Overview of Spiritual Witnesses and Testimonies

As I begin to wrap up these overviews, I want to cover the concept of spiritual witnesses and to look at how they are both shaped and maintained by the church, and to look at how they compare to the spiritual witnesses of other religions.

I know this is a very emotionally charged subject and it is one that is very difficult to really talk about because we all have had experiences that we simply cannot explain. As a member I had that warm feeling of calm after praying about the Book of Mormon before converting, and I cannot deny I had that experience even now as a member of record that no longer believes in the church’s truth claims.

For this section I can only ask that you hang in there with me and keep an open mind, because what I want to cover are some of the ways we gain a testimony of what is true along with how our mind works to protect that testimony even when we are presented with evidence that tells us that our previous beliefs are not what we thought they were. In addition, I want to outline how the church defines our emotional experiences for us and uses those experiences against us.


The Concept of a Spiritual Witness


Before we get into the specifics of the different ways we build a testimony of the church, I want to cover the simple fact that spiritual witnesses are not unique to Mormonism. In fact, almost every church has them to some degree, with confirmations from the spirit that they are in the true church of God.

Below is a video that is about 13 minutes long and contains the testimonies of many different religions compared to those of Mormonism, and I hope everyone would be willing to watch it because it shows that spiritual witnesses and testimonies are received by every religion.

If you have not watched the video, I am going to post just a few short quotes here to give you an idea:


Orthodox Judaism: "I started to have a very strong feeling of missing something and seeking something... it really had such a profound impact on me and I started reading about Judaism... I have a very short answer to people who ask me 'why on earth would you want to convert to Orthodox Judaism?' Because God told me to."

Catholicism: "A friend of mine who was praying for me at that moment, sensed Mother Mary came to me, took pity on me, and asked her son to save me. And I knew after that, that the cancer was gone, that I should sin no more, and shortly after that I knew I was called to join the Catholic church - a church I had never stepped foot in."

The People's Temple (Jim Jones): "We were doing a meditation - myself and five other friends - and all of the sudden I felt this explosion of energy go up my spine from behind. Bang. And I turned around and saw this picture and I said 'who is that?' Oh that's Papa Jim - he's the most loving man... and I knew I had to find Jim Jones and the People's Temple."

The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days (current LDS polygamist offshoot): “I’ve been searching for a witness of this work and of this church and just tonight I got my witness and it’s burning within my soul how important this work is and how true it is. I know it is. And it’s hard to believe that just a year ago I was in high school and now I am in a plural marriage and struggling. But I know without a shadow of a doubt, that this is the Lord’s work. That I’ve finally found it. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”


Again please watch the video above as it has way more examples of spiritual witnesses in there, but the point is that testimonies and witnesses are simply not exclusive to Mormonism, and clearly are not a reliable indication of truth.

Now I want to look at a lot of the elements that contribute to our spiritual witnesses and testimonies, and outline how they are relevant to my experience with Mormonism. I realize this can be very triggering to read because it is so difficult to separate our personal, lived experience with the idea that we are all subject to the same biases and thought processes, but please keep an open mind as I go through these.


Indoctrination


I’m just going to start right off with a term that carries a lot of emotional baggage and get it out of the way. Using the term indoctrination is typically associated with brainwashing and I realize how upsetting that idea can be, but let’s look at this from the technical definition of the word:


“The process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.” (Oxford Dictionary)


This is exactly how the church teaches members from birth: to accept their narrative and to only stay within correlated sources. I have covered so many times on this website when leaders demonize those who read unapproved sources, and it is because we are expected to accept the church’s truth claims without any critical thinking or research.

From the 1945 Ward Teachers’ Message in the Improvement Era:

 

“When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan — it is God's plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the Kingdom of God." (Improvement Era, 1945)


I get that this is not how the church speaks today, but the themes remain the same:


Dallin Oaks, 2018 General Conference: “We live in a time of greatly expanded and disseminated information. But not all of this information is true. We need to be cautious as we seek truth and choose sources for that search. We should not consider secular prominence or authority as qualified sources of truth. We should be cautious about relying on information or advice offered by entertainment stars, prominent athletes, or anonymous internet sources. Expertise in one field should not be taken as expertise on truth in other subjects…

Finally, seek help. Our Church leaders love you and seek spiritual guidance to help you. We provide many resources such as you will find through LDS.org and other supports for gospel study in the home. We also have ministering brothers and sisters called to give loving assistance.” (Truth and the Plan, October 2018 General Conference)


In this statement, President Oaks is stating that we cannot trust the secular world for information, but that if you stick with the resources provided by the church, you will find truth. I realize from a faithful perspective this might seem perfectly acceptable, but this is how people are indoctrinated to be afraid of outside sources and to, as the church loves to say, “stay in the boat.”

President Oaks took this a step further in 2019 when he told a member who had a spouse going through a faith crisis by studying the church’s truth claims that “research is not the answer.”  He followed that direction with the following:


“But the best answer to any question that threatens faith is to work to increase faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “Conversion to the Lord precedes conversion to the Church. And conversion to the Lord comes through prayer and study and service, furthered by loving patience on the part of spouse and other concerned family members.” (President Oaks Counsels Young Couples Defending the Gospel “on the Frontline”)


Again, here Oaks is explicitly telling a member who has a spouse that has lost belief in the church due to researching the truth claims of the church that “research is not the answer,” but what is the answer is to not look at the evidence and instead turn back into the church and not think critically about the issues.

I realize that from a faithful perspective this might seem normal, but it is the very definition of indoctrination as I outlined above from the Oxford Dictionary. This is something we all need to be aware of as we go through the rest of these terms, because the indoctrination part plays a heavy role as this begins from the moment we are old enough to hear lessons in primary.

There is a reason that the church keeps the youth so busy with church studies. From the earliest age of primary there are activities every week, family home evenings on Monday, and nightly scripture study. Starting at the age of 11, children are subject to worthiness interviews with an untrained Bishop where they have to share intimate details in order for this Bishop to deem them worthy in the eyes of God.

High school students are expected to attend seminary classes, which is a daily class that indoctrinates them on the church’s history, teaching them a version of their history and doctrines that is often at odds with the evidence.


Once these students graduate high school, they are often encouraged to attend a church run college/university where they are continued to be taught the church’s historical narrative in an uncritical way, and the age for missionaries was lowered so that these young men and women give two years of their lives to teaching the church, which has the intended effect of converting yourself even more closely to the church.

