Perustietoa > Kertomuksia

Syntyjään mormonista ateistiksi

I first began to have doubts about the Church roughly 14 years ago, when I was still living in Phoenix. I had undertaken a rigorous self-study of the four standard works, and was in the process of reading the Old Testament again. I was continually troubled by descriptions of murder and mayhem by the Israelites, ostensibly under the direction of Moses, Jehovah’s prophet. When I came to the descriptions of atrocities in Numbers 31, I could take no more.

Numbers 31 describes Moses telling the Israelites to completely destroy a group of people. The Israelites did not have the stomach for it, though, and took the women and children as prisoners. Moses was very angry, and had the Israelites take the prisoners and murder them, except for the young virgins, which they raped under the pretext of taking them as "wives."

In reading this account I decided that I simply had two choices. On the one hand, I could accept the story as written, and conclude that Moses was doing the will of God. In this case, I would be forced, logically, to reduce God to a butchering monster. My second choice was to retain my concept of a benevolent God, full of goodness and virtue, and conclude that Moses was either a false prophet or that the historical record had been seriously corrupted.

Since there is obviously no point in worshiping an evil god that commands the rape and murder of children, I took some hope that the record had been corrupted, and that Joseph Smith’s "inspired" translation would correct the problem. Unfortunately, it didn’t. Joseph Smith’s version has Moses doing the same evil deeds as recorded in the King James Version.

Knowing that the "inspired" version was not completed (according to LDS leaders), I made an appoint with the Bishop. He told me that the account in Numbers was correct – that Moses really did those things. This was very troubling. I was (and remain) convinced that if there is a God, then he/she/it would not command the murder and rape of children, and would never have someone like Moses as a prophet. I thought that perhaps the Bishop was mistaken, so I made an appointment with the Stake President, but the Stake President gave the same answer as the Bishop. When I pointed out the atrocities committed by Moses and the Israelites, I was given very poor excuses like "things were different then," or "we don’t understand all the mysteries of God."

What struck me was the way both these men approached the situation in legalistic form. They spoke in terms of Moses and the Israelites being "justified," and not being held "accountable" for the murders they committed. I, on the other hand, could only imagine what it would do to my humanity if I were to do what they did. "How could I," I asked, "maintain my humanity if I were to kill a little child?" "Surely the children were crying and begging for their lives. How could anyone kill a child under those circumstances without becoming a monster and a devil?" Instead of reasoned answers, though, they would just stare back at me with empty eyes when I pressed these questions. They had never thought about the issue themselves, content simply to regurgitate the worthless legalistic explanations they had been taught to rehearse.

For me, the answer was clear. If Moses and the Israelites were not monsters and devils before they murdered those little children, they certainly were after the dirty deed was done. Legalistic justification cannot change things like the murder of women and children.

My ecclesiastical leaders were worthless in dealing with this issue. They seemed totally blindsided by the question, as if they had either never read the Old Testament, or had never put any thought into it. Their only answers were lame, and seemed more intent on distracting my attention and getting me to sustain the Church leaders than waste anymore time with moralistic questions about the Old Testament.

About this time I got a job offer in Oregon, and so we moved our family out of Phoenix. Within a few months of arriving in our new ward, I was asked by the Stake President to be the Elders Quorum leader. I had been the Elders Quorum leader in our Phoenix ward, too, but really felt overwhelmed by the new calling in Oregon because it came so soon after our move, and because of the questions and issues I was struggling with.

Just the same, I accepted the position. I’d been taught (and you have, as well) to always accept every Church calling. I still wanted to believe in the Church, and felt the call would not have come to me if it had not been inspired.

The Bishop in our new ward was different from most Bishops I’ve known. He was young (younger than I) and very self centered and selfish. He came from a family with well-to-do parents, and never had to actually worry about a job (he worked for his dad). Consequently, he had a very condescending attitude toward people in the ward who were not as well off as he was, monetarily speaking. In one of our correlation meetings, he said that God was punishing the people in the ward who had little money. Our real job as ecclesiastical leaders, he said, was to find out what sins they had committed, and help them to repent so that they would be worthy of God’s blessings (in the form of more money, of course). He took a very hard line toward giving assistance to the needy, and would lecture us in correlation meetings about how people in need had brought their problems upon themselves by breaking the commandments.

