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Ask a Mormon: Cognitive Dissonance and the LDS Faith

Rich Kelsey

Orange Morning Sun

 

"In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values." (Cognitive dissonance, Wikipedia)

 

 

Visits With The Elders:

 

(The following are accounts of meetings with LDS elders (missionaries) in 2014; and the Mormon spokesman who ran interference)

 

 

(First Visit):
 
The LDS missionaries came over along with an older LDS man. All three men sat through me reading the first article in my LDS Series (The Book of Mormon); then, they allowed me to read my short work about my Near Death Experience; then I quit reading and shared my Christian testimony.

At this point I asked the group if they had anything to share. The older LDS man was evidently the spokesman for the group. He talked for over an hour without addressing one point I made in my LDS article.

When he was finished speaking I asked the group if they knew who Josiah Stowell was. The older man said no. I asked if they knew who Joseph Knight was. The older man said no. I mentioned that those men were Joseph Smith's close associates, who were both at the Smith house when Smith supposedly got the plates and that Knight wrote a history (Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History) of the event which can be found @ the Maxwell Institute.

I mentioned that Knight claimed the plates went back into the box by some unseen power after Joseph Smith set the plates down then I asked the group if they had ever heard of that? (see documentation)

The older man said no.

I asked,

 

"Why is it that I know more about early LDS history than you?"

 

His response:

 

"If you want to begin a relationship with the Savior, then you should invite the elders over again because they are emissaries of Christ."

 

He said that after I shared my Christian testimony of a powerful vision and born again experience I had back in 1977, on the evening I asked Jesus to be my savior, other experiences I've had in God, a brief history of my Christian walk over the last 37 years, including four years of bible college, my divine calling as an author; and, my recent two and a half year ministry on the worship team of a local Spirit Filled Baptist Church. (my born again experience)

 

(sigh)

 

He then said that the elders held keys and had the Holy Spirit.

 

When I said,

 

"I am also an emissary of Christ and have received the Holy Spirit,"

 

the older man laughed.

 

I thanked the men for coming over and listening to me; I even told them I was proud of them for coming. It was kind of fun fellowshipping with the group; it wasn't all lecture.

 

...

 


Ask a Mormon Then Get The Runaround:

 

I did mention to the older LDS man that he did not address any of the problems I brought up in my article on the Book of Mormon, to which he replied,

 

"It was filled with supposition."

 

Then, he tried to cast doubt on the points I made in the article by saying:

 

"We know where the City of Zarahemla is!"

 

So, I asked him:

 

"Where is the City of Zarahemla?"

 

His reply:

 

"I'm not going to tell you."

 

I said,

 

"Why don't you just tell me where it is?"

 

His answer:

 

"Do an Internet search and you will find it."

 

So, I searched the Internet using the words,

 

"Where is the City of Zarahemla?"

 

This is what I found:

 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 2010 Book of Mormon Convention:

 

"Scholars gathered in Provo, Utah, to discuss their theories about where the events described in the Book of Mormon took place. Some placed the Nephite capital city Zarahemla in Mesoamerica, others in South America. Others argued for a setting in the American heartland.

 

The president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attended the two-day Book of Mormon convention. Although he found the discussion interesting, he was obviously concerned that people were getting a little too worked up about their geographic theories. He decided to intervene.

 

The Book of Mormon geography conference was held at Brigham Young Academy on May 23-24, 1903. But the advice President Joseph F. Smith gave at that conference 107 years ago could apply equally to current disputes over Book of Mormon geography.

 

'President Smith spoke briefly,' the Deseret News account summarized, 'and expressed the idea that the question of the city (of Zarahemla) was one of interest certainly, but if it could not be located the matter was not of vital importance, and if there were differences of opinion on the question it would not affect the salvation of the people...'" (The fight over Book of Mormon geography, Michael De Groote, Deseret News, May 27 2010)

 

Obviously, the LDS (Mormon) Church has no clue as to where the Book of Mormon City of Zarahemla is!

 

Therefore, it appears that the older man's challenge was just a diversion.

