Mormon prophets and the population explosion -- to follow Mormon Leaders or think for yourself?

2/15 - 3/2/98 Messages

The most recent messages can be found here.

received 3/2/98
I'm an Elders Quorum President who enjoys your site. (I also recommend the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.) I apologize if what I say here has already been asked or answered. Your site takes quite awhile to read through but I'm working on it.

Unless one is very close minded it is impossible to not to see contradictions within the standard scriptures. Man's understanding of God has evolved over time (or from the LDS view, what God has revealed to man about Himself).

So are the scriptures really God's inspired word, or are they man's word? If they are man's word, how do you know exactly what to accept and what to reject and still do God's will?

What I believe causes the most problems is the position that every word and thought in scripture is direct from the mouth of God and therefore without error. Take Psalms for example. Did God write the hymns to himself or are these simply inspired prayers? Psalm 6:5 (KJV) : "For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?" This sounds like a denial of the after-life to me.

Some scholars say that the Hebrews of the (early) Old Testament didn't believe in an afterlife. I've heard that some brands of Judaism today don't believe in an afterlife. IMO, this is a good thing. It focuses the actions of people into doing and living now.

Does all of Christianity collapse because we have found a contradiction in the Bible? For some yes but not for me.

Good for you. Any system of belief or philosophy that is so rigid that 'all or nothing' are the only two options is near worthless Imo. We shouldn't see any more fixed dogmas that don't allow active thought and 'further light and knowledge', but unfortunately we do.

I'm curious what you have selected as your moral or social code, what is your social contract?

I sum it up briefly on this page. If you want more details--for instance a specific issue--feel free to ask.

(Or does Atheism lead to anarchism?)

No. Atheism doesn't lead to any certain political view. The two are almost completely unrelated. My political views haven't changed very much since I became an atheist. I'm very liberal on some issues, very conservative on others, and somewhere in between on most. My recent voting record is closer to that recommended by the Libertarian party than it is to any other.

In college a close friend and atheist was struck one day by the realization that he had no code to live by. Only the chance of getting caught stood between him and murder or robbery. He had to decide for himself what was right or wrong. But of course this is old hat to you.

Believe it or not, I've yet to speak with (or read the views of) an atheist who felt this way. While it is true that atheism offers no more 'code of conduct' than theism--most atheists seem to have a philosophy or moral code just as most theists do. Did your friend really think that murder, robbery, etc. would lead to happiness for himself and others? Even if he had no care for the concerns of others (which our evolutionary genetic makeup tends not to favor), I don't see how someone could think that these types of acts would actually improve themselves or increase their joy in life.

Many of the books you've reviewed, e.g. Emerson: The Mind On Fire, would imply that man is not free until he rejects all external codes and decides all things from his own viewpoints. This can lead to either complete depression or a big ego boost. But I'm not convinced that it leads to "Truth".

None of the books I've read indicate in total that all external codes need to be rejected. Emerson was certainly influenced by his environment. He was an avid reader himself. His philosophy wasn't a complete rejection of everything. It was an assimilation of that which his experience and mind indicated was worthwhile. I agree with this view to a large degree.

As a mathematician by training I belong to the Platonic school of absolutes. (X-files, "the truth is out there") However we live too short a life to decide all truth on our own (Newton, "I stand on the shoulders of giants") and see the world from too limited a view. Only the collective view, the sum of experience can start to grasp the big picture of reality. So in the end we choose to trust others with the possibility that we chose poorly.

This is true to a large extent. Emerson realized this. The key is to keep searching, to develop a good methodology for accepting and rejecting, and to be willing to later dispose of former ideas we find out are 'poor'.

I have chosen to accept the existence of GOD as a "Truth". I'm comfortable with that choice. The "devil in is the details" as they say. What color is His(?) hair. Does he have hair? Do I care? No. I like the statement from Brigham Young that the purpose of religion is the here and now. Rules for living our daily life in the best way possible. So in my case I have my social contract. I have a guide book for right and wrong - but most importantly the guide book comes with explanations. Can I explain every moral law in the LDS church? No. But I hope I can justify the majority of it with sound moral/social reasoning. (If you want to debate population control I'll work on a reply).

