51NVrZl5npLIt’s a painful reality for Mormon parents (and all religious parents) that sometimes, their children leave the faith. I’ve known a number of moms and dads whose kids have decided as young adults to stop being Mormon, which can be heartbreaking for parents.

Sometimes, I think those young adults made the right decision for them, which is a topic I’ll tackle in another post. But for now I’d like to explore some new sociological research that suggests key ways that parents might successfully “transmit” their faith to the next generation.

These ideas and statistics come from Vern Bengtson’s new study Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down across Generations, an Oxford book I was hired to edit last year. It’s a fascinating exploration of religion in America as it has been observed for nearly four decades of Bengtson’s data — the longest-ever study of religion and family through multiple generations. I encourage you to give it a read.

The good news is that despite all the cultural hand-wringing about “the decline of the family” and “the erosion of parental influence,” statistical evidence suggests that parental guidance remains the strongest single factor in determining the religious lives of their adult children. In fact, kids are still more likely to stay in the religion of their parents than they are to leave it:

We expected that correlations between parents and their young adult children would be significantly lower in 2005 than they were in 1970, but these data indicate otherwise: Parent-youth similarity in religiosity has not declined over thirty-five years.

In fact, among Mormons, the percentage of young adults who followed in their parents’ religious footsteps actually increased from 1970 (67%) to 2005 (85%), but Bengtson cautions us not to read too much into this because of the small number of Mormons participating in that sample and the wording of the questions, which made it possible for respondents to self-identify with a religion even when they were no longer “practicing members of good standing.”

Drawing on both his quantitative research on families through multiple generations and qualitative interviews that flesh out the trends in question, Bengtson suggests some ways for parents to improve the odds that their children will remain in the religion of their youth.

1) Stay married — and marry inside the faith. One decisive factor in raising kids who stay in the fold is to have what Bengtson calls a “same-faith” marriage in which two partners are of the same religion and stay together as a married couple. In most religious groups (Mormons, interestingly, being an exception because there were too few divorced families to make any statistical comparisons), divorce resulted in a significant decline in the likelihood that kids would follow their parents’ religion.

2) Involve the grandparents. This was one of the coolest and most surprising findings of the longitudinal study: grandparents matter a lot. With people living longer, more grandparents are around to make a difference in kids’ lives, and they have an impact on religious transmission.

3) Be flexible, loving, and kind. Well, what if you’re a divorced parent, and/or your own parents aren’t around to influence your children? Don’t worry: how you love your kids is crucial. “Parental warmth,” says Bengtson, “is the key to successful transmission.” One interesting finding is that fathers’ influence is actually a little more important than mothers’ on this score, which flies in the face of Mormonism’s emphasis on how everything comes down to Mom. The nature and quality of the father-child relationship proved a strong indicator of successful religious transmission; when the relationship was “close, warm, and affirming,” success was more likely, and when the father was “cold, distant, or authoritarian,” it was less likely, no matter how pious the father was or what instructional efforts he made to teach his kids about religion. Relationships are paramount.

4) Be explicit and intentional about modeling your faith for your kids. This is not going to come as a surprise to most Mormon families, who hear all the time about the importance of family prayer, family Scripture study, Family Home Evening, etc. But such efforts appear to be working, because Mormons, evangelical Christians, and Jews had the highest rates of successful religious transmission among any faith traditions in Bengtson’s study. Whether the whole family is sitting down to watch a General Conference broadcast or a Passover Seder, the important thing is that they do it consistently and all together. It’s the families that “outsource” religious instruction and rarely engage in intergenerational religious activities that have the least chance of passing on the faith.

5) On the other hand, don’t shove religion down their throats. The odds of children leaving the fold increase when they perceive their parents as forcing them to participate in religious activities and conform to narrow ideology. For example, one sociological finding of the study concerns adult converts’ relative inability to successfully pass on their faith to their children compared to the more successful rates of non-converts. There are several reasons why it’s less likely for a convert to be able to raise children in his or her newly chosen religion: Often the convert’s spouse did not also convert, resulting in an interfaith family; sometimes there was no grandparental religious influence for the same reason; and sometimes the convert parent was overzealous in forcing the kids to obey. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

6) Understand that generational forces are largely out of your control. After “doing everything right,” some parents may still find that their efforts at holding Family Home Evening, teaching kids religion at home, and modeling their faith will not be enough. I think that in Mormonism there is a lot of self-blame when adult children leave the Church, but some of this is simply generational: in the seven generations of Bengtson’s study, “one theme that developed over time concerns the increasing separation of religious practice from religious institutions.” The Millennials (ages 18-30) are prone to see themselves as having a relationship with God, but ever less likely to equate that with membership in an institution.

150 Comments

  1. Duwayne Anderson

    From the article: “Mormons, interestingly, being an exception because there were too few divorced families to make any statistical comparisons)”

    Utah’s divorce rate is about average for the US:

    http://www.statemaster.com/graph/lif_div_rat-lifestyle-divorce-rate

    “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. 5 Members of non-denominational churches (typically Fundamentalist in teaching) and born-again Christians experience a significantly higher divorce rate; Agnostics and Atheists have much a lower rate.”

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/lds_divo.htm

    Even when comparing only Mormons who marry other Mormons, 13 percent of LDS couples have divorced after five years of marriage.

    If the study couldn’t find enough divorced Mormons for a statistical comparison, they must not have been looking very hard.

    • Jana Riess

      Duwayne, thank you for reading and commenting. I can’t answer for the parameters of the longitudinal study as they were originally set in 1970, but you can read about the sociologists’ methodology in the appendix of the book.

      One question for you: Earlier this year, the CDC reported that the divorce rate overall is now about 40% of US marriages, which is down from a high of roughly 50% in the 1980s. But 40% is still substantially higher than the Mormon rate of 24% you quote here, so if both of those stats are accurate then it’s incorrect to conclude that the Mormon rate of divorce is “no different from the average American divorce rate.”

      Any thoughts?

      • Duwayne Anderson

        Jana:

        I suspect it’s related to how “divorce rate” is defined. There are several ways to define “divorce rate.” I give two examples below:

        1) The number of divorces per 1,000 people in the population

        2) How many first marriages end within a given year, or set of adjacent years

        http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr049.pdf

        The CDC appears to use the first definition:

        http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/divorce_rates_90_95_99-11.pdf

        According to the CDC link (above) Utah’s divorce rate was 3.7 in 2011, and the national average was 3.7.

        Of course one can always manipulate statistics. It’s easy to do. The Mormon Church, for example, prefers to cite “temple divorces” when they calculate divorce rate. The problem is, these data cannot be independently confirmed (and should be suspect, given the obvious shenanigans the church plays with membership figures). Worse, it’s known that some Mormons have civil divorces from spouses they are still sealed to. These uncertainties and inconsistencies all make the “temple” divorce rate essentially meaningless.

        One last point. Many Mormon apologists argue that Utah statistics are unrelated to Mormon statistics (unless the Utah statistics make Mormons look good, of course). But in the case of divorce rates the math just doesn’t work. Utah is well over half Mormon. For Mormons to have a divorce rate that is substantially lower than the national average, yet Utah has a divorce rate that is above average, the non-Mormons is Utah would have to have the highest divorce rate of any demographic in the nation — by far.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            Mark Twain’s observation was never more meaningful than here. There is no basis for using Utah statewide statistics as a proxy for LDS, especially not practicing LDS. The only obvious meaning of “divorce rate” is the rate at which married couples divorce. No one thinka that “divorce rate” is a term limited to first marriages. The quotation from the “religious tolerance” website is supported by a footnoted reference to as “1999 study” that can’t be found. (“404 Not Found”). References to that same study found elsewhere show that the 24% number refers to the percent of Mormons who have been divorced, and NOT to the percent of formerly married Mormons who have been divorced. Since never-married people are included in the total number of people who have not been divorced, it was not a divorce rate analysis at all, and really means next to nothing about the tendency, or not, of *married* Mormons to divorce compared to the general population. Looking at the CDC chart of “divorce rates,” you see that Utah is in fact among the states with the lowest rates … but you also see that the chart is just recording the incidence of divorce petitions. This still tells you nothing about the percent of marriages ending in divorce. You also see from the chart that some of the highest “rates” existed 20 years ago – does that mean that there has been an increase in marital stability? I doubt it; it probably means that the increase in rates of cohabitation skews the rate at which divorce petitions are filed since the unmarried don’t divorce.

            CDC also says,

            Among the findings in the report: unmarried cohabitations overall are less stable than marriages. The probability of a first marriage ending in separation or divorce within 5 years is 20 percent, but the probability of a premarital cohabitation breaking up within 5 years is 49 percent. After 10 years, the probability of a first marriage ending is 33 percent, compared with 62 percent for cohabitations.

            The study suggests that both cohabitations and marriages tend to last longer under certain conditions, such as: a woman’s age at the time cohabitation or marriage began; whether she was raised throughout childhood in an intact 2-parent family; whether religion plays an important role in her life; and whether she had a higher family income or lived in a community with high median family income, low male unemployment, and low poverty. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/02news/div_mar_cohab.htm

            “Whether religion plays an important role in her life.” Hmmm.

            Duwayne Anderson won’t discuss any of this because he is only interested in facts to the extent he thinks they can be used to make Mormons look bad. That’s an unscientific motive for such a self-proclaimed scientist.

        • Sasha Apanasenko

          Mormons who marry non-Mormons, or less-active Mormons, have as high or higher divorce rate than average Americans, presumably because the diverging faith views create tension. That, combined with a fair number of young marriages would probably be the reason Utah’s overall rate is average.

          Also,in many states people don’t even get hitched until they’ve been living together for years; many of the ones that break up don’t go into the divorce statistics, whereas they would in Utah presuming they got hitched before living together.

        • @Duwayne and Jana
          Let me offer a slightly different perspective. A larger percentage of Mormons than non-Mormons marry, and even when the percentage that divorce is lower, the number of Mormons who have experienced divorce is closer to the general public but that the percentage that have been married and not divorce is higher. Using Barna data cited above that 24% of LDS members are divorced, (.24/.86=) .28% of Mormons have marriages that end in divorce and 72% have marriages that never have.

          PEW finds that 22% of the general public have never married implying that 78% have. If 40% have been divorced, then (.40/.78=) 51% of the general public have marriages that end in divorce and 49% that do not end in divorce. I believe that there is a big difference between 72% and 49%.

          Assume that the LDS data was obtained by Barna from committed adherents and that they compose 25% of Utah’s population. Assume as well that less committed Mormons have the same divorce rate as the general public. Then the percentage divorced is .25*.24+.75*.40=36%. That works out very close to the CDC national average of 3.7 per 1,000.

          I have mixed and matched four surveys to produce my results. They might well be wrong. I believe that religious commitment, not just among Mormons but other faiths, reduces divorce, not because there are fewer divorces but because more people marry.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Wacoan wrote: “I believe that religious commitment, not just among Mormons but other faiths, reduces divorce, not because there are fewer divorces but because more people marry.”

            It might also be attributable to the advice to stay married for the church and the kids.

            And that brings up another point — a low divorce rate doesn’t logically lead to the conclusion there are lots of happy marriages. In societies where there’s a strong stigma against divorce, one could expect less divorce but possibly more unhappy marriages.

          • Thank you for acknowledging that committed members have lower divorce rates than the general public. I see no reason to assume that committed Mormons stay together for the kids any more than any other group that stays married, particularly without data. Nor do I believe that shared affection is a bad reason to stay married, even if that affection is for the kids and not each other but that is a different issue.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Wacoan: “Thank you for acknowledging that committed members have lower divorce rates than the general public.”

            Since the point was never in dispute, there’s no need for thanks.

            But while we’re on the subject, I should point out (again) that comparisons to the mean don’t mean much.

            I can run faster than the average American. I can ride my bicycle faster than the average American. But that doesn’t mean I run fast, or that I ride my bicycle fast.

            To understand if I run fast you’d need to compare my marathon time with other marathon runners. To see if I ride fast you’d need to compare my cycling speed with pro riders.

            If you did that, you’d see that I don’t run very fast, and I don’t ride very fast.

            Being better than average is easy — half of the people do it.

            Wacoan wrote: “I see no reason to assume that committed Mormons stay together for the kids …”

            Fair enough, but is there *any* verifiable and objective data that, if it were true, would dissuade you from believing in Mormonism?

          • Duwayne,

            Perhaps I misunderstood your point on divorce in Utah. I understand and agree with your point on what it means to be average. The example you use about running and cycling fit me. Like you, I am still probably faster than the average American but I am slow. Even if Mormons were more educated than average, it doesn’t mean much. Jews are more educated than anybody. I do think the point that there is a direct relationship between commitment and education is significant. Ignorance is not driving membership growth.

            I will attempt to answer your question about verifiable and objective data that, if true, would dissuade me from believing in Mormonism. Unlike you, I am not a product of active parents. They wanted me to be an active member despite their example but I would not have experienced any shunning if my commitment to the Church lagged. When I told my father I wanted to service a mission, he offered objections. He told me later that the objections were to test my resolve but that he was proud of my decision.

            Before I left on my mission, I was exposed to a great deal of anti-Mormon literature. From an intellectual standpoint, it is distressingly similar to the material online today. I spent time at the community college library I attended looking up references when they were provided. Often they were not and only assertions were made. Much more often than not, I found the Church position much more reasonable than the critics. These efforts, confirmed by spiritual experiences grant me a robust testimony.

            Just as my testimony was built line up line, it would need to be deconstructed line upon line. Here is a small list.
            1. Joseph Smith had a better education than the Church suggests.
            2. Emma doubted Joseph’s translation of the Book of Mormon.
            3. Joseph knew how to write in chiasmus prior to writing the Book of Mormon.
            4. Joseph know how to attend fruit trees and fruit tree management in 1820 was similar to olive tree management.
            5. The story of the first vision was identical every time Joseph told it. My father was a cop of high rank. He taught me to be suspicious of a witness or witnesses that told the same story. If the stories are very similar, it was rehearsed.
            6. Brigham was involved in the planning of the Mountain Meadow Massacre. Please don’t site the common arguments that suggest he was. I have read most of them and time and location make them impossible.
            7. Current general authorities commonly abuse family members.
            8. Correlation between Book of Mormon government and early 19th century government.
            I could list more examples with time, but these should do. I imagine that the list of items that would reserve our view of the Church would be similar but in reverse.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Wacoan wrote: “Ignorance is not driving membership growth.”

            I didn’t say it was. That said, Mormon converts are (on average) less educated (and statistically so) than the American population at large, and the Mormon Church’s “growth” is primarily in countries with poor educational systems and more limited Internet access.

            http://www.culteducation.com/reference/mormon/mormon632.html

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Wacoan wrote: “I will attempt to answer your question about verifiable and objective data that, if true, would dissuade me from believing in Mormonism.”

            Okay … you are the first to actually provide a list. Thanks, and congratulations.

