I posted this picture, to the right, on my Facebook wall recently, along with this language: “Understood this in a much different, and less powerful way in the past… One of the most important requirements in living a deeply authentic and happy life, in my opinion!”
Among the handful of people that made a comment, was my long time friend Doug who was a missionary companion of mine…and our families have been close over the years, and we have MANY great memories together. Because I have had the experiences that I have in the past year and a half, and have learned of some things that have been absolutely shocking to me, I have decided to respond to Doug’s comment, but I knew that it wouldn’t fit in a Facebook post. And, because I have been fairly silent over the recent months, and I have had so many people asking us so many questions about what the latest is, and I have gained new insights from cordial yet candid conversations with high level Mormons, I figured another blog post might be most efficient. So, the following started as a response to Doug’s comment, but it came together for anyone who may want to know. It is with a most sincere love in my heart, for so many people, that I write this.
For reference, here is Doug’s comment he made on my posting of that picture:
Look unto me in every thought, doubt not. Fear not, D&C 6:36 As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9. Awesome principles and truths!!!!! Love you my friend!
WARNING: Sensitive new information unknown by most about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you are someone who would not like to know this information, then you may want to pass on reading this post.
Doug, although I know your heart is good and that you most likely have positive intentions here, I thought it may be helpful for you to know my thoughts about where I am in my life, and also about you using my Facebook wall to proselyte your belief that those words you quoted are actually scripture that come from a divine source. The last real substantive conversation we had was by email about a year ago, and you never came back to the conversation like you said you would, saying to me that you would answer my sincere questions about the role of a historian, role of a scholar, value of objectivity, etc…, then never doing so, presumably because you realized the communication of your logic had fallen apart about Kerry Muhlestein’s self-admitted unwavering allegiance to his confirmation bias regarding the Book of Abraham. Looking at the BofA with a fuller definition of integrity and courage, it screams fraudulent at every level…like each and every one of the church’s fundamental truth claims…when put under an honest attempt at objective scrutiny. Meeting with Marlin Jensen, repenting multiple times a day trying to make sure there wasn’t anything making us unworthy, and studying our hearts out to try to prove the church right, we tried to find at least one claim. But there is not one single truth claim the church makes that is clean. They are all dirty. And now it is a 100% verifiable fact that there has been cover-up after cover-up, decade after decade. They are admitting some of it…with really flimsy wordsmithing, but admitting some of it nonetheless.
At first, we just really thought we were just being tested, and that we could find at least something, at least one way to hang onto what we had come to treasure as our most valuable asset–our precious belief, faith, and testimony.
Unfortunately Doug, those selected verses you posted in your comment contradict several other verses which creates, among other things, massive cognitive dissonance, a requirement for placing confirmation bias above evidence, and also the breaking of the law of non-contradiction. These other verses of ‘God’s word’ I am referring to, instill deep fear into the mind of the believer, threatenings of the darkness of being ‘cast out’; wo’s pronounced if there is any mocking of the men called Prophet’s; you will be led by Satan; you will be as chaff driven before the wind; threatenings of being burned; eternal/everlasting punishment; damnation to our soul; vengeance; condemnation; the list goes on.
Referencing the scripture in Isaiah is one of the common go-to copouts that I have seen a few of the apologists at FAIRMormon try to use when substantive conversation isn’t working in their favor. “…so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” It doesn’t stand to reason, or make any sense whatsoever that a god who created us deliberately with the limited capacities he designed, and the wide array of social constructs, and the attached seemingly insurmountable pressures that come along with them, that he would have the foreknowledge of, would play a warped mind game like that. Keep in mind what we taught on our mission to be ‘The’ Plan of Salvation and the purpose of our mortal life, and the accompanying scriptures like Alma 12:24…
…nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God;…
doesn’t fit way over 99.999% of the world population throughout the history of the world. Almost every single child of god throughout the history of the world doesn’t fit ‘The Plan’, and it all has to get chalked up to the ‘Millenium’? This isn’t what scriptures say, and this appears to become watered down to the point that the “mortal life” part of “The Plan” is so insignificant that it makes it meaningless for almost everyone.
