I'm a Mormon. I'm a Mormon who has a brother who began to research church history when I was about eleven years old. Pretty much all of our ancestors, except for the Swedish line, came from Nauvoo. Some of the things my brother told me about church history were far from faith-promoting. As a young adult, I had several friends who began to learn about the history we don't hear at church; they also began “searching for the mysteries”. All of these (my friends and my brother) left the church. I didn't. I was pretty good at “putting [things] on the shelf” and, besides that, I was acutely aware that the biggest mystery in my life was to know myself and overcome the sins that so easily beset me. I had no desire for any deeper mystery (and wasn't even sure that the mysteries my friends were seeking were the mysteries the scriptures were talking about).
I also read many “anti-Mormon” books. (It has been over thirty years since I've read them, so I don't remember a whole lot of specific examples from them.) I noticed several things about the ones I read:
First, there were a lot of “must have beens” thrown in. Sometimes it was a real stretch of logic to come to those conclusions. I saw no reason why something “must have been” from the evidence given. I could think of other “could have beens”.
Second, the books contradicted themselves. One example that I can think of right now is the book written by one of Brigham Young's wives. He lusted after her, she said. He was really wanting her sexually, the dirty old man. But, lo and behold, many pages later we find out that he married her. And her chief complaint was that he never (apparently not even once) had sex with her. Hm. So which accusation is true? If he lusted after her so much, wouldn't her complaint be that she couldn't make him stay away from her? Her other chief complaint was that he wouldn't give her money. She expected him to support her. In fact, it appeared that the only reason she married him was for money and prestige. In any case, she was bummed that he only gave her a house she could use for a rooming house to bring in her own money. Actually, that way, she wouldn't have to be dependent on him, begging for money – but that is a perception that was not appreciated until much later in American history.
Third, harmless things were depicted as horrendously evil. Joseph Smith was a money-digger. That means he dug for gold and such. Oooh, spawn of the devil, indeed! So, what does that make all of those people who followed the gold into California and Alaska? What does that make people in the past and present who mine for gold, silver, copper, diamonds, and so forth? And he believed in superstitious things. You know, things that we are far too “superior” to believe in today. Incredible, isn't it? He had faith in things unseen, like a child does until it “knows better”. I doubt angels and Gods could have appeared to someone too “sophisticated” and “advanced” to believe it possible.
Fourth, truths were depicted as lies straight from hell. For example, the doctrine that humans can, through repentance and the grace of God, eventually become gods, themselves. Yes, the devil told Eve that if she ate the fruit that she would become like the Gods, in that she would know good from evil. The devil was right; he just neglected to tell her that it was through excruciating pain that she would learn the difference. But, seriously, if God tells a truth, who was Joseph, and who is the church, to change the truth into a lie to make it palatable to the world at large?
Fifth, there were some outright lies. The woman who stated some things were never taught (like Jesus was never mentioned when she went to primary), ever. But, of course, she fell into the category of contradicting herself. She knew exactly what the “Mormon” church taught every Sunday even though she admitted in another part of the book that she rarely went. It reminds me of the woman I met on my mission who told me how evil the Book of Mormon was. When I asked her if she had ever read it, the answer was no. She'd never read such an evil book and she never intended to read it. Strange how she would know so much more than me about a book she had never read, but that I had read several times.
The books, I noticed, would suck people in on an emotional level. Once that happened, you'd be “good and angry” so that the inconsistencies and idiocies in the book would go unnoticed by your rational mind.
On my mission, my foundation got knocked out from under me, and I realized it had been based on being surrounded by an LDS environment. In Michigan, that environment was not there. So, my base of faith began to be built up again, being based on something other than environment.
Recently, I came across a book called, “Passing the Heavenly Gift”. I thought I could handle it, in light of my brother, friends, and the books I'd read. There were many parts of the book I didn't like. There were a couple of experiences I read that I could have gone my whole life without knowing, and I would have been fine and dandy about it. But the book lacked the anti-Mormon qualities. I don't recall any “must have beens”. I saw no contradictions. Things one might have considered “horrendously evil” were explained. Truths were depicted as true. There was nothing that I could see was a lie. And the best thing was that I could take Brigham Young off the shelf. I'm not any more impressed with him than I have been since I was 11 or 12, but I can accept him as a “legal” or bona fide leader now. He is no longer an enigma to me.
Oh, I've got to mention this: I recognized immediately that I am one of the “proud descendents of Nauvoo” and the label didn't bother me one whit. I am what I am. I was glad to wake up. I was glad to see things in a better light, even if it showed me that my ancestors were not quite as worthy to be worshipped as I had been taught. That doesn't diminish their suffering. It doesn't diminish their humanness. I don't think them worthy of anger or resentment. I'm not so sure I would have done any better if I had been in their shoes.
I like the original plan of letting every member of the LDS church believe the way they understand the gospel to be, instead of trying to force each member into a unified box, or having a secret committee like the Strengthening the Members Committee. I like the idea of letting my son have ear plugs if he wants them. I like the idea of a variety of clothing on the men each Sunday. Some men look terrific with beards and/or a mustache. I like the idea of being able to meet with friends to discus the gospel without an “authorized priesthood leader” around to make sure we aren't going “apostate”. I like the idea of seeing someone at church with a tattoo and admiring the beauty if it is an artistic drawing. I like the idea of accepting each other as children of God when we don't fit some preconceived and arbitrary mold. I have known demons who “dressed the dress” and appeared to “walk the walk” and “talk the talk”. I have known angels who not only didn't “look the part” but who were not members of my religion (or were not active members of it). (For the curious, I am speaking of mortals, not actual unembodied demons nor of angels from the presence of God.)
I love my God. I love my Savior. Jesus Christ has rescued me from hell. When He has sent true messengers, He has told me they were His if I asked. He has been opening my mind to the fact that we are all on equal ground, that not one person is better than another. True messengers are not to be worshipped nor idolized nor feared nor strictly obeyed. The message is to be listened to, heeded and probably strictly obeyed, but only after God has let us know it is a true message. Sometimes that message is not comfortable. Sometimes it tells us our thinking has been all wrong. But the honor and the glory go to the Man who has sent the message, not the one who has delivered it.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Jesus' church. It was restored through a bona fide prophet of God who was not only imperfect, but never made a pretense of perfection.
The leaders the church have now are bona fide leaders. They are there through our common consent. They are thus eligible for inspiration and revelation when it comes to guiding the church. Like Joseph Smith, they are imperfect, and should not make a pretense of perfection. If they have given anyone the idea that they are perfect and that every action they have and every word they speak is as if God, Himself, has spoken and acted I would think they would feel sorrow for that worship of men.
Jesus has not deserted this church. As far as I know, He has not deserted any soul who lives upon the face of this earth. He speaks to anyone who will listen, no matter what religion they espouse.