Here are some questions that I have had as I've been experiencing a faith transition:
1) Will temple work need to be done for Neanderthals? I asked this because I've seen some of my Facebook friends publish genetic reports from gene samples they've sent in and many of them have 1-2% Neanderthal DNA. That means that at some point in their family tree, they had an ancestor with one Homo Sapien parent, and one Neanderthal parent... and that one Neanderthal parent probably had two Neanderthal parents, so on, so forth. So effectively, that means temple work would need to be done for all of the Neanderthals, right?
- I've heard one apologetic answer that says: Yes, there were other hominids on the earth, but homo sapiens were the first ones with souls. Neanderthals made tools, drew cave paintings, raised families, and buried their dead. If they didn't have souls, can it really be said that we have souls?
- But getting back to the original question: What if you found a Neanderthal ancestor that had a Homo Erectus parent? Would temple work need to be done for all of them?
- And then what if that Homo Erectus parent had an Australopithecus parent. Do we do temple work for _all_ the prehistoric hominids?
- A typical thing for a Sunday School teacher to say at this point is: "It will all be sorted out in the millennium". Is 1000 years really enough time to do the work for millions (or tens of millions) of years of generations?
- But getting back to the previous line of questioning: And then what if you discovered that one of the Homo Erectus parents had some sort of ape ancestor (as science has shown they probably did). Would we need to do temple work for all primates? If they weren't capable of speech, what would we use for names? Do we stop with the primates, or do we work our way through all the mammals, or even _all_ the animal kingdom?
- What would that Neanderthal think when he was told that Adam & Eve were the first humans?
So, right about here was where I started thinking that temple work isn't actually helping any dead people at all, it's just done for the conditioning of the living. It's to get living members to keep pledging allegiance to the church and committing to give the church all their time and money. Blerg.
Related: You only ever need to go to the temple one time, for yourself. If the purpose of temple attendance is not to benefit the dead in any way, but a means for the church to continually condition the living members, they would need to construct some narrative to get them to keep coming back. Maybe this is why the whole "doing work for the dead" teaching was created: to provide a reason for members to keep going back. The more I think about this, the more I think that the temple is just a big hamster wheel.
2) The scriptures teach that the three biggest sins are: denying the holy ghost, murder, and sexual sin. As a baseline for "sexual sin", let's use a hetero couple having a one-night stand (both are single). Just so we're clear, murder and sexual sin are right next to each other. They're squished so tight together that you can't see daylight between them. No middle ground at all between those two.
- Is a violent assault that results in hospital time and possible loss of life quality really less severe than a one-night stand that results in no hospital time, loss of quality of life, etc.?
- If an assailant blinds / mutilates / dismembers a victim, is that still less "sinful" than the one-night stand?
- If a torturer tortures some guy every day for 10 years but doesn't kill him, is that still less "sinful" than the one-night stand?
- Related: It seems like Word of Wisdom violations are ranked #4 in the list of most serious sins. WoW is nearly always follows the Law of Chastity in missionary discussions, temple recommend questions, etc. Members of the church seem to regard WoW violations as very serious sins. Question: are WoW violations really as severe as the above assault / dismember / torture scenarios?
- If we were to order sins according to the severity of the punishments that are doled out by the church, what would the order be?
- public disagreement
- failure to pay tithing
3) There are some people who just have an inborn desire to kill. We call these people "psychopaths". They typically feel little / no empathy for others, but they have a craving to kill that is comparable to a drug addict's need for more drugs. Question: Why does God send people like this to Earth? How do they help to fulfil his plan? What important / necessary role do they play?
4) Why is Lucifer so willingly complicit in helping to fulfil God's plan? The scriptures teach that there must be opposition in all things, and that Satan provides that source of opposition. But why does he go along with it? This seems illogical for a being whose raison detre is defined by the single word "rebellion". If Lucifer really wanted to screw up God's plan, why wouldn't he just sit on the sidelines, refusing to tempt people and, by default, create a world without opposition, thereby frustrating God's plan?
5) Did Satan offer a greater sacrifice than Jesus did? Jesus experienced (temporary) earthly suffering, for our benefit, but ultimately achieved a glorious reward. Satan, on the other hand, offered to provide the opposition to God's plan, and in so doing, condemned himself to an eternity of misery, and completely forfeited his hopes for any eternal reward. If we celebrate Jesus for his sacrifice, shouldn't we celebrate Satan's sacrifice even more?
6) Does God have any free agency? The church teaches that God follows a "higher law" and that he would never do anything contrary to that higher law. If that is the case, isn't God just a witless automaton that follows a wrote set of rules?