Honestly think about this for just two minutes with a best attempt at objectivity. In thinking about it for very long periods of time, really wanting to cling to truth whenever and wherever I could find it, the only thing that started to make sense was to stop trying to fit the square peg into the round hole. In those private moments of personal hell, I reminded myself what I’d heard over and over again since my youth, “Integrity is doing what is right, NO MATTER what the consequences are.”…and, “Courage is one of the noblest of virtues.”
It was in these scary, yet genuinely self-honest moments, the lights came on. Light was finally able to illuminate that particular darkness I had been mentally wrestling with. My anguished and thirsty-for-truth mind flooded with common sense, with reason, with rationality, with logic, with clarity, and most importantly, with peace. My fear was still there at that time, but the mental and emotional stress from trying to bend all my honest thoughts out of shape was gone. I wasn’t being tormented anymore. I had already verified that the new information wasn’t just lies from Satan trying to lead me astray. It was verifiable truth that changed all the definitions for almost every single thing I had learned and taught over the years…new information that proved that there have been gross cover-ups, deceit, wordsmithing, and mostly all revisionist history pushed forward. I thought about the much larger populations of people in other religions view their contradictory doctrines equally, if not more, emphatically, and the similar ways that I could see them dissociating from anything that contradicted what they taught.
Because it causes cognitive dissonance to think about it, and what kind of God would require such mental gymnastics, absurdities, inconsistencies, etc. to do it like that, most members that I’ve talked to about it, just want to change the subject, and talk about their undeniable “witness”…in very similar ways that I used to do. I can understand, but with new information comes new opportunities to vet believed “truths”. Wouldn’t God be on the side of truth? Within my basic understandings of belief that I used to have, setting aside the scare tactics and fear mongering, the bold claims of truth, revelation, answers, miracles, knowledge, wisdom, our God-given individual agency, wouldn’t you be able to shine the light of truth on any cloudiness that Satan tried to deceive you with. It boggles my mind that, with the basics of what is taught about Integrity, and Honesty from primary classes on, that most members are not even willing to look at information, and have conversations.
I say this with so much tenderness, and empathy, because I know how difficult it is because of what we have been taught. But, I have a much stronger “testimony”, if you want to call it that, and with “further light and knowledge”, if you want to call it that, I “know” in a more realistic, informed, and excuse free way, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is just another man made religion, and its members are in the same kind of identifiable mind control of other religions. Now, having been liberated from it for a while, and able to really get a good feel for what it is like completely on the outside, it is astonishing, yet very understandable (because I have been there) how so many people are trapped in these kinds of self-sabotaging thinking traps. Now that I have vetted several things up the ying yang, it is more than astonishing, it is also a travesty, irrational, and downright weirdness…just like I used to view several of those “other churches” out there. I am not referring to everything in the religion. Obviously there are some good fruits, and I love those. But, I have learned the things that are good about Mormonism are not at all unique, and the things that are unique about Mormonism are not all good. There are bad fruits that come from it. People are harmed and are suffering because of Mormonism. I was never willing nor able to think that thought before, but in those self-honest thinking moments, it becomes clearer and clearer. Now, since we spoke publicly about our story, having talked to well over a thousand people myself, hearing their stories, and feeling a portion of their pain with them, I now can see how bad and how horrible some of those fruits really are. ‘All is not well in Zion’ seems to have become the understatement of the decade.
Any organization that will not let you leave with your dignity in tact, is by definition, a cult. With my very best attempt at integrity and courage, I now know from first hand experience that Mormonism crumbles under even small amounts of honest scrutiny, and indeed fits that description. Members, though many ignorantly happy like I was, live in fear of speaking up, in fear of thinking for themselves, in fear of questioning (that would be one of the worst and most horrible behaviors… to speak evil of the Lord’s Annointed), in fear of the social, mental, emotional, and spiritual repercussions that have been warned they will experience. “Stay on the boat”, etc. The absolute line gets drawn… The protection of the Church on one side, and being tossed to and fro under Satan’s power on the other.
