Conflict of Interest: Scripture as the Academic Mission Statement

A university’s primary role is to advance the collective knowledge held by humankind. They serve to uphold the ideals of free inquiry and the expression of ideas regardless of preconceived conclusions. A university’s duty is to clutch onto the principles of academic freedom, “the freedom of teachers and students to express their ideas in school without religious or political or institutional restrictions.”

Is it possible for research completed in the Marriage and Family Therapy department at Brigham Young University to reach any conclusion other than what is espoused in The Family: a Proclamation to the World? Can students in the Department of Exercise Sciences fully understand the dynamics of the human body when the mission statement reads like a scriptural verse “…to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and Eternal Life, emphasizing the truth that the human body is sacred, the veritable tabernacle of the divine spirit.” Or how about the mission statement of the Department of Political Science, whose first sentence actually quotes scripture: “The political science major is designed to fulfill the admonition of the Doctrine and Covenants (88:79–80) to teach one another ‘things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms that ye may be prepared in all things.’” More

Faithfulness over Falsity

A number of the formerly faithful have stated that part of the reason for their struggles has been the church’s stance on race. Their problem is science vs. apostolic Mormon teachings, or, in other words, can you stand alongside the prophets when the theories of men are pressuring you to move their way?

Laying aside the overwhelming doctrinal stance against races being equal, such as the pre-mortal existence of all things and their ultimate resurrection, there are statements from scientists themselves that declare the entire field of racial equality bogus. More

The Problem of The Mormon Tank (Revisited)

A funny thing happened on the way to this blog. I was actually planning to publish – and was working on – brand new, original material when several of the Mormon Expression Podcast and Blog discussion boards “lit up” with interesting dialog. I feel that that the content of this previously published article is relevant to several of them. So with no further adieu – and with a nod, a wink, and a grin to Eric’s last blog – I offer for your consideration, “The Problem of The Mormon Tank (Revisited)”.

Artist's depiction of the crew in a Sherman Tank.

Artist's depiction of the crew in a Sherman Tank.

Here’s the problem
If you’re in an Army Tank and pull out a compass the needle will point toward magnetic north. However, the compass is only validated if when you get outside that Tank and it’s still pointing in the exact same direction.Then, it’s only truly validated if it’s compared to yet another “known good” compass while outside the tank and they both point in the same direction. That is, the one point of internal reference and two points of external reference are all calibrated. The reason for this is simple: The magnetic field created by the iron armor of the Tank interferes with the compass’s operating integrity. You could consult a thousand compasses inside the Tank, and still get the same compromised and errant result every time. More

Faith over Falsehood

A number of the formerly faithful have stated that part of their reason for their struggles has been the theory of evolution. Their problem is science vs the creation story, or in other words can you stand alongside the prophets when the theories of men are pressuring you to move their way?

Laying aside the overwhelming doctrinal stance against evolution, such as the pre-mortal existence of all things and their ultimate resurrection, there are the statements from scientists themselves that declare the entire field of evolution bogus.

Darwin’s theory of evolution says that life on earth began with single celled life forms, which evolved into multicelled life forms, which over coutless aeons evolved into higher life forms, including man, all as the result of the chance process of random mutation followed by natural selection, without guidance or assistance from any intelligent entity like God. More

Analogies: A Frivolous Complaint

I knew I was in serious trouble when I rolled my eyes and sighed inwardly during the April 2010 General Conference. Elder Uchtdorf was wrapping up his talk on the virtues of patience with what must have been the zillionth story about his piloting adventures. Yep, I was in the kind of Trouble with a capital T that rhymes with A and stands for Apostasy. My confession today is that I despise religious talks wherein a mundane, everyday experience is used to expound upon some sort of doctrine principle. It’s formulaic, really. Tell a story. Draw the audience in. Use your personal experience. Think of your entire speech as a metaphor for the story’s moral. These days you can’t throw an “Amen” without hitting the ubiquitous church talk equating mundane experience A with spiritual doctrine B.

