4 Signs You Have a Stronger Testimony of the Internet than of Joseph Smith


Recently, the LDS Church (my church) published online essays about the early practice of polygamy and particularly, Joseph Smith’s involvement with it. The Internet exploded.

It’s extremely hard to avoid the negativity, the anger, the confusion, and the assumptions that have been birthed at the publication of these essays. People think we Mormons are not only peculiar, but perverted. People think we’re not only confused, but delusional. And the world goes on as it always has, considering the existence of the LDS Church to be a sort of theological freak of nature. 
Personally, I don’t care about that stuff so much as I care about what my friends and family members are saying. I know some of you who are struggling with this. It’s hard to see some of your testimonies teetering near the edge because of what you’ve learned about Joseph Smith. It’s hard to see some of you claim that you no longer love the prophet Joseph Smith and that you feel the rest of us are insane to even consider him a man, let alone a prophet of God. It’s hard to see you investing in Internet articles instead of your own faith. 
Lately, it seems like many of us, if we were honest, would get up at fast and testimony meeting and say, “I’d like to share my testimony, I know the Internet is true.” If you believe that, it’s no wonder your faith is fighting an uphill battle.  
At a time when Wikipedia and Buzzfeed are considered to have more legitimacy than scripture or prophets, it’s important to realize when we are grounding our testimonies in truth or domain names. If your testimony of Joseph Smith the Prophet is shaking right now and you’re confused, it may be because you’re giving more credence to the world wide web.

Here are four signs that the Internet is stealing your testimony of Joseph Smith: 

1. You give more credibility to your favorite bloggers than to modern messengers of the Lord.
I’ll be honest. As an LDS culture blogger, I feel extremely satisfied when I publish my opinions and get a positive response. It feels good when people look to your thoughts to form their own. But does that mean I’m the number one source when it comes to the Gospel? Absolutely not. 
Frankly, you’d be hard pressed to find a blogger online who is 100% credible and right about all things Gospel related, because we’re just people who like sharing our opinions. Many of us think we’re right, yes. Many of us have put hours of study into our craft, yes. But unless we are bona fide church historians, leaders, or the prophet Joseph Smith himself, everything we say must be taken with a grain of salt. We are not the primary source. 
I know what you’re thinking, church critics. You’re thinking, “How can church leaders possibly be credible primary sources? They’re going to say whatever they can to paint a perfect picture of the church and its leadership.” 
The fact that the polygamy essays were even published negates that claim. The following statements made by President Uchtdorf in a recent general conference also negates that claim: “…the Church would only be perfect if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us — His imperfect children — and imperfect children make mistakes.”

I warn you that it is impossible for a blogger or writer with physical and, often, spiritual distance from church history, documents, and protocol, a blogger who has their own agenda and takes gratification in the thought of being correct or convincing, to be both credible and a primary source where Joseph Smith is concerned. It cannot be done.

If your qualms are related to the legitimacy of church leaders being the Lord’s messengers, then earnestly try seeking out the primary source where that is concerned: the Lord.

If you’re saying now, “Hold on. You’re saying that we can’t believe everything we read on the Internet, then why believe the essays?” Well, if the essays are authorized by church leaders and if you have the confirmation that church leaders really do speak with God, you do the math on that one. 

2. You read more Mormon apologist and “fringe Mormon” opinions than you do your copy of the Book of Mormon.

If you’re spending less and less time in your Book of Mormon, you’re spending less and less time building a sure testimony in Joseph Smith’s legitimacy as a prophet and translator. Plain and simple. Sure, I’ve seen some good things come from some Mormon apologists and fringe Mormons, but the time you spend reading their words should never overwhelm the time you spend reading the Book of Mormon.

I love the talk “Safety for the Soul” given by Elder Holland in 2009, because in it, Elder Holland notes that leaving the church requires you to crawl “over or under or around the Book of Mormon.” And it’s true! From a writer’s standpoint, the Book of Mormon astounds me. When I read it, I feel its power and truth and goodness. Just as the book itself notes that “every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (3 Nephi 14:17), I have to note that a good man helped bring forth this book, which I’ve always considered to be good. The irony is that the Book of Mormon itself gives us direction to know whether or not Joseph Smith legitimately communed with God as His prophet, and yet we spend so little time reading it and so much more time reading the opinions of people whose words are not scripture! 