Modern Mormonism has been built, by accident or design, with very strong and specific language that places high levels of pressure on members if they even think about vocally questioning the official narrative. I was deep, deep, deep within this mindset, and without what I know now to be verifiable actual proof, I would have never been able to see it or admit it. Having seen the difference for quite a while now, I can’t express eloquently enough with words how beautiful it has been to have been liberated from the limitations of my ability to think for myself…to be honest with myself…to be willing to challenge my own conclusions from every angle. It has enriched my life in so many positive ways. RuthAnn has expressed to me several times how incredibly grateful she is to feel safe and secure while honestly questioning the wonder of this life without restraint. Each of our older three kids have come to us and thanked us for resigning all of our memberships instead of keeping our names on the roles. They express gratitude that they are allowed the freedom to think and be without the pressure from us or leaders to conform. We love that we are able to own our own core values, instead of being told what they are. It feels more authentic, more honest, and if feels incredibly good to be building a healthy and genuine life. We all now have our own ‘testimonies’ of how mentally and emotionally healthy it really has been. We were warned so emphatically over and over it would be the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying its all been wonderful. We’ve dealt with lots of pain and heartache associated with loved ones judging us instead of asking questions, and from some mistakes that we’ve made in dealing with all of the social complexities along the way, but despite what we were warned would happen to our lives, we’ve had so many moments of pure joy, deeper love, more humility, and we have real peace with where we are and the life we are building. Overall, we feel safe, secure, and authentic peace.
Though I acknowledge some definitive collective and individual benefits to what could be considered obedient behavior in society, I have become acutely aware that the picking and choosing of ‘scripture’, within the “obedience is the first law of heaven” paradigm, licenses a variety of behaviors that are not good for humanity in many ways…things that I readily dissociated from in the past, but am no longer willing to do, because I have seen so much suffering of honest and honorable people.
I feel that a part of love, is standing up for injustices when we become aware of them. This happens not only within Mormonism, but within many other groups. Many Mormon’s, agreeably out of love, are full of compassionate thoughts when they see other people who don’t have what they have, or who may not have the ‘fullness’ yet. But, the unwillingness of the Mormon to challenge their own beliefs stems from somewhere. Aside from any of the talks about confusion, and who the author of lies and confusion is, upon a quick search on the church’s website you can find a whole smattering of conference talks and scriptures that are at the heart and soul of this. When viewed at face value in relation to the modeling for mind control, they are by definition scare tactics and fear mongering. (i.e. temple recommend question “Do you associate with…” ; “Don’t criticize leaders…even if criticism is true”.-Oaks ; “if you want your testimony to grow, bear it often” – whether the leader understands they are doing it or not, this is a classic mind control technique that has been used by many groups that have been on the wrong side of history, and actually now verifiably bad for humanity; Satan is the author of lies and confusion–now proven to be the church’s own teachings; Ad hominem attacks attempting to discredit the questioner instead of addressing subject matter- Holland, Bednar, Oaks, Ballard, Perry, Packer, and now Christofferson have all become notorious for this…etc…)
If you truly desire to have a relationship with me, my preference would be to have you love me right where I am, right now, without attempting to get me to come around to what you presume is your special way of believing, or using my Facebook wall to bear testimony, or anything else of the nature. Having been over a year and a half now, I am a personal witness to myself, that your analogy about trading a spotlight for a flashlight regarding the gift of the holy ghost, has been, in a very dramatic way, the complete opposite. If you could only spend a week with me, you would understand what I mean in a much clearer way, and I would like to hope that you would be willing to back off of that horribly erroneous belief. Those scriptures and teachings that led you, and me to that belief are wrong. I now know that with 100% absolute clarity, for myself. Because you haven’t been where I’ve been, I hope you can see why I am bringing that kind of judgment to your attention. You can choose to still believe that, as that is your prerogative, but I can assure you that any attempt to articulate anything like that to me again would only be absurdity in my mind, as I now have been within both paradigms, and have learned that the threatenings were not based on truth.
