One might suppose that when Willard “Mitt” Romney
announced his candidacy the presidency of the United States, there was
considerable joy in
Salt Lake City among the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of
I suspect that by now those leaders may be having some second thoughts.
For while it was a good thing for the American public to learn about the
Mormon faith, Church leaders are now discovering that it is possible to
have too much of a good thing.
The thirteen Articles of Faith of the Mormon religion enumerate a
set of beliefs, some of which are quite consistent with traditional
Christianity, and others which, while unique to Mormonism (e.g., the
Book of Mormon), are not outlandish or immediately offensive to most
ordinary Christians. (The Articles of Faith were written by the Mormon
founder, Joseph Smith, to a Chicago publisher, John Wentworth, in 1842).
The Articles say nothing about God once being a mortal human and being
one among many Gods, about the brotherhood of Jesus and Satan, about God
inhabiting a planet called “Kolob,” or about the “magic underwear” that
devout Mormons are required to wear, etc. Nor are you likely to hear
about such things from the Mormon missionaries that might appear at your
However, it now seems naive to have supposed that
these and other bizarre Mormon doctrines would not be brought to light by
Mitt Romney’s political rivals and that they would become material for
Many faithful Mormons are surprised at the astonishment and derision
that some LDS beliefs provoke among the general public. This surprise is
likely due to the simple and universal fact that beliefs that are taught
in childhood and shared in a community of believers are regarded by the
faithful as “obvious” and “ordinary,” while at the same time those same
beliefs are considered, “from the outside,” to be weird and outlandish.
I can testify to this fact, for I have experienced Mormon doctrine from
both the inside and the outside. From childhood, through high school, I
shared Mitt Romney’s faith in the Mormon religion. Then that faith
totally vanished during my freshman year in college – at Brigham Young
University, of all places!
MORMONISM AND ME
If I might be permitted a few autobiographical remarks, this is how it
My high school education was outstanding. I was among a few students
selected to attend a “demonstration” school attached to a state
teachers’ college, where we were taught by college professors. There I
acquired a precociously secular, scientific, and scholarly perspective
on human history and institutions. At the same time, my parents (both
graduates of BYU and both post-graduates of Columbia University) saw to
it that my two brothers and I regularly attended LDS Sunday services.
They accepted the conventional view that “Sunday School” was essential
to a child’s moral development – a view that I have since come to
Accordingly, during my adolescence, I carried about in my head, a
bifurcated mind. There was “the weekday mind” of ancient dinosaurs, of
evolution, of American Indians as migrants from Asia, and above all, of
skepticism, scientific discipline and critical thought. Then there was
“the Sunday mind” of the Creation in 4004 BC, of the Garden of Eden and
Noah’s flood, of the Indians as migrant Israelites (the “Lamanites”),
and of faith trumping “man’s reason” – faith: “the substance of
things hoped-for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews, 11:1). I
somehow managed the alternation of mind-sets from weekdays to weekends
to weekdays again, without undue strain.
But at BYU the shifting of mind-sets from a required religion classroom to
a science classroom to
the library to the study hall proved to be untenable. At the end of my sophomore
year, I transferred to the University of Utah and majored in Philosophy.
Courses in geology, anthropology, new-world archeology, etc., pounded
the final nails into the coffin of my childhood faith. In the words of
the apostle, Paul: “when I was a child, ... I thought as a child. But
when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (I Corinthians, 13:11)
In my mind, the Latter-Day Saints, formerly “us,” became “them,” and
since then I have never looked back. (Accounts of this “de-conversion”
may be found in my unpublished
"Farewell to Mormonism -- No Regrets,"
and Morality: A Dialogue All at this
Today, the polygamous man-God of Kolob, the magic underwear, the
Hebrew-Indians, the translating peep-stones and the golden plates, the
farm boy and the angel, “the curse of Cain” upon all people with any
African ancestors, baptism for the dead (the Creator of the earth and
all human souls being incapable of saving those souls all by himself),
etc. – all this and more seem as bizarre to me as they do to most
non-Mormons. (The essential tenets of Mormon theology are presented in
this remarkable cartoon narrative of unknown origin. It is generally accurate,
although there are a few identifiable minor errors. For example, Mormons
do not believe that God and Mrs. God came to earth as Adam and Eve).
