Trivia For An Anti-Mormon “Expert”

There’s one big question that I haven’t heard yet about an anti-Mormon author’s twisted article on a CNN blog about the LDS Church.  She says that she disbelieved in the religion at least since the time she was nine years old, yet she was married in an LDS temple, which would require a long period of prior faithfulness: was she lying about not believing in the religion throughout her childhood, or did she lie to the Church so she could get married in the temple? 

It’s been my experience that people who are inactive, or no longer members, in the LDS Church, hate being asked about when they did have faith, and how that changed.  They’ll often give sketchy answers, if any at all, and quickly change the subject.  Fair enough—private business is private business—but if you want to be taken seriously as a public opponent of something, don’t you owe the public an explanation that establishes credibility better than this? 

This author seems to base her credibility on the fact that her she was raised in a Mormon family (as if being raised by Darwin would automatically qualify you as a scientist), and the fact that she can quote distorted versions of some doctrines and out-of-context materials from the temple endowment ceremony.  So she can use Google.  Big whoop. 

You know how sometimes a reporter will try to play “gotcha” with a politician by asking him or her an incredibly simple question, like the number of amendments to the Constitution or the name of a foreign head of state?  I’ve always wanted to ask a self-professed anti-Mormon “expert,” who loves to riff on the temple, some basic questions that an average twelve-year-old Mormon would know.  I seriously doubt most anti-Mormons would do well on such a quiz.

Consider the twelve questions below.  Any adult Latter-day Saint reading this would get most if not all of these right.  Inactive people would get most of these right.  Shoot, non-Mormons who casually went to church a few times with their Mormon friends could get most of these right. 

Certainly, certainly an expert on the religion should blow all of these out of the water.  An expert on Mormonism getting more than one of these wrong would be like an MIT professor failing to solve 2x=10. 

  1. In what year did Joseph Smith have his First Vision?
  2. How many Articles of Faith are there?
  3. What three names are mentioned in the first Article of Faith?
  4. Who was the second president of the LDS Church?
  5. What’s the longest book in the Book of Mormon?
  6. Complete the following, from a children’s song : “I am a child of God, and he has _____   _____   _____.”
  7. Which Book of Mormon prophet is famous for preaching while standing on a wall, where arrows could not hit him?
  8. Which Book of Mormon prophet is depicted on the spires of most LDS temples?
  9. Name either counselor in the current First Presidency.
  10. Name the four books of scripture that Mormons call the Standard Works.
  11. In what year was Joseph Smith killed? 
  12. Complete the following, from a children’s song: “I’m trying to be like Jesus, I’m _________    __________   __________   __________.”

 

 

Answers:

  1. 1820
  2. 13
  3. God the Eternal Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost.
  4. Brigham Young
  5. Alma
  6. Sent me here
  7. Samuel the Lamanite
  8. Moroni
  9. Henry B. Eyring or Dieter F. Uchtdorf
  10. Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price
  11. 1844
  12. Following in His ways
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18 comments on “Trivia For An Anti-Mormon “Expert”

  1. I missed the last one (haven’t been in Primary in a generation).

    Nice selection of trivia — it’s LDS culture that, except for language, is virtually independent of location in the world. In fact, except for the songs and 1st Presidency names, it’s virtually independent of time as well as place.

    If a self-identified expert had never been a member, I might allow two or three errors before I rolled my eyes (even someone who has read the Book of Mormon once but has not been exposed to the stories for years might not remember the name of Samuel the Lamanite, or might not have heard the Primary songs), but anyone who claims to have been a church member for a lengthy period who misses more than one or two definitely has some ‘splainin’ to do.

  2. One thing that you’ll recognize about mentally disturbed people, Huston, is that they have an inner dialogue that excuses and “explains” away the way they are.

    You may also find that everyone has it, and thus everyone is mentally disturbed. And recognizing that is very important.

    We had a member who joined the church for a bit, threatened to leave a couple of times, eventually did leave, went to other church’s and claimed he was trying to “minister to Mormons” and bring them to the “right faith” during the time he had been a Mormon. He’s back now.