I'd rather discuss than debate. If you have a rational theory as to why we should continue to exponentially expand human growth on the planet, I'd be interested in hearing it.

Do you find it at all strange that we humans have no problem artificially controlling deer populations or bacteria populations when they grow to dangerous levels, but when it comes to humans we seem to do everything we can to insure growth--including tax deductions and credits for additional children?

I do not support blind trust without thought (or prayer) to another's laws. I would hope that all LDS could do better to explain their beliefs than "some prophet said so". Is the Law perfect. No. Nothing touched by man on earth is perfect. But we do the best we can and seek to improve.

Your brand of Mormonism is, in many ways, the one I can still accept. Unfortunately, it isn't the one I frequently heard preached each Sunday. You may say that those particular people who preached the ultra-orthodoxy were wrong. I agree, but when I open the "Ensign" (see for instance the March 1997 article on the Book of Abraham or the January 1998 issue on Noah's Flood) and see the same kinds of things coming from those the members are supposed to sustain as 'prophets, seers, and revelators' I have to step back and ask whether I can still honestly fall in line. Starting a few years ago, my answer began to be 'no'. I still accept many things in Mormonism--but those items can also be found in other areas of philosophy which don't require complete allegiance. (If you think Mormonism doesn't require complete allegiance, listen carefully during your next temple recommend interview.)

The 'best we can do' and continually 'seeking for improvement' should include doctrine that doesn't reject scientific methodology and that welcomes honest inquiry.

I wish you well in your faith and happiness.

received 3/2/98 from the above site visitor (edited for length and clarity with permission)
regarding the Free Inquiry Statement of Purpose:
I think the Free Inquiry society is treading a fine line to believe that they can establish morals without appeal to a higher authority.

The 'higher authorities' in this case end up being a person's conscience, social relations, and the laws of the land. Theists may claim that they appeal to a higher 'supernatural' authority but we don't witness any 'punishment' from that authority in this life. At best, appealing to a God for moral authority on how one should live their life amounts to a deferred judgment. At worst (and in my opinion the actual effect) we are left with nothing but placebos.

At the same time, if one does place their moral basis in the hands of a supernatural deity who doesn't punish in this life and who is capable of forgiving evils then people can (and do) commit immoral acts knowing that they can later 'repent'.

People also disagree over just what this supernatural authority deems 'moral'. Without any verifiable evidence from this 'higher authority' the authority is hearsay at best. More than likely we are just listening to various unreasoned opinions based more on tradition than critical thought.

Why should anyone value a human life without belief in the soul (God based) or without the threat of Law (State based).

The former because life is valuable in and of itself. I don't value anyone or any thing because they have or do not have a soul.

The latter I'm not advocating. I'm all for laws of the land in order to protect my rights and the rights of others.

An intellectual brotherhood of right minded thinkers can not maintain a system/society with humanistic values based solely on scholarly debate.

This can (and does) happen all the time. The government isn't based on religion or belief in god. The Japanese for example (I went on my mission to Japan) are largely non-theist and they maintain a good system/society based on intellect rather than faith in God. It is when they (and other countries) have based their ideals on nationalism and deities that they have gotten into trouble.

The use of force is required. And once we have community rules with community enforcement of those rules haven't we created a State again?

Again, I'm not an Anarchist. I'm all for community rules and enforcement.

Actually we have controlled the population "problem" in many nations. Doesn't Russia have a negative rate and isn't China working towards the same.

A negative rate of growth isn't the only solution. If growth is cut in half but consumption triples the problem is worse than ever.

Population in America seems stable (not that I approve of our solution, abortion).

Abortion is not the solution I'm advocating. Birth control is far easier, safer, cheaper, and responsible.

My point isn't to condemn those who have had large families (I come from a HUGE family and have dozens of nieces and nephews). I'm trying to get people to think before they blindly follow the commands of others who may be more concerned with tradition and church statistics than they are about individual and social responsibility. If someone is mentally and financially able to have many children then so be it. I don't favor their actions, but at least they aren't completely irresponsible. I'm opposed to those who aren't mentally or financially able--yet they have children anyway because they aren't responsible or because of other pressures (like the Proclamation on the Family).

