Annotated Book of Mormon
Evaluated According To My Current Knowledge

Problem List my Bishop Requested

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Essay first posted on this site 1 June 2022

When I first came out as no longer believing in Mormonism, I met with my bishop (Mormon leader of a local congregation) to let him know where I stood. He asked me to send him a list of the problems or concerns I had with the Church. It’s not exactly a book (like the CES Letter), but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t expecting such a plethora of issues either. Since that time, my beliefs regarding deity have changed quite a bit. The problems I listed with Mormonism have never been addressed in a rational way by believing Mormons, as far as I can tell, except perhaps by some who might have said something to the effect of “I don’t understand that either.” What follows is for the most part what I emailed him in 2010. Most of the web links were not included when I sent it to him and the comments in light blue shaded boxes like this one are new. In addition, I corrected punctuation, grammar, and spelling since the original was sent.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes bold and radical truth claims about its divine authority. These claims are bold and radical, even among other Christians because they contradict many fundamental tenets taught by other religions. Examples of this include the nature of God, origins of man (pre-mortal existence), and the potential of men to become gods. In addition, the LDS Church’s claims are bold and radical because the Church claims exclusive authority to perform saving ordinances and demands strict adherence to covenants made in baptism and in temple ordinances inescapably linked to the Church’s teachings on eternal life. With the stakes so high, and the claims so bold and requiring so much of the Church’s adherents, it behooves a cautious look at the evidence for and against the LDS Church’s claims.

In some places in this document I have asked questions. These questions are rhetorical.

List of problems I see with LDS Church’s claims to truth and divine authority

This is merely a list and it is only partial. To treat each of these issues at length would require more time than I have available. Books have been written on single items listed here. It is not that the individual issues “make” the Church false. Rather I think the overall patterns of deception and illogical or improbable claims reveal the Church is merely another organization of men. This wouldn’t be a problem if the Church made no claim of divine authority. If this were the case, members of the Church could select what helps them serve or what works to make their life better without the guilt associated with not doing it all. However, I think the general leaders of the Church often speak so dogmatically, literally, and legalistically about things they know little about that they tend to harm many of the weakest and most vulnerable. I do not see the hand of God in this. I see men, however well intentioned, often hurting “the least of these” because there is little to no accountability for their actions and words. After all, “When the prophet speaks the debate is over” (N. Eldon Tanner, “The Debate Is Over”, Ensign, Aug 1979, 2).

Book of Abraham

Blacks and the priesthood

Book of Mormon – Anachronisms

Book of Mormon – Scientific Problems

(ignoring certain miracles for which one would not expect evidence to be found)

Other Book of Mormon Problems

Joseph’s Pattern of Deceit and Fraud

Polygamy

Temple ordinances

First Vision

Brigham Young

Homosexuality

Church Teachings in conflict with science where one would expect enormous amounts of scientific evidence

Joseph’s Hubris

Misogyny

Focus on the superficial

with all the critical challenges and issues we face, I find it hard to believe that God is really concerned about some things that seem so superficial. Here are some examples that I think are pharisaical.

Follow the prophet

We have the privilege to seek confirmation on the prophet’s teachings. How is it we can rely on our own ability to determine the truth regarding what prophets teach us, when the prophets get it wrong? If you don’t believe they get it wrong, then you don’t subscribe to the often-used defense that “they are not perfect”.

Shame

Legalistic, dogmatic, and conformist approach by general leaders of the Church leads to unnecessary guilt and anxiety of its members. In my opinion, likely associated problems include, drug abuse, addictions of all sorts, high depression rates, high anti-depressant use, high suicide rates.

Characteristics of a destructive, manipulative group

Similarities between the LDS Church and destructive mind-control organization. (Characteristics of destructive mind-control groups as outlined by Steven Hassan in his BITE model)

Steven Hassan developed what he calls the BITE (Behavior, Information, Thoughts, and Emotions) model to describe how destructive cults use mind control to manipulate their members (Read about Hassan’s BITE model at http://www.freedomofmind.com/resourcecenter/books/rtb2.htm).