In the kindest way possible, get off of Feminist Mormon Housewives and By Common Consent and get into your Book of Mormon if you want to know for yourself if Joseph was a prophet.  

3. You think of Warren Jeffs and molestation when you consider early practices of polygamy. 

I don’t claim to know the reasons for polygamy’s reinstatement, nor do I claim to know the ways in which it was practiced, though I must add here that the church website discusses economic and religious motivations rather than romantic. From my experience as a college student and a millennial, however, I know that the world teaches that the West was won by no heroes and that all of history is a whitewashed, politically incorrect hot mess.

What do I mean by that?

Well, we’ve gotten into the habit of looking at history through a 21st Century lens, and because we have, we see things at one angle. We look at the Civil War era South and see slavery. We look at Christopher Columbus and see a murderer of indigenous tribes. We look at the Salem Witch Trials and see a bunch of really stupid people. My old Constitutional Theory professor probably looks at Thomas Jefferson and sees a rapist. We pick out atrocities and perplexities that would not go unchecked in society today, and we’re really, really good at just looking at those things (which is not at all to say that they are right or justifiable).

The thing is that with our experiences and our society influencing how we think, we look at history and cannot see things in context, whether they are good things or bad things, right things or wrong things. It’s impossible for us to see them in context. 

I can’t help but think that in a decade when we’ve grown so used to hearing about, reading about, and seeing pictures of Warren Jeffs and the monstrosities he committed at the head of the FLDS Church, it is extremely easy for us to believe that polygamy within the LDS church was practiced in the exact same ways, and that’s certainly the message we get from the Internet.

But we were not there. Think about it. Nobody who has posted anything on the Internet was there. I don’t know if that comforts you or not, but realize that context is everything, and we don’t have a whole lot of it. Mistakes were probably made, yes. Men probably did stupid things when polygamy was instated, yes. But, again, context is everything.  

4. You believe prophets should be perfect.  

Every contentious online forum I have ever stupidly tried to be a part of has brought up the following argument: men of God should be perfect or “better”.

Is this true? one would wonder. 

Well, according to the books of God it isn’t.

Moses had major issues with speaking. Enoch, if he was telling the truth, was hated by all of his neighbors. Jonah ran away when the Lord asked him to do something. David, the same David who killed Goliath by the power of God, committed adultery, as we all remember, later in his life. Nephi said his heart “groaneth” at his sins (2 Nephi 4:19). Alma was probably sitting real cozy on one of those lounge chairs in King Noah’s court before Abinadi came a knockin’. Alma the Younger was trying to destroy the church before he got a spiritual wake up call. The list goes on and on.  

By all means, wonder why prophets aren’t more perfect than they are, but according to the scriptures, that’s a standard they’ve never had to live up to. Nor could it be.
You see, we believe in and follow Jesus Christ, who is our perfect example. To say that prophets should be perfect is to say that prophets should be above the need for the Atonement, which would downgrade the singular divinity and mission of our Savior. Why does it alarm us that the messengers are less perfect than the king? It shouldn’t. They were never meant to be perfect, but to announce that Jesus Christ is and help us to become more like him.

There are many ways in which the things we read or the discussions we participate in online degrade and attempt to rob us of our testimonies. My hope would be that if these polygamy essays really bother you and you’re struggling to come to terms with them, please don’t turn the place with millions of clamoring, inaccurate, and biased voices. Turn to the source of all knowledge. Attend the temple, read your scriptures, and maybe, of more immediate importance, ask Heavenly Father. He sees everything in context, He understands that men aren’t perfect, and He is the primary source of all primary sources.

If you seek an answer from Him, you will know if Joseph Smith is a prophet. And, for as much as it’s worth from an imperfect and not omnipotent blogger, I dare you to try. 

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  1. Deleting the negative comments shows a lack of character, which is a common trait in Mormons. When someone disputes your version of the truth you get all psycho with the persecution complex.

    If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed. – J. Reuben Clark

    President George Albert Smith said
    If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak. Journal of Discourses, Volume 14, Page 216

    Elder Marlin K. Jensen:
    “Our history is especially critical, because in a sense, we rise or fall with our history, he said. If those early beginning stories that Joseph Smith told us are true, then we are the only true church as we contend. If they're not true, then we don't have what we purport to have”. Mormon Times, Nov 19, 2009.

  2. You forgot one important part of this story. What if you don't care that Joseph Smith had child brides and married the wives of men he just sent away on missions? You still have to be a little bothered that the Brethren have been lying about it for almost 200 years. This is not information that they just suddenly found.

  3. According to the essays published by the LDS church, Joseph Smith was an adulterer and a child rapist. They don't spell it out in those terms, but he was not legally married to any of his "wives" besides Emma, which makes him an adulterer. Worse, what the man did with 14-year-olds was statutory rape and involved abusing a position of power and authority over these kids and their families, which took away a lot of their ability to consent even if they had been of age.

    If you're okay with your god commanding his prophet to rape children, own it. Just don't pretend that it is an "imperfection" like if he picked his nose in public. Either he did what your god asked him to do, or he committed a horrible act.

    Or both.

  4. "But we were not there."

    Nor were any of us alive during the time of the Civil War or anything other historical event over the past 100 years. So we go with what was written by the people who WERE there. Joseph Smith's wives have written about their experiences, as well as his friends and former friends. Why exactly was the Nauvoo Expositor torn down if the recent essays confirm everything that was in it?

    And the Book of Mormon is just a mess. It's full of anachronisms and other problems. That book alone proves Joseph Smith wasn't what he claimed to be.

  5. I see a lot of my friends employing sheer force of mental will to keep their faith. However leave those of us alone who decided we don't need those mental gymnastics in our lives anymore. It's not sad. Seriously, we're happy and it's SUCH a relief to finally admitt it to ourselves.

  6. I understand that you are coming from a place of true belief and I do not fault you for that. What I do take some issue with, however, is that you spent your time tearing down a straw man argument that nobody is really making. I have not come across anyone who is troubled by Joseph Smith's history because he was not "perfect." That is in no way the expectation that he is being held to, and I think that you know that. If he had fallen short of Godlike perfection in the ways that your 'average' person does (i.e., those who strive to do their best, but fall victim to basic human nature sometimes), I really believe that very few, if any, people would be having the 'faith crises' that so many currently are. However, when he openly lies to his own wife to cover up extramarital affairs, puts out decrees to the general membership of the Church denying polygamous/polyandrous relationships in the midst of practicing it, destroys (e.g., printing press) and/or defames those who attempt to bring his sins to light, and provides such great cause for doubt in his revelatory abilities (e.g., Book of Abraham, various accounts of First Vision, and so, so much more), it does reach that threshold of not even seeing him as someone that is a respectable human being, let alone one called of God to do any noble work. Those of us who have faced the fork in the road between cognitive dissonance and a reality check regarding our previously held perceptions of Joseph Smith are tired of being demonized and/or talked down to simply because we recognized a discrepancy between the Prophet we were taught about and the man that we have read about (often exclusively through Church-sanctioned materials, by the way). If we are going to have a conversation about Joseph Smith, there has to be a minimum amount of effort on both sides to honestly represent what it is that the other side believes or is saying.

  7. Arriana, before I get into my arguments, I would like to clarify that I will not attacking you or your character, but countering some of your arguments. I know that religion is deeply personal and so when a person challenges your opinions or beliefs it can be uncomfortable. Many times I have seen that religious discussions lead to censorship and personal attacks rather than productive, truth-seeking conversations.