    The first time he was certainly sincere in in trying to be right with God the way Mormonism teaches, he certainly wasn’t ministering to us. He wasn’t very humble. While he was gone, he really tried to convince others that he was always a protestant while being Mormon (in cognito). But he wasn’t. After he left, the spirit truly withdrew and he fell a long ways. Eventually he was humbled and came back, even more sincere and wiser than before. Now he views the time away as a time of refining that taught him to be humble.

    We all tell ourselves things. Sometimes we’re right (like God refining us thru humility) and sometimes we’re wrong (like when the anti-Mormon) revises history to be more amenable to their current beliefs.

  3. I would like to comment on this article, but unfortunately, my death oaths prevent me, so…

    Although, I have to say, I feel pretty boss to belong to an organization with death oaths!

  4. Follow up, I invite any other members of the LDS church to join me in turning down inappropriate invitations with the following:

    “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t. My death oaths prohibit me from doing this.”

    “As much as I’d love to see ‘The Hangover 2’ with you, I’m afraid that would go against my death oaths.”

    This would also be a pretty solid moment to give someone a passalong card as well! Let’s all try it and see how it goes!

  5. The trouble with your approach, magicmilox, is that it perpetrates prejudiced misconceptions. I assume you meant it as a joke.

    Long time ago I cracked a joke about polygamy. Someone asked me how many wifes I had, and I said I only have two so far, but I’m getting another one soon. I couldn’t believe the rumors that created. People, who want to believe the worst, will take the worst and run with it, and there’s no limit to how much they’re willing to distort even what they heard. I’ve been sorely disappointed by people’s sense of humor (or the lack of it).

    There are anti-mormons who tell the whole story of how they became that way. Not really that special. We’ll never know what’s left out unless someone else says something, and then it’s he said vs. he said. And it’s also sad.

  6. Ardis, I guess two Primary songs was a bit much–I was thinking of my idea above about a quiz that a Mormon twelve-year-old would pass.

    Psycho, I don’t think she’s mentally distrubed, though I have seen plenty of people with emotional problems get baptized here in Vegas–most of them drop out pretty quickly. Still, most active members who have been inactive are perfectly open about discussing that time, but when the situation is reversed, people get uncomfortable. Odd.

    Velska, yes, I can assure you that Milo is joking, but I actually did this once. Someone asked me what we do in our temples, and instead of giving a direct introduction, I figured that since this was someone I’d known well all my life, I could joke around with a dumb one-liner. I smiled and said, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” Her eyes bugged out and she quickly looked away–she thought I was serious! Huge mistake for me–I lost an opportunity to spread facts and good will.

    Huge mistake for her, too, though–why would someone who knows me well take that seriously? But there you have it.

  7. Psycho, I used to have long arguments with my therapist about whether there could be said to be a “normal” person. His argument, which I bought quite eagerly, was that some are more disturbed and others.

    And, that often those locked in the institutions are the healthiest ones. He should know, he was the head shrink in a mental hospital. I guess I could have said “chief shrink” but the “head shrink” just sounded funny to me…

  8. I consider myself a reasonably smart person. I was certainly a devout Mormon for most of my life. I could easily answer each of those questions correctly. I’m a little confused by your point.

    The Church has little to fear from the anti-Mormons on the outside. It’s the people who were inside who make the Church nervous.

    For instance, your answer to question 1 is almost certainly wrong. Whatever the First Vision was, it is highly unlikely that it happened in 1820. There was no religious fervor in Palmyra in 1820. The religious fervor came a few years later… about the same time that another angelic story is told. With the exception of a single recorded narrative that Joseph told in 1838, ALL the evidence points to the essential details around the First Vision being vastly different than the way the Church tells it. That evidence includes EVERYTHING Joseph and every member of his family ever said in their entire lives, and basically everything any early leader of the Church said in their ENTIRE lives.

