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Blame the Victim Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
October 7, 2021 9:35 pm

Blame the Victim Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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October 7, 2021 9:35 pm

Jana Riess makes a call for more Mormon dissenters in January 2019–Eric and Bill discuss this article

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Mormonism 101 for Teens is a valuable resource for anyone wanting a simplified view of the Mormon religion from a Christian perspective. Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism. And her piece was posted on It was posted on January 15, 2019, just two days after a devotional talk was given by Mormon Apostle Dale G. Renlund and his wife Ruth at Brigham Young University, Hawaii. And Jenna Rees certainly had some issues with this talk that had to do with members who are doubting. That was the title, How Mormons Handle Doubt, Blame the Victim. That was the conclusion that she drew from this talk.

And I think she has some valid arguments here, but we want to go through some of the things that she noticed in the talk, as well as what Eric and I noticed when we listened to this same devotional message. In this talk, Dale Renlund and his wife describe this person whose boat had sunk and a fisherman happened to be going by who was kind enough to bring this individual into his own boat. But after a while, they mentioned how this rescued individual who was supposed to be the doubting Mormon, the boat is the church, the fishermen are the leaders in the church, they explain all this. And how the individual who was rescued starts nitpicking problem areas that they see.

For instance, even though the person was given water and some crackers to nourish this individual, they started noticing the water was stale, the cracker was not as tasty as they would like. So they started noticing dents and so forth, and the boat flies, according to the video that it was showing, flies were flying around, it looked like eyeballs rolling on the floor of the boat. They're starting to pick away at problems they see. And of course, Renlund and his wife are looking at this as a negative. So anyway, now they're going to talk again about the dents and the peeling paint, and this is where we want to pick up our conversation today. Sister Renlund asked whether dents and peeling paint on the church diminish its ability to provide authorized saving ordinances that help people become like Heavenly Father.

The answer is no, and here I completely agree with her. It's refreshing to hear an acknowledgement, however implicit, that the church isn't perfect. Too many times in the past, complaints have been dismissed with the old adage that the church is perfect, but its people aren't.

In reality, neither is perfect. And we've heard that in talking with Latter-day Saints. Whenever you bring out some of the issues regarding the behavior of even Joseph Smith himself, that's an easy fallback for many Latter-day Saints. Well, the people in the church, they certainly aren't perfect, but the structure of the church itself is.

And that's really a huge question that I think a lot of sincere Latter-day Saints have, and I would say that that would even include Janna Reese when she says, in reality, neither is perfect. She continues, it's also refreshing to hear, without apology, several of the historical issues mentioned by name that many doubters have struggled with. And yesterday you mentioned a couple of those, and she's going to bring them up again very shortly, but there are a number of issues that do cause a lot of faithful members to start having what she will mention in the next paragraph as a faith crisis. But the overall tone of the talk is dismissive, expressing little concern for the pain endured by people who are having what has been variously called a faith crisis, faith transition, or dark night of the soul. Here I think Janna Reese has a good point.

When you and I were listening to this devotional given by Dale Renlund and his wife Ruth, you didn't really hear a lot of empathy or compassion for those who were having doubts. And I think this is where the title of this piece comes from, Blame the Victim, and that's kind of the attitude that you did take away from listening to this devotional. She continues, those people are instead depicted as selfish, childish, snake oil salesmen. Yes, that phrase is mentioned. Who focus excessively on insignificant details because they don't really want to have true faith. Now here's where I think Janna Reese has a good point. When it's mentioned here that in the talk, those who are doubting are depicted as selfish, childish, snake oil salesmen.

Snake oil salesmen in that context was more of those people who were trying to get others to doubt as well. And you can find this, it's at 20 minutes and 16 seconds into the talk. But when she says that these people focus excessively on insignificant details, insignificant perhaps to Dale Renlund and his wife, but not necessarily insignificant to many Latter-day Saints. I would not think that the things that are going to be mentioned specifically in the very next paragraph of this piece and that were mentioned in the talk itself would be considered insignificant. And I don't get the impression that the example given in the talk, this Stephen person, and I'm sure that's not a true name, were wanting to leave the faith.

That's an assumption that I think was given by Dale Renlund and his wife Ruth. This man Stephen is a returned missionary who married in the temple and served in the church for many years. Stephen began having trouble with multiple accounts of the first vision, so he was put in touch with a scholar who helped him to resolve that issue. But by then Stephen was concerned about something else, polygamy. Next it was race in the priesthood, and on and on. And I noticed in the talk that this individual, this quote-unquote Stephen, when he was told to talk to someone about the multiple versions of the first vision, Dale Renlund gives the impression that the answers that he was given by a scholar that Renlund says he suggested this person talk to somehow soothed his conscience and answered the questions for him. And it was the same when it came to the polygamy issue. Somehow this Stephen came away thinking, okay, I get that, that makes some sense, at least after it was explained to him. But the next one, race in the priesthood, Renlund doesn't say that he was specifically calmed, that his fears were calmed over that one. They may have been, and maybe Renlund didn't include it. But here's my point.

