Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Only True Church?

One troubling Mormon doctrine is the idea that our church is the only true church while all the others are an "abomination" in God's eyes, or at least they do not have a "fullness of truth." It's a fundamental aspect of the LDS faith that Joseph Smith was called by God to restore Jesus's original Church and authority to the earth after all the others had apostatized.  Today, only in the LDS Church can there be found a fullness of God's truth, along with God's priesthood authority, necessary for the salvation of all people. This is why Mormons, to the annoyance of everyone, still try to convert other Christians. Sorry, but your religion isn't true enough.

The loophole in this doctrine, which Mormons are quick to point out, is that if you don't have a chance to hear about the Church in this life (which includes 99.99% of the 100 billion humans who have ever lived on earth) then you will get the chance in the next life to accept it. Mormons robust attempts to convert the living world pale in comparison to the missionary efforts supposedly going on among the dead. But even then, dead people have to accept the same truths that the LDS Church teaches among the living: in effect, they have to join the Mormon Church in the afterlife. This, of course, is why Mormons do temple work for dead people in temples.

There are many arguments against such a silly idea the Mormons are sole possessors of God's truth and power, but one of the most damaging is to just do the math and observe the incredible improbability that such a claim is true.  Monotheism has only been around for 3 thousand years, but humans have lived on the earth for roughly 100 thousand years. Prior to monotheistic religions (the first being Judaism) humans lived in small clans, tribes, and chiefdoms which began to practice a pagan, animist, or nature-worship religious prototype about 30,000 years ago. These religions slowly evolved into polytheism which then evolved into monotheism during the Axial Age - when most other forms of religious and philosophical thought emerged in larger agricultural societies. Still, none of these religions are salvific yet. Christianity hasn't even been invented yet. It did not arrive on the scene until 2,000 years ago, and yet, there is no evidence that Jesus even wrote down his teachings, let alone established a Church, as Mormons claim.

Mormonism didn't come around until 1830 and today only boasts a membership of 13.5 million members. Despite it's claims to be the fastest growing Church in the world (not true), Mormons have a serious retention problem since only 30% of it's 13.5 million members are even active. Most Mormons are first generation converts and nearly 50% of these stop attending after the first year. Yet all these lapsed Mormons are still included in the 13.5 million member total. You are still counted as a statistical member even if you ask for your name to be removed from the records of the Church. Mormons only compose 1.6% of the U.S. population and their growth rate is decreasing, not increasing. None of this bodes well for a religion that is suppose to convert the world.

I list these boring statistics to emphasize the following point: out of the 100 billion humans who need to accept the gospel, as preached by Mormons, only a smattering of people have ever done so, the majority of these people do not even "endure to the end," and the Mormon growth rate is going in the wrong direction. Considering that Mormonism is only 1 of 10,000 distinct world religions (or 1 of nearly 30,000 distinct Christian subgroups of religion) the probability of Mormonism being the "one and only true Church" is extremely improbable. Most other religions, populated in higher numbers by sincere believers, also claim to be the only true church.  So what are the chances that Mormonism is really God's one and true Kingdom on Earth? Not very high.

Finally, when you consider Mormon doctrine as it relates to cosmology, the prospect looks even more grim. For example, consider that Mormons believe that Jesus sacrificed himself vicariously not just for every person to ever live on this earth, but for every other "human" who has lived on all God's other planetary creations! Assuming that God created "the heavens and earth" (the observable universe) that would be 100 billion stars in our own galaxy and then 100 billion other galaxies - each with it's own 100 billion stars. Astronomers are rapidly discovering earth like planets orbiting many of the stars in the universe, so the number of life-sustaining planets could be extremely high. Could you imagine alien prophets telling their alien followers (by the way, there is no reason to assume aliens would even look human since humans are a product of a unique evolutionary process that occurred on our planet, but wouldn't necessarily occur on theirs) that there exists another alien, named Jesus, who died for their sins too? Our own earthling Jesus myth is hard enough to believe. Could you imagine how many aliens would have faith to believe? Even to Mormons, who believe some pretty strange things, this claim should stretch the limits of credulity.


  1. I enjoyed the post and have thought very much the same way. I am trying to ascertain how many Mormons either affiliated with the official church have there ever been? If you know this answer with reference I would grateful. Even better, how many TOTAL Mormons have there ever been, i.e., members of the ‘official’ church and all of its off-shoots?



    This link doesn't give an exact number of how many members there have been, but will give you an idea as it lists membership through the years since the restoration.

    I found your blog while doing some research for a talk I will be giving in sacrament meeting this Sunday. I have to say it was an interesting read. I disagree with many of your points, but I come from a different paradigm, being converted to the church in spite of much of the same research.

    I do wish, however, to inform your readers that your posts paint members of the church with a very broad brush. I do not deny that your perception of LDS members is totally inaccurate, but your experience with LDS faithful seems quite different from my 13 years since my conversion.

    Also, in parting, I have to call out your statement that you are not trying to dislodge anyone from their beliefs or making skeptics out of converts. I would conclude from the posts I have read that your goal is to do exactly that, or at least bash your once (semi)held beliefs in the most intellectual way you can. There is no sitting on the fence with your intentions while your dozens of posts speaks volumes of opposition. Not that arguing accomplishes anything here, but let's call the spade a spade.

    Best wishes.

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I appreciate your willingness, as an active Mormon, to read my blog and keep it respectful.

    As to your points, the church membership statistics you cite come from the LDS church's own statistics reported during General Conference. They reflect all people baptized into the church, but include many people (upwards of 70% from the best independent sources) who no longer attend, no longer consider themselves Mormon, or who have asked for their names to be removed from the church. All I'm saying is that when you look at the "miraculous" growth of the church, it looks like it's not so miraculous after all, but rather it resembles the growth of many other churches (all man made, according to Mormons) whose growth is slowing and retention is decreasing.

    As for your contention that I'm secretly trying to evangelize my disbelief (that I'm not calling a "spade a spade") I would just say that I make no secret of the reasons why I wrote my blog. In fact, I wrote a whole post on the subject that anyone can read:

    Mormons also evangelize their beliefs, trying to make converts of as many people as possible, doing so with the best of intentions. I am doing nothing different. However, I don't claim that anybodies immediate or eternal happiness depends on you agreeing with me.

    Lastly, you say that I paint a caricatured portrait of Mormons in broad strokes. If so, I should clarify; there are many different types of Mormons. I still maintain close friendships with LDS friends that I would say are extremely intelligent and open minded. Mormons are not all cut from the same mold. However there are strong motivations to conform to orthodox beliefs and practices. Free-thought and free-speech critical of the group is not received well.

    Thanks again for commenting, good luck on your talk, and best wishes to you and your family.