Those who join the Church need to know that it's not a perfect place. Among
our members are all the problems of mortality. We have majestic principles and
ideals, certainly, and abundant teachings and helps to bring us to Christ in
both doctrine and behavior, but fall and fail in all sorts of ways.
Be prepared for human weakness in your peers, in your leaders, and in
yourself. Steel yourself for that, but soften your own heart and let your daily
journey be one of seeking to follow Christ and love more fully, in spite of the
failings of others.
One of the many failings you will encounter in the Church is intolerance. This
is a difficult problem because intolerance sometimes is a divine attribute that
we should emulate.
When Christ cast out the money changers and merchants from the temple,
He was being a tad intolerant of the local business community. Weren't these
pillars of the community merely helping people with their religious life,
ensuring that appropriate Hebrew currency could be used to pay priests and
that suitable sacrifices could be obtained? And surely God could not be
opposed to trade. After all, had not God commanded that the temple be built
with great finery and with specific exotic imports requiring much
merchandising and trade?
The temple as an institution was an expression of great accumulated wealth,
and its maintenance and daily rites involved large flows of goods and cash. Of
course, it was not the wealth of the temple or that institution's need for cash,
goods, and trade that was inherently wrong. It was the hearts of men who saw
in the temple an opportunity to make unscrupulous profit for themselves,
taking advantage of others.
Men, corrupted by the lust for wealth, had turned the temple into a center for
exploitation and personal gain, not a house of worship and reverence. That was
a situation demanding intolerance. Not rabid loss of control, but carefully
planned, controlled intolerance expressed with the eloquence of a hand-crafted
God, for the record, is intolerant of sin. He "cannot look upon sin with the least
degree of allowance" (D&C 1:31). His endless, loving patience for us is an
expression of wondrous mercy, but based on His hope and expectation that we
will accept His miraculous gift of the Atonement and repent to remove all that
separates us from Him.
We must not confuse His love for us with acceptance of our bad behavior.
When it comes to our sins, He is always ready to enter our bustling courtyards
and forcibly turn the tables on us, if we will only let Him in so He can drive a
few things out. We each need a little of that Divine Intolerance in our lives.
Intolerance, though, has many human expressions that are ugly. The Church
teaches us to be kind and patient with others, even though we need to take a
stand against the various sins that we all struggle with.
Healthy tolerance means being civil and loving of fellow sinners, not cheering
them on in sin or teaching them to abandon all hope of repentance. This
requires sensitivity, soul searching, gentleness, but not abandonment of
It means leaving people alone when they want to be left alone and respecting
differences. It means being friendly and loving toward friends and family who
choose to leave the Church or who struggle with the Church, not pressuring
them or withdrawing our friendship, but also being ready to help, encourage,
or answer if they are open to it. It also means being able to tackle complex
issues with both sensitivity and wisdom, not simply accepting the viewpoints
the world would have us conform to, but understanding how to apply divine
principles and standards in the chaos of mortality.
There are some voices in the Church who accuse the Church and its members
of intolerance. This can be because of our stands on particular moral issues, or
for our claims to have restored truth or authority. It is in the name of
promoting tolerance where I have personally encountered some of the least
tolerant people in the Church. Some people get so worked up over the Church
that they do and say things that seem far out of line with the principles of love
and kindness that they espouse. It's one of those human failings that we need
to be prepared for, though it may catch you by surprise.
I'll share excerpts from an email exchange with a fellow Latter-day Saint. It
illustrates a tone and attitude that I have encountered from a variety of LDS
people over the years. It is an expression of great discomfort with the core of
LDS religion and even intolerance of those who take it seriously. In the name of
tolerance and love, the speaker pleads with me to just shut up and quit
Apparently this Mormon champion of tolerance can accept freedom of
expression in all of its forms except when it comes to a fellow Mormon saying
that maybe The Book of Mormon really is true, maybe God really does speak to
prophets, and maybe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in spite
of all the human flaws of its members, is the result of a majestic Restoration
that involved real prophets, real angels, and real gold plates. That, dear friends,
is just too idiotic to tolerate, so it's time to get out the verbal whip and silence
For those of us with any remaining testimony towards the authenticity of
The Book of Mormon, please, please quit writing. Your stated views,
concerns, responses to questions and inquiries continue to entertain
us--but not enlighten anyone but the uneducated and naive.
