This is one of a series of web pages I created between 2001and 2006. I was angry and frustrated at the LDS Church. Since then I have moved on and calmed down. So please remember, if you read these pages, that they reflect my past and not my present feelings. Thanks for your understanding!      -  Chris Tolworthy

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Choose The Right

Is it is morally wrong to be a Mormon?

Please note: Mormons are better than some people. But this page is not about being better than average. It is about choosing the right.
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Integrity:
Making excuses for evil
Promising to do evil
Hypocrisy

Honesty:
Lies
Denial
Praising evil
Not speaking up
Believing lies
Financial dishonesty

Humility:
Arrogance
Closed-mindedness
Gambling

Thoughtfulness
Not showing respect
Persecution
Racism
Divisions

Morality
Sex obsession
Weak moral foundations
Base desires

Sexual morality
Punishing those who do good
Tormenting the innocent
Judging by appearances
Making people lonely

Family
Not showing respect to parents
Unquestioning
Making life hard for children
Bad advice on serious matters
Putting church before family

Safety
Ignoring danger
Destroying self worth
Ignoring problems

Kindness
Bad priorities
Putting self before others

General good behavior
Ingratitude
Not doing what we could
Murder, theft, etc.

 


PRINCIPLES OF INTEGRITY

1. It is wrong to make excuses for evil. It is right to choose a better way.

People usually defend the church by saying it is better than other lifestyles. Sometimes that is true. But you can still do better. To stay a Mormon you need to do things that are morally wrong (see the rest of this page). You can do better than that. If you defend Mormonism because "others are even worse" then you are making excuses for evil. If I am a bad person, but other people are even worse, does that make me a good person? No. Two wrongs do not make a right.

NOTE 1: Just leaving the church does not, on its own, make you a better person. There are plenty of bad exMormons. Indeed, when you realise you have been lied to your whole life, you are liekly to spend a few years being very bitter. But if you do want to become a better person, you need to leave the Mormon church.

NOTE 2: Am I, as an ex-Mormon, justifying myself by attacking Mormons? No, I am justifying my ideals, not myself. I am justifying honesty, humility, prioritising, etc., by attacking a church that opposes these principles while pretending to follow them. But how do I know I am right? I don't know for sure, but I am more likely to be right than a Mormon because these principles are based on reason and evidence, not just feelings.

2. It is wrong to keep a promise to do evil. If we promise to do evil, it is right to over-ride that mistake with a higher law.

In the temple, Mormons promise to give their time and money to the church instead of the poor. And they promise to not speak evil of church leaders even if they do regardless of whether they do evil. And they promise to promote the church regardless of whether the church is right on an issue, and so on. These things are wrong (see note 1). Bad promises should be broken (note 2).

NOTE 1: Mormons commonly say that in the temple they promise to do good. Yet most of the promises are promises to do bad things (see above for examples). The only "good" thing is the promise to not have sex outside marriage. But Joseph Smith interpreted marriage as meaning he could have sex with as many women as he liked, even if they were already married to someone else.

NOTE 2: But a promise is still a promise, right? No, not if it is obtained unethically. Mormons are not told exactly what they will promise until they are in the endowment and it is too late. Then they are told never to discuss those things, so they never have the chance to think through the implications of what they have promised.

3. It is wrong to be a hypocrite. It is right to be consistent.

Mormons usually pick and choose when to follow the prophet. For example, many Mormons oppose the bad things listed in this essay. This is good. But to do this and claim to follow the prophet is hypocrisy.


PRINCIPLES OF HONESTY

1. It is wrong to tell lies. It is right to tell the truth.

Most lies are lies of omission. We miss out essential information that is needed for people to form a judgement. Mormons refer to Joseph Smith as a good man and prophet, but do not mention that he slept with other men’s wives (and daughters as young as 14). And they do not mention the Book of Abraham papyrus, or numerous other major problems. These are lies of omission.