I want to respect you right where you are, but if you are going to, in a drive-by manner, communicate with me regarding topics that I have now seen a whole other side to, and I can now see are divisive and hurtful in nature, I will take it as an invitation to authentically communicate my perspectives. I know how I would have interpreted that in the past, and I know that some people will view it as attacking their beliefs. But, that is not what it is, at all. I am not the one making fundamental truth claims. The burden of proof always rests with the one making a truth claim. So far, I haven’t had any PhD, any Prophet, and General Authority, any Stake President, anyone, back up any truth claim with anything more than logical fallacies, ad hominem attacks, illogical double speak, and licensing their bad behaviors with ‘feelings’ and ‘personal witnesses’. For a very long time, I had all those same kinds of “undeniable” feelings, but I have now learned that so many other people, even in more emphatic ways are also claiming the exact same thing, even though it is in complete opposition to the truth claims of Mormonism. What kind of God would require or allow illogical, irrational, dysfunctional, weird, doublethink, doublespeak, victim glasses/persecution complex mentality, to back up the story of who He is, and how to believe in Him, and how important that belief and faith is to your everlasting condition? I call B.S., because when you look at it honestly, and heat it up, even just a little bit, that is what it boils down to be.
When looked at with a best attempt at intellectual honesty, organized religion appears to be nothing more than organized superstition-some more superstitious, believing, mystical, good, bad, helpful, harmful than others. Most Mormons are staunch Atheists regarding the other 999 Gods out there being worshipped–all very very different from each other, yet they can’t even comprehend the concept of being an A…theist because of how the word has been demonized… through repetition, scare tactics, and several other types of mind control. I have also learned how brain chemistry is different for everyone, and when these kinds of feelings come from the amygdala or other parts of the brain, the most common behavior is to create meaning and try and protect confirmation bias and other forms of filtering. These protections of our perceived need to be right or certain is not based on a human need, rather gets it’s origin in our fears and insecurities that get their origin primarily from social constructs. Having been there, I know some things that I couldn’t ever see before. My arrogance, of having been “chosen”…my having things “figured out”…my certainty about how God speaks to me (How to hear my Father’s voice)…all stemmed from the teachings about being special, noble, chosen, valiant, etc. I have now learned how wrong I was, and how blissfully ignorant I truly was. I feel so much better about myself now than I ever did within the ‘Chosen’ paradigm.
Several people ask me, “So then Kenn, what are you?… or, What do you believe now?” I am not an Atheist. I am not a believer. I am not a non-believer. I am not an Agnostic. I am not any label or stereotype. I am just Kenn, and I am as honest and sincere as I know how to be about what I have been discovering once I took off the persecution complex goggles, did my best to give a fair shake to information I had encountered…and decided that I care more about reality than what my perception of it, at any given moment, may be. I left the fear that I didn’t even realize I had with me all those years. I am ‘Open’.
Please don’t misinterpret my thoughts here. I really do hope that you take all of my comments in the positive standing-up-for-injustices-as-a-part-of-love flavor they are meant. I am really trying my best to live: Love above ideology; Relationships above theology; and Human connection above belief.
I know this may be a difficult concept for you to really allow as a possibility, because I once thought much like you, and I know I would have had a hard time thinking that it was possible. But, in the most authentic way, me, RuthAnn and my amazing kids are much happier 100% outside of the religion. Not that I don’t have my bad moments like most, but overall, I am MUCH happier than I ever have been…and actually those bad moments have dramatically decreased…and I’ve realized most of the bad moments when I encounter judgmental individuals, or when I see someone in a position of authority engaged in some awful behavior that is causing actual harm to someone else. Because I am a personal witness to my own experience, and because I have seen so many real people needlessly suffering, I am 100% convinced that the world is not really divided up between the believers and the unbelievers of whatever may be somebody’s most special way to believe.…even though vast segments of the world have this kind of paradigm.
I can’t, in all honesty, agree with any form of attempting to convince people that the world really is divided between believers and the unbelievers. I have found it more than just difficult to accept any scripture, doctrine, dogma, belief, faith, teaching, that promotes any form of ‘forsaking’ relationships for a belief system because there will be some reward after death. Analyzing this from every possible angle that I know how, it is irreconcilable, and doesn’t fit into Love being the proclaimed central narrative of the belief system. Even though there are many great things that are done and believed by people in religion, and there is much good that comes out of it. I have learned from personal experience, this underlying divisiveness can be pointed to as one of the worst parts of humanity, and is the bedrock origin for most of the worlds worst tragedies. I would have never been willing to see that when I was thick in the middle of it. In my personal experience, tough love, and loving from a distance, are weak excuses for what some people call love. I was a much worse parent when I was in the middle of it. My efforts revolved around getting my kids to conform to everything I believed came from God as the most important way to live. It was not with respect to their individual agency, nearly to the level that it is now. The kind of love that seems to fit best, with all of the people I have interviewed about it, inside of religion and out, is where I love someone right where they are right now…putting the relationship first. This doesn’t require any acceptance of cognitive dissonance or a watered down version of love.
