Thursday, April 05, 2018

A Current Change of Heart and Mind about Mormonism

I am writing to let my readers know that I will most likely, very soon, be dismantling this blog and taking it offline. So I felt like informing the reader of this. What follows are my reasons why.

A lot has happened since I resigned in 2004. One of the main reasons for why I resigned was because the church was punishing intellectuals while withholding information to the members; causing them to later doubt and have existential shock and trauma and feeling betrayed. I used to tell my LDS friends and LDS family members that the church needs to inoculate the membership to avoid further harm and people leaving. Fast forward from 2004 to 2018 and a lot has happened. In fact I feel vindicated, but more important the changes I have been protesting for have come to fruition.

I have also grown out of atheism-mortalism on psychological grounds, and into what I would call a pragmatic-mysticism and a greater appreciation of the Bible as metaphors of transformation.

After leaving Mormonism in 2004, my first experience with "church life" outside the LDS was being extremely turned off by an experience at an Evangelical Church. I then began to study traditional Christianity with the same critical-thinking lens as I had applied in my examination of Mormonism; and this of course led to me becoming an agnostic-atheist. After that I pretty much swore off church, the Bible, and spirituality all together and was a scientific-psychicalist.

Around five years ago I began to have a change of heart towards all things Christian and "spiritual" and discovered Marcus Borg and others like him; and found that I liked combining what Progressive Christians had to say with those like Eckhart Tolle and what I understand about science.

During this process I became open to attending a church for the social benefits that many atheist scholars and atheist scientists were saying we're good for the human immune system. After attending several churches in my area and getting in heated arguments with various pastors and ministers; and seeing how the Fundamentalists had essentially taken over Christianity (at least the brand name) for the most part; I began to become less and less angry with Mormonism in contrast to Fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity.

Then, overtime I started to accumulate in my mind all of the positive changes in the Mormon Church since 2004. One of my main reasons for resigning was the Seed of Cain dogma. Well, in 2013 the LDS church put out the essay Race and the Priesthood which essentially repudiated the Seed of Cain dogma as folklore. 

Since 2004, The Joseph Smith Papers has developed and Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling was published and books like Planted by Patrick Q. Mason. Mormon apologists that were very distasteful in their tactics when I dealt with them around 2004, such as Luis Midgley and Daniel Peterson; have essentially been replaced with The Maxwell Institute and people like Spencer Fluhman.

I could go on and on with positive examples of changes for the better. My point is that these changes have taken the "fire out of my belly" so to speak. I have less and less to protest, less and less to feel righteous indignation about; less and less to push against.

I've not had some awakening that in my mind leads me to say, "Oh, oops, I was wrong about Mormonism; it is now actually factually true and supernaturally verifiable." No, that has not happened. My opinions about the Mormon church on scientific grounds have not changed at all for the most part; but I am undergoing a transition, a phase of sorts, in that in contrast to pre-2004 Mormonism, I am less angry at post-2004 Mormonism. Then when I think of the Fundamentalists and the Catholic church scandals, I am even further less angry with Mormonism. When I think about my life as an atheist and attending atheist social groups and realizing all groups and organizations have problems, I am once again, less angry with Mormonism.

I am still transitioning, into what I am unsure. But what I do know is that I have grown weary of being a Mormon critic. Much of what I protested, starting back in 2004, has been remedied by the LDS church. Do things still need to change in the LDS church, of course! So spare me the comments in the comment section of listing all the problems with Mormonism that sill needs to change. I know already.

As for me, my fight is over. I won the fight as my protests (which were the protests of a large many not just me, so I don't claim credit) have ended in the changes I was protesting for. I now pass the torch to others who feel the need to protest and criticize for further change. For I have far less of a problem with Mormonism than I used to, and it is time to move on.

Onto other things.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

The Six Post-Mormon Discussions: Suggestions for Helping the LDS Member to Understand The Former Mormon Perspective


This is a follow up to my blog post on communicating with LDS friends and family. Start with my blog post linked below before having formal discussions. I give the reasons for this in my blog post. See http://postmormon.blogspot.com/2013/11/communicating-with-mormon-loved-ones.html

I put together the following six discussions after several unproductive discussions and arguments with LDS friends and family about my leaving the LDS church. After these failed attempts at seeking understanding which I discuss in my blog post linked above, I thought why not put together six discussions like the LDS missionaries do. So the following is a hypothetical discussion plan one might choose to follow when discussing why they left Mormonism. For more tips see my blog post above where I discuss my opinion on the best initial steps to take when communicating with Mormon friends and family.

Since one conversation about Mormonism will likely just end in tension and divisive attitudes on both sides I recommend trying to get them to commit to having six or seven separate discussions with you. I would tell the LDS member who protests that the church expects investigators to take six discussions so why not six discussions with you? You can also appeal to fairness and ask what a good juror would do? Would they only listen to one side in court or give both sides a fair hearing?

If they agree to the discussions, perhaps you can have them shake on it and give their “word” and promise to stick it out through all the discussions. This will hopefully encourage them to remain honest and keep their promise to hear you out, while of course respecting their decision to back out at any time.

Before discussing Mormonism with an LDS member be aware that if the LDS member is living in a heavily populated Mormon city or state then they may risk losing their job or losing business if they openly express their disbelief in Mormonism. They may also experience rejection from friends and family. Make sure they are in the right mental frame of mind to handle this and they are prepared to take the risk of being informed. Encourage them not to go around discussing what you will share with them with just anyone. See my word of caution at the beginning of my blog post above for more advice on this.

The following six discussions are designed to take place in a formal setting in the privacy of a person’s home or other quiet place. However, there’s no need to be formal. One can adapt these discussions and have them randomly during normal conversation with a Mormon. You can also change the order, content, and focus any way one likes as it fits the situation and persons involved.

            If you do decide to have formal discussions I recommend putting together visual aids and using video clips to make a lot of your points, which I provide below. For some great visual aides see http://intellectualpreserve.org/iotr_gallery_main.html. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.

THE FIRST DISCUSSION (Truth Finding Methodology):

As I mentioned in the introduction these six discussions are a follow up to the 5 Step Process I outlined in the blog post linked above. In the blog post I suggest using the principles of Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends & Influence People, to set up a friendly atmosphere generating trust and camaraderie not a rivalry. Next I suggest having a Socratic dialogue and to avoid debate and arguments. I then suggested some material to share with them followed up by having them read your personal story of why you left the Mormon Church. These six Post-Mormon discussions pick up after this 5 Step Process. So after you’ve had several friendly Socratic conversations and they read your exit story and you can ask them if they would meet with you on six separate occasions for some further discussion. The following are some suggestions for your first meeting.

The first thing is setting a mood of friendliness and not combativeness. Begin with non-Mormon chit chat to create an atmosphere of serenity and trust. Then when the time feels right, ask them if they have any questions about your exit story or the resources you sent/gave them, which I discussed in my blog post linked above. If they haven’t read or watched the material don’t be offended, remember that they are likely scared of losing their grip on reality or they fear losing social ties by exposing themselves to other points of view. Simply ask why they did not read it and try to resolve their concerns if you can. If you can’t get them to commit to reading it later, then just accept that and move on trying not to take it personally.

The most important thing during the discussions is to establish openness. Make sure that the Mormon is open minded and willing to hear you out.  For example, you might ask:

 “Jeff and Mary, I realize that you are concerned about my resignation (or inactivity). I want to open up to you and express how I feel about the LDS church, and give you the reasons for why I left. I humbly ask that you keep an open mind as I share my thoughts with you. The reason I ask you to keep an open mind is because I'm going to share with you some things that you have probably never seen or heard before.  Will you keep an open mind? The second thing I’m going to ask of you is that you not prejudge me before I share my perspective. If at the end of the six discussions you completely disagree with my point of view, then we can shake hands as friends and just agree to disagree. I am not asking you to agree with my point of view, all I am asking is that you try to understand my perspective just as I have spent years understanding the devout LDS perspective. Sound fair?”