But equally bizarre to me is the Catholic dogma of transubstantiation
(the ritual cannibalism of God’s body), the argument that birth control
is contrary to “natural law,” the protestant fundamentalist beliefs in
biblical literalism, young-earth creationism, and the doctrine of “the
rapture,” the orthodox Jewish ban against eating shellfish or wearing
mixed fabrics, and the Islamic belief that the Angel Gabriel handed the
Koran to Mohammed. Much worse is the plain immorality of many
traditional religious beliefs. These include the belief that the
genocide, murder and mayhem chronicled in the Old Testament were
condoned and even commanded by the Lord God, that God had ordered that
disobedient children, blasphemers, unchaste young women (but not men),
and those who toil on the Sabbath be put to death, and that a loving God
created billions of souls, all but a few thousand of whom He has
condemned and will condemn to eternal damnation and torment. Among those
condemned are authentic “secular” saints and martyrs such as Socrates,
Marcus Aurelius, Galileo, Voltaire, Gandhi, Jefferson, Sakharov, who
somehow failed in their lifetimes to agree with Pat Robertson and Jerry
Falwell and to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
A “RELIGIOUS TEST” FOR PUBLIC OFFICE?
We Americans are traditionally a tolerant people, who believe that one’s
personal religious faith should not disqualify one from public office.
It is so stated in Article Six of our Constitution: “no religious test
shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust
under the United States.”
Until recently, I endorsed this
pronouncement without qualification. Now, after eight years of George Bush’s “faith-based” administration,
followed by the continuing intrusion of religious dogmas into politics by
the religious right, I have reservations. Thus, I find the prospect of a
Mitt Romney administration to be unsettling, as I might be similarly
concerned by a presidency by some of his unsuccessful rivals such as Mike
Huckabee or Rick Santorum. At the very least, the
question of a “religious test” for public office deserves some careful
The issue articulates around the meaning of “religious test.” The term
can be interpreted negatively: “no Catholics, Jews, Moslems, or atheists
need apply.” Or it can be interpreted positively: “these offices are
open exclusively to born-again evangelical Christians” (or other
religious persuasion). Article Six of the Constitution notwithstanding,
there is, practically speaking, a religious test for the Presidency and
for membership in Congress; no self-professed atheist has ever occupied
the White House, and only one admitted non-believer is now in Congress
(Pete Stark of California), although there may be a few more who
associate themselves with a religious denomination out of political
Does “religious test” refer to an individual’s religious
to his or her religious beliefs? Despite the close correlation between
affiliation and belief, the distinction is crucial. Exclusion from
public office on grounds of religious affiliation is a giant step toward
theocracy and the establishment of a state religion. The framers of the
Constitution were wise to forbid it.
But once you have identified a person’s religious affiliation, what do
you have? Perhaps, not much. Consider, for example, “Mormonism.” There
are reportedly over twelve million Mormons. Among them are faithful
Mormons like Mitt Romney, with uncompromising “testimonies” of the truth
of their beliefs in “the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ,” of the Book
of Mormon, of the divine mission of Joseph Smith, and of the divine
authority of the “prophet, seer and revelator” in Salt Lake City, who
leads the LDS Church. There are, I would guess, at least as many “social
Mormons,” who have an abiding respect for the history and traditions of
the Church and who enjoy the weekend company of other Mormons, while at
the same time rejecting the LDS theology. “Social Mormons” admire, as do
I, the strong family values, the integrity, and the in-group solidarity
and compassion that is conspicuous among the Mormons. But they may be
much less impressed with the indifference of the Church and its members
to social and economic injustice. Many of my much-admired professors at
the University of Utah were non-believing “social Mormons.” So too, as I
was eventually to discover, were my parents.