After this members are expected to be married in the temple, hold church callings, and not only attend all church meetings, but to make sure their kids follow the exact same path. The church’s ‘Family Proclamation’ states that the role of women is that "mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”

This puts added pressure on parents, but more specifically the mothers, to keep their kids in the church at all costs or else not only do they not live up to their primary role in the church, but that they’ll have “empty chairs” in the eternities.


On a personal note, this church education path was something that began to shake me into being willing to dive into looking at church history. I was sitting with my young child who just randomly told me “I can’t wait to go to the temple someday.”

At the time this child was about four years old and had absolutely no idea what the temple was, but he knew that he wanted to go because he was told that every week in primary. A few weeks later, out of nowhere, this child said “You know who can share the Book of Mormon? We can!”

At no point is a four year old able to understand what they are saying, but if you teach them from an early age that this is the only way, then that is what they will believe. This also is why I have strong problems when parents gleefully proclaim that their eight year old "chose to be baptized" when in reality they are only doing what they think is the only way. And that brings us to our next topic.


Repetition


Every teacher knows that repetition is the best way to teach concepts and ideas, and the church knows this as well. The more that we hear an idea, the more willing we are to accept it as truth, and this is exactly why my four year old was telling me that they couldn’t wait to get to the temple when they had no idea what actually went on inside.

Furthermore, if you look at primary you can see how repetition is used to teach these young children the church’s key ideas in a way that will be ingrained in their minds. The primary song “Follow the Prophet” has these young children singing the phrase “Follow the Prophet” fifty four times in one song. That is not a typo – these young, impressionable children are repeating a phrase fifty four times in one song that they are to follow the prophet, as he will never lead you astray.

On the flip-side, if we repeat something enough we will believe it more strongly. This is why the church has made the following statements regarding gaining a testimony:


Dallin Oaks: “Another way to seek a testimony seems astonishing when compared with the methods of obtaining other knowledge. We gain or strengthen a testimony by bearing it.” (Testimony, April 2008 General Conference)


What Oaks is stating here is that if you can’t find a testimony of the church, if you keep bearing that testimony you will find it. This is because if we repeat something enough, we often times will begin to believe it ourselves.


Illusory Truth Effect


With repetition comes the ‘Illusory Truth Effect,’ which is defined in the following way:

 

“The Illusory Truth Effect is the tendency to believe information to be correct after repeated exposure. This phenomenon was first identified in a 1977 study at Villanova University and Temple University. When truth is assessed, people rely on whether the information is in line with their understanding or if it feels familiar. The first condition is logical as people compare new information with what they already know to be true. Repetition makes statements easier to process relative to new, unrepeated, statements, leading people believe that the repeated conclusion is more truthful.” (Illusory Truth Effect, Wikipedia)


In this study, they took participants and gave them a list of 60 questions on three separate occasions. On the second and third, the participants were given 40 unique questions, but 20 that were the same, and the participants answered that they were more confident of the truth of statements that they had previously answered, with the average score rising from 4.2 in the first round to 4.6 in the second and 4.7 in the third. It did not matter if the statements made by the participants were factually accurate, as they were not all factual, but that the participants found more confidence in their answer as they repeated it.

This is exactly what we see in the church, where members become more confident of the truth of the church’s truth claims as they continue to bear their testimony, attend the temple, and read the Book of Mormon. In other words, it does not matter if the church is true or not, because as our brains continue to repeat the claims that it is true, we process it as more true. This is why people who believe in conspiracy theories become more confident over time even when presented with evidence that contradict their beliefs, because they continue to repeat the claims and find others who confirm that bias.

The illusory truth effect is also what makes accepting new information so difficult, because our minds become conditioned to having such a high degree of certainty by repeating the phrase “I know this church is true” throughout our lifetimes that it is hard to even comprehend the idea that the church is not true.

Again, this is why the church has made the following statements about gaining a testimony by continually bearing it:


Boyd K. Packer: “It is not unusual to have a missionary say, ‘How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony, would that not be dishonest?’ Oh, if I could teach you this one principle: a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!” (The Quest for Spiritual Knowledge, Boyd K. Packer)

Neil L. Andersen: “To the youth listening today or reading these words in the days ahead, I give a specific challenge: Gain a personal witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Let your voice help fulfill Moroni’s prophetic words to speak good of the Prophet. Here are two ideas: First, find scriptures in the Book of Mormon that you feel and know are absolutely true. Then share them with family and friends in family home evening, seminary, and your Young Men and Young Women classes, acknowledging that Joseph was an instrument in God’s hands. Next, read the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Pearl of Great Price or in this pamphlet, now in 158 languages. You can find it online at LDS.org or with the missionaries. This is Joseph’s own testimony of what actually occurred. Read it often. Consider recording the testimony of Joseph Smith in your own voice, listening to it regularly, and sharing it with friends. Listening to the Prophet’s testimony in your own voice will help bring the witness you seek.” (Joseph Smith, Neil L. Andersen)


Both of these ideas are working from the illusory truth effect, knowing that if you continue to tell yourself and others that the church is true, that eventually you will come to believe it yourself. While that is an effective way to persuade someone of their beliefs, it is a terrible way to discern truth.


Confirmation Bias


We all suffer from confirmation bias, and this is nothing that is unique to Mormonism. Confirmation bias is the “tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them.” (Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds, New Yorker)

In recent years confirmation bias can be illustrated by looking at politics. Most Republicans would never trust anything from MSNBC, but would be much more open to information from Fox News because it would confirm their predetermined beliefs. Likewise, most Democrats will immediately dismiss a story from Fox News, while they will be receptive to a story from MSNBC.

That is, of course, an oversimplification, but the underlying truth is that with confirmation bias we are wired to immediately question or dismiss information that does not conform to our pre-existing beliefs.

A good example of this would be how the church will label any evidence that disproves the church’s truth claims as “anti-Mormon lies.” I was told during my first trip to the temple that there would be people handing out pamphlets about the church, but that I should not engage them because they were spreading lies that had been answered long ago.

When I got to the temple I was not going to listen to anyone who told me bad things about the church, because I was not open to the information. Likewise when Mitt Romney ran in 2012 and I would hear someone on TV mention something weird about Mormonism, I would immediately think that it was a lie designed to smear both Romney and the church.