It appears that you are genuinely concerned and honestly engaged in
your quest to defend the authenticity of the LDS history. It also appears
that you are becoming an embarrassment for those truly interested in
the truth: not hollow excuses of probable and possible circumstances
validating what you already believe.…
You will never be able to "prove" your views. Regardless of how ridiculous
one's ideas and belief system are, reason, common sense and intelligence
are no match for superstition and faith….
Please stop writing.
Hold on--are you saying that you have a testimony of the authenticity of
The Book of Mormon, but don't want me to write on that topic? Or are
you just pretending to accept The Book of Mormon? What is this
"testimony" you're talking about?
Forgive me if I'm taking your message the wrong way… Would you mind
pointing out what facts I have wrong, or what facts I have overlooked?
The use of sweeping accusations without details, based more on name
calling than reason, is a characteristic of traditional religious bigotry and
calls into doubt the premise of your email.
So who are you really and what's your beef?
You write as if you have read much of my writings, but the statement
about never being able to "prove" my views again makes me wonder. I
have repeatedly emphasized that we can't prove matters of faith or the
truthfulness of The Book of Mormon, but we can argue the cause for
plausibility, or refute some of the arguments against plausibility. So what
is so embarrassing to you? But I don't think embarrassment is what's
motivating you at all.
Sorry, but the nature of this email makes me strongly doubt what you
say. But I could be wrong and missing the real story. Let me know.
To be blunt Jeff, your attitude and often flippant responses reflect much
of what is driving people away from what can be positive about a belief
Your writings continue to foster these attitudes as you present a very
sharp edge in expressing your views. I will never attempt to change your
views or faith system. It is far too personal and important to you.
However, the reason that I asked you to quit writing is because your
often flippant manner reflects all that is currently driving people away
from religion. One could argue almost any issue, defend any cause, Hugh
Nibley any issue to death. My beef is that you have obviously bought into
a cause, and defend it in its entirety to the point of ridiculousness.
…your writings go far beyond ration and reason. By accepting platitudes
of absolute truth, you have bought into the belief system that you hold
all the keys of the truth--and others don't…. you add greatly to this
religious bigotry and self righteousness.
"By accepting platitudes of absolute truth, you have bought into the belief
system that you hold all the keys of the truth--and others don't. "
Where did you get this? That's not what I've been writing. We have the restored
Gospel and many great truths to share, absolutely, but we do not have all truth
or a monopoly on truth--a common theme in my writings. For example, my
recent blog post at http://mormanity.blogspot.com/2008/01/busting-mormon-monopoly-on-truth.htm is one of many on this theme. I have been a
strong advocate for recognizing the insights and truths that we can find among
other religions, Islam included, and am simply puzzled by the thrust of your
More insight in his next response:
Inevitably, as conversations turn to Mormonism many of my colleagues
refer to information that they have gleamed from various sources on the
internet. FARMS dialogs are discussed at length. Sunstone articles are
another source of information that are debated. And unfortunately, your
web pages are quite often the topic of open discussions.
Although I believe that you are honestly trying to deal with and debate
your concepts of truth, the manner and attitude displayed by your
writings are creating a very negative reaction on a very broad level. You
have posted comments on your web pages, apparently from individuals
with very negative impressions of your writings, and then proceeded to
tear them apart using what is commonly referred to as "FARMS"
apologetic tactics. I believe that you know these by heart, therefore I
don't have to delve into many details concerning literary combat
techniques. Suffice it to say, that when people say that "Lindsay wouldn't
know the truth if it bit him on the a**" is a fair statement that resonates
on a larger scale than you would imagine…
The "I know this to be true" syndrome is very unfortunate. You know as
well as I do that this attitude is fostered and refined in every fast and
testimony meeting of the LDS Church. "We are right and you are wrong"
is the very dangerous attitude that has been the catalyst and excuse for
hatred and killing for centuries. My question: why can't we simply admit
that we really don't know who or what God is, and simply try to
understand that we are all in this together as humans.
You asked me directly what my beef is. To answer simply, my beef is that
you are becoming a reflection of who the LDS Church is. And this
reflection is evolving into a joke.
Please stop writing.