    On the internet, as you know, there is true information, opinions, biased information, false information, etc. Most people know that. For me, it is incredibly important to check sources and make sure people aren't just pulling at straws to criticize OR to defend the church. To be intellectually honest, I cannot hold the church and other people to different standards. So even when I utilize the internet to find out about something, I check to see that website have citations and look into those sources to see how much weight I can give them.

    Accusing people of having a "stronger testimony of the internet" could be considered a form of ad hominem. You are not attacking their arguments against the church, rather you are attacking their character. You are insinuating that they are easily misled by false information or diluted opinions without engaging with their arguments.

    For example, I could demonstrate some serious flaws with Joseph Smith’s character and claim to be a prophet of God only using “church approved” sources. For example, the church essay admits several things about his polygamy: he married at least one teenager, he engaged in polyandry, Emma was not consulted in these relationships, and little or no children resulted from his polygamous pairings. All of these things contradict commandments from God regarding polygamy, as included in D&C 132 and other scriptures. D&C 132:61, for example, says this: “And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.” Joseph Smith did not fulfill ANY of these requirements that he alleged received from God! He didn’t tell Emma about his additional wives and he married women that were clearly not virgins! If we consider that sins of a sexual nature are second in seriousness only to murder, where does that leave Joseph?

    I imagine your intents are good, but do you realize how hurtful for so many people that are struggling right now when members blame them for the problems they face? We hear it all the time: they didn’t know their history, they don’t have enough faith, they didn’t have a good testimony, they didn’t pray, they didn’t read the Book of Mormon, etc. There are so many accusations about the character of the people that are questioning and leaving, and those accusations tend to hurt them and distance them even further from the church.

  8. I also have to take issue with your method of arriving at truth. Generally, to church members, it is accepted that good feelings are a confirmation of the Spirit that something is good. I have felt a happy feeling – the same I feel at baptisms, I felt as a missionary and sometimes at church – watching movies (some of them R-rated, oh no!), hearing the experiences of gay couples being united in marriage, visiting religious buildings of other churches, being outside in nature, etc. These good feelings have little to do with whether these things are true or not. I cannot use these feelings to arrive at truth, because even if they are the spirit, they have no way of telling me what they mean. Do good feelings when I pray about the prophets mean that I can learn good things from them? Do they mean that it is good to pray, regardless of what I am praying about? Do they mean that I am praying with the spirit? Or do they mean that I want the prophets to be called of God because it makes my life much simpler?

    Given how unreliable feelings can be, I have to seek out the truth using other methods. The bible tells me that “by their fruits you will know them”, so why can’t I look at history to find out whether their claims are even possible? Looking at LDS history, I find an absurd amount of contradictions. Joseph ordains blacks. Blacks carry the curse of Cain and can’t get the priesthood. God has made it clear to Brigham Young that blacks will not receive the priesthood until every single man has had the chance to accept it (see Lester Bush’s “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: an Historical Overview,” in which the author cites MANY primary sources). Interracial marriage is despicable and bars its participants from heaven (can’t remember which one it’s from, but it’s in the Improvement Era in 1963 or so). The Word of Wisdom refers to hot chocolate, hot soup, coffee and tea and allows for wine (It’s a speech by Apostle George Q Cannon in Journal of Discourses, if you want I can find these sources for you). Obey the Prophet no matter what he says. Don’t obey him until you receive a confirmation that he inspired. When the Prophet speaks, obey, but if he says anything that the last prophet said the last guy was speaking as a man.

    If I started a list, I could probably find thousands of contradictions between the prophets! And if they are wrong so often, why are they called today? If they have the gift of discernment, why are they always so behind on social issues and so wrong about so many things? Why are they so damn prideful? What just God would require us to follow such corrupt men?

  9. The Brethren haven't been lying. The Church clearly has taught about polygamy in many formats: Sunday School, seminary, and official Church histories.

