Mormon Stories

Los Angeles Mensa Discusses Temples and Family History Centers

Remember when I was asked to speak to Mensa in the Los Angeles area about topics related to Mormonism?

Last year, I wrote about that experience and posted recordings from that presentation to this website. Well, that talk was such a success that they asked me to come back and speak to them again, and rather than trying to cover the entire playing field like I did the year before, this time I focused on temples and family history, which is something I barely mentioned in the talk from 2006.

The talk, incidentally, took place on Saturday, February 17, 2007 in Los Angeles. Shortly before that, Simon Wiesenthal’s name had appeared in the IGI, and was subsequently removed, and I used that event as a springboard for the presentation I gave.

Before I go much further, I should reiterate that Mensa does not endorse The Exmormon Foundation, and officially holds no opinions, and that neither Mensa nor the Foundation is responsible for my remarks at the Mensa gathering. I am solely responsible for what I said there.

Once again, I recorded the whole presentation. The recording of the main presentation is available here:

I also have a recording of the question and answer period which followed, which lasts for about 45 minutes. That recording isn’t on this website, so if you’re anxious to hear it, please contact me directly.

While preparing and presenting this talk, I felt that it was important to respect the beliefs of our Mormon believing friends and family members by not revealing keywords, signs and tokens, although I did mention that the purpose of the endowment is to present those things to participants so that they can pass by the angels who stand as sentinels in heaven. I mention this so that you’ll know in advance the level of detail that you’ll get from this recording. I don’t want you to be surprised, listening to this talk, that I don’t spell out the keywords, signs and tokens, in case that’s what you were expecting, because that wasn’t my intent.

A number of web addresses were mentioned in that presentation. For reference, here they are again:

  • The article “Mormons ‘baptize’ Simon Wiesenthal” was at http://jta.org/ at the time I gave the presentation, but I don’t see it there now.
  • “Mormons remove Wiesenthal from baptism database” by K. Connie Kang appeared in the Los Angeles Times on December 19, 2006; however, now that it’s been archived, you have to register to read it.
  • “Wiesenthal’s name is off LDS database” by Elaine Jarvik and Wendy Leonard appeared in the Deseret News on the same day.
  • “The Mormon/Jewish Controversy: What Really Happened” by Gary Mokotoff appears onhttp://www.avotaynu.com/mormon.htm and is fascinating reading and highly recommended.
  • One member of the audience asked me for Richard Packham’s article on the growth statistics of the Mormon Church. I wasn’t expecting that to come up during the presentation, so I didn’t have it readily at hand, but it’s available at http://packham.n4m.org/growth.htm
  • Like I say, I didn’t go into much detail about the content of the endowment, although I mentioned that people who are interested in those details can find them on the Internet. One such source is at http://lds-mormon.com/compare.shtml.

I also briefly presented a number of web addresses in my PowerPoint slides:

As before, I welcome questions, comments and corrections regarding anything I had to say in that recording. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you’ll let me know what you thought of it.

Brian Madsen, Treasurer

How to Resign from the Mormon Church

A frequently-searched term here on exmormonfoundation.org is “resign from church” or “resigning from the church”. Here are some resources to help you in your quest to leave the Mormon church.

By linking to a site, we are not promoting or endorsing the content therein. Often, sites educating about Mormonism are also promoting a competing religious agenda. As a non-sectarian Foundation, we are not promoting any religion, philosophy, or political standpoint.

Dear Readers,

We’re trying something new out here at the Exmormon Foundation: presenting articles and stories of general interest to the community of people in transition from Mormonism. This is the first in the series.

I originally wrote these twelve steps as a bit of a joke. Then, as I re-wrote them, distributed them, and Richard published them on his web site, I realized that they had become something more: some good, non-sectarian advice for struggling through recovery. Those familiar with the twelve-step program of other organizations will notice something missing from these steps. There is no assertion of any particular religion. I found that directly adapting existing suggestions failed when approached in a non-sectarian fashion, and I think this is, at this point, a pretty good summary of some of the steps people go through when recovering.

I hope you enjoy them. Suggestions of changes are welcome.

Talking points:

  • Do you think all of the twelve steps are essential for recovery?
  • Do you think you experience these steps once, or repeatedly?
  • What do you think are the differences between recovering from Mormonism and recovering from addictions?

Twelve-Step Program For Recovery From Mormonism

Thousands of people suffering from the devastation of alcoholism have been helped by following the “Twelve Steps” developed by Alcoholics Anonymous. Many other programs dealing with recovery from drug addiction, over-eating, and other addictive behaviors have adapted AA’s Twelve Steps. Those leaving Mormonism usually are dealing with similar problems of recovery, and the following is an adaptation of the Twelve Steps for help in recovering from Mormonism.

 

  1. I admit that I am powerless to change the fact that I have been Mormon for a good part of my life, whether because I was born to Mormon parents, or because I voluntarily converted.
  2. I realize that I have within me the power to free myself from the harmful part of my Mormon past (with the help of a higher power if I believe in one), and that I am no longer bound by promises or covenants which I was induced to make based on the false promises of Mormonism.
  3. I make to myself a firm promise to listen in the future only to reason, rationality, and factual evidence in making decisions about how I should live my life, rejecting all emotional appeals, guilt-inducing threats, myths, pretty stories, promises of castles in the air, and superstition.
  4. I make a searching and fearless moral and intellectual inventory of myself with the purpose of recognizing in myself those weaknesses which induced me to remain Mormon for so long.
  5. I itemize (preferably in writing) to myself and to a trusted loved one (and to a higher power if I believe in one) the specific reasons why I can no longer be Mormon.
  6. I make the decision to do what is right, and to accept whatever the consequences may be for acknowledging the truth and living accordingly.
  7. I begin working through each of my Mormonism-related problems of mind, body, relationships, and (if I believe in such a thing) spirit.
  8. I make a list of those for whom it would be important to know of my decision and the changes I am making in my life, and prepare myself emotionally to discuss my decision with them all, realizing that many may react with hurt, anger, emotional outbursts, or other unpleasantness.
  9. I discuss my decision with them (except in those cases where I think it would cause greater harm to do so than not) in a calm, friendly and loving way, without argument.
  10. I continue to take personal inventory, and where I find artifacts of Mormonism, I carefully consider whether they should continue to be a part of my life, or whether I should discard them.
  11. I seek out truth wherever I can find it, whether religious or secular.
  12. Having had an awakening and renewal as the result of these steps, I try to be helpful to other recovering or doubting Mormons, and to practice these principles in all of my affairs.

-By Matt B and Richard Packham

The Big Lie by Richard Packham

A recent newspaper article in the Sacramento [California] Bee reporting on the groundbreaking for the new Mormon temple there mentioned that the church is “among the fastest-growing religions” in America. Another recent article in the Wall Street Journal about the open house at the new temple in Manhattan also referred to the growth of the church in similar terms.

It seems to be a pattern.

I did an internet search for the term “fastest growing church” with “mormon” and got 837 hits, roughly half of them from pro-Mormon sites (the other half seemed to be trying to disprove the Mormon claim). But a search for “fastest growing church” produced almost twice as many hits. Does this mean that people can talk about the “fastest growing church” and NOT mention the Mormons?

Where do journalists get the idea that the Mormon church is “among the fastest-growing religions” in America? From the church, of course. A visit to the official website of the church at http://www.lds.org, and a click on “For the media”, followed by a search for the phrase “fastest growing” will produce the numerous press releases from the church itself where this claim is made. Unfortunately, journalists apparently assume that the church is telling the truth.

What are the facts?

According to figures published by the U.S. Census Bureau reporting the number of Americans who identify themselves as adherents to the various religions in 2001, and comparing those figures with data from 1990, the Mormon church in America had a growth of 12% during that period. That rate was the same rate as the growth of the Presbyterians (who do not have a full-time missionary force proselytizing in the U.S.). The Roman Catholic church increased at almost the same rate, at 11%, also without a massive American missionary effort.

But the Mormon growth rate pales into insignificance compared to the increase during that period of some other religions: Church of Christ 48%, Assembly of God 68%, Eastern Orthodox 28%, Mennonite 47%,
Unitarian-Universalist 25%, Scientology 22%.

The real “fastest growing religions” in America? Not the Mormons! How about the Disciples of Christ at 242%, Quakers 223%, Bahai 200%? Even the category “no religion” beats out the Mormons, increasing by 109%. The truly fastest growing religion in America? The Wiccans, at 1575%!

But the church obviously follows the advice of Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister: If you tell a big enough lie and tell it often enough, soon it will be accepted as the truth.

One of the important goals of the Exmormon Foundation is to counter such Mormon myths. Unfortunately, the Mormon church has the funds to pay an outside public relations firm. The Foundation must rely entirely on membership dues and donations. We may be the David against the Goliath, but we have to fight the Big Lie.

A Review of Julia Sweeney’s Production, Letting Go of God

The beauty of this world, the complex nature of man and the intricacies of our human experience were masterfully encapsulated in a recent performance by Julia Sweeney in her now famous, “Letting Go of God.” I had wanted to see this production for some time, and when word came to me that she was going to be performing in the nearby Sodom and Gomorrah of Utah, even Park City, I had to go.

Finding my seat next to a very dear friend, the performance began, and I found myself engrossed in Julia’s journey from ardent believer to a rejecter of all things metaphysical, better known in faith-filled circles as an atheist. Her story was poignant, touching and thought provoking, leaving me feeling very connected to her story and journey. It was hard not to notice the many parallels in my own life, which led her from her faith and firm conviction of deity to expressing a rejection of her former heavenly friend and constant companion.

Hers was not an easy journey. It was not a simple renouncement and moving on to other views and opinions, it was a journey fraught with challenge, difficulty, sadness, uncertainty, courage and humor. However, in the end, she dared to go where few are willing to tread. She looked outside of herself, her faith and community and into the world and minds and faiths of others and found her own path despite the personal cost to her family, faith and personal comfort.

I revel in the courage of those who forge their own paths in life. I draw encouragement and comfort from the experiences of those who have gone before into the unknown and returned colored with the patina of experience, wisdom and growth. Julia in her own way conveyed that message through humor and passion which left me feeling confident and comforted in our shared experiences on the path of independence and mental liberty.

In a final segment of Julia’s monologue, she comes to the realization that there may not be a god in charge of this world, and through her fear of that notion began to question what that meant for her and for the world at large. “No one is in charge!” “No one is minding the store!” “We are on our own!!” were just some of the thoughts she expressed regarding this new found concept. She then turned her thoughts to her own existence and the very real possibility that when she dies, there will be nothing more of her that goes on following this existence. There would be no more Julia, she would cease to be and that was that.

My companion turned to me and said, “This is very hard for me to hear. I don’t know what to think of this. It’s just so hard to comprehend and accept that when I’m dead, there will be no more me.” The pain of dissonance on this issue has bothered me as well, but in the end, we are left with the understanding that there is nothing we can do to know one way or the other on this subject until we find ourselves staring out into the great beyond where a further existence awaits or that nothing more than the comforting silence of oblivion. Either way at that time, we will be certain one way or another.

Julia further expressed, “Life is so cheap and so precious” which struck me as the most important statement of her performance. Life is so very fleeting. So very brief, so incredibly precious and rare. The beautiful and profound words of Carl Sagan come to mind which he expressed regarding this little oasis of life we call earth,

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

-Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

A picture of the Pale Blue Dot can be found here:http://www.humanistsofutah.org/images/PaleBlueDot.jpg

Tears well up in my eyes as I read those words. The profundity of that statement and the weight it carries should not be ignored in my opinion.

I find myself in the non-religious camp of agnosticism. I feel most comfortable with that approach to life, leaving all ideas and concepts open for scrutiny and observation. My world is far different from those perceived sun filled days of my Mormon existence, where thought, debate and inquiry were not required. Where a life on autopilot was celebrated, and deceptions were actively embraced.

Now I comfortably stand at the edge, peering into the depths and feeling peace.

– by Chad Spjut

Free Speech and Excommunication

The Dichotomy of two Mormon Values

by Ray Anderson – November 2007

It is somewhat ironic that the LDS church, whose membership overwhelmingly embraces democratic ideals, especially the freedom of speech, would excommunicate a member for expressing dissenting views or writing on controversial issues concerning church history or doctrine. Even at church-owned BYU, students are introduced to the scientific process and are taught to weigh evidence, consider alternative view points, think clearly, communicate effectively, and argue persuasively. Though these students will use these critical thinking skills throughout their lives to examine and make sense of the world around them, they will likely never apply them to their own religion. Sadly, seeking truth aboutthe church and seeking the “church’s truth” have proven to be two different things.

Instead of welcoming debate and embracing honest dialogue concerning its rich history, the modern LDS Church has been conspicuously quiet about anything controversial. For many devout but conflicted members, the silence is deafening. There is no official forum for such discussion – no publication where the church openly confronts, confirms, or refutes information that challenges the historical and doctrinal underpinnings of its faith. The church provides its members with no tangible defenses against the steady flow of evidence against its claims. Instead, it endeavors to comfort questioning members with all-to-familiar platitudes, such as “answers to any question can be found in the scriptures,” or “these things are ultimately a matter of faith, and require fasting and prayer to work through.” It is not uncommon to hear assurances from priesthood leadership that “anti-Mormon” publications should be avoided as they have no merit and will only deflate and discourage. Besides, they are the products of bitter, disaffected ex-Mormons with “axes to grind.”

True, we have ancillary organizations like the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies at BYU that confront controversial academic issues. They do not speak for the church, however. After wading through volumes of apologetic rhetoric from university scholars, the questioning member is still left to wonder what the brethren have to say about the issue at hand. He must be content with scholarly conjecture and hypothesis when what he needs is an official, definitive, and even inspired position from the church itself. Even so, FARMS offers the investigating mind years worth of reading material, but even a cursory examination of its publications will reveal a “defense of the faith” that is often transparently polemical in nature. Many of its book reviews are replete with character assassination and diversion while failing to adequately confront core arguments posited by the authors. Daniel C. Peterson, a highly respected representative of FARMS, has acknowledged and defended the use of polemics, exclaiming that he and his fellow scholars in the faith are engaged in a war for souls.

The Church may not defend itself through words, but it does try to protect itself through action. The most lethal tool the church has is excommunication, and although it is a procedure intended to be administered discreetly and locally, it has at times had all the stealth of a sonic boom. This was certainly the case as news leaked out about the many carefully coordinated, high-profile excommunications of Mormon scholars in the early nineties. This very public show of rigidity and intolerance left the press with no shortage of provocative material to write about. Their suspicions and outrage were only fueled further by the church’s move to restrict access to highly sensitive documents in the archives and to require certain patrons to sign agreements that gave the church the right to censor any materials leaving the property. Certainly, this was not only repugnant to a 1st Amendment-loving press, but also disconcerting for many members that for the first time began to wonder if the church actually had something to hide. If, as Boyd K. Packer has pointed out, the Lord’s hand has been felt at every turn in the church’s history, why not continue the open-door policy and let the past speak for itself? What could we possibly find down there that we could be ashamed of?

