23 A Mormon in the Cheap Seats: A Few Questions?

1) Why is it so hard, when it comes to women, for Mormons to understand that being valued is not the same as being equal?

2) If King Benjamin were put in charge of church finances, how would he spend the money? If the church were a gated neighborhood, how much money would he spend inside the gates (on landscaping, improving the golf course, expanding the swimming pool, putting new playground equipment in the park, etc.)? How much would he spend helping the poor on the other side of the gate? From 1984 to 1997, the church allocated a total of $30.7 million to non-Mormon charity work–approximately 0.2% of its assets.

3) What should missionaries tell people who have had meaningful spiritual experiences in their own faith, and who–although they are uncomfortable with certain doctrines and practices–have decided that they “don’t need to understand everything” and that they “just need to have faith” and continue to live their religion (because they’ll figure it out eventually)? What should bishops tell members who have had meaningful spiritual experiences, but who are uncomfortable with certain doctrines and practices? Should the advice in the former case be the same as in the latter?  If not, then why not?

4) We believe in “teaching men correct principles and letting them govern themselves.” We also believe in “exact obedience.” We believe in the divine gift of agency–and in the necessity of “following the prophet” (even if we don’t understand why).  We believe in the principle of stewardship and that men should not be commanded in all things, but then routinely consult a 403-page Handbook (formerly the Church Handbook of Instruction) to answer questions like “should I get vasectomy?”  We believe that the internationalization of the church has made it even more important to focus on general principles–that’s why the 14-page Handbook, first published in 1899, has been reduced to 403 pages.  [Is there a question here?]

5) How much longer would the Handbook have to be before it qualified as pharisaical?

6) Who is more arrogant? An individual that believes he or she has found the truth (and that everyone else on the planet has settled for partial truth, is mistaken, or is misguided), or an individual that acknowledges that he or she really doesn’t know anything? How can otherwise intelligent individuals honestly believe that it is the latter?

7) If we believe that the “truth will set us free,” why are we afraid of our own history? How many members of the church know that Joseph Smith dictated the BoM with his head (and a seer stone) buried in a hat? If most members aren’t familar with the origins of the BoM, why aren’t they? When does intentionally withholding “the meat” (while doing our best to sell “the milk”) become a lie of omission? How can we expect others to recognize “the truth” when we withhold it?

8) If tithing money is deposited in the church’s corporate bank accounts because God isn’t around to collect it himself, then don’t members have a responsibility to make sure tithing money is spent in a way that they believe God would want it spent?  Shouldn’t members, therefore, demand a transparent accounting of the use of tithing funds?  If the church produced detailed financial reports until 1959, why did it stop? If the church produces detailed financial reports for its operations in Canada and the United Kingdom, why don’t they do so in the United States? Would members pay more or less tithing if they had a better understanding of church finances?

9) Is God a polygamist?

10) Could a successful church (in terms of number of members, assets, influence, etc.) be built with members that retain control of their spiritual beliefs (and lives)? If you get what you pay for, is it also true that you’ll pay more if you think you’re getting more? Is there is a lesson here?

11) Why is the growth of the church so important to members? Why won’t the church publish simple metrics that would reflect real growth trends, like total tithing paid by geographic area? According to several metrics, the real growth rate of the church in the U.S. has been close to zero since the mid-nineties.  Why does that make members uncomfortable? Should it?

12) Why does the universality of religious experience make church members uncomfortable? Why do the overwhelming majority of individual religious experiences confirm the religious traditions in which individuals were raised? What does this say about the nature of religious experiences?

13) Why is the “difficulty” of writing the BoM often used as evidence of its divinity? Quick, which of the following is the most miraculous: a) Memorizing and then reciting 22,000 digits of pi (without making a mistake), b) Learning a new language in a week, c) Composing the Messiah, by hand, all 260 pages of it, in 24 days, d) Surviving for 1 hour, 13 minutes and 48 second immersed in ice by using meditation techniques to control one’s body temperature, or e) Dictating 531 pages of scripture with one’s head buried in a hat? Is the process of attributing meaning to these “feats” really a simple black-and-white, either-he-was-a-prophet-or-a-fraud, exercise?

14) Why are church lessons so boring (and often indistinguishable from standard call-and-response liturgies)?

15) Why do church members seem to believe that the church is either hated or loved? Why is it so hard to see that most people are indifferent?

16) Is Christ a Republican?  If not, then why are most church members Republicans?

Anyone want to add a few more?  The floor is now yours. . .

[Last Post: 22 Look Mom, No Hands!]