Are there Mormon closet doubters?
The following discussion didn’t take place on alt.religion.mormon. It was a private email discussion I had with someone based on an a.r.m thread. The reason I’m placing it here is that I’ve received many emails from people who can identify with B.H. Roberts and others like him. I thought this discussion may be beneficial for those people.
the person asked the following:
There may be evidence that BH Roberts didn’t in fact doubt the historicity of the Book of Mormon. On the one hand you have [BH Roberts’] “Studies” and Lloyd’s journal entry (which might have been penned by his wife, although I am not sure what difference that makes) 6 weeks before Roberts’ death. On the other you have Roberts’ vigorous missionary activity from 1922-1932 (if I recall) in which he sometimes used the Book of Mormon to gain new converts. We seem to have evidence that supports both positions. On the one hand Roberts’ faith seemed strong and alive, on the other we have his writings and private conversations such as with Lloyd.
To which I responded:
Ah hah! This is the area in which I am somewhat of an expert (from first hand experience as well as reading up on this ‘disorder’). Charles Darwin, B.H. Roberts, Thomas Ferguson, and I all have one BIG thing in common. That is the huge fear that we will lose our families should our heretical *private* thoughts become *public* before we want them to.
What I (the non-great person) shared with the above great men can be called a ‘double-life’ I suppose. I rarely have to do this anymore because all my family now knows about my non-belief in the Book of Mormon as history, but I still have some close friends who don’t know of my infidel status. I don’t bring up the issue with them and usually change the subject when ‘church talk’ begins. Although I no longer profess one thing in public while believing something else in private, I used to–unconsciously. My last couple of talks in church dealt with the temple and god. The people listening would have thought that I had a stronger testimony of both subjects than anyone in the church by just listening to my public remarks. In reality, I had serious misgivings about the temple and thought that at least portions of what goes on there couldn’t be what the church claims them to be, and I was about 90% unconsciously atheist at the time. The problem was that with all the brainwashing I’d gone through in life, I couldn’t admit these facts to myself consciously so for some reason I felt like I had to speak out loudest on these subjects to both prove to myself that these things must be ‘true’ and to somehow strengthen my testimony of them.
If you read Joseph Smith’s speeches and journals in context of what was going on with his *real* private life, you will find that he practiced the same human trait. He spoke out loudest against polygamy and other less desirable elements of his private life immediately after he was directly or indirectly guilty of these things.
In summary, I think it is human nature, and particularly Mormon nature, to sometimes profess (using faith or other one-sided deceptive techniques) the strongest that which we have the biggest problems with. If we had evidence to back these assertions of faith, we would use them, but since we don’t, we just bare testimony and talk about the wonderful blessings we think we have received for being ‘faithful’. I was also guilty, in my Mormon apologist days, of using the methodology listed here. I also think that people who have much to lose by going public with their heretical knowledge tend to say things in private to trusted individuals that they wouldn’t in public to the world. In other words, it is far more important (in seeing what a person really believes) to look at one’s private writings and thoughts rather than to merely look at what the person has said in public.