was not treated that way when I was inactive. I had a tremendous amount of support. I was disfellowshipped twice, and I deserved it, and I got a lot of support. I needed financial support and help getting housing and I got it as well as medical help through Social Services. I had people who didn’t understand and were suspicious and distanced themselves. But I also had friends that stuck with me through it all. I had home teachers. I know that there were many others in similar situations who received that kind of support.

        No one I know goes over for a year or two and ‘harasses’ people. If they think they are being harassed, doesn’t that say something about them as well? I know my brother thinks that he’s being harassed because his home teacher sends him a copy of the First Presidency Message each month because ‘he just wants to get his numbers’, but Tim doesn’t want any visits anyway. If people don’t respond within a year or two, are fallible humans who are trying to do their best while juggling career and children and everything else in their life while trying to do their best in a demanding calling that requires a huge amount of time and effort and where you are already stretched to the max just trying to see to it that the active members get the support they need, with minimal training and while learning on the job really to be faulted? You expect an awfully high standard. I’ve seen many other very dedicated leaders who are doing their level best who just can’t get to everyone. I’ve also seen that the majority of inactives, while not hostile, really don’t particularly want to be visited. It’s a difficult judgement call to know what to do with your limited resources.

        I know that I’ve never abandoned a friend who has become inactive or left the Church and I know many, many others who also have not. My brother and his wife have left the Church. It has not affected my relationship with him because we don’t agree. Most of the members of my tiny branch have children and brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles who are inactive or have left the Church but they don’t abandon them.

        I don’t know anyone’s specific case, such as the uber-elder’s quorum president. I do know that, because we are able to, in a small european branch, that my Branch President calls *everyone* who didn’t make it to Church to see how they are doing.

        I know that my job as Elder’s Quorum Predisent is already very difficult even with only 60 active members. I can’t imagine how I would do it in a large unit and be able to get to everyone.

        Yeah there are bad attitudes at Church. Bad things happen and sometimes really bad things. And I’ve worked with people that this has happened to. There are people who are all levels of spiritual, emotional, mental and social maturity. But there are also many, many, many, and I believe the majority, who are sincerely committed and trying to emulate Christ and improve their lives. I know this from my own experience and from my experience with many, many other members and leaders.

        Broad absolutist generalizations don’t really mean very much.

      • Kathleen Jones

        Hey Jeff, thanks for the response. I will say this. European Mormons are different than American Mormons, especially the Mormons on the Wasatch Front. I’m glad they were there for you and helped you in your hours of need. I can guarantee you that that would not be the case here. You are on your own if you’ve committed a “sin”. Oh sure you’ll get visitations and have to come in for interviews with your Bishop, but you won’t be getting financial assistance. If your brother does not want the monthly visitations, tell him to resign from the church. Your Branch will leave him alone after he’s no longer a member. Right? I really appreciate and admire your desire to see the less actives in your branch. But you REALLY need to do yourselves a favor and ask them if they want the visits. If they do not, help them resign and get off your Branch roster, so you guys can have less crazy making in your lives. It’s a win win. I’m pretty sure Heavenly Father can figure out what to do with the “lost souls”.

      • Kathleen Jones

        Shoot! Jon I meant, not Jeff, sorry.

  18. Thomas

    Tentative,

    Given your extensive research into the Church and your thoughtfulness, I ask that you please don’t join until you have attended the full three-hour block many, many times, and had the opportunity to share your honest questions with teachers and leaders as a nonmember. As a nonmember, you can’t be disciplined for honest inquiry, speaking out and asking hard questions. You may have heard of “dry mormons.” We have had one in our ward. She participates in everything, including taking the Sacrament emblems during Sacrament Meeting. This can be a meaningful ritual for you, even if you have not been baptized. Take it slow. Do not let the missionaries rush you into baptism. Go into Mormonism with your eyes wide open. I can almost guarantee you that if you are sincere, and want to participate with your local ward or branch, they will embrace you as one of their own even without baptism. You could even ask for home and visiting teachers and I bet they would assign them for you. How I would have liked to truly and exhaustively “kick the tires” of Mormonism before I joined.

