Criticism of Mormon Theology on the Internet Provokes Doubt in the Church’s Leadership

Laurie Goodstein has a fascinating article in today’s New York Times about Mormon leaders who begin doubting their faith after discovering, on the Internet among other places, that there were massive holes in their theology.

Around the world and in the United States, where the faith was founded, the Mormon Church is grappling with a wave of doubt and disillusionment among members who encountered information on the Internet that sabotaged what they were taught about their faith, according to interviews with dozens of Mormons and those who study the church.

The story focuses on Mormonism but it could easily apply to so many other faiths. The greatest tool religious leaders used to have was the ability to contain knowledge and suppress dissent, keeping the flock inside of a bubble. The Internet popped that bubble and we’re all better off because of it.

Hans Mattsson was a Mormon leader overseeing churches in Europe, and he initially dubbed criticism of his faith “anti-Mormon propaganda”… until he began to research the ideas himself:

Hans Mattsson

“I felt like I had an earthquake under my feet,” said Mr. Mattsson, now an emeritus area authority. “Everything I’d been taught, everything I’d been proud to preach about and witness about just crumbled under my feet. It was such a terrible psychological and nearly physical disturbance.”

Much like many young Christians do, he went to his church’s leaders to find a response to these challenges. And, just as many church leaders do, they dismissed his concerns without ever answering them.

Mr. Mattsson said he sought the help of the church’s highest authorities. He said a senior apostle came to Sweden at his request and told a meeting of Mormons that he had a manuscript in his briefcase that, once it was published, would prove all the doubters wrong. But Mr. Mattsson said the promised text never appeared, and when he asked the apostle about it, he was told it was impertinent to ask.

This is why conservative Christians are freaking out. Their lies about social issues like homosexuality are demonstrably false to anyone who has exposure to the facts (and know people who are gay).

This is why Creationists like Ken Ham should be worried. Their lies about the age of the earth are easily debunked when you go online.

This is why all those people who have ever said “You just have to have faith” need to rethink their strategy.

This is why former pastors like Jerry DeWitt and Teresa MacBain struggled when trying to reconcile their religious beliefs with what they knew about reality.

Faith will always be crushed under the weight of scrutiny. Mattsson is just the latest evidence of that.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Yoav

    He said a senior apostle came to Sweden at his request and told a
    meeting of Mormons that he had a manuscript in his briefcase that, once
    it was published, would prove all the doubters wrong.

    You would think that they would take a fraction of their loot and buy an hour of prime airtime on all major networks to expose as many people as possible to said amazing manuscript, and then just sit back as the entire world convert to Moronism.

  • Regina Carol Moore

    This will truly be the Information Age. With facts (but also lies) so readily available, people will end up in more extreme groups. People who read facts and understand them as truth, and people who willingly deny the truth because of cognitive dissonance. I optimistically believe the rational people will be in the majority, but the others will fight very hard.

  • C Peterson

    Maybe the authors of the Bible anticipated the Internet.

    And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. -John 8:32

  • KeithCollyer

    ha ha!

  • Damon Icke

    The only thing “New” about current atheism. The amplifying effect of the internet.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Oh yes. When someone like, say, KeyraTroll complains about “New Atheists”, what they’re actually complaining about is “people armed with information”.

  • g75401

    The problem with people who spend a great deal of time trying to “debunk” religion is-one needs to consider why we have religion in the first place. Sure, it’s easy to point to creation myths and entrenched power structures profiting from the gullible natures of their adherents, but one needs to look at the basic human need to belong in a group. A church is an easy group to join, acceptance is practically guaranteed. The leader tells the rest of the group that you should be accepted even if you aren’t the prettiest, the richest, or the smartest. As long as atheists don’t acknowledge that aspect of science-humans need for social interaction and group membership, the message will fall flat on many ears. Personally, I don’t believe a significant percentage of “christians” believe in Jeebus or the bearded guy in the sky. Church is a social club. To debate whether or not a convicted con-man found gold plates in the forest, translated them instead of selling them, founded a religion that -surprise-justifies his desires for godhood and lots of wives could possibly be “true” is not the point. We will have religion until a better alternative that addresses why we have religion is proposed.

  • C Peterson

    There are plenty of other “social clubs” that don’t require you to check your brains at the door. People are learning that, which is one reason that religion is on the decline.

    If church was just a social club, we wouldn’t see so many religionists disturbed when the truth about their beliefs comes out.

  • Doug

    Atheists don’t have groups that will accept anyone?

  • Stev84

    There is a reason the Mormons suppress information about the really crazy aspects of their beliefs and especially knowledge about their early history. Certain topics aren’t taught and their study is heavily discouraged. The cult leaders know that it doesn’t hold up.

  • Alice

    Exactly. I think the main reason religion is popular is because most religious people grew up in religious homes. As adults, it is very difficult and painful for them to have serious doubts about their beliefs, so many choose the road of least resistance. Also, if they live in a religious bubble, they have probably only heard strawman atheist arguments.

  • jimmyt

    Anyone else not surprised that the secretive NSA server farm is located in Utah?

  • rustygh

    This is a bad analogy of religion. Although the “belong to a group” theory may hold ground it is NOT why religion was born. Religion was used by man to control man, period.

  • Tel
  • Tel

    Atheists don’t acknowledge the human need to belong? Then where do the atheist churches spring from? The secular humanist associations? The freethinker summer camps? The skeptics’ clubs on campuses?

