Episode 108a: Seth and his father, Allen Part 1

Seth Leigh speaks with his father Allen Leigh about the Church and disbelief. Allen remains a believer while his son has left the Church.

Allen’s Website The Convergence of Science and Religion

Episode 108a

15 comments on “Episode 108a: Seth and his father, Allen Part 1”

  1. Hermes Reply

    The Book of Mormon clearly presents itself as a message to the contemporary world (of Joseph Smith, anyway). See the following:

    2 Ne 29:12-13

    “For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.”

    “And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.”

    Mormon 8:35

    “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.”

    Mormon 9:30

    “Behold, I speak unto you as though I spake from the dead; for I know that ye shall have my words.”

    Other references exist: the episode of the 116 lost pages presumes that God foresaw and provided for specific errors to be committed by Joseph Smith. Smith is also the center of the idiosyncratic exegesis of Isaiah in 2 Nephi. It is rationally impossible (from my standpoint) to deny (or even minimize) the centrality of historicized mythology to the Book of Mormon (and the mentality that created it).

    Mythology can be useful; indeed, it is probably necessary (given the nature of the human mind, which knows isolated pieces of data without comprehending how everything fits together). That does not make it literal history. No myth is invulnerable to having its narrative exploded by new data, since (practically speaking) no one on earth at any time has ever seen everything, let alone how it all fits together. (Notice that, when we deal in probabilities, every story connecting A with B becomes a myth: some myths, e.g. those told by modern physicists, approach transparent, historical truth pretty closely; others, e.g. those told by journalists, politicians, cardiologists, dieticians, economists, and most religious, contain so much wild speculation that their actionable truth value, from the historian’s perspective, is virtually nil.)

  2. Seth Leigh Reply

    Thanks for the comments, Hermes. At one point in the discussion you hear me in the background saying “it’s more explicit than that” after my dad has explained that the reason Mormons say the BoM was written for our day was just an assumption based on the circumstances of Mormon and Moroni at the end of their civilization. I didn’t get a change to elaborate on that, but I had wanted to point out that the BoM was more explicit about the BoM’s intention to come forth in our day. Thanks for those examples. I’m also thinking of the prophecy where the BoM shall come forth to the children of the Lamanites as one speaking from the dust, and other such allusions.

  3. Jt4131 Reply

    Science toolbox: Occam’s Razor

    Religion toolbox: Hockum’s Patcher

    On the other hand, a razor can destroy a warm blanket – a patch can preserve it for generations.

    On the other hand …

  4. Jt4131 Reply

    Allen expressed his fundamental position in the following statement:

    “Faith is an individual thing and if you choose to not have faith … fine – go with it. I believe that faith is important to me and that’s fine for me. I’ll go with it.”

    Well, indeed, that does seem fine.

    Unfortunately, this is not the official position of the principal personage and highest officials of the Mormon faith, who ostensibly tell us such things as:

    “And the testimony of three a witnesses will I send forth of my word … And their testimony shall also go forth unto the condemnation of this generation if they harden their hearts against them; For a desolating scourge shall go forth among the inhabitants of the earth … and the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming.” (D&C 5: 15-19)

    “The prophet and the presidency…follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.” (Ezra Taft Benson, 1980 – reiterated by Quorum of the Seventy members Claudio R. M. Costa and Elder Kevin Duncan during the October 2010 General Conference.)

    Faith ain’t so simple.
    Faith ain’t so simple.

  5. Anonymous Reply

    I just want to say I am very impressed with Seth’s Dad Allen. He is clearly a very kind, patient and long-suffering man with an open mind. While my personal world view is very much in line with Seth, I feel that Allen “won” this debate on his meek and accepting personality.

    Thanks to both of you but especially to him for opening himself up to such a debate on a website like this. He deserves much respect and has my admiration. Cheers! 🙂

  6. Omnipotent Narwhal Reply

    Thanks to both Seth and Allen for doing this podcast. I enjoyed it so much that I’ll be re-listening to it again this week.

    Seth, the issues and questions you raised almost exactly mirrors my own situation. You are right, there are thousands and thousands of members who are struggling and/or leaving over the clash between a literal interpretation of the scriptures and actual scientific evidence.

    Basically, we don’t know what caused the Big Bang to “start” 14 billion years ago and we don’t know what caused life on Earth to “start” 3.5 billion years ago. Other than those two events, science offers very satisfactory explanations for me. As scientific knowledge progresses, the “God of the gaps” becomes increasingly irrelevant.

  7. Anonymous Reply

    Take any truth claim made by the Mormon Church — ANY claim — and test it empirically/scientifically. Does it still stand up? I can’t think of a single claim that would.

  8. Megan Reply

    In your opinion is it possible for one person to participate in a particular group as though it were a cult, while other people don’t have that level of commitment?

    I don’t know if I’m phrasing that well, but what I mean is, in order for an organization or group to be defined as a cult is it necessary that all those who actively participate are under a cult-level of control – do ‘real’ cults have ‘cultural members’?

    • Fred W. Anson Reply

      Based on my studies as well my personal experience . . . 