            I have to say I think your list is pretty strange, but at least you provided one. That’s more than most do.

            Couple of points/comments/questions with regard to your list:
            1) Why do you think chiasmus are significant, given that the Book of Mormon is supposed to be an ancient American document, and the ancient American’s didn’t use chiasmus?

            2) Can you be more specific about the fruit tree? What unknown information are you suggesting is in the Book of Mormon?

            3) Suppose Brigham Young was not directly involved in planning the Mountain Meadows Massacre – suppose he was only peripherally involved. Would that be evidence that would convince you that Mormonism is false?

            4) Why is Smith’s educational attainment important? If other religions were formed by equally un-educated men, would you consider that proof that they’re true? If not, why do you consider it relevant to Mormonism?

            5) Why is it relevant whether or not Emma doubted the translation of the Book of Mormon? How about if she doubted *other* of Smith’s revelation? Wouldn’t you consider that evidence against Smith, too? Why or why not?

            6) Do you believe in every story that told inconsistently? Do you disbelieve in every story that’s told consistently?

            7) You mentioned current general authorities and abuse. Why did you limit it to just “current” Gas? Why wouldn’t you consider past GAs as well?

            8) Why are you only interested in correlation between Book of Mormon government and early 19th century government? Why not lack of correlation between the Book of Mormon governments and those of ancient America, which the Book of Mormon is supposed to be about?

    • I’m a Mormon sociologist and know that the divorce rate among Mormons is very bi-modal. The divorce rate among practicing Mormons (e.g. those that get married in a LDS temple and stay active in the faith) is dramatically below the national average, but the divorce rate among nonpracticing Mormons is higher than the national average. Hence, the Utah divorce rate is about the same as the national average.

  2. One of the problems is that for many religious people, parents are much better at inculcating cultural traditions, than they are at instilling faith.

    The doctrines and practices of a religion are different (and as often as not, at odds with) the cultural traditions that grow around the faith. Some of the questions we need to ask are, “Do i know what I claim to believe?” “Do I live what I profess?” and “Am I establishing a foundation for that faith in my children’s lives?”

    Lots of things that people genuinely associate with being a “good Mormon” — political affiliation, support of BYU athletics, enjoying the Mormon Tabernacle Choir — actually have nothing to do with the faith, just as being a good Catholic doesn’t demand you memorize the Notre Dame fight song.

    The wonderful thing about this era is that we can shuck off the non-essential stuff, and teach our kids to do the same. It makes them stronger, and more secure as they seek the Spirit.

  3. Instead of indoctrinating children in a specific religion before they’ve developed reason, I would like to think parents would focus on helping children learn reasoning skills. As the child grows, Comparative Religions should be introduced as part of the child’s knowledge base. Then, when the child determines a preference for or against religion(s), the individual can decide.

    I would like to see humanity become less religiously dogmatic and more cognizant of the wide range of cultural differences in all aspects of life.

    • But what if my religion can’t hold up to personal preferences, analysis and mature developed reason? Then I am left with having to disown the kids and too much space at the table for Thanksgiving and Christmas. ;)

      Obviously the need to keep children in the same faith is extremely important for religions which emphasize cohesion over all other concerns. Religions where parents are encouraged to disavow and ostracize children, relatives or acquaintances who do not share the same publicly professed ideas.

    • @plorlk,
      Thanks for your thoughtful and respectful comment with which I disagree, but hopefully with the same tone that you set. I would like to see humanity become more religiously observant but less dogmatic and more cognizant of the wide range of cultural differences in all aspects of life.

      As a parent, I have raised my child in the family religion as I have the family set of political beliefs, sports teams, music and other values. I believe that it would be difficult to do anything else.

      I have tried to teach them positive reasoning skills with normative values. I also have taught them respect for other normative traditions and they have attended services of several other Christian denominations. It is opportunity rather than desire that has limited their exposure to non-Christian faiths. Jana’s tolerance for other religions is a major reason I read her blog. I do not see a reason why good reasoning skills are better honed without affiliation to a religion.

  4. Jana and others:
    One thing I have admired about LDS community is your ability to pass-on your faith to your children. You quote a statistic from the study that 85% of LDS kids become LDS. Even if that number is statistically not supported strongly, I would still find an number anywhere near that, incredible. I say this as a Mainline Protestant, where despite spending lots of time, attention, and resources on youth, we lose a lot more of our kids than you do.

    As a parent, I wonder a lot about: what is the right balance between ‘being explicit and intentional’ about communicating the faith (item #4), and turning them off by shoving our faith ‘down their throats’ (point #5)? I wonder how thoughtful LDS parents do that. What do you do when a 14-year-old insists ‘I don’t believe in God, and I hate church, they are such hypocrites, and I will never ever go back’? Do you yell and threaten them until they go back and hate every minute? Turn up the gory talk about how awful hell is? Talk to them at length with no result, then let them drop-out and pursue their own path, then find that your other kids say ‘wow, that was easy, why don’t I do that too’?

    Losing our own kids to secularism and atheism is very painful. It is accompanied with much regret, self-criticism, and maybe accusations amongst parents. They may feel like God gave them a very important job with His children, and they the parents screwed it up.

    Or, to indulge in even more self-reflection: to what extent are we really upset for our kids loss, and to what extent are we selfishly thinking of the negative consequences to ourselves (ego, social stature)?

    • JeffP,

      The key to keeping children in the faith is for them to gain a personal relationship with Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ by learning to pray and receive answers, understanding the role of the Holy Ghost and feeling His Spirit and guidance, reading the scriptures, following the commandments, and paying Tithing.
      There are two critical parts: Learning and then doing. Learn about the Gospel and then share with others. Learn about some topic and then pray about it. Learn about a topic and then follow up with scripture study. Learn about a commandment and then try to live it. Follow Christ’s example by serving others.
      A very critical thing that determines if a young person stays in the Church is if they pay Tithing. How willing are they to return back to the Lord one tenth of what they receive. As they give, they will be rewarded with spiritual blessings that are spoken of in Malachi. These spiritual blessings provide that deep conviction and build the relationship with Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

      • John:
        Thanks for your thoughts.
        I really like your ideas: teach them something, then practice it. It seems so simple, but I guess some of us haven’t thought of it that way. Instruction, making it real, repeat.
        And, I also like your thoughts about teaching Charity. That is easier than scripture readings when someone is already cynical.

        Intercessory prayer is something I struggled with with my kids. I guess you would suggest being more active with specific intercessory prayers than some of us, especially mainline Protestants. I was always nervous about how to to explain it to my young kids when a lot of things they prayed for, good things, didn’t happen, and maybe we tried to put-off the kids being disillusioned with God. Overprotecting, perhaps.

    • JeffP
      If you start teaching them at 14 then you started WAY to late. My parents had “Family Home Evening”, every monday since I could remember (and even before that I’m sure). My parents alternated between spiritual lessons and physical activites (probably 2 spiritual for every 1 “play”). During FHE we were taught doctorine, taught principles, taught the gospel. In short, we were taught about Christ. We were taught to pray, taught to seek truth by asking God, taught to listen for the Holy Ghost. Taught we needed to seek out, gain, and maintain a testimony of our own.
      Thats probably going to seem like alot for most parents, and it probably was for my parents, but its where their priorities laid.

    • Duwayne Anderson

      JeffP wrote: “Losing our own kids to secularism and atheism is very painful.”

      What’s sad is that you seem to think you’ve lost your kids if they don’t share your religious views. Sad that you would espouse a religion that would lead you to that conclusion. Sad that your religion would interfere with your family like that.

      • Give me a break. I know atheists that would be saddened if their kids were Mormons are would be happy when they followed their own disbelief. I know Republican parents who are saddened when their kids vote for Democrats. i know parents who get mad at their kids when their kids support the wrong sports teams. Believing that their are eternal consequences for disbelief is a much better reason than most for being upset with a child’s decisions.

        • Duwayne Anderson

          Wacoan wrote: “I know atheists that would be saddened if their kids were Mormons are would be happy when they followed their own disbelief. ”

          So? Have I said that would be any better? Do you understand the nature of the strawman argument? It’s when you argue against a proposition that the other person isn’t using. That’s what you’re doing.

          Wacoan wrote: “Believing that their are eternal consequences for disbelieft…”

          How sad that you worship a god that punishes people for “disbelief.” What a weird/evil deity you worship.

          • Again, I am spot on. Disappointment in children is part of being a parent. As you know, being a former member, we believe that God rewards for belief, not punishes for disbelief but I really am out of here.

  5. Another way to keep Mormon children in the Mormon faith is to be a gatekeeper. Protect them from hearing the gospel as Paul taught it. This, too, will keep them from coming to faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

    • trytoseeitmyway

      Yeah, those darn Mormons. Sticking to the gospel as Jesus taught it. Shocking.

      “Downtown dave” just loooves to pop onto blogs with his false claims about Mormons and Mormonism. Bearing false witness is a sin, but it doesn’t bother him. I think it’s because he figures he’s “saved” no matter what evil he practices. Sad.

  6. Duwayne Anderson

    I was born to LDS parents who deeply indoctrinated me in the LDS religion. My dad was in the bishopric or the stake presidency during most of my adolescent life. We had family home evening every week. I went through all the Priesthood quorums on schedule. I graduated from seminary, served a two-year mission, married in the temple, and graduated from BYU. I spent the next ten years serving in callings like Gospel Doctrine teacher and Elder’s Quorum President while my wife spent time in callings like the Relief Society President. We followed all the church’s council; we attended all our meetings, didn’t use birth control, followed the Word of Wisdom, and went to the temple once each month.

    Mormonism began to unravel when I started looking into it a bit more deeply, and by the time I was in my mid 30s I had decided the church is false. When I told my wife she was understandably devastated. The church is institutionally organized to destroy the families of men who resign, but my wife stood by me and we’re still married after 36 years.

    As part of our give-and-take, I agreed not to tell the kids and to keep going to church; my wife agreed that I could read books in church, and didn’t have to pay tithing.

    That’s the way it was for 20 years. Today all my kids are out of the church, in spite of having perfect (well, nearly perfect) church attendance and going to seminary. They discovered the Internet and learned in a day what had taken me several years and dozens of trips to the library. My wife is also out of the church, having stumbled onto the podcasts by John Larson, John Dehlin, and the Feminist Mormon Housewives.

    The common denominator in each or our exit stories was information coupled with personal integrity and honesty. I like to say it this way — anyone with an ounce of personal integrity, a three-digit IQ, and an hour or so on the Internet will know that Mormonism is false.

    That said, the reason for *leaving* Mormonism wasn’t because it’s false, it’s because Mormonism forces non-conforming people out.

    They accomplish this largely through institutional rules coupled with church culture that is driven by Conference talks given by General Authorities. Through these mechanisms the Church indoctrinates its members that those who doubt have sinned. They suggest that husbands/wives who leave the church have committed adultery. They unilaterally cancel the temple sealing of spouses who resign, even if the other spouse remains active. Fathers who don’t believe and don’t pay tithing are blackballed because they no longer can baptize, ordain, or bless their children like all the other fathers, and like fathers are *expected* to do in the church.

    In addition to those institutional rules designed to destroy families, there are the orthodox members that tend to drive out non-believers, even if those non-believers would like to remain culturally and emotionally connected to the congregation.

    All this has the negative effect of driving extremism within Mormonism. Smart, honest, and informed people are disproportionately driven out of the church, leaving a higher concentration of people who are more ideological. The cycle is reinforcing.

    While more enlightened and liberal churches may look with envy at Mormonism’s grip on members I think it should actually be the other way around. There is long-term value in churches that respect agency and are open and inviting to everyone. The emotional fear used by the LDS Church to retain kids and their parents is probably unsustainable.

    • Thanks for sharing your story. It seems that you lived in an area/congregation steeped with Mormon culture rather than a firm adherence to the gospel itself. The gospel comprises eternal truth and love. The Church teaches the gospel, at times changing policies to better meet that objective. Also, since the Church is administered and attended by humans, of course people make mistakes – including past and present Church leaders. Does that make the gospel false? No. It means that we all have the opportunity to practice the gospel by extending love, forgiveness, compassion, and refraining from judgement. We may all – both inside and outside the Church – find truth by listening for the confirmation from the Holy Ghost. As an aside, that is the best gift I can give my children: teaching them to recognize and follow the Holy Ghost in their lives.

      Mormon culture doesn’t always have much to do with either the gospel or the Church, and is responsible for most of the negative stereotypes about Mormons. The culture is notably more pronounced in areas of high LDS concentration with fewer converts.

      • Duwayne Anderson

        EB wrote: “It seems that you lived in an area/congregation steeped with Mormon culture ….”

        At the time of my exit we live in Oregon. The ward was no more “steeped with Mormon culture” than any other ward I’ve lived in (and I’ve lived in dozens of wards in other places like Provo, Washington, Arizona, and British Columbia).

        EB wrote: “Also, since the Church is administered and attended by humans, of course people make mistakes – including past and present Church leaders. Does that make the gospel false?”

        Sorry, EB, I may not have been clear enough in my story.

        The thing that Makes Mormonism false is its history, it’s doctrines, the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Abraham (both clumsy frauds). I don’t think anyone expects Mormon leaders to be “perfect.”

        My point is that there are people who know the church is false, because of the facts, but are okay living with the crazy doctrines and fraudulent scriptures because they just want to be part of the culture and community.

        Unfortunately there are institutional rules and culture in the Mormon Church/community that prevent many of those people from doing that. In this regard the Mormon Church is sorta like the Republican Party — there’s a litmus test, and if someone doesn’t pass the litmus test they tend (not always) to be forced out by LDS community behavior.

        That doesn’t mean the behavior proves the church is false (the facts do that) it simply means the LDS community deprives itself of diversity by driving away non-conformists.

        • trytoseeitmyway

          So, you see, EB, that’s how he drove his family away from the Church. With social pressure, ostracizing, belittling their faith, and so forth. Sad.

          But it certainly shows you how important parents are, and that faithful parents can do much to support their children.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Thanks for making my point, “trytoseeitmyway.” I couldn’t possibly have explained the problem with Mormon fanatics nearly as effectively as your demonstration.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            Happy to help. Your point, then, was how social pressure, ostracizing, belittling their faith, and so forth can lead to a loss of faith? I didn’t understand it that way, but I certainly agree. Or possibly your point was that parents are important in the religious (or not) upbringing of children, and that faithful parents can do much to support their children. I’m glad we agree on that.

            But maybe it is possible that you felt that my observations about your family experience – about which I know only what you write – are uncharitable and unsympathetic. Well, OK. At that they were far more charitable and sympathetic than the smears you launch at Mormons DAY IN AND DAY OUT. But I’ll make a deal with you. I will be more charitable, fair and sympathetic if you will be. How’s that? Deal?

      • ” It seems that you lived in an area/congregation steeped with Mormon culture rather than a firm adherence to the gospel itself. The gospel comprises eternal truth and love.”

        And this is what we would call a “no true scotsman” fallacy.