On the other hand, as members we will accept information uncritically if it is something that we already believe it. For example, if a Scientologist told you that God spoke to them in the middle of the night to join Scientology, you’d probably (rightly) roll your eyes internally, but if a believing member gave a story in Sunday School about how Brigham Young literally transfigured into Joseph Smith following Joseph’s death, you’d believe it because you want to. I’ll cover the Brigham Young story in a few overviews, but it’s a myth that is told in the church’s materials today that is simply not true or historical.

I could give examples of this all day, but a final one would be an example I heard on a podcast once. This person was a huge fan of Lance Armstrong and was given massive amounts of inspiration from what Lance had accomplished in his racing career. When the allegations came out that Lance had been doping, he immediately rejected those ideas and felt even more strongly in belief for doing so.

Even as the allegations against Armstrong became more detailed and numerous, this person still refused to acknowledge them as true because in his mind they simply could not be true. It was not until Lance Armstrong himself finally admitted to doping that the belief was shattered and this person then had to reconcile all of the inspirations and feelings they received in prior years.

The real lesson here is just how strong these different ways of thinking are, and confirmation bias is one that we usually don’t even realize we’re doing until we’re on the other side looking back. If someone could have such a terrible time accepting conflicting information on Lance Armstrong, it’s no wonder why it’s so hard to convince someone in politics, let alone religion, that their beliefs might not be true.

Confirmation bias is incredibly difficult for us to see in ourselves, especially when it is about something that we hold as part of our identity. Because the church teaches us from primary on to be suspicious of anything you read that was not given to you by the church, they shape our confirmation bias from an early age to be distrustful of anything we hear from outsiders. This is incredibly powerful because as we get older and more able to process information, the urge to dismiss any information that could harm those beliefs is strong, which keeps most members from ever really looking into the truth claims of the church that so many have dedicated their lives to.


Backfire Effect    


Almost an offshoot of confirmation bias, a very common response that we have when we are presented with information that contradicts our deeply held beliefs is to run from the information and double down on our beliefs, no matter how incorrect they might be.

This is not a response that is unique to Mormonism – it occurs with any deeply held belief whether it’s religion, politics, or those closest to us. A great illustration of how the ‘Backfire Effect’ works is from a study where participants were provided a ‘false’ story and then given the correction:


“In 2006, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler at The University of Michigan and Georgia State University created fake newspaper articles about polarizing political issues. The articles were written in a way which would confirm a widespread misconception about certain ideas in American politics. As soon as a person read a fake article, researchers then handed over a true article which corrected the first. For instance, one article suggested the United States found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The next said the U.S. never found them, which was the truth. Those opposed to the war or who had strong liberal leanings tended to disagree with the original article and accept the second. Those who supported the war and leaned more toward the conservative camp tended to agree with the first article and strongly disagree with the second. These reactions shouldn’t surprise you. What should give you pause though is how conservatives felt about the correction. After reading that there were no WMDs, they reported being even more certain than before there actually were WMDs and their original beliefs were correct.” (The Backfire Effect)


It seems crazy that our brain protects us from information that harms our beliefs, but it does. When we are presented with evidence that shows our belief is wrong, our bodies react as if we are being physically attacked, triggering a ‘fight or flight’ response. This is why people often double down on a false belief even after being presented with a slew of evidence whether it’s the earth being flat, those who believe Q Anon is real, or these overviews on the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and Mormonism.

The funny thing is that I’ve seen so many people recognize this when it’s about a subject they do not care about. I once had a conversation with a believing member who insisted that because a politician had changed a pivotal story in their career when writing a book (that helped launched their political career) that they must have made it up because, as this person said to me, ‘You just can’t get away with doing that kind of thing these days with Google.’

Now if I had pointed out that Joseph Smith outright and deliberately changed the First Vision and priesthood restoration to establish his own authority, this member would have immediately retrenched back, bearing their testimony that when Joseph Smith did it, it was somehow different and ended up believing in Joseph Smith’s story even more strongly, even though it was the exact same situation that they had just told me proved that the politician had made it up.

The backfire effect is not just a temporary reaction, which is why it is so powerful to shaping our thoughts:


“But what makes this especially worrisome is that in the process of exerting effort on dealing with the cognitive dissonance produced by conflicting evidence, we actually end up building new memories and new neural connections that further strengthen our original convictions. This helps explain such gobsmacking statistics as the fact that, despite towering evidence proving otherwise, 40% of Americans don’t believe the world is more than 6,000 years old. The backfire effect, McRaney points out, is also the lifeblood of conspiracy theories. He cites the famous neurologist and conspiracy-debunker Steven Novella, who argues believers see contradictory evidence as part of the conspiracy and dismiss lack of confirming evidence as part of the cover-up, thus only digging their heels deeper into their position the more counter-evidence they’re presented with.” (The Backfire Effect, The Psychology of Why We Have a Hard Time Changing Our Minds)


Think of the implications from this statement with regards to Mormonism. Not only does contradictory information make us more likely to believe our predetermined beliefs, but it actually reinforces that any information that disproves our beliefs is part of an “anti-Mormon” conspiracy of lies.

If you think that is going too far, please again look at how the church teaches the youth to dismiss information that is not provided to them from the church, how they teach that those who leave are “snake oil salesmen” or “charlatans,” and how they use this fear against us to keep us in direct obedience to the leaders above us.

This is why when you present your believing family with a link to the CES Letter, these overviews, or a Mormon Stories Podcast episode with a historian, not only will they outright dismiss the information from those sources, but they will believe anything they read from FAIR Mormon or any other apologetic source more strongly and uncritically than before.

Not only is the backfire effect real – I think anyone who has left the church has seen this happen on a very personal level – but it is actually manipulated by the church against you. This is a problem, and I can say from that personal level that I have seen this both in religion and politics in real years and it is truly an impossible task to break through it.


Elevation Emotion


The idea of elevation emotion is best illustrated by a fast and testimony meeting: A member gets up and walks to the microphone. As they tell a story, they begin to get very emotional and explain how miraculous the event was that they experienced. While they are telling this story, people in the audience begin to feel those same emotions and interpret those feelings as the spirit confirming to them its truthfulness of the church.