2. It is wrong to pretend we are innocent when we are not. It is right to apologize.

The church refuses to apologize for the Mountain Meadows Massacre

3. It is wrong to sing "praise to the man" about Joseph Smith. It is right to tell the whole truth.

Joseph Smith lied (the Book of Abraham translation), cheated (the Kirtland banking scandal), pressured men so he could sleep with their wives and daughters, and did much more. Then he made people covenant in the temple to "not speak evil" of him. As a result, generations of Mormons have only heard good things about him. They sing the hymn "praise to the man." They write books (e.g. part of Lund's "Work and the Glory" series) called "praise to the man." Can this be right?

4. It is wrong to "avoid evil speaking" of church leaders. It is right to tell the whole truth.

In the temple, church members covenant to avoid "evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed.". This means not saying some things, even if they are true (seen note 1). So Mormons do not tell about the whole truth (note 2). Boyd K Packer made this clear when he told church historians that "some truths are not very useful." In effect, this temple covenant is a covenant to tell half truths, commonly known as lies.

NOTE 1: the word "propaganda" comes from the word "propagate" and originally means propagating religious ideas. It means energetically promoting only one side of the story. Propaganda is rightly condemned as dishonest.

NOTE 2: the temple covenant not only encourages lies, but attacks those who tell the truth. Most Mormons do not know the bad stuff about the church, so when they hear it they classify the source as "anti Mormon" and assume that the truth teller is somehow lying.

5. It is wrong to believe things that are not true. It is right to be believe only what is true.

The evidence against Noah’s global flood is overwhelming. (See the alt.talkorigins faq.) Yet it is often taught literally in the church. This is just the simplest example of a scriptural story that is used in a misleading way. There are many others.

6. It is wrong to practice polygamy when you pretend you do not, and right to be honest and consistent about this.

Mormons tell the media (and themselves) hat they do not support polygamy. But the scriptures that support it (D&C 132) have never been renounced. And it is practiced in the temple when the first wife has died and the husband is sealed to another as well as the former wives. So living Mormons are polygamous now. And many more will be polygamous for eternity (see note).

NOTE: there are far more single women than single men in the church. These are promised that they marry in the next life. So you, or someone you know, will be polygamous for eternity.

7. It is wrong to be dishonest in our financial dealings. It is right to tell the whole truth.

When people join the church they often have an unrealistic view of the church and Joseph Smith. On the basis of this they commit to paying tithes and offerings. If they knew the dark side of Joseph Smith or how much the church gives to the poor, many would not pay tithing. A lot of tithing is thus obtained under false pretenses.


PRINCIPLES OF HUMILITY AND FAIRNESS

1. It is wrong to be arrogant. It is right to be humble.

Imagine you were with a devout member of another faith. That person is convinced that their faith is The Only True Faith. Would you want them to consider that maybe there was another way to look at it? Do you think you should have the same humility?

2. It is wrong to be closed-minded. It is right to be understanding.

In Mormonism, anything that opposes church teachings or makes the church look bad is off the agenda, or not to be taken seriously (see note). Occasionally a church member may discuss these things, but the mind is already made up.

NOTE: Mormons have magazines and meetings devoted to only presenting one side of the story, so they genuinely believe the church to be a major force for good. This bias is reinforced by new converts. Because they joined, they conclude that the church is better than the world. However, most people who take missionary discussions decide not to join. And most people who do join soon stop attending. So for most people who have seen both sides, the world is better than the church.

3. It is wrong to gamble on life’s most serious questions. It is right to make sure.

When presented with this challenge to choose the right, most Mormons will appeal to feeling, or anecdotal evidence, or refer to the local apologist (someone who makes it their business to defend the faith). And the local apologist does the same. Yet members of other faith do the same in support of contradictory conclusions! So each is gambling that everyone else is wrong. But we do not have to gamble. Ever since he ancient Greeks here have been reliable rules of logic for choosing between competing claims. And ever since the renaissance here has been an expanding body of solid research. And since the Camelot period of the 1970s there has been an expanding body of Mormon history based on the best standards of scholarship. Philosophically we may never know for absolute certainty, but we can greatly improve the odds.