  • Craig Duckett

    Scrutiny at the origins of any sect/cult is the last thing any leadership wants. It was while I was enrolled at a Bible college that I inadvertently stumbled upon the earlier Sumerian, Canaanite, Egyptian, Zoroastrian, Greek, etc, myths that were appropriated and reworked to become key stories in the Bible. For almost a year I spent nearly all my spare time doing dedicated research while being completely honest with myself (being open to the ‘truth’ wherever it led me was the hardest part). If I would have had the Internet back then, it would have only taken me weeks. The following year I left the Bible college and entered a secular University to pursue a degree in Philosophy.

  • Kodie

    It makes a lot of money that way.

  • Randay

    He didn’t have Joey Smith’s magic hat and seer stone to translate it into modern languages.

  • Peter Mountain

    I’m surprised religious leaders have not denounced the internet as a tool of the Debil. It must be hell trying to maintain a cult against such a free exchange of ideas.

  • Peter Mountain

    And their willingness to call bullshit when they see it.

  • Artor

    You haven’t been paying attention. They have done that already, and the results have been about as effective as you would imagine. I would say that the internet has won the internet.

  • islandbrewer

    … and women, too, maybe even moreso.

  • Randay

    Remember that J Edgar Hoover preferred to hire Mormons, either because he considered them incorruptible enough or gullible enough. For a short history of what Mormons are supposed to believe:

  • islandbrewer

    Has it won itself a new shiny itself?

  • Artor

    ZOMG it’s true! Prophecy works!!!

  • JA

    A simple DNA study of the native population should be enough to shatter the myth that a lost tribe or two of Israelites came to America in 600 BC.

  • Bob Carlson

    I found it odd that the Times piece made no mention of the book that was reviewed on this blog. The book makes an interesting point concerning the problem of doubt: A strategy of the Mormon church for suppressing doubt is to keep its members so busy with church-related activities that they have little time for exploring issues such as controversies about the lives of church’s founders.

  • Rain

    Yep if you’re not google-illiterate then you’re going to find problems with your religion. Seek and ye shall find. Unfortunately it’s in religion’s best interest to be google-illiterate, and it shows, lol.

  • Tom

    The briefcase trick? Really the briefcase trick? It’s been 63 years since McCarthy whipped out his infamous piece of paper, and people are still trying that bullshit?

    Should have asked how many terrible atheist questions it refuted – it’d probably be 57.

  • Tom

    Acceptance is not at all guaranteed – you have to openly state that you accept patent nonsense in order to be fully considered one of the group. That’s often the actual reason why the tenets of authoritarian religions evolve to get so crazy; it’s so that the entry ritual is difficult, embarrassing, almost painful to the logically minded, so that in willingly undergoing it you demonstrate your loyalty and submission to the group.

  • JET

    “The story focuses on Mormonism but it could easily apply to so many other faiths.”
    True. But Mormonism is different in that its entire history is so well documented that it’s impossible to not have the evidence against its validity slap you in the face. The leaders of the church, starting with Joseph Smith and his original inner circle, were able to easily hide the absurdities from their followers – until the internet came along. Almost all of the Mormons I know were unaware of the “true” theology until ex-Mormons began to expose it with factual documentation. The trick is in getting other religions to see the analogy as it applies to their own beliefs. Unfortunately, most won’t.
    The scariest part about Mormonism isn’t that they believe in the theology, but that many of them don’t and still embrace the economic, cultural and political aspects. The church began and remains a way to exert control over their followers and society in general through politics and economics. They’re very good at this, as evidenced by getting mainstream Christians to accept a Mormon as a viable presidential candidate or as a Christian media spokesperson. Up until very recently, Christians would not even have accepted a Mormon as being “Christian” let alone allowing them to take a leadership role. Mormons are smart, savvy and very scary.

  • JET

    This book (The Complete Heretic’s Guide to Western Religion: The Mormons, by David Fitzgerald) is excellent and I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to learn more about Mormon history, theology and their agenda. It’s well-researched and the author includes citations to every single one of his claims.

  • Stev84

    That’s a tell-tale sign of a cult. And I’m using the term in the specific context of the techniques used to control members.

  • silverback

    It’s kind of sad that these people are so bound up in their “faith” that even after these revelations (<– pun intended) many of them go through all kinds of mental contortions to continue to believe in Mormonism. Why not consider the most obvious and plausible explanation: Joseph Smith was a charlatan and the Mormon Church is a fiction.
    Actually I know the answer to that (rhetorical) question. I was raised Mormon and even went on a Mormon mission. I was 28 years old when I finally saw through the brainwashing. None of my seven siblings have done so — they're all still among the faithful. If you haven't been through it you can't understand how strong the brainwashing and the need to continue to believe are. Also as others have pointed out we humans have a need for community; Mormonism and other cults are optimized to provide community to keep their flock from straying. It's a central characteristic of the cult meme.

  • CowgirlJessi

    “Faith will always be crushed under the weight of scrutiny” …all of it? What about faith in humanity?

  • Ryan Hite

    Mormon reformation?

  • 3lemenope

    And lo, I speak of a time where men and women of the earth shall built great metal machines that cut through the air faster than speech on the wind, and peer into the smallest cracks of earth and the most distant specks of the firmament. And I say unto thee there will be happy meals and shopping malls…

  • Daniel Ortner

    This post and the New York Times ignore the efforts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to make primary sources available to all online for free. Thousands of manuscripts have been placed on line for perusal. Officially books have been published on controversial topics in recent years. There is not attempt to hide from the truth.

    The article relays on the words of a disaffected individual without verification. The briefcase manuscript story just screams false. No one in the church claims to have magic solutions to questions. Instead, members are encouraged to seek, study, and prayerfully ponder to learn the truth.

