Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Lure...

Mormonism promises eternal life with our loved ones in a perfectly resurrected state if we will live by the commandments revealed by the prophets. That promise is pretty great. I can't help but consider how that seems so similar to other lures in my life.

The Premise
Confidence men offer you amazing deals to draw you in to their confidence. The offers and promises are fantastic, and they present themselves as experts in their field of knowledge. Some will even present themselves as 'THE' expert to prove how it is that they can offer such promises while no others can. They have been studying, and experiencing and they know their promises and offers will be rewarding because they have experienced the promises and offers themselves.

Human nature pulls us in to listen, and asks us to give it a try. Human Nature requires us to listen out of fear, hope and faith that the amazing promise might actually be real. So we listen, we give it faith because we know that most men are honest and endeavor to help other men where possible. We decide to hear more to determine if the promise and offer is actually true.

We all need to save money and make the best of our lives with what we have, or perceive to have. So when we are looking for something, anything, we look for the best possible option. While we are looking, we encounter everybody's offerings.

Example 1:
Five years ago when I was looking for a new laptop, I looked at Dell, and Gateway and I found the make and model that I thought would work the best for me as a software engineer. Then I thought, I'll look at ebay as well. I found my make and model there and at a greatly reduced price. I had heard that you could get good deals from ebay, so I investigated more. This auction was different from most other auctions. The text read that in order to receive this unbelievable deal, I had to operate by the sellers distinct rules:
  • This auction was a closed auction.
  • You had to send an email to the seller to be approved to bid on the items.
  • You had to wire the money via western union.
  • You could use an escrow company for the purchase, but it had to be the escrow company the seller chose (EU Escrow), instead of the reputable escrow company ebay escrow.

The deal felt fishy, so I emailed the seller and we began to converse over chat about the deal. He was very upbeat and assured me that the deal was completely on the level, and he could even answer many questions I had about the laptop. But when I asked him if we could use an escrow company of my choosing, he adamently refused, claiming that it would break his perfectly streamlined business model and that he just couldn't do it. If I wanted this deal, I would have to adhere to his rules exactly. No matter what I did, I couldn't convince him. I didn't do the deal

Another example that points much closer is the following:

Example 2:
A year or so ago, I began talking with a neighbor of mine, well call him Johnson. Johnson occupied his time by providing financial advice supported by several financial products. These products included standard Life Insurance products and a new and exciting product that promised to provide future wealth to me and my wife and family. Johnson felt sure that this product would work. In a nutshell, he asked me to mortgage my house, take out the equity ($150K) and give it to him. He had an investment fund that would pay 2% every month. With the monthly money from that investment fund ($3,000/month), we would pay for the extra monthly payment on the house + a life insurance annuity that would build up and be very large when we retired. I studied it, read books, talked to Colleen about it and eventually decided that it was the right thing to do. I decided it sounded correct, and I also decided to place trust in my neighbor Johnson. I truly believe that Johnsonfelt this would work to help me become wealthy and him too.

Unfortunately, Johnson's plan failed. The housing market which his fund was based on plummeted and he had to stop the 2% monthly payments to all of his investors. It got bad for him and me really quick, eventually causing him to lose his house, and me to make major cutbacks and take on another job.

Comparison:
This reminds me of Joseph Smith on so many levels.
  • He offered eternal life with our families.
  • He felt he had been blessed from God to reveal the plan that would make it possible for those who would follow the plan precisely to achieve eternal life. Joseph outlined the plan fairly intricately to his investors/followers.
  • He had plenty of reason to think that he was exclusively qualified to present this plan because of past experiences with both magic and other supernatural & divine experiences.
  • He had the trust of those around him, and they trusted him too.


In the end though, Joseph Smith revealed parts of the plan to produce eternal life and everlasting marriage that were just too expensive for his followers and these turned out to be his downfall and he was murdered for it:
  • He required investors to take on plural wives as directed by him or their bishop.
  • He required them to promise to agree to give all they had to the investment group.
  • He began trying many different things to hold it all together.