And finally, because it is extremely difficult to remove one’s name from
the membership rosters of the Church, those rolls include individuals
who are totally alienated from the Church. When the LDS Church proclaims
that there are more than twelve million Mormons, the Church no doubt
counts me among them, although I have entered a Mormon church just twice
in the last forty years, each time for the funeral services of my
So when Jon Meacham of Newsweek writes that “the world’s nearly
13 million [Mormons] ... believe that God ... [revealed] the Book of
Mormon,” Meacham and Newsweek are flatly wrong.
Because John Kennedy was apparently a “social Catholic” rather than an
uncompromising believer in the absolute authority of the Pope and the
Vatican, his affirmation of the separation of church and state was quite
credible and thus he was fully qualified to serve as President of the
Accordingly, an individual’s religious affiliation, per se, should not
disqualify one from public office. But should a person’s religious
beliefs enter into a public discussion of that person’s qualification
for office? Here the issue becomes complicated and controversial, and
the distinction between religious affiliation and religious belief comes
Suppose a candidate for public office identifies himself as a believer
in the ancient Aztec religion, and thus an advocate of ritual human
sacrifice to the Sun God. In such a case, clearly the vast majority of
Americans would say that he is unqualified for public office. I’d
venture that those who signed the Constitution would agree. However, I
would argue that the correct focus of this objection would not be to his
religious affiliation but rather to his public advocacy of human
The same argument would apply, I suggest, to those who would promote
policies of burning witches, of trial by combat, and of capital
punishment for disobedient children, homosexuals, blasphemers, and
toilers on the Sabbath. True,
all such policies issue from religious conviction not to mention the
Bible, but it is the
specific policies, not the general religious orientation, that should be
of most immediate relevance.
What if a Roman Catholic proclaimed that if elected, he would do his
utmost to outlaw all birth control drugs and devices, “because the Pope
tells me to do so.” If so, then that person should not hold public
office in the United States. Not because of a “religious test” against
that candidate because of his Catholic faith but rather because of his
attempt to “establish” Catholicism as the ultimate source and sanction
of secular U.S. law (contrary to the First Amendment to the
Constitution) and to impose his religious beliefs upon citizens that do
not share these beliefs.
Similarly, if a candidate of any religious persuasion were to suggest
that persons of other faiths, or no faith, must be given a diminished
citizenship status in our republic, then that candidate likewise
disregards the establishment clause of the first amendment. Those who
insist that “this is a Christian nation” are of such a type, as is Mitt
Romney when he asserts that he would not appoint a Moslem to high
office in his administration.
Finally, suppose a believer in “the end times” proposes to do nothing
about global warming, to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency and
all environmental protection laws, and to invest nothing in alternative
“green” energy sources. He proposes all this because, like Ronald
Reagan’s Interior Secretary, James Watt, he devoutly believes that Jesus
will soon return to renew the earth, thus making all such policies
unnecessary. Again, such a candidate should be judged as unsuited for
public office because of his policies, and not because of his religious
affiliation. In fact, many evangelical Christians, such as Jimmy Carter,
believing as they do in responsible “stewardship” of God’s creation,
have an opposite point of view.
Having thus separated a candidate’s religious affiliation from his public
policies, I do not wish to suggest that religious faith is irrelevant to
one’s conduct in public office. Quite the contrary. If a candidate
wishes to tell the world that he intends to be guided in public office
by his religious convictions, then a voter is fully entitled to examine
those convictions and to speculate as to the behavior and policies that
might issue from those convictions. As we have seen, the professed
religious convictions of George Bush, of his appointees to high office,
and of his supporters in the religious right, have had profound effects
upon public policies and legislation regarding global warming, energy,
scientific research and development, public health, and foreign policy
towards Islamic nations.