  • TheBlackCat13

    You didn’t read the article, the apostle in question was contacted and claimed he did, in fact, have all the answers (although the people there apparently didn’t agree).

  • Kodie

    Isn’t that what they’re doing? Guess what, it is nonsense. People who can read are going to notice that.

  • TheBlackCat13

    Or “people willing to talk”.

  • TheBlackCat13

    Probably that most of all.

  • Richard Wade

    I wonder if what is really inside the apostle’s briefcase is something as Earth shattering as what was in Senator Joe McCarthy’s infamous briefcase. Everybody was afraid he had documentation on their somehow being a “commie,” but in reality it was a bottle of scotch.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    *nods* There’s causality there. A lot of atheists stay quiet and hidden because they don’t know how to defend themselves in debate against the vast, *seemingly* well thought-out wall of Christian Apologetics. That’s pretty much the intention of Apologetics, too, to intimidate opposition by volume and bloviation. But it takes almost no time online to equip oneself against Apologetics, and preparedness lends confidence.

  • islandbrewer

    … and many shall fall to the worship of cats.

  • Mario Strada

    Gullible, I can see. Incorruptible I beg to differ. After having 3 different Mormon business associates (back when I was ignorant about their religion) I have learned that at least those 3 were snakes. Of course, that’s no data set, but either I am very unlucky with my mormon picks or they have a propensity toward considering money more important than people or reputation.

  • Yoav

    Being a Mormon shouldn’t it be some kind of coffee liqueur.

  • cr0sh
  • Dave Radley

    cognitive dissonance/ confirmation bias will always rule the heads and hearts of those who’ve been abused as children, being brainwashed by any of the skyfairy believing cultists.

  • Daniel Ortner

    Actually the article has Elder Perry (the Apostle) say that he sent a letter from the church history department not some kind of magical letter that would answer all their doubts. The false part is the suggestion that an apostle promised to have some kind of magic bullet solution to doubt. Such a thing does not exist and no one would promise to deliver such a letter.

  • midnight rambler

    Moreover, Mormonism makes the mistake of making claims about the real world that are very easily disproven (e.g. Jews in America), instead of sticking to talking about the very distant past and unprovable metaphysics. Once that falls, the whole thing collapses.

  • midnight rambler

    The skill of apologists (and for that matter, most philosophers) is the ability to spin a tangle of words such that it’s difficult to see where the logical fallacy lies. William Lane Craig is an expert at this – look at an ordinary explanation of the cosmological argument and it’s easy to see that it’s nonsense, but when you read his you have to pick it apart word-by-word to see where he slipped the nonsense in. Doing that in a live conversation is difficult for a non-expert; debating on the internet it gives you time to think about your response.

  • Slartibast

    I se more trust/belief in humans without any faith.
    Faith is religious tribalism based on priest autority without reason in reality.

  • Obazervazi

    Especially faith in humanity.

  • TheBlackCat13

    “Mr. Mattsson refused to identify the apostle, but others said it was Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Perry, now 91, confirmed through a church spokesman that he did visit a branch in Sweden with skeptical members, but said he recalled satisfying their questions with a letter written by the church’s history department.”
    (emphasis added)

  • the moother

    The internet. Where religions come to die.

  • YankeeCynic

    A lot of that actually has to do with the fact the military gets a lot of its interpreters from Utah because of the language skills. They train missionaries in a language, and then immerse them for several years in said language. Since the military likes getting people for language programs that have a background in those languages they tend to draw a lot from those communities. Same principle as drawing a lot of Korean-speaking interpreters from the west coast.

  • aar9n

    I think you didn’t read the article. But since you bring up sources, care to comment on the book of Abraham translated from the Egyptian Scrolls, which ended up being simple funeral texts?

    Or how about the genetic evidence that native Americans didn’t come from Israel?

    Or how the BOM plagiarized the King James Bible?

    My experience with Mormon missionaries has been that when I start bringing these questions up, they absolutely attempt to hide from the truth, and do anything but study such questions. They throw some half-assed SHIELDS or FARM article at it, then claim you have “a spirit of contention” and shouldn’t read “anti-Mormon literature” (E.g. anything written by a non-Mormon), and run away after begging you to pray to the heavenly father to see if the BOM is true.

    Scientology is much cooler, they at least have an E-meter to go along with their bullshit.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    A briefcase with something magic inside that no one can see. I… I want to make a Pulp FIction quip so badly, but I can’t. There are too many possible routes to take, and I’m helpless. I’m at my lowest point. Jesus, help me!

    *prays for guidance*

    *begins to speak with the voice of a prophet*

    Normally, your impertinent ass would be as excommunicated as a fucking teenager competing with me for extra wives, but you happen to pull this shit while I’m in a transitional period so I don’t wanna doom your eternal soul, I wanna help you. But I can’t show you this manuscript in this case, you wouldn’t understand the sophisticated fucking theology. Besides, I’ve already been through too much shit this morning over this case to hand it over to your doubting ass.

  • Hat Stealer

    “You just need to have faith” worked when humanity didn’t have answers. We have answers now.

  • closetatheist

    Higher ups in the Mormon church refer to this as the practice of giving “milk before meat.” They purposely teach only the simplest and seemingly normal doctrines to recent converts and young missionaries who proselytize to gain more converts (that way the crazy doesn’t accidentally come out). Once they have you wrangled in by several years of service, have a financial hold on you, and you’re entire family and social circles are in the church, they reveal the batshit insane doctrines which are what is referred to as the “meat” – because they know they’re harder to swallow. By then, you’re so invested in the church and used to the weirdness that many never think twice.

