Here’s the second part of answering the questions of Ex-Mormon Michael Crook (from his website).
Yet, a Church employee in the Member Records and Statistics department confirmed to me that “an arrangement [they are] happy with” is that members who request removal are moved to a “confidential” status. Another Church employee confirmed that such records never removed from the system. They are moved into a sort of “Recycle Bin,” but never deleted, and are thus included in the membership stastistics. The same is said to go for those who have been excommunicated.
The Church does remove all these from its membership records. Period. That they keep a record of them, in case some choose to return, is also true. They do this to ensure people are not be baptized/excommunicated on a routine basis by simply moving from one area to another. I would be surprised if other churches do not do this also.
If God’s word does not change, how is it that multiple revisionshave been made to The Book of Mormon?
First, most of the changes were to correct grammar, or update words that we use differently today than they did in the 19th century. For the rest, It depends on what you mean by the word “word”. If you mean doctrine, then you are correct. God’s doctrine does not change. God can, however, change whatever he wishes to do. He gave Moses the Law as an eternal covenant. Yet, under Jesus, he gave the new covenant/testament that replaced the law and the prophets. Jesus told his apostles to only preach to Israel and not the Gentiles, yet later commanded Peter to take the gospel to the Gentiles. So, clearly God can change his words, if He chooses to do so.
Why does the Church refuse to release financial details except in countries where it is legally forced to do so?
I’m thinking they do not release their records because they don’t want a bunch of nitpickers trying to tell them how to spend/save/use the funds given by its members. That they have an independent financial group that reviews all of it, and it meets with IRS requirements, shows that the Church is not squandering or pilfering money from its members.
How do you answer the allegations that Joseph Smith stole the concept of three degrees of glory from “Heaven and its Wonders and Hell From Things Heard and Seen,” by Emanuel Swedenborg, written in 1758? When combined with his arrest for allegedly misleading people with a stone in a hat (the same tool used to supposedly translate a key scripture in the Church), does this not make him seem a fraud?
First, what is the likelihood that a backwoods boy with limited education is going to read Swedenborg? Yes, it was published in 1758…in Latin! It is more likely that Joseph Smith was influenced by 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, where Paul speaks of a man going to the third heaven. Note that D&C 76, the revelation on the kingdoms was given to both him and Sidney Rigdon at the same time. They both saw the 3 levels of heaven, hell, etc. Their description goes far beyond what Swedenborg speaks about, including the concept that those in the higher glories descend to teach those in the lower glories.
Why is it that the Church seems incapable of preventing improper proxy baptisms, even with a computerized system? Certain prominent figures have been baptized by proxy as many as nine times. If the LDS Church is the Lord’s church, and a church of order, why does the Church keep apologizing and allowing improper proxy work to continue? Surely the true church has the resources (the supposed “gift of discernment”) to stop such improper practices!
Really? That’s an argument against the Church? The US federal government has the best computers and technology in the world, and still $400 billion of fraud and waste occur in Medicare every year. That the Church has only computerized the genealogy system in the last decade regarding temple work, means that any work done before has already occurred. As for the gift of discernment, that is a straw man. Each person receives gifts of the Spirit, but does not mean we work them perfectly. We are, after all, humans. The Church has long had an agreement with the Jews regarding Holocaust victims, that if any work is done by a member, they are to notify us, and we fix the problem. The same goes for famous people and their families. Recently, the Church has strengthened its policies.
If we are to be reunited with our bodies after a stint in the postmortal Spirit World, how do you explain such a solution for those whose bodies have been cremated or otherwise destroyed beyond the normal decay? Supposedly, during The Millennium, death will magically disappear. How do these beliefs reconcile with logic, reason, science and common sense?
Any scientist knows it only takes a piece of DNA to rebuild a physical body. Given that my cells were previously used elsewhere, and most will be shed and be used elsewhere, means all I need is a bit of DNA to reform this body. As for the Millennium, death does not “magically disappear”, but beings are changed in an instance from mortality to immortality, without having to “taste of death.” Science is now studying tweaking DNA and genes to lengthen a person’s lifespan to centuries. There may come a day when they can regenerate a person in a new body (of flesh or computerized?), including their memories. How is that so strange, then?