With these considerations in mind: What about a Christian fundamentalist who does not accept evolution or
the scientific account of the age of the earth, and who believes the Bible,
from Genesis through Revelation, to be the inerrant word of God? This is not
a fanciful question. In a 2008 debate three of the nine Republican
candidates raised their hands when asked who among them did not believe in
evolution. One of them, Mike Huckabee, was a strong contender throughout the
primary season. Another evolution denier, Sarah Palin, was of course the GOP
Vice Presidential nominee in 2008. Palin also dismissed global warming as
based on "snake oil science," a view shared by most fundamentalists and
apparently every Republican Senator.
This is not the sort of leader that the United States requires at this
crucial moment in the nation’s and the world’s history. As Al Gore correctly
warned us in his Nobel Prize speech, we are facing a planetary emergency.
Evidence of rapid and radical climate change comes from data samples that
are thousands and millions of years old. Remedial action must take long-term
ecological consequences into account. Resources, information and initiatives
from the life sciences are urgently needed, and evolution is the central
coordinating concept of the biological sciences. The last thing we need in
the White House is someone who denies evolution, who believes that the earth
is less than ten thousand years old, and who believes that inerrant wisdom
resides in a collection of ancient texts by unknown authors.
What About Mitt Romney?
Mitt Romney is a man of uncompromising faith in his “restored gospel” and in
its living prophet, Thomas Monson,
the President of the LDS Church. Perhaps Romney believes that he can
govern independently of the doctrines of his church and the guidance of
its leaders, but I am not convinced. This is a church that proclaims,
“when the prophet [LDS President] has spoken, the thinking has been
done.” I’d prefer a president who continues to think after an old man in
Salt Lake City has had his say.
Romney’s firm grasp on the “iron rod” of LDS doctrine (a Book of Mormon
allusion) is not replicated in his many and often contradictory political and economic
policy pronouncements. Far from it. His alternating, weather-vane
endorsements and rejections of positions on abortion, gay marriage, etc.
have become notorious. We know that Mitt Romney is a faithful and
believing Mormon. But what else is he? He gives us little guidance as to
his position on public issues, or as to how he would perform as
President. In any case, if you don’t like his political position, just
be patient. Like Seattle weather, it’s bound to change.
Romney’s so-called “JFK speech” in Texas
in 2007 was alarming to say the least,
and had the opposite intention and effect than did Kennedy’s. Bill Curry
in The Huffington Post summarized it well: “Kennedy reassured
evangelicals that though his faith was different from theirs he’d never
impose it. Romney told them his faith wasn’t so different and that in
any event he’d be happy to help impose theirs.” Romney, who has
announced that Moslems have no place in his administration, effectively
demoted non-believers (secularists) to second-class citizenship when he
asserted that “freedom requires religion just as religion requires
freedom. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish together.” By
implication, the irreligious and the non-religious are enemies of
In that same speech, Romney warned that “in recent years, the notion of
the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond
its original meaning.” He did not spell out that “original meaning,” nor
did he explain how he intends to undo this allegedly excessive
separation – how, that is, he would reunite church and state in a Romney
I wonder if Romney has given much thought to the meaning and
implications of his reassurances regarding the role of religion in
American political life.
I can report that this “secularist” is not reassured.
Faith and dogma have got us into our global trap. Trained intelligence,
education, critical thinking and courageous political initiative must
lead us out.
These essential assets have been in short supply in this political
Copyright 2007 and 2012 by Ernest Partridge
to the original essay, with rejoinders:
January 23, 2008.
Internet responses to my essay,
this "Mormonism" Thing" (December 18, 2007) were heated,
voluminous, and for the most part, favorable. Two that were not were
from faithful Mormons. However, because they were sincere and
thoughtful, they received careful and extended responses from me,
which you will find below.
But before we get to them, I am including here my response to a
query from the producers of the four-hour PBS Frontline series, "The
Mormons" that was broadcast last April. It was, and is, an
outstanding piece of broadcast journalism which I highly recommend.
(The series can be seen at
this PBS website).
This, in part, was the question I was asked:
At the end of the 19th century, the Mormon
Church was a provincial backwater and today it is an
international powerhouse. In the 19th century, the Mormons were
seen as a licentious group of theocrats; today they are running
for President. At the start of the 20th century, the church set
their financial house in order and adjusted to secular politics.