        Somehow the definition of being a real Mormon will shift depending on how negatively they are being portrayed.

        “The culture is notably more pronounced in areas of high LDS concentration with fewer converts.”

        Sincerely doubt this. Religious fervor and pious obnoxiousness tends to be strongest with recent converts than someone whose religious roots are several generations old. Converts are usually too eager to show how much they embrace their new faith and to actively prosletyze close acquaintances to get them on the same bandwagon.

        • If the topic were smoking, it has been my experience that those that have never smoked and those that are current smokes are more civil than those who once smoked and gave up the habit. I believe that the example extends to Mormon membership.

          As to pious obnoxiousness, I am not offended when a Democrat or Republican friend attempts to persuade me to buy in or hoists the flag of a hated rival on game day. And I don’t mind Wednesday morning quarterbacking after the elect or Monday morning quarterbacking after game day or church. Well, I must admit that I draw the line at asking for money or bringing up a topic after I asked that it be dropped does annoy me, but that happens infrequently. Are

    • “anyone with an ounce of personal integrity, a three-digit IQ, and an hour or so on the Internet will know that Mormonism is false.”
      Let’s see. I know my IQ’s above a hundred. I spend too much time on the internet. So it must be my personal integrity that’s lacking. I suppose that must be the factor that keeps other faithful Mormons from recognizing their delusion.

      • Duwayne Anderson

        I think we can get a peak at the intellectual honesty issue with a simple question: What verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient for you to not believe in Mormonism.

        If you don’t have an answer to that question then I don’t think you’re approaching Mormonism in a way that’s intellectually honest.

    • Duwayne says “smart, honest, informed people are disproportionately driven out of the church, leaving a higher concentration of people who are more ideological”.

      First, for anyone who cares to look there is ample evidence that for Mormons, higher education increases faithfulness in the Church, not ostracism. So saying smart, informed people are driven out is complete nonsense.

      Second, you imply or state outright in a couple of posts that “honest” people leave – meanining, I suppose, that the “dishonest” stay? I have never heard a truly honest person use that type of argument, though I have heard it several time from people that are obviously lying. Like my five-year-old trying to get out of trouble by blaming his sisters.

      Third, you state the “ideological” are left behind. So… people should be less ideological about their religion? Isn’t within Church walls the exact right place to determine and affirm ideology (defined as a set of ideas and ideals)? Maybe your using a connotation where ideological means judgemental? But given your posts regarding Mormons, isn’t that a tad hypocritical?

      • Duwayne Anderson

        Rob wrote: “First, for anyone who cares to look there is ample evidence that for Mormons, higher education increases faithfulness in the Church, not ostracism.”

        ? I didn’t say that “ostracism” increases faithfulness in the Church.

        As for education, a recent survey showed that, for every level of education, a *disbeliever* i s 3.4% more likely to remain *active.* [see the link, below]

        http://www.whymormonsquestion.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Survey-Results_Understanding-Mormon-Disbelief-Mar2012-1.pdf

        This is hardly surprising since educational attainment is higher for those who are born into the Mormon Church than for those who convert — and it’s easier (socially) for converts to not be “faithful” than for those who are born into the church.

        According to the Trinity College survey that I previously mentioned (see the following link)

        http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/files/2011/12/Mormons2008.pdf

        The educational attainment among all Mormons breaks out as follows:
        1) 37% High School or less
        2) 34% Some college
        3) 20% College degree
        4) 8% Graduate degree

        By contrast, the educational attainment among Mormons who disbelieve (see the survey found at the first link in this post) breaks out this way:

        1) 3% High School
        2) 27% Some College
        3) 39% College Grad
        4) 31% Graduate degree

        It’s easy to see that those Mormons who don’t believe in the Church are considerably more educated (on average) than those who do — and that the difference swamps the small (3.4%) increase in the number of highly educated Mormons who disbelieve but remain active anyway.

        In saying that, however, I want to remind you that educational attainment wasn’t on my list. I believe there are three essential requirements for someone to leave Mormonism.

        1) A certain minimum intelligence (a three digit IQ, for example)
        2) Access to information (the Internet, for example)
        3) Intellectual honesty — the ability and determination to use reason/logic to analyze data, form a rational decision, and the courage to act on that decision.

        You will notice that education isn’t on the list.

        • Many Latter-day Saints, however are finding answers that confirm and renew their faith, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life for its landmark “Mormons in America” study last year. A significant majority — 77 percent — of those who identify themselves as members of the LDS Church “believe wholeheartedly in all the teachings of the church.” That number is higher among respondents who have attended college (81 percent), and even higher (85 percent) among those who are college graduates.

          Some Latter-day Saints, however — 22 percent in the survey — find that “some teachings of the LDS Church are hard for me to believe.” That number declines as individual educational level increases. Only 14 percent of LDS college graduates in the survey expressed such doubts.

          The data shows that Mormons are generally better educated than non-Mormons…” – Source: “Mormons in the United States 1990-2008: Socio-Demographic Trends and Regional Differences” Analysis based on Trinity College’s American Religious Identification Survey, Trinity College, Hartford, Conn.

          BYU was ranked No. 11 in the country for schools whose graduates were the top-rated by recruiters (The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2010). In the list of “Top 25 Recruiter Picks,” BYU ranked ahead of schools such as Cornell, Cal-Berkeley, UCLA and MIT.

          Mormons are also some of the most industrious people in the world and have created an “Economic Zion” attracting some of the biggest names in Business: http://www.newsweek.com/2010/11/08/how-utah-became-an-economic-zion.html less

          • Duwayne Anderson

            DHRogers wrote: “Many Latter-day Saints, however are finding answers that confirm and renew their faith…”

            And many people who believe in UFO abductions are doing the same thing. That’s what ideologues do — they search for evidence (twisting as necessary) of what they already believe.

            The real test is to look at all the evidence, not just the narrow window of what supports your “faith.” And, specifically, to identify and look for evidence that, if it existed, would be sufficient for you to not believe in the Book of Mormon.

            This is a challenge I’ve given to many Mormons, and not a single “faithful” Mormon has been willing to answer it.

            The question is, simply, what verifiable and objective evidence (if it existed) would be sufficient for you to accept that the Book of Mormon is a fraud?

            Can you answer that question?

          • Duwayne Anderson

            DHRogers wrote: “The data shows that Mormons are generally better educated than non-Mormons…”

            Not by a statistically significant margin. In terms of education, divorce, depression, etc., Mormons are relatively normal.

            That said, you’re using a well-known and fallacious statistical argument by comparing Mormonism to the mean. It’s not hard to be better than average — 50% do it. A more appropriate comparison would look at statistics between whatever favorite group you are espousing and other groups within society.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            DHRogers wrote: “Mormons are also some of the most industrious people in the world”

            “Some” means there are others, too. And being “industrious” doesn’t mean one’s gods actually exist. After all, the Romans were “some of the most industrious people in the world” during their time. But you don’t believe in their gods, do you?

        • Hello again Duwayne.

          The Trinity College survey you site is scientific. It concludes, “Evidence suggests that education and religiosity have a positive association for Mormons: as years of education increase, so does religious orthodoxy.32 ARIS data show that Mormons are generally better educated than non-Mormons. College graduates comprise 29% of all Mormons and 31% of Mormon adults in Utah.

          DHRogers sites PEW research using scientific survey methods that arrives at the same conclusion.

          You provided a link that I followed to a whymormonsquestion paper. The paper does not claim to be a scientific survey. They write, ” As the survey sample was not random, the we make no claim of representativeness or statistical significance in the sample. This survey reflects the views of these self-selected respondents only, although we feel that many points of this analysis reflect the experiences of many people in the Church who pass through a crisis of faith and adjust their beliefs.”

          You use their results to insinuate that disaffiliated Mormons have higher educational achievement than committed members in sharp contrast to Trinity and PEW papers.

          You ask for ” Intellectual honesty — the ability and determination to use reason/logic to analyze data, form a rational decision, and the courage to act on that decision. Why not acknowledge that committed Mormons are well educated, of at least average intelligence, and intellectually honest?

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Wacoan wrote: “ARIS data show that Mormons are generally better educated than non-Mormons.”

            Not by a statistically significant amount.

            Wacoan wrote: “Why not acknowledge that committed Mormons are well educated, of at least average intelligence, and intellectually honest?”

            Where have I said that committed Mormons are not educated or of at least average intelligence? Isn’t your insinuation actually a demonstration of what I meant about being intellectually honest?

            And speaking of intellectual honesty, if someone is really intellectually honest, wouldn’t they be able to explain exactly the sort of verifiable and objective evidence that, if it existed, would be sufficient for them to change their mind?

            Can you answer that question?

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Wacoan wrote: “I must agree with RobH…”

            Agreed, as an ideologue you must agree with your fellow ideologue.

            Wacoan wrote: “I have looked at records from the 1880′s to present. They are remarkably consistent.”

            Nonsense. First of all, there are years where the church reported a membership increase that was bigger than the sum of convert and child baptisms. This is mathematically impossible — especially given the fact that tens of thousands of members are expected to die of natural causes each year, and others will resign.

            http://www.mormoninformation.com/stats.htm

            National polls show that the Mormon Church claims many more members in the US and many other countries than can be accounted for in un-biased third-party polls.

            http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/culture/5611/mormon_numbers_not_adding_up

            http://exmormon.org/d6/drupal/Mormon-Church-falsifies-US-membership-numbers

            Clearly the LDS Church *is* playing shenanigans with their membership records. But, as I said, you are fundamentally unable to question your church’s honesty/ethics because you’re an unabashed ideologue.

          • Claim 1
            In counting members, you forgot an item, child baptisms. A baptized child is not a child of record and in fact represents a decrease in net children of record. The Net membership increase equals convert baptisms+child of record baptisms+net increase in children of record-deaths-excommunications-name removals.
            Claim 2
            You are absolutely correct in stating that Church membership records report more members than national censuses. There are many causes including discrimination against “sects” but the largest cause for the discrepancy is probably not flattering for the Church: Many fall away or were not truly converted, making the number of people the Church calls members larger than the number who call themselves members. They are however members and many, will someday renew their commitment. Whereas the membership is not a good indicator of activity, it is a great record of people who have been baptized and have become members.

            Please note that I was not given to fanciful ideas or theories. The Church is not playing “shenanigans” with the records.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Wacoan wrote: “If, on the other hand, you believe that commitment is inversely related to education….”

            That’s not what I said. I said that average intelligence, access to information (the Internet), and intellectual honesty are all that’s required to know that Mormonism is false.

            By misquoting me, you actually support my thesis.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Wacoan wrote: “In counting members, you forgot an item, child baptisms.”

            What you say is not true. Read the links I posted.

            There are years where the *church* reported a membership increase that was bigger than the sum of convert and child baptisms. This is mathematically impossible — especially given the fact that tens of thousands of members are expected to die of natural causes each year, and others will resign.

            ¶http://www.mormoninformation.com/stats.htm

            Wacoan wrote: “You are absolutely correct in stating that Church membership records report more members than national censuses.”

            Thus the basis for claiming that Mormons play shenanigans with their membership figures.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Wacoan wrote: “.. the survey you sight is not scientific. It does not claim to be.”

            I didn’t claim it was, either, because It’s a non-random sampling. But it is an actual survey, and data, in spite of its shortcomings.

            You, on the other hand, have cited www.Mormonwiki.com. Worse, Mormonwiki.com has misrepresented (lied about?) what’s in the Pew report.

            Wacoan wrote: “PEW does conduct scientific surveys and they write, “As has been shown in other previous studies, the higher the education of the Mormon, the more active in the Church the person is. This is the opposite of nearly all other religions, where the more educated tend to be more skeptical”.

            Actually, that quotation appears to be an editorial assertion that was put in by the author(s) of the Mormonwiki site.

            I went to the PEW survey and searched the entire article (there are 8 pages). I couldn’t find your quotation anywhere on the PEW site about Mormons. In fact, the word “skeptical” doesn’t show up in that report. Here’s the link to the Pew report. See if you can find that quotation in there.

            http://www.pewforum.org/2012/01/12/mormons-in-america-executive-summary/

          • When you continually dismiss other scientific surveys because of a lack of statistical testing you should hold your own citations to the same standard or at least acknowledge when referencing them that they are not scientific. As to the survey you cite being an actual survey, I conducted one last night of my bishopric. They meet at church more than once a week and pray more than once a day. Their educational levels are DDS, JD, two PhDs, and a BA. It isn’t scientific and n is small but it is an actual survey.

            Thank you for pointing out that I cited the wrong paper. As to Mormonwiki, it reads, “As has been shown in other previous studies, the higher the education of the Mormon, the more active in the Church the person is. This is the opposite of nearly all other religions, where the more educated tend to be more skeptical. “The more educated a Mormon is, the more likely they are to be wholehearted in their commitment to the church and its teachings.” However, like virtually all faiths, more women than men are committed to the faith, 73 percent vs. 65 percent.” Mormonwiki properly differentiates between PEW and “OTHER” studies. I agree that the next sentence should have been better referenced. A footnote would have been useful but they got PEW right.

            PEW reports that “The survey’s questions about the importance of religion, frequency of prayer and frequency ofreligious attendance can be combined to form a scale of religious commitment. By this measure, nearly seven-in-ten Mormons (69%) exhibit high levels of religious commitment…

            “Mormons express significantly higher levels of religious commitment on this scale than other religious groups, including white evangelical Protestants (55% high commitment) and black Protestants (50%). Among the U.S. public as a whole, 30% exhibit high religious commitment….”

            Note that this finding is in line with Jana’s current post about “Families and Faith.”

            PEW continues, “Mormons who have graduated from college display the highest levels of religious commitment (84%) followed by those with some college education (75%). Mormons with a high school education or less exhibit substantially lower levels of religious commitment (50% score high on
            the scale) than their more highly educated counterparts. These large differences in religious commitment among respondents with different educational backgrounds are not seen among many other religious groups in the population.”

            PEW continues with detail. As to the Trinity College paper by Kosmin and Keysar, they write, “Mormons are strongly committed to education, often citing a verse from one of their holy books which states, ―The glory of God is intelligence.‖ Evidence suggests that education and religiosity have a positive association for Mormons: as years of education increase, so does religious orthodoxy.32 ARIS data show that Mormons are generally better educated than non-Mormons.College graduates comprise 29% of all Mormons and 31% of Mormon adults in Utah.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Wacoan wrote: “Because you appear to interpret intellectual honest as not being a committed Mormon, your argument is circular..”

            Actually, I’ve made no such statement — so (ironically) your accusation is an *example* of intellectual dishonesty.

            Here’s what I think’s involved in acts of intellectual dishonesty:

            1) Ideology
            2) Unwillingness to critically test/evaluate one’s opinions using verifiable and objective evidence
            3) Misrepresenting evidence

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Wacoan wrote: “… you should hold your own citations to the same standard or at least acknowledge when referencing them…”

            I never misrepresented the survey or what it claimed to be. And when I cited the survey I included the full and correct link.