- Follow-up: Do Mormons actually worship God, or do they worship that set of rules that God presumably follows?
- If Mormons do worship that set of rules, how does that make them different from agnostics / atheists who believe in nothing more than the laws of physics?
- There are various scriptures which say that if God was to be disobedient to the rules, that God would cease to be God. Who strips him of his power / Godhood? If someone (or something) is capable of stripping God of his power, can it really be said that He is omnipotent?
7) The plan of salvation sounds like it's maximized, not to increase the number of people that make it to heaven, but the number of ppl who make it to a lesser degree of glory. The Celestial kingdom is incredibly hard to get into, but the lesser degrees are much more easily attained. Why would a loving God set up a system designed to condemn the majority of his children?
- Related: We know that God continually makes new worlds to people with his spirit children. If that's the case, isn't He just perpetuating a system that causes suffering during our earthly lives, and ultimately condemns the vast majority of his children to be eternally separated from him and their families.
- Related: We are taught that children who die before the age of accountability are immediately sent to the Celestial kingdom. If we really wanted to maximize the number of people who get to the Celestial kingdom, why don't we kill all children before age 8? This is a truly grizzly thought.
8) Let's say you have two church members: Robert and Paul. Robert thinks that blacks are inferior, he buys into the teaching that they were not valiant in the pre-earth life and that's why they're cursed with black skin in this life. He doesn't think they should be allowed to hold the priesthood or attend the temple, or any of that. Paul, on the other hand, is a much more progressive guy, he backs the civil rights movement, and he thinks that blacks are people too and should be treated as equals with whites. He has a problem with the church's anti-black practices. If these guys had died the day before the 1978 revelation was received lifting the priesthood ban, Robert would've been sent to a higher degree of glory for following the prophet, while Paul would be sent to a lesser degree because he didn't. However, if these same two guys had died the day after the 1978 revelation was received, their eternal destinations would be swapped. (What a difference a day makes!) And yet, we're supposed to believe in a God that is the same yesterday, today, and forever? This just doesn't make any sense to me.
9) How do we know we're worshiping a God that is good and loving and not a God that hates us and wants to maximize our suffering? (In the temple ceremony, Satan introduces himself as "the God of this world".)
10) Re: anthropomorphic God: The LDS church teaches that God looks like us: He has a body that includes a beard and penis. In other words, He looks like a homo sapien.
- Question: When there were no homo sapiens on this earth, but just other hominids (Neanderthals, Denisovans, Australopithecus), what did God look like then? Did he still look like a homo sapien? IoW, did God look like a species that hadn't evolved yet?
- Tens of thousands of years from now, homo sapiens will likely evolve into one or more new species. Homo sapiens will become an "extinct" species, in that there are none of them left alive, only their (evolved) descendants. Will God still look like a homo sapien then?
- Corollary: There are many animals which exhibit remarkable levels of intelligence: dolphins, elephants, ravens / crows, rats, pigs, bonobos / chimpanzees, and others. What do you think they imagine God looks like? (c.f. the quote from the Greek philosopher Xenophanes: "If horses had gods, they would look like horses".)
- The point of all of this is that we're being very species-centric in thinking that God looks like / cares about only a single species of primate. It's like Mormons are stuck in Stage 2 in Fowler's stages of faith. (See: Applying James Fowler's Stages of Faith Development to Evangelism.)
- Most of the cells in/on our body are "not us": Zillions of bacteria line the insides of our intestines and aid in the digestion process (we would not be able to digest food without these). On the surface of our skin is a zoo of bacteria. Multicellular mite-like creatures live in our hair & eyebrows. Question: Does God have all of these organisms on him? Are they "celestial bacteria"? Is there such a thing?
- Does God need to eat? If the answer is no, then why does he have a digestive system. Does he need to pee? If not, then why does he have kidneys? Does God need to breathe? If not, they why does he have lungs? Does God need to filter toxins from his bloodstream? If not, why does God have a liver? Bottom line: Why does God have so many organs that he doesn't need?
- Does God have an appendix? Our appendix is a vestigial organ, an evolutionary remnant from our ancient mammalian ancestors who used it to process difficult-to-digest material (like a gizzard). Why would God have this vestigial organ?
- Related: There are various other portions of our anatomy that are evolutionary remnants, which we often get removed: tonsils, wisdom teeth, etc. Does God have these, or were they "removed" in the resurrection?
- There are various other evolutionary remnants that are either unnecessary or in some cases harmful: sinuses, vestigial nictitating membrane, etc. Does God have these?