But here’s the problem. Ever since I stopped writing talks and attending church, I’ve built up a repository of these analogies. It’s killing me that I can’t think of watering my poor, neglected basil plant without thinking of the spirit nourishing the apostate souls with the healing power of the atonement. Forget to hang up your wet towel and suffer the ravages of a cold, moldy towel at 6 a.m. on a Monday? Well, friend, that’s just an analogy for what happens when you neglect your scripture reading before bed. I’ve decided I’m going into the Mad-Lib business with a specialty on religious talk stories for panicked church members. Giving a talk on chastity? Just insert a story about the little robin whose faulty nest-building led her eggs being eaten by thieving blue jays. More

The Parable of The Box

I was first exposed to this parable via Chad Spjut’s Exmormon Foundation 2010 Conference Presidential Greeting.  I offer it to you now  in the hope that this powerful, articulate, and poignant expression of the life experience of so many resonates as deeply for you as it did for me.

"Inside the box was security and safety. Inside the box was reality."

"Inside the box was security and safety. Inside the box was reality."

The Parable of The Box
by Anonymous Utahan
There once was a boy who lived all his life with a cardboard box over his head. His parents taught him that he should never take the box off, for doing so was dangerous and foolish. The box protected him from the scary world outside of it.

On the inside of the box, he could make out some letters, and he could see the outlines of the box around him. His world was brown cardboard. His parents taught him to study the inside of the box carefully, for in it was all the wisdom he needed to navigate life. Inside the box was security and safety. Inside the box was reality.

Some of his friends told him that they had taken off the box and life was much better, but he didn’t believe them. His parents made sure he stayed away from these people, who clearly wanted only to hurt their boy. More

Sacrament Bingo

Just a little parody off all those faithful General Conference bingo cards. Excellent  resource for NOM members. LDS.org color themed for apostasy-outing yourself gently to your family.

Also, if there are any graphic artists out there who are snorting to themselves at my utter lack of talent, please feel free to unleash your creative licenses and report back.

If I were “Mope” (Mormon Pope) Revisited

If I were “Mope” (Mormon Pope) Revisited

You know . . . “It’s good to be the Mope!”

Near the end of my last blog I made some pretty bold statements:

“…I see some good things in the LdS Church and I see even more in Mormon Culture. There’s also much – particularly in the former – that, in my opinion, is really, really bad and needs to change. Never-the-less I’m just crazy enough to believe that there must be a way to keep the good and jettison the bad…

However, to get there from here the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from my perspective, must reform. And THAT, at least for me, is still a work in progress. That’s to say, it’s a work in progress for me because while I think I have an idea as to what end state might look like, I know that I’m not alone in this vision and I find the ideas and thoughts of others often more interesting than my own – hence the need for ongoing dialog.”

At this point you’re probably wondering, “Sounds interesting but exactly what kind of  ‘reform’ are we talking about? And what kind of ‘end state’ do you have in mind Mr. Smarty Pants?”

Fair enough. More

Obedience

My daughter came home from primary with a coloring page entitled “I Can Be Obedient.”

It made me wonder.

First, is my 4 year old really capable of being obedient?  Especially to the “gospel.”

And second, and more important, do I really want a daughter who is “obedient”?

What is obedience?  When the church uses the term it seems to mean, “submissive to the will of another.”  In theory this obedience is to God but in practice the obedience that matters is obedience to Church authority — “The Church” or any representative thereof, from the apostles down to your parents.

Synonyms for the word obedient — compliant,  docile,  tractable,  yielding — are qualities that have their place.  But I do not want my children to grow up to be ‘docile’ or ‘tractable’.

Of course I don’t want them to be ‘stubborn’, ‘unyielding’, or ‘intractable’ either . . .

What I want for them is something that is not opposite of obedient, but beyond it.

I think of every hero in children’s literature, from Mary Lennox in A Secret Garden to Harry Potter: Heros are rule breakers.  They look beyond the rules.  They bend them in the service of a higher good.  They think.  They act.

The problem with obedience is that, in this world, you are always being obedient to another human being (or, worse, corporation) whose views and understandings are limited at best, corrupt at worst.  If you strive to be obedient “in all things” you risk, you guarantee that you will be led to do things that are not in your own best interest and, quite possibly, not in the highest moral good.