In a shorter view, elevation emotion is described as “an emotion elicited by witnessing virtuous acts of remarkable moral goodness.” (Thomson, Andrew L.; Siegel, Jason T. "Elevation: A review of scholarship on a moral and other-praising emotion". The Journal of Positive Psychology) This doesn’t have to be related to religion, but is definitely applicable because this is a natural emotion that we feel when we hear about miraculous or morally good stories.

Another example for me would be to watch on the news about a shelter that was in a disaster, and the news story was about the people who were able to get in and rescue the dogs and cats just in time. As the TV showed those cute little animals on TV as they talked about the heroic way they were saved, I would feel those elevation emotions because I would react to that story as someone who loves animals.

Watch the video below – it’s short but features a child whose dog had been lost for two months, and when he returned home from school was surprised by the dog he had missed so much:

It is hard to watch that video and not feel some strong emotions, and this is often how stories told in church or from leaders can impact us – those feelings are then used to tell us it is the spirit confirming truth, but in reality it is merely our bodies reacting to what we see, hear, or read.

This is an emotional response that is often used by the church not just in their fast and testimony meetings, but in their General Conference talks and church produced videos as well. I had previously covered the church’s HeartSell method in a write-up about a youth face-to-face where they used emotional music as they told about a person’s story to elevate your emotions as you watched it.

Again, this is not just a reaction to religion that we have – we can have this same reaction to a musical song, movie, or uplifting story on the news. The difference, however, is that the church uses this emotion to tell you that it’s the spirit confirming the truthfulness of the church to you, when in reality it is simply our bodies reacting emotionally to something that we resonate with.


Sunk Cost Fallacy


The sunk cost fallacy is an interesting one, because it again applies to just about any decision we make and is often related to financial decisions. What sunk costs mean are the costs we have put forth into a specific entity that are no longer recoverable. For example, you might have made $3,000 in repairs on your car over the last six months that are no longer recoverable and thus a sunk cost.

But then the next month your car has another problem, and the mechanic says that it will cost $2,800 to get it fixed this time. In theory, the previous $3,000 in repairs should not influence your decision on whether to fix the car or junk it, but the sunk cost fallacy is that those previous repairs do impact our future decisions.

Another example comes from Wikipedia, but it actually is perfect for this overview:


“In an everyday example, a family may purchase tickets to a baseball game and find after several innings that they are not enjoying the game. Their options at this point are to:

-Accept the waste of money on the ticket price and watching the remainder of the game without enjoyment; or

-Accept the waste of money on the ticket price and leaving to do something else.


The economist will suggest that, since the second option involves suffering in only one way (wasted money), while the first involves suffering in two (wasted money plus wasted time), option two is preferable. In either case, the ticket-buyer has paid the price of the ticket so that part of the decision should no longer affect the future. If the ticket-buyer regrets buying the ticket, the current decision should be based on whether they want to see the game at all, regardless of the price, just as if they were to go to a free baseball game.

Many people, however, would feel obliged to stay for the rest of the game despite not really wanting to, perhaps because they feel that doing otherwise would be wasting the money they spent on the ticket. They may feel they have passed the point of no return. Economists regard this behavior as irrational. It is inefficient because it misallocates resources by taking irrelevant information into account.” (Sunk Cost Fallacy, Wikipedia)


This is directly comparable to so many of our experiences with the church. Most of us were raised in the church and then some, like me, were converts. We are around the church for years and then realize that the truth claims are demonstrably false.

The problem is that many of us will look back at all of the time we spent with the church, the tithing money we gave, and the spiritual experiences we’ve felt under those earlier teachings and factor that into our decisions even after we know that there are severe problems with the truth claims of the church.

While it is irrational to incorporate our past contributions and experiences in light of the new information about the church, it is very common (and human) to use the past to influence our ability to walk away once we know the church is not true. In other words, even though the time, tithing money, and spiritual experiences are in the past, it can be incredibly hard to walk away and admit to ourselves that the church is simply not true.


Motivated Reasoning


Similar to confirmation bias, motivated reasoning  is the process by which our minds seek out information that will confirm our preexisting beliefs in an uncritical manner.

An example of this that is relevant to the church would be if you were presented with the CES Letter, but instead of reading the CES Letter you began seeking out apologetic works instead, taking those at face value while attempting to debunk the CES Letter because it creates cognitive dissonance within you.

The outcome of motivated reasoning is to strengthen your belief regardless of there being substantial evidence that is contradicting those beliefs by actively seeking out information that can both bolster your beliefs while also reducing the cognitive dissonance that arrives when you come across information that harms your beliefs.


Circular Reasoning


I’ve often seen apologists make the argument that a problem in the Book of Mormon is not a problem because Joseph Smith was a prophet, and as such the Book of Mormon is true.

In more simple terms, the reasoning goes like this: I know Joseph Smith was a prophet, so the Book of Mormon is true. I know the Book of Mormon is true, so Joseph Smith was a prophet.

It’s bad logic, but it works to keep us from questioning because church leaders want to tap into an area that you do have faith in to bolster where you find problems. In other words, if you find problems with the Book of Mormon, they’ll say “don’t you believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God?” If you say yes, the immediate response is that you then know the Book of Mormon is true. Again, this is terrible logic especially against the evidence, but I’ve seen it used on me before to avoid digging into the problematic areas.


Bandwagon Effect


One area that leaders will often go to when a member is struggling with a testimony is to invoke the bandwagon effect. This is another cognitive bias where we adapt to the church’s teachings because our families, communities, and leaders are all accepting of the teachings.

On the flip side, this is also used by leaders as ‘evidence’ of the church’s truthfulness. For example, if I were to say that the Book of Mormon is demonstrably a 19th century document that is not historical, a response might be “If that is the case why have millions of people found comfort and spiritual witness from the Book of Mormon?”

The appeal to the bandwagon can be quite strong – especially in a community such as Mormonism where the church is directly tied to our identities. The bandwagon effect taps into both our need to be included and our desire to be on the right path, which can make it a powerful influence in a religion that can carry such huge costs for leaving.


Emphasizing Emotions Over Thought (Emotional Reasoning)


As I’ve stated repeatedly in these overviews, if we apply the same critical thinking to the church’s truth claims that we would to any other religious leader, church, or organization, it would be easy to understand why the Book of Mormon is a 19th century document and why the evidence is clear that Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God.