I have learned from personal experience, that it is difficult for people, to do that within the ‘belief/certainty/absolutes is all important’ paradigm. Because of what I have verified to be the truer truth about Mormonism, I have learned, because I care so much, to illuminate any form of fundamentalism, absolutism, or black-and-white thinking that puts such an elevated status on belief, faith, and trust in leaders in front of relationships. That is not love! It doesn’t feel like love! It doesn’t sound like love. It is behavior typically licensed by allegiance to socially constructed belief, authority, and conformity. When I got to the point of asking myself, “If my beliefs really aren’t true, would I even want to know”, and then finally getting to the answer of yes, because of my personal convictions about integrity, courage, and authenticity, everything started to make the most sense.
Because our relationship has been so seriously strained, because of what I now can see clearly as the result of various aspects of mind control, I don’t know if you will be willing to consider my perspective on this or not. But I will try in the hope that the relationship can improve. To me, it seems like real friends are willing to put something as trivial as socially constructed belief in it’s proper place beneath the relationship. Doesn’t it stand to reason that real friends should be willing to candidly be intellectually honest to talk about anything and everything.If you care to know, I will tell you the crux of who I am. Because I now have a much different worldview than I did previously, and it has, so far, resulted in me being dramatically more humble/teachable-because I love discovering how I may be seeing something wrong, I am more full of love for people right where they are, more tolerant, more patient, care way more about reality instead of my confirmation biases, anchoring biases, sunk cost biases, and any other dissociation or filtering.
I care about people and doing my very best to discover reality. Certainly, if there is a God, then he or she or it would jive perfectly with reality…whatever that is, and not what can be definitively proven false…through a simple series of asking elementary questions. I have learned the benevolent God of Mormonism is easy to deconstruct. I am willing to be wrong about anything. Our confirmation bias, if we were born in some part of the middle east, would most likely license us to hating Jews, beheading Christians, and trying to rid the world of the infidel-“the Unbeliever”. I have learned from first hand experience how confirmation bias in some forms can actually cause horrific harm and suffering to honest people.
I was threatened and warned by leaders, and “sacred scripture”, that I would be leaving the protection of my covenants, and become dark, and be over in Satan’s territory. From now seeing these kinds of teachings harming so many real people and families, I now see many of the ways mind control is harmful. Because I am intimately involved in my own story, I have now learned that it is 100% fact that those scare tactics and fear mongering found in “scripture”, and from the mouths of men who I wholeheartedly believed to be Prophets of God, were not based on truth…like I really believed they were when I was within that belief. If you knew all of the things that I have verified to be more accurate now, and you were willing to accept them, despite powerful feelings that you’ve had (which so many other religious zealots claim as well that they use to license themselves to behaviors that hurt real people as well) you would know that it is literally impossible for the church to be what the leaders claim it to be. The truth claims are easily disintegrated by recent acknowledgments and the ‘current canonized scriptures’.