  19. Brian

    From your explanation, it doesn’t appear that you have read The Book of Mormon itself. Try that, then apply Moroni 10:3-5.

    • Nathan

      It sounds to me like applying Moroni 10:3-5 is exactly what she’s trying to do.

      • Thomas

        Tentative — you’re on the right track. Three LDS scriptures condone your approach:

        Doctrine and Covenants 88:118 — And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

        Doctrine and Covenants 109:7 — And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;

        Doctrine and Covenants 109:14 — And do thou grant, Holy Father, that all those who shall worship in this house may be taught words of wisdom out of the best books, and that they may seek learning even by study, and also by faith, as thou hast said;

  20. Cindy Hopper

    As a “lifer” who once left Mormonism to find something my own spiritual path, I have been drawn back to the church for the very things you are describing that make this religion so appealing. Yes, there is room, Tentative. Sit beside me and my family.

    I have questioned God as to whether I can continue to be in the faith without being one of those “without a shadow of a doubt” Mormons. His definitive answer to me (and I am grateful for the teaching of personal revelation!) was, “you are right where you need to be.”
    I was recently taught by an area authority (church leader presiding over the Southern region of the United States) that Joseph Smith had one question when he went to the grove and that was, “what should I do?”
    That has been my question, and it has been answered for me. I don’t have to know it all, but have faith when God answers what I am to do.

    He may already be telling you what to do. Eckhart Tolle says that when your mind and your heart disagree, your heart is always right.

    Good luck. And I hope we sit beside each other someday.

    • Sincere

      I liked this answer a lot. This whole topic is so familiar to me. I am pretty well in the same boat! I admire the church, have not yet joined, have done much reading (many years worth) and listening to LDS audios/videos. I have prayed but have not gotten an answer that the BoM is true. I do believe in God, Jesus, and the philosophy of the church that I have read. I am however, still having problems with the historicity and lack of any evidence any of the events or people in the BoM existed in the Americas. I can accept Joseph Smith having visions and telling a beautiful story, but can’t quite believe the BoM actually happened, except in a story. I have tried to keep an open mind. I even have several copies of the BoM (including the large family edition), audio editions etc. that I continue to read when I have a chance. I want so much to believe but have the same problem with the BoM and historicity. I still admire much in the LDS faith and the way of living. I, too, would like to join this church and share it with my family, but I have the same issues that Tentative has raised. I did enjoy the response from Cindy H. above, though and hope there are more people in the church who would be understanding. For now, I continue readings of the BoM which I first started reading over 30 years ago! It is a beautiful story…but one my prayers tell me is only a story (not an actual history.) I still love Jesus though and try my best to do good works. It looks like I will probably just be a ‘dry’ Mormon.

  21. Daver

    Tentative,

    I keep wanting to ask myself what exactly you mean by the “historicity” of the Book of Mormon. Is it that you wonder if the people and places therein were real, and you can’t figure out why it hasn’t been “proven” yet? Or are you simply wondering if the book is an inspired translation as opposed to a fanciful imagination? Actually, they’re kind of the same question anyway because a conviction of one of these would help to testify of the other. Either way, I would think that if you had the time to spend reading material such a Fawn Brodie’s book, you certainly have had (and still have, of course) enough time to read and study a variety of material that would convince that the Book of Mormon is what is claimed to be. The evidence keeps on growing, and the naysaying keeps sounding more and more tired and repetitive. Keep plugging away, in the right places and with the right attitude and you’ll have your answers and get off the fence.

    Oh, and even if you don’t believe it all now, obviously that can change, one direction or the other, in the future. There is plenty of room for you at church, as others have stated. My goodness, think of all the people that are convinced that the Book of Mormon is perfect, but criticize their local leaders, can’t pay their tithing or live the Word of Wisdom. Get my point?

    Christ would welcome all who wish to seek the truth, wherever and however they find it. You may find it in this Church, and in your local ward.