I want my daughter and son to listen to me when I tell them to go to bed or stay out of the street.  But more, I want them to learn to govern themselves, to know when they are tired or when it is dangerous to go into the street.  (I will even admit that my goal in wanting them to be obedient to their bedtime has less to do with them being tired and more to do with my being tired of them, for the moment.)  I recognize that their ability to understand those drives and dangers is limited at this point and so, to a certain degree, their being obedient to me does matter.  But I do not want them indoctrinated to believe that they should always be obedient, even to me, certainly not to the church.

If LDS theology is true, if God’s plan of happiness as taught by the church is the motivation for the world and this life, then obedience should not be a primary virtue in that plan.  God is not obedient (except to physical laws that are outside God’s self and therefore unbreakable), God is self-motivated.  What God does is good, not because God conforms to a standard of goodness but because God is God. Jesus was not perfect because he obeyed the laws, even of the gospel, but because God defined him as perfect.

I have been struggling to find a word that defines the kind of people I hope my children will be.  I am not certain the word exists.  I want very much for them to be connected, compassionate people, aware how their choices affect others and willing to compromise, to bend their own wills to accommodate the needs of others.  But I also want them to be self-aware, passionate and fearless in doing what they believe is right and good.  I want them to be virtuous in the original sense of that word — to be independent, (hu)manly, driven by a sense of honor and righteousness.  I want them to be law-abiding when it is good and right to be law-abiding but rebellious and courageous when the time comes to break the law for a greater good.

What do you call that virtue?  And why can’t they teach that in Primary?

Did I Preach the Prosperity Gospel?

LDS chapel in Ponta Delgada. Image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/moacirdsp/1288124285/

The white church building stood prominently against the dark clouds that winter morning in the Azores as I walked to church with my mission companion. I was contemplating the talk I would give in just a few minutes. For us, this was an important occasion. With our galoshes slopping against the wet cobblestone, I reminded myself that this was my opportunity to let the spirit convince Carlos of the importance of tithing.

He was the father of a part-member family. Like so many other households in Portugal, his wife was baptized long ago, and his son was baptized when missionaries found their names on some list, well before I arrived on the strikingly green island of São Miguel. The mother and son had been inactive, but recently they came back to church. They invited us to come over to dinner, and of course we obliged. We re-taught the discussions at the request of the branch president.

Before we began our lesson, we invited her husband to sit with us. He was a hard working middle-class man in a relatively poor area. He started coming to church with his wife and child, and the members did a good job of fellowshipping an actual Portuguese investigator. You see, in Portugal most converts are foreigners, and these Portuguese converts are typically women and maybe their youngest child. It was a rare opportunity to find a Portuguese man who would listen to missionaries, let alone attend church.

Most Portuguese lived by the motto: “I was born Catholic, I was married Catholic, and I will die Catholic.” As foreigners and missionaries, it was our duty to change that.

Carlos’ hang-up with the gospel involved tithing. “Why would the church require 10%? That is a lot of money.,” He would say. “Do you realize how much our family could do with that money? My mother is sick, and we are helping her. How do you expect us to get by when we have to pay an additional 10% of our income to the church?”

“Carlos,” we would say, “The lord will provide.” 

He was never convinced.

The following Sunday the branch president asked me to give a talk. I prepared diligently. I crafted the talk with fasting and prayer, knowing full well that I had that unique opportunity to preach to the entire congregation but deliver a message to only one man. I made sure I wasn’t too direct, that I didn’t touch on all the arguments Carlos brought up against tithing. I didn’t really want him to know that I wrote the talk for him, but I wanted him to learn of the principle in an indirect way.

I chose to focus on the blessings of tithing and leave out the “fire insurance” scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 64:23: “Verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.”

Rather I explained that tithing is hardly a new commandment, and that even Abraham paid his dues to Melchisedec. I then read the oft-used Malachi 3:10:

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

I emphasized the aspect of pouring out blessings, and spoke of how we should pay our tithing willingly.

“We pay our tithing with faith, and not with money.” I said.

I quoted from the then-living prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, who taught if people:

 …Accept the gospel and live it, pay their tithes and offerings, even though those be meager, the Lord will keep His ancient promise in their behalf, and they will have rice in their bowls and clothing on their backs and shelter over their heads.