    I’m happy to talk to anyone about anything related to the consecrated love and devotion I used to have for the Church and the way that feeling was annihilated, first by reading the approved materials (scriptures, general conference, Church manuals, books written by prophets and apostles), and then as I read the (more interesting) less approved materials.

    I truly came to find out that if you have an absolute agenda to keep a testimony in the face of all evidence to the contrary, “some things that are true are not very useful.”

  9. Interesting that you state that most anti’s are not willing to speak about how they lost their faith. My experience has been markedly different then yours… they are more than happy to explain it and even expound upon it in most instances.

  10. PS I’m inactive and struggling with staying a member… I am willing to say why, and all those in my family would back it up because I have been completely upfront about the whole thing as it has happened.

  11. No Longer and April, thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate polite dissent. It sounds like you may be different from many people I’ve known.

    If it means anything, I’ve always found that when things get murky–relating to church or just life in general–a commensurate immersion in the Book of Mormon helps truth come to the surface. Whether or not such a suggestion meets with welcome at this time, I do respect you both and wish you all the best.

  12. Hey Huston,

    Just to let you know where I’m coming from, I was a high priest at the time I resigned from the LDS church and I am currently an atheist/humanist. One thing we stand united on is that we both defend the LDS church in the face of fundamentalist evangelical Christians who are not averse to “lying for the Lord” in order to further their pious cause of saving the lost souls of Mormons. That CNN article was pathetic on many levels and doesn’t deserve a thorough excoriation so I won’t bother.

    But I was interested in your assertion that in your experience, members who leave or are inactive “…often give sketchy answers, if any at all, and quickly change the subject” when it comes to relating why they left. I can’t imagine you have come across many who have intellectually disaffected from the church. What you describe are the stereotypical believers that just don’t want to live the strict life anymore. These are much more comfortable circumstances for the average true believing Mormon to deal with because it doesn’t in any way challenge or threaten the truth claims of the church.

    However, I have met many, many former members like myself that freely tell people why we left and none of the reasons have anything to do with “living the standards.” I encourage you to go to Mormonstories.org and check out the many podcasts, etc regarding this and if you want to hear my story, it’s episode 222, with the next 5 episodes giving the other atheist’s story and us fleshing out our world view now. Mormonexpression.com is another website with podcasts that shouldn’t be tagged “anti-Mormon” but gets into many of the issues that intellectually disaffected former Mormons like myself have dealt with.

    I commend you for putting yourself out there on the internet. And thank you for educating the younger generation.

    Randy Snyder

  13. My wife had an experience today that also relates to your assertion that those of us who are disaffected are reluctant to talk about it. Ironically, her experience points back to your relatively gracious response to me.

    If you go to Mormon Stories or Mormon Expression, or even one of the very tame discussion boards, like New Order Mormon, you will find, as Randy indicated, that we are INCREDIBLY WILLING to discuss our feelings, experience, thoughts, study.

    However, today when an old friend found out that my wife and I don’t believe the way we used to, he didn’t want to talk about it, he wanted to instruct; he wanted to figure out what she was doing wrong so he could fix it.

    His (unsurprising) exhortation was to study the Book of Mormon.

    On the one hand I completely understand this. Anyone who expresses doubt over the literal veracity of the Church’s truth claims is a threat to your faith. So, it is at least a little understandable that you have a deep need to marginalize the concerns and come up with answers that allow you to continue feeling confident about your own choices and conclusions. Lord knows as a member of the Church you have invested heavily in the truth conclusions you have come to.

    However, many of us have had many, many frustrating experiences where a faithful friend, family member, or ecclesiastical leader has asked us to explain our issues, and then after essentially touching just the tip of a very large iceberg, they prescribe the same old thing to fix it.

    I want to be gentle about this, but do you seriously think I haven’t studied the Book of Mormon over and over? I taught early morning seminary for four years, and I taught Gospel Doctrine for over three years.