            You, on the other hand, quoted the Pew survey as saying something they did *not* say

            Wacoan wrote: “Mormonwiki properly differentiates between PEW and “OTHER” studies.

            But *you* attributed the quotation to Pew.

            Wacoan wrote: “I agree that the next sentence should have been better referenced.”

            It’s not referenced at all. They don’t say where that statement comes from, or what those “other” studies are. It’s just a naked assertion that *you* asserted to Pew.

            Wacoan wrote: PEW continues, “Mormons who have graduated from college display the highest levels of religious commitment (84%) followed by those with some college education (75%).”

            Pew did not survey those who left the church, so that statistic (whether true or not) says nothing about the education of those who leave Mormonism. Furthermore, religious commitment (as defined by Pew) is not the same as religious belief.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Wacoan wrote: “ARIS data show that Mormons are generally better educated than non-Mormons.College graduates comprise 29% of all Mormons and 31% of Mormon adults in Utah.”

            It seems you just can’t leave the “comparison to the mean” fallacy alone. Comparison to the mean is essentially meaningless; half the people in America are better educated than the mean. And a 2% difference between means is statistically insignificant.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Wacoan wrote: “As to the survey you cite being an actual survey, I conducted one last night of my bishopric. They meet at church more than once a week and pray more than once a day. Their educational levels are DDS, JD, two PhDs, and a BA. It isn’t scientific and n is small but it is an actual survey.”

            The differences matter.

            Your survey has 3 samples. Dehlin’s has over 3,000.

            Your survey is not blind. Dehlin’s is blind.

            Your survey is not random. Dehlin’s isn’t random, either. But Dehlin’s survey is non-random from the standpoint of self selection by those surveyed, while yours is non-random by personal bias on the part of the researcher (you).

            Neither survey is scientifically valid, but one survey (Dehlin’s) is *far* more meaningful than the other (yours).

            http://www.whymormonsquestion.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Survey-Results_Understanding-Mormon-Disbelief-Mar20121.pdf

          • Well, there is something that we can agree on. Maybe we can agree that while the survey you sight is much better, more relevant and more interesting than mine, the Trinity College and PEW surveys are more relevant than yours.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Wacoan wrote: “Well, there is something that we can agree on. Maybe we can agree that while the survey you sight is much better, more relevant and more interesting than mine, the Trinity College and PEW surveys are more relevant than yours.”

            Actually, the Trinity College and PEW surveys are essentially irrelevant.

            That’s because the point I i’m making is about those who *disbelieve* in Mormonism (whether they remain active, or not).

            Neither the Trinity College nor the Pew surveys even *address* disbelief.

            Dehlin’s survey is the only one I’m aware of that actively looks at disbelieving Mormons.

        • Duwayne,

          Someone with a 3 digit IQ (your qualifications for a disbeliever) could read and undersand correctly my sentence regarding education and ostracism. You completely missed it.

          And someone with a 3 digit IQ (your qualifications for a disbeliever) could readily see that your interpretation of the “statistics” you cite are total hogwash. Especially when the INTRODUCTION TO THE SURVEY states that the numbers don’t mean what you say they mean.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            RobH wrote: “Someone with a 3 digit IQ (your qualifications for a disbeliever)”

            Rob, you should try reading my comments with comprehension. Here’s what I said:

            “anyone with an ounce of personal integrity, a three-digit IQ, and an hour or so on the Internet will know that Mormonism is false.”

            Notice that there are three requirements, not just one. Therefore, it’s incorrect to say that I posited a 3 digit IQ as the requirement for a disbeliever.

            RobH wrote: “You completely missed it.”

            Explain.

            RobH wrote: “your interpretation of the “statistics” you cite are total hogwash.”

            That’s a naked assertion, Rob.

            Look, it’s obvious this is an emotional topic for you, and that you’re really upset. Clearly you feel the need to lash out with insults and insinuations. But your argument would make more sense, and be more effective, if instead of just making naked assertions you backed them up with some sort of argument supporting those assertions.

            In the present case, you might try quoting my “interpretations,” and then explaining rationally why they are “total hogwash.”

          • I must agree with RobH on your use of statistics as demonstrated by a polite question by Jana and your response, trytoseeitmyway’s description of your use of statistics (Duwayne Anderson…is only interested in facts to the extent he thinks they can be used to make Mormons look bad. That’s an unscientific motive for such a self-proclaimed scientist.”), and my own comments.

            You assert that the Mormon Church “obviously” plays “shenanigans” with its membership figures. I have looked at records from the 1880’s to present. They are remarkably consistent.

            I have to agree with RobHs interpretation of your unscientific requirements for a Mormon to leave the faith. None is measured or statistically tested. There is a correlation between education and IQ (r between .53 and .56. True, are is a weak statistic, but I am in a hurry.). Because committed members have higher than average education, I would assume by extension, that their IQ’s exceed 100. Most have Internet access and that leaves intellectual honest which you assert they don’t have if they are committed Mormon’s. That’s circular and circular arguments are not scientific.

            What’s more, assuming that people in Latin and South American have similar rates of intellegence and intellectual honest, one would anticipate higher levels of activity. If, on the other hand, you believe that commitment is inversely related to education, then one would expect, holding other things constant, that activity southg of our border will increase over time.

            Sorry, but it is one and done today. Back to work.

            What’s more

          • Duwayne,

            I have posted this as a reply to my own comment since the thread is too long, and so there no reply button under your comment.

            “You completely missed it” – my above comment states education increases faithfulness to the Church, as opposed to education increasing ostracism from the Church. My comment was in reply to your comment that smart, informed people are disproportionately driven out of the Church.

            “That’s a naked assertion” – Pot, kettle. Your posts are full of naked assertions. The only “statistics” you have cited are from studies that say not to use the numbers in the way you use them.

            “Clearly you feel the need to lash out with insults and insinuations” -This from the guy who says “anyone with an ounce of personal integrity, a three-digit IQ, and an hour or so on the Internet will know that Mormonism is false”. Your primary comment lashed out at and insulted every believing Mormon. Again – pot, kettle.

            “In the present case, you might try quoting my ‘interpretations,’ and then explaining rationally why they are ‘total hogwash'” – Or, like I already did, I could just point out that the study you “cite” (I use that term loosely) says not to interpret it the way you did.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Rob wrote: “…my above comment states education increases faithfulness to the Church..”

            Based on what? Another naked assertion?

            Rob wrote: “My comment was in reply to your comment that smart, informed people are disproportionately driven out of the Church.”

            That’s exactly what the following survey shows:

            http://www.whymormonsquestion.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Survey-Results_Understanding-Mormon-Disbelief-Mar20121.pdf

          • Duwayne, as I pointed out previously, the survey you sight is not scientific. It does not claim to be. PEW does conduct scientific surveys and they write, “As has been shown in other previous studies, the higher the education of the Mormon, the more active in the Church the person is. This is the opposite of nearly all other religions, where the more educated tend to be more skeptical”. (http://www.mormonwiki.com/2012_Pew_Report:Mormons_in_America,_Part_3_%E2%80%94_Religious_Devotion)” They do not provide summary statistics but it is a conclusion they feel is based on the literature. As you know, it is a common practice not to site statistics in publications for general audiences.

          • Except that the survey doesn’t show that – as has been pointed out several times. Once again (third time – from me – is the charm?), the study itself says it makes no claim to being representative – the respondents were self-selective.

            To prove your point of smart, informed people disproportionately being driven out you would have to have a random sample where the education level of self-proclaimed believers was compared to the education level of self-proclaimed non-believers. This didn’t do that. Which you won’t accept even though it has been pointed out by several people. Sounds like blind faith in your own concocted notions.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Rob wrote: “Except that the survey doesn’t show that…”

            Not true. The survey (see link, below) does show that Mormons who don’t believe in Mormonism are far more educated than Mormons who do believe (see page 4).

            http://www.whymormonsquestion.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Survey-Results_Understanding-Mormon-Disbelief-Mar20121.pdf

            Rob wrote: “To prove your point of smart, informed people disproportionately being driven out you would have to have a random sample where the education level of self-proclaimed believers was compared to the education level of self-proclaimed non-believers.”

            But I’m not trying to “prove” that point.

            My point is that a person can know the Mormon Church is a fraud if they poses three characteristics:
            1) Average intelligence (three-digit IQ)
            2) Access to information (the Internet)
            3) Personal intellectual honesty

            I posted references to that survey in response to assertions from Mormons (who have no current data and misrepresent surveys from PEW) that educated Mormons are more likely to believe. But even *if* that assertion were true, it doesn’t invalidate my three points.

          • We have been through this before. Because you appear to interpret intellectual honest as not being a committed Mormon, your argument is circular and not subject to rejection making it a non testable hypothesis. The claim in unscientific and a simple insult.

      • Duwayne Anderson

        Rob wrote: “Third, you state the “ideological” are left behind. So… people should be less ideological about their religion? Isn’t within Church walls the exact right place to determine and affirm ideology (defined as a set of ideas and ideals)?”

        Clearly, from your perspective, it is. In fact, you question illustrates just how entrenched ideology is within Mormonism. Mormons (as a group, not individually) would agree with you — their religion *is* ideology.

        But what is true of Mormonism isn’t true of all religions. Furthermore, ideology tends to be a spectrum. My point is that (right or wrong) Mormonism is (as you illustrate) on the extreme end of the spectrum. And that tends to drive away people that see the world in shades of gray, while retaining highly ideological persons who often act with intolerance toward less ideological persons who would like to participate socially in Mormonism, even though they don’t believe in the doctrine.

        • DuWayne,

          If I may, I would like to at least respond to your statement, “This is a challenge I’ve given to many Mormons, and not a single “faithful” Mormon has been willing to answer it. The question is, simply, what verifiable and objective evidence (if it existed) would be sufficient for you to accept that the Book of Mormon is a fraud?

          I occasionally follow some of Jana’s blogs and I’ve seen your posts on the SLT and elsewhere. You are obviously a deep thinker and very intelligent. I don’t mean to initiate a debate but at least try to satisfy your challenge once.

          My answer to your challenge is that it would take a confirmation from the same source that led me to believe it is true. I have studied and prayed and fasted to know if it is true or not and have received a personal spiritual witness. That is the only evidence that convinced me and it would be the only evidence that would dissuade me.

          Any other source or evidence is subject to debate, interpretation, influence, pressure, etc. I like to think of myself as a scientist and I’ve found that the exercise you propose fits well within the scientific method of hypothesis, testing, discovery and so on. In the end, we all must find out for ourselves what we believe and hold to be true. I find no blame or cast no judgment on you for your decisions and conclusions. I hope you can respect the same in others and I suspect you can. I think it would be a fun exercise to debate with you and that I would learn a lot but in the end, I also suspect you are a better debater than I am. I would rather someone not decide their future based on me or you but let us each provide our position and then they can take it to the Lord for their own personal answer.

          I wish you peace and happiness.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            JS wrote: “My answer to your challenge is that it would take a confirmation from … a personal spiritual witness.”

            A “spiritual witness” is neither verifiable nor objective. I know of no verifiable or objective evidence that it’s anything more than the mind talking to itself, and a great deal of objective/verifiable evidence that the mind is easily deluded and subject to all sorts of malfunctions.

            Pretty much all Mormons answer in a way similar to your response. The fact this answer comes up so often suggests that the epistemology of Mormonism is that of the infallible mind — any/all verifiable/objective evidence can/will be set aside in deference to feelings that originate in the mind.

            JS wrote: “I like to think of myself as a scientist and I’ve found that the exercise you propose fits well within the scientific method of hypothesis, testing, discovery and so on.”

            That it does. In fact, it’s the primary method of hypothesis testing, and the power of science gives credence to it’s value.

            JS wrote: “I wish you peace and happiness.”

            Thank you. And I wish you the same.

          • DA, Thanks for the response. I do see your point regarding “verifiable and objective”. However, I’ve found in science, let alone religion, that objectivity is fleeting. One of the better examples is light, is it a particle or is it a wave? It can be one or the other depending on how you set up the experiment and observe the result. Frame of reference and point of view matter. That new TV program, I think it is called Brain Games, has many examples as well. So I can see your point. I would be interested to see how you define verifiable and objective. I can only claim it is objective on my willingness to accept the Lord’s will. The fact is we are both in the same position because any “objective” evidence to the contrary is tainted by the conduit by which it arrives. You too must rely on records, journals, opinions and the observations of others. And then choose what to believe and follow and what not to believe or follow. Perhaps if we had lived 180 years ago, we could have had first hand knowledge.

            I believe my witness is verifiable because I have seen first hand the change in others when they receive the same witness. I have seen the changes first hand and they are the fruits that help confirm my testimony. Others have repeated it and verified my experience. But I by no means claim that as a reason for why someone should believe it. I believe we can each go to the Lord for our own answers. I can think of now better and untainted source of truth.

            I would love to see your opinion and others on what is verifiable and objective. I apologize if I don’t respond right away, got to go to a business dinner.

            Cheers

          • Duwayne Anderson

            JS wrote: “I’ve found in science, let alone religion, that objectivity is fleeting.”

            Well, just so we’re clear, by “verifiable and objective” I mean evidence (as opposed to conclusions) that is as available/observable/testable to critics/nonbelievers as to believers, and where the believers and non-believers agree on the results.

            JS wrote: “One of the better examples is light, is it a particle or is it a wave?”

            That’s a derived conclusion. People do disagree about the conclusions.

            The evidence, on the other hand, is not in dispute. That evidence would be observations from things like the double slit experiment and the photoelectric effect. The derived conclusions are debatable, but the experimental results are not. No matter whether a person thinks light is a particle or a wave, they’ll get the same experimental results when they perform the same experiments with double slits or with solid state photodetectors.

            In contrast, your personal feelings are not objective or verifiable. There’s no way to look inside your head. There’s no way to perform an experiment to verify your results – and when other people try doing what you do, they don’t get the same results.

            That’s exactly what we’d expect from something that’s just in your head.

            JS wrote: “I believe my witness is verifiable because I have seen first hand the change in others when they receive the same witness.”

            Seem comment above:

            JS wrote: “I would love to see your opinion and others on what is verifiable and objective.”

            See my first paragraph in this post.

          • DA,

            Thanks for the reply. You dedicate a lot of time to this from what I see of the number of posts you keep going and respond to. I appreciate the dialogue.

            So it seems to me that what you are describing as “verifiable and objective” means repeatable/reproducible. Another way of saying what I think you mean is that if everyone follows the same equation and plugs in the same inputs, they will get the same outputs. I like your comment about “derived conclusions” being arguable, even though an experiment can theoretically be repeated and get the same observation contrary to a different derived conclusion. I think this analogy and your comments have a strong parallel to what we’re talking about with belief.