I testified that god would do everything to bless his loyal followers. I knew it was true, and indeed god wanted to bless those who served him. Even King Benjamin taught that principle:

 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

I ended my talk and sat down. People said I did a good job, and Carlos approached me and said he enjoyed the talk, even if it was obviously directed at him. (So much for subtlety!) Church went on as usual, and we made an appointment to meet Carlos and his wife the following Thursday.

When the designated day rolled around, we arrived at their house and sat down.

The family was beaming. “Elders” he said, “I secretly paid tithing last Sunday.”

We were overjoyed.

He continued, “The following Tuesday, my mother received a notice from her bank that she had unclaimed money that had been sitting for years. It turns out, it will be sufficient to pay for her living accommodations for a long time.”

We testified that it was a blessing. Carlos and his wife agreed, and a few weeks later he was baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Looking back at those times, I wonder if I’m not guilty of preaching a prosperity gospel. I wonder if my mission companion and I committed that cardinal mistake of confusing causation and correlation. After all, other than that one occurrence, I’ve never seen anyone blessed in seemingly direct connection to the tithing they paid.

I wonder if Carlos and his family are still members of the church. I wonder if just a few years after that he lost his job and went broke. Or perhaps if he is now the branch president, testifying when, immediately after paying tithing for the first time, he received a small financial fall-out from a forgotten account in an Azorean bank.

Regardless, I no longer believe people receive blessings or curses from paying tithing. Many poor people give up what little they have to the church and are no better for it. A lot of people with money don’t pay a full tithe, and they’re no worse for it.

Teachings that testify of physical and spiritual blessings simply cannot be substantiated. In a way, the church is guilty of teaching the prosperity gospel, and at one time, I taught it too.

Falsely Accused: My Life As An ‘Anti’

Well I’ve just found out that I’m an Anti-Mormon.
Boy am I surprised!

It all started with Facebook. Some Mormon family members saw some things in my newsfeed that they didn’t like and BAM! just like that I’m an Anti-Mormon.[1]

Well since it appears that I’ve been judged, labeled, and pigeonholed I’ve got some work to do – some “heavy lifting” penitence for my “sin” if you will! Specifically I need to answer the questions – the really big ones – that I think every Anti-Mormon, like myself, shoud ask:

1) Who am I?
2) Where did I come from?
3) Why am I here?
4) Where am I going?
(and, of course, if you have a filmstrip that will help me in my search for happiness . . . )[2]

Who am I?
Well, I thought that I was a Mormon Studies Scholar specializing in Mormon History and Culture. After all doesn’t the dictionary tell us that a scholar is:

schol·ar
[skol-er] –noun
1. a learned or erudite person, especially one who has profound knowledge of a particular subject.
2. a student; pupil.
3. a student who has been awarded a scholarship.

You see, studying Mormonism and interacting with Mormons and doing the same with non-Mormons involved in Mormon Studies is pretty much what I do, whenever I’m not doing anything else. It’s my passion. My joy. My calling. So I certainly qualify for #2.

#1, from what I’ve seen, always seems to be a matter of opinion depending on whether the work of the “learned or erudite person” is approved of by the person doing the assessment (“Yes, they are!”) or not (“What are you crazy? They’re clearly a hack!”). In my case I’m even “loopy” enough to publicly talk about and write on the results of my research with others. But apparently I’m no scholar since sometimes my work upsets people who disagree with it – especially True Believing Mormons. So that, apparently, automatically makes me an “Anti-Mormon” rather than a “Scholar”.

However, I suppose I should take some consolation in the fact that in recent years I’ve heard the following people labeled “Anti-Mormon” by True Believing Mormons:

– D. Michael Quinn
– Grant Palmer
– Gordon B. Hinckley[3]

And oddly enough these are all believing Mormons! So apparently even being a believing Mormon doesn’t immunize one from being an “Anti-Mormon”. In fact, I’m sure that if queried these men would all declare (as they have) that they have a profound and love and respect for the Mormon people, culture and history – and I echo those sentiments. So how then are we all “Anti”? To me, it’s both illogical and irrational.