They've faced up to some of the most important modern challenges
-- lifted the ban on blacks in the priesthood, developed their
own system of welfare -- both for their own people, but also for
victims of Katrina and the Tsunami. All this while, as you know,
the church has grown increasingly conservative. Why? What has
driven Utah from the independent conservatism of Theodore Roosevelt
to become the reddest of the red states?
My best guess about the LDS official turn to the right:
The religious right is far more concerned with
(personal) "virtue" than with (social) "justice." Hence the
emphasis on chastity, sobriety, anti-gay, anti-abortion, with a
neglect of such issues as poverty, economic injustice, racial
ethnic and sex discrimination, international law and peace. This
is a pattern that is long established in Mormon history.
The extraordinary success of the Mormon financial
"empire" has oriented the Church toward the business community.
Paraphrasing Calvin Coolidge, "the business of the LDS Church is
business." This emphasis inclines the LDS church and membership to
Combine this with theocratic dogmatism and
anti-intellectualism. I seem to recall an oft-cited quotation from the
LDS general authorities: "When the prophet has spoken, the thinking has
been done." ("Prophet" meaning the LDS presidents, past and present).
Science and scholarship have not been friendly to the LDS Church: e.g.,
contra biblical literalism (cf. evolution and historical geology),
American archeology (cf. The Book of Mormon), critical historical
scholarship (vs. "the Mormon myth").
The US and the world are changing ever more rapidly, and out
of the control of the church. Bush claims to be "born again" and the GOP
supports an "establishment" of religion in secular life and government. This
is appealing to the LDS leadership and members.
Sociologists will tell you that, almost inevitably, radical and
innovative religious and social movements, if they are to survive, must become
institutionalized, with articulated rules, leadership structures, lines of
authority, an "identity" recognized and defended by both leaders and
rank-and-file members -- in a word, they become "conservative." This was true of
early Christianity, of Protestant denominations, of Soviet Communism and other
communist states (cf. Cuba).
That's my best take on LDS "conservatism." I hope that it is
helpful. For more of my ideas about the alliance between fundamental Christians
and the secular right, see my
for Jesus," the second section of Chapter 20 of my book in progress,
Conscience of a
Next, an exchange that was published in OpEdNews in response to my essay:
Dear Dr. Ernest Partridge,
Your amazing rant against the religion of your fathers betrays the fact that
while you may have scaled the Olympian peaks of your chosen profession
(philosophy) you have never bothered to "waste" much intellectual effort on a
serious investigation of Mormonism. Your Loony-tunes summary of the "basics"
sounds, in fact, like it was cribbed from some anti-Mormon site.
Perhaps your disdain for Governor Romney is because you know that he is a very
intelligent and accomplished person and you feel threatened that he hasn't come
to the same conclusions, philosophic, religious, and political, as you?
Romney's faith cannot be explained by stupidity. (Google [Mormon education
religiosity].) How could it possibly be that 75% of LDS scientists have a very
strong belief that Joseph Smith was inspired by God, with an additional 12%
having a "strong" belief? (For what it's worth, I'm among the 75%.)
As for the "great difficulty" of having your name removed from the records of
the Church, google [Mormon remove name] "I'm feeling lucky!" Yes, there are
indeed plenty of ex-Mormons willing to support you in the Herculean task of
composing, printing, and mailing a letter!
Before you mail that letter, however, I beg you to exercise your synapses a bit
more and spend a few days seriously investigating the religion for which your
noble great-great-grandfather, Edward Partridge made such great sacrifices.
You might start by googling [alma 36 chiasmus]. Don't believe in miracles?
Surely it is a miracle that in 1830 an unschooled 29-year old farmer on the
American frontier produced such a chapter -- and such a book!