  10. The early saints probably viewed their ecclesiastical authority as superseding temporal laws; thus, they would not have viewed these relationships that included conjugal relations as adultery. There is no evidence that JS experienced conjugal relations with his younger brides including 14-year-old Helen Mar. There is good evidence that he did not: no evidence of cohabitation (as there is with some other wives), personal testimony of Helen, the fact that Helen was not later called to testify at the Temple Lot trial, and the fact that later policy in UT was to let younger brides mature physically before starting families. Both Brigham Young and Heber C Kimball's youngest wives (age 15) did not give birth until age 21. You are going beyond the evidence by assuming conjugality, and even further by suggesting rape.

  11. Sorry, but the recent essays do not confirm everything that was in the Nauvoo Expositor (a common misconception). The Nauvoo Expositor accuses JS and his followers of bringing female converts to Nauvoo and forcing them to marry unwillingly for their personal gratification. If there is historical evidence that these marriages were forced or that JS and his followers taught that there was "a penalty of death attached," I have not encountered it.

    If we do read the accounts of those who were there, we will find a faithful people, many of whom experienced dramatic spiritual experiences. I agree that it is of utmost importance to read the primary sources and accounts from all those involved.

  12. When JS dictated section 132, he said that there was much more that he could write on the subject, but that what they had would suffice for the present (my paraphrasing). One could reasonably propose that some of JS's actions and relationships could be explained by this part that was not dictated. In the Old Testament Jacob married sisters and Abraham married his half-sister; these actions violated Mosaic law. Given this information, I would hesitate to condemn JS based on my understanding of D&C 132; apparently, that revelation was not the final word on the matter.

  13. Your remarks on epistemology are important. If Jesus taught that we can know that truth of all things through the Spirit, that suggests that personal religious knowledge is a veritable source of truth. This is difficult business to be sure, and is the work of a lifetime in my opinion. But taking Jesus at his word is what keeps me at it.

    JS taught that a prophet is a prophet only when acting as such. Not everything uttered by a church leader is doctrine or the word of the Lord. And sorry, but despite their shortcomings and personal views, I see these men in part as products of their time, not as corrupt individuals.

  14. Hmmm, that's a bit strange to me. So basically he got a bunch of commandments about how and why plural marriage should happen but he didn't have to do anything this commandment said? What's the point of this revelation then? And what of him lying to Emma and hiding the truth from her? The Abraham example is irrelevant, since Mosaic law did not exist in Abraham's time. Moses came after, remember? So Moses could not disobey a law that had not been given.

    For space reasons, I did not include vs. 63, but it says what plural marriage is for (reinforced by Jacob 2:30):

    But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.

    The whole purpose, according to the scriptures, of polygamy is to multiply and replenish the earth, which apparently never happened!

    It makes much more sense to conclude that Joseph Smith had a little trouble with the ladies and was seeking for a way to justify his womanizing behaviors.

    But the larger point I was trying to get at is that it is not just information that causes people to doubt, it is the questions that this information causes that lead members to question LDS truth claims. I lived for a long time with this burden: the burden of only seeking out positive sources that confirmed my biases towards the church, the burden of trying to convince myself that it all works, that Joseph had to be a prophet of God. But reflecting on the many evidences I fearfully clung to, I have realized that I always was uncomfortable with their implications and ignored what my heart was telling me. My life is no longer strained by worshiping men who claim to speak with God.

  15. I have searched for a spiritual answer for a while about the things you talk about. I have certainly felt good about many things within the church: the people, the teachings on Christ and love, my opportunity to meet beautiful people of many religions as a missionary, the community that I can find just about anywhere in the world, etc. I am not sure God has revealed that anything in particular is true about the church, if he has it has only been that there are good things within the church. These good things are not particularly unique, and some religions do a much better job at it, but nonetheless they are somewhere to start.

    That being said, I recently came to the conclusion that the church is not true. When I realized this, I felt a great calm and clearness of mind, a distinct feeling that it is time for me to move on. It may have been my conscience, or maybe a spiritual visitation. It may have been an epiphany that released all the cognitive dissonance that was burdening me. Whatever it is, if the Spirit exists, it would be hard for me to imagine that the feeling came from anything else.

  16. That's funny because in the 2007 Teachings of the Prophets – Joseph Smith manual, there is only one slight mention of plural marriage. There were quotes in Brigham Young's manual that were edited to make it seem like he was talking about one wife instead of many.