So I can’t help but wonder if this, “I’m upset because I don’t like what you’re saying so you MUST be an Anti-Mormon!” is a validation of that infamous quote:

“All too often [Latter-day] Saints use the label “anti-Mormon” as a tactic to forestall serious discussion.”
(“Mormon America: The Power and the Promise (2007 Edition)”; Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling; p. 115)

Where did I come from?
I’ve never been a Latter-day Saint but I’ve had Mormon family members and friends my whole life. I like them, I get along with them (at least I think I do), and I like to think that my main concern is my Mormon friends and family member’s best interests. Further, I can’t help but believe that what’s true for me is even more true for the distinguished gentlemen in the above list.

Never-the-less, I do have something else in common with all those men: I’ve criticized the LdS Church and suggested that all isn’t well in Zion. Yes, I have had the gall and the audacity to criticize “God’s perfect Church” and call it to account for I see as it’s deficiencies. In addition, I have this in common with all but one of them: Whenever I study and discuss Mormon History it’s alway True rather than Faithful Mormon History.[4] And since I have been on a quest to acquire and speak truth my entire life, I’m not inclined to give that up.

You see, to me, to present the white washed, spin-doctored view of the LdS Church that’s presented to the membership and the public as well as limiting one’s self to the “Faithful” history pontificated by the Church Educational System is akin to lying via omission or commission. Now I’m far from perfect but to the best of my ability I speak the truth as I see it, as I understand it, and as it’s aligned with the best available evidence – if that makes me an “Anti-Mormon” in the eyes of some . . . oh well!

Why am I here?
So how in the world did I get here at all? To answer that question we must “rewind” to the passing of Gordon B. Hinckley . . .

A Mormon family member sent out a mass email praising him and expounding on the time that he shook his hand. The “hook” that got me was when this normally rational, logical relative used these words, “When I looked into his eyes it was if I was he and I were the only people in the room – it was if I were looking into the eyes of Christ himself.”

That was wake up call #1.

Then a few months later Mitt Romney drops out of the Presidential race on the same week that the Wall Street Journal publishes an article revealing that most Americas consider Mormon beliefs troubling and thus would have second thoughts about having a Latter-day Saint as President of the nation.

Apparently the Mormon Leadership sent out some type of communique to the Wards about this article and Romney’s departure from the race because that Sunday that same Mormon family member sent out another email about how Mormons are just normal, average people and how we non-Mormons shouldn’t persecute them for their faith.[5]

That was bad.

What was worse when someone else in my family (who’s not Mormon) immediately replied with words of comfort and reassurance ending with, “… after all we all worship the same Christ”[6] I sat there stunned and realized that I wasn’t equipped to reply intelligently to either of these bright, intelligent, well read family members even if I wanted to.

So I resurrected my long dormant (it had fallen to the side decades ago due to pressure of finishing college, starting a career and raising a family) study of Mormonism and got to work.  Well to my shock and surprise I found that I had discovered a new passion: Mormon Studies.

I’m hooked.

My favorite Mormon Studies quote – and the one the epitomizes my philosophy and experience – comes from LdS Scholar Kathleen Flake who said:

“Superficially, one thinks of revealed religions as providing answers, and Smith provides as many questions as he does answers.

Nobody is exempt from struggling with who he is. Whether you’re an insider or an outsider, thinking about Smith causes you to struggle, and that struggle brings as much of you into the question as it does Smith himself.

He’s a bit of a religious Rorschach test.”
— KATHLEEN FLAKE, Historian
(from the PBS Series “The Mormons”)

That quote matches my experience to a “T”. I have been changed, I believe for the better, through the craft and discipline of Mormon Studies – it touches on everything and it stretches you everywhere! It’s funny that way. Further, I just find Mormonism downright fascinating in and of itself – period.

So, yes, Mormon Studies has become my “thing” – it’s what I really enjoy and, frankly, I seem to be pretty good at it. So, for better or worse, here I am pursuing what seems to be a unique gifting and doing the best that I can to steward that gift well. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed, but whatever happens I just keep learning, struggling, growing, and stretching.