  • closetatheist

    Mormon leaders deal with this problem in (at least) three ways.

    1) The Book of Mormon makes it clear that many North American Jews died in battles/as punishment. Thus, it is likely that the groups had no recent descendants to speak of anyway.

    2) A vast majority of Native Americans were killed before their genes were catalogued – and many remain catalogued – thus the sample size we have to work with is simply not large enough for us to find the descendants of these Native American Jews.

    3) The genetic markers present in Middle Eastern Jews around 600BC cannot possibly be the same genetic markers present in the modern population of Jews (or the modern population of Jewish Native Americans, if they exist). This is because both groups of Jews have been mish-mashing their genes around with every other group of people they came into contact with for the past 2+ millenia, thus ensuring that no pure genetic sample of an ethnic Jew exists. So, to compare modern Jewish DNA to another group of “Jews” in hopes of finding similarities is a foolish endeavor anyway.

    To a Mormon who has no desire to find fault with these reasons, they all can seem superficially logical.

  • closetatheist

    I could be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure that the church left out the documents accusing Joseph Smith of statutory rape, the arrest warrants for his part in defrauding people out of their money in his magical “treasure hunting” schemes, the documents written by at least 3 of the 11 men who claimed to see the original golden plates but then recanted and admitted they had lied, the documents detailing Joseph Smith’s many young wives (which were increasingly haphazard as he began “marrying” faster than they could be collected), the records that showed he revised and rewrote many of the “eternally true” sections of the Book of Mormon, the books from which he plagiarized much of the Book of Mormon, and the Masonic practices from which he stole most of the Mormon rituals.

    Don’t pretend that the church is making an effort to help others “learn the truth” when they actively champion a version of the truth that is fictional. Blocking access to truth and then encouraging others to peruse carefully selected information is definitely an attempt to keep the truth hidden.

  • Daniel Ortner

    There’s a big different between answering questions and promising a secret manuscript that will remove all doubts. One is realistic…the other is a promise that no one could or should make.

  • Daniel Ortner

    If you want to see my more detailed responses to the Times article I invite you to see my blog at I point out several problems I saw in the article.

    There are fantastic answers to all of those concerns…And there is nothing wrong with SHIELDS or FARMS both provide incredibly valuable resources and answers to questions. Jeff Lindsey is another one of my favorite sources for answers to common question of critics.

    Critics of the Book of Mormon or Book of Abraham never fully respond to all of the incredible things Joseph Smith got right. For instance, he identified a tropical location in the middle of the Arabian desert and since then two very plausible locations have been found. Likewise, a place named Nahom..That ancient people actually wrote on gold place.Or the fact that Alma was in fact an ancient Semitic male name. Anti-Mormons mocked these things until the evidence came to light. I am confident that more and more evidence will emerge over time.

    As to the particular questions you mention…The Book of Abraham is actually a source that helps prove the authenticity of Joseph Smith. There are so many things in there that have been shown to be authentically Semitic or ancient. Hugh Nibley’s prolific writings have not adequately been responded to by critics. As to the actual scrolls…1) Much was lost in fire 2) Joseph didn’t claim the actual scroll was form Abraham’s time just the text he translated 3) the process of translation is far from literal.

    The Book of Mormon did not plagarize the KJV. In the sections quoting Isaiah or the speech Christ gives similar to the Sermon on the Mount there are significant differences that suggest translation from an ancient source. LIkewise, we have to remember that the process of translation always involves someone conveying things in their language.. Joseph Smith best knew the scriptures in the language of the KJV and so that comes across at times. Likewise, Christ in 3 Nephi literally gives the Nephites the text of Malachi…It is likely that others in the Book of Mormon were likely inspired and conveyed texts or language similar to the inspired biblical writers.

    Genetic evidence is not at all opposed to the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon involves a small family from the Ancient world coming to the already populated Americas. There are examples of trade and intercourse between different people. The nephites only make up a small portion of the people and therefore it isn’t surprising that their DNA is not easily visible. DNA evidence quite interesting, but certainly does not show the Book of Mormon to be false.

  • islandbrewer

    So, you think this (minus the Harry Potter references) is an accurate view of cosmology?

  • Daniel Ortner

    I find that a pretty amusing graphic, but also deeply flawed in many ways. Of course, if one is looking to ridicule one can do so with any faiths view of cosmology or even an atheistic view of the cosmos. A giant explosion of without any cause followed by centuries of evolution from single celled organism to complex being can sound pretty absurd when properly mocked and ridiculed.

    I won’t spend time clearing up all the misconceptions, but the one that I wanted to respond to is one that is fundamentally important to me. Having grown up Jewish and converted to the Church it was one of the most important ones for me to understand. The largest flaw in the graphic is the suggestion that only those that were Mormon in this life can inherit the Celestial Kingdom. That is flat out wrong. Every person whether in this life or the next will get a chance to accept Jesus Christ with full understanding of the consequences and importance of that decision. Every person will chose whether to follow the savior or not. No one will be punished merely due to an accident of birth. In the spirit world, the gospel will continue to be preached and those with an open heart will hear. My relatives were all Jewish and many died for their faith in the Holocaust or earlier, but I have a firm belief that I will see them again. I have felt the spirit confirm in my heart that they have accepted the Gospel and now understand God’s plan for them. On my mission, I talked to thousands of people and 99 percent of them did not accept the Gospel, but I have fervent hope for them that they will one day accept it and be blessed. Mormons will certainly not be alone in the Kingdom of God, and as the graphic rightfully points out many of them will not there due to lack of faith or righteousness. God is a searcher of the heart and labels will not matter in that day. Only true disciples will be blessed.