 

On the subject of Book of Mormon geography, renowned LDS archaeologist Thomas Stuart Ferguson spelled out: 

 

"…you can’t set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere - because it is fictional..." (letter to Mr. & Mrs. H.W. Lawrence, dated Feb. 20, 1976)

 

My article on the Book of Mormon comes to the same conclusion.

 

 

...

 

 

The LDS Spokesman Calls Me a Liar:

 

As soon as I finished reading part one of my LDS Series (The Book of Mormon) the LDS spokesman said:

 

"You didn't write that did you?"

 

I answered:

 

"Yes, I did."

 

Then he said:

 

"You really didn't write it; that's not your article!"

 

...

 

 

This is a typical ad hominem tactic: 

 

"... responding to arguments by attacking a person's character ..." (ad hominem, Wikipedia)

 

By accusing me of taking credit for another man's work, the man clearly called me a liar. While there is no truth in what he claimed, it made for a great distraction.  Yet, one might wonder if this accusation, along with his other behavior:

 

• rolling his eyes.

• laughing out loud.

• making false claims,

and,

• refusing to participate in a search for supporting evidence,

 

was really an appropriate way to determine if Mormonism is true?

 

What I wanted to do was talk about the Book of Mormon's final great wars of extinction: ◄(see documentation)

 

...

 

 

A Few More Details:

 

For the last 30 minutes the older man continued on in a,

 

"if you (me) want to be useful in serving the Lord,"

 

mode.

 

He was saying that there were three levels of glory and I was on the lowest level because I was not,

 

"one of us."

 

He said that while looking at the elders.

It was them vs. me: they had the glory and I didn't. So, at that point I asked the group if they ever heard of Joseph Smith's 1826 Glass Looking Trial? The older man answered,

 

"No."

 

I pointed out a few things brought out in witness testimony, such as the dead Indian who was watching over the treasure and how Joseph Smith saw that by looking into a seer stone. And, how that was the same type of yarn from which Mormonism was born — early American folklore. (see documentation)


When I asked the LDS spokesman to go to LDS.org and do a search for Joseph Smith's seer stone, his reply was:

 

"I wouldn't waste a moment of my time doing that!" (see search results) 

 

He expressed those words in a sarcastic manner.

 

When I said,

 

"Joseph Smith used a seer stone to 'translate' the Book of Mormon,"

 

the LDS spokesman rolled his eyes and laughed out loud!

 

 

The Day the Laughter Stopped?

 

One year later, during a 2015 Press Conference, the LDS Church released images of Joseph Smith's chocolate-colored seer stone and confirmed that it was used to translate the Book of Mormon: (see documentation)

 

 

seer stone  (Photograph by Welden C. Andersen and Richard E. Turley Jr.)

 

"The stone pictured here has long been associated with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon translation. The stone Joseph Smith used in the Book of Mormon translation effort was often referred to as a chocolate-colored stone with an oval shape." (Joseph the Seer, Ensign, October 2015)

 

 

...

 

(Second Visit):

 

In the first place, one elder was new. I did not ask what happened to the other elder. So, only one of the men was present during the last visit when the older LDS spokesman was running interference: rolling his eyes, laughing, etc. That man, by his use of body language, laughter, and flat out denials, tried to make it seem like everything I presented was a joke.

This time, the elders and I went through two more of my articles on the LDS faith:

 

What to say to Mormons at the door

 

and,

 

LDS Seer Stone Quotes;

 

those articles are chock-full of quotes about Joseph Smith's seer stones, mostly from past Ensign magazines, which verified everything I had previously said.

What I am / was wondering: Is the elder who was here during our first visit thinking:

 

"Wow, Rich was right all along?"

 

...

 

(Third Visit):

 

The LDS elders came back and we went through a Family Home Evening Lesson, Lesson One: Am I a Seeker of Truth, in its entirety. (go to FHE lesson)

 

These were not the same elders who came over the first time a few months back; first of all, one of them was replaced and then the other one; so yesterday only one of them had been over before. Therefore, I started by going through some material which was covered the last time to bring the new man up to date on Joseph Smith's seer stone history; which was the subject matter of our lesson.

