I am often told that I gave my tithing donations voluntarily therefore I should not blame the Church for taking my money.
Those Mormon friends who say this are often the most sincere, genuine and some of the most compassionate and kind people I know. Which makes it all the more difficult to say to them, that I believe they, and millions of others including myself, have been taken advantage of.
The problem with the way the Church works in getting us to do anything is that it uses fear as the ultimate motivator. Maybe without realising it, but it is a factor nonetheless, we do things in the Church in an effort to avoid undesirable negative outcomes. Punishment, if you will, for failing to keep ‘sacred covenants’. Indeed, in the Temple endowment I made a blood oath that my life would be taken if I revealed the nature of the signs and tokens I learnt there that day. We are warned we will lose Eternal Life, and the opportunity to live together as a family in the afterlife will be taken from us, if we don’t keep all the ‘Mormon Commandments’, including paying our tithing. In fact we don’t even get to be Sealed for Eternity in the Mormon Temple to our spouse unless we pay tithing. There is also the threat of ‘being burned at Christ’s Second Coming’ if we don’t pay tithing. We’re told that we are defrauding God if we don’t pay tithing.
This is a form of coercion. As a True Believer there is no way I could have lived with myself if I wasn’t trying to keep all of ‘God’s Commandments’. The guilt and shame would have been too much. And the fear of God’s punishment loomed high too.
The whole belief system depends on the promise of Eternal rewards and the good feelings associated with obedience, as well as the threat of guilt and shame arising from disobedience, and even public humiliation for more serious sins.
At the same time I, along with many millions of other wonderful members, do all that we do in the Church based on our belief that it is True. The One True Church of God.
Yet now I find that my faith was misplaced. That Joseph Smith was not an honest man at all. That in fact he was a convicted fraudster. That he convinced those naively gullible people around him that he was commanded of God to marry many women, some already married, and worst of all some, only children, as young as 14.
I was convinced by the Church that Joseph had translated The Gold Plates by the ‘gift and power of God’ using a Urim and Thumim. Yet now I find that he never used the Urim and Thumim at all, but instead he used a chocolate coloured Peep Stone placed in a top hat. The same Peep Stone he found in a well as a young boy which he was convicted of fraud for using to con people out of money during his ‘treasure seeking days’. (Some information here: Ensign Article: A Treasured Testament – too little, too late. There are no accounts of Joseph using the Gold Plates to translate, yet the Church still depicts Joseph translating at a table with the Gold Plates). Joseph Smith money-digger
I was convinced by the Church that the Book of Abraham was translated from ancient Egyptian papyri by Joseph Smith. But now I discover that those ancient papyri were not in fact the writings of Abraham but actually ancient funery scrolls common all over Egypt.
The Church knows this. Even Elder Jeffrey R Holland admitted on camera in an interview that Joseph Smith didn’t use the papyri to write the Book of Abraham. Yet I was taught, and they still teach, that Joseph translated it, when he didn’t. (Jeffrey Holland admits the Book of Abraham wasn’t translated.)
There are many more incorrect and dishonest things associated with the Church I once loved. Had I known at the time I would never have sacrificed my affection, my time, effort and money to the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The So Called Church’s legal title – The Legal Name Of The Church).
In order for the Church to have acted properly, in full and frank honesty in its dealings with me, I should have been made aware of these and many other issues which impact on its ‘truth claims’. As it now transpires, I find that I did not get the full truth but just a sanitised, faith promoting version which is greatly biased towards forcing me through fear and intimidation using undue influence towards making my ‘voluntary donations’.
As a True Believer I would consider what I had just written above to be ‘sour grapes’ due to me being deceived by Satan. All I can say is that if only I had known then what I know now I would have thought very, very differently.
It’s a bit like Plato’s Allegory of The Cave. To someone inside the Cave the outside world in all its wonderful reality and beauty is completely incomprehensible. It’s unimaginable. It’s been called the ‘Mormon Bubble’.
In the same way that a member of the Watchtower Organisation cannot begin to imagine they have been deceived and held in a delusion, it is impossible for a True Believing Mormon to even begin to consider the possibility they have been deceived too.
At least not without going through the trauma like many of us are now doing as we transition out of the Church.
It is for this reason that Micah McAllister has written his book ‘Exit Strategy: A Guide to Leaving Mormonism’. To help people navigate the difficulties associated with leaving such a controlling organisation.
When inside the Mormon Bubble it is impossible to understand just how controlling the belief system is. Just how much it gets into one’s psychology so you cannot think clearly. I know members of the Church say they are free. So did I. But we’re not as free as we think we are when inside the Church. It is not that easy to just leave. It has been the most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life. The adjustments in one’s thinking are immense. Initially I felt like I was dying from the inside. It really was a living nightmare coming to terms with reality. But just as in Plato’s Allegory of The Cave, eventually the ‘bitter pill’ is found to be wonderful and life outside the Church is far more amazing than I could ever have imagined.
My relationships with my wife and children have become more honest, rich and authentic than ever before. I find that I can enjoy the simple pleasures of life like looking at a sunset without the superimposition of Mormon theology overlaid over the top of the experience. A bit like enjoying a beautiful garden without believing there are fairies at the bottom.
I respect my Mormon friends’ right to believe what they will. I am truly sorry if my new beliefs appear to threaten theirs. That is not my intention. I am only trying to reach out to others who are questioning their faith, to give them hope and courage, by expressing my personal experiences as I transition from being a faithful Mormon Bishop to becoming a Secular Humanist.
I love Mormons. I have many great friends in the Mormon faith. I do not desire to hurt anyone, only love.
Links to sites discussing the principle of Tithing in Mormonism: