Dan Peterson shares the sad story of a young man who left the Church and later took his life. Dan points out positives associated with faith.
Peterson quotes Bertrand Russell’s dreary thoughts about the pointlessness of life.
“That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave;
that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the débris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.
Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”
The best solution to lack of faith and despair is a return to faith and hope.
Among other things, Peterson shared research by Harvard scholars and compared C.S. Lewis’ life to Freud’s. They correlated better mental health with faith and church attendance.
LDS critics often charge that our faith and its policies precipitate and trigger suicide.
To properly speak on this topic, one should understand quite a lot. I’ll link a few articles below that only skim the surface, but will begin to inform readers of at least a few of the many associated variables.
Engaging in this complex issue with unsupported allegations — often done by LDS critics — is highly irresponsible.
Trouble is, the number far exceeds the suicide figures collected by the Utah Department of Health.
Preliminary figures for November and December show 10 suicides in the Beehive State for people ages 14 to 20, with two more cases “undetermined.”
In fact, the department reports, the overall number of Utah deaths for that age group in those months was 25, including the 10 suicides and two “undetermined” cases, along with 11 in accidents, one by natural causes and one homicide.
“We monitor the numbers [of youth suicides] very closely. We review them every month,” says Teresa Brechlin, who works in the department’s violence- and injury-prevention program. “If we had seen such a huge spike, we would have been investigating it.”
Had there been any mention of the LDS Church’s policy on gays, her department “would have noted that,” Brechlin adds. “We have not seen that at all.”
Other paragraphs make the point that depression and suicide are extremely complex. No one factor triggers suicide.
“People with depression tend to have less efficient energy utilization in certain parts of their brain, like the prefrontal cortex,” said Brent Kious, a U. psychiatry professor and the review’s lead author. This energy roadblock, he said, means people have a tougher time overcoming negative emotions.
It turns out other mountainous states have similarly high suicide rates, with Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico also in the top five and Alaska ranked second, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This trend has earned the Intermountain West a morbid nickname: the suicide belt.
The U. researchers reviewed several U.S. studies that found suicide rates increased with altitude. One that examined nearly 9,000 suicide deaths in 2006 across 15 states found the suicide rate at high altitudes was three times higher than for those living near sea level. Another study noted a “threshold effect,” where suicide rates increased dramatically between 2,000 and 3,000 feet. Salt Lake City’s altitude is 4,265 feet.
Scientists in other countries have discovered similar associations, the U. review found. Suicide rates in Andalusia, a mountainous region of Spain, were higher than the country’s average, a finding correlated with high altitude. In Saudi Arabia, the prevalence of suicidal thoughts among depressed patients at a high-elevation psychiatric hospital was more than five times higher than at a sea level one.
These studies have piled up in recent years, Kious said, including several conducted by researchers at the U. One 2015 study showed how exposure to altitude led to more depression-like behavior in female rats. After a week of thin air, the rats were less likely to struggle in a swim test.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control, youth suicide is in the midst of a precipitous and frightening rise. Between 2006 and 2016, suicides by white children between ages 10 and 17 skyrocketed 70%; while black children are less likely than white children to kill themselves, their suicide rate also jumped 77%. And as The Blaze points out, CNN reported last year that “the suicide rate among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 rose to a 40-year high in 2015.”
“It’s not just young people. According to Tom Simon, a CDC report author, “We know that overall in the US, we’re seeing increases in suicide rates across all age groups.” As of 2016, suicide levels were at 30-year highs.
A few years back, the trendy explanation was economic volatility — the market crash of 2007-2008 had supposedly created a culture of despair, cured only by suicide. But the economy is booming, and has been growing steadily since 2009. There are those who blame the rise in drugs as well, particularly opioids — but according to a study from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, drinking, smoking and drug use may be at the lowest levels “seen in decades,” as the Los Angeles Times reports.
There seems to be a crisis of meaning taking place in America. And that crisis of meaning is heavily linked to a decline in religious observance. As The Atlantic observed in 2014, citing a study in Psychological Science:
The researchers found that this factor of religiosity mediated the relationship between a country’s wealth and the perceived meaning in its citizen’s lives, meaning that it was the presence of religion that largely accounted for the gap between money and meaning. They analyzed other factors—education, fertility rates, individualism, and social support (having relatives and friends to count on in troubled times)—to see if they could explain the findings, but in the end it came down to religion.
Suicide is complex. Please understand the data before demagoguing.
Great podcast! Faith is reasonable. And is a choice.