    All the best,

    Daver

  22. Doug

    Tentative investigator,

    You thoughts struck me as very genuine and sincere. My experience in the LDS Church tells me that many in the Church would welcome you, love you and be inspired by you. To make things easier, I suggest you are as open and honest with your new friends in the Church as you were writing this column (maybe not in Gospel Doctrine class, but talking outside by the mailbox). That will help them know where you are coming from. We are taught that we learn “line upon line and precept upon precept”. I believe what you are experiencing is the sprouting of a testimony (See Alma 32) I would only say, continue on and trust in your feelings. Can you believe these words translated by Joesph Smith? “…Put your ttrust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.” (DC 11:12)? I do. And if you can too, then it may help you come to know that Joseph Smith really was a prophet.

  23. BigZav

    If the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, the Book of Mormon is true. In other words, if you have a testimony of one, you have a testimony of the other. Notice I say, “testimony.” Either you know the Church is true (and that includes Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon) or you don’t. If you have that testimony that it is, then you shouldn’t waver. However, you’ll never get a testimony through science or historical evidence. A testimony only comes from our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ through the Holy Ghost. That’s the same way the prophet, the apostles, your Relief Society president, every faithful Mormon received their testimonies. Get down on your knees and ask. If you’re sincere, you’ll get your answer.

    • Major Bidamon

      Of course BigZav — if you don’t get an answer, you are not sincere. God wins. You lose. Very convenient for the Church. BTW, the original poster sure sounds sincere to me.

  24. Pedro A. Olavarria

    There once were three men, marooned on a deserted island. The men were hungry and needed food, because their rations had run out. They had no problem collecting rain water to drink, but they needed something to eat.

    The island was full of trees, and these trees were home to lots of parrots. The men reasoned that if they could somehow shoot down the parrots, they could then cook them and live.

    One day, one of the men, found a bow and arrows. He brought it back to his friends, to share the good news. The next day, a coconut knocked him on his head, as he slept under a tree, and died.

    The two friends buried him and then talked about the archery set. They noticed that the bow said: ” Made in the USA”.

    One man said: “The bow says ‘MitUSA’, that means Americans have been here before. Now, we can survive as long as it takes for them to come back”

    The second man said: “No way, this island is deserted; our friend made the bow himself.”

    The first man said: “How could he? With what tools? With what experience?”

    The second man said: “How do I know you didn’t help him? If you didn’t, then he was a genius.”

    The first man took the dead man at his word and believed the writing on the bow. BUT, he was lazy and didn’t hunt much. He believed the Americans would eventually find them and did the bare minimum to stay alive.

    The second man was incredulous; he didn’t think it was possible for Americans to be on this uncharted island and leave nothing but bow and arrows. Yet, the archery set was there and he used it to hunt lots of parrots and got physically strong.

    Eventually, the parrots flew away and a great storm knocked down all the trees. The first man eventually died of malnutrition. The second man survived and was picked up by a passing American ship.

    They who have ears to hear, let them hear;)

  25. Tentative,

    1. You don’t need to be baptised to hang out. :) So hang out, make friends, let them know you just have issues with the BOM, but that you love the association. Tell them you’re half-Mormon. Oh, you might have some who bang on the testimony thing for a while, but that will fade and you’ll fit in.

    2. You can make all the commitments to love the people you meet there without being baptised. You don’t get baptised to commit to people.

    3. The only reason to get baptised is because you actually believe all the promises and assumptions of baptism are true. Baptism is an if-then thing. If you do x, you get y. But if you don’t believe in x and y, then there’s no reason to do it. Really.

    Here’s some of the x’s and y’s:

    –Baptism really is necessary for salvation. If you don’t think it is, why get baptised?
    –There is such a thing as salvation. If you don’t believe it, then . . .
    –Christ was really a savior. Same.
    –There is such a thing as the Holy Ghost and THE way to open the door to get it in a greater degree is through baptism by someone who has authority. Again, this is why you get Mormon baptism. That’s the whole proposition. Don’t buy it? Then don’t worry about it.
    –The reason why you need the Holy Ghost is to be cleansed from sin
    –Only Mormon priesthood holders have that authority
    –And the only reason why Mormon priesthood holders would have that authority is because Joseph Smith actually got it. He wasn’t lying about it. Or the BOM. Yikes.

