The Gall of Bitterness

Once again, someone has informed me that I am bitter and attempting to “pick a fight.” It’s true that I was angry for a time when I first admitted to myself that my belief in Mormonism was sadly misplaced. But those feelings have long since passed.

Sometimes I wonder where this accusation of bitterness comes from, and I usually reach the same conclusion: it arises from the insecurity of knowing that one’s beliefs are not always on solid ground. Otherwise, if you believe that you have good reasons for your belief, you can shake off just about anything.

But with Mormonism, you are forced to do a ridiculous amount of rationalizing. Among other things, you have to explain why

  • Joseph Smith’s sleeping with other women, including married women, without the consent of his lawful wife was not only justified but commanded of God.
  • The Book of Mormon describes a people and culture who left no trace of themselves and at the same time the book contains a multitude of anachronisms and nineteenth-century textual dependencies.
  • The Book of Abraham borrows from sources such as Thomas Dick and Josephus (both of which Joseph Smith had been studying) and yet in its explicit translations of the facsimiles bears no relation to the actual Egyptian text.

The list could go on, but these suffice. People who are sure of the facts don’t need to get defensive or accuse other people of being bitter. They simply deal with the facts. That some of my readers cannot do so speaks more of them than it does of me.

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21 Responses to The Gall of Bitterness

  1. uft36 says:

    I would like to say a few things about your “facts” on the history of the LDS Church. Did you actually live in the 1800’s to witness the accounts of Joseph Smith sleeping with other women and other evil things? Are you a linguist and a historian to know that the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham borrowed from other sources? People tend to write or translate according to the times they live in, meaning if the Book of Mormon was translated today it would use words and phrases that we would use today. People tend to distort the facts for their own purposes or if they don’t have all the facts, they make up their own story. The early Church was a mess when it was first organized and after Joseph Smith died. There may have been a lot of mistakes made and abuse of power but that doesn’t mean that the Church, itself, is no less true. If you base your faith on third party references then you might as well throw out the Bible as well. If you know your Bible very well you would know that there are a lot of idiot things done by prophets and rulers chosen by God, especially David. I have been receiving e-mail lessons from a member who is an actual linguist and translator. He has figured out the language of Adam and even has shown that the Book of Abraham is a true translation. He has proven that current Egyptian translations are, for the most part, wrong. I am not currently an active member, partly because of my job, but I still believe in the Church, the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith. I really don’t care about what happened in the 1800’s in the Church and I refuse to base my faith on 2nd and 3rd accounts and the opinions of other people. The only thing I know and base my faith on is what I have learned from these accounts and what the Holy Spirit has taught me. I am not a life long member and not part of any clique or group defending the Church through rose color glasses. What I have learned about spirituality is based on my own experiences and what I have read and evaluated.

    • Odell Campbell says:

      To uft36:

      Two words – “nut job”

      PS: I am dying to find out your friend’s name who figured out the language of Adam! Please tell us all!!! I can’t stand waiting!

  2. runtu says:

    So, as long as I’m not an eyewitness to events, I can’t have an opinion? Interesting. You make a very important observation: “People tend to distort the facts for their own purposes or if they don’t have all the facts, they make up their own story.” Your comments bear this out entirely.

    I would suggest that you don’t have a very solid understanding of early church history, as even the apologists concede that Joseph slept with other women without Emma’s consent. But, never mind, you don’t care what happened in the early church. That is entirely your decision. For me, truth matters.

  3. Saganist says:

    Well said, Runtu. Even years from now, you may never be able to express yourself without believers accusing you of being bitter. If there’s nothing wrong with you, then there might have to be something wrong with the church. That’s a possibility that can never be considered.

    uft36, I find it interesting that you juxtapose these two assertions:

    – I know a guy who has figured out the language of Adam and proved that the Book of Abraham translation is correct.

    – I don’t base my faith on secondhand accounts and the opinions of other people.

    When it comes down to it, we all trust others when it comes to nearly everything we know. You interpret your spiritual experiences in the context of Mormon belief because that’s how you were taught to interpret them. I trust certain accounts of church history more than others, for various reasons including internal consistency, firsthand information, proximity in time, other outside scholarship, etc.

    We all have to decide what we will trust and why. You trust church leaders and your own interpretation of the Spirit more than you trust historical documents that you believe are “distorted”. That’s fine, but it’s a choice you have made, just as others have made other choices for their own reasons.

    Anyway, Runtu, I agree that making these choices and sharing your findings and opinions does not necessarily make you bitter or trying to pick a fight. In my opinion, anyone who feels threatened by your conclusions has the right not to read your blog. It’s their own problem.

  4. Andrew says:

    Commenting on your conclusion:

    People who are sure of the facts don’t need to get defensive or accuse other people of being bitter. They simply deal with the facts. That some of my readers cannot do so speaks more of them than it does of me.