Next I suggest pointing out the likely inevitable obstacle to most discussions, which is pride or ego. You can ask them, “Will you agree with me to try to keep our ego out of our discussions, so that we can search the truth together and share our points of view without pride or prejudice?” When I first typed that sentence, I initially wrote, “Will you agree to keep your ego …” I then changed it to “our ego ...,” and this is the conversational frame you want to keep throughout all the discussions. You are on the same team, it is always us, we, and ours. You might also mention to them that others have taken your questions too personally, and give some examples. Put it out there that sensitive egos often get over involved with feeling “right” during these discussions; and ask if it can be our goal to minimize ego-conflict that arises from our natural human tendency to be competitive and seek validation. Point out that avoiding ego-conflict can be overcome by remaining calm, listening empathically, and making sure the other person feels understood and respected. Explain that the goal is a dialog rather than arguing or debating which often allows emotions to cloud our ability to reason and remain objective and calm. I would ask them to let you know if at any point in the conversation they are feeling upset or disrespected to let you know.

Keep in mind that the truth will emerge on its own without our trying to hammer our opinions into them. We should ask ourselves would I rather be right or be happy? Are you arguing your point of view to defend your ego, or are you selflessly sharing information to inspire the person and promote objective verifiable truth for the betterment of all involved? Make sure they understand that your goal is not to persuade but to seek to understand, stimulate thought, and share knowledge. The bottom line is that you will not inspire someone to think free by making them your enemy.

Your main goal is to get them to start thinking, reading, and researching on their own. Your objective is to encourage them to stop blindly believing and start critically thinking, and to begin consuming information voluntarily. Arouse their interest and let them figure it out for themselves. Good questions lead a person to think outside the box. Make your goal to get them to become proactive in their own search for truth.

Once they commit to keeping an open mind and not prejudging you, I suggest that you shake their hand on it to encourage their commitment to be open to information and to avoid personal attacks. If they later show closed mindedness, or attack you personally, simply remind them of their commitment.

Show sincere appreciation that they are willing to hear your side of the story, especially since they are discouraged from affiliating with and sympathizing with you (see Temple question #6).

The rest of the First Discussion will focus on one basic theme: covering the errors of a subjective epistemology. Epistemology is the study of how we know things, thus the First Discussion is aimed at showing how the LDS testimony methodology is flawed.

Define the word truth as that which corresponds with logic and reality/evidence.  Make sure you both agree on this definition. Make sure they agree that the universal laws of logic (such as 1 + 1 =2) are how we function and know reality. Explain to them the concept of objective versus subjective reality. For example, you might point to an object in the room, and ask “Jeff and Mary, we can both see that chair in the corner.  The chair is objective, and we both share the same reality. That is what I mean by objective truths.  Now if a song came on the radio, and you said that you loved it, but I could not stand it that would be an example of subjectivity. The song itself is not necessarily good or bad, but our subjective taste in music influences our perception. Do you understand what I mean?"

Discuss how courts of law rely on evidence rather than subjective experience. Explain to them the importance of distinguishing between feelings versus facts. For example, you might ask “Jeff and Mary, when a juror is at the trial, is he supposed to rely on his feelings or examine the evidence without pride or prejudice before reaching a verdict?” Then ask, “Why should the jury use reason and evidence to decipher guilt or innocence as opposed to appeals to emotion or subjective experience?” After they understand that feelings do not trump the facts, you may wish to go over the fact that nearly every religious believer “feels” that their religion is the truest.

1.   Show them an actual copy of the Koran. Explain to them that there are a billion Muslims that have a testimony of this book of scripture.
2.   Show them a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita. Explain to them that millions of Hindus believe in this book.
3.   If you can get a hold of a book or pamphlet by the Hare Krishna’s, the Moonies, or Jehovah Witnesses, show how these organizations all claim that subjective experience and/or feelings prove that only their dogma is true.

At this point I recommend watching with them this short video called, “Testimonies 1” by
“c mo” at http://vimeo.com/45289278, that features various religious persons bearing their testimony with it ending with Persinger’s God-helmet experiment (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_helmet).

Then I recommend watching with them the last part of this video on the testimonies of members of Heaven’s Gate who took their lives as a group. Start watching at 1: 17, of the  2013 talk by Chris Johnson: "How the Book of Mormon Destroyed Mormonism" at the Exmormon Conference at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAGasQ7j_ZI

Then watch the ABC story on the HeavensGate cult: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tT-rNIxUjU&list=WLFDCDA7782C91A0DC

To watch more HeavensGate Student Exit Statements see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHz9it70TdI

Explain how the appeal to subjective emotions results in what I like to call a testimony stalemate, like in chess. In other words, since one Mormon sect can't disprove the subjective experience of an opposing Mormon sect and vice versa, this results in a stalemate. Furthermore, faith in your Faith makes all Mormon Faiths equally true when you pull the "testimony card." So if everyone is claiming they "know" they are right through faith and feelings, and this is how objective truth is to be obtained, then the inevitable result is "epistemological anarchy" (i.e. anything goes).

In order to make your point that the Mormon testimony is subjective and fallible, encourage them to attend an RLDS church meeting (now called the Community of Christ, see www.cofchrist.org). Here they will see that having a feeling that the Book of Mormon is true, in no way proves Utah Mormonism is true.

If you have done your job effectively they cannot later just bear their testimony and appeal to feelings, since they’ve acknowledged that feelings are subjective and do not prove something objectively true.

Next, discuss the psychology of conformity summarized here: http://courses.washington.edu/psii101/notes/nsbj.html. Have them watch these videos:

      The Milgram Experiment

I also recommend Daniel J. Simonsbasketball video. Tell the Mormon “When viewing the video, try to count the total number of times that the people wearing white pass the basketball. Do not count the passes made by the people wearing black.” After they are done ask how many passes they counted? Then have them watch the video again without counting and see if they spot the person in the guerrilla outfit. Point out that this is how so many Mormons are unable to see what is often before their eyes, they are distracted.

Make the point, that just because a lot of people in the Mormon Church believe in LDS claims, that does not make those claims true; and says more about the power of conformity

Before leaving I suggest that you hand them a book or pamphlet on logic, fallacies, and epistemology. They can’t say this is an anti-Mormon book since it’s just about logic.

Other Suggested Material  to Leave With Them Before Your Next Visit:

Loan them the video (or have them rent and watch) In the Line of Duty:Ambush in Waco. This movie does an excellent job of showing how religious feelings and social conformity works to create devoted members of a church.

Hand them a list of logical fallacies: go over some of the most common fallacies that many Mormons commit. If they don’t know how to think critically how can they think their way out of Mormon dogmatism, pseudoscience, and superstition?

THE SECOND DISCUSSION (THE BOOK OF MORMON):

* Note: If you’re discussing the LDS church with a single woman, you may wish to skip to the Fifth Discussion below, and then go back to the second discussion.

Since the Book of Mormon (from now on BoM) is the cornerstone of the Mormon religion, it makes sense to examine it first.

Show them a copy of a reprinted 1830 BoM replica (which can be bought online for less than $30) and discuss some of the changes: specifically, show the difference in the title page:

1830: Joseph Smith, Jr. The author and proprietor of this work
Since 1837: Joseph Smith, Jr. the translator of this work


Explain that BH Roberts compiled the six-volume History of the Churchof Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, publication. Then have them read for themselves BH Robert’s work in Studies of the Book ofMormon by Brigham D. Madsen, Brigham H. Roberts and Sterling M. McMurrin. Have them read pages 243 to 244, where Roberts states that: “was Joseph Smith possessed of a sufficiently vivid and creative imagination as to produce such a work as the Book of Mormon from such materials as have been indicated in the preceding chapters . . .? That such power of imagination would have to be of a high order is conceded; that Joseph Smith possessed such a gift of mind there can be no question.”

Then pull out a copy of An Address To BelieversIn Christ by David Whitmer. On page 12 Whitmer wrote, "I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man." Proceed to actually demonstrate this scenario or show an image of Smith with his head in the hat. Then show them a picture you printed off the intert from Lds.org with Smith looking like he is using the plates to literally translate. Ask them if they believe that is an historically accurate image?

Also have a Bible by your side to show that Joseph Smith referenced from his own Bible: Show the "Faith, Hope and Charity" passage by Mormon in Moroni 7:45  and how it is a copy of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  Ask how come the Indian Mormon sounds like the Jewish Paul?