During one of these lectures I mustered the courage to disagree with him, and I told the Bishop that I thought his attitude was inspired by the devil. That went over like a ton of bricks. He’s hated me ever since.

The combination of my old doubts from Phoenix (about the atrocities committed by Moses and the Israelites) combined with a Bishop who lacked so much charity toward the poor, led to continual internal struggles about the Church. Internally, I knew that I no longer believed in the LDS religion, but I kept hoping I was wrong. I thought perhaps I had done something evil, and that I had lost my testimony by unrighteous living. That’s what I’d been taught, and it was still what I believed.

I spoke with the Stake President about my concerns regarding Moses and the Israelites. Like the Stake President in Phoenix, he was basically worthless at an intellectual level. He was a nice guy, and a good administrator, but I don’t think he’d ever had a deep thought in his life. He seemed perplexed by my "problem." His solution was to try and convince me that God would not punish Moses or the Israelites for those murders. "So," said he, "what’s the problem?" He seemed totally unable to grasp the significance of what such evil deeds would do the person, or the implications of God’s culpability if Moses really was acting under His direction.

During this same meeting with the Stake President, we spoke of some additional concerns I had developed, regarding Church doctrines that conflicted with science. I had begun to study more about the scientific theory of evolution, and concluded that there was so much evidence supporting it, that it was a virtual fact. This left a very big problem, considering the manner in which so many LDS General Authorities have taught that evolution is a false doctrine of the Devil. With my growing willingness to critically examine the Church, I’d also begun to critically examine the Church’s conflicts with geology, physics, chemistry, and biology, and I began to realize that the Church’s position on many issues related to these branches of science is in direct conflict with well-established scientific facts.

When I tried discussing these issues with the Stake President, the scientific problems just went right over his head. He tried to reason by using old tired creationist propaganda (the sort of junk I learned in seminary). In addition to having almost no command of the scientific issues, he seemed ignorant also of many of the scriptural issues and teaching of the prophets, as well. At the end of our interview, sensing his failure to deal substantively with the issues I’d raised, he suggested that I write to the 12 apostles. I did. But they never responded.

By this time I’d tried every avenue I knew, and made every attempt to reconcile the problems that I could think of. Instead of answers I got lame excuses from men who were nice, but seemed totally out of their element when it came to doing any independent thinking about deep issues. Their universal solution was "keep the faith and someday it will all make sense."

Well, it wasn’t making any sense at all.

After about a year in Oregon I finally faced up to the fact that I no longer believed in the LDS Church and I asked to be released as Elders Quorum president. I still attended Church, still paid my tithing, and still wanted to believe in Joseph Smith, but I felt it was unfair to the Quorum to have an unbelieving president. The Stake President understood, and the Bishop, with a sly smirk, was glad to have "the trouble maker" out of his hair.

I continued paying tithing for about another year. In the mean time, I got several critical books on Mormonism and read them. One of these books was "No man knows my history," by Fawn Brodie. The Church had taught me that Brodie was an evil apostate who had been seduced by the Devil. But what I read in her book made lots more sense than the pathetic responses that I’d gotten from my ecclesiastical leaders. The most immediate thing I learned from Brodie were the many details about Joseph Smith and Church history that the Church ignored, glossed over, or denied. I began to resent what was emerging as a pattern of official intellectual dishonesty by the Church and its apologists, in denying or sidestepping intellectual issues that conflicted with LDS doctrine. I began to see a pattern, and that pattern was one of deception.

Through all this, I’d held out hope in the Book of Mormon. Here was tangible proof, I thought, of Joseph Smith’s inspiration. I’d been taught all my life that no man could write a book like the Book of Mormon, and so I still believed that, if not just in the back of my mind. As with other areas, though, I’d learned to be skeptical and I’d learned to research claims. So I began to examine the claims of the Book of Mormon, and I read it again, with a critical eye. What I saw this time was different from the times before, and what I learned of Ancient-American cultures and civilizations was nothing like what the Book of Mormon described. Like the prophets, whom I’d been promised would never lead me astray, the smoke began to clear and the once invincible Book of Mormon began to show cracks.