However, in the church we are raised to privilege emotional experiences over critical thinking. When we have a feeling that is good, it is God confirming the church to us, but when we have a feeling that is bad, it is the adversary that is trying to pull you away.

For the church this amounts to the ultimate “tails I win, heads you lose” approach to evidence. If you condition members to retreat from evidence that makes them feel uncomfortable and attacked, then you can present them with the comfort of apologetics and talks to reject critical thinking to make those questions go away.

The problem is that feelings have never been a reliable indicator of truth. I know how triggering this idea is for members who are confronted with these overviews, but if you watch the spiritual witnesses video above you can see that a warm feeling is never going to discern truth because every religion has that same experience, including what I would consider to be unquestionable cults such as Jim Jones and the People’s Temple.

If the church was true, they would tell every member to research their claims using outside sources because they would have the confidence that they would hold up under scrutiny. The reality is that the church uses talks to demonize outside sources, those who have left the church, and those who are willing to speak up about them.

This point could not be made any better than M. Russell Ballard’s declaration:


“You will not get to know it [whether the Book of Mormon is true] by trying to prove it archaeologically, or by DNA, or by anything else…Religious truth is always confirmed by what you feel. And that’s the way heavenly father answers prayers.” (M. Russell Ballard, Mormon Newsroom, Oct 4 2007 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AQTr9oB8lw)


The statement by M. Russel Ballard is the essence of emotional reasoning, which is when our minds conclude that something is true using feelings/emotional reasoning regardless of what the evidence tells us regarding that truth claim. Again, this is a terrible a way to discern truth, but it is a great way to keep those beneath you from taking a deeper look at the claims you are teaching them.

This is why we are told to focus on the way we used to feel when reading the Book of Mormon, which is the same tactic any abusive relationship uses – just think of the good times and ignore the fact that you’ve been lied to. I realize that sounds harsh, but that is also the reality of the situation, and if the previous 29 overviews have not made it clear that the church’s truth claims do not hold up to the evidence, I could still present links to another 100 scholarly articles that detail these issues in so much more depth. These overviews are only scratching the surface and I still believe they make clear that the church is not true in a historical or biblical sense.

Special Pleading


The idea of special pleading is, in essence, a cognitive fallacy where we allow for exceptions to problems in order to avoid dealing with the fact that they are, in fact, problems. A more technical definition would be:


"Applying standards, principles, and/or rules to other people or circumstances, while making oneself or certain circumstances exempt from the same critical criteria, without providing adequate justification.  Special pleading is often a result of strong emotional beliefs that interfere with reason." (Logically Fallacious, Special Pleading)


A perfect example of special pleading is with polygamy in the church. We often excuse the way Joseph Smith implemented polygamy by trying to find excuses for the ways that he pressured young women to marry him, while holding other leaders who have pressured their young followers into sexual relationships (David Koresh, David Berg, Warren Jeffs, etc) accountable. The reality is that all of these leaders follow the same pattern when coercing young women to submit to their proposals in the name of God, but we recoil at the other leaders because 'ours was *really* from God.'

Special pleading is often used in the church to avoid some serious problems. For example, members will all say they believe in science when it doesn't impact the church's truth claims. If you have a serious illness, you would not question the doctors who are prescribing a medical plan that includes medications and therapies you've never heard before.

On the other hand, when we have an abundance of evidence that shows that Native Americans arrived from Asia, thus showing the Book of Mormon is not a historical book, we immediately dismiss the entire idea of DNA because it interferes with our emotional reasoning.

This is a very powerful fallacy that we often do not even realize we are using to excuse both horrible behavior and demonstrably false claims from the church and its leaders. I cannot think of a better way to illustrate how our minds do the 'mental gymnastics' to excuse Joseph Smith's polygamy than by looking at special pleading.


Appeals to Authority


As I mentioned above, in the primary song “Follow the Prophet,” the young children sing the phrase “follow the prophet” fifty four times in one song. Almost every General Conference talk will mention how inspired the current leaders – and especially the current prophet – of the church are, and that we have to obey their teachings and revelations.

I will cover more in our next section on revelation, but the leaders of this church have been as wrong as any other group of people on average. They were wrong about the Native Americans being cursed with dark skin as the Lamanites, they were wrong about people with black skin being cursed by God, and they are wrong so many other teachings throughout the year.

When apologists try to brush aside wrong or harmful teachings by past prophets as prophets “being a product of their time,” they are admitting more than they probably want to. The problem is that every prophet is a product of their own worldview, and the only time God seems to intervene with the prophets is when it is of benefit to the prophet as we outlined extensively in the polygamy overviews.

The church’s own manuals make this clear:


“Obedience is the first law of heaven.” (Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual)


This is such a terrible lesson because it is ripe for those in authority to abuse their power. The church then will state that they also say that obedience is only required if it’s a choice (Obedience must be voluntary), but as I’ve mentioned in previous overviews, how much of a choice do you have when you’re being told by those you revere as prophets that God is commanding these actions?

We saw this when Joseph Smith proposed to young women to become his polygamous brides and then used his authority as a self-proclaimed prophet to pressure those who rejected his initial advances.

In this same lesson I reference above, the church states that “Commandments are given to us because God loves us and wants us to become like Him” and “It is important to obey God even when we may not fully understand the commandment.” These two bullet points are outlined by Joseph Smith in the “Happiness Letter” that I cover in the second polygamy overview, and these teachings are directly used to coerce young women to marry and have sex with him. That’s why these teachings are incredibly dangerous and so easily abused by those in authority.

We have seen this used to teach racist ideas with the ban on those with black skin, which has led many members to believe those with darker skin (or those who are handicapped) were less valiant in the pre-existence.

Appeals to authority amount to the infamous church saying of “when the prophet speaks, the thinking is done.” When the church can get a member to tie their identity to the church and then get their obedience, it can lead to dangerous things as we have seen with many high demand religious groups through the years. I am not going to do an overview on the Mountain Meadows Massacre, but there is little doubt that Brigham Young’s rhetoric at the time contributed to the members believing they were acting on his behalf when they viciously slaughtered 120 men, women, and young adults (they kept the children and wanted to raise them in the church, which is beyond horrendous).

I have heard from those going through a faith journey that either they (women) or their wife stated that they would enter polygamy if the prophet asked them to and it breaks my heart, because it just shows that this church can make us think and do some really abhorrent things in the name of God, and the history shows us that leaders have done just that in the past.