 

We started by reading the first two pages of a BYU Studies work entitled Joseph Knight's Recollection of Early Mormon History in PDF format. The elders had no knowledge of Joseph failing to follow the spirit's instruction correctly by setting the plates down on the ground and not just taking them and going home. They did not know that Joseph was then instructed to bring his eldest brother with him the next year on the same day. (see documentation)

 

They had never heard about the plates going back in the box on their own. Nor, had they heard about Joseph looking in his glass (seer-stone) to see who the next right person to bring would be after his brother died.

Then we looked at a few quotes from Ensign magazines about Smith's seer stone use. Then, I read to them the entire FHE lesson. It was a brutal read. The tension in the room was so high that my dog sensed it and started chewing on his dog bed; which he never does.

 

yukon (Yukon)

 

One elder looked like his whole world was imploding; and, for good reason. Also, all the way through the read there were times when the family members (elders) were supposed to chime in with a response. No responses were given even though I turned to them and made it clear that they could interact with me in the read and that I might even modify the work based upon their input.

 

At the end of FHE Lesson One, where readers are deemed to be

 

"genuine seekers of truth"

 

if they go on to study more about the subject matter covered in the lesson, one of the elders responded to the challenge. Not the one who looked like he was in shock the whole time; it was the one who kept his composure. The answer he gave me was,

 

"No."

 

He was not interested in looking at one more Church approved quote on Joseph Smith's early history; or, his use of seer-stones to receive revelations. (see FHE lesson documenting JS seer stone use)

 

 

More to the story:

I then suggested we go outside where we could get some fresh air and share our ideas on what we just studied. That did not happen. I was immediately given the standard testimony of the Church being true based upon a witness in the spirit.

So, I gave my testimony:

I spoke of the night when I prayed and asked Jesus to be my savior and how a blanket of love surrounded me all through the night until the next morning.

Then, I mentioned about a month later I was praying and all of a sudden it felt like a huge river of water was flowing up my throat and out of my mouth; I immediately opened my eyes expecting to see the living room half filled with water.

I explained that later I read a passage from the bible which said:

 

"Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 'He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:37-38)

 

I went on to say that in my life I have brought many people to Christ; and, so I believe this scripture was fulfilled. Then, I looked at the Elders and said:

 

 "I too am a missionary."

 

At that point they did something I would never have expected: [Apparently] They fully accepted me as a brother. No longer was there a need for me to become a Mormon; they could tell, I already had a saving knowledge in Christ.

Was I disappointed that they were not interested in me reading the next study in my series?

 

No.

Because, I believe they were just trying to leave with their testimonies still in place; they will have plenty of time to think things over; and, I left the door wide open for them to come back.

 

 

The End of the Story:

 

During our visit I was told that it costs about $10,000.00 per year for each Elder to fund his mission and the one steadfast Elder said to me:

 

"It is well worth it!"

 

As he said that, I got the feeling that the Elder beside him was seriously wondering if his time and money were being well spent.

As for why they kept coming back, perhaps it is/was, because I am using all approved LDS quotes in my works and my attitude and demeanor is that of a good brother. However, yesterday the LDS quotes were much more eye-opening than the ones found in the previous studies and the study itself was rather long. It really pushed the men to the point of seeing something was seriously wrong with their faith; or, going into damage control mode and maintaining their faith as best they can. I would think that yesterday, learning what they did about early Mormon history may very well make the rest of their mission less glamorous: now their mission is to promote Faithful LDS History by hiding from and/or, ignoring what is spelled out in the actual records? 

 

 

We did meet again at the Seattle Temple grounds; the cognitive dissonance which was so obvious during that visit is documented in the article:

 

■ Preach My Gospel — A Guide to Missionary Service

 

 

 

Articles and LDS lessons which I shared with the elders:

 

My Near Death Experience
My Born Again Experience
LDS Seer Stone Quotes
The Book of Mormon
What to say to Mormons at the door
FHE Lesson "Am I a Seeker of Truth?"

 

 

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