LDS Discussions Blog
It's OK To Let Go In Search of the Truth
We recently got a message from someone who had heard about our site that effectively said "I know the feelings I've had, so why should I just believe what you've written?"
That's not really an easy question to answer, because until someone is open to the possibility that the church might not be true, there's no amount of facts that can overcome an emotional approach. We see it in politics, we see it in religion, and we even see it when our kids are confronted by other kids that there is no such thing as Santa Claus.
The church just released a video called How to Cope When a Loved One Changes Beliefs through Mormon Channel, which discusses what happens to a marriage when one member leaves the church and the other is still a believer. The video seems to have good intentions in that the church is continuing to soften their stance on how the believing member should handle a faith crisis from a spouse, but it also is very one sided and works to hide the fact that there are real, legitimate problems with the church's truth claims.
I understand why the video is designed to focus on the believer's dilemma, but it also dismisses the issues that are causing people to leave the church in numbers "not seen since Kirtland" as we discussed in the Faith Crisis study post. It also ignores the pain that comes from learning about the problems with church history, doctrines, and scriptures from the person who leaves, which does a real disservice to having an honest conversation about why there are so many mixed faith marriages struggling today.
When people have doubts, they are told to "hold onto the rod" and never let go. Family, friends, and church leaders will tell them to "doubt their doubts" and "ignore those anti-Mormon lies about Joseph Smith and the church." The problem is that by doing so, it allows cognitive dissonance to overtake critical thinking, and as such it bottles up the doubts (or puts them on the shelf as so many say), but at some point most people will take the leap to find out if those who have left the church are really onto something they were never taught by the church.
It was over a decade between when I left the church over polygamy and the treatment of blacks (until 1978) and when I did the "deep dive" into church issues, because I was so terrified of finding out the problems in depth and the feelings that could open up for me, and more importantly, my marriage.
Once I did the deep dive, I did everything wrong as so many who discover these problems do. I spouted off every single point at once without any coherence and sounded like a blithering idiot who just read the latest conspiracy theories on Twitter. It took some time until I went back and read those critical sources against apologetic sources like FAIR, and at first I thought they made sense and the conclusion wasn't as clear as I thought a few days earlier.
But then I read those sources again, and I noticed some tricks that FAIR used to deflect some difficult issues. I noted how they switched between a tight and loose translation theory for the Book of Mormon depending on what problem they were addressing. I noticed how the indefensible was blamed on the "mistakes of men" even though they were clearly given as doctrine from God.
I've seen some other apologetic sources that still claim Joseph Smith never had sex with other women besides Emma, that he didn't use a seer stone to translate the Book or Mormon, and some even continue to claim conspiracies about inaccurate quotes from Apostles, sources for the Book of Abraham, or doctrines even though we have the backing materials from LDS.org. This muddies the water and makes it difficult for those searching for the truth to know what to believe, and was the reason we wanted to create this site to work off of apologetic works and expand from there.
The point is that I needed to study these issues multiple times before it really clicked. I had to completely let go of my past beliefs in order to really dig deep into church issues, and that, for me, was triggered by an event in my life that forced me to just dive in because I needed to know without a doubt what the truth was and I needed to know quickly.
And that's OK. Letting go is OK when you need to get to the truth. In fact, letting go is necessary if you want to get to the bottom of it all.
The question you have to answer honestly is: Would you want to know if the church wasn't true?
If the answer is "yes" and you would want to know if the church is not true, then you have to let go just long enough to search for that truth. That doesn't mean you have to dismiss what you've been taught from birth or the ancestors who were pioneers in the church, but that you have to leave some space for the possibility that it might not be true.
And it also doesn't mean that you or I were wrong to believe. We all make decisions based on the information and influences around us, and for most o us that means we were either born into the church or had family or friends in it. You are not stupid or a fool for having believed that the LDS church is true - we all trusted these sources to be honest with us. I trusted that the missionaries were telling me the truth when they showed Joseph Smith carefully studying the gold plates, or when people in church claimed that polygamy was just to help out the widows.
When we research this kind of information, our mind will literally fight us to avoid those uncomfortable and upsetting feelings. And that's why we have to let go of our predetermined conclusions and give our mind permission to have been misled. That is OK, that is progress, and that is the most essential part of the process in studying information that can change the way we view something as fundamental to all of us as the LDS church.
We were (almost) all taught that Santa Claus was true, and most of us defended his truth when confronted by older kids that had already learned the truth. This is clearly way more important, but our brains work the same way in creating cognitive dissonance to make us feel so uncomfortable that we just ignore the information that conflicts with our current beliefs.
If the church is true, there is nothing to be afraid of. Spending a few days or weeks going through these issues in depth should only strengthen your testimony and understanding of church history, doctrine, and scriptures. Go through our annotated essays on the Book of Abraham, Polygamy/Polyandry, DNA and the Book of Mormon, or the Book of Mormon translation. Closely read our pages on the tight vs loose translation theories, the priesthood restoration, the Deutero-Isaiah problem in the Book of Mormon, or the historical issues with the faith promoting stories such as the transfiguration of Brigham Young.
We also think it is crucial to look at how revelation in the church has worked through its history, and we've written a few blog posts that can help with that including one about Russell Nelson's name change, how D&C 132 on polygamy was actually recorded, and the 2019 LGBT reversal.
As you go through these pages, look at the apologetic arguments presented in the essays by the church itself and then look at what the critical response is. Look at the footnotes that the church cites and make sure that the source of those citations actually makes sense, because as we have pointed out some in the Gospel Topics essays, there are a number of footnotes that actively contradict the points being made.
Go through them with your believing or non-believing family member and ask questions as to what the implications are. Going through these topics with another person can be stressful, but it can also help both of you get on the same page as well as helping get past the mental stress of doing it alone. And as you do this, you have to let go of your emotions temporarily so you can have an open mind to getting at the truth. If you really would want to know if the church is not true, you owe it to yourself to not just gloss over the topics or seek the most comforting apologetics, but to read the details and understand why so many of us feel that the apologetics simply can not work.
Take the time to really go through the essays, because it has been my experience that many apologetic sources (and the Gospel Topics essays as well) tend to skim the surface or ignore crucial sources in order to avoid exposing members to the difficult issues of these topics. Our annotated essays tend to be substantially longer than the initial essays, because we need to document these problems sufficiently enough to make it clear when apologetics are not plausible or honest.
This journey is not easy and it will not be fun, but if you would really want to know if the church is not true, you have to be willing to be vulnerable enough to take the dive, and that requires making space for the possibility that it might not be true. It took me time to get to a point where I wasn't afraid to read about these problems, and I'm thankful that there is so much more information available than there was even 5 years ago online.
We're not going to pretend to have all of the answers and we also aren't going to discourage anyone from looking elsewhere. To answer the question we started with: We aren't asking anyone to blindly believe what we have written. We are simply asking that people who want to know the truth read through them with an open mind and ask why they were never taught these problems growing up in the church.
It's not easy to do and I know it is asking a lot, but if you really would want to know if the church is not true, you have to let go for just a little while. All of us that have gone through this know how difficult it is, but we also know that it is worth the journey to find the truth.
And for those willing to do take the deep dive, please email us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more sources to learn from such as podcasts or websites. You're far from alone, and I hope that if you've read all the way to here that you are open to learning more. There's no harm in looking, and I just hope that if you do take that dive, that you communicate with those you love who can help you through it because it can be a lonely feeling doing it on your own. If not, please contact us and we can give you some groups of great people going through this as well to help with your journey.
Please contact us anytime with any questions, suggestions, or just to share your story in this journey. Thanks for reading!