Into the Lion’s Den

Two Mormon missionaries FINALLY delivered a copy of the Book of Mormon tonight.  I had ordered the books months ago. They stopped by earlier in the week and were surprised when I asked them about the book.  They had no idea.  Their visit, according to them, was coincidental.

We had an interesting discussion about prayer and miracles and the Great Flood and prophecy and geology and cosmology. After about an hour they left frustrated. I had an enjoyable discussion and now I have my book.

Elder Yates and Saunders are good people and are passionate about the work they are doing.  It is easy to understand why people would continue to invite them into their homes.

8 Comment

  1. I bet they won’t forget meeting you.

    Those guys won’t last another year after meeting you. :)

  2. That’s *it*? You’re leaving all the good stuff for flickr?

  3. @Steven – Yes, that’s it. I’m a bit bored by the conversation, really. I was putting it out there. If anybody had specific questions or wanted to know more, I thought, I would answer those questions. I don’t want to write a novel nobody will read.

    I told them on the phone that I wasn’t interested in joining their church, or even investigating it. I told them I’m an atheist and that I already know a lot about their religion. I offered them the opportunity to simply leave the book at my door but they insisted on sharing a message.

    When they glossed over The Bible and how god calls prophets to teach us the truth I asked them, point blank, how they reconcile the obvious nonsensical stories in the Bible if it is to be trusted as a source of truth. Elder Yates said, “You mean Noah?” I thought that was funny. I talked to them about ice cores and how scientists know how fast glaciers advance by the salinity of the air bubbles trapped in the ice. When they realized they were way behind in this discussion they insisted, over and over, that god can do anything. I let us assume that and posited the obvious retort, “Why did god make it look like the Earth is very old and that it was never flooded?” Nothing. Except that god can do anything and that we’ll know the answers someday. God does things in his way and in his time and we lowly humans are incapable of comprehending his glorious purposes.

    They asked what the purpose of life is. “There is no purpose.” Dumbstruck. That response, apparently, isn’t in their manual. “But wouldn’t it be nice if we could life after we die?” “Yes, Elder, it would be nice. But that doesn’t make it any closer to being reality.”

    They asked why the Earth is so fine-tuned for human habitation. “What?! You must be kidding!” Puzzlement. I guess they thought that was a commonly accepted fact. I asked them how many people live in the deserts, the arctic and the oceans. Not too many. “So, what percentage of this Earth that is so hospitable to human habitation?” Again, puzzlement. “But, we haven’t found intelligent life anywhere else.” Come on, Elder, is that the best you can do? I explained to them that we haven’t been looking for very long and that we can’t see very far. Not finding it doesn’t mean it ain’t there. “Besides”, I told them, “scientists believe there might have been life on Mars, our very close neighbor.” They said that it ain’t the same kind of life as us. Then I had to explain to them that the percentage of the time humans have been on his planet is equivalent to the shaving of your fingernail if the age of the Earth extends all the way to the shoulder. “So, at nearly any time in Earth’s history a visiting alien would have made the same conclusion you are now making about life on Mars.”

    Small and simple minds. Deluded. Brainwashed. Indoctrinated. Sad. Pathetic. They were nice lads but I couldn’t help but snicker a bit (I tried so hard not to because I knew it would be so rude). I also felt sorry for them.

    At the end, of course, they bore their testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. It’s such a weak tactic. How do you argue with someone who claims to have had a personal experience? Also, how do you tell someone practically in tears that they didn’t have the experience they thought they had. Well, I wasn’t going to succumb to their pathetic (and scripted) emotional appeal. I asked them if they understood the statistics on the efficacy of placebos. People receive answers because they want to receive answers, I told them. They read me the experiment in Alma (32:26-36) one could use to gain knowledge.

    26 Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.
    27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
    28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
    29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
    30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
    31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
    32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
    33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
    34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
    35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?
    36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.

    So, I asked them if they had applied this experiment to any other religions and the text of those religions. Predictably, they hadn’t. I told them there was no doubt in my mind that if I read the Book of Mormon and prayed with real intent that I would receive a confirming answer in the affirmative. No doubt. I continued that if I applied this experiment to any other religion or worldview I would likewise receive an affirmative answer. I told them that Muslim suicide bombers are JUST AS confident in the truthiness of their beliefs as they were in theirs. “Does god tell the Muslims and Hindus and Catholics and Baptists that they are correct, too?” “Well, he confirms truth to them.” “Yes, but does he tell them their church/religion is true?” “Well, no.” An experiment without a control is not worthy of the title.

    I am a dick.

    Oh, yeah, they believe the Earth was flooded and that Noah floated about the surface on a wooden boat. How fucking stupid is that?!?! Do they know the elevation of Mt. Ararat? (No, they didn’t. It’s 5,165 meters. That’s a lot of fucken water!)

  4. Wow…. thanks. Geez, you’re easy to bait :-)

    But seriously, thanks.

  5. I told them I was going to read the Book of Mormon to see if it is so complex Joseph Smith couldn’t have simply made it up or plagiarized the whole thing. I’ve only ever read it as scripture, and I want to reread it again as a novel.

    They said it wouldn’t work. They said the Book of Mormon doesn’t work that way. Well, of course it doesn’t. They always have to have that little, “if you don’t receive the warm fuzzy feeling that it’s true, then it must be your fault, not a lack of truthiness of the book.”

    I’m beginning to think there isn’t an active Mormon who knows a thing about psychology, geology, physics, philosophy, statistics or even their own church’s history.

    Wake up, people. These mind-games and logical gymnastics are so blatant and wrong they’re funny. That they are effective and persuasive is sad.

  6. Jason aka NapalmFilledTires says: Reply

    hey brent!

    you should get the camcorder out for these types of events.
    also, have you heard of this show Mad Men? the lead character said this once:

    “The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons. You’re born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.”

    he was speaking about love, but it seems analogous to that “truthiness” feeling.

  7. I’m new to your site, however, based on what I’ve read so far, while you seem very intelligent, my perception is you try way to hard to exhibit an air of superiority, of course that’s just an opinion. Just my perception from this one post is that you belittle and are condescending towards one groups world view, seems counter to being open to any world view. To think that the human race has all the knowledge needed to understand the inner workings of the universe, much less that science can answer all the questions on this earth by itself, seems to fall short, again, just an opinion. I may be misunderstanding your position, is your position that we can explain anything via scientific method and there is nothing that occurs in the universe that we don’t understand yet or defies logic?

  8. @traveler –

    is your position that we can explain anything via scientific method and there is nothing that occurs in the universe that we don’t understand yet or defies logic?

    That is complete nonsense. I’m curious if you could quote what I said that gave you that impression. What we know of what can be known is infinitesimal. The scientific method is the best way to understand anything. Nothing can be understood by an appeal to the supernatural. Of that I am sure. Furthermore, religionists are decidedly anti-intellectual and insert their deity as the source of every mystery or just claim that it is not meant to be known. This position is antithetical to understanding.

    To think that the human race has all the knowledge needed to understand the inner workings of the universe, much less that science can answer all the questions on this earth by itself, seems to fall short

    With all due respect, that is just a stupid nonsensical statement. I have never heard or read of anybody, aside from superstitious religionists, who claim to know everything, or even that everything is knowable.

    Where would we be without the scientific method? Where were we before science when all we had was superstition and religion? Why do religions only ever change after their positions are found, by scientific analysis, to be false? Hmmmmm.

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