            So if a person believes light is a particle and can be measured as such but performs the double slit experiment and becomes convinced that it is a wave, is he right or wrong? Lets assume that the experiment was “perfectly” set up and performed with no bias. The person now has a dilemma of knowledge. Eventually he can learn and resolve that light behaves as both a particle and a wave. He can use this knowledge to great advantage. However, if he gives up and accepts “oh, light is a wave” or rejects the experiment and says it is just a particle then he goes no where.

            Your other comment that “your personal feelings are not objective or verifiable” I believe is over-reaching. A simple experiment, I can take a match and light it and hold it next to my hand. I “feel” heat. You can perform the same experiment and get the same result. If how we interact with reality is not to some degree objective and verifiable, then we would never advance and never agree. Clearly we can find common ground and build from that. The fact that I have observed others change their lives and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ is not a feeling, it is an observation as plain and simple as observing any experiment. What it means to me and you and what conclusion to be drawn from it is arguable.

            So taken to your ultimate (or perhaps only last) point, “That’s exactly what we’d expect from something that’s just in your head.” Isn’t this just another derived conclusion based on individual observation and interpretation?

            There are a group of people, Mormons, that have said there is a formula for knowing truth. It is personal revelation. If you and I each follow the formula and get a different result then you are saying the only conclusion is that my observation was created in my head. Just like the properties of light, this can be a disputed conclusion. There are many questions related to it. Did we perform the “experiment” the same way, were all the “variables” controlled, etc. And I would add the biggest question, “is the answer the one that our Heavenly Father wanted for you at this point in time?”

            I’m with you up to the point just before the “derived conclusion”. I recognize and agree that not everyone gets the same answer and certainly not at the same time and in the same way.

            So in the end, this started with a challenge from you. I’ve tried to respond with respect and civility. I believe you have done likewise. Thank you for that. I’ll rest my case with this from D&C 6:23 which I suspect you know pretty well, “What greater witness can you have than from God?” I believe everyone is entitle to their own personal witness and in the due time of the Lord we will each get what the Lord knows we need.

            I’ll look for your posts in the future and respond if I think I can add anything of significance. Good luck to you. I’m sure we’ll cross paths again.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            JS wrote: “So it seems to me that what you are describing as “verifiable and objective” means repeatable/reproducible.”

            That’s correct.

            So, why do you think it’s so difficult to get Mormons to describe verifiable and objective evidence that, if it existed, would be sufficient for them to disbelieve Mormonism?

            Why has it been so hard to get *you* to list that sort of evidence?

            Remember — I’m not telling you what VOE you have to accept, or how to even interpret that VOE. I’m simply asking you to describe VOE that would be sufficient to change your mind.

            JS wrote: “I can take a match and light it and hold it next to my hand. I “feel” heat. You can perform the same experiment and get the same result.”

            Not if I have congenital analgesia. But if the experiment is done with a calibrated thermometer we’ll both get the same result.

            So, how does you analogy apply to the “feeling” you get from prayer? When I pray I don’t get the same feeling you get. I get the feeling that Mormonism is a fraud. Are my feelings as valid as yours? Are my feelings as accurate as yours? Are you willing to denounce Mormonism on the basis of my feelings?

          • DA,

            Thanks for your responses. Just some quick (and maybe not so brief) replies…

            Regarding your questions: “So, why do you think it’s so difficult to get Mormons to describe verifiable and objective evidence that, if it existed, would be sufficient for them to disbelieve Mormonism?” Just my opinion but I think it is because you are asking for something that is not relevant to how they made up their minds. I don’t know of anyone that believes because of the kind of evidence you are looking for. It may be too that many people I know are sincerely trying to follow Christ so their testimony is not based on facts about “Mormonism”.

            “Why has it been so hard to get *you* to list that sort of evidence?” I thought I answered your question readily and quickly. The answer would need to come from the same source as the witness I received to believe.

            About the heat experiment, then you agree that two people can do the same thing and get a different result although the fact is the match is hot. The observation is not the knowledge or the information that is important. The person with congenital analgesia may or may not feel the heat (from what I read, they can feel normal sensations but not pain). I’m sure you meant the example to be someone who could not feel the temperature. So they would observe nothing but that does not obviate the fact that there is heat. So observation is not a guarantee of the “right” conclusion. The fact is even with a “calibrated” thermometer the observation could be different and it could lead to a different conclusion. How were the thermometers calibrated? How close to the flame was it held? What is the temperature scale used? etc. This is why I used the example and specified heat as the result. I think you would agree that this rational applies to both sides of the argument over if there is VOE for or against believing in the Church. And that is my point. Any human observation is subject to error and so I will not rely on someone else to determine what is right or wrong for me. You clearly have observed Mormon behavior and seem to be wondering why you followed the formula and got a different result. Are you really willing to conclude then that it is crazy? What if you ran the experiment wrong? What if you are beset by “spiritual” analgesia and this is your trial or weakness to overcome? I ask these questions not to point fingers or judge but because you seem to be looking for answers.

            Your question, “Can you point me to a single peer-reviewed article from the scientific literature…” seems to indicate that truth by committee is an acceptable VOE for you to believe. How do you determine that the peer group is any different than any other group of well meaning individuals? They each bring their separate and unique points of reference and opinions.

            JS

          • Duwayne Anderson

            JS wrote: “There are a group of people, Mormons, that have said there is a formula for knowing truth. It is personal revelation.”

            There are other groups with other formulas for knowing the truth. Some groups use drugs. Others use sleep deprivation. Still others pray to Centeōtl, for “knowledge” about when to plant their corn. Some groups think they’re hardwired to aliens, and get direct knowledge (personal revelation) from the aliens.

            Clearly, just because Mormons have a “formula” for getting “knowledge” doesn’t mean much. It certainly doesn’t mean the formula has merit, or that it’s much different from a thousand other crazy formulas.

            If you really want to know if your “formula” is worth anything, you’ve got to test it in a rational, verifiable, and objective way. Otherwise you’ve just got your feelings and opinion — same as any other group with a “formula” for knowing the “truth.”

            Which brings me to another question I like to ask my Mormon friends — what verifiable and objective evidence do you have, of Mormon “revelation” bringing any verifiably objective “truth” into the world?

            Science works. Show me how Mormon revelation works — see if you can list any knowledge that is unique to Mormonism that is also verifably and objectively confirmed.

            If Mormonism is true there should be *lots* of examples. If the Book of Mormon is true it could tell us where to find ancient American cities, and it could tell us the names of the kings of those cities, and their judges and prophets.

            Can you point me to a single peer-reviewed article from the scientific literature that claims to have found an ancient American city with the same name as that found in the Book of Mormon?

          • Duwayne Anderson

            JS wrote: “Just my opinion but I think it is because you are asking for something that is not relevant to how they made up their minds.”

            The questions is about *changing* one’s mind, not about how one “made up their mind.” Let me rephrase the question slightly:

            Question: “What verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient for you to change your mind about X.”

            Rational people would have ready answers if “X = national policy,” or if “X = the existence of black holes.” They might look surprised if “X = the Easter Bunny,” but they’d probably still have no particular objection to answering. In short, ordinary people would find the question perfectly sane and reasonable in their normal lives.

            But ideologues, the superstitious, the irrational, and Mormons all run from the question when “X = their beliefs.”

            JS wrote: “… thought I answered your question readily and quickly. The answer would need to come from the same source as the witness I received to believe.”

            That’s not an answer to the question I asked; it’s an evasion. The question is *not* “What would it take for you to stop believing in Mormonism.” That’s the question you answered, but it’s *not* the question I asked.

            The question I asked is “What verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient for you to not believe in Mormonism.”

            Note the words “verifiable and objective.” Your answer was about non-verifiable and non-objective data.

            Given your evasion of the question I asked, it seems you answer to that question is:

            “There’s no amount of verifiable and objective evidence that would cause me to stop believing in Mormonism.”

            Is that correct? Is that your answer to the question that I asked?

            JS wrote: “About the heat experiment, then you agree that two people can do the same thing and get a different result although the fact is the match is hot.”

            I agree that they get different answers when they are using non-objective, non-verifiable methods.

            I assume that you agree that personal testimonies and feelings are non-reproducible and unreliable, since they give different answers to different people regarding the same questions/phenomena?

            JS wrote: “I’m sure you meant the example to be someone who could not feel the temperature. So they would observe nothing but that does not obviate the fact that there is heat.”

            People with analgesia generally can’t feel temperature. In fact, the human body has no “temperature” or “heat” sensors (by the way, heat and temperature are very different things). What you misperceive as temperature isn’t temperature at all, but a quazi measurement of heat flow. This is nicely illustrated by touching an insulator (a piece of fabric, for example) and a conductor (a large piece of metal, for example) that are both at 18 degrees Celsius. The fabric will feel “warm” and the metal will feel “cold” even though they’re both at the same temperature. Your example illustrates nicely the fact that ones “feelings” one can easily be fooled — and your example should serve as a warning to those who would trust their “feelings” over the objective/verifiable readings on a calibrated thermometer.

            JS wrote: “Any human observation is subject to error…”

            That’s exactly my point, and that’s exactly what’s wrong with your testimony — your testimony is built entirely on your anecdotal personal feelings (observations) — even to the point of refusing *in* *principal* to allow any verifiable and objective evidence to override those feelings. To use the example of temperature, you would insist that the fabric is warmer than the metal, even if a dozen calibrated thermometers said otherwise.

            Can you think of any better example of irrationality?

            JS wrote: “Your question, “Can you point me to a single peer-reviewed article from the scientific literature…” seems to indicate that truth by committee is an acceptable VOE ”

            Please, JS — you know better than that. Reviewers don’t do the experiments, they verify that the experiments meet certain minimum standards.

            May I assume, by your non-answer, that you don’t know of a single instance in which “revelation” has brought new and verifiably true knowledge into the world?

            There are hundreds of thousands of instances where science can make that claim. You can’t make the claim for even a single instance?

          • DA,
            Wow, we have diverged quite a ways from where this dialogue started. It seems that each successive response is longer and a bit more edgy. As I originally stated, I wanted to satisfy your challenge. So for at least this thread, I am making my summation. I defer to you to have the last word if you wish.

            You challenged “The question is, simply, what verifiable and objective evidence (if it existed) would be sufficient for you to accept that the Book of Mormon is a fraud?” I will answer that question shortly but first just to emphasize a point that I think we have both made and agreed that we are not infallible.

            In your last post you stated, “The question I asked is “What verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient for you to not believe in Mormonism.” This is not the question you asked. You made a mistake. See the paragraph above for the question you asked on this thread.

            So at last, I will attempt to supply an answer to satisfy you. That was actually my purpose from the beginning. I’ve come up with a few that I think meet your criteria. Remember, I’m trying to work within the constraints you have set and satisfy you on that basis. You’ve accused me of being evasive but that’s not the case at all. I’m trying to answer your question on your terms although you make it difficult because your definition of objective is as subjective as anyone elses.
            1. I would accept Joseph Smith delivering the message himself that it was a fraud he perpetrated. It is objective because it is Joseph Smith stating it himself and anyone that can hear and see could objectively observe it. To satisfy you it would need to be done in public so that others could see and hear the same thing. It would be enough for me that I met him and he told me but I don’t think that would satisfy your criteria. For verifiability, we could take his fingerprints or DNA to verify it is really him. I’m not sure what is available in the public record of his fingerprints but certainly we could get DNA from his descendants to perform DNA verification if there are no fingerprint records. You will probably argue that this is impossible because he can’t come back from the dead but you included “(if it existed)” as a condition.
            2. I would accept traveling back in time and observing first-hand whether or not the golden plates actually existed and that the translation/transcription actually occurred. Quite frankly this could be accomplished at least two ways I can think of “(if it existed)”. Time travel while unlikely yet theoretically possible would be available to anyone. So I think it would be objective and verifiable by others observing and reporting the same observations. I think a better way and more realistic way for this to occur however, is that we find a way to travel faster than the speed of light. We would also need to invent the most powerful telescope in the universe. We send it out far enough to be ahead of the light that left the earth during the time Joseph Smith was alive and then we focus on and record what happened and what was said. This could be posted on Utube for everyone to see. We would of course need to be sure that we trusted that the telescope was actually working and recording historical facts but it is theoretically possible.
            3. Since “(if it existed)” is a valid constraint, I would also accept others that are verifiable coming back from the dead to bear witness. Of course, this one is a stretch because how do we know they are any more reliable, objective, or verifiable than anyone else so I’ll have to think more about this one.

            If these do not satisfy your criteria then I have failed and you will continue to post your question as if no one has responded. Perhaps you would like to propose evidence that meets your standard as proof. From your other posts, you seem to think it is easy to verify. Yet you have pointed out how unreliable people are.

            Thanks for a stimulating exchange. The reason I didn’t want to debate is because I didn’t want to make this personal or competitive which then can start to look like I don’t like you or that I’m judging you or vice versa. I think I’m a fair debater and perhaps a rabid competitor and I really am not interested in winning at the expense of others but in helping you or me or both get closer to the truth. Good luck to you and your family.

            PS. I’m going to add some more below for the sake of argument and my summary comments. I hope you don’t take it personal if you read further.

            You asked, “Can you think of any better example of irrationality?” The answer is yes, continuing to argue or debate with you.

            The most difficult thing I see in your position is that on the one hand you want to discredit anyone that does not take the same material as you and come to the same conclusion yet on the other you will accept truth by committee. Anyone that comes to a different conclusion you characterize as irrational or crazy. You state people cannot be trusted yet you are willing to accept as truth something that is peer reviewed by people such as you or me that have proven in just a few written comments that they are fallible. In the end your criteria is whether or not they agree with you. How do you know it’s not you that is being irrational or crazy or that didn’t follow the experiment in an objective and proper way? I think it better to realize that we are all searching for truth and with a few exceptions most people are good, sincere, truth seekers. It was a hard lesson for me to learn but I think I can accept that everyone is different and must find God in their own time and in their own way. You are trying to convince Mormons that they are wrong and being led astray yet you were one of them at one time. Which you is/was right and which is wrong?

            As far as your comments on the human body and heat/temperature sensing, I’m surprised that you stuck your neck out on this since you don’t seem to be an expert in the area. Frankly, I am not an expert on temperature or heat sensing in the human body either but for you to say “In fact, the human body has no “temperature” or “heat” sensors” seems to be contrary to modern medical science in regards to thermoreceptors. I think I’ll go with what’s in the medical journals on this one.