One example I like to do is to show them a replica of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants (I bought a replica called Joseph Smith Begins His Work Volume 2 for less than $30. I then use this replica to show them the changes in the revelations, like the early document denying polygamy (in the 1835 D&C 101) was being practiced when it was, and the early doctrine of the Godhead in the Lectures on Faith, etc. This is tangible evidence they can see for themselves. If you can afford it, you can even give them the replica so they can read it on their own after you leave to avoid them feeling any pressure to respond.

Review with them the original View of the Hebrews and bring up BH Roberts who edited LDS Church History and how he noted parallels in View of the Hebrews and how word analysis reveals that this book likely influenced Joseph Smith.

Bring up how Smith grew up reading the following book written in the Biblical style and word analysis reveals that this book likely influenced the war sections of the Book of Mormon. Show them sections of "The late war, between the United States and Great Britain, from June 1812, to February 1815 : written in the ancient historical style" (1816) by Gilbert J. Hunt: see https://archive.org/details/latewarbetween_00hunt. For more details see: Joseph Smith's Plagiarism of the Bible in the Book of Mormon by Jareld & Sandra Tanner; also see the 2013 talk by Chris Johnson: "How the Book of Mormon Destroyed Mormonism" at the Exmormon Conference at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAGasQ7j_ZI

Show Smithsonian Institutestatement on the historicity of the BoM.

Watch the video DNA vs. The Book of Mormon on the internet.

If you think they can handle it and won't be offended you could offer them a copy of, An Address to All Believers in Christ by David Whitmer. How can they object to reading a booklet by one of the Book of Mormon witnesses? In the booklet Whitmer testifies to many problems with Utah Mormonism even saying God told him to leave the Utah LDS church. Another book you could recommend is Studies of the Book of Mormon by B.H. Roberts, an LDS leader from the past who is famous in Mormon culture.

THE THIRD DISCUSSION: THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM & RACISM

You can begin by sharing with them the 2013 Ensign article, Race and the Priesthood (see www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood), which basically blames the past racist policy on Brigham Young. You can then point out that the LDS church defended the past racist doctrine by appealing to the book of Abraham.

If you have access to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, that you can probably get from your public Library, it would be good to show the Egyptian pictures compared to the ones in the LDS Book of Abraham.

For a free copy of the book By His Own Hand UponPapyrus go to www.irr.org, where last time I checked LDS members were allowed to order a free copy. Inside this book is a full-page layout of the funerary scrolls that Joseph pretended to translate. A picture of this Egyptian funeral scroll is also found in the Ensign, July 1999, page 43. Pulling this out to visually make your case would be much more compelling than just talking about it.

In No Man Knows My History by Faun Brodie, pages 171 to 173, Brodie explains how Joseph Smith took the ideas from the book The Philosophy of a Future State byThomas Dick, and invented the cosmology found in the Book of Abraham.  If you have a copy of the book The Philosophy of a Future State, it would be useful to demonstrate that this book was around at the time of Joseph Smith and was owned by him (See AnInsiders View of Mormon Origins by Grant Palmer pg. 22-23). Your local library or college may have a copy of this book, or you can buy a reprint. Reading passages from this book will show the Mormon where Smith likely got many of his cosmological ideas from that I put in the Book of Abraham.

Explain that the Book of Abraham, according to LDS leaders, was the only scriptural source for the 148-year racist policy to ban blacks from the priesthood.  Explain that missionaries were also discouraged from proselyting to blacks before 1978. Read to them a list of the racist scriptures found in the Book of Mormon and in the Book of Abraham, for source material see the internet.

On the internet find the TV documentary The Mormons by 60 minutes which aired April 7, 1996. I found the entire program at http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7380085n. Fast forward to 7:30 minutes into the show and have them watch the clip segment where Gordon B. Hinckley is confronted by Mike Wallace with the church’s past racist policy. Have the viewer monitor Hinkley’s body language the second Wallace mentions the words “church policy” (in regards to blacks in the LDS church) at 7:30 minutes into the program, and how  Hinkley does a leap back in his chair. Point out how his body language clearly reveals that he is uncomfortable and defensive by the racial questions. During the other clips of the interview he is calm and leaning forward. So why does he leap back at the racial policy before 1978? It is because the church had no good reason for the policy? Is that why Hinkley deflects responsibility on the same program by saying “it’s behind us” and not to worry about nearly two hundred years of LDS church history? This video can also probably be found on Youtube, at least the clip where racism is discussed.

End by watch with them the video The Lost Book of Abraham available on Youtube. You can then leave by offering them a free copy of By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus by Larson.

FOURTH DISCUSSION: THE FIRST VISION & THE EARLY GODHEAD

Become familiar with the problems with the First Vision, The Lectures on Faith, and the evolution of the Mormon Godhead. If you have a copy of For Any Latter day Saint: One Investigator's Unanswered Questions by S. I. Banister, turn with the Mormon to pages 218 – 221 (or go to the booklet Where does it say that pg. 4 -7). Then show them an actual copy of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants (or any D&C before 1921, that you can get on eBay or through Google books) to prove that Mormon doctrine on the Godhead has changed. Again, you can purchase a reprinted copy of the early D&C. Prove to them that Joseph Smith sanctioned Lecture Five, as doctrine, that the Father does not have a body and there is no personage called the Holy Ghost in the Godhead, according to the 1835 D&C. Ask them, “Jeff and Mary, how certain are you that you have the true doctrine on the Godhead if the first Mormons had the wrong idea (from reading their scriptures) for almost a hundred years: from 1835 to 1921?!” This is also the time to explain how the testimony in Mormonism proves nothing as the doctrine changes.

I like to show people a replica of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants and show them the changes in the revelations, like the early doctrine of the Godhead in the Lectures on Faith, etc. This is tangible evidence they can see for themselves.  Then hit on the fact that the 1832  First Vision version only mentions Jesus. Ask them: “Jeff and Mary, if you saw two Gods after you were told there is only one God, would you mention only seeing on in 1832?”

Go over the several First Vision versions using a chart you can give them from the internet. Explain that  Smith’s decision to sanction the Fifth Lecture on Faith contradicts the 1838 First Vision version, and show how each vision version evolved over time.

FIFTH DISCUSSION: THE TEMPLE AS A POLYGAMIST FERTILITY RITE

Show them a video on Freemasonry. The History Channel has a documentary on them I have found for free in the web.

Show the pictures in the book Duncan's Ritual ofFreemasonry by Malcolm Duncan. If you have a picture book of Freemasonry, that would also be useful in showing the ritual rooms and the altar.

Explain that Joseph Smith was a Freemason: Read with them Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pg. 286.

Explain that the entire foundation of Mormon dogma is built on Joseph Smith’s sexual greed and delusions of grandeur. Go over my blog post Did Joseph Smith have Narcissistic Personality Disorder?  Explain how the LDS temple is one big fertility rite. Make sure that both of you have a copy of the Doctrine and Covenants and open up to section 132.

A).   Open to D&C 131 and have them read the introduction and verses 1- 4, “Celestial marriage is essential to exaltation in the highest heaven…” Verse 4 states that you cannot have an “increase.” Ask the Mormon what he or she thinks that means?   

B).   See footnote 131: 2a, that refers you to D&C 132: 21 (5-21) “…except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory.TG Family, Eternal. TG Man, Potential to Become Like HeavenlyFather.” What is the law mentioned in section 132?

C).   Read the introduction to section 132, “Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet…relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant, as also plurality of wives.” Read versus 1- 4. Ask the LDS member, “So section 132 contains the law (given by revelation) regarding what?”

D).   Explain the context of this revelation. Smith was committing adultery: Oliver Cowdery said:

“When he [Joseph Smith] was there we had some conversation in which in every instance I did not fail to affirm that what I had said was strictly true. A DIRTY, NASTY, FILTHY AFFAIR OF HIS AND FANNY ALGER'S was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deviated from the truth in the matter, and as I supposed was admitted by himself.” (Letter written by Oliver Cowdery and recorded by his brother Warren Cowdery; see photograph in The Mormon Kingdom, Vol. 1, page 27).