Even as a believing member, I would have seen some of the similarities. As a non-believer, I probably see more similarities. The similarities are even more striking when considering the LDS missionary experience of young single adults.

Also, Hassan lists other characteristics in his books not listed in the BITE model like this description of religious cults. “What ties these groups together is their focus on religious dogma or spiritual practices. In many Bible-oriented groups (Jewish, Christian, Muslim), leaders claim to be a Messiah, Prophet, or Apostle” (emphasis added). Sound familiar? In other words, the BITE model is not the end of similarities between the LDS Church and destructive cults.

I do not think the LDS Church is a destructive cult as defined by Hassan. However, on a spectrum of destructive v. non-destructive organizations, I do think the Church falls closer to the destructive end than is good for its members.

The following is from Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves by Steven Hassan. My comments are in green.

The Evolution of the BITE model
There are three components to Festinger’s theory—control of behavior, control of thoughts, and control of emotions. Each component can be affected by the other two. It is by manipulating these three elements that cults gain control over a person’s identity. Through my experience working with former cult members, I have identified a fourth component that is equally important -- control of information. When you control the information that a person is allowed to receive, you limit his capacity for independent thought. These four factors, which can be more easily remembered as BITE (Behavior, Information, Thoughts, and Emotions), will serve as the foundation for your understanding of mind control.

It seems that Steven Hassan’s BITE model has grown some since I gave this to my bishop, so the outline below doesn’t reflect perfectly on the BITE model page I’ve linked to. The point remains though. I mean, think about it. How well do the characteristics in the model (past or present) line up with what you would consider a healthy organization?

The BITE Model

  1. Behavior Control
    1. Regulation of individual’s physical reality
      1. Where, how and with whom the member lives and associates with Think “missionary”. In addition, regular members are not to affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church. It dawned on me this year that if taken literally, I shouldn’t support or hang out with my family. My dad, and sister drink alcohol. They believe the LDS Church is not the only true and living Church. These and many other things they do and believe are contrary to the practices of the Church.
      2. What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears “missionary” or for regular members think “earrings”.
      3. What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects Word of Wisdom
      4. How much sleep the person is able to have Not directly applicable to LDS Church though a case could probably be made that with the time demands the Church makes of its members, the Church indirectly limits its members sleep.
      5. Financial dependence Not applicable to LDS Church

        I would now say the Mormon Church creates financial dependence for many of its followers. Some of the ways the Church promotes financial dependence are pressure to marry before being financially prepared, indoctrination to have many children, insistence to pay 10% of income as tithing as well as other offerings, guilting women for working outside the home, huge demands on time making it more difficult to earn extra income, teaching that most should not work on Sunday making it harder to get extra hours and limiting job opportunities, offering some financial assistance with strings attached.

      6. Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations Not applicable to LDS Church
    2. Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals Describes the LDS Church. I have a separate essay about Mormon time commitments.
    3. Need to ask permission for major decisions For the LDS Church refer to surgical sterilization in the handbook of instructions for an example of this. The handbook doesn’t say that members need to ask permission, but with the counsel it instructs leaders to give members, it is implicit.
    4. Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors This applies to general Mormon membership to some extent (home teaching, PPIs), but is much more an issue for missionaries.
    5. Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques - positive and negative). Mormon Church discipline. Missionary rewards programs to provide incentive to teach and baptize. However, I don’t think the LDS Church’s use of these techniques is as pervasive or systematic as it would be in many destructive cults.
    6. Individualism discouraged; group think prevails Totally applies to the LDS Church. Try walking in my moccasins if you don’t believe this.
    7. Rigid rules and regulations Though not as rigid as many destructive cults, the LDS Church shares this characteristic. Obviously, mission life is more like this.
    8. Need for obedience and dependency Though not as strict as many destructive cults, the LDS Church shares this characteristic. Obviously, mission life is more like this.
  2. Information Control
    1. Use of deception
      1. Deliberately holding back information Describes the LDS Church
      2. Distorting information to make it acceptable Describes the LDS Church
      3. Outright lying Describes the LDS Church
    2. Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
      1. Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio Not applicable to LDS Church
      2. Critical information Describes the LDS Church. The idea of a bishop’s prohibition on sharing church/gospel concerns with others fits this well.