Where am I going?
In addition, I see some good things in the LdS Church and I see even more in Mormon Culture. There’s also much – particularly in the former – that, in my opinion, is really, really bad and needs to change. Never-the-less I’m just crazy enough to believe that there must be a way to keep the good and jettison the bad. After all isn’t that what happened to the Worldwide Church of God?[7]

However, to get there from here the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from my perspective, must reform. And THAT, at least for me, is still a work in progress. That’s to say, it’s a work in progress for me because while I think I have an idea as to what end state might look like, I know that I’m not alone in this vision and I’m find the ideas and thoughts of others often more interesting than my own – hence the need for ongoing dialog.

I also know that time is on my side since the LdS Chuch keeps changing – and, it seems, usually for the better. Thus, I think that we will see a better more mainstream Mormon Church in 1-2 generations (that’s 40-80 years for those of you who are counting). That also means that I won’t be around to see it so I must be content to shoot arrows into the future via ideas carried on written words.

And you dear reader have just picked one of those arrows up. May I ask you to please carry it into the future for me? And if you do, on behalf of myself, my family, my Mormon friends, and my Mormon family members: Thank you!

And if anyone ever asks you where you got it from just say, “From some guy on the Mormon Expression website. I don’t know much about him – but I do know that he’s no Anti-Mormon!”

 

NOTES:
[1] Now those of you have listened to the recent “The History of Online Mormonism: The Board Wars” podcast will know what I mean by “the problem of Facebook”, for those who haven’t here’s the short version: The great thing about Facebook is that it connects us. The problem is sometimes, those connections can be ackward (as any teenager who’s had their Mom friend them on Facebook will tell you!)

[2] Yes folks, that was coded language. Link here to decode that great mystery!

[3] Yes, believe it or not, some Mormons consider Gordon B. Hinckley an Anti-Mormon. When John Dehlin reported this in an early episode of Mormon Stories I didn’t believe it either. That was, until I saw this YouTube page.

[4] The best discussion of the differences between “True” and “Faithful” Mormon History is “Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History” Edited by George D. Smith which can be read online here or purchased from Amazon here. Marvin Hill’s Dialogue Article, “The ‘New Mormon History’ Reassessed in Light of Recent Books on Joseph Smith and Mormon Origins” (Dialogue volume 21, number 3, p.117) is also a good short overview.

[5] Though I didn’t realize it at the time this was reflective of the infamous “Mormon persecution complex” which was described thusly in the first part of the aforementioned Mormon America quote:

“The thin-skinned and image-conscious Mormon can display immature, isolationist, and defensive reactions to outsiders, perhaps because there is no substantive debate and no “loyal opposition” within their kingdom. With some, it almost seems that the wilderness is still untamed, the federal “polyg” police are on the prowl, and the Illinois lynch mob is still oiling muskets and preparing to raid Carthage Jail. All too often Saints use the label “anti-Mormon” as a tactic to forestall serious discussion.”
(“Mormon America: The Power and the Promise (2007 Edition)”; Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling; p. 115)

[6] Big topic. Controversial topic. However, I would encourage the reader to please consider the following articles from the critical perspective on this point:
What is the difference between the Mormon Jesus and the Jesus of the Bible?
Hinckley says Mormons Believe in a Different Jesus
The Biblical Jesus vs. the Book of Mormon Jesus
Is Mormonism Christian?: A Comparison of Mormonism and Historic Christianity
A Comparison Between Christian Doctrine and Mormon Doctrine
Differences Between Mormonism and Christianity

[7] A portal page on the Worldwide Church of God’s transition to mainstream orthodoxy can be found can here. It’s a fascinating and inspiring story. If the LdS church will go this way is anyone’s guess but I holding out hope that the answer is, “Yes!”

More Than 6% of Temple-Married Mormons Get Divorced

 

Source: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2009-03-07/

In this recent post on the Wheat & Tares blog, the author, Jake, bases his article on the statistic that temple-sealed Mormons have a miraculously low divorce rate of 6%.

