Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Utah Lighthouse Ministry: An Example of Strength, Courage and Perseverance.

How many of us would speak the truth when it would open ourselves up to ridicule and threats?

Not many.  Most of us are too scared to make any waves in society.  Most of us will go along with the status quo despite either knowing it is wrong or having severe doubts about it.  It is much easier to just accept what authorities say than to question the facts behind it.  It is outright terrifying to question authority.

It is terrifying to oppose authorities in schools and in government but it is absolutely petrifying to question religious doctrine and practices.  People get defensive immediately when asked uncomfortable questions about their beliefs in God or why they believe a certain thing.  I have a great deal of difficulty discussing religion openly and honestly in my town.  I live in an area of the country that is predominantly fundamentalist Christian.  I am about as far from a fundamentalist as you can get and not be agnostic or atheist.  I question everything.

Jerald Tanner seems to have been a kindred spirit.  He questioned facts about his Mormon faith not to discredit it but to understand it better.  He did not stop questioning when the answering were troubling.  Instead he questioned further.  He and his wife Sandra Tanner felt compelled to share their findings with the world.

It would have been easier for them to simply quietly leave the LDS and forget all about it.  They could have spent their time enjoying their lives and spending time with their family.  They could have lived a comfortable "normal" life.   I thank God that they didn't.  Instead, they poured their resources, time and money, into further researching the history of Mormonism and sharing what they found.

I am a knowledge geek and love learning.  I am a trained anthropologist and scientist.  I read scientific journals and original sources whenever possible.  I have found the Tanners' works to be coherent, unbiased and thoroughly referenced.   I can check for myself to see if I agree with their conclusions.  

This morning I was on the Utah Lighthouse Ministry website.  I am writing a piece on the early events and wanted to check a few facts.  I can find the information I need in one of their papers and check their sources to confirm I had it right.  I have read so much that I forget where I read it.  I didn't realize I would be writing anything when I initially started researching Mormonism and didn't take notes.  I just flew through the material appalled at what I read.

As I read a piece, I scrolled to the bottom of the page.  UTHM had included many comments from readers.  Some of the comments were encouraging and thanking them for their work.  Others were downright mean.  I wondered if these people were reading the same articles as I was.  I found their work to be objective and non-judgmental.  I found lists of where the Tanners and the Utah Lighthouse Ministry had been threatened and sued.  

To me, a non-Mormon with no emotional involvement, the Tanners' work appears to be a wonderful source for early Mormon documents and articles explaining the LDS.  To a Mormon, the very suggestion that Joseph Smith could have lied is blasphemy.  When I began researching Mormonism, I assumed the early followers didn't know many of the facts surrounding the origins of the Book of Mormon.  I was wrong.  People have turned a blind eye to cold, hard facts from the very beginning of the LDS.

Many comments on the UTLM.org website asked why they felt it necessary to destroy other people's religion and why they are so hateful.  I don't think it is hateful to question religion's doctrine, origin, practices, or leaders.  We have every right to ask questions.  If the leaders don't want to be questioned, it should raise even more questions.  

No faith that can't stand examination is worth having.

God is the sum of all truths. 

The God of the universe can not be destroyed by facts.  

My questioning of Mormonism and why people followed Joseph Smith has led me to examine my own faith in a different way.  I am subjecting my own Anglican beliefs to the same scrutiny I would ask of a fundamentalist Christian and a Mormon.  It is not easy.  Questioning everything is scary but necessary.  Publishing and being public about findings takes a great deal of courage.