            As far as your comments on heat and temperature, you are technically right if we were talking thermodynamics which we weren’t. This shows how argumentative you are. Look up the definition of heat. Most people use the terms heat and temperature interchangeably. I’m glad you know the difference but it was clear from the context of my comment that we were not talking thermo. The fact is I used the term heat for the very purpose to avoid the discussion of temperature. It was only introduced in my reply to you in haste to get a point across. It would have been clearer to have said “feel the heat” or use high before temperature. And what was the point? We can both sense that the match was hot. The experiment is a success. The experiment is objective and verifiable. Anyone can go do it and if they don’t feel heat they should get themselves checked by a doctor. You even confirmed my point with your example of feeling the temperature of the cloth or the metal. Clearly you accept that everyone doing the experiment would feel the cloth as warm and the metal as cold (everyone that is that can feel heat or temperature on whatever basis you use to claim they will feel). You also confirm my point that observation is not conclusion. Whether something feels hot or cold doesn’t mean we know what the temperature of it is. If you want to further constrain the experiment to measuring temperature then there is a lot more definition needed than just get a calibrated thermometer or to feel if it is hot or cold and from there to surmise the temperature. We will not get the same result and will not observe the same temperature unless the experiment is done in the same way, exactly. And even then, there will be variation in the results.

            I won’t even go into your comments of heat, temperature and heat flow from a thermodynamic view. I have a PhD in Chemical Engineering and my graduate work was on thermodynamic properties so I doubt you can teach me anything about them.

            Ultimately the point that we both agree on is that humans are subject to error. On that basis I ask no one to believe me but to determine it for themselves. You try to use that basis to discredit others and validate your position. You are no more credible than anyone else. You may sway them with argument or debate but they still don’t really know the “temperature” so to speak until they find out for themselves.

            About your comment on peer review. Talk about evasion! You did not respond to my question and instead changed the subject to try to get me to compare science and religion. Come on DA, what are you dodging?

            Furthermore about peer review, again you show a lack of understanding. The fact is I have published peer reviewed material including experimental results and I do “know better than that”. The reason the term “peer” is used is because they are experts in the field. They earn that status by doing experiments, some the same and others related or similar. For example, cold fusion was proven a farce because of “peers” doing the experiments and not getting the same results. Unfortunately in the process some of those “peers” that had their future and millions of dollars staked in hot fusion, seemed to have questionable conclusions. Some of these were from the illustrious MIT. So although I believe in science and would not refute your statement that “science works”, science is no better off than religion. It is prone to the same problems of self-interest, deception, and human error. So your concept of “objectivity” flies out the window in my opinion. I’m glad that my spiritual future does not depend on needing to determine who is right or truthful in that arena!

          • Duwayne Anderson

            JS wrote: “Wow, we have diverged quite a ways from where this dialogue started.

            I don’t think so. I began by asking you what verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient for you to denounce Mormonism. I’m still asking.

            JS wrote; “This is not the question you asked. You made a mistake.”

            I’ve asked the question 26 times in this thread. Several times I’ve asked it of you, many times of others, too.

            Now that you have answered the question, let’s examine your responses. You listed three evidences that (if they existed) would convince you that Mormonism is false.

            1. Joseph Smith admitting fraud.
            2. Traveling back in time and observing first-hand whether or not the golden plates actually existed and observing the “translation”
            3. People coming back from the dead and bearing witness that Mormonism is true.

            Let’s have a look at your answers.

            1) Smith admitting fraud. This would be verifiable and objective, but it illustrates an aspect of intellectual dishonesty that is the root of every Mormon testimony, namely assigning a level of evidentiary proof for Mormonism that is *far* below that required for other things. There are thousands of claims by men/women who have started religious movements — claims I’m sure you do not accept, even though non of the originators have admitted fraud. So you clearly apply a much *lower* (a ridiculously low) standard of evidentiary proof for Mormonism than for other religions.

            2) Your second test was “traveling back in time and observing first-hand whether or not the golden plates actually existed and observing the “translation”

            Since this would be an anecdotal experience it’s not actually verifiable and objective. So it doesn’t answer the question. But just out of curiosity, if you saw the plates, how would you know they were gold? And how would you know if they’d been translated correctly?

            3) Your third point was “People coming back from the dead and bearing witness that Mormonism is true.” If someone came back from the dead, how could you verifiably and objectively confirm it? Unless you could do that, your third point is also anecdotal. By the way, if you want to meet Jesus I can introduce you. He’s in Portland, Oregon and spends a lot of time on the on-ramp to 405. According to Jesus, Mormonism is a fabrication. Do you accept the words of Jesus? Get the point?

            JS wrote: “Thanks for a stimulating exchange. The reason I didn’t want to debate is because I didn’t want to make this personal or competitive which then can start to look like I don’t like you or that I’m judging you or vice versa.”

            I don’t care if you like me. I don’t care if you judge my ideas, either. Since intellectual honesty means holding all ideas to the same evidentiary standards, you *should* judge my ideas — and I intend to judge yours, too.

            JS wrote: “You asked, “Can you think of any better example of irrationality?” The answer is yes, continuing to argue or debate with you.”

            Why would that be irrational? Instead of “irrational” could you have actually meant that further discussion is proving damaging to your testimony, and you don’t want to damage it further?

            JS wrote: “The most difficult thing I see in your position is that on the one hand you want to discredit anyone that does not take the same material as you and come to the same conclusion

            That’s simply not true, JS. I asked you to define the VOE that would convince you. Don’t try and blame your failure on me.

            JS wrote “…yet on the other you will accept truth by committee.”

            JS, you are simply bearing false witness. Why are you doing that? I was very clear about the issue relating to peer-reviewed science journals, and that this isn’t a case of “truth by committee,” but of scientific experts making sure that minimum standards are met. I’ve also been very clear that just because something is found in a peer-reviewed science journal doesn’t mean its true. I’ve been very clear this requirement is simply a minimum standard.

            Given the clarity with which I have repeated my position in this area, why would you bear false witness the way you have?

            JS wrote: ““In fact, the human body has no “temperature” or “heat” sensors” seems to be contrary to modern medical science in regards to thermoreceptors.”

            Was the example of fabric and metal, both at 18 degrees, with one feeling warm and the other feeling cold really that difficult?

            Why don’t you try it?

            JS wrote: “As far as your comments on heat and temperature, you are technically right if we were talking thermodynamics which we weren’t.”

            Heat and temperature are scientifically defined attributes of matter. Their only consistent quantitative definition is the scientific one. I was using the scientific definitions and if you weren’t then you should have.

            JS wrote: “I have a PhD in Chemical Engineering and my graduate work was on thermodynamic properties ….”

            Based on our current discussion, I seriously doubt what you say. But even if it’s true, I don’t see the relevance. You could have a dozen PhDs but you’d still be wrong if you think heat and temperature are the same, or that the human body has sensors dedicated to measuring heat (you’ve managed to confuse pain receptors that respond to heat flow).

            JS wrote: “So your concept of “objectivity” flies out the window in my opinion.”

            Yeah. What would your thesis adviser have said if, when asked to defend your thesis, you bore your testimony?

            You are basing all your feelings about Mormonism on a failed epistemology — an epistemology that you wouldn’t dare use in any other circumstance except to sustain your irrational faith in Mormonism. There’s a phrase for that — cognitive dissonance.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            JS wrote: “I won’t even go into your comments of heat, temperature and heat flow from a thermodynamic view. I have a PhD in Chemical Engineering and my graduate work was on thermodynamic properties so I doubt you can teach me anything about them.”

            There’s a good discussion on the difference between heat and temperature (they are *not* the same) at the following link. You may want to read it:

            http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/uploaded_files/other_files/0000/4597/TheDifferenceBetween.pdf

            http://askascientist.co.uk/physics/whats-the-difference-between-heat-and-temperature/

            Here’s a guy who offers a nice explanation of what the human body actually senses (often confused with temperature):

            http://sachinashanbhag.blogspot.com/2009/07/does-human-skin-sense-temperature.html

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Who knows? I don’t know the name of the guy who invented the god Thor. Do you? If you can’t name the guy who invented the god Thor, does that mean Thor is true?

            So it is with the Book of Mormon. The book is clearly of 19th century origin, so someone from the 19th century wrote it. It’s certainly of academic interest who that person was, but the fact the author isn’t known with certainty doesn’t justify the silly conclusion that it was actually translated by a con man looking at a magic rock in his hat.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            Out of all the 17th century authors, who was Shakespeare?

            If you don’t know the name of the author, does that mean it was god?

        • For someone with an IQ higher than 3 and a reliable internet connection, I expected a better answer from you other than “who knows?”

          Since Joseph Smith actually provided a detailed explanation, with witnesses, and you have nothing to offer, your position ought not be taken seriously.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            I notice you ignored by question about Thor.

            GB wrote: “Since Joseph Smith actually provided a detailed explanation -”

            Smith offered several explanations — all differing in significant detail. He had a similar problem keeping his stories straight when it came to the First Vision, too:

            http://mormonthink.com/firstvisionweb.htm#full

            Smith’s inability to keep his stories straight is one reason that rational people conclude that he concocted the whole thing.

            GB wrote: “… and you have nothing to offer…”

            Actually, I said that the Book of Mormon was written by a 19th century author.

            There are other books for which we don’t know the names of the authors — you think they were all of divine origin?

          • Saying the Book of Mormon was written by some mystery 19th century author is not an explanation, it’s a cop out. The explanation provided by Joseph Smith was not exclusively his own, but backed up by multiple reliable witnesses and consequently ought to be taken seriously.

            In contrast, since you have no explanation to offer you ought not be taken seriously and waste the time of others. Good luck.

          • Duwayne Anderson

            GB wrote: “Saying the Book of Mormon was written by some mystery 19th century author is not an explanation, it’s a cop out.”

            Cop out for what? I never said I knew the author — only that the author (whomever he is) lived in the 19th century.

            And I notice you continue to dodge my question about Thor and Shakespeare. Clearly you don’t believe Thor is god, or that god wrote Shakespeare. Yet, if you apply your Book of Mormon argument to them, you should.

  7. John McGrath

    Watch out for involving those catholic grandparents. Many of them are leaving the faith in the 60s and 70s. Among those I know the main reason was the sour meanness they heard from other Catholics. That may change with Francis. Someone should do a study on this.

  8. Sasha Apanasenko

    Mormons actually have it easier than most- something like 80% of LDS kids stay in their faith, whereas these days most faiths are lucky to keep 50% of their kids involved. Granted, 20% is still substantial, and Mormons are a minority religion so they have to go against the grain more, but I think LDS parents are lucky because the way the church itself is structured helps kids stay with the faith. Not many other churches have youth programs as developed, good-and-cheap church-run universities, 2-year missions that are often life-changing, and a clear leadership structure that removes ambiguity.

    Yes, LDS parents have their work cut out for them, but then again so do all parents. When you have a kids, that’s what you’re signing up for. Good luck to all!

    • Duwayne Anderson

      I’m not sure where you’re getting that 80% statistic. It sounds made up.

      According to a report based on the American Religious Identification Survey 2008 (Trinity College), studies of worldwide church membership show that outside the United States, between 50% and 66% of those on Mormon Church rolls so not self-identify as LDS when asked about their religion by census takers.

      http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/files/2011/12/Mormons2008.pdf

      Within the US the number of people who self identify as Mormons is also much lower than what the LDS Church claims.

      http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/culture/5611/mormon_numbers_not_adding_up/

      If only about half of “Mormons” consider themselves members of the church, it’s virtually mathematically impossible for the church to be retaining 80% of its youth.

  9. No matter what sociological, psychological, or indoctrinal systems we may espouse for teaching our children, Paul gives us the “real” secret in I Cor 2:9-14. He tells us that we can teach man’s learning all we want by the ways of man, but if we want to teach the things of God, we must teach by the Spirit of God. If not by this method, then the things of God will seem seem foolish, “because the things of God are spiritually discerned.”
    As parents, the best tool we have in teaching our children is teaching them how to use the Spirit, not only as a personal guide, but also as a testifier of truth. I taught my children that the Spirit is as available to us as is water to a fish. If we want to feel the Spirit, all we have to do is “open our gills”.
    I taught them that there are myriads of ways to “open our gills.”–personal prayer, reading and meditating scripture, being of service to others less fortunate than ourselves, attending Church services, AND most of all–being grateful for all we enjoy with no effort as in the heart that beats in our chest, the air we breathe, the beauty of nature with its sunrises, its sunsets and its starry grandeur, but above all, the atonement of a loving Savior who wants us to come and live with him.
    I still explain to them (8 couples and 40 grandchildren so far) that spiritual food is just as necessary to the soul as physical food is to the body. Just as one big thanksgiving dinner does not last a whole year, so one spiritual experience does not sustain us for more than a short while. Doing things that “open our gills” and feed us spiritually on a daily basis is the only way to keep our “spirituality” alive. And as a parent, it doesn’t do any more good to eat spiritual food FOR my children than it does to eat physical food FOR them. They have to learn to eat both types of food for themselves–otherwise they will starve.

    • Laverl:
      The second half of your post is beautiful. That’s one of the best metaphors for the spiritual practices I have heard. That is definitely going in the personal journal. Of course, spiritual practices, a the the topic of Jana’s book, which I am very much enjoying’

      Your first point, is more difficult for some people. God relates to different people in different ways. Some people have a strong ‘receptor’ for the holy spirit. Others struggle and hear little or nothing directly from the Spirit, for reasons known only to God. And, parents who are not able to feel or see or hear or detect the spirit themselves will have a very difficult time helping their kids do this. Maybe this is why having grandparents or other mature people around may help those kids, as another resource with a different set of strengths.

      • The reasons why some of God’s children are more prone to listen to the Spirit than others are very complicated, I agree, but they begin with the fact that our primal intelligence was not created nor can be (D&C 93:29). And in Abr 3:18-19 we are told that our uncreated intelligences are on a continuum from lowest to highest (Jesus being the highest). The genius of the Gospel plan is that no matter how low we start, we CAN by our spiritual food choices be “added upon” until we can be resurrected at the highest level WE choose (D&C 88:25-28). It is a fact that only in and through Jesus Christ can we be saved, but the Kingdom of Glory we are saved in is up to us.
        Because of my own struggle with faith, I have infinite patience with those around me who are also struggling. We are here to help each other and not to judge or pull them down. We all need all the help we can get.

        • Laverl:

          As you say, its complicated. I confess I don’t understand you completely, because I am not very familiar with LDS terminology. I don’t think that its a product of our level of effort, but I can’t tell you what it is, other than a mystery.

          Yes, we all need all the help we can get! And, no God didn’t put us here to tear each other down, but to realize that God loves us as we are, and to encourage and help each other become the way God intends for us to be. Just from your eloquent replies here, I bet you are a patient spiritual blessing to your friends and neighbors and congregation.