Abstract: In this article I argue that faith is not only rationally justifiable but also inescapable simply because our decisions regarding ultimate questions must necessarily be made under conditions of objective uncertainty. I review remarks by several prominent thinkers on the subject — both avowed atheists and several writers who have addressed the challenge implicit in issues related to faith and reason. I end my discussion by citing William James, who articulated clearly the choices we must make in addressing these “ultimate questions.”
Super talk by Noel B. Reynolds. You can read or listen to it here.
– INFLUENCE OF THE SPIRIT
– SENTIMENTALISM VS. SPIRIT
– DISCERNMENT IMPORTANT
– LIGHT OF CHRIST
– USEFULNESS OF REASON
– THE ROLE OF SIN
– CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD
– GUIDELINES TO KEEP FAITH
– INTELLECT AND FAITH
A wonderful quote:
“Too much of the literature used, seen, and quoted in the Church today is just sentimental trash which is designed to pull our heartstrings or moisten our eyes, but it is not born of true spiritual experience. The tendency of our youth to use sentimental stories in Church talks creates a culture of spiritual misunderstanding in which thinking and learning are discouraged.”
Do you always believe everything negative about Hillary? What about the bad news about Trump? Immediately believe such news?
You shouldn’t. Everyone is wrong and makes mistakes. Trump makes lots. So does Hillary. Some policies each proposes are bad. All aren’t good. We should use balance, reason, and prudence to discern what is good and what is bad — not parrot like an uninformed, zealous partisan.
We find people debating every social, religious, and political issue every day. On Facebook. On blogs. On TV. At work. Those in these debates can usually be placed on a continuum of reason vs. blind faith. On a continuum of information and data vs. data-free emotion.
Atheists may have blind faith in their positions with no basis in fact. Theist also may have blind faith with no basis in fact. Your co-worker may be entirely emotional and not study any issues. A neighbor may never be emotional and have every fact in the Universe memorized. Everyone relies on some amount of faith and then an individual amount of facts.
We don’t know everything, so we gotta have faith in many areas of life. But to rely solely on emotion or blind faith isn’t a good approach, in my view. Instead, to we should gather all available data to make the most-informed decision possible.
I’ve noticed that many LDS critics fall into this category — partisan, uniformed zealots — on many topics. They rush to judgment when an LDS official is accused of wrongdoing, for example (this has occurred recently online). Indeed, in my experience zealous LDS critics often assume the worst when the topic involves Joseph Smith or current leaders. More data or context isn’t needed. No way! They “know” the truth, and their mind’s made up.
This tendency — to assume the worst without evidence — is indicative of a problem. A lack of balance and sense of proportion. A willingness to be ignorant. Perhaps lacking understanding that they’re, in fact, ignorant. But being ignorant, nevertheless.
A commitment to a cause — be it Trump, Hillary, the LDS Church, etc — that is not based in reality. But in large amounts of emotion.
Critics of the Church (or any organization that is being unfairly maligned) often withhold exculpatory information. This means, information that would exonerate or free of wrongdoing is intentionally withheld. This is dishonest.
Remember the Duke Lacrosse case? The lacrosse players hired a stripper. Bad idea. But they didn’t rape her, as she later claimed. The District Attorney assigned to the case stretched out the case longer than he should of, and used it as a way to get reelected.
It turned out, the DA also withheld evidence that would have freed the boys and avoided ruining their reputations (and lives for a few years). That is, he buried exculpatory evidence. He was disbarred (lost his law license) for this action.
These kinds of practices are dishonest, unethical, and a form of misrepresentation. Fair-minded people need to weigh the evidence. They should see the often weak claims — especially in light of more data and context — as undermining of a critic’s position. Waiting and researching prevents quick, rash, overreactions.
Of course, Mormons can also be immensely defensive and not follow the facts. They shouldn’t. Latter-day Saints should follow the evidence and increase their testimony. After all, we embrace all truth!
Mormon leaders have not and never will be perfect. Neither have biblical leaders or leaders of any organization now or in history been perfect. But, as unfamiliar issues and controversies arise, let’s gather all the possible associated data before we throw out the baby with the proverbial bathwater.
If you’re too quick at either activity — to defend or to accuse — rather than gather the evidence fully, you might fall into the zealot camp. An overzealous and uninformed fan with lacks proportion, balance, and all the context.
So, if you’re an absolute, fully committed, all-in Trump, Hillary die hard, LDS critic, or uninformed partisan for the LDS faith you might want to evaluate your positions and look at more data before you jump to the defense of your candidate or annihilation of your opponent.