This church only has the power that we give them, but unfortunately they cultivate that power from our earliest days in the church and then hold those emotions over our heads to keep us from looking under the hood of the church’s truth claims, and it breaks my heart to think of those who are still in the church and are too afraid to research the very church they want to put their kids through.


Appeals to Fear


Once members tie their identity to the church, this is used against them quite often in talks by leaders where they tap into your fear to keep you from looking elsewhere. In a face-to-face with the youth, the Renlunds compared those who started to look at the church’s problems with bratty children who ‘leave the boat’ thinking that there was safety outside of it.

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Note how Ruth Renlund characterizes this kid who starts asking questions about the church’s history:


“Sadly, Steven had chosen to be a perpetual doubter. For him, doubting pleased him more than knowing and he was digging up in doubt what he had planted in faith. As time went on as one concern was resolved another one was found. No matter how much anyone tried to respond and answer these questions he found another topic on which he was anxious. He focused on the dents in the boat instead of on the capability of the boat to lead him to the blessings of the atonement of Jesus Christ. What Steve was doing was a form of church history whack-a-mole.”


This is how the church frames those with legitimate questions to keep others from having them. The “stay in the boat” phrase is used often in church talks as a way to tell members that if they get out of the boat they are going to die. The problem, of course, is that people leave the church every hour and realize that you were on dry land the whole time. This is the equivalent of being in an abusive relationship where the other side tells you “you’re nothing without me.”

Appealing to fear makes the job a little easier because it’s very easy to teach us from a young age to be afraid of everything that isn’t specifically provided by the leaders of the church. We’ve seen this in dangerous cult situations such as Waco, the People’s Temple, etc where the leaders are the only source of information, and the use of fear is crucial to keeping members from looking under the hood.


The Cautionary Tale of Paul H. Dunn


For those who have never heard of Paul H. Dunn, he was a General Authority in the 1980s and was a very popular speaker in the church. Dunn told the most amazing and faith promoting stories about baseball and war, and I guarantee that many members felt the spirit as he gave talks about how he was preserved by the Lord as bullets tore through his clothing and flew all around him.

The problem, however, was that Paul H. Dunn was caught lying about his stories. After he initially tried to downplay his embellishments by comparing them to Jesus telling parables, he finally released a statement to the church:


“I have been accused of various activities unbecoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I confess that I have not always been accurate in my public talks and writings. Furthermore, I have indulged in other activities inconsistent with the high and sacred office which I have held.

For all of these I feel a deep sense of remorse, and ask forgiveness of any whom I may have offended.

My brethren of the General Authorities, over a long period of time, have conducted in-depth investigations of the charges made against me. They have weighed the evidence. They have censured me and placed a heavy penalty upon me.” (Deseret News, October 26, 1991)


While it is of course noteworthy that Dunn was the first apostle to be given emeritus and removed from being a public figure in the church, the lasting implication from his actions were to illustrate just how easily our spiritual witness can be manufactured by false stories.

To this point I think of how I was shown photos of Joseph Smith sitting over gold plates translating them like a contemporary scholar, and thinking of how many people had a witness of this event that simply never happened as the church presented.

The same can be said of the priesthood restoration, which never included Peter, James, and John until Oliver Cowdery created the account years later or the many members who would have had a spiritual witness that the Native Americans were Lamanites and that their skin could become lighter with righteousness.

You might think “well I didn’t have those spiritual witnesses,” but that’s not the point. Paul H. Dunn showed just how easily the church, or anyone for that matter, can manipulate us into thinking we’re feeling the spirit when in fact the story being told was completely made up.

This has great ramifications for the idea of a spiritual witness and testimony, and we will cover this a bit more in a future overview on the “Transfiguration of Brigham Young.”


Equivocation


One last bias/fallacy I want to cover is equivocation, which is “the fallacy of deliberately failing to define one's terms, or knowingly and deliberately using words in a different sense than the one the audience will understand.” (Master List of Logical Fallacies)

This is one that is very common with the church today as I have covered in previous overviews, where they change the meaning of words in an attempt to neutralize the problems with church history and doctrines when members come to realize that the conclusion of these problems is that the church is not true.

I will give just a few examples here of how they do this, and how by changing the meaning of words they are attempting to bolster your testimony of the church:

Translation: We are told today that the word translation doesn’t mean translation because Joseph Smith got the Book of Abraham translation completely wrong. Apologists and leaders now will content that translation to Joseph Smith simply did not mean what we think it meant, and that if we just allow for the idea that Joseph Smith just meant translation like “revelation” all of these problems will go away.

We also have this same issue with the Book of Mormon, because we can now show that the text is a 19th century document that uses the King James Bible, not written until over a thousand years later, as a  foundational text for the Book of Mormon.

Skin: As I covered in the overview on race and Mormonism, the church now says that the word “skin” doesn’t actually mean ‘skin,’ but clothes. My response is in the overview, but in the context of the scriptures, there is simply no getting around the very basic fact that Joseph Smith meant human skin just as he revealed in his revelation that the way they could identify Lamanites was through the dark skin of the Indians.

Horses, Steel, or other Anachronisms: As we cover in the anachronisms section, we are often told that the terms that are anachronistic in the Book of Mormon are words that the authors were familiar with in a “loan shifting” method to make sense of the words. In other words, horses could be tapirs, steel could be some other form of metallurgy, and goats could be antelopes. Again, this runs into problems if you believe in a tight translation because Joseph Smith would’ve just used whatever name the Book of Mormon people used (think Curelom), but with a loose translation that opens up other problems as I outlined on the tight vs loose translation overview.

The problems is that equivocation only arises out of necessity, which is why the church never changed the meanings of these words until they were forced to by scholarship that showed their truth claims were not true. This is why Bill Clinton famously said he did not have “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky, because in his head he was thinking that oral sex was not sex. It’s also why Joseph Smith famously said “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one."

When Joseph Smith said that, he was already married to over twenty women, but the church calls these “carefully worded denials” because Joseph could later say he was only looking at Emma when he said it. It’s completely dishonest, but it’s how leaders can use equivocation to lie to members in order to keep them from walking away and, in the case of Mormonism, losing their testimonies.

The moment someone is forced to redefine what words mean – especially when they hold such crucial implications for the truth claims of an organizations – it needs to be asked why those changes are only being made after outside influences (in this case the evidentiary history of the church and their scriptures) force the church to redefine these words.