Apparently, that’s a question the church would rather not explore. Refusing to confront and addresscontent, it remains fixated on conduct. Excommunication for apostasy is the only real self-defense mechanism that the church seems to employ. It matters not if what the dissident is writing or saying rings true. He is a dissenter and that is enough! It is quite paradoxical that a membership whose social and civic values have been shaped largely by democratic institutions and processes would tolerate such authoritarian tactics. In any other setting, a typical Mormon would emphatically denounce this kind of abuse of power. For instance, he would likely be familiar with a legal system that allows its citizens to appeal a judge’s decision on the grounds that a law applied in his case is unconstitutional. The case would then be weighed in a court of appeals, and those judges would examine the constitutionality of the law itself and decide whether to uphold or reverse the original decision. In short, the citizen can confess that he is “out of line,” but also argue that the line should not be drawn where it is.

In a church court, however, the lines are drawn in concrete. The doctrines and narratives handed down to us from a string of inspired prophets and apostles are beyond reproach. There is no middle ground for the individual that challenges the historicity of the Book of Mormon but believes it to be inspired 19th century literature, for instance. If he dares to talk or write about his rebellious ideology, ecclesiastical scrutiny is sure to follow. He will no doubt be called into an interview and be enjoined from further digging, speaking, or writing. The fact that he might have a legitimate argument with mountains of evidence is irrelevant. The church simply won’t budge on his behalf. The decision is his – move in concert or move on.

To be fair, the LDS Church is a private organization and should have control over its own rules for membership. The church has the right to remove whom it will. Likewise, if members disapprove of anything at all, they should be free to leave, as they are. The problem is that many of its dissenting historians, scholars, and lay members don’t want to leave. They love the church, both for what it is and what it could be, and are fully integrated into its cultural and social structure. They still adhere to many of its values and beliefs, and wish to be active in its many worthwhile programs. But these members are forced to make a tough choice: Report the truth as they discover it and risk being cut off, or endure the disquieting effects of self-censorship and preserve full fellowship.

The church clearly allows the individual in question to make his choice. Ironically, though, the church has not granted itself this same freedom – the freedom to critically examine or redefine itself, even as waves of historical and scientific discovery beat at its door. Sadly, the church has backed itself into a corner and allowed little room for accommodation – 175 years of prophets and apostles have drawn their lines in the concrete! Simply put, the church has presented itself as a giant monolithic pillar of truth to be either wholly accepted or entirely rejected. As a result, it is not prepared to deal with members who view its history as a dynamic, intricate web of stories, developments, circumstances, conflicts, and flawed personalities that is both an inspiring piece of art and a mangled mess at the same time.

For the most part, the church is not willing to ask its members what they want their church to be (with the exception of the breakthrough temple survey in 1990 which resulted in the removal of several controversial elements in the endowment ceremony). Instead, members are constantly reminded that it is not their church – it’s the Lord’s church. He stands at the head of it, and he is an “unchangeable” being. An astute member may point out as many historical “changes,” embellishments, inconsistencies, misrepresentations, and outright fabrications as he wants, but if he is not careful, he may soon be doing so without his priesthood. The choice is his.

Other Articles by Ray Anderson

Evidence of Christianity?

To: [....]
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Evidence for Christianity
Cc: 
Bcc: 
X-Attachments: C:\TEMP\ANKRBERG.HTM;

Dear friends, 

  Some time ago a Christian friend forwarded to me, with copies
to some other Christian friends of mine, an excerpt from an
article at <http://www.ankerberg.com/>, called "The Quality of
Evidence for the Truth of Christianity."  I had already written
briefly about evidence (as it pertains to questions of religious
historicity) in an article that was published in the January
issue of "The Skeptical Review", at
<http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/98/1/> under the
title "The Man With No Heart."

  I responded to my friend - he is good about disseminating
material, but not very good about responding to arguments -
saying that I would send him my response to the Ankerberg's
article if I could expect a response from him to my criticisms of
it.  He did not reply, but two others to whom he had sent the
article did volunteer rebuttals to my critique.  Because of their
courtesy, I am writing this evaluation of Ankerberg's article.  I
must apologize for its length, but I did not want to neglect any
of Ankerberg's main points.

  Rather than repeat the entire article here, I have attached it
in its original .HTM format.  Although my friend only sent me an
excerpt, I will deal with the entire part of the article that
discusses the evidence for Christianity (the first part of
Ankerberg's article deals with other matters).  

  I agree wholeheartedly with Ankerberg's initials premises,
which I will summarize:

  - If Christianity is God's religion, we can expect superior
evidence of its truth.   - The truth of Christianity must rest
"squarely on certain historical facts, open to ordinary
investigation"...   - ...based on a "jurisprudential approach"
using "legal standards of evidence" which have developed "as
essential means of resolving the most intractable disputes in
society."   - [if God exists,] God "desires men to find him."

  My agreement with Ankerberg (and the Christian apologists whom
he quotes in support of his statements) is based on my own
training and experience in American and English law, and the laws
of evidence as used in all English-speaking jurisdictions.  (I am
a lawyer by training.  I also did graduate studies in ancient
literature and linguistics.)

  From that point on, however, Ankerberg begins to be in trouble
with the principles he outlined above, both the principles of
legal evidence and the principles of logical argument.

  He argues that the place to start, in examining the evidence
for the truth of various religions, is with Christianity, because
no other religion has "sustainable evidence" in its favor.  Not
only is the term "sustainable evidence" meaningless, either in
legal or logical terms, but his statement is a fallacious begging
of the question.  No matter - I am perfectly willing to begin
with Christianity.

  Ankerberg cites the following as evidence of the truth of "the
Bible and the Christianity based on it" (already making an
unwarranted conclusion which he has not yet established: that
Christianity is the only and necessary religion derived from the
Bible):

  - accurate and detailed prophecy in the Bible
  - scientific knowledge in the Bible as verified by later
scientific knowledge   
  - historical accuracy of the Bible as verified by later
historical research   
  - archaeological accuracy
  - philosophical and logical consistency
  - lack of internal contradiction despite multiple authorship

  My comments:

  PROPHECY:  Ankerberg discusses prophecy later in the article,
and I will delay my comments until then.

  SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE:  Ankerberg does not say what scientific
knowledge he is referring to here.  Most Christian apologists
acknowledge that the Bible must be forgiven great lapses in
scientific accuracy:  the age of the universe, the order of
creation of the universe (earth before stars), the geocentric
view, the contradictory order of creation of plants and animals
as described in Genesis, the causes of disease... to mention only
a few out of hundreds.  This is not the kind of scientific
knowledge which lends great weight to the evidence for the
scientific accuracy of the Bible.  For most people, the
scientific statements in the Bible indicate its origin in a
primitive, non-scientific mind, not in the mind of God.

  HISTORICAL ACCURACY and ARCHAOLOGICAL ACCURACY (the same
objection applies to both):  Although there is much historically
accurate information in the Bible, it cannot claim to be more
accurate than many other ancient records which make no claim to
divine origin.  And the Bible's accuracy in history and
archaeology is not perfect.  It contradicts itself frequently in
many facts; many of its historical statements are absurd and
unverified; and archaeology has contradicted a significant number
of its statements.  For examples (of many), consider the plagues
of Egypt, the presence of two million people in Sinai for forty
years, the destruction of Ai, the massacre of the innocents by
Herod, the contradictions in the censuses and genealogies, the
impossible increase in the number of Israelites during the
relatively brief time in Egypt, the mass emptying of the graves
of Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion, and many others. 
None of these have been confirmed, and many have been
contradicted, by historical and archaeological evidence.  I am
aware that Christian apologists have explanations for all these
(and other) apparent inaccuracies, but the mere fact that they
must be explained at all is weighty testimony that the evidence
is not the "superior evidence" that Ankerberg promised us.

  Even if the Bible's historical record - of kings' reigns,
battles, movements of peoples, etc., were accurate, and all the
places could be positively identified by archaeology, that is NOT
evidence that the miraculous events upon which Christianity is
based (e.g., the resurrection) actually occurred.  There is no
reason to accept the discovery of Lazarus' tomb or the City of Ur
as evidence that Lazarus rose from the dead or that Abraham was
visited by an angel of Jehovah.  Let me illustrate.

  If you visit Palmyra, New York, you will be shown the actual
grove where Joseph Smith had the vision of God the Father and God
the Son.  You will see the very Hill Cumorah where the Golden
Plates were buried, and the very bedroom in which Moroni appeared
to the Mormon Prophet.  These places have been identified
archaeologically and historically with close to 100% accuracy. 
Is that fact acceptable evidence to you that the events Smith
described actually occurred?  I think not.  Why not?  The
archaeological and historical evidence is exactly the same, or
even better, than the archaeological and historical evidence of
the Biblical events which are the basis for Christianity, and, I
submit, of just as little relevance.

  In other words, the historical and archaeological evidence for
the Bible's accuracy cannot, by its very nature, substantiate the
truth of any religion founded on it.  It is not the historically
verified fact that Pilate was procurator which is the basis for
Christianity, but the claim that Jesus rose from the dead and
ascended to heaven.

  The fallacy in the Christian claims which are based on this
assertion is an inversion of a valid objection to the Book of
Mormon:  there is no historical or archaeological substantiation
for the historicity of the Book of Mormon, therefore the Book of
Mormon must be false (a logically valid statement).  There ARE
evidences for the accuracy of some Biblical historical
statements, therefore the Bible (and all that it states) is true
(a logically fallacious statement).

  Although Ankerberg does not say this, I have heard other
Christian apologists say, "Much of the Bible has been proven
historically accurate, so therefore we can assume that it is 100%
accurate [including its absurd and miraculous elements]."  This
is a perversion of a very valid rule of evidence, namely, that we
may assume that a witness whose testimony is found false in any
one material matter may also be false in other parts, and we are
justified in discounting his testimony.  The rule as fallaciously
formulated by Christians seems to be that if the testimony is
true in some particulars, then we can assume that it is entirely
true.  If the logical absurdity of that formulation is not
obvious to you, then you and I are using different kinds of
thinking mechanisms.

  Because this kind of argument is so prevalent among Christian
apologists, let me illustrate with a hypothetical example. 
Suppose we have an ancient text, a chronicle of the kingdom of
Glog.  It lists the kings of Glog, the lengths of their reigns,
their wars with neighboring nations, the building of their
cities, over a period of several hundreds of years.  From the
chronicles of neighboring nations and from examining of
archaeological remains we are able to confirm some of these
mundane facts.  We are justified, then, in assuming that other,
similar, still unconfirmed statements are likely accurate.

  However, the chronicle also states that king Blik II of Glog,
in a war with the king of Moog, slew with his own hand, with no
aid from anyone else, between sun-up and sun-down, 50,000 Moogian
warriors.  Should we doubt the accuracy of that statement?  Of
course!  Even in light of the accuracy of other events which have
been confirmed from independent sources?  From our knowledge of
warfare we know that this is a physical impossibility.  We also
know that such "tall tales" are often invented to enhance the
fame of historical figures.  Of course we should doubt it.  We
should disbelieve it.  Would it help us to accept the story as
true if we were told that king Blik was aided in this superhuman
feat by the appearance of the great god Gamion?  No, that would
simply convince us that this event is a fictional exaggeration. 
Suppose this chronicle were offered to you as evidence of the
existence and power of the god Gamion.  Would you accept it then? 
I doubt it.  Then why should we accept similar tall tales in the
Bible as evidence of the existence and power of Jehovah?

  Suppose the chronicle also says that king Blik was so exhausted
that he died, and his body was embalmed and placed in its tomb,
but that, with ten thousand Glogians watching in awe, a host of a
thousand divine messengers descended from the sky, riding winged
elephants, and carried his body to heaven in a great light. 
Would you have the temerity to doubt the accuracy of that
account?  Even in light of the accuracy of other events which
have been confirmed from independent sources?  I would hope so! 
And yet Christians accept similar Bible tales because the Bible
contains other historically confirmed events.

  CONSISTENCY (Ankerberg lists consistency and lack of
contradiction as two items; I fail to see the difference, so I
will treat them together):  Here, again, the Christian apologist
makes the mistake of taking the reverse of a valid rule of
evidence and creating a new (but invalid) rule.  A valid rule of
evidence is that contradiction indicates falsity (or: lack of
consistency indicates falsity).  The reverse of that statement
(consistency indicates truth) is NOT a valid rule of evidence.  I
have some personal experience dealing with witnesses at trial who
told very complex stories that were very consistent. 
Nevertheless, the witnesses were lying.  The valid rule of
evidence, as I stated it above (contradiction indicates falsity),
is put to use with such lying witnesses by trying to get them to
make more and more statements in the hope that they contradict
themselves.  It is their contradiction that proves them to be
liars.  And only a few contradictions are enough to show that
they are lying.  If you cannot make them contradict themselves,
it does not prove they are telling the truth.  It only shows that
you have been unable to unmask them as liars.  In other words,
consistency in the Bible would not prove its truth.

  However, contradictions in the Bible would certainly indicate
its falsity.  This is even a test sanctioned by the Bible itself
(Mark 14:59).  And the Bible is full of contradictions -
numerical, genealogical, factual, and doctrinal.  Many of the
contradictions are not trivial, but deal with the basic claims
and doctrines of Christianity.  If there were no contradictions
and inconsistencies, as Ankerberg asserts, and if the Bible tells
a single, unified and obvious message, which should be clear to
any open-minded reader, then why, one may ask, is it necessary
for Christian apologists to write so many books that try to
explain the apparent contradictions?  There are dozens of such
books, listing thousands of apparent contradictions.  And why,
one may also ask, are there so many different interpretations of
Biblical statements, giving rise to hundreds of different
Christian sects?  Christianity itself refutes Ankerberg's claim
that that Bible's message is consistent and non-contradictory.

THE EVIDENCE

  Ankerberg selects two "lines of evidence" to support
Christianity:  prophecy and the resurrection.  He claims that
these two areas of evidence "meet the burden of proof necessary
to say 'This religion alone is fully true.'"  Let us turn to this
evidence.

PROPHECY: 

  A threshold objection is that even if several prophecies
reported in the Bible were verified, there is no logical reason
to conclude that the entire collection of Biblical books is of
divine origin.  If I found a record of a verified prophecy in a
book in the county library, that would not be grounds for
assuming that every book in the county library is divine. 
Ankerberg is arguing by assuming the conclusion (which is a
common fallacy among Christian apologists, namely, begging the
question):  the canon of the Bible is divinely inspired,
therefore if one book can be proven divine (or one event, or one
prophecy), that is evidence that the entire collection is divine. 

  Ankerberg also makes the false assertion that the only basis
possible for objecting to the validity of the Bible's prophecies
is a "philosophical (anti-supernatural) bias."  This is not an
accurate charge.  Although I can't presume to speak for all who
do not accept the validity of the Bible's prophecies, I'm sure I
speak for many when I say that I have no problem with recognizing
a truly valid prophecy, if there are any.  However, every
prophecy suggested by Christians (and other alleged prophecies)
fails to fulfill the criteria for what a valid prophecy should
look like.  The following criteria would seem to be fairly
reasonable:  

  A valid prophecy, it seems, would:

  - be uttered in such a way that its meaning is clearly intended
as a prophecy of the future; 

  - be verifiable beyond reasonable doubt as to the time of its
utterance (i.e. before the events which are claimed to be its
fulfillment);

  - be specific enough and unusual enough that its alleged
fulfillment could not have been reasonably guessed;

  - have some non-trivial purpose;

  - (especially if prophesying of more than one event) be
fulfilled in every particular by verifiable events.