My simplistic summary of the Church "view" as I understand it... God has produced a large progeny who are waiting to be born. By having no or few kids we are slowing the process, slowing God's mighty plan and actually delaying the end of the world and exaltation for the worthy. One should not be concerned with family or world resources because "God will provide". So my view. I'm not worried about a ticking world clock. Do souls fail to get born because the world ends on a fixed date and we didn't produce fast enough? I can't accept that. Does the world end when the last soul is born? Sounds good to me - very fair (except for the last few million souls who want to grow up). Is God in a hurry so that we must rush the end of the World. I hope not. For me the sticking point is the hubris of putting our will above God's. How can we justify blocking God's ability to generate children through us. Now of course all the above is moot to an atheist since my view has been God centric.

This is perhaps the biggest problem with Mormonism (and other Millennial religions). Supposed 'higher' laws are to be lived which in turn sacrifice earthly realities. Since we have no real evidence of these higher laws, it becomes very dangerous to follow them rather than to do what is best for life in the here and now. "Contact" shows some examples of how over-zealous religionists can damage prosperity in real life for the sake of someone else's fanatical religious beliefs.

So the argument swings on the availability of resources. Third world conditions are appalling. And one has a good argument that religion has overcome common sense when people have large families in areas that can not support it.

Just the opposite is true. Third-world births (even though they lead to great suffering which is a major reason why they should be discouraged Imo) do very little comparative damage to the world as a whole since third world people consume very little. Births in developed countries are far more damaging. Some Americans consume, by themselves, more than dozens of people that live in a developing country do. This is where the danger lies.

However I would appeal to a different common sense. Why don't people move? Why aren't the resources available? The answer is not a error in religion but a failure of the State and of humanity to care for it's own. Conditions in Ethiopia are criminal but it is a crime committed by the government against its own people by choice!

Location is largely irrelevant. It makes no difference if I consume XXXX worth of natural non-replenishable resources while living in the USA or while living in Africa. What matters ultimately is that XXXX worth of resources are now gone forever.

I've compared the SOP of Free Inquiries and your own. I'm guessing that you value all life, human and "other" and the quality of life from your concerns on population growth.

Correct. I'm concerned about the quality of life for those now living and for those who will be living in the future.

Yet you struck out every missionary line from the SOP; converting the world to humanistic thinking, building a global community, even "caring for one another" and bringing out the best in people. Hence you hold your views to be highly personal and would force them on no-one. Perhaps you have an aversion to "missionary" work from the past, why convert someone to my views that may be wrong?

This is in part true (although I do care about others and seek to bring out the best in people). Basically, I would rather get people to think for themselves than convert them to my actual thoughts. When people think on their own, the collective ideas become better. Attempting to convert someone else to my views is useless in most cases and possibly damaging too.

Sorry to psycho-analyze. I really am interested in understanding the world through your eyes. I suspect we are kindred souls and I could easily follow the path you have taken except that I am stubborn and cling to a belief in God with no rationalization but only a deep inner conviction that He is real. I was an intellectual Catholic and am now an active Mormon. I love science, math, theology, philosophy, etc. I believe very strongly in serving my fellow man. (and not because of King Benjamin) Mormonism clearly has a lot of holes in it. But I did not enter it blindly. I researched for four years, the pro and the anti. In the end I was swayed by the "by their fruits ye shall know them". I know I am doing more for myself and others than I every did as Catholic. Could another church serve just as well? Maybe. But as Catholic I was taught to only follow the "true" church.

I'm of the opinion that Mormonism unfortunately does the same thing to a large degree.

So to me the Protestant churches were the "words of men mingled with scripture". Fortunately the Joseph Smith claim of the restoration of the church upon the earth provides enough of a thread that I can cling to the faith that this is a Church ordained by God. Is it the only true church. Maybe. (This drives my 1st counselor crazy - how can I doubt it?) It does as you admit contain many truths. Hopefully more than all other faiths. But I would deny no-one the comfort they receive from any devotion to God.