Briefly discuss the history of Fanny Alger. Then turn to the introduction to D&C 132, “it is evident from the historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831…” Mention that Smith lied about polygamy: turn to the 1835 D&C page 251, and Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 137. When Emma found out he was having sex with other women, Joseph Smith tried to convince her that God told him to be with other women by writing her D&C 132, she subsequently destroyed it, but Smith had made a copy (Have them read History of the Church, Introduction to Vol. 5: xxix, xxxii - xxxiii). Next, read with them the letter that Joseph Smith sent Nancy Rigdon to try and seduce her which can be found on the internet.

E). Turn to D&C 88: 28, “They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body…” see also D&C 130:22. Ask: what kind of body did Joseph Smith say that the Mormon Gods have? If God has a body can he have sex?

F).       Read verses D&C 132: 1 – 4 again.  Ask: so what is the new and everlasting covenant? Read D&C 131: 2 - 4 again with them. They should understand that polygamy is an eternal principle to have an increase in the heavens. Read to them D&C 132: 63, then read them footnote 3p in the 1891 D&C 132: 63 (which you can read for free and downloaded at Google books) which reads “that is, the souls or spirits of men to be born in heaven, vers. 19, 30.” In other words, LDS scripture teaches that polygamy is how the Gods procreate in the heavens and produce spirit children/souls.
 
G).   Read vs. 15 –17: Ask: what happens to those who do not practice polygamy?

H).   Read vs. 19 – 24, 30: Ask: what happens to those who do practice polygamy in heaven?

I).   If Joseph Smith was a man who was trying to justify his having sexual relationships with women other than his wife, what would you expect D&C 132 to contain? Would it justify his adultery? Would it mention Emma? Recall how the revelation was written to explain to Emma Smith’s affairs.

J).  Read vs. 44, 51 – 56. Ask, are these the words of the humble Jesus or more likely the man Joseph Smith?

K).   Today a Mormon man can be sealed to two women in the temple while the woman cannot. If they deny this tell them to ask their bishop if they can read in his office the section in the Church Handbook of Instructions that states that this is the case. Ask why that is?

L). Read vs. 61 – 5. Emphasize  again that polygamy is the law of Mormon heaven to have an increase “…and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men…” See 1891 D&C 132: 63 footnote 3p “that is, the souls or spirits of men to be born in heaven.” Also mention that verse 64 threatens women who don’t consent with destruction. In order to justify his actions Smith created an entire mythology of procreating supermen. Explain how the temple is about fertility worship, with a ritual to bless the loins for procreative power, throughout all time and eternity at the veil in the temple.

M).  Later Smith seduced women into being one of his concubines by claiming that an angel with a sword would kill him if he didn’t do it.

N).   Explain that Smith sought power and glory. Read with them the History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 408, 409 where Smith says,

“I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it.”

Ask: is it coincidence that a man who sought power and glory, who even tried to win the highest office in the land, that of President of the United States, would later write that he would become God? Is it coincidence that a man who was having sex with other women other than his wife, would later write a document to his wife threatening her to accept his extramarital affairs?

Read with them the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and ask them if Smith might have had this disorder?

Leave them with a printed copy of the page from the 1891 D&C 132: 63 that contains footnote 3p.

SIXTH DISCUSSION: FULL DISCLOSURE

Explain that it’s an unfortunate fact that official LDS publications change and distort real Mormon history.  I consider this the sin of omission. I believe this leads to the current high turnover rate of people both joining and leaving the Mormon Church.  LDS members will continue to become shocked and disillusioned when they learn the whole truth, until the Mormon Church offers full-disclosure in their publications.

Point out that all you ask for is honest history and full-disclosure to investigators. Ask them why the church uses Protestant language on the Godhead when Brigham Young went around referring to the “Gods” plural? Ask why investigators are not told about garments and the oaths in the temple. Ask why investigators are not informed about the scientific evidence against the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham? Ask why African Americans are not forewarned that the seed of Cain is was official LDS doctrine until around 2013. Ask why most LDS members are not aware that Smith married other men’s wives and girls as young as fourteen? Ask why the LDS church has edited the History of the Church taking out things like Smith used tobacco and drank beer and tea (see http://www.mormonthink.com/wow.htm)? Explain that all you are asking for is honest history and the right of investigators to make an informed decision; and for lifelong members to be given all the facts since so much is required of them.

I then recommend watching the 2012, BBC documentary, This World: The Mormon Candidate with John Sweeney who interviews the Mormon apostle Mr. Holland (find it on YouTube). I recommend fast forwarding past the Romney material to avoid politics and just playing the interview with Holland.

FINAL WORDS & LIFE AFTER MORMONISM:

Provide information on how to deal with Post-Mormon life outside the Mormon Church.

Leave on a positive note, explain why you’re happy as a Post-Mormon.

Re-affirm that your love and friendship is not contingent upon them agreeing with your perspective on Mormonism. If you are able, express to them your commitment to maintain the friendship and build bridges. I would then close with a compliment on their open mindedness  and their courage to listen to your perspective.




Thursday, January 25, 2018

Did Joseph Smith have NPD? - Part 2

I wrote a rather long reply to a comment on my blog post Did Joseph Smith have Narcissistic Personality Disorder? I put so much work into my reply I decided to post it here:

In reply to Anonymous,

You make some interesting points, thanks for sharing.

I humbly disagree with your statement that, “... there is every evidence that he believed what he was saying …” I mean just look at how he changes the First Vision or how he tells Nancy Rigdon in a letter that God is more liberal in his views when trying to seduce her into plural marriage. If he believed God appeared to him, why would he change the content of the First Vision in the differing versions? Why would he first speak only of seeing Jesus (in 1832), then later speak of seeing two personages (after 1835)? If he believed his revelations were actually from God (which revealed a monotheist Godhead prior to 1836), how could he then change paths and give revelations presenting a polytheistic Godhead? Scholars have shown conclusively that he produced monotheist scripture and revelations between 1830-1835; and then, when he began taking many more wives after 1835, his scriptures and revelations begin teaching polytheism and polygamy. It is CLEAR to me that he knew he was making up Mormonism as he went along. Writing a body of scripture and revelation that conveys a distinct Godhead, and then changing to a new version of the Godhead, shows calculation and intent to make it up as he goes along as it suits his purpose.

For more details see these articles below:

http://mit.irr.org/joseph-smiths-changing-doctrine-of-deity

http://www.lds-mormon.com/jehovahasfather.shtml

http://www.lds-mormon.com/changod.shtml

Your hypothesis that psychosis could have motivated his taking "multiple wives and that god, told him to do that”, in my humble opinion, doesn't pass parsimony. A simpler explanation is that just as he used the seer stone, that once earned him money by tricking people, he then moved on to use the trick of “God is speaking to me” to gain ecclesiastical authority and power and control over others and seduce women (see chapter 7 “Priesthood Restoration” in Grant Palmer’s book, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins and the free online article, Sacred Marriage or Secret Affair? Joseph Smith and the Beginning of Mormon Polygamy by Sandra Tanner).

You said “a narcissist would never admit to being wrong.” Some do in fact, especially if, as in the case of Smith, he feared that polygamy would cost him his narcissistic supply. For example, it is clear to me that he went back to face trial (and was soon after killed by the mob later) because he feared losing his narcissistic supply.

You wrote that “If anything the events directly preceding the ‘first vision’ sound exactly like a period of deep deep depression (where the darkness almost overwhelmed him) followed directly by a period of psychosis (he saw a vision). That IS exactly how bipolar or, delusional disorder or psychotic depression DOES WORK.” That is an interesting observation. Yet, keep in mind that there are different versions of the First Vision, so the events you speak of may have been made up later for dramatic effect, just as he made up his monotheist Godhead, then changed to a polytheistic Godhead. Since I don’t know which First Vision version you are referencing I can’t comment further.