The implementation of the plan began to crumble, and Joseph did too. He lost everything, and so did many of his investors. They became very angry with him for his lust for the flesh, and his inability to continue to guide the group to prosperity. He created cities and financial organizations that he promised would prosper and bring prosperity to all those who were part of it. None would be excluded. These organizations didn't prosper, they crumbled.

Conclusion:
Draw your own conclusions if you'd like, but for me, I don't believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I don't believe he was completely intellectually dishonest with himself at first, but it seems that at some point he should have figured out that it wasn't working out anymore and that he was mistaken. If there is a God, he wasn't directing Joseph Smith to command his followers to take plural wives. He wasn't helping him find buried treasure. I don't blame folks for following him. I did as well. The promises were amazing, and I wish that they were true. I wished so much that they were true, that I forced myself for so long to ignore evidence that they might not be true. But I can not ignore the evidence anymore. Now I must do with the evidence the same as I did when I figured out that the laptop couldn't be mine. The man didn't even have a laptop, he just wanted investments for his own gain. I have cut off communication with that man, and I don't give anymore money to Johnson either. I don't give money to the church and I don't contribute my time to it either.

4 comments:

Victoria and Mark said...

In no way do I wish to begin a back and forth discussion about this. I have read your posts. I credit you for your honesty to yourself. I have walked that path too, from age seven until twnetyfirst year, but mine ended where yours began. For me, I only know that something false or unreal could never have done to me what my baptism did. It cured a life long mental illness. But that was the result, not the path. And my husband's experience is even more astonishing. I have walked every inch of it and turned over every stone. I could tackle each one of these issues with you, as I did before my baptism, having begun my study of Mormonism from the anti-camp in my teens. But what good would it do? Keep walking, Brent.

Brent said...

Sometimes it's more like crawling. I understand that people have all sorts of personal anecdotal reasons for believing one thing or another. Of course they should. When it comes to what you believe, it is usually your life's personal experiences that can form them.

And yes, you could tackle each one of these issue with me, as you did before your baptism. It wouldn't be a bad thing, and I wouldn't be offended.

I hope to retain my friends through this, even though I understand that I might begin to lose some who don't agree and refuse to interact with those who have differing beliefs. I wouldn't think that you feel that way, especially after summarizing your 'trail'.

Do you mind if I ask you a question, personal miracles aside, how is it that you can reconcile Joseph Smith's extra-marital relationships with Fanny Alger, my great+++ grandma and as many as 8 others who were already married to other men? Somehow you thinK that God would reveal to his prophet this kind of thing as a commandment?

larksong39 said...

I've studied and studied about Joseph Smith. I've come to believe that in the beginning he was sincere in his desire to bring a higher level of spiritual life to his family and those around him. I believe that he was probably gifted with insight and psychic abilities. I am coming to think that he may have had some information channeled to him (similar to Abraham-Hicks) from spirits in the spirit world because some of his first ideas were quite good. But, I believe that he went off the path, so to speak, and his ego took over when he got his ideas that led to his taking other wives, bringing great sorrow and pain to his wife. In no way could I see that this was from God. I think we can be subject to the influence of other spirits or powers in the spirit world(s) and particularly so if we have a desire to do something that's not accepted. If a person says that he received direct revelation from God, and believes it himself, then that person can feel that anything he does is justified. And there are always gullible people who will believe; or maybe it's not that they are gullible so much as they want the same justification for things they want to do. To be able to have what you want, feeling that God approves, even when it's against the law of the land--what a power!

Joe Budro (in honor of Sam Taylor) said...

Hang in there with your search, Brent. Every soul on this planet is on a different path, and all come to their own truth for a reason unknown to anyone else. Follow your heart, wherever it leads you. Ask for truth, nothing more. You may not like the answers, but you will find your truth.