If you find Alma 36 in any way intellectually stimulating, then take one more
step. Try the suggestion of Nephi and "liken all scripture" unto yourself, for
your "profit and learning." (1 Nephi 19:23). After all, your article does
suggest that you are pretty much in the same path that Alma was in before his
If you can put yourself in Alma's shoes, then perhaps the core of the message to
his son, which is at the center of the "chi" (X), will sink deep into your
"And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked,
even with the pains of a damned soul.
"And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was
harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have
heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus
Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
"Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O
Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness,
and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
"And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more;
yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
"And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was
filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!" (Alma 36:16-20)
I don't know how much religiosity is programmed into Edward
Partridge's Y-Chromosome, but since that chromosome is contained in every cell
of your body, you have the potential to undergo a powerful physical and
Edward Partridge lives on in the spirit world, of course, and surely he is aware
of you, and praying for you. May the spirit of Elijah yet work its wonder on you
and turn your heart to the promises made to your fathers. (Malachi 4:5-6, 3
Nephi 25:5-6, Joseph Smith History 1:38-39, D&C 110:13-16)
With sincere best wishes,
Tracy Hall Jr
Ernest Partridge replies to Tracy Hall:
Without citation, your statistic that "75% of LDS scientists have a very strong
belief..." doesn't impress me very much. Who conducted this study? What was the
sample, and sampling method? As you state it, this statistic is strangely
circular. An "LDS scientist" would, almost by definition, be assumed to have
such a belief. I would be much more interested to find out how many scientists
have, as a result of their scientific education, left the Church. Unfortunately,
I know of no such study. I am personally acquainted with many such persons, but
of course, anecdotal evidence is also not very impressive.
That there are some accomplished scientists that are also devout Mormons is also
a known fact, which I will freely stipulate. I've known a few of these also. Dr.
Harvey Fletcher, a pioneer in acoustic physics and audio technology, was a
member of our New Jersey ward, when I was a child. The physicist Dr. Henry Eyring, as
Graduate School Dean of the University of Utah, signed my Masters Thesis. The Dean
who signed my Doctoral Dissertation, and coincidentally also served on my
dissertation committee, was an agnostic "social Mormon," Dr. Sterling McMurrin.
(McMurrin once remarked to me, "if you want your child to have a graduate
education but also remain true in the faith, then have him study the physical
sciences or engineering. But be sure he stays clear of the social sciences, and
above all, history.") But all this is moot. I don't base my fundamental
convictions on the testimonials of others.
Reports and summaries of extensive scientific studies, on the other hand, I take
very seriously. And studies of new world archeology, physical anthropology
and linguistics have convinced me that the Book of Mormon is not authentic. All
claims to the contrary are from LDS sources. In "Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon
Thought," Summer, 1973, new world archeologist Michael Coe wrote: "as far as I
know there is not one professionally trained archaeologist, who is not a Mormon,
who sees any scientific justification for believing the [the Book of Mormon
accounts] to be true,... nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever shown up in any
New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate observer that the
Book of Mormon... is a historical document relating to the history of early
migrants to our hemisphere." (pp.42, 46)
Coe's report is corroborated by
this statement by the Anthropology Department of the Smithsonian Institution:
"Smithsonian archeologists see no direct connection between the archeology of
the New World and the subject matter of [the Book of Mormon]... Certainly there
were no contacts with the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, or other peoples of
Western Asian and the Near East." Perhaps you are aware of this statement. If
not, you should be.
The Smithsonian Institute statement reports that "American Indians had no wheat,
barley, oats, millet, rice, cattle, pigs, chickens, horses, donkeys, camels
before 1492." (New world camels and horses became extinct about 10,000 years
ago). In addition, "iron, steel, glass and silk were not used in the New World
before 1492." The Smithsonian might have added that the wheel and axle had no
practical application in the New World, and are only found as Inca toys.
Steel, iron, wheat, horses, chariots, etc. are all mentioned in the Book of
Mormon. Yet not one steel artifact, not one chariot wheel, not one pre-Columbian
horse bone has been uncovered in the New World. Surely, if wheat and other
near-east plants had been cultivated prior to 1492, they would have survived the
extermination of the Jaredites and the Nephites. Yet, not a grain nor a leaf is
in evidence. Add to all that, the DNA studies which have conclusively
established the Asiatic origin of the American Indian.