        Stating, “The idea of a bishop’s prohibition on sharing church/gospel concerns with others” was a direct dig at the bishop who asked for this list. In our original meeting to discuss my realization that the Church isn’t what it claims, he told me he “prohibited” me from doing this. God, I wish I had that one to play over again. I basically said, “okay,” because I was so worried about my wife. Now, I might give a deep, but soft, chuckle, and say something like, “Somebody certainly thinks he’s the shit. Doesn’t he?”

      3. Former members Describes the LDS Church
      4. Keep members so busy they don’t have time to think Describes the LDS Church. This may not be intentional, but I believe it is a result of how busy a life style the Church promotes.
    3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines I think this applies to some degree to the LDS Church (milk vs. meat principle)
      1. Information is not freely accessible
      2. Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid
      3. Leadership decides who “needs to know” what
    4. Spying on other members is encouraged
      1. Pairing up with “buddy” system to monitor and control Think “missionary”
      2. Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership Maybe to some extent through the home teaching and visiting teaching programs and through PPIs.
    5. Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
      1. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc. Describes the LDS Church.
      2. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources Not applicable to LDS Church
    6. Unethical use of confession
      1. Information about “sins” used to abolish identity boundaries
      2. Past “sins” used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution
        In many cases when members confess “sins” to church leaders as taught to do, the leaders will discipline the members. Though it is not announced publicly, the discipline may involve refraining from very visible participation in church activities such as prayer or partaking the Sacrament. In a way, this could be worse than a public announcement of the sin because others are left wondering and speculating what the sinner did wrong.
  3. Thought Control
    1. Need to internalize the group’s doctrine as “Truth”
      1. Map = Reality Describes the LDS Church
      2. Black and White thinking Describes the LDS Church
      3. Good vs. evil Describes the LDS Church
      4. Us vs. them (inside vs. outside) Describes the LDS Church whether intended by general leadership or not. If you don’t believe me, visit a few High Priest Group meetings
    2. Adopt “loaded” language (characterized by “thought-terminating clichés”). Words are the tools we use to think with. These “special” words constrict rather than expand understanding. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous “buzz words.” Just a few examples, “apostate,” “anti-Mormon,” use of the word “contention” to shut a conversation down.
    3. Only “good” and “proper” thoughts are encouraged. Describes the LDS Church.
    4. Thought-stopping techniques (to shut down “reality testing” by stopping “negative” thoughts and allowing only “good” thoughts); rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism.
      1. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking Describes the LDS Church
      2. Chanting Not applicable to LDS Church
      3. Meditating Not applicable to LDS Church
      4. Praying Describes the LDS Church
      5. Speaking in “tongues” Maybe in the early Church, but certainly not now.
      6. Singing or humming Describes the LDS Church
    5. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate Describes the LDS Church. Again, “When the prophet speaks the debate is over” (N. Eldon Tanner, “The Debate Is Over”, Ensign, Aug 1979, 2).

      I don’t know why I didn’t include reference to Dallin H. Oaks’ “It’s wrong to criticize leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true.”

    6. No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful Describes the LDS Church considering the LDS Church thinks it has the fullness of the gospel. Others may have parts of it, but we have it all, at least all that is needed. Of the religious sects of Joseph’s time, the Lord told Joseph, “all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt”.
  4. Emotional Control
    1. Manipulate and narrow the range of a person’s feelings. Describes the LDS Church. I wouldn’t have said this until the October 2009 General Conference priesthood session talk by President Monson. “To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan . . . If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry . . . Anger, Satan’s tool, is destructive in so many ways.” He didn’t say getting bogged down in anger or that an anger fixation was a problem. He said to just “be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan”, that anger in and of itself is Satan’s tool. I believe anger is a natural and usually appropriate emotion, that it is what you do with your anger that is right or wrong. I think any relationship counselor worth the space he/she takes up would agree with me.
    2. Make the person feel like if there are ever any problems it is always their fault, never the leader’s or the group’s. Describes the LDS Church
    3. Excessive use of guilt
      1. Identity guilt
        1. Who you are (not living up to your potential) Describes the LDS Church
        2. Your family Not applicable to LDS Church

          I wasn’t raised in the Church, so maybe that’s why I didn’t see this at the time. I’ve read enough from former Mormons now to realize that many did feel guilt associated with their family because of the Church’s claims about those who do not believe or do not practice Mormonism “appropriately.”

