I have been miserable at Church ever since my mission. I still couldn’t get out because I had to act on my testimony even though I experienced Church as toxic every Sunday.
To me, the mission experience was dehumanizing and sacrilegious reducing converts to trophies and missionaries to tools. Any amoeba will leave an inhospitable environment and strike out for greener pastures and yet I came back for more for something like sixteen years only to despair more because I could not get over my testimony.
I had a wonderful experience at Church before my mission. So one day, I decided to google my boyhood friends. One of them had begun to agitate against the Mormon Church. This particular essay argued that the rejection of evolution proved that the president of the Mormon Church could not be the prophet.
I though that argument was weak since other apostle like Widtsoe and Talmadge had no problem with Darwinism but I trusted my friend enough to reinvestigate the Church. One of the first sites, I stumbled upon was the Mormon Alliance, which documents cases of ecclesiastical abuse.
When I learned that Church leaders demand that scholars retract their research to remain members, I realized that they are not speaking for God because their behavior created a paradox, which denied the atonement.
Basic Christian theology stipulates that Christ redeems humanity by paying for our sins. Basic Christian theology also says that sinners need to repent to take advantage of the atonement. According to Mormon theology, people can only take advantage of the atonement if they perform priesthood covenants such as baptism and remain members in good standing.
Insofar as research represents scholars’ best effort at determining the truth, asking them to deny their research by threatening their membership in the Church creates a paradox for the atonement that cannot be resolved if one takes Mormon theology at face value.
If you are excommunicated, supposedly, you are damned. Denying your research without being persuaded to be wrong amounts to a lie. Lying is sinning. Sinners are damned.
This problem contains a logical loop because if scholars repent of their lie, they shall loose their membership. If we accept the Mormon worldview for the sake of argument, then that means that the brethren’s requirement for faithful research creates a class of people to whom the atonement does not apply.
I concluded from that contradiction that the brethren did not act on behalf of god. My testimony had misled me. My experiences did not mean what I thought they meant.
Two weeks later, I had figured out that the feelings approach advocated by Joseph Smith contradicted Jesus Christ. Christ warned us that we shall recognize the false prophets by their fruits.
Observing fruits has nothing to do with feelings. Observing fruits is an empirical exercise. It relies on the use of our brain and our senses. We only need to have a pretty good idea about good and bad views and observe the evidence.
Since then I have concluded that Smith’s approach to truth in Moroni 10, Doctrine and Covenants 9, and Alma 32 is really an auto-suggestive technique that relies on suspension of disbelief (Moroni 10), wishful thinking (Alma 32), and attribution error (D&C 9).
They are the same techniques that let us enjoy novels or movies and that are the mainstays of any confidence trickster. By the way, that leads me to conclude that Smith was at least a co-author of the Book of Mormon. The feelings epistemology reflects the experience of the con-man. Since Smith has the history of a con-man and Sidney Rigdon does not, the feelings epistemology is probably a genuine creation of Joseph Smith.