    You’ve really got to buy it. Or mostly buy it. After all, we all grow in faith. But, despite some doubts, baptism is an action you take because you really believe the promises and assumptions are literally true.

    We flip light switches because we believe they’ll turn on the lights. But if we don’t think there’s any electricity there, if we don’t think the switch is connected to anything, then what the heck? Why flip it?

    This doesn’t mean you have to have a sure knowledge of every principle of Mormonism to get baptised. I’ve been a member all my life and don’t have that. But there are some basics. You have to believe in Joseph Smith. You have to believe in the current prophets. That they’re the real deal. Have real authority that came from visitations. That it all wasn’t sucked out of someone’s thumb. Literally.

    Some here will say, hey, I’m Mormon and don’t believe the BOM was a literal record. Okay. But the missionaries are going to ask YOU about your belief in the prophets. Along with other things, including the literalness of the Christ story. If you can’t honestly say you really believe it, albeit with some questions and doubts and caveats, if you just think it’s made up, if you think it’s a lie (or Joseph Smith was earnest but had some mental condition), then you’re not only lying to the missionaries to do this ordiance. You’re living a lie. Why?

    Don’t do it.

    Don’t be in a rush. Be a half-Mormon. A Mormon-lover. If you believe in a lot of the general principles, then be a principle follower. Be a long-term investigator. Be in the community. But don’t get baptised if you don’t really buy it. Be what you are.

  26. John Maynard Keynes was an economist who has had a huge effect on monetary policy, but who also had an wonderful ability to generate a lot of great quotes.

    For example: “I work for a Government I despise for ends I think criminal.”

    And “The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead.”

    One applies to your issues with the historicity of the BOM: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

    When we have part of the facts, they lead us to one conclusion. When we obtain more, it often leads us to another.

    I’ve run into a number of personal BOM historicity questions. Usually, they stemmed from the fact that I thought I had all the facts of a situation or because I held unjustifiable premises. If you haven’t been to fairlds.org already, go on over. Consider what they have to say. Their ideas might be compelling to you in many instance. In others they might not. But what you will see is an examination of premises and facts that will give you tools to think about the BOM and Bible and a number of other things Mormon.

  27. Joshua

    Tentative,

    As many people have said already, a testimony of the historicity of the Book of Mormon is not a requirement for baptism, and I would therefore invite you to earnestly explore your desire to enter into the covenants of The Church. If you feel that God is telling you that it is the right thing to do, then that consideration trumps all others.

    That being said, there is no question that The Church teaches the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. While its purpose is not historical, it was not authored by Joseph Smith, but translated from a record authored by prophets, teachers, historians, and others among a people who actually lived in Western Hemisphere in ancient times. This belief is central to our religion because if it is not true, then Joseph Smith was a false prophet, the Priesthood he was ordained to is not legitimate, and by extension the religion we practice is false.

    “…those who have read it prayerfully have come to know by a power beyond their natural senses that it is true, that it contains the word of God, that it outlines saving truths of the everlasting gospel, that it “came forth by the gift and power of God … to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ” (Book of Mormon title page).
    “It is here. It must be explained. It can be explained only as the translator himself explained its origin. Hand in hand with the Bible, whose companion volume it is, it stands as another witness to a doubting generation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is an unassailable cornerstone of our faith.”
    ~Gordon B Hinckley
    “That becomes the hinge pin on which this whole cause turns. If the First Vision was true, if it actually happened, then the Book of Mormon is true. Then we have the priesthood. Then we have the Church organization and all of the other keys and blessings of authority which we say we have. If the First Vision did not occur, then we are involved in a great sham. It is just that simple.”
    ~Gordon B Hinckley

    Of course a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel does not originate from these things, it originates from our faith in Christ. If you feel that you can exercise a faith in Christ, it is not necessary at this time to have a perfect knowledge of these things. I would earnestly urge you to take these questions on faith for now, with the hope that through your continued participation in the work of God, that He will manifest the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon to you when He feels the time is right. Every child of God is unique and recieves a witness from The Holy Ghost in his or her own way in the time God feels best suited to their personal needs. Hope that helps ^_^

    • Kathleen Jones

      What utter nonsense! So here we have yet ANOTHER Mormon saying, It doesn’t matter, this historicity of the Book of Mormon, or anything JosephSmyth did, just focus on Jesus now. Don’t pay attention to “The an behind the curtain” or that the “Emperor Has No Clothes!” and just know all he told us was true! We’ll work on that fantasy a little later, once you start paying your 10%! For now, just pay attention to the big guy floating in the sky! This is so damn sad to me.