4. It is wrong to assume we know what is best for the whole world, based on just a few anecdotes or our limited experience. It is right to look for hard evidence.

Look at the nations of the world. Fundamentalist countries have less freedom, the people are hungrier, die younger, etc. It was the same in Europe when Christianity was powerful in Medieval times. Statistics show that the rule also applies to modern wealthy nations. We should not pretend that religion makes nations better.


PRINCIPLES OF THOUGHTFULNESS AND TOLERANCE

1. It is wrong to be disrespectful. It is right to be respectful

A rational non-Mormon may disagree strongly on something, but they accept that their own opinion might change in the future if they learn new information. But to a Mormon, they will NEVER question if their church is true. Worse, the unbeliever must be either ignorant or weak. That is not respectful.

2. It is wrong to persecute people for forming families. It is right to encourage them.

The church spends millions trying to stop gays and lesbians from marrying.They don’t hurt us, why should we hurt them?

3. It is wrong to be racist. It is right to condemn racism.

The Book of Mormon and the book of Abraham are racist, and the church had racist practices up to 1978. We should condemn those particular passages of scripture.

4. It is wrong to create needless division in the world. It is right to create unity.

If the Mormon Church is The Only True Church then everyone else must join or go to hell. Some other faiths teach that THEY are he only true church. The faiths cannot compromise on this. so it just creates division.

5. It is wrong to assume that leaving the church is a bad thing until we understand why. It is right to reserve judgement until we understand why.

People leave te church for many reasons. It is blind prejudice to assume that their reason is not good. Perhaps they are wrong, perhaps they are right. We can learn from them.


BROAD PRINCIPLES OF MORALITY

1. It is wrong to be obsessed with sex. It is right to have rules that apply to all behavior.

In the Mormon Church, morality only applies to sex. Hence "morally clean," etc. To most other people, morality refers to rules of fairness. Hence "he was a very moral person" means "he treats everyone fairly even at great cost to himself." Mormon morality is often immoral, as noted in this essay.

2. It is wrong to have a weak moral foundation. It is right to have a strong moral foundation.

Many people believe that a faith in God is the strongest foundation for a moral life. However, in an information society this is not true, for three reasons.

2.1. Our moral compass can be lost if we discover that our prophets were frauds.

2.2. We cannot prove our morals to those with a different view of God. So we find it hard to spread these moral teachings.

2.3. Morals that cannot be shared (see previous point) can go in two directions. Either we chose a lowest common denominator approach (diluting our morals) or we retreat into our own small group, making self-deception more likely.

The result? This essay contains examples of big moral issues where God-based morals are not moral at all.

Where can we find a stronger moral foundation? In human needs. Many parents find that the "people are starving" argument is much stronger than the "God wants you to" argument. If we remember that people are starving, we are much less likely to spend time on foolish, selfish behaviors, our vanity, our attempts to promote ourselves, or our petty squabbles. We are more likely to get our priorities right.

3. It is wrong to be controlled by base desires. It is right to be guided by higher emotions.

The most base animal emotion is a vague feeling of "right." This drives the simplest amoeba. A behavior is either right or wrong, and that is all. More complex brains go beyond this. They question their own feelings, look for rational patterns, see things from the other person’s point of view, watch out for deception, and so on. These use higher emotions, used in combination with research and calculation. We have these higher emotions and brains for a good reason: if we relied just on feelings we would make more mistakes. Base feelings of "right" still have an important role when we need to make quick decisions, but for major long term decisions, like assessing a religion, we need to use every tool at our disposal.


PRINCIPLES OF SEXUAL MORALITY AND CRUELTY

1. It is wrong to punish those who try to do good. It is right to make people happy.

Those who try to keep Mormon standards of sexual morality are punished, by their missing out on enjoyable things (see note 1). Those who ignore Mormon standards of sexual morality, and instead keep a higher standard of morality (note 2), make people happier (note 3). Flesh is not just sex (note 4).