        3. Your past Not applicable to LDS Church
        4. Your affiliations Describes the LDS Church
        5. Your thoughts, feelings, actions Describes the LDS Church
      2. Social guilt Can’t remember what this means; probably not applicable to LDS Church
      3. Historical guilt Can’t remember what this means; probably not applicable to LDS Church
    4. Excessive use of fear
      1. Fear of thinking independently Not applicable to LDS Church

        I had been a former believer for nearly two years at this point. Still, I didn’t see that the Church encouraged fear of thinking independently. That I didn’t see this at that point is just crazy to me now. This is exactly why I actually shook, after being a former Mormon for a year, when I finally decided to read the language from temple ordinances to study the changes made to the ordinances. Just crazy.

      2. Fear of the “outside” world Describes the LDS Church
      3. Fear of enemies Not applicable to LDS Church today except in considering Satan an enemy

        Here’s another one where it seems crazy to me that I didn’t see this as applicable to the Mormon Church. “The world” is the enemy, and that’s pretty much anybody except believers and those coddling believers. I can remember feeling some fear of the idea of living in an area outside of the Mormon belt because most people would be “worldly.” I get that not all Mormons feel that way, but if someone does not see the Church’s encouragement of this kind of fear, I think they’re blind to it or being dishonest about it.

      4. Fear of losing one’s “salvation” Describes the LDS Church
      5. Fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group Describes the LDS Church
      6. Fear of disapproval Describes the LDS Church
    5. Extremes of emotional highs and lows. I think this describes the LDS Church to some extent. Think “Trek” or “YW Camp” for positives.
    6. Ritual and often public confession of “sins.” Not applicable to LDS Church

      Well, not public, but certainly ritual. There is a pattern specified for what one must do to confess “sins” to specified Church authorities.

    7. Phobia indoctrination: programming of irrational fears of ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader’s authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.
      1. No happiness or fulfillment “outside” of the group Describes the LDS Church
      2. Terrible consequences will take place if you leave: “hell;” “demon possession;” “incurable diseases;” “accidents;” “suicide;” “insanity;” “10,000 reincarnations;” etc. Describes the LDS Church though not as strongly as described here.
      3. Shunning of leave takers. Fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family. Describes the LDS Church
      4. Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the group’s perspective, people who leave are: “weak;” “undisciplined;” “unspiritual;” “worldly;” “brainwashed by family, counselors;” seduced by money, sex, rock and roll. Describes the LDS Church

It is important to understand that destructive mind control can be determined when the overall effect of these four components promotes dependency and obedience to some leader or cause. It is not necessary for every single item on the list to be present. Mind-controlled cult members can live in their own apartments, have nine-to-five jobs, be married with children, and still be unable to think for themselves and act independently.

Evidence for the Church

The influence of the Spirit resulting in the testimonies of millions of individuals, including special witnesses, the apostles and prophets.

Assuming the Book of Mormon is true, the Church must be true.

Witnesses to the Book of Mormon (Three or Eight)

Joseph, a man with little formal education, could not have created the Book of Mormon. The book is too complex and millions of people have read it and accept it as the word of God.

The Book of Mormon uses Semitic structures like chiasmus.

Elder Holland’s impassioned testimony of the Book of Mormon in his talk “Safety for the Soul”, October 2009 General Conference

By their fruits ye shall know them.

The magnitude of evidence against the Church is staggering. The evidence for the Church boils down to a desire to believe and feeble attempts to explain glaring contradictions between Church teachings and observations of the world. Sure, the Church has a lot of good in it. So do a lot of other organizations, including other churches.

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