I was the perfect student. Whether it was primary, Sunday school, Young Women, Relief Society, or seminary, I could tell you the exact answers. On top of that, I had nearly all the scripture mastery verses memorized by the time I was 14 AND I had started reading Jesus the Christ and all others sorts of wonderful side-along books.
When things didn’t quite add up, or I felt uncomfortable with certain scientific/anthropological evidence, I would hide them under a blanket–like a child embarrassed by the mess they made. I figured that everything would work out in the Next Life.
This lasted until this past January. To learn more about my religion–because I wanted to be a better church member–I began reading articles and other related essays on the Book of Mormon. I also started brushing up on my American Indian historical facts. In about 3 days, I went from a powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon’s truthfulness, to an overpowering sense of betrayal. The book that I have defended for so many years has far too many flaws when it comes to it’s claims of being a historical record for me to accept it as an inspired text–at least in the way I had believed for so long. As there is an immense amount of information out there–many of it not anti-Mormon (despite common belief) as it comes from anthropologists and other scientists who are studying the native american culture and who have no vested interest in what Mormons believe or don’t believe–regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon, I will not attempt to lay out everything I have learned. Instead, I want to focus on my journey into disbelief.
In the previous paragraph, I mentioned that I wanted to learn more about my religion. It goes further than that, at the time I began researching historical aspects of the Mormon church, I was going through a major crisis of faith. I was praying, reading, and listening to General conference podcasts like no other person could believe. It was not working. I could not shove uncomfortable questions away; so, to alleviate my stress, I began doing what I do best when faced with tough questions: research.
Applying the research techniques and critical analysis skills I had learned at Brigham Young University (BYU), I read through countless research articles from both apologists and seekers of truth (who were usually believing members) on the Book of Mormon. Each presented clear arguments, but the apologists often went against teachings of the Brethren (i.e. quorum of the 12 and the first presidency) which led to further angst as I realized I needed to choose between the church’s hard stance on the truthfulness of the BoM or I needed to go with my gut and accept the conclusions from decades of research. As I have never been one to side with falsehoods, I chose science.
As with all choices that lead one away from their upbringing, this hasn’t been an easy exit. I am very happy with my conclusions, but I am still working out what I learned as a child with what I know as an adult and trying very hard to not feel bitter toward the half-truths and outright lies I learned in various church forums. Naturally, answers beget questions and these are some rhetorical questions I have written down in my journal (the audience varies for whom these questions focus on).
If you have read the BoM, do you have a testimony of it’s truthfulness (in the claims it puts forth)? And why/why not?
Would you agree/disagree with my consensus that the BoM, with its outright declaration of white being “fair and delightsome” is an inherently racist book that propagated the horrible belief from the 19th century (and before) of the white race being the most advanced in all areas of development?
And, finally, is there a place for me, with my very doubting heart, in the Mormon church if I don’t believe the BoM is a sacred and true text? If I look at it like I see the bible: a wonderful story that has many applicable lessons with beautiful analogies but very limited historical accuracy? If so, do you think I would ever be allowed into the temple in the future since I cannot answer all the questions (regarding my testimony) with an honest yes/no?
I know many people have read the Book of Mormon and I am curious as to how you would respond to these questions. I ask these not with ill intent, but because I really want to know. If you are a true believing Mormon, please answer without defensiveness, believing in the Book of Mormon has probably helped you more than harmed you and I find your spirituality an important piece to who you are; however, do not ask me to read/pray/fast more for answers. I have done that part. Right now, I am trying to frame my upbringing with a positive light and seeking to understand those whose testimonies I once relied on especially if they have thought about these issues as much as I have.
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Specifically the article Critique of a Limited Geography for Book of Mormon Events)