There is an anti-apologetic reflex among some Mormons who are quick to make
a caricature of all apologetics as being crude, idiotic, ad hominem attacks based
on embarrassing ignorance. These insults are hurled at the Maxwell Institute,
at FAIRLDS.org, at me and at others, but when pressed for specific examples of
such errors in what has been published, I've only been greeted with silence. I
asked for specifics from this person and sincerely wanted to know where I
needed to improve. I would get nothing.
My patience was wearing thin at this point:
Look, I'm trying to listen. I've only got the sweeping accusations so far.
Statements I've made in the past have been too harsh or whatever, and
I've made efforts to correct problems and modify posts or pages that were
So can you point to whatever you feel is a classic example of what I'm doing
that is harming the Church? Is it something from 10 years ago? From last
week? Is it, for example, my early post on ex-Mormons at
http://mormanity.blogspot.com/2006/11/cutting-little-slack-for-ex-mormons.html? It's not helpful to say, "Everything stinks; you're a nasty
person." Maybe that's true, but it would be much more civil and persuasive to
point to specific examples of genuinely inappropriate behavior (hopefully not
just differences in style or a dislike of attempts at dry humor) that are driving
sincere people to disdain the Church.
And with all your talk about tolerance, why is it so hard for you to tolerate
someone who actually, sincerely believes in his religion? I fully recognize that
we do not have a monopoly on truth and that others have much to offer,
including Islam, etc.--a common theme in my writings at Mormanity--but I do
believe we have something that can really help the world and that comes from
God, not just the lurid imagination of Joseph Smith.
It's OK to differ, and to explain where I have made errors and stepped over the
line, but the condescending call to just shut up isn't what I would expect from
someone of your stature.
Perhaps it is not your intent to belittle by telling me that my writing is a joke,
that I'm harming many people, that I'm an embarrassment, etc., all of which
has a certain belittling nuance to it, though you may not see it that way, but
that's pretty much all I've gotten from you. I'm sincerely asking for guidance
about the problem spots.
I know the RFM antis mock me, and I get plenty of email saying how stupid I
must be to believe in God and the Church, or how I'm going to hell for not
believing the way others do, but I've had hundreds of emails from people within
and without the Church who were struggling for information, looking to
understand doctrines, seeking for something, who have thanked me for the
content. I've got many dozens of emails from people who say they joined
because of my writings, and many, many more saying they came away with
better respect for the Church.
And I've got three that I can remember like yours from current or former
members who say that I am harming the Church, including one who claims
he--or I think it was someone he knew--left the Church because of what I
wrote. And that anonymous person didn't give me anything more to suggest he
was really serious.
So while I have no doubt that some critics and some cultural Mormons don't
like me, I've got a stream of feedback saying that what I've written has been
helpful to the Church. But please point out areas where I've said something
misleading and harmful and I'll sincerely look to correct the problem and
improve the tone.
I know you can't accept the idea of a real testimony, but I have one. There is
much I don't know about God and religion and so forth, but I truly know that
He exists and that Jesus Christ is my Savior. And my testimony of The Book of
Mormon is relatively strong as well. Much remains open for debate, and there
is truth and goodness everywhere, but I sincerely believe we have something
precious to share.
At this point he said he would get back with specifics when he had some time.
He never did.
There are times we need to speak out and be a tad intolerant, but more often,
perhaps, we need to be patient with the inappropriate intolerance of others. As
devout Christian religion becomes more embarrassing to the world and even to
some of our own members, we'll need increased patience in the future.
Jeff Lindsay has been defending the Church on the Internet since 1994, when he launched his
LDSFAQ website under JeffLindsay.com. He has also long been blogging about LDS matters on
the blog Mormanity (mormanity.blogspot.com). Jeff is a longtime resident of Appleton,
Wisconsin, who recently moved to Shanghai, China, with his wife, Kendra.
He works for an Asian corporation as head of intellectual property. Jeff and Kendra are the parents of 4 boys, 3 married and the the youngest on a mission.
He is a former innovation and IP consultant, a former professor, and former Corporate Patent
Strategist and Senior Research Fellow for a multinational corporation.
Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar are authors of the book Conquering
Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).
Jeff has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and is a registered US
patent agent. He has more than 100 granted US patents and is author of numerous publications.
Jeff's hobbies include photography, amateur magic, writing, and Mandarin Chinese.