NOTE 1: missing out. The human body is beautiful. God’s most beautiful creation. It makes people happy to see it (see note 3). I we have high standards then there is no harm in looking (note 5). But Mormons teach people to cover it up as much as possible, and not to look (note 6). As a result, Mormons who want to do good and follow the church are punished (note 7), but those who reject those teachings are rewarded. To punish the good is immoral.

NOTE 2: higher standards. In the New Testament we learn of Moses law and Jesus’ law. Jesus’ law was a higher law. Mormon sexual morality is like he law of Moses: "do not uncover the shoulders," "no single dating until 16," etc. The higher moral standard is "treat people with respect," "show gratitude for beautiful things," etc.

NOTE 3: make people happier. The body is beautiful. Even an old and fat body has its own beauty to those who appreciate it. It makes people happy. What is life for if not to be happy in God’s creations and make others happy?

NOTE 4: sexual desire. As anyone who has been to a topless beach can testify, flesh soon becomes normal and non-sexual. But everyone can appreciate a fine body, whether male or female, gay or straight. And those who think they don’t have good bodies? They get a better self image when they see that nearly everyone else is imperfect too.

NOTE 5: moral dangers. The higher moral standard is respect. A person who respects others will never make them uncomfortable. Teenage pregnancies and rape are a failure of respect, not of clothing. A person with no respect is dangerous, no matter how many clothes are worn. Covering up is a sign of low self respect and low respect from others: we cover up things we do not like; we hide from those we fear.

NOTE 6: being special. It is argued that the human body is special, unique, and vulnerable. So is a classical painting. Are classical paintings covered up wherever possible? And note that the Mormon teaching has changed over the years. The first temple garment was oe piece, ankle to wrist and high neck. The current garment is two piece, above the knee to the shoulder, with a low neck. And most church leaders accept that it does not have to be worn for sports, swimming, bathing, in the temple film, in temple washings until 2005, anywhere where it would make people laugh, and so on. The number of exceptions gets ever longer. What was shocking a hundred years ago is now accepted as righteous. It appears that the church has the same standards as the world, but is just fifty years behind.

NOTE 7: punishment. People are punished by withholding something beautiful. Covering up also punishes women who want to sunbathe, people in hot countries (temple garments require that at least two layers are worn), and those who want the widest choice of clothing from the stores.

2. It is wrong to torment people for God-given instincts. It is right to embrace what God has given us.

Sexual desires ensures that the human race survives. God gave them to us. It is right to have rules, but to completely ban some things? For example, the church condemns masturbation, yet it is harmless and good for prostrate health. The church also condemns practices between married couples that are harmless but relationship counselors sometimes recommend. Dating is another area where the church condemns behavior that is not only harmless but wonderful fun. In each case people who try to do good are punished (see note), while their less obedient friends are rewarded. Is that moral?

NOTE: If a person is brought up in the church or believe strongly, any frustration is reduced. But some things related to sexual attraction are built in. And this leads to two seperate issues. First, if a person is trained to not want something that they should naturally enjoy, is that moral? Second, if an obedient person slips, they are trained to feel terrible, and often must tell church leaders who then tells other church leaders, adding to the humiliation. This is an extra leyer of punishment for trying to good. Is that moral?

3. It is wrong to judge people by their clothing or how they have fun. It is right to judge by how much good they do.

Mormons often criticize those who wear revealing clothing or who are slightly drunk in the street. They say they are not critical but say things like "they look cheap" or "they are doing themselves no favors." Mormons show disrespect for others when they criticize them for unimportant things.

NOTE: exposed flesh was discussed earlier. As for being slightly drunk, many great and good people need to relax - they work hard and play hard. Being completely drunk however is a different matter, as it is wrong to lose control of our minds.