  • aar9n

    Neither SHIELDS nor FARMS are academic peer reviewed sources. They are apologetic organizations which are not taken seriously by mainstream archeologists. For instance, it is Mormon archeologists, not mainstream (real) ones who think they’ve found Nahom because the mainstream scholars will point out that no one knows how NHM, the word they actually found, was pronounced.

    The pictures in the book of Abraham are common Egyptian funeral pictures. We know damn well what they are, and its not whats in the book of Abraham.

    The book of mormon lifted directly not only from inaccuracies from the KJV that scholars later found out were in error, it also lifted the italic text that was written BY THE EDITORS OF THE KJV.

    There is no evidence of any sort of Jewish immigration to the New World, there is no evidence of any events in the BOM actually happening, and there is every evidence that it was made up by a lying treasure hunter in the 19th century. Who also stole from the Mason’s for the ‘secret’ temple ceremonies.

    Having a handful of small names that could be similar to ancient Arabic or Hebrew words is not evidence. The mormon church knows their is no evidence, thats why they haven’t excavated any Mormon sites in the New World. Instead, they tell you to read the book of Mormon, pray about it, and ask god with a sincere heart and doubting not and the truth will be manifested unto by a burning in your bossum.

    See, suspend rational thought, talk to an invisible man from another planet with your thoughts, and when you self-induce a good feeling in yourself that means its true!!! Don’t worry that it took till 1978 for that invisible sky man to change his mind about black people, god works in mysterious ways! I’ll put 50 bucks down that by 2078 god’s gonna magically change his mind about gay people too! And don’t even get me started with what your religion teaches about women. Your in good company with the evangelicals on that camp.

    Thank god science doesn’t operate that way. Also, just FYI- atheists don’t ‘believe’ in the big bang and evolution because it gives us a fuzzy wuzzy in our tummy. We accept science because we understand the evidence of things like background radiation, red-shift, vestigial features, biogeography, and the fossil record.

  • Daniel Ortner

    The fact that SHIELDS and FARMS are not peer reviewed or are apologetic does not change the strength of the arguments they make. It is easy to merely dismiss because they are not peer reviewed rather than to engage in their substance.

    Most of your arguments are pretty basic attacks that I believe those organizations have very effectively answered.

    Your arguments about the lack of excavation of Mormon sites in the New World is especially weak. The fact is that several plausible sites for the Book of Mormon lands have been found in Central and South America and each of those sites is completely consistent with both the text itself and the ancient cultures that lives there. The Inacs in Peru or the Mayas both are plausible groups that could relate to or have linkage to the Nephites. Legends in the culture of a great white bearded being who would return a second time hearken to Christian mythology in a profound way. One would not expect to find documents calling these groups Nephites or Lamanities, but there are profound parallels and connections. We don’t need to excavate new sites, because the sites are already excavated just under a different name. No one knows exactly where or which group was involved, but the fact that several locations is plausible certainly means quite a bit.

    Also, I don’t believe merely because of “warm fuzzies” or my feelings. I believe because my faith is what best comports with the world I see around me and with my lived experiences. Praying to God and receiving an answer is an experience that while not amenable to peer review is replicable and accessable to every person who has a sincere heart and real intent.

    Moreover, having served a mission in Russia, formerly a heavily Atheistic country, I think you’d be amazed at how many people accept a lack of existence of God with similar fervor and faith to that of theists. Lack of faith in God is as much of a dogma at times as faith in God.

  • dakotakidz

    Actually they try to never reveal the “meat” or “batshit insane” doctrines history. Their next-in-line-to-be-prophet (Boyd K. Packer) famously stated that “There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.”. They say “Milk before meat” but never want you to have the meat, and that’s why those that stumble across these things are devastated. I went through this myself about 10 months ago. It’s a painful, depressing situation at first, but once you come to terms with it and can see the more full and free life that you now have ahead of yourself, it’s wonderful.

  • abb3w

    From what I can make out from studying the change-over-time in the GSS, it looks more exactly that the effect of the Internet may be a dampening effect on the religious right. The underlying cross-generational logistic curve trend to irreligion predates public access to the Internet (and may even predate RFC-1); irreligiosity seems to have tended to be muted during the heyday of the religious right beginning circa 1980, but that muting vanishes (relatively abruptly) circa 1995.

  • aar9n

    So I started out writing a reply that went a little like this:

    “Actually, it matters a great deal that SHIELDS and FARM are not peer reviewed and apologetic, because that makes them as reputable as Answers in Genesis and Ray Comfort. Peer review is the standard of authentic, real scholarship. SHIELD and FARMS can’t perform real scholarship, because their balls are tied to their faith statement. If they found evidence that no civilization during the time period of the BOM produced metal weapons and had horses, they couldn’t accept that- they have to come up with some excuse, like metal meant stone and horses where actually domesticated deer.

    Several plausible sites for Mordor have been found in the world, as they not only had volcanic activity but also record of a cruel king and myths of dangerous spirits. It amazing, and they’ve even found fossils of hobbits!

    Hint: its only Mormon apologists who connect those sites to the BOM. Real archeologists do not use the BOM. Notice there is not a mass conversation of academia to Mormonism.


    Was Not.


    Or as the BOM says “fair and delightsome”. Also you might want to know that historians are incredibly skeptical of the story that the natives believed that a great white man would come from the sea, primarily because these reports came from the Spanish, not the natives, and seem to be stories the Spanish and other settlers made up to justify their genocides and such.