    I don't seem to recall being taught about polyandry or Fanny Alger or Helen Mar Kimball in any of the classes I attended.

  17. You don't get it, you just don't get it. Your post is so full of straw-man arguments that it's clear you have never had a faith crisis and have no understanding of those who have had one. If you want some actual understanding of what people are going through, then I recommend you have a look at this: http://cesletter.com/ You don't have to agree with anyone's conclusions, many people understand these arguments and have other reasons for holding onto belief, but you shouldn't let fear of changing your mind stop you from learning more about why others have left the church.

  18. I'm a Harry Potter fan. Between the 6th and 7th books there were many demonizing Snape for the things he did. Did he (SPOILER ALERT) kill Dumbledore? Yes. Was he a traitor? A villain? I just could not bring myself to make that judgement call. I needed more information; I needed the 7th book. I was willing to wait. From a primary source we learned there was more surrounding Snape and his actions than we knew at the time. Perhaps Snape was flawed but he was a hero and he gave his life for his cause. Though I'm a Gryffindor, I love Snape.

    Likewise I'm a faithful member of the Church. There are things from Church history that people are demonizing the Church and Joseph Smith for. Did they happen? Yes. But before making a judgement call I need more information; I need the 7th book, so to speak. I will hold out for a primary source (like Joseph Smith and those who lived through it) which likely will be when we talk to them face to face in the life to come. I can wait. Perhaps Joseph and his contemporaries were flawed but I really don't think we have sufficient information to discount their credibility or reject the fruits of their labors. Though I haven't met him, I love Joseph Smith. I love the Church.

  19. Yikes! If you were "worshiping men men who claim to speak with God" while a member of the church, then it is possible that you missed an important Sunday School lesson somewhere. We do not worship prophets of God.

    As for Jacob 2:30. Please also cross reference this verse with the following verses: Mosiah 15:10-13, D&C 132:30, D&C 29:34. Are you sure that Jacob 2:30 speaks only of having earthly children? Are the prophets the literal seed of Jesus? Is JS the literal seed of Abraham? Perhaps there are other ways to raise up seed both in and out of the world that would fulfill the commandments? Joseph Smith married 5 women above the age of 47 (4 above the age of 50); given that female fertility, especially in the mid 1800s, is very rare above the age of 45 there must have been other reasons for these marriages. This pattern also continued with BY and HCK. HKC had 13 wives above the age of 40 (29% of total marriages), and BY had 18 (33% of total marriages). Clearly there must have been important reasons for these marriages other than to have earthly children.

    "It makes much more sense to conclude that Joseph Smith had a little trouble with the ladies and was seeking for a way to justify his womanizing behaviors." No, this doesn't make sense. If that was all he was after, there would have been easier ways to go about it!!

  20. ^ This is a perfect example of cog dis.

    We have plenty of sources from people who lived through polygamy, Steven. Keep burying your head in the sand. I'm a little disturbed you would love a man who thought it was appropriate to marry himself to a 14 year old girl when that man was in mid 30s. I'm disturbed you love a man who continual lied to his wife about his plural wives.

    Do you condemn Warren Jeffs? If so, you are a hypocrite.

  21. Your article contains a series of straw man arguments. I don't have a "testimony" of the internet. I use the internet as a tool to find information and then I very critically evaluate what I read, question the sources and use my critical thinking and discernment skills to decide whether the information is valid, the exact same way I have done for the church. I read widely, both church and non-church sources. It is extremely unhealthy to discourage people, as the church does, from reading outside sources. The result is that some things on the internet check out and pass the test, some do not, just as is the case for the church website. I do not have a testimony of the internet, nor do I have a testimony of the church. The difference, though is that the internet does not expect me to give all my time, talents and 10% of my income. I can understand, though, that for someone who is not accustomed to critically examining and evaluating information but just going by feelings, it might seem like a "testimony" but really it is critical discernment.