About this time I began to read a news group on the Internet during lunch. It’s called (ARM). It’s mostly an unmoderated debate between Mormon apologists and LDS critics. In following these discussions I found many resources and followed many debates. The critics consisted of two types. One group was the born-again Christians, and the other was the intellectuals. The born-again Christians lost as often as the won, but the intellectuals took the LDS apologists to the cleaners every time. In one convincing example of logic after another they showed how the Book of Mormon’s account of a vast Hebrew society with domesticated cattle and wheeled chariots drawn by horses, with soldiers bearing steel swords was inconsistent with every bit of scientific evidence available. Not only does the Book of Mormon describe dozens and dozens of animals and plants not known to ancient Americans, it fails to describe dozens and dozens of plants and animals that were known.

I read some of Nibley’s books, as well as some by Sorenson, but they were an intellectual embarrassment. In reading Nibley, I was especially frustrated by his continual habit of making arguments that are so broad they can be used to justify belief in UFOs and little green men as easily as belief in the LDS Church. Basically, his reasoning is that until someone manages to absolutely prove, with no uncertainty at all, that the Book of Mormon is false, then it has to be admitted that it could be true. And if it could be true, then it is on the same footing as science. And then he would go on about how science is a false religion and Mormonism is the true religion. I imagined Nibley on a sandy beach walking up to Socrates. Socrates is writing numbers in the sand and Nibley comes up and kicks the sand, destroying the letters, while insanely ranting on and on about how nothing is knowable. Rather than answer the critics, Nibley and Sorenson simply made the problems too apparent by leaving the festering question open, and me wondering why they couldn’t answer them.

The debates on ARM have covered virtually every topic possible, and on matters of conflict between science and Mormonism, there can be virtually no doubt that LDS doctrine is on the losing end.

After reading Brodie, I read some books about Mark Hoffman, and how he sold Hinckley forged historical documents. I’d read the Book of Mormon cover to cover 17 times at this point in my life, and I knew that a prophet, seer, and revelator was someone who could "discern records of ancient date." Yet here was Hinckley purchasing bogus historical documents, all without a clue. Furthermore, he was not just purchasing these documents; he was trying to keep them hidden so that Hoffman’s negative portrayals would not embarrass the Church. I wondered why he would be fooled by Hoffman’s forgeries in the first place, especially given the embarrassing light in which they cast the Church. Unless, that is, the Church has other documents in their possession (that Hinckley knows about) that suggested Hoffman’s portrayals were correct. It all seemed very shady, very uninspired, and very un-prophet like.

I read lots of books and did a tremendous amount of research. Some books dealt with the problems with the Book of Mormon and its failure to accurately describe any ancient-American civilizations. Others were about the Book of Abraham, which is a transparent fraud, with nothing at all in common with the actual message written on the scrolls from which it was supposedly translated. I also read about BYU's history of stifling intellectual freedom, and their recent censure in that regard. I read about Joseph Smith’s money digging activities, his multiple versions of the first vision, and his adulterous relationships, conveniently legitimized by a revelation commanding him to take multiple wives. I read, and read, and read. Not just the critical stuff, but from both sides of the debate. What I found was clear as night and day, and I finally concluded that the only intellectually honest decision I could draw was that the LDS Church is false. It is based on a fraud, and perpetuates a fraud.

Up to this point I’d been racked with sporadic hidden fears, fanned by the teachings of my youth, that I was destined for hell and worse for disbelieving in the Church. I’d always been taught that if I lost my testimony it could only happen because I was an evil person. I’d been taught that I would lose my job, my wife, my children, my sanity, my health, and that the only thing awaiting me was the miserable life of an indigent. Smug, self-righteous priesthood brethren had taught me that those who apostatized from the LDS Church died mysteriously of awful diseases. And, there were the veiled threats of death from the temple ceremony. Half seriously, I wondered if the Joseph Smith’s Danites were still active, and if I might awake in a start some night, just as cold steel slit my throat and my life’s blood drained away.