  The problem for most of us critics of Bible prophecy is that we
have yet to have any Biblical prophecy confirmed as fulfilling
all those criteria.  Furthermore, Bible apologists seem to ignore
the many prophecies in the Bible which were NOT fulfilled, and
which cannot now be fulfilled.  As to unfulfilled prophecies,
apologists often suggest that "God's time is not man's time," and
that "someday" every prophecy will be fulfilled.  Not only is
that suggestion inapplicable to many unfulfilled prophecies,
which prophesied concerning people and places which no longer
exist, but it also allows every false prophet (like Joseph Smith,
for example) to claim the same courtesy of "wait and see"
regarding his own false prophecies.  To ask for validating
evidence (and to reject evidence which is not valid) is not anti-
supernatural bias, as Ankerberg suggests.  That is simply good
sense and good method.

  Ankerberg lists (but does not attempt to validate) the
following alleged prophecies, as evidence of the divine nature of
the Bible:

  - Isaiah 44:28-45:6, prophesying of Cyrus
  - Isaiah 9:6, 53:1-12, prophesying of the "specific nature and
death of the Messiah"   
  - Isaiah 39:5-7, the Babylonian captivity
  - Deuteronomy 28:64-66, a "1400 BC" prophecy which "hints at"
the Captivity   
  - Daniel's prophecies of the Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman
empires, which are prophesied "so clearly" that critics are
"forced" to date the book in 165 BC, "against all the evidence."  
  - I Kings 13:1-2, prophecy of King Josiah
  - Micah 5:2, prophecy of the birthplace of Jesus

  None of these listed prophecies satisfies the criteria for a
valid prophecy.  I will discuss each only briefly, and refer the
reader to the generally accepted reference works on the Bible for
details of the evidence *against* Ankerberg's acceptance of these
prophecies as valid, such as The Interpreters' Bible, The Anchor
Bible, Funk & Wagnall's New Concise Dictionary of the Bible, or
any general encyclopedia, such as Brittanica or Americana - all
of whose articles on these biblical topics, by the way, are
written by Christian scholars of the highest reputation.  The
primary problem with all of these prophecies is establishing an
accurate dating.  In no case is there documentary evidence of the
date of their first writing.

  Isaiah 9:6-7 prophesies of a future king who would sit on the
throne of David and rule Israel.  Jesus never sat on a throne nor
did he reign over Israel.  This prophecy was thus not fulfilled
in Jesus.  

  The later chapters of Isaiah, cited above, are overwhelmingly
dated as post-exile, and not simply because they speak of the
exile, but based on other evidence as well.  The events they
"prophesy" had already occurred or were then occurring.  Can
Ankerberg (or anyone) establish conclusively that Deutero-Isaiah
was written before the Captivity?  No, he cannot.

  Deuteronomy and Kings are dated by most scholars as post-
Josiah, based on extensive internal evidence.  Can anyone
establish conclusively that they were written so much earlier? 
No, they cannot.

  Daniel, as Ankerberg points out, is dated by most scholars at
around 165 BC, but not, as he suggests, "against all the
evidence," but rather *based* on the evidence.  It is Ankerberg
and his fellow believers who ignore the evidence, not only the
evidence which shows the 165 BC dating to be accurate to within a
year or two, but also the evidence which shows that the author of
Daniel was totally unfamiliar with affairs in sixth century
Babylon.  An excellent summary of the evidence for the 165 BC
dating is at <http://www.danielprophecy.com/chap2.htm>.

  With all of the above Old Testament books mentioned above, we
have the same question:  what is the more likely explanation for
these apparently fulfilled prophecies?  In light of the fact that
they cannot be dated with any degree of certainty before the
events which are claimed to be the fulfillment, is it more likely
that 1) a miraculous prophecy has been fulfilled? or 2) pious
writers or editors have been at work to lend credence to their
own faith by attributing their writing to earlier prophets?  

  Should we be skeptical?  Of course we should.  Let me
illustrate:  I have in my possession a copy of a letter which my
great-grandfather wrote in 1899.  He claimed that he was a
prophet of God.  In that letter he prophesied that within a
hundred years a man named Clinton would be the President of the
United States, as well as many other events which perfectly
describe America in the 1990's.  In the same letter he outlined
God's wishes for what the human race should do in order to please
God.  By the way, the original letter has been lost, but I have a
typed copy.  It was also my great-grandfather's wish that no one
know of his prophecy until it had been fulfilled (as it now has
been, miraculously).  Do you accept my great-grandfather as a
prophet?  If not, why not?

  If you answer that his prophecy is not in the biblical canon,
then you are arguing in a circle.  Ankerberg's (and, generally,
Christians') reason for accepting Isaiah's prophecies is not
because they are in the canon, but because they were valid
prophecies that were fulfilled.  And that is also the reason,
presumably, why they are in the canon.  After all, when Isaiah
supposedly made the prophecies there was no canon, and yet they
are claimed to be valid prophecies, their validity arising at the
time they were made, not centuries later when they were admitted
into the canon.

  You do not accept my great-grandfather's prophecy as valid for
a very good reason:  it is too obvious, with no tangible proof of
the 1899 letter, that there was no such prophecy made in 1899. 
It is simply too easy to create an 1899 "prophecy" in 1998 and
say that the original has been lost.  And that is very likely
what happened in the case of the Old Testament prophecies
mentioned above.  We would be abrogating our critical judgment to
make any other conclusion based on the evidence that has been
presented.

  As to the Micah prophecy (5:2), Ankerberg is very careless in
his reference to this.  It is not given as a prophecy of "the
very birthplace of Jesus," as Ankerberg says, but is rather a
prophecy that from "Bethlehem-Ephratah" will "come forth" one who
will be "ruler in Israel."  This cannot be taken to be more than
a prophecy that the future king of Israel will be of the same
tribe as David (David was from the clan/town Bethlehem).  It says
nothing about a birthplace.  And of course it says nothing about
Jesus.  The suspicion is justifiable that Matthew and Luke,
knowing of this prophecy, simply reported Jesus' birth in
Bethlehem in order to "fulfill" the prophecy.  Since that would
be a very natural explanation, it is the burden of those claiming
miraculous prophecy fulfillment to negate that possibility
conclusively.  

  Also, those who tout this passage as a prophecy of Jesus are
committing the same kind of reversal that has been pointed out
above:  at most, the passage sets up a minimum requirement for
the Messiah, namely, he must come from Bethlehem-Ephratah.  If
someone claims to come from someplace else, we could say that he
is definitely not the Messiah.  But that cannot mean that anybody
who DOES come from Bethlehem IS the Messiah!

THE RESURRECTION:

  The "historical resurrection of Christ" is the second area of
evidence which Ankerberg selects.  He begins with an assertion
which I have diffulty understanding - not a difficulty in
agreeing with it, but in simply understanding what he is saying: 
"...the historical resurrection of Christ cannot logically be
doubted..."  Does this mean that the resurrection is logical?  He
fails to say how.  Does it mean that one who doubts it is not
logical?  That doubt is illogical?  

  Let us examine Ankerberg's presentation of the evidence.  He
says (I paraphrase):

  - New Testament documents have been shown to be reliable;
  - New Testament writers have never been proven dishonest or
deceived;   
  - Jesus claimed to be God, acted like God, and performed many
miracles, including his resurrection;   
  - The resurrection is minutely described in each Gospel;
  - The resurrection has never been disproved;
  - Rejection of the resurrection as an impossible miracle is
possible only if you define a miracle as impossible; a miracle
must be judged on the cumulative weight of the evidence for it;  
  - In a two-day debate, advocates for the resurrection won the
debate;   
  - Early Christians believed in the resurrection; it was
essential to Christianity;   
  - A retired clergyman who lost his faith in the resurrection
committed suicide.

  Ankerberg then draws some conclusions from what he feels he has
proved, which I will discuss later.  I will now discuss each of
these "evidences" for the historicity of the resurrection.

NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS HAVE BEEN SHOWN TO BE RELIABLE

  That this kind of general statement is not evidence for any
particular particular event, especially any supernatural event,
has been shown above.  We may well be willing to accept the fact
that the Gospels are sufficient evidence to prove that Jesus of
Nazareth preached in Palestine and was executed (even though in
relating the precise details, the Gospels are extremely
contradictory of each other).  But any reliability in
establishing the occurrence of ordinary events cannot be used as
evidence to establish the actual occurrence of an event so
extraordinary as the rising of someone from the dead.

NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS HAVE NEVER BEEN SHOWN TO HAVE BEEN
DISHONEST OR DECEIVED

  On the contrary, there is a great deal of evidence to show that
the Gospel writers wrote much that is fiction (perhaps with pious
intent, but still fictional; see the excellent recent book by
Randel Helms, "Gospel Fictions"), that some of the epistles are
forgeries (i.e., not written by those disciples whose names
appear on them), and to say that they were not deceived is to beg
the question.  Only by proving that the resurrection did in fact
occur can one say that they were not deceived in believing that
it did.  ("Begging the Question" is a favorite Christian
apologetic tactic, I have noticed.  I sometimes wonder if it is
not a semester-long course at evangelical theology schools: 
'Begging the Question 101')

JESUS CLAIMED TO BE, AND ACTED LIKE, GOD

  Claiming something and acting "as if" cannot reasonably
accepted as evidence.  At best, the reverse could be taken as
negative evidence:  we would know he was not divine if he did not
act divine.  However, to take the reverse of that is fallacious. 
That would mean that I can offer as evidence of my own divinity
the fact that I claim to be God and act as if I am God?  I
scarcely think so.  The famous Emperor Norton of 19th century San
Francisco claimed he was Emperor of the United States and Mexico. 
He behaved consistently with that claim, and the San Franciscans
humored him.  Does that prove that he was really Emperor?  No. 
He was insane.  Jesus may have thought that he was the Messiah,
the promised King who would save the Jews.  Perhaps he was also
insane.  That is certainly a more likely explanation of his
behavior than to say he really must have been God.

THE RESURRECTION IS MINUTELY DESCRIBED IN EACH GOSPEL

  This evidence - the reports in the Gospels - is, in fact, the
very best evidence available for the Resurrection.  All other
evidences - as I have shown or will show - are irrelevant,
immaterial, or illogical when viewed by the very rules of
evidence which Ankerberg insists on applying to them (and with
which I agree).  Therefore I will discuss this evidence more
thoroughly, because ultimately it, too, fails as evidence.

  It is often claimed that the Gospel authors were "eye-
witnesses" to the resurrection.  Simply reading their reports
shows that the authors themselves were not eye-witnesses.  Their
reports show on their face that they are reporting events based
on what they have been told by others who, at best, were
*perhaps* eye-witnesses.  In fact, the Gospel authors do not
indicate the sources for their information.  It is only hopeful
Christian apologists who assume that they "must" have gotten
their information from eye-witnesses.  Where else?  Since it has
been generally accepted that the Gospels were written several
decades after the events, they can have been based on anything
ranging from eye-witness written accounts (now lost) through eye-
witness oral accounts to tenth-hand accounts to pious legends
that had developed in the intervening years.

  Ankerberg claims too much when he says that "the resurrection"
is described in the Gospels.  The crucifixion is described, and
the burial, and the discovery of the empty tomb.  Various
sightings of Jesus after his entombment, and conversations with
him, are described.  But not the actual resurrection.  No one
describes that.

  The most striking thing about the minute detail in the four
accounts is that all the details differ!  They contradict each
other in their minute details and in their major details.  They
are contradictory in the times, the places, the people present,
the chronology of the events, the statements made, the reactions
of those involved.  Whereas in other arguments Christian
apologists insist that historical accuracy shows authenticity,
here, where the accuracy is very suspect, Christian apologists
usually say that it doesn't matter - it's still true.  The usual
arguments in explaining the discrepancies are that each author
emphasized his own "point of view."  No, that is not a valid
explanation.  Even Mark says (Mark 14:56) that witnesses whose
stories don't agree are false.  

  Mark is right:  witnesses testifying to the same events but
whose stories differ in details cannot be accepted.  All but one
must either be mistaken, deceived or lying, and perhaps they all
are.  We are not talking here about the often used example of
multiple witnesses to an automobile accident, some of whom see
one thing, and some of whom see something else.  We are talking
here of writers who clearly intend to tell the whole story, and,
furthermore, writers who are claimed to be inspired by God. 
Christians tell us that these writers are writing God's book, the
message that God wants us to hear in order to save our souls. 
How can it contain contradictions between its various versions?

  We do not even know with certainty who these Gospel writers
were.  We cannot be sure that the versions of their stories are
exactly the way they wrote them (there are no autographs extant,
and there is reason to suspect that the Gospels may have been
edited and altered in important features in the 4th century; our
earliest relatively complete manuscripts are from the fourth
century, three hundred years [!] after the events).

  Thus, the very best evidence for the resurrection is by no
means as conclusive as Ankerberg suggests.  None of the Gospels
would be accepted as evidence in any civil court.

THE RESURRECTION HAS NEVER BEEN DISPROVED

  A statement like this can only be made by someone who has
absolutely no notion of the rules of evidence, of logic, or of
the scientific method.  The burden of proof is on the proponents
of the resurrection to prove that it occurred.  The fact that
some assertion has "never been disproved" has absolutely NO
weight as evidence.

MIRACLES MUST BE JUDGED ON THE CUMULATIVE WEIGHT OF EVIDENCE, NOT
REJECTED OUT OF HAND AS IMPOSSIBLE

  I agree that one should not reject evidence of a miracle simply
by arguing that miracles are impossible.  I discussed the problem
above.  I for one do not reject miracles as impossible.  I simply
wish to see sufficient evidence to prove that one happened. 
Until that evidence appears, I feel morally and intellectually
obligated to reject the claim of the miracle.  I suspect that
Christians would take the same attitude to claims of miracles
offered by believers in any non-Christian religion as evidence of
the truth of their religion.

  However, "cumulative evidence" will not necessarily help to
prove a miracle.  A mass of relatively weak evidence, especially
when all of it is circumstantial, is not persuasive when faced
with the burden of convincing us that something so unusual as a
resurrection has occurred.  And most of the evidence as presented
in support of the resurrection is not acceptable evidence at all. 
Mathematically, 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 still equals 0.

IN A DEBATE ON THE RESURRECTION, THE RESURRECTIONISTS WON THE
DEBATE

  This is not evidence.  It is cheerleading:  Our side won a
game!  Rah! Rah!

EARLY CHRISTIANS BELIEVED IN THE RESURRECTION AS ESSENTIAL TO
CHRISTIANITY

  This is not evidence that the resurrection actually occurred. 
What people believed - or even what they were willing to die for -
 is not evidence that what they believed was true.  Christians
who use this argument seem to believe that no one has ever been
mistaken about a religious belief, or that no one has ever given
his life for something that was not true.  Most Christians do not
accept the martyrdom of hundreds of early Gnostics at the hands
of the Christian authorities as evidence of the truth of Gnostic
beliefs, for example.

A RETIRED CLERGYMAN WHO LOST HIS FAITH COMMITTED SUICIDE

  This is very sad, but I cannot see how it proves that the
resurrection occurred.