    I do not expect church leaders to be "perfect". That is another straw man argument you employ. What I do expect, though, are some minimal standards of decency, some kind of humility that they could be wrong and thus not expect that we agree with everything they say when speaking in their positions. I happily accept fallible men; what I will not accept is the demand for obedience above all else, so such men.

  22. Thank you for having the courage to put your name on your comments. As you can see, most of the people here with any contrary opinions haven't been able to do the same, so I appreciate your willingness to own it.

    As for your arguments, you make valid points. I'm not inclined to debate about the subject of prophets and obedience, so I won't. That will get neither of us anywhere. I realize that I do make judgment calls in my articles, some that, yes, are sometimes unfair, and I try to generalize them to avoid that. But thank you for calling me out on the weaknesses in my argument and perspective. I do appreciate knowing where I can improve. I don't think or see the world like you do, and, in spite of what you may think, appreciate disagreement, because we can all learn from it in some way.

    One thing I'd like to point out is this: us millennials spend an inordinate amount of time on the Internet and I personally devoted my college studies to critically evaluating classical/contemporary texts. I've also fought through my own faith crisis because of things I read online at one point in my life. Any authority I have is somewhat limited, but I know members who have had years to critically examine information professionally, went through faith crises greater than my own, and chose to stay anyway. My use of testimony here is to merely make a rhetorical point, which I probably didn't manage to do very well. Touche. But you can passive aggressively point out that people who go by testimony and feelings are not accustomed to critical analysis for as long as you want; that's a judgment call that, too, is inaccurate and unfair to those of us who have had the same faith struggles with different results.

    At any rate, thanks for your comments and thanks for reading my post. I'm much more aware of how I can express myself better in the future, and I'm grateful for it.

    Have a great day!

  23. MrBubbles: reading the primary sources from those who lived through and practiced polygamy paints a much different picture that the one advocated by most anti-mormons. I encourage everyone to carefully examine the primary sources of these people–understanding their feelings, motivations, and faith is critically important to understand polygamy.

    Your comment about Warren Jeffs hardly deserves a response, and is unbecoming. But if you think that there are similarities that are more than superficial then it is important to understand that Jeffs was convicted of rape, incest, and sexual assault of minors. The best historical evidence suggests that the relationship between Helen Mar and JS did not include conjugality. Suggesting that it did goes beyond the evidence, and says more about your opinion of JS than the available historical evidence. The FLDS compound couldn’t be more different from mid-1800s Nauvoo and this is obvious to anyone who gives the two even a cursory examination. JS did not force women into marriage against their will (over 8 women turned JS's proposals down with no consequences), as Jeffs did; JS did not remove wives from the company of their husbands and expel husbands from the community; JS did not prevent people from leaving Nauvoo. Your accusation of hypocrisy is inappropriate, incorrect, and unseemly.

    Finally, please don't dismiss Steven's insightful and appropriate comment as simply cognitive dissonance, especially when you may not know the first thing about Steven. Doing so cheapens what he is trying to say (which is probably your intent). It is more probable that Steven is exercising a mature faith, fully aware of complex historical issues; I suggest that a mature, insightful, and complex faith thus exercised in necessary for faith to have a tranformative effect in our spiritual lives.

  24. Monica, I'm pretty sure "testimony of the internet" is here used as a rhetorical device.

    I am happy that you do not expect church leaders to be perfect, many critics are not so generous. I would also suggest that JS displayed all of the qualities that you expect in a leader, including not expecting agreement with everything that they say. JS famously said that "A prophet is a prophet only when acting as such." This statement implies that there are things that a prophet may say that do not come from the Lord, and that we may not agree with. JS also said that a prophet is not better than anyone else: "I do not think there have been many good men on the earth since the days of Adam; but there was one good man and his name was Jesus. Many persons think a prophet must be a great deal better than anybody else….I do not want you to think that I am very righteous, for I am not." Brigham Young taught us to inquire of ourselves whether the things our leaders teach us are from the Lord; he pleaded with us not to fall into a spiritual stupor relying only on our leaders. It seems that in public and in private JS strove for humility as a servant of God.