    And I think you need to look up the definition of dogma. Its “A principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true”

    Insisting that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence is not dogma.

    There is no authority making me not believe in your fairy man from kolob. I don’t believe in your fairy man from Kolob because there is absolutely no evidence of it, and all appeals to make evidence for it end up being logical fallacies of appealing to authority, circular reasoning and the such.

    No authority has laid down principles of not believing in Kolob sky man, just as no authorities have laid done principles of not believing in Zeus.”

    At this point in writing my reply, I had an epiphany.

    All I had ever asked for was evidence. And yet, there, in your response, you had given me evidence! There it was! Daniel Ortner had prayed to god and GOD ANSWERED!

    I admit. Thats all the evidence I need right there. I mean look at that, fellow atheists. God answered prayer. What more evidence do we need? I just feel so happy now… I’ve called my local Mormon missionaries to get baptized right away, emailed my gay friends and told them they need to break up if they want to enter the celestial kingdom, and I’ve been working out my hands to get ready for the secret handshakes!

    I’m so happy I could sing a song! A song thanking god for answered prayer! A song kinda like this:

  • Tyler

    Exactly- the situation is preposterous! … In fact, I question the story entirely, I mean – what “senior apostle” would fly to Sweden at this guy’s request, to point to a briefcase in front of a meeting?! Also, if this guy is truly a former mormon, how does he retain the “emeritus” title? (note- this story isn’t mentioned in any referenced source I can find). Paint me skeptical about this whole silly story.

  • aar9n

    “The largest flaw in the graphic is the suggestion that only those that were Mormon in this life can inherit the Celestial Kingdom”

    Ummm lets go look at the graphic. It clearly had in that part in there. Look at after you die. You go to spirit prison, where you have the chance to become a mormon. Then you can follow that line all the way to the Celestial Kingdom. Personally I think that doctrines a great incentive for NO ONE to convert to mormonism in this life. Save 10%, go have fun, and in the next life you can put on the holy underwear!!

  • LivinginUtah

    You referencing Hugh Nibley and Jeff Lindsey isn’t helping your case at all. They are/were both apologist quacks..nothing more. No one outside of Mormon circles ( people with a personal and biased interest) gave ANY credibility to any of the theories that either of them pose.
    Try reading some neutral material. Something that isn’t published by Deseret Book or from some General Conference talk.
    You have confirmation bias, friend.

  • LivinginUtah

    Google Thomas Ferguson. Return and report.

  • LivinginUtah

    AND…If what you are saying here is true…why hasn’t your church come out in support of it?
    Why are the Mormon leaders not shouting all of this “evidence” from the roof tops?
    Mormons have been trying to prove to the world that they are the “One True Church” since 1830. Why the overwhelming silence on all this iron clad evidence you have?
    I know the answer…and I think that deep inside, you do too.

  • closetatheist

    I’m so glad that you’ve truly been set free and have a fulfilling life to look forward too! Good for you and I wish you the best!
    Yet, I’m a tad confused because I think that maybe we’re thinking the “meat” doctrines are two different things and I was hoping you could clarify for me. When I was referring to them I was thinking they included the secret rituals in the Temple, the doctrines about celestial wives and reproduction, and the whole prehistoric battle between Jesus and Satan that resulted in Earth’s spirits being racially segregated based on the side they fought for…This is the stuff I was led to believe was the batshit stuff they wanted to keep under a lid until one was sufficiently inculcated. From you’re comment I’m gathering that the “meat” is really just the nasty bits of Church History, like the true life story of Joseph Smith… can you help me out here?

  • TheBlackCat13

    Good thing, then, that no one ever said anything about “removing all doubts”. If they did, please find the exact quote.

  • TheBlackCat13

    First, this is not just “some guy”, he is one of the highest-ranking Mormons in Europe.

    And he is not a former Mormon, he is still a Mormon.

  • Daniel Ortner

    And you obviously have your own confirmation bias discrediting sources merely because they are apologetic. Hugh Nibley published a prolific amount of scholarship which has been woefully ignored by critics. The facts speak for themselves.

    I’d suggest giving these sources a try with an open heart and you will be impressed.

  • Truthspew

    Of course – the more you research any of the faiths you find out it’s only based on so much bovine effluent. I’ve known this of Christianity for some time.

  • Michael W Busch

    Please do not refer to outrageously wrong beliefs and obviously made-up stories as “crazy” or “batshit insane”. That is falsely equating “being wrong” with “mental illness”, and is not helpful.

    It also happens that there is an anthropological model for why religious groups often have outrageous beliefs: It is a way, sometimes deliberate but often unconscious, of making as great a difference as possible between those in the group and those outside of the group. And nested stages of in-group differentiation are convenient for a hierarchy to maintain itself. Nor is this unique to religion (you could do a similar analysis on some college fraternities).

  • phantomreader42

    This post and the New York Times ignore the efforts of the Church of
    Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to make primary sources available to
    all online for free.

    So, where can those alleged golden plates be seen? Along with the magic rock and hat supposedly needed to translate them? Will you pretend the mormon cult lost the artifacts that your conman founder used to start the cult, admit that they never actually existed, or just flee in terror from the question?

  • Daniel Ortner

    For someone skeptical of religious truth claims, the story will seem implausible, but for those who are willing to show a bit of faith it makes sense.

    God took the Golden Plates back unto himself in part because of how the skeptics of the world would have received them (mocking the sacred) and in part because we are not ready yet for some of what was written on the plates.