FINAL ARGUMENTS

  Ankerberg concludes with some final arguments, of which I shall
only deal with one, simply because Christian apologists seem to
make much of it:  Christianity is unique.

  Of course it is unique.  Every religion is unique.  How could
this be evidence of its truth?  But at the same time,
Christianity is much like many other religions.  So it is not
that unique at all.  This is non-evidence, a non-argument.

CONCLUSION

  Ankerberg's article does not really discuss and evaluate the
evidence for the resurrection.  It is not intended to convince
anyone who is not already convinced.  It is cheerleading. 
Sermonizing.  Like much Christian apologetic writing, it simply
ignores the weighty scholarship which disproves its claims.  It
ignores it with such self-serving statements as "The resurrection
has never been disproven!"  "Scholars have tried to disprove the
Bible's validity as God's word, but have failed!"  Says who?  The
countless honest, rational, thinking people who have examined the
Bible's and Christianity's claims, and not accepted them, would
disagree that those claims have not been disproven.  Countless
Christians have examined those claims and found them disproven,
and left their Christian beliefs behind.  To these people, the
claims of the resurrection have been disproven.

  Christian apologists such as Ankerberg, who insist on the
ability of Christianity's claims to stand up under examination
using accepted rules of history, evidence and logic would do well
to reexamine what those rules are.  They do not seem to be very
familiar with them at first hand.

Richard Packham

==============================================================
To: John F.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Re: Evidence for Christianity

[quotations to which response is being made begin with the ">"
character]

Dear John,

  Thank you for taking the time to comment on my objections to
John Ankerberg's article on the "Quality of the Evidence for
Christianity."  My responses are interspersed with your comments
below.

  I am sending by bcc your comments and my responses to each of
the people to whom I sent my original rebuttal.  I will do the
same for any other comments I get.

>At 04:46 PM 7/1/98 -0400, you wrote:
> Have you sent Ankergerg your comments?

  Yes, to <atri@ankerberg.com>, but I have not received any
reply.

>    Just skimming through I quickly I noted one glaring error. 
>The original room and the cabin that Smith  allegedly was in
when
>the angel Moroni visited him is long gone. I know for sure that
>it has not been there since 1975 when I first got interested in
>Mormonism.  I don't have a date for when it was gone.  A replica
>was just built on the supposed site late in 1997 and early 1998.

>My wife and I visited it abut 2 months ago.

  Well, my face is very red.  Thank you for that information.  I
feel like the devout Christian lady who had visited Jerusalem and
seen the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but who later found out
that that isn't necessarily the place where Jesus was buried.

  Even though I used a factually incorrect example, I think my
point is still correct (and I could give other examples, if you
like):  archaeology cannot prove a miraculous claim.  You would
not accept archaeological evidence as proof of Joseph Smith's
claims of the appearance of God or angels.  Why should Biblical
archaeological evidence be accepted as evidence of miraculous
events?

>    You dispute the historical and archaeological accuracy of
the >Bible and provide no references to support what you say. I
agree though,  >that even if  there was >100% support for these
items it would not prove the miraculous >events. 

  That's my point, and I'm glad you agree.  Ankerberg does not
seem to see that.

  As to references, any standard Biblical reference work will
refer you to the sources:  look up "Ai,"  "Jericho,"  "Sinai," 
look for historical corroboration of the plagues of Egypt or the
parting of the Red Sea (or the Reed Sea) - 

>But they do add credence.  

  No, they do not and cannot add credence.  They are not evidence
of what the claims are claiming.  It is in the very nature of
archaeological and historical evidence that it cannot in any way
substantiate a miraculous claim.  I think you are perhaps falling
again into the fallacious thinking, that if absence of any
archaeological or historical evidence shows falsity, then the
presence of such evidence tends to show truth.  Explain to me
exactly how the archaeological discovery of the very tomb in
which Jesus was laid, and the authentication of the shroud, etc.,
would be evidence that Jesus was resurrected.  When you do that,
I will be able to show you that the exact identification of the
spot in the sacred grove where Joseph Smith knelt, and the very
spot where God and Jesus stood during the vision will prove the
authenticity of Josephs Smith's first vision claim.

>Dr. Norman L. Geisler makes
>your point in his book, "Christian Apologetics." I suggest you
>read chapters 16-17 of this book.  He gives a good defense of
>Christianity.
>    You dispute some of the miracles as if they were impossible
>but you provide none of the logic to make your point, like
>population growth of the Hebrews in Egypt.  

  I didn't really think I needed to explain how many of the
miraculous events in the Bible are impossible.  I thought that
Christians called them miracles precisely because they are
impossible under the ordinary everyday understanding of how
things work.  If they weren't impossible, they wouldn't be
miracles, would they?

  As to the population growth in Egypt, from the time Jacob's
family went there until the conquest of Canaan, consider the
following: 

  The population of Israel at the time of the Conquest must have
been two to three million (Ex 12:37, Num 1:45-46).  They had all
descended in about four generations from 70 (or 75) individuals
(Ex 6:16-20) who had gone to Egypt.  This rate of population
increase is impossible for that time, requiring an annual rate of
increase of over two percent - a rate which never was even
approached until modern times, and then only in highly
technological cultures (see references cited by John C. Kunich in
"Multiply Exceedingly," _New Approaches to the Book of Mormon_
pp. 240-243).

  Dan had one son (Gen 46:23), but three generations later there
are 62,700 Danites of military age (Num 1:39; Num 26:43 gives the
number as 64,400). 

  Levi's descendants: three sons, first generation (Gen 46:11, Ex
6:16); eight grandsons, second generation (Ex 6:17-19); eight (or
a few more) great-grandsons, third generation.  The fourth
generation numbers 8580 males (Num 4:34-48).

  I suppose I should have included this kind of substantiation,
but I did not want to make my article even longer, and I assumed
that everyone was aware of this problem with the miraculous
growth in population size.

>And you don't give
>the biblical chapter and verse you are disputing. This then
makes
>it easier for you to perhaps erect a straw man that is then easy
>to tear down.  I am not saying you did this, but you have not
>left a trail that can be checked and examined.
>    Under the scientific area you dispute in a general way, but
>do not even quote the chapter and verse in the Bible you say is
>wrong.  You are condemning put are not specific enough.

  I was objecting to Ankerberg's claim of biblical accuracy in
scientific matters, which he did also not substantiate by citing
chapter and verse.  I am happy to provide you something of a list
(which does not include any alleged miracles, which are also, by
definition, contrary to science as we now understand it):

All of the following assertions made in the Bible are
scientifically false or impossible:

  - The earth is the center of the solar system.  See any good
Bible reference work under "Hebrew Cosmology"; that this was
considered dogma by all good Christians - assumedly based on the
authority of the Bible, remember the words of Cardinal Bellarmine
(1615, during the trial of Galileo):  "To assert that the earth
revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus
was not born of a virgin."

  - Earth is about 6000 years old, as calculated from the
genealogies in Gen and Luke 3.

  - Earth was created in seven days (Gen 1).

  - Earth rests on the seas (Ps 24:2).

  - Sun and stars were created after the earth was created (Gen
1:16).

  - There was "night" and "day" and "light" on the earth before
sun was created (Gen 1:3-5, 14-18).

  - Plant life existed before sunlight existed (Gen 1:11-18).

  - Birds were created before land animals (Gen 1:20, 24).

  - Heaven is above, earth below (Jer 10:11, 31:37, 1 Thess 4:16-
17).

  - The sky is solid, a "firmament" (Gen 1:6, Job 22:14, Isa
40:22).  It has windows through which the rain falls (Gen 7:11).

  - Earth has four corners, floating on water (Isa 11:12, Ps
24:2, 136:6, Rev 7:1).

  - Earth is a circular disk (Isa 40:22).

  - Earth is flat (Dan 4:10-11, Zech 9:10, Matt 4:8).

  - Earth does not move (Ps 93:1, 96:10, 104:5, 1 Chr 16:30).

  - Death or illness is a punishment for sin (Gen 2:17, Lev
26:16, 21, 25, Deut 7:15, 28:21, 27, James 1:15).

  - Disease and mental illness are caused by an "evil spirit" or
"possession" (Mark 1:21-34, 2:6-9, 1 Sam 16:23, 18:10, 19:9).

  - Leprosy can be cured by following the instructions in Lev 13,
14.

  - Seed must "die" before it grows (John 12:24, 1 Cor 15:36).

  - Snakes eat dust (Gen 3:14, Isa 65:25).

  - Every beast shall fear man (Gen 9:2). 

  - The ostrich abandons her eggs (Job 39:13-16).

  - A river divides into four rivers and they flow in different
directions (Gen 2:10).

  - There was no rainbow before Noah's time (Gen 9:11-17).

  - Thunder is God's voice (Ps 77:18).

  - Earthquakes are caused by God's anger (Job 9:5, Ps 18:7,
77:18, 97:4, Isa 2:19, 24:20, 29:6, Jer 10:10, Ezek 38:20, Nah
1:5).  Or by his voice (Heb 12:26).  Or by Lucifer (Isa 14:16).

  - Earthquakes can occur in heaven (Heb 12:26).

  - Rainwater does not return to the sky (Isa 55:10).

  - Blood is "life" (Deut 12:23).  Breath is "life" (Gen 2:7).

  - Value of pi = 3 (1 Kings 7:23, 2 Chron 4:2).

  - Moon will turn to blood (Acts 2:20).

  - The moon has a light of its own (Isa 13:10, Matt 24:29).

  - The stars can be made to fall (Matt 24:29, Mark 13:25).

  - The bat is a bird (Lev 11:13,19, Deut 14:11, 18).

  - The whale is a fish (Jonah 1:17, Matt 12:40).

  - Whales were created before insects (Gen 1:21-24).

  - Jonah is able to survive three days and nights in the belly
of the fish without oxygen and without being digested (Jonah
1:17, 2:10).

  - The hare chews the cud (Lev 11:5-6).

  - Some fowl and insects have four legs (Lev 11:20-23).

  - Levi existed as a person in the loins of his great-
grandfather (Heb 7:9-10).

  - Cattle will produce striped offspring if they see striped
poles when breeding (Gen 30:37-41).

  - Bees will build a hive in a dead carcass (Judg 14:8).

  - Eagles will be attracted by a dead carcass (Matt 24:28).  

  - Salt can lose its saltiness (Matt 5:13, Mark 9:50, Luke
14:34).

  - Jesus expects the fig tree to bear fruit at Passover
(March/April), when it cannot do so in Palestine until May (Matt
21:19-21, Mark 11:13-21).

  - A good tree always produces good fruit, a corrupt tree cannot
(Matt 7:17-20).

  I realize that Christians explain away all these false notions
as being 1) figurative or metaphorical, or 2) merely an
expression of the imperfect human knowledge of the time.  But
they don't seem to have been understood merely metaphorically by
Christians until modern science proved them wrong, and what is
imperfect human knowledge doing in a book that is supposed to be
from God.  Are these statements really the kind of superior
evidence for divine origin that Ankerberg promised us?

  Christians also say that the Bible is not "intended as a
textbook of science."  Perhaps not, but can't one expect that a
divine book, when it makes a statement of scientific fact, be
correct and not misleading?  Ankerberg's assertion was that it's
scientific statements "demonstrated scientific knowledge"
generally unknown at the time of its writing.  Hardly!

> In your example with the King of Moog, if the culture allowed
the >king to take credit for what his solders did, then it really
was >not impossible.  The cultural context cannot be ignored. 
There >is also the use of hyperbole.  Is this an accepted usage
in the >culture?     

  That's exactly my point.  Shouldn't we take the exaggeration
and hyperbole and make-believe in the Bible in the same way?  Did
the King of Moog kill all those enemies?  No.  Did the graves
empty in Jerusalem when Jesus was executed?  No.  Both are
examples of the kind of typical miracle tales common to those
cultures.

>In the section about the resurrection stories, you
>were not very specific. Are you saying there are
>contradictions between the 4 descriptions?  I think I can show
>there are not. 

  Are you really not aware of the contradictions?  You seem to be
surprised that I would suggest that there are.  And yet your
statement that you can show me that there are NOT contradictions
implies that I would need your help to see the absence of
contradictions.  Here again, the mere fact that you (or some
other Christian apologist) must take the trouble to convince me
that what is apparent to me (contradictions) is something other
than that, is a powerful argument against Ankerberg's claim that
the Bible is consistent and not contradictory.  If it's so
obvious, why does it have to be explained?  Why can't the Bible
speak for itself to a normal, open-minded, rational, sincere
human being such as I?

  I would include a list of about forty of the most obvious
contraditions, but that would make this e-mail even longer than
it is.  

  John, I am familiar with quite a few Christian attempts to
harmonize the obvious differences in the four accounts.  I say
obvious, because anyone who opens up four copies of the Bible,
one to each of the four gospels, and reads them verse by verse,
cannot help but wonder if these accounts are describing the same
thing.

  All of the attempted harmonizations I have seen overlook
several basic points:

  - A witness (e.g. Mark or John) is supposed to tell the *whole*
truth.

  - Witnesses who don't agree in their details can be presumed
not to know the truth (or to be lying), as Mark 14:59 says.

  - It does not seem to be a great indication of the inspiration
of God at work, when God has to have four different versions of
the story, none of them complete (according to the harmonists),
in order to convince mankind that Jesus was resurrected.

  - The common explanation by Christians for the omissions and
contradictions is that each gospel author was speaking from his
own point of view, to a particular audience, for a particular
purpose.  That is a very poor argument.  It seems strange that
two of them (Matthew and John) do not even mention the Ascension,
for example.  Can we really believe that they didn't consider it
important for their particular audiences, that it was irrelevant
to the story they were telling, that they had a different point
of view that did not include the Ascension?  What do you think,
if I had been living in Matthew's day and had just read his
gospel, and asked him, "Matthew, did Jesus ever ascend into
Heaven?" he would have said, "Oh, I didn't think I needed to tell
you that.  You want to know about that?  Go read Mark's Gospel,
which I based a lot of my gospel on, and which I wrote because I
didn't think Mark told enough of the details."....?  By the way,
I think it's ironic that Mormons use the same argument to explain
the differing versions of Joseph Smith's first vision.  Do you
accept those arguments as valid? 

  - If it takes a modern Christian apologist to synthesize and
harmonize the apparently contradictory gospel accounts, why
didn't God simply inspire someone to do that originally, so that
we would have one, single, correct report?

  Again, John, thanks for your comments.

Richard

==========================
To: Pat V.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Re: Evidence

Dear Pat,

At 08:41 AM 7/4/98 -0400, you wrote:

>   I looked over you exchange with John.  I may have asked you this before -  
>what if all four gospel accounts agreed in every single detail. Wouldn't 
>this give rise to the suggestion that the four authors got together and 
>collaborated on their story?

  If the four gospels were absolutely identical, word for word,
it would appear that three of them copied it from the first. 
Copies are of no evidentiary value.

  I am not suggesting that four true accounts of the same events
would agree in every single detail.  I am suggesting that, if
they are true, then 1) none of them should contradict the other
in any detail; and 2) none of them should omit any essential
elements.