      • BW

        Kathleen, I really mean no offense by this question, but I am genuinely am curious… What DO you believe?

  28. Cara

    Why are people here feeling sorry for Kathleen, or telling her to stop wasting her time with this. She and I have a “testimony” that the LDS church is false. Should we just sit on it? Should we “leave it alone”? Why are our voices less needed to be heard? Any criticism of the church is met with “poor offended you”, “I’m so sorry for you”. It’s so tired.
    If you bought a horrible product, or worked for a horrible company, should you not warn others? Have you ever bought something from an infomercial? Wish you hadn’t? Shouldn’t you speak up?

  29. ARWallace Fan

    Everyone, I must say this is a most fascinating discussion — the best I have read in two years of on and off curiosity about Mormons. What got me interested in LDS in the first place was the question: how can my tough-minded academic Mormon friends at Harvard believe something that is so demonstrably false? Of course, after extending my thinking to other religious I discovered problems there as well. The basis for Christianity is, for example, demonstrably unknowable (see for example the debate on the early Christian church and the source of the accepted gospels).

    So a newbie question: why can’t one be a believing Mormon and still think that Joseph Smith was a charlatan? Couldn’t God’s purpose be served by using a con artist? After all, Christians believe he used Paul who had previously been a persecutor of Christian Jews. Couldn’t the very falseness of the BOM be a means of causing a leap of faith (like the contemplation of the mystery of the trinity).

    Kathleen, why can’t one think the BOM is untrue and JS was a swindler and still believe in their spiritual message?

    BTW, I am an atheist married to a Bishops’ daughter. Go figure.

    • Kathleen Jones

      Because ARW, the entire premise of Mormonism begins and falls with the first vision story (all eight plus versions of it written some 18 years AFTER is supposedly happened) and that Joseph was given the Golden Plates to “translate” the Nephite/Lamanite story. A story of people who lived on this continent (apparently they are changing WHICH continent now, but somehow they ended up in a mountain in New York anyway).

      If he lied about that story, than *none* of it is true.

      The truth is, he lied about all kinds of things, for Money and eventually women. End of story. Brigham Young was just smart enough to see it for what it was and moved them across the country and isolated them all for 40 plus years, so all they had to rely on was him and his authority. Brilliant!

      There may be “truths” that are universal in Mormonism, which are just borrowed from the dawn of time. But they are in ALL religions then.. Mormonism uses “family” as their hook and hostage. Don’t play the game,you don’t get your family for eternity. C.U.L.T. A really really wealthy one.

  30. Tom Milligan

    Unfortunately there’s more to the Church than a simple spiritual message. If there was only a belief in the spiritual message or the Book of Mormon then I reckon that one might consider joining. Since, however, membership involves commitment on a huge scale to a wide range of requirements that can affect one’s life drastically, not necessarily for the better, then it would wise to seriously study the ramifications before putting one’s toe into the waters.

    • Kathleen Jones

      It’s a very very expensive religion. Money AND Time. Please do your homework! I promise you will spend more time WITH your family as non-members!!

  31. Nick H

    “To some,” revealed the Lord, “it is given to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful” (D&C 46:13-14). Joseph F. Smith once said that Latter-day Saints,
    “are given the largest possible latitude for their convictions, and if a man rejects a message that I may give to him but is still moral and believes in the main principles of the gospel and desires to continue in his membership in the Church, he is permitted to remain.
    “…so long as a man believes in God and has a little faith in the Church organization, we nurture and aid that person to continue faithfully as a member of the Church though he may not believe all that is revealed.”

    Really if there is a God I dont think he judges people by their beliefs or brand of religion anyway. Jesus made this clear in the parable of the good samaratin and “even the devils know there is a God.” I believe it is your character and how you treat others that matters. The mormon church is the best vehicle I have found for improving my character. If Joseph Smith was a fraud, thats his problem. “work out your own salvation.”