My late friend, Bruce "Utah" Phillips
summed it up well: "The Native Americans are descended from wandering
Siberians who could not keep their Bering Strait."
Presumably, you can set all this aside and base your conviction on something
called "faith." I can not, for I am fully aware that other "faiths," of equal
strength, conflict with yours: faith in Catholicism, in Islam, in the "inerrant
Bible," etc. So instead, I turn to evidence.
I do not share your conviction that it would be a "miracle" for Joseph Smith to
produce the Book of Mormon. Smith was clearly an extraordinarily intelligent and
creative individual. But even if you were to convince me that Joseph Smith could
not have written the Book of Mormon, it does not follow that the book is
authentic. Oliver Cowdrey and Sidney Rigdon, for example, were well educated,
and talk of the Indians as "lost tribes of Israel" was commonplace in the
mid-nineteenth century American revival. The Book of Mormon is astonishing, but
less than "miraculous."
While I have focused my attention on question of the authenticity of the Book of
Mormon, it is only a small part of the inventory of reasons that I can no longer
believe the claims of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have
never written out an extensive account of these reasons. However, I have more to
say about my solitary journey away from Mormonism in the unpublished works
mentioned in my essay:
"A Peculiar People," and
"Religion, Education and
Morality: A Dialogue."
Finally, my exchange with a Mormon who wrote a lengthy, point-by-point, rebuttal
to the essay
which you can find here, (along with his name which I need not disclose).
Two paragraphs from a subsequent e-mail from this critic sets up my reply
I would guess that the wrong assumption that's causing
you problems is that the LDS religion is false. I do know that this is
incorrect, the religion is true. And it's an important point.
If you fight against the Lord's restoration, try to discourage others from
it, you will have problems. It's inherent. You can't make the religion false
by wishing it were, or by any fiat man can do. And maybe you're finding this
out, and it's an irritation.
I understand the strength of your convictions -- in the face of overwhelming
empirical, historical and scientific evidence to the contrary -- because long
ago, I shared them.
It is equally the case that "you can't make the religion TRUE by wishing it
were," yet that's the central function of "faith" -- the faith of a catholic
priest, of a devout Moslem, of a rapturite fundamentalist, etc. "The substance
of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1 --
conventionally believed to be by St. Paul, but textual analysis shows this to be
I respect your faith, understand that it is untouchable, and thus see no point
in discussing it with you. I doubt very much that your faith in the LDS
religion, which is to say your certainty as to it's "truth," is any more fervent
than the contradictory faith of the aforementioned priest, Moslem, rapturite,
"Lo here, lo there."
Given that logical impasse, I have no recourse than to look to the evidence --
historical, scientific, textual, etc. This was the decision that led me away
from the LDS faith, during my freshman year at BYU. That evidence led me to
conclude that Genesis is, scientifically and historically, bunk, from beginning
to end, that there is no independent evidence whatever of the events depicted in
the Book of Mormon or of the Semitic origin of the Amerinds. In addition, the
butchery and genocide described in the early books of the Old Testament are
deeply offensive to my sense of morality, and contrary to the morality of the
"minor prophets" (Hosea, Micah, Amos) and most of all, Jesus of Nazareth, which
I endorse. A just God would not order, much less condone, the slaughter of the
residents of Jericho, the Canaanites, the Mideonites, etc.
Just as I respect your faith, I ask that you respect my perspective. (And
please, don't tell me that my secular/scientific point of view is "just another
faith." It is qualitatively and logically different, as I argue in my
We Trust the Scientist?").
You are asking me once again to travel down a road that I have traveled before
and have observed and assessed scrupulously and objectively. I have come to a
different conclusion than you have. And I see no reason to revisit that road.
"What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to
walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8). No mention here of faith, repentance,
baptism, and the laying on of hands.