- Does God get goosebumps? Goosebumps observed in humans are an evolutionary remnant from an ancient, mammalian, ancestor. They helped its body hair to stand on end and make it look bigger / more threatening when it was scared by a predator. We still see this in dogs/wolves. (Porcupines are an extreme example.) Why would God have this evolutionary remnant?
- Will human men get their foreskins back in the resurrection? Does God, as a perfect resurrected being, have his foreskin?
- Does God blush? Humans are the only animals that blush. It's been described as a uniquely human trait. If God is above blushing (i.e. He doesn't do it), doesn't that make him a little less human?
- Could God create a different body that He could inhabit, even just for a short time? Could he be a badger or a llama if he wanted to? Could he just have no body at all for awhile and be a spirit? If the answer to these questions is "no", then can he really be described as "omnipotent"?
11) Reproduction is one of the basest, most primal instincts that all creatures possess (including humans). What we are told about LDS theology is that God's purpose is to have children (with his numerous, plural, wives) and populate various Earths. So, in other words, the Supreme Being's greatest purpose... is to act in the most basic, primal way, to satisfy the same kinds of urges that rats and bugs have: to reproduce. This is starting to sound more and more like a God that is merely a projection of the basest, human, desires.
12) In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam & Eve to not eat the fruit of knowledge, telling them that "in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die". Lucifer tells them "Thou shalt not surely die, but shall be as the Gods, knowing good and evil." After they eat the fruit, the Gods say "Behold, man has become as one of us." (And, oh by the way, they don't die.) So tell me: which of these supernatural beings is the "good guy", the one who lied to them (God), or the one who told them the truth (Satan)?
- Also, Satan is the only person who talked to Eve like she was a person. Everyone else just saw her as window dressing.
14) The only acceptable discussion topics / testimonies / comments in church are ones that are faith-affirming. If you stand up in fast and testimony meeting and say that you don't believe in the Book of Mormon, you will get shut down. Members get a single, one-sided, point of view. Similarly, the church tells its members to only get material from church-approved sources; do not visit critical / negative / "anti-mormon" sites. However, in the Book of Mormon, it says that "there must be opposition in all things". Why do we not allow members to experience opposition? By denying members an opposing (even critical) point of view, aren't we depriving them of the ability to freely exercise their agency?
- Related: Doesn't this look strikingly like Satan's plan where God's children wouldn't be allowed to exercise their agency?
- How would Satan's plan of coercing everyone to "be righteous" have worked? Maybe by using the same techniques that the modern-day LDS uses: by making the social costs so unbearably high, that the members stay in the fold. (Threat of wife leaving you, threat of parents thinking you're "lost" or "fallen", threat of kids hating you, threat of LDS employer firing you, threat of being shunned / cut off from community.)
15) Related to the previous: We are given "Moroni's promise" as a test that can prove that the church is true. Question: What is an example of a test that can prove that the church is false?
2 Nephi 2:27 says "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things". If that is true, then there must be an "opposition" test that could prove the church is false, in addition to the "truth test".
Here is why I ask this: 2 Corinthians 13:1 says "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." The LDS church uses this scripture to show that belief in only the Bible is insufficient to get a clear understanding of God's will, and that the BofM is needed to get a "more sure witness". In the same vein, isn't a "confirmation" test insufficient on its own? IOW, if I can prove that the church is true using Moroni's promise and I _can't_ prove that the church is false using the "opposition" test, won't I have a "more sure witness"? Isn't this better than just one test?
For that matter, we could have a third test that could prove that the church is "neutral" (meaning equal parts true and false / equally good and bad / just the same as any other man-made organization). That would be the third of the "two or three witnesses" referred to by Paul. (Aside: My experience with D&D alignments prompted me to think of this.)
The church hasn't provided us with a "negation" test, so I'll just use the claims they outline and then test the negation of each one.
1. Joseph Smith was a "chosen vessel", a pure and righteous man who was prepared by God to fulfil his purposes.
2. God selected JS to do his work via the First Vision. Byproduct: TFV gives us a true understanding of the nature of God.
3. JS possessed the gift of translation which he used to translate the Book of Mormon and other ancient records.
4. The Book of Mormon contains a record of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and the fullness of the gospel.
6. You can read the Book of Mormon, pray to God, and gain a spiritual witness that it is true.
7. By learning that the Book of Mormon is true, you can also know that JS was a prophet of God.
8. You can know that the church he restored is true. It is a good organization ("by their fruits you shall know them") and you should join it.
<< this would be a better entry for the "podcast or blog" file >>
16) In the 'Race and the Priesthood' essay, it says "the church disavows all past doctrines that dark skin is a curse". Does that mean that they disavow the Book of Mormon? Because at the core of the BofM is a belief that dark skin is a result of wickedness. If you take that out of the BofM, you don't have Nephites and Lamanites anymore, you don't have any story at all, and you don't have any explanation for the Native Americans. If the church truly disavows the dark skin / curse doctrine, they have to throw the BofM on the trash heap (thus removing something that makes the church somewhat unique).
17) Why does the Holy Ghost go to bed at midnight when he is probably needed post-midnight more than any other time of the day?
<< Reworded >>
This is something I've never understood. We are told: a) nothing good happens after midnight, and b) the Holy Ghost goes to bed at midnight. Question: Why does the Holy Ghost go to bed at the time when he is most needed? Guy has one job, and he refuses to do it...
18) Why does the modern-day church mimic a power structure that was rejected by the Nephites? They had kings (autocratic rulership) for awhile, and eventually chose judges (more democratic). And yet the modern-day church features a top-down, single-person-on-top governing structure with no democracy whatsoever. Why has the modern church failed to learn the lessons of the Book of Mormon?
19) When ppl leave the church, why do church leaders not encourage them to join another, different, Christian faith? The majority of ppl who leave the church become atheists. I don't know if the church wants that. The church also wants to be accepted as a "Christian" church, so why don't they encourage exiting members to stay in the larger, Christian, fold?
20) The church has opposed same-sex marriage, saying that a child needs both a masculine and a feminine influence in the home.
- Why do they not apply that same logic to leadership positions in the church? Couldn't their opposition to ordaining women be answered with the the same reasons that they give for opposing same-sex marriage? Wouldn't a ward (or the church as a whole) benefit from the feminine influence that would be gained by ordaining women?
- For that matter, why does the church not put more emphasis on Mary of Heavenly Mother? Wouldn't an individual member's prayers be better answered if they could commune with the feminine divine as well as the masculine divine? After all, we are "children of God", shouldn't we get the influence of both of our divine parents?
Seems to me their "child needs the influence of both genders" argument is being selectively applied.
21) Does the man become a "chewed-up piece of gum" when he "loses his virtue", or is this fate exclusive to women?
22) When the prophets & apostles are shown to be incorrect / wrong, we often hear excuses: they were just talking as men; they're only human; the Lord works through imperfect vessels; etc.
- If we know that the "Lord's chosen vessels" are imperfect men and will make mistakes. This means that there is a risk in following their advice. But we are told that we must follow their counsel unquestioningly. The end result is that we are maximizing a known risk. It's a perfect storm.
- Related: If we are to accept that "the Lord's chosen" are imperfect, then the decisions they make _should_ be questioned / challenged to help prevent bad decisions from being executed on... But we're told that we're not supposed to question leaders...
- Let's compile all those excuses and ask ourselves: what's left? In other words, why should I listen to these guys when they're so woefully flawed? Would I be better ahead listening to some New Age guru? Or listening to myself? Would the outcome of following my own advice be measurably better or worse?
- What if we were to conduct an experiment where an average TBM follows prophetic advice to the letter and compare their outcome to a non-believer who thinks for themselves and makes their own decisions in similar situations and then compare the outcomes. We could expand the test to include a broader sample set in order to collect more data points and get more accurate results.
- If a believing member was unwilling to participate in this kind of test (or even read the results), what would that say?
23) One great revelation about the nature of God received by the prophet Joseph Smith is that God has a physical body of flesh and bone. We also know that God is the father of our spirits (our earthly parents created our physical bodies). Question: Why does God need a physical body in order to make spirit children?
<< group this with all the "god having a body" points above >>
24) Why does Lucifer get condemned for seeking glory when Jesus also sought for glory? In John 17:5, Jesus says "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." Why does Jesus not receive this same condemnation that Lucifer did?
25) Why should we sustain the Q15 when they reveal nothing? Why should we hang on their every word for some divine revelation, when they have nothing to reveal.
- Analogy: Let's say I make the claim that I'm the greatest sculptor in the world. You ask to see my sculptures. I tell you I haven't got any to show you. What would you think of that claim?
- What if I were to get angry at you for asking to see my sculptures?
26) In D&C 129 we are given "three grand keys" to determine the status of an otherworldly being that visits you, all of which are determined by shaking said being's hand:
Question: Why wouldn't a cunning devil just refuse the handshake so you'd mistake him as "the spirit of a just man made perfect"? In so doing, he'd be able to give his diabolical message (presumably while you listen with rapt attention). Seems like an easy system to exploit.
Related: In the temple endowment, Adam is able shake hands with Peter (and not just a regular handshake, but special handshakes) when Peter was a premortal spirit. How were they able to do that?