    The Book of Mormon is there however as evidence. It is it’s own strongest weapon. Can I ask… Have you actually read the Book of Mormon? It is an inspired work and I know that it comes from God.

  • phantomreader42

    So, you don’t actually have the slightest speck of evidence to back up your claims. All you can offer is the sworn testimony of the voices in your head. Why should I believe your book of myths, and not any of the hundreds of other works of fiction claimed to be inspired by the invisible man in the sky?

  • Captain Cassidy

    I can no longer tell when folks are being silly or serious when they say stuff like this.

  • Captain Cassidy

    I remember (back when I was a fundie) really flummoxing some Mormon missionary kids when I told them I really didn’t care what heaven I went to as long as I didn’t go to hell. “But but but but don’t you wanna go to the BESTEST heaven?” they said, and I remember they were literally gobsmacked. The idea that someone wouldn’t care in the least about such a thing had quite literally clearly never occurred to them. It was totally hilare, lemme tell you.

    I seriously can’t tell if you’re really a Mormon apologist, or if you’re a very cool atheist trying to make a point about Mormonism’s weirdest, wackiest doublespeak.

  • aar9n

    You do realize that the heart is an organ that pumps blood, right? Having it open is quite a problem. I don’t engage things with “an open heart” because that translates to me as “Use your emotions to make this decision because there isn’t a lickety split evidence for any of it”.

    I engage things with a critical mind, and you’ll find that most of the atheist channel puts a pretty high value on that. Apologetic sources are in abundance. Have you read Muslim apologetics? Why not?? Is it because you know deep down in your heart that There is One God and Mohammed is his prophet??? Or do you smell bullshit and special pleading a mile away? Have you opened your heart to allah and asked with a sincere heart really wanted it to be true that the Qur’an is the direct word of god?

  • aar9n

    Well now there’s an interesting variant of Poe’s law :)

  • closetatheist

    I’m feeling like someone has a politically correct stick up their ass for no good reason…

    You know “batshit insane” and “crazy” are simply colloquial expressions and not meant in anyway to refer to people who have literal disabilities, right? I am not equating one to the other as the same word can have several different meanings based on its context and usage. You may as well go after people who say things like, “She’s crazy about ice cream.” Or “He’s a proper English usage Nazi.” Good luck with that.

  • Daniel Ortner

    I’m sure you are aware that “an open heart” is a common literary phrase and so I won’t bother further responding to your sarcasm.

    As far as other faiths go… I have spent quite a bit of time examing them, pondering and even praying about them. As a convert and an atheist myself before joining I spent a lot of time examining and analyzing. In the end, the spiritual evidence I recieved was undeniable for me. I don’t expect my experience to influence you. Quite the contrary, I merely invite you to find out the truth of it for yourself. Once you do so, you too will be unable to deny it.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    “This word, ‘evidence’, I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  • Michael W Busch

    Intent is not magic. You are contributing to inaccurate and harmful stereotyping. Don’t do that.

    If you want some other perspectives on this, I refer you the the FtBCon panel from this weekend. You should start around timestamp 48:00 and go to at least 53:00 :

  • closetatheist

    You are creating an unnecessarily hostile environment for people who come to chat in an *informal* manner. Please don’t do that. Plus, what stereotype was I contributing to again? The one that views religious beliefs as foolish and finds those who buy into them to be somewhat irrational themselves? If you think that’s bad you’re on the wrong website.

    Below are some links that may help expand your understanding. Crazy and insane are words that are widely and commonly used to describe something that is senseless or irrational, like your insistence that these words should retain only one, specific meaning that you get to decide.

    If you don’t like it take it up with Merriam Webster or whoever.

  • Michael W Busch

    Wrong. I am trying to help dismantle the social stigma of mental illness.

    It’s not that you’re saying “Mormons have mental disabilities”. It’s the false equating of “being wrong” with “mental illness” (and note the difference – “mental illness” or “mental disorder”. Not the same thing as “disability”.) This contributes to harmful stereotypes that persist in the culture.

  • aar9n

    My point was that you were using that literary phrase to say to put emotions above critical thinking. Which is the genius, I believe, of Mormonism. Make people believe that emotions and feelings are more reliable than science, evidence, and reason and you can have complete control over them. 10% of their income, what they vote for, how many kids they have, what they eat, drink, and wear. Genius.

    You have so far provided zero evidence for sexist sky man from Kalob. Your feelings are not evidence. In fact, we can and have tested religious feelings and prayer. We have found that religious feelings are alot of times centered around the area of the brain that defines are identity from the rest of the world. Many religious experiences (deep prayer, meditation, etc) have shown to sort of “turn off” or “tune down” that area, resulting in the person feeling like they are “One with God/nature/universe/nirvana/whatever their religion says”. So your “spiritual evidence” is a neurological activity that happens in your brain, not by an invisible soul with a psychic link to Kalob sky man. Another interesting study with neurology and religion showed that when subjects are asked about what god believes, the same area of the brain is used that is used when someone is asked what their personal beliefs are (a different area engages when a person is asked and talks about other peoples beliefs).
    So your religious beliefs become your own echo chamber: Old white guy in Utah says sky man says gay sex is ewwwy, you believe gay sex is ewwy. you “feel” god saying gay sex is ewwy, thus confirming to you that old white guy in utah speaks to kalob sky man.
    Of course, there are also the classic prayer experiments, which showed that prayer has absolutely no effect on patients recovery whatsoever. Which is kinda obvious as there are 26000 people per day that die of preventable hunger. But thank god for healing Sam’s mum!