My experience is that the vast, vast majority of Latter-day Saints don’t rob, steal, or assault sexually (or otherwise). However, some do. And our past leaders were good men. And our religious practices took place in a real, historical context that takes time to appreciate. So, as we learn, let’s hear all sides, allow for due process, and not rush to judgment.
And when questions arise relative to items in LDS history, please take the time to do the research. You shouldn’t immediately trust LDS critics, nor should you exclusively trust what your Uncle Bob might say about our own history (even if he’s an active member). Study things on your own. Weigh the evidence. And strive for balance and prudent understanding.
The best route is to follow the advise given in this podcast: always consider the best in other faiths and groups. Don’t knock down their weakest point. Appreciate their strongest point!
Science doesn’t answer big questions. The why questions.
However, Science does demonstrate very long odds that all this “just happened by chance.”
Life on this planet in a rare event. That the universe to exist at all is amazing. The four forces. These issues of fine tuning of all variables in our universe — varying any one of which would throw life and the Universe out of existence — provides credibility that God exists in and created the Universe.
Two points from scientific naturalism (atheism):
1. The natural world is all there is.
This claim is consistent logically equivalent to atheism. One can’t logically prove atheism or that the natural world is all there is. How could one prove that there is nothing beyond the natural world, when all they can study is the natural world (and nothing more)?
The only way the naturalists could hold this claim #1 is by faith. But then the naturalists would contradict claim #2. Indeed, claim #1 is internally incoherent.
2. We should only believe what can be scientifically proven.
This second point is far too narrow. In fact, we accept many intuitive truths that can’t be proven.
Can’t prove these truths:
1) Ethics: can’t prove good and evil. 2) Esthetics: can’t prove beauty. 3) Metaphysics: the reality of the past. 4) Science itself has unproveable assumptions: Special Theory of Relativity, one-way velocity of light is assumed to be constant. 5) Mathematics and logic truths: Science presupposes logic and math.
Even statement #2 itself can’t be proven scientifically. Statement #2 is an opinion or statement of philosophy. #2 is self-refuting and cannot be true.
William Lane Craig at his best in under 3 minutes:
Great points in 1.5 minutes:
Less than 2.5 minutes:
Awesome demolition in a little over 5 minutes:
Elder Holland, attending the 50th anniversary celebration of discovering chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, gave this talk on evidence:
John Lennox (see video below) has debated the biggest names among today’s atheists.
Christians should have an evidence base for belief in Christ. John told us of Jesus’ actions so that we might believe.
John 20 : 30-31
30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
Lennox makes several points from atheist debates:
1) Belief in Christianity is based in evidence — not blind faith. Review John 20: 30-31 again.
2) Atheists claim to not have faith, but Lennox has challenged many atheists this way: “I’m sorry, but I thought you believed your atheism.”
3) Dawkins believes in or has faith in stuff, including his wife. Evidence-based faith is still faith.
4) Traditional Christians don’t believe God was created (Mormons theology involves progression). Dawkins constantly teases, “Who created your Creator?” Lennox says nobody. Dawkins believes the Universe created him. So, Lennox asked Dawkins, “Who created your (Dawkins’) creator?” Still waiting for an answer.
1) We don’t believe in the God of the Gaps.
2) Science and God are compatible and complimentary:
To say you don’t believe in God, but rather you believe in Science is analogous to saying you don’t believe in Henry Ford, but instead you believe in the laws of internal combustion. The God explanation is not the same as the Science explanation. You, obviously, should believe in both.
Why is the kettle boiling? There are 2 explanations: a scientific one about molecules. And a personal agent explanation: it’s boiling because I want a cup of tea.
3) The Law of Gravity describes gravity, but descriptive laws do not create anything. Ever. We don’t even know what what gravity is. However, Steven Hawking and other secular scientists would have you believe laws daily create matter and the entire Universe. Not true.
4) God created the world good. God could have created a perfect world, but none of us would have been in it. A world without hate will have no love. Robotic worlds lack sin and many other problems, but they have no humans. Bringing humans into the world is a risky business. God’s children can grow up and say no. Just like our kids.
Another discussion with John Lennox on faith and reason. Faith of believers. Faith of atheists. What is the evidence? What of blind faith?
Bill Whittle and Andrew Klavan (Christian, former Jew) discuss the limits of Science and atheism.
At the 5:10 mark in the video below, Bill says when someone says “I believe in Science” you immediately know they don’t know what they’re talking about. Science is a tool. Like a hammer. So, when they exclaim, “I believe in Science,” they’re really saying, “I believe in a hammer.”