(extra) Great questions here regarding the temple endowment.
27) Why is it that some devout LDS members will divorce / disown family that don't believe in the church anymore? If they know their "eternal family" has been broken up, wouldn't they want to spend every precious moment on this earth with that family, knowing that this life is probably all the time they've got to spend with them? Why distance themselves from their family here on earth as well as in heaven?
28) What percentage of the names submitted to the temple are accurate? It's well-known that most of the genealogical work is done by amateurs who likely haven't done the necessary research & travel to verify the lineages. I've also heard that there are names that have had their work done 10x over. So, what is the degree of accuracy? 50%? 25%? 10%?
- Related: At what point do we conclude that this is all busywork?
29) We are taught that "there must be opposition in all things". This is often given as an explanation for why we experience suffering: we can't know pleasure without pain, or happiness without sadness. We are further taught that heaven (the Celestial Kingdom in particular) will be a place of eternal happiness. How can that possibly be? If there's no sadness in heaven, how will we be able to experience happiness? If we spend eternity there, then eventually our memories of sadness on earth will fade over the passage of (infinite) time, so eventually we won't be able to draw on those memories either. Will we eventually just become blase about living in heaven?
- Related: Is there really opposition in all things? What's the opposite of a hardwood floor? A carpeted floor? A dirt floor? A tile floor? A ceiling? (A hardwood ceiling?) What's the opposite of orange juice? Water? Apple juice? An empty cup? Coffee?
30) Is God a single-celled organism? Here's why I ask: the vast majority of life on earth is unicellular. For the first billion years of life on earth, all life forms were single-celled. Humans (and other animals) wouldn't be able to survive without the huge colonies of bacteria that line our digestive tract. Our immune systems (white blood cells), circulatory systems (red blood cells), and reproductive systems (sperm & egg cells) all revolve around single-celled organisms that our bodies reproduce. I think there's a much stronger case for depicting God as a single-celled organism. If he's really "Alpha and Omega", and has been there "since the beginning", wouldn't it make sense for him to manifest as the first organism that was on the Earth? It would completely explain why diseases run rampant on earth: God favors (unicellular) germ cells that are more like him (which would mean that we multicellular creatures are the abomination).
31) If Jesus was the perfect and supreme example, why wasn’t he baptized at 8 years old? Related: If we're supposed to follow Jesus' perfect example, then why aren't we baptized at 30 years old as he was?
32) We are told that, in order to get into heaven, we will need to use the signs & tokens from the temple to get past the angels who stand as sentinels. Problem is, the temple ceremony has changed numerous times since the Restoration. So, which version of the temple ceremony will the angels accept?
“As Church education moves forward in the 21st century, each of you needs to consider any changes you should make in the way you prepare to teach, how you teach and what you teach if you are to build unwavering faith in the lives of our precious youth."
“Gone are the days when a student asked an honest question and a teacher responded, ‘Don’t worry about it!’ Gone are the days when a student raised a sincere concern and a teacher bore his or her testimony as a response intended to avoid the issue. Gone are the days when students were protected from people who attacked the Church.”
“It was only a generation ago that your young people’s access to information about our history, doctrine and practices was basically limited to materials printed by the church. Few students came in contact with alternative interpretations. Mostly, our young people lived a sheltered life. Our curriculum at that time, though well-meaning, did not prepare students for today – a day, in which students have instant access to virtually everything about the church from every possible point of view.”
Question: Why did the curriculum of old not prepare students for today? Put another way, how did these prophets, seers, and revelators not see this day coming and make efforts to more adequately prepare them? Why did their prophetic gifts fail them?
34) One apologetic explanation for the multiple (conflicting) accounts of the First Vision is that Joseph Smith "tailored" the message to different audiences.
35) If the church is truly guided by revelation, then why are so many doctrines delineated in retrospect?
36) Why did the Nephites keep records on metal plates when it was expressly forbidden in Jewish law:
"No instrument containing iron or steel may be used in the creation of a Torah scroll, because these metals are used to create instruments of war."
Source: The Making of a Torah Scroll
An anonymous redditor said:
Well let's see..... Jewish people have a long history of using skins as a means of record keeping because of ready availability, light weight and can be rolled up and carried around in a compact bundle. Come to the New World which has plentiful hide bearing animals but- Gold! Gold! Because it's hard to find, requires mining and refining and is heavy and hard to work, and requires much more effort to carry around. Makes perfect sense.
37) D&C 68:25 says:
"And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents."
The modern GAs have denied baptism to children of polygamous & gay parents, sometimes _against_ the wishes of those parents. Are they okay with having that sin be upon their own heads?