You said, “His own father talked about seeing ‘visions’. His mother had depression. His son clearly had a mental breakdown of sorts and George Albert Smith had both anxiety and depression - depression does have elements of psychosis and mania if left untreated too long (which is distinct to, bipolar).” All of this can just as easily support the theory of pathological narcissism as Smith likely developed a sense of omnipotence in the home as the only one who could keep his family together. For, “Alvin Smith (February 11, 1798 – November 19, 1823) was the eldest brother of Joseph Smith, ... Alvin took a leading role in helping the Smith family work toward paying their debts and building their home. His death at age 25 resulted in his younger brother Joseph taking more of a leading role in family affairs.” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Smith_(brother_of_Joseph_Smith)

Smith was thrust into being the hero in a family that was very troubled. There is a lot of social science research on this. He would do what his father could not do. He would unite the family and turn a profit at the same time which would rescue his family from degrees of poverty. See Dan Vogel’s bio of Smith for more details.

You said, “I truly don't think NPD cuts it, Joseph Smith himself often talked of long periods of melancholy - it just doesn't fit with narcissism…” I would suggest that you consider that depression and narcissism often go hand in hand. And that with narcissism there is “frequent presence of mood disorders, such as Bipolar I (co-morbidity).” See https://www.healthyplace.com/personality-disorders/malignant-self-love/the-depressive-narcissist-narcissism-depression-and-dysphoria/

After reading several historical biographies of Smith, the most common label historians use (and those who knew him in real life and spent time with him used), is that of an egoist, i.e. NPD. So I would take a look at what these many other experts have said about his personality.

In my view he had an unstable family life and was traumatized many timed growing up, and NPD was a buffer for his psyche, a way for his psyche to adapt. If he had a more stable family life and no trauma, he still might have been narcissistic genetically, but not as bad. Traumas and a troubled upbringing, combined with intelligence and creativity, and gaining the power and adulation from thousands of adoring fans (Mormons) caused his NPD to fester.

Remember, that when it comes to narcissism there is a spectrum as Dr. Craig Malkin argues in his book, Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret to Recognizing and Coping with Narcissists. Those that rate high in narcissism (the 7-10 range on Malkin's spectrum) experience a range of differing degrees of symptoms. We seem to only see narcissism as negative but narcissistic persons are still human and they are NOT psychopaths. As Malkin says in his book, all psychopaths are narcissists but not all narcissists are psychopaths. Narcissists are also capable of degrees of empathy.

So I see no reason why Joseph could not have been narcissistic and also loving to his family. On my LDS mission in Missouri I read a replica of a loving letter he sent to Emma when in jail. Yet in D&C 132 he threatens her with destruction. In prison I think he is lonely and is missing attention and so he feels more longing, more love for his wife. When he is out of prison and has a bevy of young girls at his disposal he can manipulate with his religion -- and then when his wife stands in his way -- he has no problem threatening her. He could be loving to his own children yet manipulate young girls into marrying him which put a lot of strain on them psychologically. This is because of the strong genetic pull in a father toward his biological offspring, that usually will override the narcissism to a certain degree. Smith would admit faults and foibles which to me is obviously his way of throwing his followers a bone (“See, I’m not a charlatan, I admit I am fallible”) yet the next minute he is speaking in the name of the resurrected Lord Jesus while also bragging that he is more successful than Jesus was on earth (See History of the Church, vol. 6, pg. 408-409). Apparently Jesus speaking through him and to him did not cause him to pause before bragging he did a better job of organizing and sustaining a religion than Jesus.

You seem to conflate narcissism with the sociopath. This article explains the difference: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-it-together/201708/narcissism-and-capacity-change

Narcissists can experience empathy in degrees, and some studies of narcissists show that if the narcissist tries to imagine what it’s like through another’s eyes this can induce empathy. See https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201409/can-we-teach-narcissists-care
and
https://blogs.psychcentral.com/nlp/2014/07/can-narcissists-learn-empathy/

Also, again, a father has a strong genetic pull to be loving toward his kin. Remember narcissism is a disorder and shouldn't be stigmatized or condemned but understood and treated, and exists along a spectrum. Narcissists are human and capable of goodness and empathy if they "try" to develop those virtues as Malkin argues. Since Smith was steeped in New Testament theology that emphasizes love and empathy, it would be a shock if at least some of the NT did not rub off on him.

I think Smith started out as a 7-8 on Malkin’s spectrum, as what Dan Vogels calls a pious fraud: as his family condoned his fraudulent activities, in using magic for pay; but with a different dad he may not have ended up a con man. I think in his 20s he was unconsciously trying to be the hero that would unite his family. Vogel’s bio of Smith convinced me of this. This itself is both very compassionate yet very narcissistic thinking that he could write a new bible and save his family from confusion and disunity and poverty through his pious fraud. But it was a "pious" act nevertheless. However, after 1835, as his power grew and he received more and more constant adulation, I think his egotism festered and he went from a 7-8 to a 9-10 on Malkin’s spectrum.

Its after 1835 that we see him rejecting monotheism and monogamy (in his pre-1835 scripture and revelations) and moving to polytheism and polygamy. His piety decreases as his ego grows from his growing power as a cult of personality and leader of members essentially worshiping him as the mouthpiece of Christ. During this time we see him become more aggressive too. This aggression was likely triggered by a loss of control and power and threats to his status, which triggered narcissistic rage. Grant Palmer tells how Smith may have ordered a murder and that is one of the reasons why William Law left the church: See his interview on April 22, 2015 with Jason Wallace on "Why William Law opposed Joseph Smith in Nauvoo." For even more details of Smith's aggressive and violent tendencies and narcissistic rage, see Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power by Quinn.

Again, the symptoms you mention like depression can be comorbid with NPD, as the first article I mention says. I see no reason why he could not suffer NPD and have other symptoms you mentioned as well. It’s not an either/or in my mind.

Someone can have NPD and OCD, NPD and depression, NPD and whatever, etc.

Regarding his composing the Book of Mormon I think that he was, as Harold Bloom argues, a “religious genius.” I remember when I was Mormon reading the book, The Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (online here: https://archive.org/stream/STPJS#page/n11/mode/2up) -- which has footnotes citing all the words of Smith in his sermons and how they can be tied back to the scriptures -- and being taken aback at how almost everything, or quite a lot, of what he said was a direct copying, rewording, or retelling of Bible passages. In other words, he was clearly intelligent with amazing recall;  and knowing the Bible was authoritative he spoke the language of the Bible to express his ideas and get what he wanted. I mean just look at the letter to Nancy Rigdon and D&C 132 to see what I mean.

Smith told his mother at a young age in 1823, “I can take my Bible, and go into the woods, and learn more in two hours, than you can learn at meeting in two years, if you should go all the time.” So he knew at an early age that he had the intelligence and the confidence and ability to memorize and articulate the Bible as good or better than the preachers of his day.

He was an information sponge with an incredible memory and in his book An Insider's View, Grant Palmer proves conclusively how he absorbed the sermons by the preachers in his area and rephrased those sermons in the Book of Mormon.

It is also obvious that Smith used View of the Hebrews to help compose the B of M, see http://www.lds-mormon.com/voh.shtml. Smith combined many works together and he had time to put together a manuscript in his head. I think the rock in the hat act was merely a prop and that he had already had an outline for the Book of Mormon in his head. He was telling Native American stories long before he composed the B of M. I think the dictation process was the end result of years of formulating a plot line and stories and it was a stream of consciousness activity.

Many narcissist are not necessarily intelligent, creative, or good looking, etc. But some narcissists have that rare combination of extreme ego, good looks, creative skills, and intelligence. I think Smith was the kind of narcissist who had the looks and intelligence and creativity to back up his extreme confidence. When you have that combination you have a personality capable of accomplishing the kinds of things that Smith did.

So NPD passes Occam’s Razar, fits the symptoms best (even if there was comorbidity), and is the diagnosis that most experts apply to him to explain his arrogance and behavior overall.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Communicating with Mormon Loved Ones: A Five Step Method

It doesn't matter whether you're selling Jesus or Buddha or civil rights or 'How to Make Money in Real Estate With No Money Down.' That doesn't make you a human being; it makes you a marketing rep. If you want to talk to somebody honestly, as a human being, ask him about his kids. Find out what his dreams are - just to find out, for no other reason. Because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it's not a conversation anymore; it's a pitch. And you're not a human being; you're a marketing rep” ~ From the movie, The Big Kahuna (1999).

Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still
~ Dale Carnegie

If you want to gather honey don’t kick over the beehive; a drop of honey catches more flies then a gallon and gall” ~ Abraham Lincoln.

I should begin with a word of caution ... 

Many former Mormons who speak out about why they reject Mormonism have lost their job, or if they ran a business they lost LDS customers which affected their business. Many marriages and relationships have been challenged or ruined because of Mormonism. I think it is important that the person understand the risks of voicing their opinions about Mormonism. It might be wise to select carefully those who you can trust to confide in about your doubts. It is probably wise to prepare to make new friends, business contacts, and customers who are not LDS if you plan to openly declare you are no longer a Mormon.

The following is some advice on communicating with a Mormon about why you are questioning the Mormon religion. Even if you have already concluded it is false, it is best to keep an open mind during your conversations. First, let me begin with how this blog post came to be.

I began my journey out of Mormonism with a chip on my shoulder. Since I was expecting to be rejected by Mormons who knew I rejected their religion, I projected my fears and insecurities outward and became very angry and aggressive in my speech with some Mormons. I also tried to debate with every Mormon I could because deep down I wanted to be proved wrong. I didn't like knowing what I did and I wanted someone to show me where my logic was in error. The more LDS members didn't want to discuss it the more agitated I became thinking they didn't care about me. I knew I needed to make a decision about Mormonism. So in order to wake them up to my dilemma I would fire off facts and details about the man-made origins of Mormonism in hopes of eliciting a desire from them to correct me where I might be wrong.

Sometimes I feared things and reacted preemptively. For example, since the LDS religion rejected me, labeling me an "apostate" and other derogatory names, then I would "weed out" those who weren't going to accept me -- because I didn't profess the correct articles of faith -- by very aggressively arguing about why I reject Mormonism with them nearly every time I saw them. The problem was that I was engaging in a self-fulfilling prophecy, for by sometimes being rude and insensitive, arguing and ridiculing rather than listening, sharing, and caring, I was generating the negative responses I feared.

If you are reading this it is probably because you are interested in getting along with someone who doesn't share your views about Mormonism. Many former Mormons who have been “burned” by the LDS religion are often ready on the trigger to fire round after round of arguments and facts at their loved ones trying to convince them that Mormonism is man-made and harmful. I had to learn from experience that this is the wrong way to go about it. Instead, when it comes to family and friends (and acquaintances) your main goal should be to earn their trust and respect because only then will they be willing to hear you out.

After many conversations with Mormons I have learned that argument rarely works for it most often just arouses resentment. I also learned that throwing information at them is not good either. I learned the hard way that  Mormons are trained to avoid anti-Mormon literature (which is anything critical of Mormonism). This conditioning they receive causes them to be literally phobic of anything deemed “anti-Mormon,” thus if you spring facts on them they will experience an amygdalahijack and may associate you with those negative emotions for years to come. So below I have devised a simple step by step communication method, which starts with trying to understand the Mormon’s psychology.

This blog post thus grew out of trial and error when communicating with LDS members. What follows is what I believe to be the best course of action when communicating with LDS members about why you reject Mormonism.

Before you begin any conversation with an LDS member, take some time to understand the psychology of a Mormon:

• First, take some time to understand the amygdalahijack that Mormons often experience when they're confronted with evidence and data that calls into question their worldview. In short, this means that whenever we are faced with life threatening decisions, like whether or not to run or somehow confront the grizzly bear in front of us, the natural instinct and brain mechanism of “fight or flight” kicks in and takes over our nervous system. When a Mormon is confronted with a grizzly bear of facts disproving their dogma they will usually respond with a natural fight or flight response.

• Understand the concept of "cathexis": this is the act of a person attaching one’s ego onto another person, place, or thing. For example, a father might become so attached to his son’s performance at a baseball game that when his son strikes out, he will become very angry. Mormons tend to form a cathexis around LDS dogma.

• Realize that your loved one is experiencing Groupthink, i.e. constant social reinforcement/peer pressure and so try not to take it personally when they seem to not act like themselves but as a product of the "Mormon Machine."

• Take a moment to consider their personality type. A lot has been written on this subject, which you can read up on via Google. But for now consider whether they are highly rational or more emotional, assertive or passive, outgoing or more shy; are they more prone to anxiety, or are they easy to anger or slow to anger, etc. All of this can help you understand how and why they became so deeply involved in Mormonism and how best to communicate with them. Several books offer advice on how to deal with each personality type.

• Consider how much fear, guilt, and other emotions they are experiencing as a Mormon and be compassionate.

• Understand that a lot of the information you will share will cause severe cognitive dissonance and they will seek to avoid the anxiety this will cause through various methods of dissonance reduction and avoidance.

• Realize that some very intelligent people are Mormon which is best explained by a concept called mental compartmentalizing: this is where a person will ignore a thought or idea if it challenges their beliefs, by putting it on the metaphorical “shelf” in their mind; or deal with it using the non-rational part of the brain and appeal to emotions. For example, a person may use their frontal lobe (the rational part of the brain) and be skeptical when buying a car to make sure it does not have problems. Yet this same person may see another car they instantly like and start to compartmentalize all the problems with the car by ignoring their frontal lobe analysis and instead focusing on its pretty color becoming influenced by their emotions. The person will then place all the problems with the car on a shelf, in a hidden compartment of their mind, while focusing on its pretty color.

A Simple 5 Step Strategy for Approaching Communication with Mormons:

The following Five Step Method is based on the idea that it is better to have an open minded dialogue than come at the person with an “I’m right you’re wrong attitude.” Thus the frame of mind is one of questioning. Even if you've concluded Mormonism is false, you are coming to them with only your questions. You are giving them a chance to search the truth WITH you, rather than you coming to them and trying to PERSUADE them. This lowers the person’s guard and sets you up as team members rather than rivals. However, I am not suggesting deception; you need to be genuinely sincere about being open to letting the truth unfold in your discussions even if that means you go back to the Mormon Church. Hence you are not coming to them with, “I’ve left here’s why,” but “I have questions, will you explore them with me?”

Here is the simple method:

Step 1: Set a friendly mood and avoid argument
Step 2: Set the frame as teammates and engage in Socratic dialogue
Step 3: Set the frame as co-detectives and/or two jurors looking at both sides of the case in an objective and impartial manner
Step 4: Share your de-conversion story if/when steps 3-4 run stale
Step 5: Invite them to have six Post-Mormon discussions

The underlying intention of your interactions is to inspire critical thinking and taking an objective look at the evidence for and against Mormonism. This is the heart of your approach. For once you get them to change their epistemology (the study of how we know things) from emotion-driven rationalizing to reason-driven scientific methodology; the rest is downhill from there. In other words, once they are convinced that a rational science-based method of inquiry is superior to appeals to emotion, and have their own desire for truth and doing their own research, the rest will fall into place naturally. Meaning they will naturally discover the truths out there to discover once they have a healthy curiosity and open mindset. At that point your work is done, for they will voluntarily read the books, search the web, and critically think their way independently to the truth and freedom.

Step 1: Set a friendly mood and avoid argument

Start with the frame of mind presented in the book How to Win Friends & Influence Peopleby Dale Carnegie. Your attitude should be one of humility not pride, sharing ideas not winning a debate, and caring more about their feelings than you being right. You need to approach each communication in a friendly way. Your attitude should be, as Carnegie puts it (paraphrasing) “I could be wrong, I often am, so let’s examine the facts.” It is not about you, but the truth. Let the facts of reality speak for themselves. Here are just a few examples of the principles in Carnegie’s book and how they can be applied to conversations with a Mormon:

Begin in a friendly way: instead of starting a conversation with your agenda to disprove Mormonism. Begin with asking how they are doing and engage them in a conversation about themselves, their interests, and uplifting topics.

Be genuinely interested in them as a person: when they feel that you are curious about them and care about their well-being, and that you like them irregardless of their beliefs, they will be more receptive to you.

Don’t criticize and avoid argument: try to avoid criticizing the LDS church and its leaders which will only arouse resentment.

Give honest and sincere appreciation: frequently point out what you do appreciate about them and their values as a Mormon which you can both agree on.