4. It is wrong to make people lonely. It is right to make good relationships easier.

The church says to save yourself for "the one" and they have to be a church member. So people pass up decent people because they cannot take a chance that they are not "the one." And in most of the church, members are a minority AND there are unequal numbers of men and women, hence a lot of members are condemned to be lonely all their lives.


FAMILY PRINCIPLES

1. It is wrong to disrespect parents. It is right to respect their feelings unless there is an extremely good reason.

Mormons send out missionaries to persuade people to leave the faith of their parents. Obviously the church would prefer if every member of an extended family joined, but this seldom happens. People are encouraged to reject their parents’ cherished beliefs on the basis of just vague feelings.

NOTE: Becoming an adult means you inevitably disagree with parents sometimes. But these disagreements must have a strong basis in fact, not just a vague warm feeling about the church.

2. It is wrong for respect to be unquestioning. It is right to be critical.

Obedience from children is generally a good thing, because parents have more experience and want the best for them. However, parents are not perfect and cannot see everything the child sees. Also, parents have invested heavily in certain beliefs and so cannot afford to question them. Childhood is the perfect time to take risks, to push the boundaries, and challenge received wisdom (see note). God made teenagers rebellious for a very good reason.

NOTE: most teenage rebellion is not rebellion at all, but is perfectly reasonable from the teenager’s point of view and given their limited social skills. It just takes a lot of time to understand their point of view, and even more time to find a solution that makes sense to both of you. Time is the answer..

3. It is wrong to make life difficult for your children. It is right to make them happy.

Raising a child as a Mormon means unnecessary loneliness and guilt (see other points). This is wrong.

4. It is wrong to say that having children is best for everyone. It is right for some people to do other things.

The Mormon Church teaches that everyone should marry and have children. Practically without exception. And for most people it IS right. But a significant minority either lack the urge or their talents lie elsewhere. Jesus himself either remained single or delayed his family, depending on who you believe. Raising children well takes a massive amount of time and cuts off a lot of other choices. It is unfair to the children if the parents are less than enthusiastic, unfair to the parents if it makes them miserable, and and unfair to society if people who could make a huge difference are too busy with diapers.

5. It is wrong to put church before family. It is right to put family before church.

When someone decides to choose the right, they may have to leave the church. If married, it is common for the spouse to remain active in the church. So they drift apart, love dies, and they divorce (note 1). Hence loyalty to the church destroys the family (note 2).

NOTE 1: The statistics on LDS divorce indicate that the church is a negative influence on marriages. Also, a temple marriage is a marriage to the church and not the person.

NOTE 2: It could be argued that the unbeliever is at fault in te marriage for leaving the church. However, leaving a church should not be cause for drifting apart. The partner has left the church but still loves the spouse. Change is normal in any marriage. In a healthy marriage both partners can talk things through and come to a new understanding. But the church makes understanding impossible (see above).


PRINCIPLES OF SAFETY AND CONFIDENCE

1. It is wrong to just assume that the world is more dangerous than the church. It is right to look for objective evidence.

Mormons commonly assuem that the world is more dangerous than the church, because they have seen nonmembers in dangerious situations. bUT The world is a big place, with many different ways to live. For example, North Dakota scores better than Utah on most quality of life measurements, and Scandinavia and Japan beat the world. Perhaps we could learn from them.

2. It is wrong to have fragile self worth. It is right to have self worth that cannot be dented.

Mormons teach that on his own, man is less than the dust of the earth (see Alma; Moses), but we have worth because we are children of God. But God is always judging us. He leaves us alone if we are bad. Eventually if we do not pass the highest tests we will be separated from him So Mormon self worth is fragile. The alternative is to have worth because you are human. Nobody can ever take that away from you.

3. It is wrong to focus on little things when big things need changing. It is right to make important things a priority.

This document deals with life’s most important questions: who do we follow, how do we treat others, and so on. But many people (see note 1) ignore them in favor of less important things (note 2).