    • Cindy Hopper

      Where do I find this Joseph Smith quote? I really like it.
      Thank you for a thoughtful reply. It is enriching to have others say the words I often don’t have the eloquence to express.

  32. Nick H

    “To some,” revealed the Lord, “it is given to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful” (D&C 46:13-14).
    In addition to the Holland quote on PBS shared earlier you have a quote from Joseph F. Smith who once said that Latter-day Saints, “are given the largest possible latitude for their convictions, and if a man rejects a message that I may give to him but is still moral and believes in the main principles of the gospel and desires to continue in his membership in the Church, he is permitted to remain…so long as a man believes in God and has a little faith in the Church organization, we nurture and aid that person to continue faithfully as a member of the Church though he may not believe all that is revealed.”
    Really if there is a God I dont think he judges people by their beliefs or brand of religion anyway. Jesus made this clear in the parable of the good samaratin and many other New Testament stories
    Matthew 7:21-23 – 21 Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
    James 2:19 – 14″Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”
    I believe it is your character and how you treat others that matters. Religious institutions are only good in their ability to facilitate character changing – I leave fact finding to the scientists. Some people get mad because religious institutions overstep their bounds into the fact finding space – but I don’t mind it. I get mad that our government goes engages in worthless wars, and a bunch of other stuff I don’t believe in, but it does not disenfranchise me from participating in my country and government. The mormon church is the best vehicle I have found in my culture and circumstances as a believer in God and Jesus Christ for improving my character. If Joseph Smith was a fraud, that’s his problem not mine – “work out your own salvation.”

    If you have doubts about God and Christ and the whole origin of Judeo-Christian belief then basically every church is potentially a fraud – so I don’t see why all the focus is on Joe Smith – maybe his story happened closer in history so we have more detail about it. But I suspect if we had as clear a history about any other large church we would also find stuff that had human fingerprints all over it.

  33. Kurt

    Kathleen,
    If you have not studied him, I strongly suggest you read and/or watch the DVDs of interviews with Joseph Campbell, particularly ‘The Hero with 10,000 Faces’ and others about the mono-myth. The absolutist thinking of BOTH the mormons and ex-mormons just did not make sense to me until I studied Campbell’s ideas. Campbell’s writings were inspiration for George Lucus’s Star Wars Saga, so everyone knows the hero’s journey, Anakin Skywalker personified it. Mormons make Joseph Smith into a hero, as do political groups, other religions, fans of all types of people, etc. This is human nature. Campbell identifies how people get mixed up about symbolism and often take myths that emerge from the human experience as literal. This happens because the myths resonate, the ‘hero’s journey’ resonates with everyone, this same group of hero stories are found in every culture, including in groups who have never interacted with others (natives, etc).

    This debate about the literalness of mormonism has a false premise in my opinion. Because NONE of our social mythology is literally true, including science, the myth of evidence, as well as religion. But symbolism resonates, can have a strong spirit, and mormons who sense the truth in their religion are in my opinion not deceived about anything except the point of taking symbolic truths as literal truths, but nearly everyone does that. Then when some learn their religion is not literal truth, they continue with this absolutist thinking, saying, if it is not true then it must be false and the cause of my pain, etc. Honestly, we need to be responsible for our own pain and not blame churches, families, etc. You see what you look for, there is a lot of good and a lot of help in the LDS church for those on that path. But if you are feeling obligated to tear down any religion, because of some absolutist belief it is false, I think you are missing the whole point of religion. Again, please study Campbell if you don’t know his ideas, then maybe we can have a different discussion.

  34. Kathleen Jones

    Did I ASK to have a discussion with you, Kurt? I’m confused as to how you have decided that we won’t be discussing anything until I read what YOU say I must read. Please. And on that note. I don’t have to accept “religion” whatsoever, bud. It was made up at first to “explain” things. Now it’s just made up to make money, for the most part.