My Strongest Spiritual Witness


I mentioned at the beginning of this overview that I had those spiritual confirmations of the Book of Mormon as an investigator. This did not come right away, but I remember reading a few chapters a night and then praying about it, and after weeks I finally began to get that warm feeling before going to bed that the Book of Mormon was true.

Now that I have come to believe that the Book of Mormon is not true, I have the common conundrum of trying to figure out how to make sense of those feelings. This is something I hear often from members, who will often say something like “I cannot deny the experiences I have had” or “How can I turn away from the witness I received from God?”

I do not say those are common responses to be offensive, but to point out that they are common threads in almost every person’s journey who discovers the truth about the church and walks away. For me, I came to realize that the feelings I had came from myself because deep down I wanted it to be true. That doesn’t mean the experience wasn’t real, because I cannot deny it was real, but that I can now understand that it was not proof that the Book of Mormon was true, but that the feeling came from within.

To that point, I want to tell a quick story that is, without a doubt, that strongest “spiritual confirmation” I have ever received. I have never told this publicly before, and even today I get goose bumps every single time I think of this story, because it was truly one of those “one in a billion” type of scenarios that happened at just the right time.

It was in early 2018 that I first dove into church history. As I have mentioned in previous overviews, I am still a member of record but had gone inactive years earlier because I could not accept polygamy and the church’s past racism as from God, and that was finished off by my experience in the temple during the initiatory.

After I dove into church history, it was a terrible stretch of time for me, not necessarily because I found out the church was not true (I had felt that for years), but because I am part of a mixed faith marriage. The reason I was so terrified to look previously was because I knew just how dangerous it would be to my marriage, and so I just tried to ignore it the best I could, even if I was reminded of it every single day through things like seeing the garments, seeing church publications, etc.

Once I found about the church's history out I did everything wrong – I made the same stereotypical mistakes that so many make. I reacted emotionally and just threw everything on my wife at once – Joseph’s polygamy, the translation with the rock in a hat, the First Vision evolution, etc. As I outlined above, we as humans are not wired to react in a 'logical way' to having this kind of information thrown at us, and of course my wife reacted like anyone else would, which was to reject what I was launching at her and fall back on church approved sources and apologetics.

This made me feel like I was going crazy. I was not aware of confirmation bias, backfire effects, or illusory truth effects at the time, and I felt absolutely alone and, to a large degree, betrayed that I was lied to by the church and no one was even willing to sit down and go over it with me.

Over the next 4-6 months, I began to jot down notes as I read documents like the CES Letter and Letter For My Wife and then compared their topics to the responses from FAIR Mormon. I had different notepad files with my notes as to why I thought the apologetic responses were being deceptive, where I thought the CES Letter was not strong, and information I had found that I found interesting that was not covered.

That ultimately led to this website being started after I came into contact with some others who were also going through the journey, and one person in particular who had already put together the four annotated essays this website started with: Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo, Book of Mormon translation, DNA and the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Abraham.

He graciously let me put them on the site as a centerpiece to build around, and I began adding new content to the website with the help of a few others. During this time I was still really struggling with everything I was learning and the fact that no one who was a believing member wanted to hear any of it, and most of them viewed me as a threat, which is no surprise as the church often frames those who leave that way.

I told my wife I created the website because I did not want it to be a secret from her, and that led to a discussion a while later about a priesthood restoration timeline I had created. After that I was just not in a good place as I think many members going through this can attest to (from both sides of belief), because both sides of the conversation are coming at it from a completely different perspective.

A night or two after that, I got an email through the website, which at the time I probably got 2-3 a week. When I opened the email, the sender’s name was the exact name of our child (first and last name), which immediately made me think that someone was pulling a prank on me -  either my wife or her family (no one else knew I had started the site). That of course made no sense, but neither did getting an email that had my child’s exact name out of the blue.

I opened the email with a very suspicious mindset, immediately thinking I was being pranked or trolled. When I read the email, it had some questions about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, but I noticed at the bottom of the email that the sender was from my same area code. This is even more incredible given that I live in an area where Mormonism is truly irrelevant and tiny, so the odds that someone would email me with my child’s first and last name and the same area code is simply minuscule.

After I replied back, we began to have a nice conversation back and forth and I introduced myself and noted that I had the same phone area code, still thinking that I might be the recipient of a really bad joke.

It turns out the sender was a real person who happened to live about 20 minutes away, and we’ve since met up a number of times to talk and have become friends. In fact that has led to meeting a few other members from that same ward who recently left, which again was something that made me feel sane as I really dug into the church's truth claims. Unfortunately the COVID pandemic has stopped that over the last year, but it’s been an incredible journey that even today seems like the most impossible thing to happen.

Every time I think of this, I get goose bumps and that warm, comforting feeling in my stomach. What are the odds of someone emailing at a time when I would only receive a few emails a week, at a moment when I was completely crushed about church stuff, with my child’s full name, and from the same area code in a part of the country where the church is tiny and by no means significant?

I often laugh because if that email had been to bring me back to the church and I had come back, this story would be featured in church materials and probably would’ve been retold in a General Conference talk. The odds are astronomical, and so I have to ask myself: Is this event was a confirmation from God that I was doing His work in exposing problems with the church, or just a very crazy coincidence that happened at a time when I really needed a lift?

There’s a phrase from the TV show Lost that always stuck with me, which is “Don't mistake coincidence for fate.” I believe that to be the relevant answer here, and I do not believe that it was God sending me a sign that the church is not true, but I do believe if I told this story at a fast and testimony meeting (with the email bringing me back to church activity), there would be some goose bumps and probably tears in that ward.

The point in telling this story is that we all have events in our lives that we frame through our worldview, and in this case I almost rejected the email because I believed it was a prank. For me, this particular story was incredibly meaningful in my journey because it did make me feel less crazy and it did help me to understand that there were people locally (in an area with very few members) who were going through the faith transition at the same time I was. At the same time, I can also recognize that my testimony that the church is not true does not come from this emotionally charged story, but from the evidence that tells me that Joseph Smith created these scriptures and ideas.


Conclusion


There are so many other examples I could have covered in this overview to illustrate the ways that spiritual witnesses occur in so many different religions along with how those testimonies are both built and protected by other groups well beyond Mormonism. It is the main reason why I’ve tried so often in these overviews to ask that you evaluate this information as you would any other religious leader, church, or organization. The special pleading that we do to avoid evaluating the information this way is often what keeps us seeing the problems that are there in plain sight.