NOTE 1 The classic example is the New Testament Pharisees. They were precisely obedient and keep themselves clean, but that just made them hypocrites. A focus on the small things made them too busy to do the big things, and too quick to find fault. .A Pharisee always thinks the OTHER guy is a Pharisee. Ironically, historical sources show that the Pharisees were not as narrow minded as the New Testament portrays. If so, in Matthew 23 it was Jesus and not the Pharisees who were focusing on small things and missing the big picture. Poor priorities are hard to recognize in ourselves, so the solution is to listen to criticism from others.

NOTE 2 Life is short. A focus on the small things can keep us too busy to think about the big things. Also, since we can easily excel at the small things, this makes us self-righteousness and even less likely to listen to criticism


PRINCIPLES OF KINDNESS AND GENEROSITY

1. It is wrong to make religious observance more important than helping the poor. It is right to make the poor a higher priority.

Mormons give ten percent of their money to the church. Of that money, 99.8 percent is spent on church buildings, church salaries, etc. But churches do not need many buildings - the "house church" movement proves that. They meet in each other’s houses like in New Testament times. People in the world are starving. They are more important than church buildings.

3. It is wrong to be mean with what we have. It is right to be kind and generous.

This is an interesting case, because good Mormons are very kind and generous with other local Mormons, and often relatively kind with others. But this essay is on choosing the right, not just choosing the better-than-average. So we must ask, is this the most good we can do? Most of a Mormon’s generosity is used up in tithing, and meetings, and driving places helping other local members who are not very poor by any objective measure. The generosity would be better spent in other ways (see other points in this essay). Generosity without thought for efficiency is at best careless, at worst vanity.

 


PRINCIPLES OF GENERAL GOOD BEHAVIOR

1. It is wrong to be ungrateful. It is right to be grateful.

Imagine that a neighbor gave you a house and a job and car and everything you need. You mumbled a quick "thank you" to that person then went to see someone else (see note1) and poured out your gratitude to him instead. And then said how evil the first person was! Wouldn’t this be ungrateful? But that is exactly what we do in prayer. We thank God for what "the world" has provided us. The "world," that "worldly" place with "worldly" values, "worldly" standards, that loves nothing but money, that is full of selfishness and sin, yet somehow provides us with all our physical needs. And God condemns it as evil. Yet this "evil" world provides us with all our physical needs (see note 2).

NOTE 1: Where does God fit in? Scientists are finding more and more natural reasons why things happen. If we wish to use the word God all then perhaps we should be pantheists. Pantheists use the word God to refer to the awe inspiring workings of nature, the world, and all things. I am a pantheist.

NOTE 2: Does the world provide sunlight, ur bodies, etc.? Yes, if by "the world" we include all the natural universe. But sometimes our ingratitude is staggering. For example, we owe our health and strength to our genes, which were refined by a million generations of our ancestors. They gave their lives to ensure that good genes were passed on to us. Yet creationists deny that these ancestors even existed!

2. It is right to do the most good you can. Sometimes this means it is wrong to spend time on church things.

A church can do some good, but so can a change in government policy, a new invention, a charity, a campaign, a better economic theory, or many other things. For example, in one year, a tiny change in global trade rules will help more poor people than all the churches combined. Any great cause demands a lot of our time, money and attention. If the church asks for that time, money or attention then it is right to say no to the church.

3. It is wrong to kill someone in order to steal his property. It is right to condemn such behavior.

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi kills Laban in order to steal the brass plates. (Laban had earlier stolen his wealth, but do two wrongs make a right?) This is just the simplest example of a scriptural story that presents evil as good. There are many others (see note).

NOTE: In the Book of Mormon, Korihor was killed because he spoke against the church. In the Old Testament, Moses was commanded to commit genocide. In the New Testament, Jesus said divorce was only allowed for adultery, so physical or sexual abuse or cruelty were not grounds for divorce. In the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith said his wife must let him "multiply and replenish the earth" with as many women as he wanted or she would "be destroyed." These are evil teachings, and there are many more in the scriptures.


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