When I first began scouring the Internet, looking beyond the official LDS Church web site, FAIR, and FARMS (now the Maxwell Institute for Silver Hammer Research or some such thing) for information about Mormonism, I found many sites with gold mines of information. But I found it difficult to locate specific information on topics of interest to me. It was only through a lot of trial-and-error and random reading, searching, and clicking that I was able to find the information most useful and relevant to me. I kept wishing that there were one or a few sites with a wealth of easily accessible information on the issues most germane to someone in the early stages of questioning the foundational claims and assumptions of Mormonism. A couple years and many hours of on-line searching later, I have identified what I think are the best sites offering an unvarnished look at Mormonism. Some of these I have included in the left sidebar here at Equality Time.
I imagine this blog entry can serve as something of a guide to Mormon investigators just beginning to dip their toes into the waters of “uncorrelated” Mormon history, doctrine, policy, and culture. So, here are my suggestions for someone just starting down the road of discovering the truths that Boyd Packer finds “not useful” but which you might find enlightening indeed.
Sites Providing a General Overview of Issues
To get a good general overview of the most important issues relating to Mormon history and doctrine that are either overlooked or suppressed in the LDS Church’s correlated materials, your first stop should be a site called Twenty Truths About Mormonism created by Jim Day. Jim’s site contains a brief overview of 20 problematic issues regarding Mormonism, from the Book of Abraham to Polygamy to the Kinderhook Plates and more, along with links to additional resources on each topic. It’s a clean, uncluttered site that focuses on essential facts, and is presented in a detached, rational tone. No preaching or hyperbole here. Jim also includes apologetic responses for each category discussed.
Another site taking a similar approach but providing much more detailed information for each issue covered is a relative newcomer on the scene. For anyone wanting a deeper look at some of the most nettlesome issues concerning Mormon doctrine, history, and culture, I recommend a visit to a site called Mormon Think created by current members of the LDS Church who have a desire to let people know more about the Church than what can be found in the Church’s manuals or Sunday School classes. This site also has an easy-to-use interface and contains what I consider the best pages on Polygamy, Moroni’s Visit, the Book of Mormon Witnesses, the Translation of the Book of Mormon, and the many conflicts between Science and Mormonism. Each page contains numerous cites to additional information available online for each topic covered. The site is a work in progress, so check back often for updates. Pages on the temple and the Book of Mormon are coming soon, and if they are anything close to being as comprehensive and information-packed as the pages already written, they will be well worth your time to read.
One of my favorite sites is by Deconstructor, called Rethinking Mormonism. This site also contains good information on Mormon history, including a page analyzing the accuracy of the South Park episode on Mormonism, but covers additional topics not discussed at Mormon Think or the 20 Questions site, including an excellent section discussing Mormon teachings on human sexuality and a fascinating number of articles relating to Mormon temples. There is a lot more at the Deconstructor site, much of which is not commonly found elsewhere.
For essays on a wide variety of topics relating to Mormonism, I recommend that your next stop be Zarahemla City Limits, a site that has always had a treasure trove of information. It used to be that a seer stone was necessary to find all the gems buried here, but recently it has undergone a facelift, so you need not be blessed with the gift of seership to find what you are looking for anymore. For more information on hundreds of Mormon topics, go to the ZCL Encyclopedia, which now has an excellent search feature to help you find just the article you are looking for. It’s a work in progress, so check back often.
Discussing Your Newfound Knowledge
If you are like most people, once you have read even a portion of what is available on the general overview sites I mention above, you will likely experience a range of emotions running the gamut from fear to vertigo, from anger and resentment to liberation and exhilaration, from sadness to joy. You probably will want someone to talk to, to vent, to question, from whom you can receive comfort and assurance and advice for how to proceed. Various online discussion forums are available for just this purpose. One that was extremely valuable to me in the initial stages of my re-examination of my faith was the New Order Mormon discussion board and web site. The New Order Mormon board is for people who question some or all of the LDS Church’s doctrinal claims. It provides support for people who want or need to remain connected with the LDS Church despite their disbelief. If you find yourself in that situation, I can’t think of a better place to go to talk over your issues, concerns, and questions.
Some who learn that the church is not all they were taught it was understandably become angry or frustrated and do not want to mince words in expressing their thoughts and feelings about the church. If that’s you, I suggest going to the Further Light and Knowledge board. You will find there many people who have gone down the path you are now walking. The FLAK board has intelligent, articulate, knowledgeable, reasonable, and fun people with divergent views and backgrounds who share something in common: a distaste for some or many aspects of Mormon doctrine, history, or culture. It is a safe board, meaning you won’t be confronted with true-believers bearing testimony. It’s a smaller board than the better known RfM discussion board hosted at exmormon.org. But I prefer the tone, the board interface, and the fact that every thread is archived at FLAK. You may also want to visit the discussion board hosted at postmormon.org or the one at mormondiscussions.com. The latter allows true-believing Mormons to post and antagonize doubters and dissenters. For those just beginning to question, such confrontations are rarely helpful, so unless you are the debating type, you might want to avoid that until you become better grounded.
For those who may feel a bit of trepidation about obtaining information from sites outside the dominion and control of the LDS Church and church apologists, some food for thought. You will notice that I have linked in this post to the official church site and the two most prominent apologetic sites. I also have links on m y left sidebar to the most popular blogs in the so-called Bloggernacle (the name for blogs written by faithful Mormons touching upon Mormon issues). I don’t discourage anyone from visiting those sites, listening to LDS church leaders, scholars, and defenders of the LDS faith. In contrast, the LDS church works very hard to discourage its members from obtaining information about the church from non-church sources. Teachers are told to teach only from the correlated church manuals and church leaders make disparaging comments about “alternate voices.” The Bloggernacle sites do not link to my blog or to other blogs written by unorthodox members, disaffected members, or ex-Mormons. The most popular blog aggregator site actually de-listed a Bloggernacle blog last summer for (gasp!) linking to a disaffected-Mormon discussion board in a post. The reason? The administrators of the blog aggregator did not want someone seeking information about Mormonism to stumble upon a site that wasn’t 100% faithful to the church party line. Ask yourself this: if in a debate, one side tries to limit access to the views of the other side, while the other side seeks to put up no such barriers, who is more likely to have the stronger argument? I believe truth can withstand scrutiny. I believe it can withstand debate and discussion and criticism. I believe that honest seekers of truth can best get at the truth by having full and open access to as much information as possible and by having access to arguments from a variety of viewpoints expressing a wide range of interpretations of the data. Certainly, if the church has the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, then it has nothing to fear from its members honestly and openly investigating its truth claims thoroughly, using all the tools of scholarship and investigation available. Right?