  Actually, Matthew and Luke both contain passages that are
identical, almost word for word, with passage in Mark.  Look at
any harmony of the synoptic gospels, where the three are printed
side by side, in three columns (or put three open Bibles side by
side).  Most scholars (including many devout Christian scholars)
take that fact to be an indication that Matthew and Luke used
Mark as a source.  Matthew and Luke also contain common material
which is not in Mark, which almost all scholars attribute to
another source, now lost, commonly called "Q".  

  The argument that we should *expect* the gospels to contradict
each other, because that shows that they did not collaborate
(i.e., they are being honest with us), is a very poor argument,
it seems to me, although it seems to be made often by Christians
trying to defend the gospel contradictions.  Does that really
make sense?  That they are telling the truth because they
contradict each other and can't keep the story straight?

  If they are all telling the truth, we would expect they would
tell the same story, even in the details.  A lying witness in a
courtroom is caught by even one little detail that does not fit
with what is known or with what other witnesses have said.  Each
gospel has many such details which contradict the others.

  Witnesses in a courtroom who are consciously lying, but are
telling the same story because they collaborated, will usually
tell the major elements of the story the same, sometimes even
using the same words.  But when the cross-examination asks them
about details which were not covered in their preparation for
lying, they have to make something up.  It makes sense when they
tell it.  It sounds plausible.  No reason to disbelieve it.  But
when another collaborating witness is asked the same question, he
is unaware of how his partner answered.  He makes up an equally
plausible detail.  Unfortunately, it contradicts what his partner
just said.  Both can't be true.

  The unfortunate attorney who has put on these false witnesses
tries to "explain" how the testimony of both witnesses can be
true.

  Doesn't this sound just like the four gospel authors and their
evangelical Christian apologists?  If not, why not?

>   Also, have you ever looked at the four accounts from the viewpoint 
>of listing what things they agree upon?

  Yes, and many historians find, in those points in which they
agree, a possibility that certain events are historical:

  - a man named Jesus preached in Palestine about 30 A.D.
  - he may have claimed to be the Messiah predicted in Jewish
scripture
  - he gained followers
  - he preached doctrines which were attractive to the common
Jews 
  - he predicted that he would establish a Jewish kingdom
  - he was executed by crucifixion by the Roman authorities,
probably for sedition   
  - some of his followers later believed that he rose from the
dead and ascended to heaven

  Remember, though, that under the rules of evidence, if a
witness has been in error (or lied) about any material thing, we
can disregard the remainder of his testimony.  Since the gospel
authors (whose identity cannot even be established with
certainty) have contradicted each other in many respects, we
should be skeptical about accepting even the bare historical
facts from them.  (There are those who make a very good case that
Jesus did not even live; that he is merely a legendary figure.) 
We should be even more skeptical in accepting what the gospels
report in the way of miracles (such as the resurrection), which
can so easily be explained as mere legend, manufactured by
faithful followers who are dealing with massive cognitive
dissonance, and invented as propaganda material to substantiate
their case.

  Any Christian apologist should become knowledgeable about two
areas of psychology/sociology:  cognitive dissonance and urban
legends.  Both fields have been developed only relatively
recently, but they explain much of what probably happened in the
days and years following Jesus' execution, and they explain it in
very ordinary terms, and very satisfactorily, leaving nothing
out.  Remember the principle of parsimony (also called "Occam's
[or Ockham's] Razor"):  the simpler, more ordinary explanation is
probably true.  The Gospels, the stories of the resurrection...
all are really very ordinary legends.

Best wishes,

Richard
===================================================
To: Pat V.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Re: Evidence for Christianity

At 06:41 PM 7/7/98 -0400, Pat wrote:
>>...[snip passage from Richard regarding growth of Israel's
population]...
> 
>Richard,
>   In doing genealogy, I was told to consider the average generation to be
>30 years.  Weren't the Hebrews in Egypt for 400 years between the time of
>Joseph and Moses?  Wouldn't that be a little over 13 generations?
> 
>Pat

Richard comments:

  That rule of thumb is handy for rough calculation when you
don't have exact figures to go on.  But the Bible is much more
precise.  It's that attempt at precision that causes the
problems, whether it's the number of years or the number of
generations.

  The length of the sojourn in Egypt is hard to determine
exactly:  Gen. 15:13 says that Abraham's descendants will be
strangers in a foreign land and afflicted "four hundred years." 
This passage is cited also in Acts 7:6.  That passage is a
prophecy, not a statement of history, one could say, since Ex
12:40 says that the sojourn in Egypt was 430 years, and states it
as history.  (This makes the prophecy rather inexact for a book
so highly praised as containing so many prophecies that are
"precisely fulfilled".)

  The descendants of Jacob were not in Egypt for 12 or 13
generations, because several passages indicate that it was only
three or four.  The descendants of Levi (who was among those
going to Egypt) are given in Ex 6:16-20.  Moses and Aaron are
descended from Levi on two lines; on the one line they are in the
third generation from Levi, and on the other in the fourth
generation:

  Levi > Kohath > Amram > Moses   and
  Levi > Jochebed > Moses.

  If you read Ex 6 carefully, it will be apparent that the
listing is intended as complete; it is quite specific.  There is
no hint that eight or ten generations have been left unmentioned.

  Kohath, in fact was born before the departure for Egypt (Gen
46:8-11) and died at age 133 (Ex 6:18).  Amram, his son, died at
age 137 (Ex 6:20).  Amram's son Moses was 80 at the start of the
exodus (Ex 7:7).  Even if Kohath were born immediately before the
departure, and even if he sired Amram in the last year of his
life, and Amram sired Moses in the last year of his life, the
sojourn in Egypt cannot have been over 350 years long:     
  Kohath's life 133 + Amram's life 137 + 80 years of Moses 

  If you calculated Jochebed into this, she must have been a
great deal older than her husband, making it all the more
unlikely that she could have borne a child sired by him in the
last year of his life.

  So, which of these passages will we accept as accurate and
which as incorrect?  The shorter the stay in Egypt, the more
unbelievable the growth of the population.

  And, as I pointed out originally, even over 400 or 430 years,
the population growth indicated would be unbelievable, unless you
consider it to be a miracle.  That rate of growth is found
nowhere in the world except in highly developed countries of the
last century or two.

  So, again we have confusing and contradictory evidence from the
"source book" that Ankerberg said would give us such "superior
evidence" "open to ordinary investigation."

Best wishes,

Richard

=============================================
To: Rhondda C.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Re: Evidence for Christianity  

Dear friends,

Following is a response from Rhondda C.  My comments are at the
end.

At 10:02 PM 7/8/98 +1200, Rhondda wrote:
>To Whom shall we go?
> 
>There was a time in my life when I too walked away from Jesus.
> 
>I was 19 and at university.
> 
>My philosophy professor was a brilliant man, a one-time Christian  who had
>given it all  away and whose declared aim was to destroy the Christian
>faith of his students.
> 
>I was a Christian, but I began to realise that so many clever men are
>unbelievers.
> 
>It was then that that horrible monster, doubt, began to rear its ugly head. 
> 
>I gave up attending church.
> 
>I went to the public library and made a careful study of the many atheistic 
>books stocked there, searching for a satisfying philosophy to replace my
>Christian one.
> 
>I was away from Jesus for nine months.  The this verse came to me as a
>revelation from heaven.  "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of 
>eternal life."
> 
>I asked myself, "To whom shall I go?  What can these atheistic philosophies 
>offer me in return for not following Jesus?
> 
>The answer was - nothing.  A cynical emptiness.  An everlasting vacuum in
>the place of everlasting life.
> 
>So I went back to Jesus and with great joy rejoined His disciples.
> 
>..................
> 
>I  have majored in philosophy and taught comparative religion.
> 
>More than that I have lived among Buddhists in China, Muslims in Pakistan
>and Hindus in India.
> 
>I tell you there is nothing in other philosophies or in other religions
>that can satisfy the soul.
> 
>Only Jesus can do that.
> 
>Only Jesus has the answers.
> 
>(Challenge Weekly p.12 June 30 1998)
> 
>"Difficulties in the Bible"    R. A Torrey
>Important "Contradictions"  p 85
> 
>"All the other apparent contradictions in the four accounts of the
>resurrection, and they are quite numerous, also disappear on  careful study. 
> But these apparent contradictions are themselves
> 
>           PROOF OF THE TRUTH AND THE ACCURACY
> 
>of the accounts.  It is evident that these four accounts are separate and
>independent accounts.  If four different persons had sat down to make up a
>story in collusion of a resurrection that never occurred, they would have
>made their four acounts appear to agree, at least on the surface.  Whatever  
>of contradictions there might be in the four accounts would only come out
>after minute and careful study.  But just the opposite is the case here. It 
>is all on the surface that the apparent contradictions occur. It is only by 
>careful and protracted study that the real agreement shines forth.  It is
>just such a harmony as would not exist between four accounts fabricated in 
>collusion.  It is just such an agreement as would exist in four independent 
>accounts of substantially the same circumstances, each narrator telling the 
>same story from his own standpoint, relating such details as impressed him, 
>omitting other details which did not impress him but which did impress
>another narrator and which the other narrator related. Sometimes two
>accounts would seem to contradict one another, but the third account would
>come in and unintentionally reconcile the apparent descrepancies between
>the two.  This is precisely what we have in the four accounts of the
>resurrection of Jesus Christ.
> 
>-------------
>from "Biblical Basis for Modern Science"  Henry M. Morris
> 
>Queen of the Sciences p. 30
> 
>"figure 1 Christian Founders of Key Scietific Disciplines
> 
>"The humanistic claim that scientists cannot believe the Bible is refuted
>by the factthat many of the greates scientists of the past were
>Bible-believing Christians.  See appendix 1 for an extensive listing of
>these men.
> 
>"Founders or Primary Developers of the Scientific Dissiplines Below.
> 
>"Isaac Newton -   Dynamics               Johann Kepler  -  astronomy
>"Robert Boyle - chemistry                Lord Kelvin - thermodynamics
>"Louis Pasteur - Bacteriology            Matthew Maury  -  oceanography
>"Michael Faraday - Electro-magnetics           John Ray  -  biology
>"Clerk Maxwell - Electro-dynamics        
>"Carolus Linnaeus - taxonomy
> 
> 
==========================
Comments from Richard:

Re:  "To Whom Shall We Go?"

  To say - no matter how sincerely one says it - that only a
belief in Jesus satisfies the soul is testimony-bearing, not
evidence.  It is the intellectual equivalent of saying "I feel
good by believing this, therefore it must be true."  Feeling good
about something, rather than examining it in the cold light of
reason, is the motto of the fool, which is perhaps why Paul
called himself a fool for Christ, and why the Bible contains so
many warnings against the worldly wise.  Christians often
criticize Mormons for basing a faith in Mormonism on a "burning
in the bosom," but how does that differ from having a feeling of
satisfaction in one's soul?

  Ankerberg's article, on the other hand, confidently stated that
he was going to present evidence - "superior evidence" - of the
the "historical facts" on which Christianity firmly rests.  

  I also find such statements ("Only in Jesus can one find
[peace, etc.]") to be extremely arrogant, because they assume
that they know that others, with other philosophies or religions,
have no peace or contentment.  It is like comparing orgasms:  how
can I possibly know what yours is like in order to say that mine
is better?

Re:  "Proof of the truth and accuracy of the accounts"

  This is similar to the argument John Farkas made (which I have
not yet responded to).

  The version of the argument here sets up a fallacious "false
dilemma":  it assumes there are only two possible explanations
for the creation of the gospels, either 1) the four authors sat
down and collaborated, or 2) the gospels must be authentic and
correct, especially as to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.

  There is at least one other possible explanation, which is very
straightforward:  each author was writing a fictionalized account
built around what he believed was a historical event, namely, the
crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  None of the authors claim
to have actually seen the resurrected Jesus, or even to have been
eye-witness to the events.  They are clearly telling of events
they have heard from others.  There is no question that each
author believed that Jesus had been crucified and resurrected and
that during his life he had done miracles and preached certain
things.  But their accounts are *hearsay*.  They are third-person
(or even more remote) accounts.  We have no way of determining
their accuracy, or of judging the critical abilities of the
authors to distinguish fact from non-fact, or of judging their
willingness to accept wild stories on someone else's sayso.

  Hearsay is not admissible evidence, based on the "legal
standards of evidence" on which Ankerberg is willing to rely.

Re:  Scientists Who Believe The Bible

  Such lists are meaningless as evidence.  I can also provide you
with a long list of scientists who do NOT believe the Bible.  The
evidence should speak for itself, and each of us has an
obligation to examine it thoroughly for ourselves, and not simply
say, "Well, if Isaac Newton believed the Bible, I guess it must
be true!"

  Notice that we are not told how thorough a study each of these
scientists made of the Bible, or whether they accepted it as the
"inerrant word of God" or as some sort of nice "handbook of
morality" or with some other reservations.

  It is also misleading to cite scientists who lived and worked
before modern Bible criticism had begun to call into question the
accuracy of the Bible.  Newton, for example, lived in an age when
it would have been very difficult for a scientist to say that he
didn't believe in the Bible.

  This discussion is supposed to be about evidence.  Testimonials
and appeals to emotion - although they may make converts - are
not evidence.  Rather, they tend to conceal the evidence.

Best wishes,

Richard
==============================================
To: Pat V.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Re: Evidence for Christianity  

Pat wrote, in response to Richard:

>> [Richard had written:]
>>  There is at least one other possible explanation, which is
very
>>straightforward: [...snip...]

Pat's question:

> 
>Richard,
>    Are you stating that none of accounts were given by eyewitnesses, or are 
>you saying that this is a third alternative?

  I'm saying that none of the accounts we have (the gospels) are
by eyewitnesses AND that this is a third - and much more
plausible - alternative than the two cited by Rhondda (i.e., 1.
the gospel authors colluded; OR 2. the gospels must be true).  

  My point was that Rhondda's source relies upon a false dilemma: 
"There are only two possibilities, and since the first one is
obviously false, the other must be true."  That is a good example
of this fallacy of logic.   

  Reports that are not by eyewitnesses (especially reports of
extraordinary events, like a UFO landing, or an appearance of the
Blessed Virgin, or a dead man coming back to life after three
days in a tomb) cannot be relied on.  

  Fallacious reasoning cannot be relied on.  

Richard

================================================
To: Dan N.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Re: Evidence for Christianity

Dan N. wrote:
>Hi Richard,
> 
>It was written:
> 
>>>This discussion is supposed to be about evidence. 
Testimonials and
>appeals to emotion - although they may make converts - are not
evidence.
> 
>Rather, they tend to conceal the evidence.<<
> 
>I decided I wasn't going to go through the tail chasing and hair
>splitting of discussing the generations and offering theories as
>conclusions.  However, if you would like to discuss some of the
>evidences, I would like to point you to a couple of book titles and one
>author in specific.  "The Verdict of History," "Evidence That Demands A
>Verdict" are two in particular.  The author for evidential apologetics
>and a wealth of information on probably every topic you decide to bring
>up is Dr. John Warwick Montgomery.  Some of his works include "Faith
>Founded On Fact," "Christianity For The Tough Minded," "Evidence For
>Faith," and others.  If you would like to correspond with him, I can
>forward his London address to you.
> 
>In Christ Jesus,
>Dan

Dear Dan,

  Thanks for your comments.