Science is not a philosophy. It’s not a world view. It’s a method. It’s a series of questions, processes, and procedures to isolate variables and extract something out of nature.
Scientism or Trans-science: popularized by the new atheists, such as Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, and Dennett. An arrogant belief in objectivism — won’t believe anything other than Science — that itself becomes a religion.
What of Philosophy, Art, Ethics, and other obvious truths we can’t prove?
We can’t understand infinity or eternity. We simply lack the neurons.
Worth 12 minutes of your time.
More from William Lane Craig:
Scientism is not Science. It’s a theory. It’s a philosophy.
The statement itself — one should only believe in what can be scientifically proven — is self-refuting. One can’t prove one should believe this. It’s a philosophy statement or belief — not something that itself can be proven.
Can’t prove these truths:
1) Ethics: can’t prove good and evil. 2) Esthetics: can’t prove beauty. 3) Metaphysics: the reality of the past. 4) Science itself has unprovable assumptions: Special Theory of Relativity, one-way velocity of light is assumed to be constant. 5) Mathematics and logic truths: Science presupposes logic and math.
Fun interchange. William Lane Craig (on the left) is a skilled debater. Too bad he’s not LDS.
Another gem by WLC on God. Now, I don’t agree with all of Craig’s arguments, but the discussion is wonderful.
The Interpreter Radio Show can be heard Sunday evenings from 7 to 8 PM (MST) on K-TALK, AM 1640, or you can listen live on the Internet at ktalkmedia.com. Call in to 801-254-1640 with your questions and comments during the live show.
You might want to tune in weekly.
On Sunday, 3/11/18, they talked about the CES Letter and compared this to the anti-Mormons in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.
The new format of the CES Letter with a huge laundry list has affected some people, unfortunately.
This video shows how many people feel during their first brush with anti-Mormon material:
Growing up in the 1980s and graduating from high school in the early 90s, I rmeember hearing about Ed Decker’s production, “The God Makers.”
More than a few times I visited Christian bookstores and read their book chapters on Mormons, usually in the “CULT” section. Sometimes I laughed. Sometimes I didn’t know what they were talking about.
In the early 2000s, during a break in school — about 1/4 mile from the Mormon Handcart Park in Iowa City, IA — I decided to see what “The Godmakers” was all about.
Our hometeacher had many books on the topic, including “The Truth About the Godmakers”, published in 1986. He gave me a stack of books and I dove right in.
I probably read 10-12 books cover to cover. Some of the material was brand new. Other stuff I had heard from my parents. All of the issues were a lot to cover in a few weeks of summer break, but I’m glad I tacked the material then, and have revisited the critical arguments since.
I first heard of the CES Letter in the summer of 2015. I chat with all kinds of people around me. On a plane trip — among lots of other topics — the woman to my left told me her LDS faith had been rocked by the CES Letter. She said she had never heard of any of this stuff before. I told her nothing was new that she was telling me.
It’s true. Those who’ve reviewed the CES Letter, feel free to review “The Truth About the Godmakers.” The author, Gilbert W. Scharffs, responds to each each scene and claim Ed Decker presents in his awful, over-the-top movie.
Sadly, people left in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, in part as a result of the God Makers. Surely, lots of other issues were involved. It’s never 1 single issue. They left in the 60s and 70s, due in part to work by the Tanners and earlier critics.
They’ll, unfortunately, consider leaving today over material found in the CES Letter. Interestingly, however, it’s all the same material with very few exceptions.
Style is different, but the core arguments are almost identical. Ed Decker’s style was inflammatory and sensational. Jeremy presents as a helpless victim. Nobody told him all this stuff. On that topic — nobody told me! — consider listening to this podcast.
Geoff Biddulph is a convert to the Church of just over 15 years. Before joining he read a lot of anti-Mormon literature. However, it was the Spirit that converted him and helped him be open to being baptized. Since then, Geoff has read the book of Mormon more than 10 times and have read the entire Bible at least five times.
He has a large library of Church-related material from which he draws upon as he writes for the Millennial Star blog—where he has contributed for nearly a decade. He his wife Cindy were married in the Denver temple nearly 11 years ago and they now have five kids. He is joining us by phone today from Denver, CO. Geoff is here to talk about an article he wrote for the Millennial Star Blog entitled, “Why Didn’t the Church Teach Me This Stuff”
Topics that “destroyed” Jeremy’s testimony have been debated among this associations members for decades. Nobody hid this material. Some study as they progress through the Gospel. Most people — Mormons, Catholic, or atheist — don’t study very much.