Nor would I.

What I can't imagine is surrendering all belief in God at all.

At one time, I couldn't imagine it either. But it just happened, and I couldn't do much about it. I've never been happier or felt more clear headed either.

After I sent the above, I received the following which clarifies the author's views:
On the subject of population it seems I misunderstood you from what you had replied to others in your Feedback section. If the concern is not over family size but rather consumption of resources then I fully agree with you. The "developed" nations, esp America, consume way too much. We are dying of obesity while others are starving...

This raises another question which the book "Ishmael" addresses (but unfortunately doesn't answer). If those who can't produce food because the resources don't exist are given 'hand-outs' from others, are we not increasing the problem (through the encouragement of further reproduction)? I'm not suggesting that forcing the poor to starve to death is moral, but is it moral to alleviate short term suffering when it will result in later suffering to those people, and ultimately cause the creation of additional children born only to suffer? I don't pretend to have a good answer to this question, but it is something that should be thought about before policy is formed.

received 3/2/98
You[rs is] my favorite website. I check the new page nearly every evening. I sure like your approach to life.

Me too. ;) Life is grand when clear thinking is the tour guide.

received 3/1/98
Atlas Shrugged is only one of a few books I have read more than once. (Unfortunately, the Book of Mormon still tops the list at 12 times.)

The Book of Mormon is still the leader in my record book too and probably will be forever. :(

Anyway, the first time I read the book I was in 11th grade. I read it to get extra credit for an economics class. All I picked out of it was the anti-socialist message. The rest went over my head.

The second time I read it was maybe five years later, after my mission. I found the personal responsibility for one's actions appealing (may be because of my Mormon upbringing) but found Objectivism beyond what I could agree with (undoubtedly because of my Mormon upbringing). Still, John Galt made quite an impression on me.

Unfortunately, I cannot remember many of the details. I guess it is time to dig out the old copy of the book and see how it sets on an apostate. Thanks for the reminder about the book.

By the way, have you ever read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? One of my personal favorites.

I read it at BYU, of all places, (for a class) and just about everything went over my head. I'll have to give it another try soon.

received 2/27/98
How are you?

I couldn't be better. Well... unless I won the lottery or something, but that isn't likely since I don't play the lottery. ;)

I just wanted to drop a line saying that your site is really good.

Thank You.

I happen to be a member of the LDS church, and I think the idea I got from your page was, that rather than attacking any religion or school of thought, get the info on all sides of the deep thought argument first, then base your decision.

Hallelujah!!! Someone has finally understood! ;) Also, decisions shouldn't be final. We should be willing to change them based on new or better information and additional experience.

I just wanted to thank you for this site. Regarding any messages from LDS people that give you trouble, they're over-zealous.

It is refreshing to hear this from an active, believing Mormon. It has been a while since I've heard this from any active-LDS folk via email. Mormons who I talk to in person seem to have little or no problems with my way of thinking or explaining things, but for some reason my written words really piss some Mormons off as the messages below show. (I think it is because they don't read enough of my pages before commenting.)

received 2/27/98

I have never received any 'revelations' via spirits, ghosts, or other paranormal activity that I know of. I've had feelings in the past, that much is true. I've had them reading other books and listening to other people too though. As a matter of fact, the feeling I had on my way to work this morning while listening to one of my favorite tunes surpassed the best of feelings I experienced in Mormonism.

no where in your opening page, stating the mission of this page, does it say I was told to do this by "revelation" ,"pre-ordiantion", "commisioned by the church", to do this page.

Why should I claim something which isn't true?

In my 25 years in the church I have never heard follow blindly. I have only heard study and gain knowledge for your self. in your page with quotes on following the prophet I felt it was unfair.

Did you look at this page? What about this one? This one? Or this one?

Am I really that unfair or have you not given my site a very good look before reviewing it?

you portrait the word of the prophet as the word a man and not that as the word of god . it is not for me to know the mind of god and his will. ie not knowing the mind of the prophet and why he teaches what he does. then i need to have faith and follow what the prophet says.