  The discussion on population arose because Ankerberg claimed
the Bible is historically accurate, and John Farkas wanted me to
give him some examples, when I disputed Ankerberg's claim.  I
used the incredible population growth during the sojourn in Egypt
as an example.  There are hundreds of others.  All it takes is
one, and Christians' claim that the Bible is 100% reliable and
historically accurate is gone.  

  Many Christians have referred me to Josh McDowell's book
"Evidence that Demands a Verdict,"  and one friend lent me a
copy.  I read it and was extremely disappointed.  I started to
write a rebuttal for my Christian friend, but discovered that a
very lengthy rebuttal already exists.  It is online, at The Jury
is In" at
<http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/jury/>.  I
highly recommend it.  There are links there to rerebuttals by
defenders of McDowell.

  McDowell's fundamental problem (Ankerberg's, too) is that he
does not understand what "evidence" is, what qualifies as
evidence, or what the limitations are as to what evidence can
establish.  It is a general problem in Christian apologetics, I
am beginning to believe.  Just a couple of examples (I am giving
these from memory - I don't have my notes in front of me): 
McDowell presents the following as evidence for Christianity:

  - Christianity is unique
  - Jesus said he was God
  - Millions of people are Christian
  - Many famous people believed Christianity
  - There are many copies of Bible manuscripts
  - The canon of the Bible is inspired because it includes only
inspired books
  - No one has been able to disprove the Bible
  - ...and so on

  None of these statements, even if true, are evidence for the
truth of Christianity, under any generally accepted rules of
evidence.  They are useless as evidence.  They are "feel-good"
statements which have importance only for those who already
believe, and logically fallacious.

  Thank you for the reference to Montgomery.  I am not familiar
with his books.  I will try to get one or two through
interlibrary loan.  I hope he knows more about evidence than
McDowell or Ankerberg.

  Meanwhile, I heartily recommend that you check out "The Jury is
In" at the URL I mentioned above.

Best wishes,

Richard

------------------------
Pat V. asked:

>> [Richard had said:]
>>  Reports that are not by eyewitnesses (especially reports of extraordinary >>events, like a UFO landing, or an appearance of the Blessed Virgin, or a
>>dead man coming back to life after three days in a tomb) cannot be relied
>on.

>Richard,
>    And by eyewitnesses are you referring to the fact that no one saw Jesus 
>get up and come out of the tomb, or are you including eyewitnesses in the
>category of those who say that they saw the resurrected Jesus after the
>three days?
> 
>Pat

  I am saying that we have no eyewitness reports of any of those
events.  They are all hearsay reports.  

  An eyewitness report says something like "I was there. I saw
such-and-such."  At best, the gospels are hearsay, that is,
reports of what the gospel writer may have heard were eyewitness
reports.  But since the gospel writers do not identify their
sources (e.g., none of them say "Mary *told* me herself that..."
one can only *assume* what those sources were.  That is not
acceptable evidence, especially when trying to substantiate
incredible claims like the resurrection.

  I might also add that even an eyewitness report "I saw the
resurrected Jesus" would be suspect (e.g. Paul's vision), unless
you would care also to accept Joseph Smith's eyewitness report of
his vision?

Richard
=================================
To: Rauni H.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: RE: Evidence for Christianity  

Rauni H. wrote (Richard's response is at the end):

>Richard,
>I may not be understanding this correctly, but let me quess:
>You are saying that NONE of the Gospels were written by
eyewitnesses?  Mark's gospel was dictated by Peter, an
eyewitness. That is same as "written by an eyewitness", IMO. John
was an eyewitness. He was known as "the beloved apostle" of
Jesus, and who was very close to Him - and His cousin even. There
are many first century Christians who had that knowledge - i.e.
Polycarp (A.D. 60-155)
>Luke was a companion of Mark on some of his missionary journeys,
and thus was familiar through him (and Peter) of the happenings.
Matthew's gospel is the only one that we are not that sure of,
but it could have been written by Jesus' disciple by the same
name, since Matthew's Gospel does show that he was very familiar
of keeping records of money (as he was a taxcollector), he was
also obviously a Jew and very familiar with laws, customs, area
etc.  There are more details in this gospel that point to him as
its writer than not.
>You are quoting those who are skeptics on everything and who say
that it is possible that Matthew did not write this gospel etc.
They are only possibilities that you choose to pick.  The much
stronger possibilities are the ones I am quoting above.  I have
read a lot pro and con and I have come to this conclusion. It
does not matter that much what I believe, but it matters that
many, many very prominent Bible scholars agree with this
conclusion also.
>Rauni 

Richard responds:

  Ankerberg's article, which was the start of this discussion,
claimed that the truth of Christianity rested on "superior
evidence", "not just some evidence, or inferior evidence," on the
"very reasoning employed in the law to determine questions of
fact...," using "legal standards of evidence."

  Here are the standards that Ankerberg is relying on, quoted
from standard works on English and American common law (my
emphasis in caps):

  From "Handbook of the Law of Evidence" by John Evarts Tracy,
professor of law, Univeristy of Michigan, New York,
Prentice-Hall, 1952, page 218:

  "Hearsay.  There is no more thoroughly established rule of
evidence than the one prohibiting the use of hearsay.  A witness
must tell what he knows himself, not what he has heard from
others...
  "...the hearsay rule bars a written statement of a third party
just as much as an oral one....
  "An affidavit [writing sworn to under oath] of a third person
is no more admissible than would be his oral statement.
  "...the real reason for the rule is the lack of opportunity for
cross-examination."

From "Summary of American Law" by Robert T. Kimbrough, Former
Editor-in-Chief of the Lawyer's Co-operative Publishing Company,
member of Kentucky and New York bars, Rochester and San
Francisco, 1974, p. 296 (this book is a summary of one of the
standard legal encyclopedias, American Jurisprudence 2d Edition,
available in your county law library):

  "It is a general rule that hearsay evidence is not competent or
admissible in judicial proceedings.  'Hearsay' may be defined ...
as evidence which derives its value not solely from the credit to
be given the witness on the stand, but in part from the veracity
and competency of some other person."

  Thus, if we are reading what Mark says he learned from Peter,
what Mark says is hearsay, and NOT admissible evidence.  We have
Mark's words, but not Peter's (or any other supposed
eye-witness's).  Thus we must discard Mark's gospel without even
coming to the other issues, namely, that Mark never even says
that what he is writing is based on information from Peter... he
does not even say how he knows what he is reporting.  And add to
this the somewhat uncertain identity of the author (it cannot be
established), the whole gospel by Mark is suspect on several
grounds.  

  The same objections can be made of Luke's gospel, which, as
Rauni admits, at best is even one more step removed from an
eyewitness if Luke depends on Mark (and/or Q).  Matthew even
Rauni concedes is uncertain.

  The author of John's Gospel cannot be established with any
certainty.  Whether the "John" of its title is the same as the
apostle or as Jesus' brother is conjecture.  Many facts (e.g. the
late date, the late style) speak against it.  It is not presented
as an eye-witness account.  The author never speaks in the first
person.  The author never identifies himself or places himself in
the events.  At best, it is not the "superior evidence", "not
just some evidence, or inferior evidence," that Ankerberg claims,
but rather very tenuous and objectionable evidence.

  From Kimbrough, op.cit. p. 289-290:

  "Weight and sufficiency of evidence.  ... The testimony of a
disinterested witness which is in no way discredited, or
contradicted by other evidence, to a fact WITHIN HIS KNOWLEDGE,
WHICH IS NOT IN ITSELF IMPROBABLE or in conflict with other
evidence, must usually be accepted...  It does not necessarily
follow, however, that a verdict or finding must be made in favor
of the party introducing such evidence, where the issue remains
in dispute and doubt.  Although the testimony of a disinterested
witness is not directly contradicted by other witnesses, if there
are circumstances which controvert it or explain it away, or IF
THE TESTIMONY IS CLOUDED WITH UNCERTAINTY OR IMPROBABILITY, or if
it otherwise APPEARS TO BE UNWORTHY OF BELIEF, the [jury] is not
bound to accept it.  WHERE THE TESTIMONY IS ON ITS FACE
INCREDIBLE, CONTRARY TO PHYSICAL FACTS, SETTLED SCIENTIFIC
PRINCIPLES, OR THE LAWS OF NATURE, it may properly be
disregarded, even though it is not controverted by other
testimony....

  "The degree of proof required depends upon the nature of the
case [ordinary cases require a mere preponderance of the
evidence, but where more is at stake, e.g. a criminal case, the
evidence must establish guild 'beyond a reasonable doubt']"

  "Where circumstantial evidence is relied upon in a [case
requiring a higher degree of proof], ... the circumstances must
not only concur to show [the prosecution's claim] ... but also
that they be INCONSISTENT WITH OR EXCLUDE EVERY REASONABLE
HYPOTHESIS [opposing that claim]."

  The claim that Jesus was dead and then rose again is precisely
the kind of claim for which a witness's testimony may be
disregarded IN ADDITION to its hearsay nature.

  So, the gospels are hearsay, and thus inadmissible as evidence. 
Even if they were eyewitness reports, the testimony that a man
rose from the dead is of such an incredible nature and so
contrary to the laws of nature that it could be disregarded. 
However inspiring they may be, however much people may regard
them as... "gospel," they are NOT the kind of evidence that
Ankerberg promised.  

  Lest anybody suppose that these rules of evidence, which
Ankerberg accepts, absolutely prevent evidence of any miraculous
event, let me say that they do not, and humbly refer you to my
article on evidence for miracles which was published recently in
the Skeptical Review, and is online at
<http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1998/1/981heart.ht
ml>, "The Man With No Heart."

---------
Barry has pointed out, in response to my response about the
"false dilemma" that there is at least one more possible
alternative than the one which I mentioned, and referred me to a
series of articles by Earl Doherty at
<http://www.magi.com/~oblio/jesus.html> which point out the
paucity of evidence that Jesus even actually existed.  I'm just
passing that on without endorsement or argument.

Richard
======================================
To: John F., Rauni H.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Evidence for Christianity

Dear friends,

  Below are my responses to comments by John F.  Because Rauni H.
made similar comments in a private post to me, I am combining my
comments into one post.  I forwarded John's complete post
earlier.  Some of Rauni's comments are excerpted because they
were in a private post.

  (BTW, John, best wishes for success in your efforts at
Cumorah!)

  I had asserted that archaeological evidence cannot substantiate
miraculous claims.

John wrote:

>>>But they do add credence.

Richard wrote:

>>   No, they do not and cannot add credence.  They are not
evidence of what >< the claims are claiming.

John responded:

>    I don't agree. While credence is not proof it does say to me that if 
the writters were correct in what I could check then what I
cannot check may be correct also.  For me, the writters
reliability is built by what I can check. I agree it is not
proof.

Rauni wrote a similar comment:

> Naturally we cannot prove miracles, but if there were nothing
found archealogically, we had a real reason to doubt the rest of
the story. Now we don't have a reason to question the historical
part, so the miracles could be possible also - after all they
were recorded by the same people who told the truth about things
that leave physical evidences.  If we know a person who always
has told the truth about things that can be proven to be so, and
then he tells about his experience, somewhat "far-out-type of a
thing" that cannot be proven one way or the other, we'd tend to
believe that too, since he has demonstrated that he is a truthful
person. We could not insult him by doubting him, could we?  But
if he has told "tall tales" of treasures he is hunting and
finding of gold plates that tell a story of ancient peoples, and
only he can see the plates - and that angel takes them to heaven
afterwards...but nothing provable ever has shown up - then the
miracles, experiences etc. told by that man are more than likely
also false. Woud you agree?

Richard comments:

  Let me remind you of my hypothetical ancient chronicle of the
kingdom of Glog.  Would you lend credence to the incredible and
miraculous parts of that chronicle simply because you found a
good deal of archaeological evidence for the mundane facts of
Glogian history?

  Suppose that you are a jury member at a court trial.  The issue
is a dispute over certain facts about family matters, land
ownership, boundaries, etc.  One side puts a witness on the stand
who very calmly and with assurance testifies to all the matters
in dispute.  His testimony is corroborated by documents and other
witnesses.  It makes sense.  It appears that side has won the
case.  As the witness is about to step down from the witness box,
the attorney asks, "You are certainly knowledgeable about many
historical and family matters in this area... were you born
here?"  And the witness says, "No... actually I was born on the
planet Pluto.  My father was a great king there, and he sent me
here in a space ship when I was a baby.  A kind family here took
me in and raised me as their own."

  Now, as a member of the jury, how do you now view this witness? 
Is your reaction perhaps the same as Rauni's, and John's?  "Well,
everything else he said was true and correct... He probably is
also correct about being born on Pluto."  Or would you doubt this
fact?  You don't have to suggest that the poor man is not telling
what he believes to be the truth.  He likely does believe it to
be the truth.  But do YOU believe it?

  That's what we have with the Bible.  Jerusalem's history is
written in its stones.  We can corroborate the Bible's record of
its ruling dynasties from non-biblical records.  Pilate, Herod
governed in Palestine.  All of that appears accurate, more or
less.  So we therefore should accept its testimony that Jesus
rose from the dead?  Would you believe that our witness was
actually born on Pluto?  I have no doubt that the authors of the
gospels believed that Jesus rose from the dead, and that they
believed they were telling the truth (just like our witness from
Pluto).  But just because they believed it, should we?  Is it
completely impossible that they were deluded, deceived, mistaken,
gullible?

  Rauni will probably argue (forgive me if I make such an
assumption) that "we have hundreds of manuscripts of the Bible." 
Does an error (or a legend, or a myth, or a lie) become more
correct because we have more copies of it?  Or because more
people are duped by it?  If so, why?  

John objected to my suggesting that the opening of the graves at
Jesus' crucifixion is an incredible hyperbole and should be
rejected as fact:

>> Richard:
>>   That's exactly my point.  Shouldn't we take the exaggeration and hyperbole 
>> and make-believe in the Bible in the same way?  Did the King of Moog kill 
>> all those enemies?  No.  Did the graves empty in Jerusalem when Jesus was 
>> executed?  No.  Both are examples of the kind of typical miracle tales
>> common to those cultures.
> 
> John:
>    Let us read what the verse says,
> 
>Matthew 27:52
> 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, >From verse 51 we learn there was an earthquake which would open graves.  
>But note it asays,
>"many bodies of the saints".  So it is not saying all in the graves arose, just some of 
>the saints.

Richard:

  So, if just some of the saints came out of their graves, it is
more believable?  

Re:  The four Easter Morning narratives

[..John's proposed scenario is omitted..]

  John presented a "possible" scenario for Easter morning,
piecing together bits from all four gospels.  This is a
challenging exercise which many have attempted, but, like all
such attempts, fundamental questions remain:

  - If one reads only one gospel account, whichever one, then one
is struck immediately by the smooth flow of events, the
conciseness of the story, the unity of point of view.  Obviously
the author has a clear picture of the events.  One is convinced
that - if the author knows what he is talking about and is
telling the truth - this is a moving story!  But as soon as you
read a second gospel account, you realize that you are reading a
*different* story.  The theme is the same, but the characters are
different, the events are different, the details are different. 
It is like four Hollywood scriptwriters who are given an
assignment to "write a screenplay based on the life of [some
historical person]."  They may have a few basic facts, but most
of it is made up.  Like the Gospels.  The Gospels are obviously
fictionalized history, with all the characteristics of
fictionalized history, legendary tales.