Although I’d made the conscious decision that these teachings were false, I was still haunted subconsciously by the fear they were true. These destructive doctrines kept me in the Church for a few years, and caused great emotional anguish and turmoil. I had nagging fears about losing my job because I had stopped paying tithing. I imagined that God would punish me by taking my wife and children. I had nightmares about losing everything we had worked so hard for in Oregon, and being sent back in poverty to Arizona.

But as I read and understood, I began to realize that the problem wasn’t with me. It wasn’t the lack of some mythological spirit that caused my testimony to leave, but the enlightenment of knowledge, information, and a stubborn refusal to let emotions and desire get in the way of the facts. The Church really was false, and that conclusion was based on evidence. The scales fell from my eyes. The emperor stood before me naked.

The feared plagues never materialized. My salary doubled, and doubled again. My investments flourished, and my retirement account became the beneficiary of the 10% contributions that had previously gone to the corporation of the President of the Church. My health improved as I began a regular program of running (which I still maintain). My ability to earn a living as a scientist has greatly benefited from a mentality based on reason, evidence and logic. Although I was an active Mormon for roughly half of my professional carrier, every one of my 15 patents, two-dozen professional articles, and public presentations have come since breaching the intellectual barrier that allowed me to realize I’d been fooled my entire life into believing a fraud.

It wasn’t all a bed of roses, of course. Where the Church can, they make a determined effort to make life miserable for people who leave. They couldn’t take away my job (though I think they would have, if they could have) but in other ways they did everything they could to make me "pay" for the sin of thinking independently. I was the insinuated subject of many talks at Church, warning of the dangers of logic, and the sin of questioning the Brethren (even when they don’t make sense). During one of the Fast and Testimony meetings the wife of the High Priest Group Leader accused me of being a son of Perdition. Afterward, with the encouragement of the Bishop, she began screaming and yelling at me in the Church foyer (she was so loud, you could hear her outside). It was quite a sight. For a time, I was the subject of character assassination, misquoting, and outright lies on at least one LDS apologetic Internet sites, because of comments and concerns that I’d made on ARM. Church members on ARM were just as virulent, calling me a liar and every other dirty name in their vocabulary. Some Church members publicly stated that my wife should leave me, rather than risk her eternal salvation and the children by staying with such a wicked man. The experience was wrenching for her, but she stayed with me (we’ve been married over 23 years). In the end, all they accomplished was the destruction of the testimonies of my family.

The inevitable question, that I’m sure you are asking now, is what has replaced the Church in my life. I’ve not replaced it with a new religion. The same intellectual skills that showed me the error in Mormonism also showed me the essential errors in every other religion I’ve examined. As for God, I remain open to the notion, although I know of no definition of God that is consistent with the evidence of nature. Though I yearn for the God of my youth, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that a personal, all-knowing, and good God plays no role in the lives of people on earth. As for the many evil gods of the world’s dominant religions (like Jehovah and Ala) they reside on the same ash heap of mythology as Zeus and his ilk.

In my personal life I’ve replaced the mysticism of my early LDS upbringing with logic and reason. These, however, are reserved as tools for finding my way through life. Like a map and compass, they point the way, but they don’t encompass the essence of living. Life is more precious than ever, and still filled with beauty, wonder, and amazement. Since leaving the LDS Church I’ve come to realize that this life is probably all I have, and the one major change in my outlook is a firm determination to make every day, and every encounter, the best I can. They say you cannot dip your finger into the same river twice. In the same way, you cannot live any day over. We exist in time, passing through it, and it will eventually consume us. The most important thing is to cherish the moment, brief as it may be, and live so that our legacy can inspire others to carry the torch a little further.

I hope that you find peace and happiness in whatever you choose to do. I don’t presume to tell you that my way is the only way, or the best. The only advice I can give you unequivocally is to always strive to do what is right, and always respect the truth, whatever it may be. My ultimate faith is that being true to the truth is the best way to live one’s life, and that, having done that, it really doesn’t matter what else happens.

Duwayne Anderson

Saint Helens, Oregon


 Etusivu | Sivun alkuun


 2001-09-18 — 2004-03-04