  • aar9n


  • closetatheist

    You still honestly do not understand that these words are commonly used to describe things that are senseless and irrational? No one in the medical community and not even you (note that you did not have to clarify what I meant when I used the terms, you automatically knew by context that I was using them to denote senseless ideas) proclaims that mentally ill people are simply “crazy” anymore. There are now more selective and appropriate terms. So I’m not sure why you’re arguing that the term should be reserved for people who have mental illnesses when in reality its offensive to refer to mentally ill people as merely “crazy” anyway.

    Plus, I doubt you could find one person who literally thinks I was saying Mormons had mental disabilities…and I’m still unclear on what stereotype I was reinforcing. You said you’re trying to dismantle the social stigma of mental illness – by insisting that the term “crazy” or “insane” be reserved for mentally ill people only? Isn’t that offensive? I really, honestly, don’t get it…I just give up.

  • LivinginUtah

    My research is based on facts. Not some supposed theories to support the lunacy that is Mormonism. The “prolific amount of scholarship” by Nibley has been ignored because it is hogwash. There is not a conspiracy by all other scholars to make him look bad.
    For the record, I am a former Mormon. RM, temple married, BP, YM Pres, Gospel Doctrine teacher.
    I left the Mormon church not because my heart wasn’t open. It was devastating to me when I learned that the church that I poured all my time and efforts into for 35 years was a fraud.
    If the things that you say are true about the Mormon church…then why doesn’t the leaders of the church come out in support of it?
    It’s a fraud and a scam. I truly wish it weren’t…but it is.
    And you wanting it not to be doesn’t change the truth at all.

  • TBJ

    For someone who adheres to faith based claims skepticism will seem implausible. but for those who are willing to open their minds and break the bonds of ignorance, it makes sense.

    Man made wikipedia and The Encyclopaedia Britannica, in part because adherents of faith are ready to understand natural phenomena.

    These resources of verifiable knowledge and a brief education in the natural sciences are man’s best weapons against ignorance. Have you ever attempted to read anything other than mormon texts? These are inspired works that have been proven to have been authored by known members of humanity.

  • TBJ

    Wait what!!

    As a convert and an atheist myself before joining I spent a lot of time examining and analyzing.

    and then wait for it folks, here it comes.

    Having grown up Jewish and converted to the Church it was one of the most important ones for me to understand.

    I guess when one reads books full of contradictions contradicting ones self becomes second nature.

  • TBJ

    I took one of his chem classes at Tacoma Community College, great teacher.

  • TBJ

    The dude is willing to accept scholarly articles as fact from non-peer reviewed scientists (quacks.) Can you really take anything he says as valid or true?

  • Daniel Ortner

    Show of hands… How man atheists on this blog were raised Jewish/have Jewish parents? I think you grossly underestime how often people identify as culturally Jewish but religiously Atheist. It’s a contradicting in a way… But it’s certainly not mine in the making.

  • Daniel Ortner


    I don’t doubt that you were devastated when you lost faith in the gospel… Not do I doubt that it is a common enough occurrence, but I have read all the same sources that you have and studied the same materials and come to a different conclusion. I believe the evidence of the truth of the gospel is quite strong…. With the Book of Mormon itself being the strongest evidence of authenticity. I don’t do so blindly, but having read pondered and considered for myself.

    The leaders of the church do talk about and right about evidences for the Book of Mormon occasionally in the ensign. The maxwell institute which is responsible for much of it is also owned by the church and BYU.

  • playonwords

    I does this mean the Bast is yet to come?

  • aar9n

    So lets do a quick lesson is logical fallacies.

    Appeal to authority: The book of Mormon is true because the Mormon leaders say its true!

    Circular reasoning: The book of mormon is true because the book of mormon says its true!

    Appeal to emotion: The book of mormon just feels true, I know it!

    Add those together and we have the only argument you have given on this forum:

    The BOM is the best evidence that the BOM is true because I feel it is so and the leaders of the church tell me it is so!

  • Major Nav

    Not entirely a new concept, the internet just makes it easier to turn the magnifying glass on yourself.

    It will not do to investigate the subject of religion too closely, as it is apt to lead to Infidelity.
    – Abraham Lincoln

  • baal

    I’m sure the astronomers will find Kolob any minute now and put all the doubts to rest.

  • TychaBrahe

    I remember reading, maybe 15 years ago, an interview in United Airline’s magazine. The interviewee was a Mormon man who worked in the upper echelons of the Church organizing archaeological digs in places in Central America. The Book of Mormon teaches that after he was raised, Jesus came to the New World to preach to the Native Americans. You’d think there’d be evidence of this.

    But there isn’t. Not any. And after decades of looking, he was starting to question that teaching, which is pretty critical to LDS doctrine.

  • rien

    They can study NDE !
    Le Brebis Galleux Blog

  • Brian

    The New York Times article was big on anecdotes and sparse on facts. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that there were people leaving the LDS faith than joining it. At my local LDS congregation, there are certainly more converts joining than there are defectors. (Some of the converts joined the LDS faith because of stuff they found on the internet)

  • Marc Carter

    Sorry but if you read the New Testament it does talk about how homosexuality is forbidden and all science is currently doing is proving the bible right hence metaphysics but I personally don’t judge homosexuals it’s not my job but I can and should be able to have my opinion without being attacked

  • Marc Carter

    Faith will not always be crushed that is what most of our founding fathers. Believed and helped them push through to win this country and a great favorite Cassius clay jr had faith and amazed us all against George Forman