  35. Kurt

    Sorry, the wording was bad on my last sentence, I only meant that if you were to study Campbell we could have an interesting discussion. He raises a lot of the points you mention. His focus was comparative mythology, and rather than castigate all religion he points out how most religions tend to reflect elements of the human subconscious mind, things like that. So from that perspective religions emerge from the human condition and will continue emerging in various forms.

    • Nathan

      Kurt, I appreciate your posts. I think you (and Campbell) are right on. I believe Mormonism has proven exceptionally potent because it does resonate so well with some of the most fundamental desires of our psyche. Unfortunately, as Kathleen clearly knows too well, it also carries a share of oppressive baggage. While I too find this oppression troubling, I also recognize the force the Church is for good, and feel hopeful about the direction it seems to be going of late in being more open about its history. But I do know something of the difficulty of navigating the pressures to conform, especially when they threaten intellectual honesty.

      Kathleen, thanks for your contributions to this thread. I think I empathize with much of your sentiment, but you’ve reminded me of the need to be more considerate of those in my predominantly LDS community who might feel disenfranchised.

  36. Kathleen Jones

    Ok, I get it! Thanks for explaining that. Sadly, Religions (or most of them) are about scaring people to control them. (and to obtain their money), and we all know that. Even a Mormon knows how much they actually have to pay to their church for their “salvation”. It’s quite sickening that God would need all that dough, really. In my reality, G.o.d. never asked for anything, except that we love one another. The money part is another made up belief some church leader made up thousands of years ago. Most brilliant con perpetrated on mankind, ever!

  37. Ryan

    Kathleen,
    I’m more than happy to part with a portion of my money every month to help build more buildings and give to Humanitarian efforts. It’s fine if you believe that it’s a waste… that’s your feelings, but I’m entitled to freely part with my money if I feel it’s making the world a more positive/happy place. If the Church leaders were getting rich off of my monthly donations, I’d feel differently, but they aren’t… that I know of.

    • Kathleen Jones

      Ryan, actually that you DON’T know.. You are told they do not. That doesn’t make it so. Your church leaders are ALL on the Board of Directors of all the Companies The Corporation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have. All those Companies make money and profits. Ever wonder why your Apostles and Profits live in such big houses, have condo’s in Hawaii, etc? Your church closed it’s financial books to the members a couple of decades ago. When they started making money hand over fist, they decided the members no longer needed to see that. I’m sorry to tell you that you are choosing to believe them. That doesn’t make it so. Not only do they receive Corporate profits, they also all have salaries. The leaders of your church do do this for free…

  38. Kathleen Jones

    *do not do this for free

  39. Ryan

    Kathleen,

    Thanks for your honest response. I try to take every response here seriously, and in regards to your latest one, this is what the skeptical side of me instantly thought of… Don’t you think that one of the men who sit in such high seats in the Church would have blown the whistle, tweeted, facebooked, written some ‘revealing, tell-all’ book by now about all the financial deeds, if in fact those men weren’t spreading it around the world and doing the deeds they claim they are?
    I’m not saying you’re wrong… please know that. I just can’t help but think that in today’s world, it seems that financial secrets like that can’t stay secrets for very long. It’s the cynical side of me that believes that at least one man up there would have gone public by now…. just my two cents. Again, I’m one of the more liberal leaning LDS members when it comes to most topics, so please don’t feel like I’m trying to prove you wrong here… just asking a question.

  40. Kathleen Jones

    Ryan, you can simply Google “general authorities income LDS” and get a host of information. (most of it explaining how the church keeps it all very secret though). Here is a good start. Website run by a Deep thinking active Mormon: http://mormonthink.com/tithing.htm#salary

    I have another link to the Canadian Tax records, if you want it, showing how much each ward collects in Tithing. They have to report it and make it public record in Canada, ut not here. It could make you extremely sick to your stomach, possibly. When just calculating what one Stake in Canada times how many across the Globe, it becomes very apparent that this church is a money making venture.