If God and Jesus Christ truly exist, how is it that no photographs of them exist? How is it that no “apostle” has confirmed seeing them? If a Church general authority has made a claim to see either of these personages, for whom there is no evidence of existence, has that general authority submitted proofs, or are you content to take him on his word?
Interestingly, Michael seems to take both a Biblical attack on the Church, as well as an atheist approach. Why should we expect there to be photos of them? Billions of people have lived on earth, even today, without having a photo taken of them. Yet they still existed/exist. In D&C 76, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon testified of seeing Christ. Oliver Cowdery saw Jesus with Joseph Smith in D&C 110. In 1985, Elder Bruce R McConkie testified, weeks before dying, that he would soon touch the hands of the Savior, but would not know him any better than he knows him now. Several have witnessed of seeing Christ, if you just do a little reading.
If the prophets and apostles have the “gift of discernment,” how is it that Gordon B. Hinckley and others were misled by Mark Hoffman?
You are suggesting from this that prophets are infallible and should know everything. That is a straw man, again. Prophets are mortals called of God to perform a work. That does not mean they are perfect, nor does it mean the gift of discernment is perfect in every instance (or that he has it in every instance). There are several gifts given out to different people through the Spirit, but not everyone gets all gifts necessarily (Moroni 7, 10). God allowed Joshua to be misled by a group of Canaanites, who dressed up poorly, pretending they came from a far off place, and getting a promise of protection from Joshua, before he found out they were actually living in the area they were to overthrow. Moses almost wore himself out trying to judge all of Israel, until Jethro told him to select judges. Paul had to chastise Peter for his treatments of the Gentiles. None of these prophets/apostles were perfect, why should we expect modern prophets to be perfect or infallible?
If the temple is the house of the Lord (no evidence has been produced that shows he truly exists, by the way), then why is money charged to rent temple garments and to eat lunch? Did the fictional Jesus Christ not supposedly chase money changers out of temples?
False analogy. In Jesus’ day, people traveled from afar to the temple. They had to trade their foreign money for local shekels, in order to purchase animals for sacrifice. The money changers were charging extravagant amounts for both the money change, and for the animals. In those temples that have a rental of temple clothing, it is only enough to pay for the cleaning and repair. The meals at those temples that provide them are inexpensive, as well. In both cases, people can bring their own clothing and food. All of the small temples have neither rental or food. The Church actually sells temple clothing at half the cost of making them to those first receiving their endowments, subsidizing the cost to help people afford the cost of buying their own.
As for the Church being fined in regards to Prop 8 financing, much of what was decided in California was done by those against Prop 8, seeking to punish the Church for its involvement. That the Church disagreed, but agreed to pay the fine so as not to continue for years in litigation, is also readily seen. A fine is not the same as a grievous felony, as you seemed to make it out to be in your questioning.
If Joseph Smith was a true prophet, why has his tale about the First Vision changed several times, and why was it stolen to begin with?
That others may have had similar experiences, does not mean Joseph’s vision was “stolen.” That people in the Bible have similar visions, does not mean they stole it from one another. In the book of Acts and the Epistles of Paul, we find three accounts of his vision of Christ. None of them agree exactly with the other two. That Joseph was sharing different points in his descriptions of the Vision during the few times he actually shared it (particularly 1832 and 1838), and the reasons for sharing it at different times would create a need for more specifics, is easily seen. That some of the vision stories you infer are from others who were not present at the time of the First Vision, means they are secondary sources, and not necessarily reliable. I know that after having an experience, it can mean one thing to me, and even more to me after I’ve had a few years to ponder over its significance. I see no reason why Joseph didn’t do the same.
Had this been Joseph’s only vision, then I would be concerned about it. But he had many other visions. Not only that, he had many other visions with others also having those same visions! Joseph and Oliver Cowdery saw John the Baptist; Peter, James and John; Moses, Elijah, Elias and Christ. Joseph and the Three Witnesses saw the angel Moroni. Joseph and Sidney Rigdon saw the three levels of heaven and Jesus Christ. During the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, the saints had a Pentecost. Hundreds saw angels, spoke in tongues, saw Christ. Even people outside the temple at their homes said they saw angels walking on the roof, and that it appeared to be on fire with a bright light.