  - If God intended us to know the facts, why would we have such
a mish-mash that needs so much explanation?  These gospel writers
are not ordinary witnesses, but they are supposed to be
"inspired" by the Holy Ghost to know the truth and to tell it so
that we can save our souls by the knowledge they give us.

  When I made a similar statement previously, John responded:

>    As I said you are trying to tell God how to run his
business.

And then again,

> You are trying to cast God into the way you would do it, using
>human logic.

And

>..you are trying to play God and demand it be done your way.  I
suggest you read Prov 14:12.

  Such statements are examples of the logical fallacy of "begging
the question":

  Ankerberg says that the Bible contains no contradictions and
stands as evidence for Christianity, "open to ordinary
investigation."  I point out what seem to be obvious
contradictions, discoverable by ordinary investigation, and
thoroughly explicable by a theory that the Bible is simply a
human product.  

  Ankerberg's reasoning seems to be:

     - The Bible contains no contradictions
     - Only a divinely inspired work would contain no
contradictions
     - Therefore the Bible is inspired by God

  (The second premise is false, by the way - many uninspired
works are free of contradiction.)

  My comments tried to show that the Bible DOES contain
contradictions.  John seems to be saying:

    - The Bible is inspired
    - An inspired work cannot contain contradictions
    - Therefore the Bible contains no contradictions

  But by reasoning like that, John has placed the very question
at issue ("Is the Bible inspired?/Is the Bible trustworthy as
evidence for Christianity?) as his basic premise.  That is the
common fallacy of "begging the question," that is, using the
desired conclusion as a presumption on which your reasoning is
based.  Fallacious reasoning is dangerous and unreliable.

  Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a
man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

  Rauni also suggested to me that what may seem right to the
human mind should be suspicious:

>We are talking about close to 2000 years old documents and you
are trying to apply 20th century, and American, legal
requirements into it. It is a bit ridiculous, IMO. 

  Well, it appears that both John and Rauni soundly disagree with
Ankerberg (and his source Dr. John Warwick Montgomery), who
started this whole discussion by insisting that the evidence for
Christianity CAN be judged by our modern rules for evidence, and
"Not just some evidence, or inferior evidence... but superior
evidence." (Ankerberg)  Montgomery (as cited by Ankerberg)
insists that its correctness can be shown by "the very reasoning
employed in the law to determine questions of fact" and praises
the "advantage of a jurisprudential approach" because of the
"legal standards of evidence developed as essential means of
resolving the most intractable disputes in society."

  Now, Rauni, John, I am citing here two of the great defenders
and apologists for Christianity.  You seem to be saying they are
walking the "way of death" and are "ridiculous."  

  Rauni cautions:

>It was quite common during those days that someone gave a report
and the other, perhaps more capable for writing, took it down. 
It is not uncommon in even our day - as a Mormon you and I knew
that Joseph Smith himself wrote very little, even the things that
were written in first person were taken down by Oliver Cowdrey or
William Clayton et.al.. >Richard, before you go on judging
writings that are 2000 years old and written in an other culture,
far different from ours, you'd need to know more about those
times and that culture. Your reasoning failed.

  First of all, Rauni seems to be confusing "facts" and
"reasoning."  She criticizes my facts, but says my "reasoning" is
what failed.

  Rauni fails to see the difference between Clayton's acting
simply as an amanuensis, writing something which Joseph dictated
with "The Lord said to me...  I prophesy..., etc." and Mark's
Gospel, which does not appear to be dictated by anybody, let
alone by Peter.  The Gospel of Mark does not purport to be
Peter's words (the Apocryphal Gospel of Peter does, however -
would Rauni accept that as authentic?)  But that's a minor
quibble, I think.  (Rauni also points out that I misquoted her as
saying John was a brother of Jesus... she had said he was a
cousin.  I apologize for the misquote.)

  I thoroughly agree that one should be familiar with the culture
from which a document comes.  Here are some things I suggest one
should remember about the culture in the near East in the time of
Jesus and the following century or two:

  - The people were extremely superstitious and credulous. 
Miracle workers, magicians, faith healers, prophets of all
persuasions and religions abounded.

  - Accounts of miracles and stupendous marvels proliferated -
old pagan, Christian, Mithraic, Zoroastrian, mystery cults.

  - It was common practice for proponents of a religion, a cult,
or a school of philosophy, to write fictitious works or pseudo-
history to authenticate the author's claims (some of these
writings even have crept into the Bible!).

  - It was common practice for an author to attribute his writing
to someone else, to lend authenticity to it (e.g. the Gospel of
Peter, the Gospel of Thomas).

  In sum, we have no way of knowing whether the miraculous events
portrayed in the canonical gospels are accurate reports.  Not by
any ordinary historical or archaeological or evidentiary test
available to us.  

  Lacking that evidence, why should one believe those accounts? 
Why should I believe those particular accounts, but doubt other
similar ancient accounts of miracles as told of other characters
which even Christians label as mythical?

  If one wishes to believe something without evidence that can be
demonstrated, that is an individual choice.  I choose not to do
so.  Others choose to do so.  My argument is not with those who
say "I wish to believe it, whether there is evidence for it or
not," but with those who say, as Ankerberg does, that the
evidence is there, "open to ordinary investigation," and thus
imply that I am stupid, stubborn or sinful if I am not willing to
be credulous.

  Edmund Way Teale in his 1950 book Circle of the Seasons said: 
"It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not,
so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you
got your money as long as you have got it."

  W. K. Clifford said, "It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for
everyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."  

  I submit that those statements are just as God-inspired as
Proverbs 14:12, and belong in the canon of any one's scripture.

Richard
===========================================

Pat wrote:
> 
>...[snip quote of Richard's objections to viewing the gospels as
written by eyewitnesses]..
> 
> 
>1 John 1:1-3 "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which
>we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have
>touched - this we proclaim concerning the word of life..."
> 
>Acts 2:22 - "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man
>accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among
>you through him, as you yourselves know."  Peter speaking in Jerusalem
> 
>Acts 2:32  "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of
>the fact."   Peter speaking.
> 
>Acts 3:14-15 "You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a
>murderer be released to you.  You killed the author of life, but God raised
>him from the dead.  We are witnesses of this."    Peter again.
> 
>Acts 4:19-20  "But Peter and John replied, 'Judge for yourselves whether it
>is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God.  For we cannot help
>speaking about what we have seen and heard.'"
> 
>Acts 10:39 "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews
>and in Jerusalem."   Peter again.
> 
>The Gospel of John refers several times to "the disciple whom Jesus loved" :
>(13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20,24)  John 21:24 says, "This is the disciple
>(author) who testifies to these things and who arote them down.  We know
>that his testimony is true."  While true that John does not identify himself
>as the author, he writes as one who was there.  The other 3 gospels name
>John a number of times, since he was a prominent disciple. However, the
>Gospel of John does not , which makes sense if the author is John, writing
>about himself in the third person.
>   Also, as Rauni has pointed out several times, we have Polycarp, the
>disciple of John who was acquainted with many of the disciples.  And
>Irenaeas, the disciple of Polycarp, testified on Ploycarp's behalf that John
>wrote the gospel in Ephesus ("Against Heresies" 2:22.5; 3.1.1)
> 
>Pat
> 

Richard responds:

Re: 1 John - 1) It is by no means certain that the author of this
epistle is identical with the author of the gospel of John.  2)
The epistle does not identify *what* it is that the author has
seen and "handled."  For all we know, he may simply be saying
that he saw and knew Jesus, and that he believes that Jesus was
"from the beginning."  Here I think Christians need to be
reminded of one of their own "first principles" of biblical
interpretation:  don't read into a text something that isn't
there, but that you would like to be there.

Re:  Acts -  I thought I had made clear what is testimony of an
eyewitness.  It is when we have the eyewitness speaking to us
directly.  Acts was not written by Peter.  Most Christians accept
its attribution to the author of the gospel of Luke.  If that is
true, any quotations from Peter are hearsay under the rules of
evidence.  (There are exceptions to the rules of evidence, under
which some kinds of hearsay may be considered as evidence, but
none of those exceptions apply here.)  We have no way of knowing
how the author of Acts knows Peter's exact words.  If the author
was Luke, then we have no reason to believe that Luke was able to
know Peter.  On the contrary - following Rauni's admonition that
we must consider the customs of the culture of the time - we know
that writers of history at that time did not hesitate at all to
invent appropriate words to put in the mouths of the characters
they are writing about.

Re: Gospel of John - Pat quotes:

> "This is the disciple
>(author) who testifies to these things and who arote them down. We know
>that his testimony is true."

  This sentence (into which Pat *presumes* to insert the word
"author" - an insertion which is by no means 100% justified)
already begins to cast doubt on the authorship of this gospel: 
certainly John did not write these words, since they refer to
John in the third person.  Scholars generally assume, based on
such evidence, that chapter 21 (and perhaps chapter 1) were, in
fact, NOT written by the same person who wrote the rest of the
Gospel.  

  Who is it then, who is stating "we know that his testimony is
true"?  Is this an example of the "I'll vouch for him" story?  (A
rag-tag man comes into the bank and asks to borrow a huge amount
of money.  The banker objects that he does not know the man.  The
man says he will bring in his friend Mike, who will vouch for
him.  The banker objects, "But I don't know Mike!"   The man
says, "I'll vouch for him!")  

  Pat also says (using an argument often used by Christian
apologists):

> While true that John does not identify himself
>as the author, he writes as one who was there.

  I have on my bookshelves a large number of historical novels -
a genre I am very fond of.  I happen to know that the authors of
none of these books were actual witnesses to the events they are
describing.  But they write *as one who was there*.  That does
not for a moment make be believe that they were eyewitnesses to
those events.  Many of them are even written from the point of
view of an eyewitness.  But still I do not assume from that that
the author was an eyewitness.

  In summary, as to the gospel of John, it *may* be that it was
written by the apostle of that name, but we do not have the kind
of clear and convincing evidence to establish conclusively that
it was.  We cannot establish that the only explanation for the
existence of this book is that the apostle John wrote it.  It can
just as possibly be fictionalized history, propaganda material.  

Re: Polycarp - Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna 110 - 155 AD. 
He was martyred by being burned alive when he was 86 years old
(giving us a birthdate of ca. 69 AD), and the account of his
martyrdom is recorded in a letter from the church at Smyrna. 
Polycarp himself wrote very little.  The connection between
Polycarp and John is derived solely from Irenaeus, who writes of
his own memories of his youth, when he heard Polycarp (an old
man) telling of Polycarp's association with John, when Polycarp
himself was a very young man.  Irenaeus gives us no details of
what Polycarp said, but only generalities:  
  "... he [Polycarp] used to speak of his intercourse with John
and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord, and how he
would relate their words.  And everything that he had heard from
them about the Lord, about His miracles and about His teaching,
Polycarp used to tell us as one who had received it from those
who had seen the Word of Life with their own eyes..."  (cited in
Encycl. Britannica, 11th ed, 22:21)

  It has been argued also that the "John" whose disciple Polycarp
was, was not the apostle, but John Presbyter.

  So, that seems to indicate that Polycarp may have known John
the apostle.  What can that signify as to whether the gospel
according to John is an eyewitness account?

  The evidence is extremely tenuous, it would seem.  Please
remember that the quality and weight of evidence depends on what
must be proved, what objections must be overcome.

  If I tell you that I ran into Phil Phoot downtown yesterday and
had a nice chat with him, my saying so is probably sufficient
evidence to you that what I said is true.  If, however, you know
that Phil left town day before yesterday and flew to London,
intending to stay for a month, you will not be so likely to
accept my statement.  I will have to come up with some evidence,
more than my mere statement, in order to convince you that I did,
in fact, see Phil yesterday.  

  But let us say that you know that Phil died two weeks ago, and
you attended his funeral, and saw him lying in his casket, you
are not going to believe even my "eyewitness testimony" that I
saw Phil downtown yesterday and chatted with him.  You will think
of any number of likely explanations for my insistence that I saw
him, and none of those will consider that Phil has risen from the
dead.  I suspect that even if you *can't* think of an explanation
you will not believe that I saw him.

  Suppose that I also tell you that Phil told me that he has,
indeed, risen from the dead, and that he told me to tell you that
he now knows that your religion is false, and that you should
listen to what I will tell you is the true religion.  And that
the money he owed you when he died, you should give it to me. 
What kind of evidence would you want me to give you, to prove
that what I am saying is true?

  Whatever evidence you would want from me, that is the kind of
evidence I expect from Christians.  They don't have that kind of
evidence.

  One general comment:  we must discount all the NT writings to a
certain extent as testimony simply because they are not
disinterested.  None of the evidence is from disinterested
non-Christians.  The NT authors are writing for the sole purpose
of converting the reader to their beliefs.  It is propaganda.  It
is only natural that writers of propaganda embellish, "spin,"
invent, omit contrary evidence, put everything in the best light. 
We have seen the Mormons do it repeatedly, and we have recognized
it.  Being as charitable as possible, one could say that most
Mormons who exaggerate in their propaganda do so out of a sincere
belief that they are only telling what is the truth (or should be
the truth) in spreading a good message.  That is also, I think,
what the early Christians and NT authors did.

  That does not make it any less fictional.

Best wishes,

Richard
===========================================

Rauni wrote:
>Richard,
>I read your argument with amazement!
>I would suggest that we'd change a subject for a short while and
let you explain to me and others why you believe, if you believe,
that, lets say, Alexander the Great existed, fought the wars etc.
He did not write anything himself, so how do we know anything
about him - or any other person for that matter? Do the writings
of a history of the world be then all a fiction, because the
people who's lives the history describes, did not write about
these things themselves.  How do we really know that Abraham
Lincoln did what we have been told he did - and said what is
attributed to him? Is the entire human history a fiction, a
hearsay in your opinion?  I'd like you to apply same critique to
ALL history as you do to the Biblical record. And in all fearness
you should. If you do, honestly, then nothing is reliable.
>Maybe it is all in illusion! Maybe there is no such a thing as
>a accurate history. Maybe none of the people who we have
>learned about throughout our lives really existed at all,
>but somebody just made them up - maybe the people who made them
up were not real either.  Maybe everything is a hearsay - because
we do not have records that would pass "Richard's Court and
Jury".  Would you like to enlighten me on these?  History has
always been my favorite subject.
>It was my father's also.  He told me many war stories of
Russia-Finland wars. He used to say that the generation that
forgets or doesn't know, will repeat the horrors. He was there,
fighting those wars.  He did not write them down though.  If I
wrote them down, they would only be hearsay, not reliable record
at all - after all, I was very young (17) when he died - and he
had told me those stories many years prior to that. I am at loss,
Richard! And amazed! There is nothing in the past then, that we
can trust or count on as being true, really true. Maybe I am not
even here either... It's all an illusion.
>You have broken my bubble, Richard!
>Rauni
> 

Dear Rauni,

  First of all, please calm down and take a couple of deep
breaths!

  I have tried often enough to have discussions with you on these
issues, and I always seem to have the same difficulty with you. 
You try to put words into my mouth, you misinterpret what I say
(I assume unintentionally), and you paint things with too broad a
brush.