    When you suggest that an immersive study in the Book of Mormon is the simple answer, you are, more or less, simply invalidating the seriousness of my concerns, some of which certainly center on my personal study of the Book of Mormon, wherein I found increasing failings.

    You have faith that the Book of Mormon is true. I used to share that faith. I used to love it. I still believe there are many things to love in the Book of Mormon. But all of the lovely doctrine in the world can’t fix the Book of Mormon’s anachronisms. The anachronisms do not come from my feelings and my feelings cannot fix them.

    Neither then can the feelings I may have for the Book of Mormon cover over the tangible problems of the Church’s modern day presentation of the First Vision.

    The list could go on and on. These are not simple issues and the Church has provided no good answers. For many of us the fasttrack to disaffection was found by faithfully seeking answers to a few tough problems, arriving at the Church’s apologetic websites, only to find that the best answers there are laughably insufficient and the breadth of issues is enormous.

    God bless you for your good will, but you are trying to prescribe aspirin to cure terminal cancer. You claim we don’t want to talk about it. Maybe we’re trying to be considerate of something that works for you. Maybe we don’t desire for you the anguish of soul that we experienced as we watched our own fortresses of faith fall apart like so much tissue paper.

    But, as I said, I am willing. If you want a list of topics to study, there are many of us happy to supply it.

  14. All I can say is that my observations are based on my (admittedly limited) experience, and that of people close to me–same as everybody. If my description of people doesn’t jive with yours, I think we can chalk this one up to living in different areas and circumstances.

    In short, I’ve only known a few people who would say their inactivity is due to intellectual disaffection. Of course, maybe some who say that have more social and emotional reasons than they realize; or some who are reluctant to discuss social and emotional issues may also have more intellectual concerns than I’m aware of–how could I know?

    Ditto on our opinions of the Book of Mormon–I didn’t claim to know how much you had or hadn’t studied it. We don’t know each other, and can really only talk in generalities. As I was saying, though, your extensive experience with it doesn’t necessarily demonstrate an exhaustive plumbing of its resources–though, my avowal of love and faith in it doesn’t, either–plenty of people could talk about it with little more firsthand knowledge than a few memorized seminary scripture mastery verses.

    So, as with many discussions in life, I suppose we’re talking past each other while we somehow manage to simultaneously go in circles. Ah, the physics of conversation!

    One more thing on this part, though–I don’t mean to invalidate the seriousness of anyone’s concerns. I can see that point of view. I’ve experienced some of it. Sometimes, those with concerns will refuse to accept perfectly useful answers (I’ve seen this in religious, political, educational realms–haven’t we all?), but in the sense of fairness, here, I’ve also seen some faithful folks accept ludicrous things because they’re supposedly faith promoting. It’s not likely that we’ll find a group anywhere without its share of members given to wearing blinders–after all, we’re only human.

    A concrete thought, though: yes, there are things people could latch onto as plausibly problematic in the Church, including the Book of Mormon. There are also, however, many things that solidly support the Church’s history and scriptures from a faithful point of view–not just wishful thinking or whitewashing, mind you, but respectable evidences. Are our differing conclusions merely a factor of where we attribute weight, figuring how the problems and evidences balance or affect each other, personal experience or preference, or something else? As we are all so much more complicated than simple answers, though, I’m sure the answers are as numerous as individuals.

    OK, one more concrete thought: I’d assert that whatever someone’s background, beliefs, or experience, the Book of Mormon is amazing, and powerful, and appropriate for anyone in any situation to study for untold benefit. I think a truly serious, honest person, in a vacuum and with a clean slate towards the book, would be extremely impressed by its nature and content, and would wish it were widely read and loved. It’s no mere aspirin, friend. I’m sure my spiritual witness of its ancient origin amplifies that, but it’s objectively true–the Book of Mormon is awesome–regardless of the biases of who says it.

  15. It is safe to say that you and I see things differently… who could count the number of places where I gather we see things differently?

    However, your response is full of sincerity and good grace and I appreciate it.

    Good luck and God bless.

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