It is one thing for someone to say they had a vision similar to Joseph’s. It is another for Joseph and many of his followers to have visions together that agreed with one another.
Michael blabbers on about polygamy and other issues that obviously seem to be reasons to disbelieve the Church. He doesn’t realize that history has nothing to do with whether Joseph Smith was called of God or not.
Why does the Church consider some temple ordinances, such as the endowment ceremony, to be “sacred, not secret,” refusing to disclose details, all the while disclosing details on baptisms for the dead and other details from within the temple? Why does the Church hold open houses, all the while claiming that what goes on within the temple is “sacred, not secret”? Does that not seem inconsistent, and perhaps hypocritical? Are baptisms for the dead, a temple ordinance, any less sacred than the endowments, also a temple ordinance? How does the Church pick and choose what is “sacred,” and what is up for discussion?
While it is all sacred, some things are more sacred and the members are asked not to share it with those outside the temple. Christ taught some things only to his apostles, and told them not to share them with the world. The Mount of Transfiguration is an example of this, where Peter, James and John were commanded not to share the experience with anyone (even the other apostles) until after his death. They had baptism and other teachings that were public, but some things Jesus has chosen to keep only for a small group of followers, who are ready to receive it in faith.
If the Church’s doctrine and teachings are so true, why does the Church cut and run from its past teachings, and the words of its past leaders? Why are BYU professors and members alike thrown under the buswhen quoting teachings from the past? Has it anything to do with the Church’s greedy financial and public relations desires in modern times? Should the Church not stand up for its teachings, present-day and from the past, or is it admitting that its truths change on the whims of the Church’s leadership? Truth never changes. For the Church to backpedal is for it to admit it doesn’t have the truth, right?
God gives us truth “line upon line, precept upon precept.” In science and religion, we do not have all truth. Evolution is a truth, and also a theory. Why a theory? Because scientists are still tweaking it as they discover new truths about it. The same goes with quantum mechanics, where we tweak concepts regarding the smallest particles – do strings exist? Also with the Big Bang and the universe, where we find new things that cause us to adjust the truths and beliefs we have. It doesn’t mean we trash evolution, string theory or the Big Bang, but we adjust as we find new truth that changes it.
LDS believe in continuing revelation. Unlike some other Christians, we believe the canon is not closed, the light from heaven has not been extinguished, the Spirit still teaches mankind and gives them gifts. Brigham Young taught that all truth belongs to the LDS Church, no matter where it is found. When a truth is discovered, whether by revelation, wisdom or science, LDS will embrace it, and will continue doing so until God reveals all things.
As for “throwing people under the bus”, there were only 6 people (out of millions of members) excommunicated in the early 1990s, known as the September Six. Not all were necessarily excommunicated for their teachings. Just recently, one of those Six, Maxine Hanks was re-baptized and talked about her return at the recent Sunstone Conference. She said she was treated very kindly by those leaders who interviewed her, and has received a wonderful welcome back. Not quite what one does when they are “throwing people under the bus”.
The Book of Mormon shows a developing understanding of the Messiah, beginning with Lehi’s vision in 1 Nephi 1. Why should we believe, in a religion of continuing revelation, to believe all was revealed to Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. In a church that understands its leaders are called of God, yet still fallible, that everything Brigham Young said or did must still be part of our doctrine today. As mentioned earlier, Jesus told his apostles to only preach to the Israelites and not the Gentiles/Canaanites. This was changed with Peter’s vision and visit to Cornelius. If we apply such a strange standard that you insist on imposing on the LDS Church to the early Christian Church, no one but Jews would be Christians today!
Perhaps the problem isn’t the LDS Church, but with the way you are looking at these things from a wrong stand point. If you begin at the wrong spot, then logic will lead you to the wrong answer. Wrong logic causes people to make logical fallacies, such as the straw men you have attempted, Michael.
A sincere person does not receive a witness of God, Christ, Joseph Smith, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or any other such thing by attacking things after a quick scratch of the surface. As scientific theories are strengthened by testing with the proper tools and an open mind, so religious inquiries can only be answered through the proper spiritual tools and an open mind. Michael has used neither.
As noted in a previous blog post here, I believe not because of all the physical evidence (although I believe there is a lot), but because the spiritual witnesses allow me to choose to believe.