I really wanted to be challenged by Mormons to rethink my post Mormon perspective, and like a philosopher will dialogue with others in order to obtain truth, I wanted to locate any error in my reasoning. I’ve learned however that for many Mormons, once you believe emotions prove something factually true, you can always come up with excuses to deny any evidence that disproves Mormon claims.
Below is a fictional conversation between a Mormon and a former Mormon based on my own actual conversations with Mormons. I changed the names, and some of the wording has been changed but this kind of conversation basically did take place. Stan is a True Believing Mormon (TBM) and is worried about his friend Jeff who has resigned. One day they get to talking as Stan tries to “re-activate” his pal Jeff.
Part 1 - THE TESTIMONY MANTRA
We enter the conversation after Stan has just expressed his concern that Jeff hasn’t been to the Mormon Church in awhile …
Jeff: You know Stan, a very common sense question is very often avoided in Mormonism.
Stan: What’s that?
Jeff: Well, how many people are on the earth?
Stan: About 7 billion.
Jeff: Do you know what each one of these 7 BILLION people know in their heart and mind?
Stan: No, of course not.
Jeff: Then how can you say that you KNOW your dogma is the truest dogma and everyone else’s is essentially corrupt and of the devil in some way, having only a particle of truth, while you supposedly have all the saving truths?
Stan: Because I know what I felt, therefore I know it to be true!
Jeff: I’m sure you do Stan. Have you ever met a Book of Mormon believer like I have in Missouri who also “knows” the BoM is true but “knows” Utah Mormonism is false?
Stan: I know Mormonism is true!
Jeff: How do you know?
Stan: I feel it in my heart.
Jeff: So you know only Mormonism is true because of a subjective emotional experience that you can’t share or transmit to me objectively?
Stan: Yes that’s right. You have to be “in tune” with the spirit.
Jeff: Are you saying I have a faulty spiritual antenna?
Stan: No, it is a spiritual feeling that I can’t explain.
Jeff: Well, you assume either that my antenna is defective or I have not tuned in to the “spirit,” but what if I did turn to 100.MormonClaimsFM and didn’t get the same message as you?
Stan: Well you probably aren’t worthy then (Note to the reader: this is a personal attack).
Jeff: I am worthy of God’s communication. Why the insult?
Stan: Well, then I don’t know why God did not tell you Mormonism is true because I know he told me. I bare you my testimony that I know… (Stan begins lowering his voice and alters the tone and pitch of his voice).
Jeff: (interrupting) Can you say – that someone of a different religion, who claims they know their dogma is the only true one based on a subjective emotional experience – is wrong? Can you say you know what they felt inside and it is wrong?
Stan: No of course not.
Jeff: Then it logically follows that if you cannot refute the subjective emotional experience of say a non-Mormon Book of Mormon believer, for example, that leads them to make their claim that their religion is true and Utah Mormonism is false; then your subjective experience is cancelled out as any kind of alleged "knowledge." For neither of you two Book of Mormon believers can discount each other's subjective experience that to both of you, allegedly proves two conflicting dogmas. He or she can't invalidate your internal experience and you can't invalidate their internal experience. I call this the testimony stalemate. Thus, how can you say “you know” your experience is objectively valid when you can’t say that other religious believer’s spiritual experiences are invalid, which you admitted you can’t.
Stan: No, he or she must have been deceived, mislead, or lying.
Jeff: Of course, that is so easy for you to say. You have to attack them to maintain your position. You said you’ve never met a non-Mormon Book of Mormon believer and you admitted that you can't discount what they feel, so how can you say their internal convictions are invalid? How can you know the source or mechanics of their experience if you weren't there and didn't feel what they felt?
Stan: Look, they have the Light of Christ…
Jeff: I know, I know, they have a witness of the spirit to know the Book of Mormon is true, but they need the Holy Ghost to tell them Mormonism is true, right?
Jeff: How do you know that it is not YOU who is only experiencing the Light of Christ and THEY have the Holy Ghost? Can you measure the difference? Is their a Spirit monitor you can hook yourself up to like a lie detector test, the clergy then asking questions and the needle either goes beep “light of Christ” or beep “Holy Ghost?” The truth is their internal spiritual feelings are just as valid as yours no matter what you decide to label it in an attempt to avoid that fact. Feelings are feelings no matter what you or the opposing party labels it: feelings are emotional responses and your emotional responses are equal to the Hindu, the Protestant, or the RLDS (Community of Christ) member.
Stan: Well we have more members than they (the Book of Mormon sects) do.
