This past weekend I was, for the umpteenth time, reading the writings of a certain LDS apostate held in high regard by many who make criticism of the Church their avocation. I don’t want to name this apostate; indeed, his name is not important. Instead, I want to review my thoughts on one particular aspect of his writings. It is these thoughts that others may find of value. (Or not; I hold no illusions that my writings are of any intrinsic value, other than when they provide a springboard for introspection within others.)
Of particular interest to me was a letter this apostate wrote to a general authority and subsequently self-published in 2003, after he had left the Church. In the rather long letter, I was able to pull out 27 different assertions that were made documenting what this apostate saw as “wrong” with the LDS Church.
The assertions ran the gamut, from allegations that leaders teach obedience to Church authority as a paramount virtue to the idea that the Church requires educated members to “believe nonsense in a fashion similar to Catholics of Galileo’s day.” Indeed, the document is rife with unsupported assertions that the Church suppresses its history and insists that members “not question or look” at anything that may not toe the Church line. There are even charges that Church teachings are “dysfunctional” because they lead to marital disharmony and family tension.
What is the solution in the eyes of this particular apostate? That the Church become more inclusive of disparate views relative to the foundational stories of the Church and not “trumpet the ‘hard questions’ and answers.” Instead, the Church should somehow help members to a more “metaphoric, inclusive view of religion and humanity.” In other words, the Church should be changed to not only recognize but embrace what many LDS would consider the heretical views of this particular apostate.
The 27 criticisms recounted in the letter are nothing new; they have been around since shortly after the founding of the Church. The only thing different in this instance is the flowery language and faux-helpful manner in which the criticisms are made. I don’t really want to spend time addressing them, as anyone can find answers to the criticisms at the FAIR website and in a number of other places on the Internet.
One of the striking features of the letter, however, is this person’s downright tragic recounting of the tremendous toll that his apostasy exacted on his family relationships. Written, as it was, only a few months after his decision to leave the Church, the pain in the wording is evident.
Equally striking was the fact that this person laid the responsibility of that heavy toll at the feet of the organizational Church and the apostle to whom he was writing. The attempt to shift responsibility for the consequences of one’s choices to an external source is almost as tragic as the apostasy of the individual. And, unfortunately, it is also a manifestation of an unhealthy pride that refuses to allow the sufferer to accept that he is the ultimate source of his own pain. (The letter was also notable in the number of self-aggrandizing statements that it incorporated; I was able to cull 16 of them.)
Despite what is stated in Proverbs 16:18 (“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”), many times those who possess unhealthy pride get on just fine in life. There is no earth-bound timetable attached to the promised destruction. Such people may even lead successful lives, by the world’s standards, but it will seldom be within the self-perceived confines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, if one sees individual apostasy as a “fall,” then a haughty spirit often does come before an exit from the Church.
There are times, as well, when pride doesn’t just blind the possessor, but also those with whom the possessor associates. The writings of this particular apostate have been extolled by some for their erudition and logic, but those who do the extolling, almost without exception, continuously seek any club with which to bludgeon the faithful and fault the Saints. The writings of any apostate will do in such a cause, and an apostate who is better-than-average in his writing is an even better tool.
Spend some time removing the emotional baggage and self-aggrandizing verbiage that often attend his writing, and you end up with a series of tired criticisms that amount to nothing more than old wine in new bottles. Not to mix too many metaphors, but this wine is too-often clothed in a philosophy that seeks to substitute the pabulum of secularism for the feast of Christ.
This particular apostate is not alone in his blinding pride. One senses it in the reactions to missives by a few arrogant, condescending atheists who, by their own admission, hold nothing but contempt for those who choose to believe in the divine. Not only is one well-known atheist destructively proud, but so are those who trumpet his condescension and contempt as the pinnacle of scholarly thought.
Please don’t get me wrong; I am not painting all atheists or apostates with a broad brush. There are a few who are prideful, and even more who vicariously glory in that pride. Such demeaning pride is a human characteristic, not a singular possession of atheists—or even of the particular apostate whose writings led to this essay.
Those who are destructively prideful cannot shed themselves of pride until they come to recognize that they possess the attribute. The deadly sin cannot be pointed out to them by others; their pride will only compel them to deny that they possess the attribute or that any fault lies with them. (The words to Carly Simon’s 1972 song, “You’re So Vain,” come to mind in this regard.) In fact, as is done in the apostate’s letter, it may lead them to find a convenient organizational scapegoat for the consequences of their own actions.
Unfortunately, pride is often the intimate companion of those who move from the realm of faith to the world of secularism. When someone removes God from the equation of their life, they no longer view themselves in humble terms (as “the dust of the earth”) but as the master of all they survey. When such a person ceases to recognize a supreme being of any sort, they subconsciously supplant that supremacy with themselves. Paul warned against such persons; when they place themselves on the pinnacle of their existence, they end up “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).
For anyone who possesses destructive pride, it is impossible to ultimately lead a Christ-centered life. Why? Because we need to master the vices which posses us and rid them from our character. In short, we need to become more like the Master who bids us come and be a joint-heir with Him. Only in that path is salvation.