 

The truth is that the testimonies we have are based on the information we receive at a given time. It’s why we might have a strong witness to marry our spouse, only to find out years later that they were cheating on you the whole time. Of course the apologetic response would be that the free agency of the cheating spouse is what interrupted your personal revelation, but again you have to ask yourself how reliable personal revelation or spiritual witnesses are when we can only receive answers for questions we already know the answer to.

One of the things that I really dislike about the church’s approach to spiritual witnesses is how they tell you what your emotions are in order to sell them back to you. We are told that good feelings are God confirming the church is true and bad feelings are the adversary trying to take you away, but the reality is that we have emotional reactions that have nothing to do with God whatsoever.

When I see a tragic news story, those bad feelings aren’t because the adversary is trying to take me away. It’s because my body is reacting to a horrible story and that sometimes elicits anger towards the person or group that caused the harm whether it’s a story about a shooting, terrorist attack, or people being defrauded.

I am a huge music fan, and I listen to it daily. There are certain songs that every time I hear them I can get taken back to a certain place in time, some songs that give me goose bumps, and some that make me feel instantly sad. I have never once thought that the songs that make me feel upbeat and give me goose bumps are from God, nor have I ever believed that songs with minor chords that make me feel sad are from Satan.

The problem is that once we attach our identity to the church, they can then hold that over our heads until we die. When I say they “sell them back to you,” I am stating that by telling you that bad feelings are from the ‘adversary,’ they are manipulating not just how you feel, but what information you look at and how you process and react to it.

When you read sites like this as a believer, it is going to make you feel, to put it nicely, uncomfortable. You might be mad at me, you might be mad at the church, or you might just be mad that the information is out there, but you are not going to read this site as a believer and feel great about it. The church has trained you to equate those feelings with the adversary, meaning that I am the adversary trying to lead you astray.

But the reality is that all I present on this website is a compilation of evidence, research, and ideas about the church that were simply not taught to me during my time in the church. Many of them are directly from the church’s website, the Joseph Smith Papers Project, or other church produced materials, so if the church wants to claim these feelings of discomfort are the adversary, that opens up a lot of other problems.

When I was creating the overview on DNA and the Book of Mormon, I listened to the Mormon Stories Podcast where three geneticists reviewed the church’s gospel topics essay. In this podcast, geneticist Jamie Hanis Handy made the point that God gave us these brains that could critically evaluate the evidence, but that the church doesn’t want us to use them to actually think about anything critically when it comes to the Book of Mormon.

The reality is that we can use evidence, scholarship, and analysis to show that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century text. This is not disputed by anyone outside of the church because Joseph Smith left his fingerprints all over the Book of Mormon, but the church continues to manipulate and control the emotions of members to keep them terrified of digging into the research and even more afraid of what losing belief in the Book of Mormon will do to their lives.

In 2006, M. Russell Ballard gave a General Conference talk that included the line “where will you go” when referencing those who leave the church:


“If any one of you is faltering in your faith, I ask you the same question that Peter asked: “To whom shall [you] go?” If you choose to become inactive or to leave the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where will you go? What will you do? The decision to “walk no more” with Church members and the Lord’s chosen leaders will have a long-term impact that cannot always be seen right now. There may be some doctrine, some policy, some bit of history that puts you at odds with your faith, and you may feel that the only way to resolve that inner turmoil right now is to “walk no more” with the Saints. If you live as long as I have, you will come to know that things have a way of resolving themselves. An inspired insight or revelation may shed new light on an issue. Remember, the Restoration is not an event, but it continues to unfold.” (To Whom Shall We Go?, October 2016 General Conference)


This kind of talk is directly intended to keep members from walking away, which you expect from a high demand religion. The problem is that it is the same tactic used by other high demand religions, cults, and organizations that have the same truth claim problems as the church. It also is telling members that if you leave, you’ll never find anything better, which is something that has become almost a cliché for those in abusive relationships to hear from the abuser.

For me that is a horrible thing to do, and as I stated above if the church truly believed that they could withstand scrutiny they would ask members to read the non-correlated sources, talk to experts in the fields of biblical scholarship, archaeology, and genetics. Instead they attempt to control your access to information and then use that to build a testimony that is based on a false pretense.

The question I always have is this: Would you have this same testimony if you knew the true history of the church and Book of Mormon before you read it? Would you believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God if you were told in advance that he retrofitted the First Vision story, changed the priesthood restoration account, and used his authority to convince young girls to marry him as polygamous wives? I realize that’s an impossible question to answer because we can’t go back in time and test it on ourselves, but it’s also why I ask you to evaluate this information as you would any other religious leader, church, or organization. This requires us to let go of our preexisting beliefs for just a moment, but it can be done as difficult as it may be.

There is a reason that the church has departments that are dedicated to preparing material that is designed to hit the right emotional marks, and the HeartSell method is not a joke but a true vehicle that the church uses to tap into your emotions. While it sounds horribly offensive to suggest that testimonies can be molded and manipulated, we can see throughout history that this happens whether it’s David Koresh and the Waco compound or Warren Jeffs and his polygamous offshoots of Mormonism.

Emotions are important and feelings are always going to be personal to each individual, but they can and are manipulated by the events and people around us. We see this not just with the church, but advertisements that come on our televisions every day. The trick is trying to recognize that so we can still make the best decisions we can with the brains we were given, and to recognize that while feelings change, evidence and facts do not. One of the most difficult things to realize is when our emotions are being manipulated and used against us, and while it’s not unique to Mormonism, this is the area that you are in if you are reading these overviews.

This is my 30th overview on Mormonism, and we are definitely in the home stretch with just a few left to go. I wanted to put this one near the end because I think it helps to read it after you’ve encountered all of the information on the many topics of Mormonism, and I think it will help you to understand these feelings are not just normal, but wired into all of us. I also hope that knowing about these different mental blocks and cognitive biases that we all share, it will help you to break through them as you try to determine if what I am saying is true or just another ‘anti-Mormon’ lie.

Check us out on Twitter or Facebook as well for future posts and updates, and thank you again for reading!

Next Overview Topic: How the Church Handles Doubts About the Church's Truth Claims

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