    I find for the most part that this is true…but I also find another phenomenon. For those who have simply dealt with the facts, then they still have a kind of accusatory attitude…of something like, “I dealt with the facts and I’m still here…so what’s wrong with you? Why don’t you get over it?”

  5. Reed Manson says:

    No one makes a change in their life because they are happy as things are. It is a realization that things are not working that compels us to reevaluate our life and make changes. There has to be negative emotion as a factor in so huge a shift in the way one lives. People I have known that have left the church certainly seemed angry about something.

    Getting over it as quickly as possible helps everyone involved, but no one just drops decades of indoctrination over night.
    If someone swindled you out of your life savings would you just “Get over it” and move on? I think you would feel bitter every time you thought about it.

    For most people being LDS is not a choice. It is a lifestyle into which one is born and leaving it is not looked kindly upon in Mormon culture. A swift and certain assasination of your character is part of the price you pay. Being labeled as bitter and angry is how they do it. It is the easiest way to explain apostacy to the believers. The best revenge is to move on and be happy as quickly as you can.

  6. uft36 says:

    You are right, Saganist. I didn’t say it right. What I meant was I won’t automatically believe something is true or false because someone says it is. I don’t know all the circumstances surrounding the events that Joseph Smith did to judge whether or not he is a false Prophet and to say he did all these evil things that some claim he did. I have read some of the early history of the Church, and I really don’t know whether to believe the reports are true or not. Joseph Smith had a lot of enemies and information was based on honesty and integrity. I don’t have enough information to make a sound judgment. The only thing I know is that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon with only a third grade education and given the times he lived in this was more than what most farmers had. I grew up in New England and I am familiar with its history. And no I don’t trust Church leaders more than historical documents. I don’t trust anyone who claims to be an authority on spiritual matters or anything, for that matter. I was not taught to believe in a certain Mormon way. I only spent a couple of years in a Mormon community in Utah and I question everything that I am taught. Some things are not that important to me to dwell on. I literally worked out my beliefs just like Runtu and you and everyone else. And Runtu I apologize if I came across a little too strong. I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents worth and maybe give you something to think about. Take it for what it is worth. Only 2 cents.

  7. runtu says:

    You didn’t offend me, if that’s what you’re worried about. I’d just caution you against attributing negative information to Joseph’s enemies. The accounts of Joseph’s relationships with other women come from the women themselves and were gathered and published by the church to defend polygamy. Some people aren’t troubled by these things, as is their right. But I do think such information must be dealt with to make informed decisions about Joseph Smith and his religion, and that does not make me bitter or angry. That’s just my two cents.

  8. Hypatia says:

    “But with Mormonism, you are forced to do a ridiculous amount of rationalizing.”

    So true! I’m so glad I don’t have to do that anymore.

  9. uft36 says:

    The reason I chose to believe in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon is because I have been searching for the true Church of Jesus Christ and I already believed that a group of Phoenicians and other people came to America and settled here. What I have learned on my own closely matched to what I learned when I joined the Church. I never read the Book of Mormon nor read anything in the Church before I joined. A couple of times I almost quoted word for word from the missionary pamphlets and I never read them before, either. Did the missionaries try to persuade me to join? No. Did they use deceitful tactics to prove to me that the Church is true? No. I read the Book of Mormon and took a chance and joined the Church. How can I dismiss what I have learned and have gained spiritual insights based on someone’s accounts of Joseph Smith’s life from almost 200 years ago? Have you ever thought that maybe Joseph Smith was killed by the mob for this very reason, that he may have been sleeping with other women? If you think about it God protected him throughout his life why wasn’t he protected this time, if he did do this? If Joseph Smith became prideful and was starting to abuse his power don’t you think God would’ve taken care of him in his own way? Of course, this is all speculation. Joseph Smith was warned several times to carefully obey the commandments of God or else he would be removed and replaced by another. Does this make the Church any less than true? No. If we use these same rules to the Bible then we would not be reading anything from a Christian murderer, Paul; the warmongering Jews of the Old Testament; polygamist Prophets like Abraham, etc. But this is acceptable because it is ingrained in us to believe the Bible is the only word of God. God deals with His people in His own way. We have no idea if God forgave Him for any serious sins he may have committed. And anyone who wrote accounts of his relationship with him may not know what is going on either in Joseph Smith’s life and his relationship with God. I have no idea why the Church would defend polygamy or why God would allow it, even for a short time. It would be all speculation. The only thing I know is my relationship with God and Jesus Christ and any spiritual insights I have learned over the years.

  10. Andrew says:

    i’m still not quite sure why LDS people use denigrations of the Bible in a defense of church history.

    Really, it just makes it really easy to lose it all.