Jeff Lindsay has blogged in defence of the Church since 1994. Jeremy Runnells is a young man who recently left the Church. Jeremy panicked with (to him) alarming, new information.
Why do these two people come to very different conclusions when facing the same issues? Why is one person’s faith so brittle? Context and framing makes all the difference. Listen below:
I argue that many who leave today would not have left over the same material decades earlier. Now Christians of all stripes, including Mormons, have an alternative that they never would have considered till recently: agnosticism and atheism.
These are more acceptable than ever. More popular than ever. More peer pressure to join these groups than ever. Sam Harris, the handsome fellow above — one of the “new” atheists — attracts lots of folks to his flock.
Evangelical Christianity or other sects are usually not attractive to wobbly Latter-day Saints. I’ve seen data showing 9 out of 10 former Mormons don’t believe in God. Decades ago this did not ooccur.
As they weaken in faith, so many members see no credible option for belief. But what many don’t initially realize is they’ve started to follow another faith: the faith of atheism/agnosticism. Indeed, they put their faith in atheist podcasters and thinkers.
John Lennox discusses the faith of atheists:
Lennox schools prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins, on the topic of blind faith. Even Dawkins operates on the basis of faith, no different than believers.
Returning to the woman on the airplane in 2015. As I got to know her further, she recently had experienced divorce, had a special relationship with Heavenly Mother, by her own admission didn’t like heirarchies & patriarchial arrangements, and was repulsed by polygamy.
In my experience it’s virtually never about the big lists alone. Other things are inevitably occurring in the lives of those who leave. I’ve talked to many, many folks about their faith crises. Nobody leaves who was yesterday in full faith, working at the veil. It’s always a years-long process. Often involving other life issues.
Many, many people have spent much more time than Jeremy Runnells — the fellow who crowdsourced the CES Letter on the ex-Mormon reddit subgroup — in understanding these issues.
I learned about these issues decades ago and found virtually nothing new in his document. Ed Decker, the Tanners, and a long list of critics before them have thrown lots of charges on the wall hoping that some will stick. Some things we’ll never know. For many things, however, answers exist. Study, prayer, and humility are key.
FAIR Mormon has thousands of pages of answers that can be searched via an internal search engine. I’ll list four other resources that have responded to each and every criticism within the CES Letter:
#1: Jim Bennett. Jim is the son of the late U.S. Senator, Bob Bennett. Jim is entertaining, bright, articulate, and lots of fun to read. Jim wrote for the Deseret News for years. He’s now running to fill an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
#2: Brian Hales. Brian is arguably the single greatest expert on Joseph Smith’s polygamy. Brian spent much time not only answering polygamy-related questions within the CES Letter, but was very efficient in responding to all other claims.
Further, Brian has built and maintained this incredible resource on Joseph Smith’s polygamy (see JSP link below). The critics may disagree with Brian, but they generally respect his research and scholarship.
Brian has shown in the linked site below, and Dan Vogel (one of the most prominent LDS critics alive) agrees, that there is no solid evidence of Joseph’s sexual polyandry. Polygamy? Yes. Polyandry? No.
#4: Brett McDonald. Brett created the “LDS Truth Claims” YouTube channel in the last year. He directly responds to every charge found in the CES Letter.
One of my favorite presentations by Brett:
I recently found this blog — Conflict of Justice — that has many good points about the Book of Abraham and seer stones. Since the Book of Abraham is a topic loved by the critics I thought I’d include this blog in the list.
If one is willing to leave the Church — an institution claiming to be the restored Church of Christ — he/she should consider all the data. Not only the cherrypicked information you’ll find in critical material, such as the CES Letter.
Review the in-depth responses above and within the above links.
It would have been a very poor choice to leave the Church in the 60s, due to materials put forward by the Tanners. It would have been a very poor choice to leave the Church in the 80s, due to materials put forward by Ed Decker.
It is, likewise, a very poor choice to leave the LDS Church today, given this (hardly new) material copied/pasted by Jeremy Runnells and aggregated into the CES Letter.
Our culture is much more accepting of atheism and is increasingly secular. Folks form agnostic groups and support each other in their doubts and new faith online. Though society welcomes these new trends, the facts of the restoration and the divinity of Christ remain the same.
I urge to review all the data. There are reasons to believe. Study and pray. No blind faith. Inform your faith. The Gospel was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.