      The answer to your latter question is, “Yes.”  

      The answer to your former question is, “The members of all Mind Control Cults are engaged with the group at varying levels, or degrees, or commitment.”  Rare is the Mind Control where it’s “either you’re 100% in or you’re 100% out!”

      It’s a complex issue but since Mind Control Cults operate on a reward and punishment system “cultural members” tend to stay in the group for the “carrot”, thinking that they can avoid the “stick”. And many times they can since Mind Control Cults are less inclined to use the “stick” on the two extremes: “high visibility, high status” and “low visibility, low status” members.

      In some groups the MOST “cultural” members are in the upper echelons while in other groups low visibility, low status “fringe” members carry that distinction. In some groups it’s both. The difference between high or low status is typically delineated by wealth and/or skills.  Think of the Ivy League, high tithe paying Millionaire in the group versus the High School Drop Out low tithe paying  Factory Worker.  Who’s allowed to be “cultural” and who isn’t depends on the group. 

      The key determinant isn’t what you say and do in private and away from the the group it’s what you say and do while publicly before the group.  So both the Millionaire and the Factory Worker may conduct themselves 180-degrees contra-group doctrine in private BUT as long as they “tow the party line” while in public before the group they’re safe. Near the end of my tenure in the Shepherding Movement I was definitely NOT “buying” the control any longer and had my “control-o-meter”” turned to “11” .  I wasn’t calling my Pastor and he wasn’t calling me. Privately I was a “cultural” member. However, in public I would tow the party line, and pay my tithe, and play my bass guitar in the church band and all was well.  And, oh by the way, I was a high tithe payer too – and I ALWAYS paid my tithe. The exception to the above is, of course, the extreme Mind Control Cults that require complete compliance from ALL members – period.  However, most Mind Control Cults do not fall into that category. Unfortunately, these are the groups that tend to pop into the minds of most people when they hear the words, “Mind Control Cult”.  

      • Megan Reply

        Thank you – that was an excellent and thorough answer!

        I think you’re absolutely right that the ‘extreme Mind Control Cults’ with the 100% compliance requirement tend to be what people think of and that’s the difficulty, perhaps, with recognizing when one’s own organization IS a MCC.

        The common view is that the extreme cults have a sort of meteoric life cycle – quick rise to notoriety/power and very rapid decline. The obvious examples are the self-destructing cults such as that led by Jim Jones, but the other possibility is that the extreme cult, following a rapid decline, has to adapt into a more sustainable, less extreme version of itself.

        So part of the problem in identifying whether one is in a MCC is being able to define not only your own organization, but your level of commitment/participation in it, and (maybe?) why you sustain that level of participation? It’s all complicated because there’s not a nice, ginormous wall with ‘ordinary social organizations with common belief systems’ on one side and ‘Mind Control Cults’ on the other – it’s a spectrum.

        Do you think it’s fair to say that within that spectrum it is sometimes (often?) the participant who is the deciding factor between an organization being a controlling cult or being a group with a strong identity?

        • Fred W. Anson Reply

          Well said Megan. 

          YOU WROTE”Do you think it’s fair to say that within that spectrum it is sometimes (often?) the participant who is the deciding factor between an organization being a controlling cult or being a group with a strong identity?”MY RESPONSETough question – and articulated well.  I’m going to defer to Steven Hassan on the answer because I think that he did well by parsing even further by distinguishing between destructive and non-destructive cults: 2. What is the difference between a destructive cult and a benign cult?
          A destructive cult is a pyramid-shaped authoritarian regime with a person or group of people that have dictatorial control. It uses deception in recruiting new members (e.g. people are NOT told up front what the group is, what the group actually believes and what will be expected of them if they become members). It also uses mind control techniques to keep people dependent and obedient. The BITE mind control model is my way of understanding the phenomenon. Dr. Robert Jay Lifton has his Eight Criteria for Thought Reform. Dr. Margaret Singer has her Six Conditions for understanding Destructive cults typically seek to “clone” recruits in the image of the cult leader, rather than respect and encourage their individuality, creativity and self-will.
          Benign cult groups are any group of people who have a set of beliefs and rituals that are non-mainstream. As long as people are freely able to choose to join with full disclosure of the group’s doctrine and practices and can choose to disaffiliate without fear or harassment, then it doesn’t fall under the behavioral/ psychological destructive cult category.Of course, there are destructive groups that are clearly anti-social teach hate and encourage criminal activity. A case by case evaluation must be made to determine if a particular group is using elements of the BITE model to recruit and control.

  9. Chris Reply

    The LDS Church has taken a political stand against illegal immigration through publicly supporting the so called “Utah Compact” with illegal immigrants. The Compact forbids state and local law enforcement from helping the Feds identify and deport those in the State of Utah illegally. Melvin Ballard, a leading Church official and Apostle, lobbied the Utah State legislature personally, not only for the Compact, but to make sure that illegals also qualified for state welfare benefits! http://www.moneyteachers.org/Mormon+Church+Illegal+Conflict.html

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