Jeff: That is the fallacy of Jumping on the Band Wagon (an appeal to numbers). Hitler had millions of followers, there are about as many Jehovah Witness and Seventh day Adventist as there are Mormons, and the Catholics have over 300 million members, and there are nearly a billion Muslims!
Stan: I know it’s true I testify…
Jeff: In all do respect you sound like a Broken Record. If a member of a Book of Mormon sect were here all you guys would do is sit around and just repeat your testimonies of the Book of Mormon “I know its true,” “I know its true…” on and on and on and on like two broken records, proving what? You know ‘what’ is true?
Stan: I know the Book of Mormon is true (as he sits up straight with confidence).
Jeff: You have not addressed the problem of other non-Mormons claiming the Book of is Mormon true based on their emotions or personal revelation. But fine, let’s ignore that issue if you want. Now, which of these main Mormon doctrines believed by the Utah based LDS church today is in the Book of Mormon:
1. Church organization
2. Plurality of Gods
3. Plurality of wives doctrine
4. Word of Wisdom
5. God is an exalted man
6. Celestial marriage; Men may become Gods
7. Three degrees of glory
8. Baptism for the dead
9. Eternal progression
10. The Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizedek Priesthood
Stan: None of them are in the Book of Mormon, and that is because we believe in continuous revelation.
Jeff: Yes I understand that, but my point is that your testimony of the Book of Mormon does not prove Utah Mormonism is true any more than the testimony from an apostle of The Church of Christ Temple Lot testifying to the truth of the Book of Mormon, proves his church is true. Many groups claim to have continuous revelation as well; did you know that Joseph Smith Jr’s own son, Joseph Smith the III, received revelation for the RLDS church?
Stan: (growing a little agitated) No I didn’t know that, but he was probably deceived or lying.
Jeff: Could it run in the family then?
Stan: (agitated) No, no, Brigham Young was to be the leader.
Jeff: Yes, well let’s skip over Mr. Young’s many false teachings as "the prophet" like his claiming Adam was God and blacks are inferior, for now and go back to my question of the other churches having revelation just like the LDS?
Stan: I can only speak for my church and my internal experience; I cannot transfer my convictions on to you.
Jeff: Well then, in all due respect, if it is not transferable then why give it to me at all?
Stan: (sitting up straight and proud) because I’m right!
Jeff: (amazed) then you must mean that all those who disagree with you are wrong?
Stan: (regressing) No, it means you need to get a testimony, and the only truth is the LDS Church and if you keep searching you WILL come back to the church!
Jeff: I did search and found out that the origin and development of Mormonism is man made. After several years of research I have concluded that the LDS church is not what it claims to be. By the way have you read An Address to All Believers in Christ where David Whitmer says God told him in a vision to leave the Mormon Church, among other things?
Stan: It was just too hard for him to be Mormon.
Jeff: That is an Ad Hominem Attack that has nothing to do with his arguments or his testimony that Utah Mormonism is false. You also ASSUME to know what a man you’ve never met before was thinking or feeling beyond what he wrote, which is an attempt at the fallacy of Poisoning the Well: attacking the person to create a bias against their argument.
Stan: He was probably lying, why should I trust an anti-Mormon!
Jeff: Well, with that logic Stan, only those who are active Mormons tell the truth and all non-Mormons are liars, which is a fallacious Hasty Generalization. Second, as a Mormon you claim that David Whitmer’s testimony, as one of the three witnesses for the Book of Mormon is valid! So which is it, is he a liar forfeiting his testimony of the Book of Mormon, or honest and Mormonism is false?
Stan: You just want to argue, you don’t want to hear the truth, you…
Jeff: Whoa, buddy, please don’t assume you know what my motives are beyond what I tell you they are. I am a sincere seeker of truth. Are you claiming to have the ability to mind read? By the way would you be interested in reading An Address to All Believers in Christ?
Stan: I don’t care what Whitmer said, it doesn’t interest me in the least! I have to go.
Note: Nowadays I try to avoid these types of conversation because of the way they usually end with the Mormon experiencing an Amygdala hijack, followed by name-calling and defensive postures and with what I call a testimony hit and run: a Mormon bearing their testimony and ejecting without sticking around to have a rational dialogue.
If you want to remain friends, or be on good terms, with a Mormon then in my opinion it is best to just avoid talking about Mormonism unless they are very open minded and sincerely interested in understanding your point of view. If you do decide to have a conversation about Mormonism I have some advice and suggestions here.