In support of that percentage he uses a number of sources, the first being a 1984 News of the Church article referencing a study conducted by BYU sociology professor Tim Henton and the church’s Kirsten Goodman of the Correlation Evaluation Department. Their report finds that:

“Nontemple marriages are about five times more likely to end in divorce than temple marriages.” About 5.4 percent of LDS males who married in the temple were later divorced, and about 6.5 percent of the females. By comparison, some 27.8 percent of nontemple LDS marriages ended in divorce for men, and about 32.7 percent for women.”

After quoting a 1993 Salt Lake Tribune article citing the low divorce rate amongst Mormons, the Wheat & Tares post references this LA Times April 2000 article, which cites BYU professor Daniel Judd’s claim that only 6% of Mormons “undergo the demanding temple marriage breakup.”

The author ends his summary of statistics by briefly mentioning the counter argument to the low-divorce-rate hypothesis with the following, “Now something that has been pointed out is that these statistics may not be fully accurate and representative, due to the fact that getting a temple divorce is notoriously difficult to do and the 6% represent only those who have had their marriage both legally and ecclesiastically divorced.”

After offering that caveat, it is concluded that: “The consensus seems to be that even if it is not as dramatically low as is portrayed, it is clear that Mormon marriages divorce rates are lower than the national average rate.”

This conclusion seems premature. I’m not sure there is an agreement that “Mormon marriages divorce rates are lower than the national average rate.” Further, we are never presented with the information that would counter the low percentage of Mormon divorces.

I followed a link in Jake’s article to the Ontario Consultants of Religious Tolerance website (religioustolerance.org), which provides the following information:

Overall, the Mormon divorce rate appears to be no different from the average American divorce rate. A 1999 study by Barna Research of nearly 4,000 U.S. adults showed that 24% of Mormon marriages end in divorce — a number statistically equal to the divorce rate among all Americans. Members of non-denominational churches (typically Fumndamentalist in teaching) and born-again Christians experience a significantly higher divorce rate; Agnostics and Atheists have much a lower rate.

This data is supported by an earlier study the National Survey of Families and Households. It found that about 26% of both Mormons and non-Mormons had experienced at least one divorce at some time during their life.

That information is very important as it confounds the church-approved messages regarding Mormon temple marriages that are repeated ad nauseum over the pulpit.

Let’s interpret the doublespeak of BYU professor Daniel Judd’s claim that only 6% of Mormons “undergo the demanding temple marriage breakup.”

Is he really saying that only 6% of Mormons get divorced? No, he isn’t. He is only saying that 6% of Mormons actually go through the process of severing their temple marriage. It is a lie of omission. He doesn’t clarify that an individual who gets a secular divorce doesn’t necessarily go through a temple sealing cancellation.

From what I’ve found, in order to get a temple sealing cancellation one needs permission from the First Presidency. If you’re a woman, it is customary to receive written permission from the ex-husband. (Need I even add that if you’re a man, such permission in not necessary?) Understanding what it takes to get a temple sealing puts Henton and Goodman’s 1984 study in the proper context and explains why only 5.4% of males and 6.5% of females get a temple divorce. After all, if females want to remarry in the temple, they need a sealing cancellation with permission from their former spouse. Men don’t have to play by the same rules and their numbers are lower for it.

My biggest problem with the whole fraudulent “6% get divorced” regurgitation, is that it prevents an honest discussion about temple marriage from ever occurring.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the average U.S. divorce rate in 2009 was 3.4 per 1,000 people. Utah’s divorce rate for 2009 was 3.6. Since 1990, their numbers have looked like this:

Year 1990 1995 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Divorce Rate 5.1 4.4 4.0 4.3 4.2 4.1 4.0 4.1 4.0 3.9 3.6 3.7 3.6

(The full chart for divorce rates by state can be found on CDC’s website here)

If you’ll allow me to use Utah as a representative for the Mormon church, data suggests they have consistently been above the average U.S. divorce rate. Even with falling divorce rates, their numbers mirror the rest of the nation whose rates of divorce are also in decline.

In reality, temple-married Mormons get divorced like everyone else. It just so happens that they don’t go through the trouble of getting permission from a group of strangers as well as their estranged ex spouses to complete the church’s requirement for a temple sealing cancellation.