The church’s recent “disavowal of the Curse of Cain”, the curse of the dark skin, in the Race and the Priesthood essay, https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng while at the same time requiring members to fall into a huge thinking trap (leaving all of the narrative and doctrine in the current ‘canonized’ scriptures–that are supposed to be God’s word to us, the little people who need them and the church to stay out of Satan’s territory, so we can know the right and correct way to believe and behave), is one of many examples. This is not old information that has been hashed through over and over. It is a very recent acknowledgment. Also, it has nothing to do with the weaknesses of men, and everything to do with WHAT IS AND WHAT IS NOT ETERNAL DOCTRINE OR CANONIZED SCRIPTURE WITH A DIVINE ORIGIN. Think of the entire story of the Nephites and the Lamanites. Now, think of all the scriptures that come to mind regarding the curse of the dark skin. Two Sundays ago, we met for 2.5 hours in the living room of Marlin K. Jensen and his wife Kathy. We visited them with Hans and Birgitta Mattsson, who stayed at our home for several days before sharing their heart wrenching yet inspiring story in Salt Lake City. The Jensens were so gracious to meet with us, and we are very grateful for them, because it was refreshing compared to what we have experienced from most others. I can only imagine the internal struggle knowing what is asked in the temple recommend interview about associating with people who have made the decisions we have, and knowing that all four of us had spoken publicly about our discoveries, and also about our disaffection from the religion we had grown to love. Among many other things candidly discussed, when we asked Marlin and Kathy how this recent disavowal by the church of the Curse of Cain, can possibly be reconciled with the fundamental truth claims, Kathy didn’t even know what we were talking about, because she hadn’t heard about it yet. There was an awkward moment of her looking at Marlin, and me saying, “Marlin knows what I’m talking about.” Stumped for anything at all that could seem like an answer with any resemblance of reasonability, and Marlin trying to, at first, redefine what has been disavowed, ultimately ,they both said, “yeah….pause….mmmmm…. that’s a tough one.”
Honestly give that some deliberate thought for a full minute or two. Now ask yourself, “If the General Authorities and Modern Day Revelators/Prophets/Apostles/Seers of the church can’t answer simple questions about very simple and faith destroying contradictions within their own current canonized scriptures, and teachings, then could there be another explanation for my feelings, and what if it really isn’t ‘true’? Do I have enough integrity and courage, if that really were the case, to be honest with my loved ones?”
Kathy Jensen also didn’t know about how there weren’t any gold plates needed to be used for the entire translation process of the Book of Mormon we have today…but Marlin did, and apparently, he didn’t want to get into any details of how that creates a whole host of problems because of ‘approved’ correlated materials, because of Joseph’s and many other leader’s emphatic truth claims to the contrary, and because of the MANY scriptural claims, etc. Toward the end of our discussion, Marlin and Kathy both told us, “Well…you four have given us a lot to think about.”
By coming out and verifying the rock in the hat method of translation, which was used for all but the 116 pages (which obviously we wouldn’t be able to verify, and which creates a whole new host of major problems for the truth claim), instead of sitting at the desk and translating directly from looking at the plates with the specially prepared and preserved Urim and Thummim designed for that special purpose, like we have been taught since primary, we are now left to change our definition of what “translate” is, of what “Approved Sources” means, of what the word for word translation that has been detailed by Prophets of God to us, of almost everything about what we thought about it. We now need to ask why Laban had to be murdered…why all the finding and hammering out the metal, inscribing upon it, hefting it around for generation after generation, only to not really need to be used at all for the entire Book of Mormon we have today.
The church has excommunicated people that brought some of these findings up in the past, and now they are admitting the truthfulness of those exact things. Anyone who glances past this kind of thing, either doesn’t know the specifics, or they are apathetic toward the suffering of these real people, and their real families.
Now that we’ve taken a moment to process through that a little, I would like to ask you another very important question. Do you agree with what is being said by Ballard in this short video?
One of the most interesting observations I have made in my life, is that I have found the most peace in uncertainty, and the wonder of it all. Like I said, I now love proactively trying to figure out how I may be wrong. Another interesting observation, is that I have much less fear and insecurity. I feel all around more healthy socially, emotionally, mentally, and physically…again…things that I was threatened would be the opposite. I think it is very sad that, even though history has repeated itself so many times, and it is easy to see, when doing our best to look at it objectively, it is so wrong, and harmful to humanity for the vast majority of people go about their day to day life thinking they have things pretty figured out. Like I said, the most peace I have found, is in exactly the opposite. If you authentically want to connect with me, I authentically want to connect with you, unless, because relationships are two-sided, your reason is not really to connect in the way that I have attempted to describe.
Sincerely hoping for the best for us, and for you and your family,
For those who want to reference some of our other sincere questions that couldn’t ever be answered about the fundamental truth claims of the church, here is the link: http://www.linkingarms.org/questions-concerns-and-contradictions/
Feel free to send a friend request on Facebook, if we seem like the kind of people you’d like to connect with. https://www.facebook.com/kenn.sullivan We have made some of the most amazing and authentic friends. They have been very instrumental in our our therapy, and we are so, so, so grateful to have connected with them. You can also email at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org