Give them a fine reputation to live up to: instead of pointing out how silly their beliefs are or how erroneous their ideas are; point out how smart you think they are and how you understand to a degree why they chose Mormonism. Point out how you think they are very rational if this applies, doing so sincerely. Thus hopefully they will seek to be rational in your dialogue.

There are more principles in the book which I highly recommend implementing during your discussions. If you apply these principles you will be less likely to create adomosity or hurt feelings and will create greater receptivity to the truth.

Step 2: Set the frame as joint investigators, fellow team members, seeking the objective truth through the universal laws of logic and shareable evidence

Avoid any dialogue that leads to an argument and the two of you seeing each other as adversarial rivals. The goal is to work together as if you were two investigators working the same crime scene. That is the frame of mind you want the two of you to have at all times.

As Dale Carnegie teaches, don't tell people they're wrong or try to argue with them; which will only arouse resentment. Instead do what Socrates did. Ask a series of questions aimed at helping the person reach a logical conclusion on their own through their own critical thinking skills; that was induced by your thought provoking, non-threatening, and friendly questioning. For more information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socratic_method

I have found that it sometimes helps to follow a method/model during conversation so that when you are tempted to be obnoxious, rude, sarcastic, or ridicule; you can go back to the method. So I put together what I shall call The Friendly Socratic Method which implements both the Socratic Method and the friendly approach of Dale Carnegie; with some reflective listening I picked up from Steven Covey’s Seven Habits book and his habit Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. So the method goes like this:


Click on image to enlarge

You simply repeat this process over and over again during conversation. The content of the conversation should be around 70-80% non-Mormon related; unless of course they are being very receptive and comfortable with the Mormon questions. So it goes like this. You start a conversation with non-Mormon related subject matter, and then midway through you begin the cycle:

  • You ask a Socratic question
  • As they are talking you read their body language for signs of discomfort (e.g. are they agitated, threatened, or fearful? Or curious, engaged, analytical?)
  • Listen and reflect their thoughts and feelings back to them in your own words (paraphrasing); so they know you are truly listening and understand their perspective, which validates their feelings.
  • After the questions and their responses make sure you leave on a positive emotional high note by raising their self-esteem (their confidence and emotional well-being) with anything from a sincere compliment (e.g. about their intelligence, open mindedness, their character, etc); and/or show gratitude for their willingness to discuss the topic with you.
  • Release any tension that may have developed through anything from a friendly hug (if appropriate) to the use of humor, etc.
If you were successful they will leave the exchange feeling good not worse; and any tension will have been released by you listening and building their self-esteem and then quickly changing the subject and offering some levity; so any anxiety your questions may have caused don’t fester and transform into anger, defensiveness, and/or phobias.

Make sure you have these Socratic dialogues in private. Pick the proper time and place to be having a discussion about Mormonism. Sometimes the LDS person is not in the mood, or they are surrounded by LDS friends or family members who might gang up on you like a mob for even asking questions. Timing is everything and by choosing the right times and places to have a friendly discussion you avoid problems.

Avoid the urge to turn the dialogue into an argument. Although you may feel a strong urge to de-convert them in one day and convince them to see things exactly as you do. Realize that's unrealistic and instead of trying to change their mind all at once, just try to help them to want to understand the perspective of others, and think about things objectively. You goal is to get them thinking on their own so that once they start down the road of courageous and honest truth seeking they will find the truths of reality along the path on their own.

Arguing will likely only make matters worse for you, for it will stir up “contention” and set off an amygdala hijack in them; and the Mormon will likely interpret this as proof Mormonism is true and you are the enemy.

Remove from your psychology the need to de-convert them with the power of your arguments and persuasive skills. It is not your job to persuade them. Your goal is to spur within them a desire to investigate the true roots of Mormonism on their own voluntarily. All you can do is nudge them toward the process of learning for themselves. You cannot make them read history or examine the facts. They have to want to do that. Your goal is to generate that want. But it is ultimately up to them to develop their own curiosity and desire to know the facts beyond the white-washed sugar-coated propaganda the Mormon Church feeds its members.

Don't try and just shove facts down their throat; allow the Mormon to go at their own pace by asking them questions that ignite their own curiosity. Allow them room to form their own conclusions without you pressuring them. As the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”

You are essentially seeking to move their epistemology (the study of how we know things) from subjective emotion to objective evidence through investigation and logical analysis. In step three you will examine the evidence, here in step two you’re simply reasoning together.

During the dialogue you might introduce how logic works and discuss fallacies. You can then apply a fallacy to a claim unrelated to Mormonism. Then later in the discussion bring up a Mormon issue or claim and ask if that sounds like a fallacy.

When/if you're feeling frustrated that they just won’t follow the logic toward the rational conclusion, try to accept where they’re at and realize we’re all at different stages in life and in regards to Mormonism. Remember that if you're a former Mormon, they are at a stage you used to be at. Maybe wherever they are at is the place they need to be at right now, either as a necessary stepping stone on their path or because that is where perhaps they were meant to be whole and content? Realizing we are all on a journey can help us have compassion and understanding for those with differing metaphysical opinions. Thus I think it should be the journey itself and not convictions that unite us.

Understand that their desire and ability to investigate the true roots of Mormonism is a process just as for you it was a process. By allowing them to go at their own pace, allowing your questions to marinate in their mind; you are allowing them to make their own decisions and think on their own which will eventually lead them to truth much faster than you trying to persuade them; which will likely only create resistance. That is the problem with arguments is that they usually become adversarial exchanges with each other’s ego involved. Feelings inevitably get hurt, and each party retreats to their secluded line drawn in the sand. To be most affective it is very important that your need to be right and score points take a backseat to your desire to make them feel validated/appreciated and listened to, respected, and understood. Your ego must recede and compassion proceed if you want to be effective. Your goals are to maintain mutual respect and build a bridge of understanding between your two points of view with maturity and respect.

The best form of persuasion in these matters is not your arguments anyway; but your love and respect and your display of high character. When you are a pillar of integrity and exemplify noble character it is more difficult to do what the Mormon Church teaches them to do; which is attack your character in various ways for doubting.

Use Inclusive Language

Try to avoid using divisive language like, "YOU guys believe this," instead try to be inclusive by saying something like, "when I was LDS ..." Try to use words like us, we, ours, etc.

Start with example X

I like to start with talking about an example in another organization that uses, for example, mind control tactics and/or distorts the truth, etc. Then when the LDS member agrees that those tactics are wrong, I will then later in conversation return to that example and ask them to ponder the similarities. For example, early in the conversation I might bring up how Hare Krishna's claim that it is through a subjective experience that you can know that their claims are true. If the LDS member agrees that such a method is faulty, later on in conversation I can bring up the Hare Krishna's when the LDS member starts appealing to their own subjective testimony; I can then ask them to explain how their subjective experience is different from the Hare Krishnas’; when they told me earlier the other was flawed. This is in no way manipulative, for all you are doing is encouraging them to be consistent and think logically. The LDS missionaries, the last time I saw them in action, do a similar thing all the time; for example, they might have an investigator read a scripture passage and then they'll ask them what they think it means, then they will teach an LDS doctrine that seems to accord with that scripture and what that investigator just said they think it means.

Keep in mind that having friendly Socratic dialogues while using Dale Carnegie’s principles can go on for months and years. The idea is you are slowly planting seeds of truth in their mind via your honest questions which will ideally sprout into them thinking critically on their own. This is a slow and patient process but the fruits of your cultivation are worth the wait.

If a person is thinking of joining the Mormon Church or is a new member you can ask them questions that get them to think of the seriousness of their commitment with these types of questions:

Note that your tone should be like the TV character Colombo. You are not being sarcastic or critical, you are just asking questions. Here are some sample questions.

Appeal to contradictory testimonies: “You know I heard that there are Mormon factions in Missouri, where they have their own testimony that Utah Mormonism is not true. I don’t understand this. How can you disprove their subjective revelation? Because if you can’t claim they don’t have a testimony based on subjective feelings/experiences, how can your testimony be infallible?”

Appeal to logic: “I was curious, why do you have to learn secret handshakes in the temple to present to the angels that stand guard at the entrance of heaven? I mean if the handshakes are already on the internet couldn’t anyone learn them? I am confused by that, can you explain that to me.”