  11. runtu says:

    Exactly, Andrew. If Mormonism works for people, more power to them. But at least let’s acknowledge the facts.

  12. Hypatia says:

    I agree Andrew and runtu.

    These kinds of arguments don’t hold any water for me either. Especially since I don’t consider the bible to be “holy scripture as given by God.” I didn’t stop believing the Book of Mormon to be “True” so I could cling to something as contradictory as the bible. I wish people wouldn’t assume that.

    And I’m all for acknowledging the facts, pretending they don’t exist or assuming they must be “flawed” because they don’t automatically fit your preconceived notions doesn’t employ any sort of critical thinking.

  13. MC says:

    “People who are sure of the facts don’t need to get defensive or accuse other people of being bitter.”

    There’s that. There’s also the deeply entrenched feeling of persecution that Mormons tend to carry.

  14. Saganist says:

    Thanks, uft36. I don’t know you, and I got a certain impression from your first comment. I’m glad to hear that you are a believer who is willing to ask difficult questions. I can respect that.

    I am a convert too. I became and remained a believer for a long time by following the same lines of reasoning you present here. “Does this prove the church isn’t true? No. Is it possible that God did things in a particular way for some reason? Yes.”

    But eventually, I started wondering what the evidence would indicate if I approached it without any preconceived conclusions. Obviously, no one can purge themselves of their own motives, but I really do try to be as objective as possible. Things changed a lot when I stopped asking, “Can I interpret the evidence to support my beliefs?” and started asking, “What is the best interpretation of the evidence?”

    Anyway, back to the point: reasonable people can disagree, and that doesn’t necessarily make either of them bitter or angry. I have no idea if you are one of the people accusing Runtu of this, but I think it’s a false accusation.

  15. K*tty says:

    uft36, I am going to have to second Odell.

    You sound awfully naive. But that’s okay. If it works for you, you have made the church very happy with your membership. Just don’t do any studying or reading and you will be alright.

  16. uft36 says:

    No, I am not the one that accused Runtu of being bitter or angry. And I guess I am a nut job and a little naive, as well. I have only been working on my beliefs for over twenty years and trying to figure out what is right or wrong concerning religious beliefs. Everyone seems to believe, no matter what faith you belong to, they are the only ones who are right and close to God. This is just my observation. I have read and studied a little bit about ancient history and religions. What I look for is the common elements in all religions. All I was looking for was the Church that Jesus Christ started and that had all the common elements found in all religions. I read the Book of Mormon and discovered that it taught His Gospel that is found in the Bible. I saw more good and positive things coming out of this Church than the negative. I actually applied some of the concepts taught in the Church and it made my life better. So, now I am a nut job for learning and trying something new to improve my life and the life of others. So be it. I will continue to go against the flow and develop my own beliefs like I always have been doing.

    • Odell Campbell says:

      Uft36:

      The reason that I use the term “nut job,” by which I stand, is for two reasons: first, and foremost, you actually believe that (a) there is or was an Adamic language, and (b) someone you know has discovered it and is teaching you via “e-mail lessons.” – even back in my TBM days, I would have thought this worthy of nut job catoregorization; secondly, that you are critical of those who put stock in the “second hand” assertions of Smith’s contempories while you believe Smith as heroic based on second hand assertions.

  17. jr says:

    re: uft36
    How are the language of Adam and Reformed Egyptian related?
    How would knowing the language of Adam prove weather or not the translation of Moroni’s golden plates was correct?
    I do not see how that is possible.

  18. uft36 says:

    No, matter, Odell. At least I gave a few people here a little fun poking through my comments. I will mind my own business next time and keep my thoughts and opinions to myself. As for the comment on the language of Adam that was a slip that I should have kept to myself. If no one will not accept the possibility that the Book of Mormon might be a true record then you will not accept the theories that my friend has on ancient American history. They make sense to me and that is all that matters.

  19. Andrew says:

    It’s not that no one will accept the possibility that the Book of Mormon might be a true record…rather, that this possibility has very questionable, tenuous, shoddy, or sometimes outright silly evidence to support it.

    So I mean, what people are trying to express here is that you want to take for granted (and place on the same level as established scholarship) a hypothesis that your “friend” has on ancient American history, linguistics, etc., that is unheard of and unknown, that you haven’t said has been critically peer reviewed or not, just because it “makes sense to you and that is all that matters.”

    What people here are trying to say is…that should not be all that matters. For your own sake, you should respect yourself more and demand more.

    Sorry if this comes off as rude. The idea is not that you “mind your own business and keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself.” No rather, the idea is that you come up with evidence to back up your thoughts and opinions IF you want to present them. But if you can’t back up with evidence (because you don’t need it), then you’ll have to be willing to accept what responses you get.

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