I've read a lot of the explanations that Mormon historians have given regarding the four different accounts of the first vision. I don't see how you can reconcile those without leaving out other important elements, whereas I know they're trying to make it sound like, well, they all harmonize. I don't see that in some of the details of these different accounts. I don't see that at all.

But perhaps Dale Renlund does. Perhaps this Stephen did. But a lot of other people, I think, share my views, that when we carefully examine the evidence, it doesn't sound like this was an event that really happened. It sounds more like something Joseph Smith made up and then embellished as the time went on. This, I find, is what causes a lot of Latter-day Saints to have doubts, because if there was no first vision, and Gordon B. Hinckley made this very clear, if there was no first vision, and other Mormon leaders have said the same, then everything that is taught in the LDS Church is a sham.

It's a fraud. It's a blasphemy, is the word that Gordon B. Hinckley used. According to Renlund, the onus is on the back of the individual Mormon, not to have the doubts, but to trust the Church, even though there are real issues that a guy like Stephen is having, and the right answer is Joseph Smith. The right answer is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bill, this reminds me of 1999, when the true and living Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints found in Manti, Utah, came up with a prophecy.

James Harmston was the prophet, and he said that Jesus was going to return to Manti, and that the end would come. But then it didn't happen, and the next year we had a chance to interview President Dan Simmons, and we asked them the question, what about this false prophecy? And they blamed, Dan Simmons said it was the people themselves. Well, what the Mormons are doing is no different. If you're coming up with the wrong answer that they want you to have, they want you to say that Joseph Smith is a true prophet, that these things should not be an issue, that you should just take Moroni 10 at face value and pray about it to see if it's true, and if you don't come up with the same conclusion they do, then you're the one to blame, and that's where the title of this article comes, How Mormons Handle Doubt, Blame the Victim. That's what Mormonism is doing.

Well, it's always done that. Joseph Smith did that, certainly, because he actually said when it came to the Saints going back to Zion in Independence, Missouri, a lot of this was because of their own sins. A lot of things did not happen because of the lack of faith that the membership had. It was never Joseph Smith. It was always the individuals. It was always the people in the church having their doubts.

That's what was causing God not to bless the people with these fulfilled prophecies and so forth. The piece goes on to say the Renlands don't have a lot of sympathy for this, calling Stephen, this person in the talk, a perpetual doubter who seems to enjoy having something to complain about. They label this church history whack-a-mole. See, Bill, again, I think that Stephen is trying to come to a resolution in his own mind. He wants to stay in Mormonism. He needs to deal with these issues, but these issues may not be dealt with adequately by the church, except for some random essays that are hard to find on the website. And so do you blame a guy like Stephen who wants the truth?

Well, it raises another issue, Eric. A lot of the Mormons that we have talked to that have left the LDS Church have told us that when they were coming across all of these troubled areas, they wanted to find reconciliation for them. They wanted to have a satisfying solution to what they were reading. They did not look for these things because they wanted to leave the church. And this is what's unfortunate in this talk, is because that impression is kind of given by Renlund and his wife, that people who do this, who keep coming up with all these problem areas, tend to want to come up with these problem areas to give them a legitimate excuse in order to leave the church. But in our experience, we don't find that with a lot of people.

Now, there certainly probably have been a lot of people that have done just that, looking for an excuse to leave. But to say that that's the motive of all, and that's kind of the impression given here, I would say would be completely erroneous and certainly not true. Then Renlund paraphrases the 20th century apostle John A. Whitsow, and this is what Renlund's paraphrase says, Doubt, unless changed into inquiry from reliable, trustworthy sources, has no value or worth. A stagnant doubter, one content with himself on willing to make the appropriate effort to pay the price of divine discovery, inevitably reaches unbelief in darkness. His doubts grow like poisonous mushrooms in the dim shadows of his mental and spiritual chambers.

At last, blind like the mole in his burrow, he usually substitutes ridicule for reason, indolence for labor, and becomes a lazy scholar. And Jana Rees really took offense at this statement, because look at the first sentence, for instance. Doubt, unless changed into inquiry from reliable, trustworthy sources, has no value or worth.

Now, this is where I go back to the Stephen analogy. He was looking at sources that were produced by the church. That's where his doubts were coming from. Would that not be a reliable, trustworthy source, and have a lot of value and worth in the context of Mormonism?

You would think so. They're not getting these conclusions based on the opinions of non-Mormons, or even ex-Mormons, or even as they would look at us as critics of Mormonism. That's a great point, because we didn't hear a whole lot of people leaving because of these issues before 2013. It's only been since 2013 that we're having Latter-day Saints saying they're leaving Mormonism because of the history. When they keep talking about this analogy of the boat, the question is this.

If the boat indeed does have a hole in it, are you really being wise in continuing your trust in that boat? Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding Mormonism Research Ministry, we encourage you to visit our website at, where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism Researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-13 05:39:22 / 2023-08-13 05:44:51 / 5

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