Appeal to the person’s vanity: “Wow, I am really impressed with your commitment to Mormonism. To think that you are brave enough to be willing to wear those long john LDS underwear night and day for the rest of your life. That takes a lot of dedication; to say no more tank tops or certain dresses that expose the arms or legs; to change how you dress, that takes dedication. How did you come to that decision?”  

Appeal to their freedom of food choices: “To think that just last year you were drinking (fill in the blank: coffee, tea) and now you have sworn it off because of a feeling you got. That’s fascinating. Does it ever feel restrictive to be an adult and being told what you can and can’t drink in order to be a member in good standing and to be able to go to the temple and get into heaven?”

Step 3: Introduce content into your discussions as fair and objective jurors on the same team examining both sides

After you have exhausted the Socratic dialogue approach it may be time to introduce some research material to enhance their learning of the truth. Be very careful here though, for as I mention above, Mormons are trained to avoid anti-Mormon literature which they are often literally phobic of; thus if you spring it on them they will likely experience an amygdala hijack and may associate you with those negative emotions for years to come. It is important that they are willing to learn both sides before sharing information.

The best way to introduce content is to stay on the frame of you two as joint investigators on the same team. To accomplish this I'd first recommend sitting down with them to watch the the following internet video created by Mormon apologists; this should relieve all fears for the video was produced by Mormons. What I like about the video is that it portrays LDS members dealing with a doubting member in a respectful manner. In the video the Mormon parent even willingly investigates both sides with his son. I think this video can create compassion and open mindedness in LDS members while watching it; for it gives them what Dale Carnigie would call "a fine reputation to live up to." The video is called Alone by Mormonchallenges.org (available on YouTube). The video description reads, "Feeling alone, Justin shares with his father and wife his concerns about his church and comes to a new understanding of his faith and those he loves."

After watching the video with them and asking what they thought of it and discussing the themes of the video. At this point I would invite them to also look at both sides with you so that they can understand where you are coming from.

You can mention how in a court of law jurors are presented with both sides. To be accepted a juror must show that they can be fair and impartial. You can ask them if they would be willing to be a juror with you and examine both sides. You can even mention to them that this what LDS missionaries do, that is they ask investigators to read a part of the Book of Mormon and then return to discuss what they read.

They can start by recommending a video the two of you can watch together that is pro-Mormon. Like a video by a Mormon apologist and then investigate the contents together. Then you can suggest watching a video by a critic. I use to recommend asking the LDS member to listen/watch a certain video produced by John Dehlin. This video is completely pro-Mormon while also explaining why many people leave the LDS Church or go inactive; the link to that video is here. However, the video is flawed in that the ending is meant to help LDS members understand their former Mormon loved ones better so that they can better help them come back to the Mormon Church. I have since seen a better video called "Top 10 Mormon Problems Explained" by MormonHistoryBuff, linked here. Another video that does a great job of presenting the former Mormon view in a slow and non-confrontational process is the YouTube video series Ask Reality by Chris, here. Rather than listing ten reasons why Mormonism is false, Chris explains how learning that other religions do what Mormonism does, he was able to see the errors. I’d recommend the Ask Reality series be watched first, followed up by the Top 10 Mormon Problems Explained.

I next recommend the following two books that are critical of Mormon claims yet written with a friendly tone:

An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins by Grant Palmer




Note: On amazon.com I saw this book listed in the used and new book section for hundreds of dollars, which is insane. The book is only worth $5 to $10. Don’t pay more than that. Last I checked it was available for purchase at a reasonable price at utlm.org as well. 

I selected these two books because they are very comprehensive in nature and have a very friendly tone. Thus they cannot be accused of being “anti-Mormon” books. In fact, Palmer’s book was sold by Deseret for a time. Now there are many other books but I think these are the best introductory books that are friendly in tone. 

Step 4: When all else fails, or the time is right, share your story

After your Socratic dialogues have gone on enough and you've introduced them to a book and video, you can later write them something along the lines of, “I have greatly enjoyed our open and honest conversations. I have felt greater compassion for you and your point of view. Our joint studies as objective jurors in search of the objective truth has been very rewarding and I appreciate your team spirit. I have continued my own studies after you seem to have lost interest in investigating things further. Here are some things that I have learned ….” In the letter you can move to step five and invite them to have further discussions or you can choose to do so in person.

Step 5: invite them to have six discussions

After steps 1-4 are completed, I recommend moving on to having Six Post-Mormon Discussions. There are risks with this approach however. For once you get them to commit their fellow Mormons will see this as an attack and it is likely they will withdraw before you get through all the planned discussions. It also puts them on the defensive a bit due to the formal nature of the meetings. They have to be very courageous and open minded to do this. They also have to really trust and respect you to be willing to do this. The person has to decide what they think is the best way to proceed.

What if they refuse to even have a Socratic dialogue; refuse to read or watch anything; and ignore or disregard my letter and refuse to have the six discussions? What if they have no interest in trying to understand my perspective? What if they flat out refuse to read or listen to you and do not want to hear you out?

Well, be glad you got that out of the way! Be thankful you did not waste hours, days, months, or years trying to convince someone to understand you and learn the facts, when they simply DO NOT want to! I spent years trying to get a Mormon I was close to, to think critically and investigate Mormonism objectively, and one day I just asked them, “Do you want to understand my perspective? Would you even want to know the truth if that meant making you uncomfortable?” They simply said “no,” and explained in so many words that it was more important to them to feel good and feel secure with their current worldview than learn anything that would make them uncomfortable. Here I was bending over backwards trying to have conversations with someone who was not open minded and simply did not want to know the truth if it would make them uncomfortable. When they finally said what they really felt I felt relief. I had wrongly assumed that they were like me, where truth was more important to me than my comfort zone. I then knew where they stood; I didn't understand it because for me the truth is worth some discomfort, but I accepted their position.

Why confront them with your new perspective anyway? As long as they are not trying to convert your children behind your back without your consent and aren't slandering you why bother confronting them at all?

Also, understand they're not you. Are you trying to create a clone of yourself? Try to accept that they might not think and feel the same way you do. If you had their exact genes, upbringing, neurochemistry, personality type, social pressures, and personal experiences you’d probably think and believe and behave the same way they do (did); since you’d essentially be them and would have had their experiences. Think about that.

Allow them time to come around on their own and perhaps in time they might seek to investigate Mormonism objectively; and discover the truths waiting for them to discover at the touch of a computer keypad or just a book away. At the same time accept that they may never try to fully understand where you are coming from nor seek the truth for personal reasons (e.g. fear, phobias, or feeling secure where they're at, etc.) that has nothing to do with you, and that time will also help you to accept that.

Seek professional help if needed:

If leaving Mormonism or going inactive is affecting your self-esteem and/or causing friction in your marriage or relationships consider seeing a non-Mormon counselor either alone or together that can be neutral.

For more advice, see the video online titled, The Strategic Interaction Approach by Steven Alan Hassan. Below is a summary of the lecture by Hassan:

• Do not make your goal getting them to leave the religion. Make them truly feel that your goal is to empower them to think for themselves and thrive as an individual.

• Treat them with respect and build rapport and trust.

• Use other fanatical-religions and cults as examples. Do not directly attack their religious beliefs. Instead, critique a religious idea they have indirectly by bringing up another religion and hopefully they will see the connection that their religion does the same thing.

• Gather information about other cults and share that information.


• I also recommend Daniel J. Simonsbasketball video. Tell the Mormon “When viewing the video, try to count the total number of times that the people wearing white pass the basketball. Do not count the passes made by the people wearing black.” After they are done ask how many passes they counted? Then have them watch the video again without counting and see if they spot the person in the guerrilla outfit. Point out that this is how so many Mormons are unable to see what is often before their eyes.

• Plant seeds of curiosity by asking questions and pausing for them to think about the question, e.g. “so did you ever find out why your friend left the church?” Then pause for a response.

• Ask what would it take to convince them the religion was not what it claims to be? Then use that information to reveal the truth to them.


A Current Change of Heart and Mind about Mormonism

I am writing to let my readers know that I will most likely, very soon, be dismantling this blog and taking it offline. So I felt like infor...