If I wanted to encourage thought and try to understand devout believers better, I might ask:
“Is it okay to make it difficult to understand certain things about the Church?”
Things to consider:
“There shall also be many which shall say . . . fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little” (2 Ne 28:8).
“There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest” (“Chapter 31: Honesty,” Gospel Principles, emphasis added).
“Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband” (admitted here by FairMormon, LDS apologists). This was published in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants in spite of the fact that Joseph Smith and others were practicing polygamy under Joseph’s direction at the time.
When asked by Time Magazine whether the Church still stands by the teaching that God the Father was once a man, President Hinckley said, “I don’t know that we teach it” (“Kingdom Come”), in spite of the fact that it was being taught in classes and published in manuals current at the time.
Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland got caught in a fib starting about 1:21 into the video below.
He could have simply said something like, “We don’t discuss the specifics of temple ceremonies outside of the temple.” Instead, he chose to tell an untruth.
“I think in the past there was a tendency to keep a lot of the [Church historical] records closed or at least not give access to information. But the world has changed in the last generation—with the access to information on the Internet, we can’t continue that pattern; I think we need to continue to be more open” (Elder Steven E. Snow, Church Historian and Recorder in “Truth in Church History”).
Look at this picture from the October 2019 Friend magazine
This is just one example of many found on the Church’s media website 4 Feb 2020 showing Joseph studying the gold plates, titled “Translating the Book of Mormon.” But the Church’s own essay, Book of Mormon Translation, admits this was not how he translated the book. Prior to that essay in about 2013, the rock in a hat translation method could only be found in a couple of articles decades old. Some might argue, “But these pictures are just artists’ renditions. The Church is not responsible for that.” The unstated premise seems to be that the Church could not, or would not edit art in their publications. Then what about adding cap sleeves on and removing wings from angels in this Ensign art?
(And, yes, the edited version is still on the Church’s site here on p. 54.)
In December a whistleblower disclosed that the Church has an investment reserve of $100 Billion. According to Roger Clarke, head of the company managing the Church’s investment holdings, the Church didn’t disclose the holdings because, “they never wanted to be in a position where people felt like, you know, they shouldn’t make a contribution” (“LDS Church kept the lid on its $100B fund for fear tithing receipts would fall”). This is an admission that the church leaders understood this to be a relevant piece of information for at least some members of the Church, and that they withheld the information precisely because of that. This lack of disclosure seems pretty dishonest according to the second bullet point above. Also, note my take on the relationship between disclosure and agency here.
When I told my never-Mormon mother about my disaffection from the LDS Church, I asked her what bothered her most about the Church. She said, “When you ask Mormons questions about their Church’s teachings, they are so often not straightforward in their responses. It’s as if they know it doesn’t make sense.” That’s a little awkward considering I had probably been one of those folks not being particularly straightforward with her about the Church at times. (To preempt the quibbling, both my mother and I know her statement was a generalization, not to assert that all Mormons do this, but that there is a tendency for many to do so, to the point that it seems a quirky cultural trait.)
If you could ask believers questions about the scriptures for this lesson, what would you ask?