Hmmmm... First you say you don't follow blindly. Rather, you "study and gain knowledge for your self". Now you say that you place your trust in another. Do you see any contradiction in this?

NAME one thing the prophet has said was bad for anyone!

"The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force."

Would you like me to list some more? Am I limited to just Gordon B. Hinckley or would you like me to do an analysis of all Mormon prophets--past and present?

I am not saying your wrong in anyway for having your own thouhgts. But it seems to me that your own intellecualism is getting in the way of you being open to the spirit of god. blinding you, making you second guess what you know is the truth.

And what is it exactly that you know (in your apparent omniscience) that I know is truth that I am second guessing?

God is logical , quote me on that one. you can see that from his teachings.(don't expect quotes, you seem to be up on his teachings you can figure it out for yourself)

Sorry. I can't see a logical God in the teachings of any religion. Perhaps you can enlighten me by describing this logical God of yours.

My question to you is this how can a return missionary deny anything from the church when he has already gone out and done the work of the lord in the name of the church?

Believe it or not, I relied on faith when I was a missionary. Doubts, that at times arose, were quickly swept under my wishful-thinking carpet, and anything that didn't make sense was not thought about out of fear of losing my 'testimony'. Contradictions were apologized away, and sincere, honest thought based on intelligence--rather than tradition and dogma--were not an option.

To sum up my deconversion process, I'll just quote Archarya S. who says, "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off". After the pissed off stage, life becomes a wonderful adventure. But don't trust me. "study and gain knowledge for your self"

received 2/25/98 from a Mormon male
The Proclamation to the World is just that, a proclamation to THE WORLD. The WORLD disregards gender.

And your religion discriminates based on gender.

It has broken families running rampant and people feel no sense of responsibility these days for their offspring.

Hmmmm... Where did I say that people should not be responsible for their offspring? If I remember correctly, my point was just the opposite. Commanding people to have children is irresponsible. That is what I objected to in my critique.

This bit of doctrine from the First Presidency is a comment on the state of our very defficient society and therefore the statements in the proclamation are blunt. We live in a very blunt world. I applaud the First Presidency for thier candor and forthrightness in addressing things that certainly are not addressed by the media today and yet these very things may be the downfall of our society.

Speaking of the 'downfall of our society', do you think they will someday 'bluntly' address the population explosion? Do you think all the resources on this planet are completely renewable and infinite in quantity? The First Presidency seems to think so. I don't. Neither do those dying of starvation. Nor do those dying or suffering for other reasons caused by overpopulation. Another group which can't speak for itself which I suspect are also in agreement with me are the thousands of species that have become extinct in the past few decades due to the incredible growth in the number of humans on the planet.

I enjoy directness, beating around the bush on things will only confuse people to what you are trying to get accross.

Good. I'll try and be very direct then.

I believe MOST people in this country beleive that the things addressed in the proclamation are things that we as a society surely need to work on and improve on. Happiness NEVER was wickedness my friend.

I agree that 'wickedness never was happiness'. Intolerance of those that don't happen to be like you (or your male leaders) is wickedness IMO.

You and I and all the generations before us have been looking for satisfaction in sin.

Speak for yourself. I don't look for happiness or satisfaction in 'sin'.

It's not there, and the First Presidency knows this. Your point by point critique of the Proclamation was very weak at best.

Perhaps you can actually address my points next time instead of creating a straw man to rip to shreds?

I would just live it rather than refute it, you'll be better off in the long run.

I'd rather think about it first, and then apply to my life just those portions that are moral. Becoming a mindless sheep by 'just living' as others command me to live is a 'sin' in my book.

I could appreciate your opinion far more if your thoughts were based on reason and your own thought-out ideas rather than pure reliance on authority.

received 2/22/98
I just want you to know how much I appreciate the time and effort you put into your web site. It is wonderful and I enjoy it immensely. I am LDS but have been intellectually out of the religion for several years and am seeking to extract the rest of me as soon as I can. Take care and thanks again.

Thanks for the kind words. It is always nice to know that the site is of use to others. Good luck in your future extractions. ;)

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