          • Jeff,
            I LOVE to visit with people who are open to the positive approach. After all, Jesus, our master, was the epitome of positive approach.
            The reason I like the Mormon philosophy of how we became children of God, is that it not only explains our diversity, it makes it imperative that we have as much patience with our fellow travelers as Jesus has with us.
            I was born a Mormon and then got a PhD in Psychology. In the process,of my education and my 40 years of practice, I have had to deal with the diversity of opinion as well as the diversity of personality. I have felt the spiritual joy of a repentant convict with as much fervor as I have with any pentacostal experience with any of the other gifts of the Spirit.
            My motto has been, “It’s not so much what happens to you in life, it’s how you respond that makes the difference.”
            In my life’s education, I have made it my avocation to deeply study all philosophies and religions from the beginning of the world until now.
            I am most impressed with the LDS approach, because in it I find more of the truths of East and West, old and new than in any other religion.
            We are all God’s children and so we could expect Him to try to approach us all in our own way. To Mormons, this time in the history of the world is the time to bring all the historical truths together so that mankind can more readily accept the return of the Savior as King of the entire world, not just Christians. (see Acts 3:19-21)

          • Laverl:

            I like your motto !- I myself need constant reminders of that. I guess having a background in Psychology, you’d have a lot of time to observe that truth in action.

            Thanks for your encouraging comment – I always like listening to thoughtful people of faith!

  10. Doesn’t the fact that the biggest predictor of religious faith is your parents religious faith, show that religion is just a cultural practice and has nothing to do with any inherent truth abou the universe?

  11. I know that the issues from Duwayne have tons of other stuff going on, which I will not get into. However, back to the original comment, as someone with a considerable degree of training and education in statistical methods, I believe I can shed a little light on the likely reason for the comment in the original article (and presumably the book):

    “In most religious groups (Mormons, interestingly, being an exception because there were too few divorced families to make any statistical comparisons), divorce resulted in a significant decline in the likelihood that kids would follow their parents’ religion.”

    I haven’t looked into the book’s appendix, as was suggested by someone after Duwayne’s comment, but the way I read this is simply as follows:

    1) a population was selected at the beginning of the study that crossed many faiths as well as atheists and agnostics

    2) this population and the subsequent generations were followed

    3) among the Mormon subset of the population, the number of divorces were too few to be “statistically significant”, which renders comparisons invalid. That is why they couldn’t make comparisons. Perhaps if the study had begun with a large enough population that proportionally would have then included a large enough Mormon population, then the number of divorces would have been statistically significant for making valid comparisons.

    In short, saying they weren’t looking hard enough if they didn’t find LDS divorces misses the point of how the study was set up. They didn’t go around “finding” these people along the way. They started with a group and then followed their progeny. And among the Mormons, there just weren’t enough divorces to make valid, meaningful statistical comparisons. That’s all it meant, nothing more.

    • Duwayne Anderson

      Edelweiss wrote: “among the Mormon subset of the population, the number of divorces were too few to be “statistically significant”, which renders comparisons invalid. That is why they couldn’t make comparisons.”

      Just to be clear — you know this for certain, or supposition?

      In either case, I would agree. And I’d argue that it suggests they should have used a more appropriate sample for their study.

      Edelweiss wrote: “In short, saying they weren’t looking hard enough if they didn’t find LDS divorces misses the point of how the study was set up.”

      The comment was meant somewhat with tongue in cheek. I have a dry sense of humor — sorry.

    • Duwayne Anderson

      Edelweiss — Thanks for your thoughtful points. Having given them additional consideration, I’m wondering if you could explain (even hypothetically) how the following circumstances could occur:

      1) A sub population is sampled from the general population.

      2) The sub population has characteristic “x,” the mean of which is known from other data to have the same probability of occurrence as characteristic “x” in the general population.

      3) The sample is sufficient for statistical analysis of characteristics “y” and “z” (where both of these characteristics have a lower incidence in the general population than they have in the sampled sub population).

      4) But there aren’t enough instances for statistical analysis of characteristic “x.”

      Doesn’t that seem unlikely to you?

  12. Duwayne Anderson

    trytoseeitmyway “Your point, then, was how social pressure, ostracizing, belittling their faith, and so forth can lead to a loss of faith?”

    No. That’s not my point at all. My point is that there are people who don’t believe in Mormonism for other reasons, who would like to remain socially active, but are driven away from the church by people like you.

  13. Duwayne Anderson

    trytoseeitmyway wrote: “There is no basis for using Utah statewide statistics as a proxy for LDS.”

    Mormon apologists do it — but only if the corresponding statistics look favorably on the church.

    ONTH, my point is that one *can* use Utah’s demographics to draw conclusions about limits regarding the Mormon divorce rate. That’s because Mormons constitute such a large majority in the state that it’s not mathematically possible for Mormons to have a very low divorce rate, attributing the state’s above-average divorce rate entirely to the minority non-Mormon population.

  14. Thanks for this post. As a British Mormon father who has both young adult children who have followed my faith and who have rejected it, I found your summary interesting and useful.
    In your point 3 though, I was jolted when I read your comment that Mormonism emphasises that everything comes down to Mom. That is simply not my experience! Certainly there is a strong emphasis that Mum should stay at home and focus on the family but that is a long way from saying that it’s all on their shoulders. All of my life I have been taught -at church- of the importance of my role as father. In the Mormonism I know, I have been taught that while Mum & Dad have different roles, that they are both equally responsible for their children’s development and for building deep, warm, open, non-judgemental relationships with them.

  15. Hi Duwayne,

    I was not quoting you directly but paraphrasing. Ignorant is a synonym that means, ” destitute of knowledge or education.”

    Given your statement about what is necessary to leave the faith, I believe that ignorance is a better word than uneducated for those that stay. I am surprised you disagree.

    Yes, the average convert is less educated than the average member but she is younger as well. As a convert ages, their educational level rises. The same can be said of converts in less educated parts of the world and the fact that retention is higher in the United States goes to my point that commitment and education are directly correlated. Note also that retention is highest where Internet access is most widely available. One last point, anti-Mormon literature is widely disseminated around the world, even where Internet access is limited.

    • Duwayne Anderson

      Let’s revisit what I said. I said that anyone with a three-digit IQ, access to the Internet, and intellectual honesty can figure out that the Mormon Church is false.

      Education is not the same as IQ (though they are positively correlated).

      Access to the internet alone is not sufficient.

      Intellectual honesty means treating all ideas with the same evidentiary standard.

      Specifically, intellectual honesty means applying the same standards for evidence when analyzing Mormonism as when deciding if there are black holes in the universe or if there are dinosaurs living in Central Park.

      It’s been my experience that Mormons are primarily unwilling to comply with the requirements for intellectual honesty because they hold Mormonism to a substantially lower level of VOE than they hold other ideas.

      One way of illustrating this is to ask Mormon what evidence (if it existed) would be sufficient for them to stop believing that Mormonism is true. Typically Mormons won’re respond at all, and when they do (as you did) they list the most ridiculous things.

      Another way of illustrating the inherent intellectual dishonesty in Mormonism is to ask Mormons to describe why they don’t believe in a mythical figure like the Easter Bunny, but *do* believe in the Book of Mormon. Usually this question goes unanswered — but when they do attempt to answer it, Mormons inevitably illustrate how they apply a distinctly lower evidentiary bar to the evidence for the Book of Mormon than to other mythical entities.

      • Duwayne, I am not sure if I can answer your question and follow the rules of civility that I attempt to follow on Jana’s blog. My comment about the relationship between education and ignorance is spot on. Again, I am surprised you disagree.

        There is also a positive correlation between education, IQ and intellectual honest. After all, a primary purpose of education is to teach people to question effectively. It is a strength of the Church that its most committed members are best educated and because of the correlation between education and intellectual curiosity, the most questioning and intellectually honest. Really, can’t people look at the same evidence and come up to different conclusions? They do in peer reviewed literature.

        Please note that I could have made the same claims about former members and their intellectual honesty but didn’t. I consider my forbearance both civil and intellectually honest.

        Because peer reviewed, scientific literature is your standard for non-measurable, subjective questions, unless you can provide such evidence for a measurable question, the intellectual honest of committed Mormons, the conversation has ended.

        • Duwayne Anderson

          Wicoan wrote: “There is also a positive correlation between education, IQ and intellectual honest.”

          And an inverse relationship between religiosity and IQ:

          http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2395972/Atheists-higher-IQs-Their-intelligence-makes-likely-dismiss-religion-irrational-unscientific.html

          • Another potshot. The article you site is not peer review. It is a bunch of atheists admiring their own intelligence. In an interview, Larry Iannaccone, one of the nation’s top experts on the economics of religion is summarized, ” Average atheist is in fact not the well-educated, but young single males with low education and low income! Intellectual atheists often think of themselves as bold individualists, but it is almost cult-like—e.g., followers of Ayn Rand, cult-like but highly anti-religious. Exactly analogous to religious behavior, ways of speaking that isolate themselves. Economic study of human side of religion doesn’t give you insight into the transcendent side of religion, but does give you insight into other group behaviors such as sports fans, national devotion, military recruiting. Might be used to do good, or to do bad. It’s a tool.”

            Here is a link to his vita http://www.chapman.edu/research-and-institutions/institute-religion-economics-society/_files/faculty-cv/iannaccone-cv.pdf

        • Duwayne Anderson

          Wacoan wrote: “Another potshot. The article you site is not peer review.”

          More intellectual dishonesty. The paper *is* peer reviewed:

          Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2013 Nov;17(4):325-54. doi: 10.1177/1088868313497266. Epub 2013 Aug 6.
          “The relation between intelligence and religiosity: a meta-analysis and some proposed explanations.”

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23921675

  16. Duwayne,
    I am not going to engage in a game where I subject my testimony to your interrogation while you offer nothing in return. What would sake your lack of faith?

    I will answer the first point just to illustrate that answers that grant faith are available just as those that inhibit it.

    You ask, “Why do you think chiasmus are significant, given that the Book of Mormon is supposed to be an ancient American document, and the ancient American’s didn’t use chiasmus?”

    As you know, Lehi’s family left Jerusalem at about 600 BC. They had knowledge of Jewish tradition and writing styles, and presumably chiasmus. Because the writing structure is difficult, I would not have been surprised to see it abandoned. Because it is difficult to organize and write using chiasmus, and Joseph Smith and Joseph Smith was both uneducated without knowledge that Jews wrote in chiasmus, I conclude that the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God. Come on, does the existence of chiasmus stir a little flame of testimony?

    I would answer your last question which reads, “Why are you only interested in correlation between Book of Mormon government and early 19th century government? Why not lack of correlation between the Book of Mormon governments and those of ancient America, which the Book of Mormon is supposed to be about?”, but I don’t have my copy of “Why Nations Fail” by Acemoglu and Robinson. The book is about the confluence of economic and political institutions but has a relevant part.

    • Duwayne Anderson

      Wacoan wrote: ” What would sake your lack of faith? ”

      I assume you mean lack of faith in Mormonism. Let’s begin with the Book of Mormon. I’d be convinced that the Book of Mormon is a literal history of ancient Americans if you could provide the following evidence:

      1) A list of at least 6 cities in ancient America (all documented through peer-reviewed science journals) that are the same names and in the same geospatial orientation as in the Book of Mormon.

      2) A list of at least 6 prominent leaders (prophets, kings, etc.) from ancient America (all documented through peer-reviewed science journals) that are the same names as in the Book of Mormon.

      3) Scientific consensus that the ancient Americans originated in Jerusalem, migrated to the American Continent, brought/used the Hebrew and Egyptian languages, cultivated Old World crops, smelted steel, and used domesticated horses and cattle.

      • Your faith in peer reviewed literature is greater than mine. Do I need to review errors in peer reviewed literature that were widely accepted? In economics, we are still debating the impact of the minimum wage and we have a lot more data than hoping to trace a couple of families that left Jerusalem 2,600 years ago.

        Can you provide six peer reviewed articles with the primary question of Lehi’s existence? I can’t find six peer reviewed economic papers on who was the best president of the United States using economic data. These are not the questions scientists would consider.

        • Duwayne Anderson

          Wacoan wrote: “Your faith in peer reviewed literature is greater than mine.”

          I’ve said nothing about “faith” in peer-reviewed science literature. Peer-reviewed science journals are full of errors. Providing references from peer-reviewed science journals simply represents a *minimum* threshold. Once research is presented in a peer-reviewed science journal it still has to be vetted and tested and reproduced. Journals are not “scripture.”

          The problem is that you and the church can’t even meet that *minimum* threshold.

          Wacoan wrote: “Can you provide six peer reviewed articles with the primary question of Lehi’s existence?”

          That’s my point, exactly. I can find scientific articles about the historical Jesus, the historical Abraham, the historical Cesar, etc. But nothing in the scientific literature about any historical Book of Mormon characters. They just don’t exist. There’s no more evidence of the historical existence of these Book of Mormon Characters than of the characters in Lord of the Rings.

          That’s a serious problem because *if* the Book of Mormon is true, then we should reasonably expect to find scientific evidence of the people and cities that it describes. But we don’t. Not one bit.

          The Book of Mormon is, simply, a clumsy fraud.

          • Now you are just being silly. The books about Jesus were written after his death
            From Nova, (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/archeology-hebrew-bible.html)

            ” William Dever: From the beginnings of what we call biblical archeology, perhaps 150 years ago, scholars, mostly western scholars, have attempted to use archeological data to prove the Bible. And for a long time it was thought to work. [William Foxwell] Albright, the great father of our discipline, often spoke of the “archeological revolution.” Well, the revolution has come but not in the way that Albright thought. The truth of the matter today is that archeology raises more questions about the historicity of the Hebrew Bible and even the New Testament than it provides answers, and that’s very disturbing to some people.

            “But perhaps we were asking the wrong questions….

            “One of the first efforts of biblical archeology in the last century was to prove the historicity of the patriarchs, to locate them in a particular period in the archeological history. Today I think most archeologists would argue that there is no direct archeological proof that Abraham, for instance, ever lived. We do know a lot about pastoral nomads, we know about the Amorites’ migrations from Mesopotamia to Canaan, and it’s possible to see in that an Abraham-like figure somewhere around 1800 B.C.E. But there’s no direct connection.”

            From the Institute for Creation Research (a biased site for Jesus) ” Skeptics have often pointed out that no archaeological evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ has been discovered. And they are correct, at least perhaps up until the present. A recent incredible discovery may put to rest that criticism.

            A secondary issue must first be considered. Is it reasonable to expect such artifacts or inscriptions? After all, the man Jesus was not a prominent governmental leader. He was essentially an itinerant preacher, with few possessions, and eventually suffered the death of a common outlaw. Would the Romans have recorded His life or death with an inscription or statue? Certainly not.”

            Likewise, why would anybody but the Nephites themselves, a small group of people write of their leaders? What percentage of New World kings, priests, generals, etc. has archeaology provided? And yet they existed.

        • Duwayne Anderson

          Wacoan wrote: “Now you are just being silly.”

          It’s telling that you consider rational examination of Mormonism to be “silly,”

          You assert that the Book of Mormon is true. Fine. That’s your assertion. Since you made the assertion, you need to provide evidence for it.

          But instead of providing this evidence you’re complained about “pot shots” and about “interrogation.”

          Why is that? Why can’t you simply give a list of the titles from scientific journals that support Book of Mormon claims — *any* non-trivial Book of Mormon claims?