  41. I’m very late to this discussion, but back to the original question: is there room for a person who doesn’t have a literal truth belief? I’d give a qualified yes. I recently sat down with my bishop for several hours to discuss how few of my beliefs were still literal – at the end I offered him my temple recommend. He was completely unfazed, and said among other things that he had at least as many questions as I did. At one point I told him that if he were to ask me if I believed the Book of Mormon was a literal record before giving me a temple recommend then I probably wouldn’t get one. His response was “I think that it is instructional that I don’t have to ask you that”. Now this Bishop sports an Obama bumper sticker and presides over one of the most liberal towns in the US. So I’d say… there is room for you in the church, but how much room there is for you in your ward depends where you live and who you live near.

  42. Cindy Hopper

    Thank you for sharing this–well said. I have had similar experiences with more than one Bishop, in more than one area of the US.

    I’d like to add that finding a place in the church not only depends on where you live and who you live near, but also on your acceptance of others’ more stringent beliefs.

  43. ARW

    Friends,

    Thanks for an interesting thread. I agree that literal interpretation should not be expected. But then why do so many people demand it? For those of you who say that the church is a force for good and that a literal interpretation is not needed (as I agree), are you willing to also say that it is likely that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, that he lied about the golden plates, that the anachronistic elements in the BOM are caused by human misunderstanding of history (wheat, steel, horses, etc.).

    Why can’t a liar be a prophet of God. If he can be, why not say so? Why must faith rely on belief?

    ARW

    • Cindy

      Good questions that I don’t have the expertise to answer. But I can tell you how I resolve the question about errors in the BOM and about Joseph Smith being a prophet. It comes from accepting the value of the book.

      The BOM teaches that a thing that is good must be from God and if it is not good, then it is not of God. Of course, a basic desire to believe in teachings of the BOM is required to accept this teaching, but I also think that it is a principle that can be universally applied.

      The BOM clearly represents much good, and inspires me to be a better person. It inspires me to draw closer to God. So I believe it must be from God. Whatever anachronistic errors there are, in my opinion, can be chalked up to human misunderstandings. Possibly Joseph Smith put the words of Mormon into understandings he had at the time–what he called those items, rather than what they were at the time the book was written. Can it be both from God and also include human error? While I can’t buy that it is all perfectly accurate, I still think it can be from God without that 100% accuracy. I can also assume that my understanding is imperfect.

      Here is what I do know about the Book of Mormon, it is my testimony. A few years ago I was invited to read the book in 100 days, with other members of my ward. I’d read the book before, but never at that pace (about 5 pages per day). Reading it in this way had a profound affect on me. It changed who I am. I am not saying it just changed my life. I am saying it changed ME. That is how I know it is from God. How else could my reading have inspired to be better, reach deeper within myself, love others more, be more forgiving, further my spirituality, and understand my pains and trials on a level I never had before? I don’t think an outright lie could cause this change of heart.

      I am happy to say that I am 2/3 of the way complete with my second reading of the Book of Mormon in 100 days (okay, more like 120–but still at a good pace!).

      Eckhart Tolle teaches that when our minds and our hearts disagree, it is our hearts that are correct. Sometimes we (I) just need to get out of my mind and know the truth because of what my heart is telling me. Maybe the answers will come someday. Maybe not. But in the time being, I am happy and well and peaceful. Isn’t that what we are looking for?

  44. Kyle Lieb

    Maybe I’m a little late here, and I didn’t read everyone’s comments so hopefully someone has already made this point. But the Book of Mormon is the “keystone” of our religion. And as far as I can tell this honest seeker of the truth, didn’t mention actually reading the Book of Mormon, and asking God in sincere prayer if it is true, or if it is historically accurate. In my own conversion to the Church when I approached the Lord in prayer about the truthfulness of the Church before I had studied the Book of Mormon, the answer rang clear. If I wanted to know if the “Mormon” Church was true I had to read the Book of Mormon. Now that was personal revelation for me and I know it isn’t the same for everyone. But I do know that God answers prayers for everyone. I say study the Book of Mormon and take this question to God.

    And as a side note. I would suggest that Elder Holland’s comments to PBS where directed toward people who aren’t members of our Church. And not for LDS authors seeking to influence the beliefs of other members.

  45. Kathy

    There is always the option of joining the Community of Christ. They believe in the book of Mormon but do not claim to be the one and only true church. Women are equal and hold the priesthood too. Don’t think LDS is your only option.

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