Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Our Age of Ignorance and Mormonism

Our Age of Arrogance

We live in a time when we have more access to education and information than all the previous generations combined.  All our children are provided free and appropriate public education no matter what their disability or handicap.   All of our children are taught to read and write.  Arithmetic is covered in the primary grades and algebra in middle school.   Our education system teaches science, history, government, music, and art.  By the time our children become adults, they have been exposed to more information and ideas than most colonials had in their lifetime.  

I hold in my hand a portal to more resources than the Library of Alexandria contained.  On my cell phone, I have 55 digital books written during the early years of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons).  I found these books with minimal effort and obtained them for free.  On my computer, I have bookmarked or downloaded hundreds of sources discussing Mormonism: webpages, journal articles, newspaper articles, blogs, and, even, videos of lectures.  The abundance of resources are almost overwhelming. 

Until a few months ago, I had only the most rudimentary knowledge of Mormon history and Mormon beliefs.  Like most things in our current age, I had a simplistic view of Mormonism and many false assumptions.  The LDS (Mormon Church) has promoted these overly simplified images.   As I read, I quickly learned how little I knew of actual facts and Mormon theology.  

My early understanding of Mormonism went something like this:

During the early years of our country, a man in New England area claimed to find gold plates with another version of Christianity where Jesus visited the New World after his resurrection but before his ascension.  These plates were translated and then disappeared.  So far, I am not too far off the mark.    Joseph Smith, Palmyra, New York, late 1820s.

I never believed these plates ever existed but I thought the beginnings of Mormonism was a pious movement similar to the Amish.  They had their own beliefs and ways but were basically a sect of Christianity seeking to live according to the teachings of the bible.  I pictured Joseph Smith as a trained preacher who only used the "plates" to inspire his followers.  I also assumed that the people who followed him didn't know any better.  I assumed that once evidence was presented about the plates being false, they would abandon Mormonism.  I assumed that public in the 1830s and 1840s was unaware of this movement and no attempt was made to educate the misguided followers.

I was wrong.  Very wrong.  From almost the very beginning of the Mormon movement, people have actively attempted to stop it and expose Joseph Smith as a fraud.  Books and articles were published.  Lectures and debates were held.  People even submitted legal affidavits detailing their knowledge about the fraud.  Despite all this, Mormonism persisted.

As I read the sources from the 1830s-1860s, I am struck by how hard people tried to stop Joseph Smith and his followers.  So many times I have read passages in which the writer assumes that Mormonism will be a short-lived phenomenon.  One writer said that in a hundred years people will look back at Mormonism and be horrified that it even occurred at all.  Like me, they assumed that once the truth was known, no one would follow such a false faith.

With the whole world at our fingertips, there is no excuse for the continued existence of such farces and cons.  We should be a society with fewer cults, fewer scams, and fewer con artists.  Instead they are flourishing at an astounding rate.  There are thousands of groups that qualify as either a high demand/ high control group or an outright scam.  How on earth is this possible?  Every one of us can do quick internet searches of groups before we become involved.  We can quickly see if there are any negative articles, any legal issues, any people denouncing the group.

When a friend of my son was offered a job that sounded too good to be true, I researched it for him.  Within an hour, I had information detailing the deceptive sales practices and a long list of complaints from former sales people.  I was able to tell him exactly what to expect when working with this company and it was not easy money as advertised.  He chose to try it anyway and found what I said was true.

Just last weekend, a college student told me about an unsolicited email he received offering him a job.  I immediately thought it was a scam.  He gave me more information about the person and the company.  This time I found nothing.  That was a big red flag.  No researcher who supposedly graduated with a PhD from Yale goes completely unpublished.  Publish or perish is the mantra of academia.    

There are no more excuses for the Mormonism.  There is no more hiding the facts.  Primary sources exist that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Joseph Smith was a liar and a fraud.  Brigham Young, at best, preached violence  and, at worst, ordered a massacre.  

The information is there.  We need to stop being blinded by faith or tradition.  We need to think for ourselves and research for ourselves.  We need to protect ourselves from cons, cults and deceptions.  With the whole world of information at our fingertips and our system of education for all people, we have no excuses for gullibility and blind faith.  

No excuses.  Blind faith leads to destruction.    

Mormon Fraud: A Brief Summary of Mormonism and its Deceptions - Kindle edition by Kristan Payne. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.