          You act like it’s some sort of big deal that I ask for a measly half-dozen references from the scientific literature of Book of Mormon cities and people in ancient America. Yet, can you supply even *one?*

          How “true” can a book be, if it’s only defense is equally applicable to any book of fiction? How intellectually honest can you be, if you insist that a book is literal history when there’s not one ounce of scientifically verifiable new history in it?

          • Now you are being silly again. I believe that you overvalue your arguments. I believe that you applied science poorly, asking it to do what it is not designed to do.

        • Duwayne Anderson

          Wacoan wrote: “I believe that you applied science poorly, asking it to do what it is not designed to do.”

          Explain this outlandish idea that science isn’t designed to evaluate the historical claims of books that claim to have been written by ancient Americans.

          Have you ever heard of the science of archaeology?

    • Duwayne Anderson

      Wacoan wrote: “As you know, Lehi’s family left Jerusalem at about 600 BC. They had knowledge of Jewish tradition and writing styles, and presumably chiasmus. Because the writing structure is difficult, I would not have been surprised to see it abandoned.”

      Then, by your own argument, *not* finding them in ancient American writings would be a big problem for the Book of Mormon.

      So, if the Book of Mormon is true, by your *own* argument, we should find Hebrew and/or Egyptian writings, from ancient America, with chiasmus.

      So, where are they? You make a strong argument they should be there. If the Book of Mormon is true, they would be there. Reason/logic says that if we don’t find them among the ancient Americans, the Book of Mormon can’t be true.

      • Duwayne,
        I examined the Books of Mormon for internal evidence. I assume from the text itself that the imprint of the Book of Mormon people is limited. I would be surprised if anybody but “Nephites” used chiasmus or other Hebrew or Egyptian styles. Where is your peer reviewed literature that has compared writing styles between American and Hebrew languages?

        Not being a linguist or anthropologist, I am not familiar with their work but I can site one author. Brian Stubbs has written several articles demonstrating Hebrew/Semitic and Uto-Aztecan linguistic similarities and they are peer reviewed but you would question their journal. Roger Westcott, a non-LDS anthropologist and linguist, the author of 500 publications and 40 books finds the work promising. That is about as good as it gets in science.

        • Duwayne Anderson

          Wacoan wrote: “I examined the Books of Mormon for internal evidence.”

          If you want to do that, then consider the distribution of month dates in the Book of Mormon. In a real history the month date distribution would be unbiased, but in the Book of Mormon they are highly biased. An analysis of the month date distribution shows (with confidence better than 3000:1) that the Book of Mormon history is fabricated.

          Wicona wrote: “I would be surprised if anybody but “Nephites” used chiasmus or other Hebrew or Egyptian styles.”

          Well, the Book of Mormon says the Nephites numbered in the millions, and covered the whole face of the land. And it says they wrote many, many records. So there’s ever expectation, if the Book of Mormon is true, of finding their writings.

          So where are those Nephite ruins?

          Wicoan wrote: “Brian Stubbs has written….”

          So why didn’t you give the journal name, volume, title and page number?

          Wicoan wrote: “but you would question their journal….”

          Why do you think I’d do that? And why shouldn’t I?

    • Duwayne Anderson

      Wacoan wrote: “I am not going to engage in a game where I subject my testimony to your interrogation while you offer nothing in return.”

      I don’t think this is a game. Why do you call it a game?

      Why do you feel interrogated? I’ve told you what it would take for me to change my beliefs. I don’t feel “interrogated.” I welcome the opportunity to share ideas and evidence. I’m not afraid of discovering that I’m wrong, or of changing my mind.

      Are you?

      • I am not sure that interrogate is the best word. Some elements of an interrogation is missing. Please do not infer more than I state. I do not feel intimidated or challenged. My complaint was one of fairness. You take potshots at others and they respond. That makes it a game. I could set up an impossible standard like the need for six peer reviewed journal articles proving that Joseph Smith did not translate the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God but I was being intellectually honest.

        • Duwayne Anderson

          Wacoan wrote: “Please do not infer more than I state.”

          I didn’t infer, I asked a question. Why do you feel interrogated? You used the word — I’m just asking you to explain why.

          Wacoan wrote: “You take potshots at others and they respond. That makes it a game.”

          Potshots? What the hell are you talking about?

          Wacoan wrote: “I could set up an impossible standard like the need for six peer reviewed journal articles proving that Joseph Smith did not translate the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God but I was being intellectually honest.”

          You really need to look at the nature of evidence. Asking for evidence of non-existence is totally different than asking for evidence of existence. Evidence of cities in ancient America that are named in the Book of Mormon. Evidence of people in ancient America that are named in the Book of Mormon. Evidence for the animals, plants, and technologies that named in the Book of Mormon, and found in ancient America.

          That’s what any intelligent and honest person would do. For you to whine and complain about the request is a *perfect* example of the intellectual dishonesty that is the foundation of Mormonism.

          • I was assuming the the question came from the previous discussion, making the question inference.

            Anybody reading these treads will understand what I mean. I have wasted too much time. Back to work!

        • Duwayne Anderson

          Wacoan wrote: “I am not sure that interrogate is the best word.”

          You wrote (Nov 11, 2013 at 12:00 pm) “I am not going to engage in a game where I subject my testimony to your interrogation …”

          That was you speaking. You used the word “interrogation.” I simply asked you why you feel you are being interrogated.

          It seems you are simply feeling the natural/normal sense of aggravation that must accompany any religious/superstitious person who finds their beliefs subject to critical examination. But why should anyone *not* expose your beliefs to critical examination? If your beliefs are true, shouldn’t they be able to weather critical examination?

          We routinely expose scientific theories to critical examination, and when they are found inadequate we change them. If Mormons were intellectually honest, wouldn’t that be *exactly* what they’d do with Mormonism?

          • I do expose my beliefs to critical examination. Over my life, I have changed political, religious and economic beliefs. The economic beliefs, have changed in response to scientific literature, the others are not really a domain of science. I think that I defended them nicely!

  17. Duwayne Anderson

    Wacoan wrote: “I do expose my beliefs to critical examination.”

    You listed, earlier, evidences that (if true) would convince you that Mormonism is false. But your examples were unclear in several ways. Earlier I asked for the following clarification, but haven’t seen a rational response:

    Couple of points/comments/questions with regard to your list:
    1) Why do you think chiasmus are significant, given that the Book of Mormon is supposed to be an ancient American document, and the ancient American’s didn’t use chiasmus?

    2) Can you be more specific about the fruit tree? What unknown information are you suggesting is in the Book of Mormon?

    3) Suppose Brigham Young was not directly involved in planning the Mountain Meadows Massacre – suppose he was only peripherally involved. Would that be evidence that would convince you that Mormonism is false?

    4) Why is Smith’s educational attainment important? If other religions were formed by equally un-educated men, would you consider that proof that they’re true? If not, why do you consider it relevant to Mormonism?

    5) Why is it relevant whether or not Emma doubted the translation of the Book of Mormon? How about if she doubted *other* of Smith’s revelation? Wouldn’t you consider that evidence against Smith, too? Why or why not?

    6) Do you believe in every story that told inconsistently? Do you disbelieve in every story that’s told consistently?

    7) You mentioned current general authorities and abuse. Why did you limit it to just “current” Gas? Why wouldn’t you consider past GAs as well?

    8) Why are you only interested in correlation between Book of Mormon government and early 19th century government? Why not lack of correlation between the Book of Mormon governments and those of ancient America, which the Book of Mormon is supposed to be about?

  18. Duwayne Anderson

    Wacoan wrote: “… the others are not really a domain of science.”

    How do you decide which or your beliefs are subject to reason and logic, and which ones aren’t?

    Wacoan wrote: “I think that I defended them nicely!”

    How can you “defend” ideas that are not “really a domain of science?”

    Certainly you can’t use logic, because logic is part of the domain of science.

    And you can’t use your testimony, because that’s just an empty assertion, and worthless.

    You say you’ve defended your non-scientific views “nicely.” I must have missed that defense. Would you mind repeating it?

  19. The article cited, “Does the LDS Church really have 14 million members?” (http://www.mormoninformation.com/stats.htm) has several fundamental problems. First, data source from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that gives two data sources, “New Children of Record” (NCR) (2008-2012) and “Increase in Children of Record” (ICR) (1996-2007) that the referenced article combines into one, “Increase in Children of Record.” The two data sources given by the Church are distinctly different and should not be combined. The newest data source, NCR was formed shortly after the Church announced a change in membership accounting that would not subtract from membership children of record who were not baptized by nine (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-statistics-reflect-steady-growth). The net change in children of record would be births to members plus children under eight of converts less children of record turning nine. It is not clear if NCR is net or if children of record turning nine should is net of children of record turning nine or not. If forced to guess, I would say it is the net figure implying that the number of children of record should be added to the Gross Increase in membership. The difference between this data source and ICR, which I discuss next, is obvious, jumping from 93,698 in 2007 to 123,502 the next year.

    The earlier portion of the data that “Does the LDS Church really have 14 million members?” includes in ICR is also wrong. Because children of record were maintained in membership calculations, the number of children baptized at eight must be subtracted from the Increase in Children of Record (ICR) or this number would be counted twice. This implies that the number of eight year-olds baptized should be subtracted from ICR and added to Gross Increase to get the correct value for Gross Increase. Child baptisms between 1988 and 1995 that average just under 75,000 per year. Because the Church listed the number of these, Gross Increase is understated by about 75,000. Both anomalies mentioned in the article (8,456 in 1999 and 11,158 in 1975) were well under this figure meaning that if properly calculated, there would not have been an anomaly. Other conclusions reached from the faulty calculation of Gross increase are also invalid.

    Other accounting procedure changes that I am not aware of might well have been implemented. Technological advance has certainly reduced the cost and increased the effectiveness of record keeping. In 1998 and 1974, the years prior to the anomalies, appear to be unusually high. An unbiased writer or reader might have noticed the unusually low as well as unusually high numbers.
    The Church does not maintain membership records for the use of social scientists; they maintain them for the benefit of the flock.

    • Duwayne Anderson

      Brooks Wilson wrote: “The two data sources given by the Church are distinctly different and should not be combined.”

      Why? What difference does it make? There are two ways that church membership increases; through convert baptisms and baptisms of children of record (rebaptism of excommunicated members being considered negligible).

      To get the total, one adds the two numbers.

      The problem is, during some years the total increase in reported church membership is greater than the sum of all the baptism — a mathematical impossibility. And during *most* years the increase is more than expected based on expected mortality rates.

      Let’s take the 2011-2012 years as an example. Utah’s mortality rate is 703 per 100,000 (in 2009):

      http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/usa/utah-all-races-death-rate

      So the Mormon Church, with a claimed membership of 15 million, should experience about 112,000 deaths each year. People also leave the church. So, if the Mormon Church is honestly reporting membership, the net increase would be number of baptisms (convert and child) less about 120,000.

      Compare that with what the LDS Church reports.

      For 2011 they claimed 14,441,346 members.

      During 2012 they claimed 122,273 “children of record,” and 272,330 convert baptisms, for a total increase of 394,603.

      They also claimed total membership of 14,782,473.

      The change in membership was 341,127.

      For these figures to add up, the Church’s mortality rate must be less than half of Utah’s mortality rate, and *nobody* would have apostatized and left the church.

      This just doesn’t make sense. For the Church to have a mortality rate that’s half of Utah’s mortality rate, the non-Mormons in Utah would have to be dying at twice the national average — in which case, what the hell are the Mormons doing to the non-Mormons? In addition, for these numbers to make sense, *nobody* is leaving the Mormon Church.

      From a purely mathematical perspective this is *highly* unlikely, and strongly indicative of the LDS Church manipulating its membership figures.

      • Hi Duwayne,
        I am at work and only have time for a short comment. I explained why the two are not the same. In short, the article you cite combines membership accounts that the Church provides and they are not the same. Nine-year-olds who are not baptized are subtracted from New Children of Record. Eight-year-olds are subtracted from Increase in Children of Record. Nine-year-olds who are not baptized and Eight-year-olds who are baptized are not the same people and their numbers are not the same. In both cases, Gross Increase This Year is underestimated resulting in the anomalies the article cites. Once the math is done correctly, the anomalies disappear!

        • Duwayne Anderson

          Wacoan wrote: “I explained why the two are not the same.”

          I never said they are the *same.* I said they are the two contributors to increases in church membership.

          Wacoan wrote: “the article you cite…”

          In the post to which you replied, I’m citing the church’s statistical reports. Why don’t you bother to read my posts before you waste both our times with meaningless replies?

          Wacoan wrote: “Once the math is done correctly, the anomalies disappear! ”

          Is that the magic Mormon math?

          Look, the situation is really simple. The LDS Church claims increases in membership from converts and children of record. The LDS Church does not stipulate *any* losses to membership — not losses from deaths, and not losses from resignations.

          Losses from deaths are easily estimateable by looking at Utah’s death rate. Based on Utah’s death rate, the LDS Church should have over 100,000 deaths each year. In addition, there are people who resign/leave the church.

          When the losses are subtracted from the increase, the net change expected in church membership is significantly less than what the church claims.

          • A farmer owns a barn in which he stores grain. in 2012, he puts in corn, wheat, soy and rice. He tells his neighbor that he only pulled out is storing 10 tons of grain more than he did last year. The neighbor says, “that can’t be. You only put in 5 tons of corn and 4 tons of wheat and I saw you take out 10 tons of grain with my own eyes. You have lost a ton of grain.” Well, the answer is that he put in 6 tons of soy and 5 tons of rice.

            The Church did not claim that adding New Children of Record and Convert Baptisms and subtracting deaths (add name removals and excommunications if you like), you did. In certain years you did not account for losses in membership of nine-year-olds who were not baptized the previous year yet it is shown in the net increase. In other years, you did not account for losses in Children of Record due to baptism. Yet they are included in the net increase. In short, you have seriously underestimated the Gross Increase, by between 30,000 and 75,000 per year and you wonder why there is not sufficient increase to account for deaths approximately 110,000 deaths.

        • Duwayne Anderson

          Wacoan wrote: :A farmer owns a barn in which he stores grain.”

          We’re not talking about farmers, Wacoan — we’re talking about church membership and how the Mormon Church fudges it’s membership records.

          Wacoan wrote: ” The Church did not claim that adding New Children of Record and Convert Baptisms and subtracting deaths (add name removals and excommunications if you like), you did.”

          The problem is that the claimed individual sources of increase don’t match the claimed total increase. If they didn’t include children of record, then the problem is *worse,* not better.

          Wacoan wrote: “In short, you have seriously underestimated the Gross Increase.”

          I haven’t estimated the gross. Why don’t you pay attention? I’m comparing the gross increase reported by the *church* with the individual sources of increase reported by the *church.*

          Can you understand this simple argument? The Mormon Church’s internal numbers don’t add up. The Church’s internal numbers are inconsistent.

          And not just for one or two years, but for the majority of years.

          The Church consistently claims a gross increase that is larger than the individual increases that they report, less expected mortality.

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