  I DO apply the same test to all historical claims as I do to
the biblical record.  If a historical record claims something
contrary to human experience or scientific knowledge, I assume
that it is myth or legend.  And so do you (or do you believe in
the literal truth of the reports of appearances of the Olympic
gods to characters in Greek and Roman history, or the miraculous
events told of in most ancient histories in all cultures?)  Do
you believe that Caesar's body was carried to heaven in a fiery
chariot, as reported by Suetonius the historian?  Do you believe
that the god Krishna rode with Arjuna in his chariot at the great
battle as recorded in the Baghavad-Gita?  If not, why not?  Do
you believe that Rama was helped by the Monkey King in the wars
recorded in the Ramayana?  If not, why not?  Explain to me,
Rauni, how you recognize when something is a myth or legend, and
when it is not.

  Because I do not find convincing evidence for an alleged
historical event which contradicts all human experience before
and since (the alleged bodily resurrection of Jesus), that does
not mean that I call into question evidence for historical events
which do not claim to be miraculous.  Please go back and read
about King Blik II in a previous post.

  Have you been following the general discussion about evidence
at all?  I thought I had given you my position on all these
points already.  An eyewitness is an eyewitness.  Direct evidence
is direct evidence.  Hearsay evidence is NOT eyewitness evidence. 
Circumstantial evidence is NOT direct evidence.  

  One may be justified in accepting hearsay or circumstantial
evidence to establish that King Blik II of Glog ascended to the
throne at the age of 42 and immediately went to war against Moog. 
But to believe that the king single-handedly slew 50,000 enemy
warriors based on that sort of evidence surely calls upon us to
be skeptical.  It's obviously a myth.  If the same sort of
evidence tells us that the king's body was carried to heaven by a
thousand angels riding winged elephants - we have a report from
someone whose grandfather actually witnessed this spectacle -
would you believe it?

  Do you believe the "Testimony of Three Witnesses" printed in
the front of the Book of Mormon?  Those are eyewitness reports. 
There are millions of copies of that report in print.  If you
don't believe it, and accept it as valid eyewitness evidence, why
not?

  Do you believe that Alexander the Great existed?  I do.  His
life and campaigns are recorded by numerous historians, and we
have physical artifacts and abundant archaeological evidence of
his life.   Legend has it that Alexander was sired by Zeus, who
appeared in the form of a dragon (probably an early version of
the Holy Ghost) and impregnated his mother.  I don't believe
that.  Do you believe that?  If not, why not?  

  The letter from the church at Smyrna reporting Polycarp's
martyrdom reports that the fire would not consume Polycarp's
body, so an executioner stepped up to Polycarp to kill him with a
dagger.  And when he plunged the dagger into the body, out came a
live dove and so much blood that the fire was quenched.  And all
the multitude were *eyewitnesses* to this marvel, according to
the letter.  Do you believe this *eyewitness* account, word for
word?  If not, why not?  If so, then do you believe the
testimonies of the eyewitnesses to the great manifestations that
occurred at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple?  If not, why
not?  If your answer is not the same to both questions, please
explain how the evidence is different.  Actually, it would seem
that the evidence for the angelic manifestations at Kirtland is
considerably better than the evidence for the dove emerging from
Polycarp's body.

  You perhaps have misunderstood a statement I made in an earlier
post, when I commented that some scholars make a good case that
an actual person Jesus never existed.  I personally think that
the evidence is sufficient to show that a man Jesus did exist,
that he was a popular teacher, and that he was executed by the
Romans for treason.  He may also have believed that he was the
messiah promised in the Jewish scriptures, and his followers
almost certainly believed it.  (Remember however that just
because people believe something does not mean that it is true!)

  Now, here is where you usually say something like, "That's what
the gospels say!  That Jesus was executed by the Romans!  That's
true, and you admit that.  Now, everything else the gospel writes
said must be true, too, and they said that he rose from the dead! 
Q.E.D.!"   That is, "if part of it is true, then all of it is
probably true."  If you can see that such a conclusion is not
warranted (John F. seems to be having something of the same
problem), then fine.  Because it is not warranted.  I think I
showed you that already.  (Remember the witness who said he was
born on Pluto?)

  I guess what I am trying to do with this whole discussion is to
subject the NT story to examination in light of the concept of
the nature and the weight of evidence.  What  facts are
sufficient to establish something with enough certainty that we
should accept it as a fact?  Why should we not be as demanding of
the evidence presented for Christianity as we are with the
evidence presented for Mormonism, or for Islam, or for any other
religious claims?

  There is another aspect to this whole question which is not
often mentioned, but it is crucial.  If I accept the reports of
the deeds of Alexander the Great or Abraham Lincoln as relatively
correct, or if I reject them as unbelievable, there is relatively
little harm done.  My life is not immediately affected (unless I
insist at a cocktail party that there was no such person as
Abraham Lincoln - I might be labeled a nut).  But those who
insist (like Ankerberg, and most Christians) that if I do not
accept their story of Jesus' resurrection and give up my present
religion (or lack of religion) my soul will burn in hell for all
eternity, I think I am entitled to more evidence than that
ordinarily used to determine a merely academic question such as
what Lincoln actually said at Gettysburg, don't you think? 
Suppose my religion teaches me (as does Islam) that if I *accept*
the Christian story my soul will burn in hell for all eternity,
don't you think I have a right - an obligation - to demand that
the Christian story have sufficient evidence to remove all doubt
from my mind that it happened the way they say it happened, if I
am to change my whole life? 

  The world is full - and has probably always been full - of
false prophets and false saviors.  How does one recognize a true
one from all the false ones?  Give me a test!  I have asked that
question of hundreds of Christians and Mormons, and I have yet to
get an answer.  Give me a test that I can apply to the evidence
offered on behalf of any religion or system of belief that will
clearly show that all the others are false, but that the one you
are promoting is true.  (Be careful - no question-begging tests,
such as "If it follows the teachings of the Bible, it's true!" or
"If its God died for your sins and was resurrected, it's true!") 

Best wishes to all,

Richard
===========================================

Neville wrote (Richard's comments are interspersed):

>Dear Richard,
>Thanks for sending these letters on the evidence for Christianty to me. I
>liked what Pat wrote. Do you know where in the Bible it claims to be the
>Word of God? And where Jesus said the scripture is God's Word. If Jesus was
>telling lies, how could he be the sinless savour?

Richard comments:
  I can't tell from the way you ask, Neville, whether you want me
to point out to you where the Bible claims to be the Word of God,
or whether you are checking to see whether I already know that. 
I presume the latter.  Yes, I am familiar with about twenty
passages that Christians use to show that the Bible claims to be
the Word of God.  None of them use the word "Bible," of course,
because there was nothing called the "Bible" until several
centuries after Jesus.  There were only many individual books,
some of which were held by the Jews to be sacred, to varying
degrees.

  So you can't strictly say that the *Bible* "claims to be the
Word of God."  Various authors of different books which later
came to be included in the Bible said that various things in
their own books they got from God, and several made reference to
"scripture" as being "given by inspiration of God" (e.g. 2 Tim
3:16).  But how does this help us?  What did Paul mean by
"scripture"?  At the time he was writing, much of the New
Testament (particularly the gospels and Revelation) had not yet
been written.  How can Paul be referring to works which are still
unwritten?  Does Paul include 2 Timothy under "scripture" as he
is writing it?  You would have to suggest that Paul meant
"Whatever is later decided by the councils of the church to be
included in the Bible canon, a couple of hundred years from now,
that is inspired by God"?  How could Timothy know, as he reads
this letter from Paul, that it is "scripture"?  And yet
Christians accept it as scripture.  

  There are also passages by Paul where Paul seems to be saying
specifically that what he is writing is NOT from God, but just
his opinion (1 Cor 7:6, 12, 25; 2 Cor 11:17).  Paul even corrects
himself at one point (1 Cor 1:14, 16).  Both his original
statement and his correction are now "scripture" and "inspired of
God"?

  What about materials in the Bible which can be shown to be
quotations from pagan sources.  Are they also "inspired of God"?

  What about the words which were spoken by prophets of God and
written in books which are NOT in the Bible (there are quite a
few).  Does this mean that they are NOT "scripture"?

  The biggest problem in any inference that the Bible's claim to
be the "Word of God" should itself be taken as any evidence of
the truth of the claim is:  it is so clearly a case of circular
reasoning:  To prove that the Bible is the Word of God, you quote
the Bible, which says that it is the Word of God.  Don't you see
how this is meaningless?

  The Koran also says that it is the Word of God.  The Mormon
Doctrine and Covenants says that it is the Word of God.  Do you
accept those claims as even a hint that those books are, in fact,
the Word of God?  (Or, to paraphrase John Farkas, Do those claims
"lend credence" to the inspiration of those books?)  Of course
not!  And rightly so.  So why then should we lend any more weight
to the same claim as made in the Bible?  (If you are tempted to
reply, "Because I believe the Bible because it is the Word of
God!" then you have succumbed again to that common problem of
Christian apologetics:  circular reasoning. 

>I read the Bible so God can speak to me, and when I do what the Bible says,
>I am helped.

Richard comments:

  I am glad that you can find help in doing what the Bible says,
that you find it a useful guide in your life.  I hope you don't
take it too literally, though, and stone apostates (Ex 22:20,
Deut 17:2-5), or kill your rebellious children (Lev 20:9, Ex
21:17, Deut 21:18-21, affirmed by Jesus Matt 15:3-9).  I hope you
don't take the advice of the Bible at Matt 5:29-30, Matt
19:16-21, Luke 6:36 (if you do, please send me $1000), Luke
14:33), Matt 6:25-34 (do you not have anything "put away" for a
rainy day?), etc.

  But whether you follow the Bible's advice literally and
completely, or whether you only do those things that seem right
to you and disregard the rest, even though it is "inspired by
God," any help that the Bible gives you in leading your life is
NOT evidence that it is from God, is it?  I get a lot of good
advice for my life by following the suggestions of many wise
writers - philosophers, poets, psychologists, thinkers - and very
few of them are Christian.  But they help me.  Is that evidence
that their advice is inspired of God?  

  So I'm afraid that even though you find great comfort in what
you interpret the Bible to be saying to you, I'm afraid it is NOT
evidence that the Bible is inspired.

  And, Neville, when you say "I read the Bible so God can speak
to me," you are again assuming the very thing that you and
Christians like Ankerberg are trying to prove.  If the Bible is
NOT in fact the Word of God, then it isn't God speaking to you
when you read it, is it?  No matter how wise or lovely or
inspiring those words may be, and however helpful they may be. 
How do you know that you are not being misled, that there would
not be better advice, greater wisdom, more knowledge, from some
other source which your devotion to the Bible now forces you to
exclude from consideration?

>I hope you don't mind this little Bible study, but these are some of the
>verses that have been a help to me.
> 
>Here are some verses that helped me to believe in Christ:
> 
>John 12:10-11, "But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus
>also to death; 
> 11  Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed
>on Jesus."
> 
>Why did the chief priests want to put Lazarus to death?
> 
>John 20:29-31, "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me,
>thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have
>believed. 
> 30  And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples,
>which are not written in this book: 
> 31  But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ,
>the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."
> 
>Why did Thomas believe?
> 
>The Bible is not against reason, we have a reason for the hope that is in
>us. 1Peter 3:15, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready
>always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope
>that is in you with meekness and fear:"
> 
>Proverbs 10:21, "The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for
>want of wisdom."

Richard comments:

  I am not surprised that if you read the Christian propaganda
material, which were written specifically to convince the reader
that Christianity is God's religion, and if you read it without
questioning it, you will believe it.  Of course.  That is true of
any religious propaganda.  

  What would you say to a Mormon who used the same argument to
you:  "Here are passages from the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine
and Covenants that have helped me to believe that Joseph Smith
was a prophet of God:..."?  With the implication, of course, that
if YOU will read them and accept them, you will also believe that
Joseph Smith was a prophet?  And yet that is exactly what you are
doing with your citation of Bible verses.  Of course if I
accepted those verses and believed them and acknowledged them as
"inspired of God" I would become a Christian.  But why should I? 
That is the whole point of this discussion:  What evidence is
there to convince me to believe it?

> 
>Have you seen this web site?
> 
>>> 
>Index to Biblical Contradictions
>http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~werdna/contradictions/cindex.html

Richard comments:

  No, I was not aware of this site.  Thanks for the URL.  I'll
take a look at it.

  Right now I'm occupied with the Habermas/Flew debate, referred
to by Ankerberg in his article.  I'm about 30 pages into it. 
I'll post some brief (I hope) comments when I've finished it.

>1. God is satisfied/unsatisfied with his works
>2. God dwells/dwells not in chosen temples
>3. God dwells in light/darkness
>4. God is seen/unseen and heard/unheard
><< 
> 
>Kind Regards,
> 
>Neville
> 
>...[snip quote from Pat 7/18/98, presenting NT eyewitness
claims]...
====================================

Sharon writes, responding to Richard, whose comments are
interspersed:

>Richard,
> 
>I read with interest your various correspondences.  Thanks for sharing
>them.  I gave my friend Charles everything you sent me and I think he will
>write to you--not to engage in a long discussion as he has no  time for that
>now--but mainly to share his story with you.  He says you  two share
>similar things. 
> 
>> don't you think I have a right - an obligation - 
>>to demand that the Christian story have sufficient evidence to remove all
>>doubt from my mind that it happened the way they say it happened, if I am to
>>change my whole life? 
>> 
>Yes.
> 
>>  The world is full - and has probably always been full - of false prophets
>>and false saviors.  How does one recognize a true one from all the false
>>ones?  Give me a test! 
> 
>"HOW can we KNOW when a message has not been spoken by the
Lord?...  
> 
>Richard, your question was asked thousands of years ago already! Here's
>your test:
> 
>...If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord DOES NOT TAKE PLACE
>or COME TRUE, that is a message the Lord has not spoken."  Deut. 18
> 
>"...a prophet...will be recognized as one truely sent by the Lord ONLY if
>his prediction COMES TRUE."  Jer. 28
> 
>Richard, in my estimation, prophecy is one of the strongest evidences that
>we have been given.

Richard responds:

  The test in Deuteronomy 18 is a fine test, and a good test. 
However, if you read it carefully, it is not just a test of
whether the prophecy is false, but whether the prophet is false: 
the penalty for the supposed prophet who utters a false prophecy
is death (Deut 18:20).  That is, one false prophecy - one
unfulfilled prophecy, however many fulfilled prophecies the man
may have uttered - condemns him.  The implication is that a
prophecy should be fulfilled within a normal lifetime -
otherwise, how could the false prophet be punished?  Ezek
12:21-28 specifically deals with this problem (the false
prophecies the fulfillment of which is claimed to be yet "far
off") by the Lord saying that no more will the fulfillment of
prophecy be "prolonged."

  One of the problems with testing the fulfillment of ancient
prophecies is that we can rarely be certain that the prophecy was
actually made and recorded before the fulfilling event.  The
prophecy of Josiah which Ankerberg mentioned, for example, is
recorded in the Book of Kings, which is generally dated from
Josiah's time.  

  Even disregarding that, however, the fulfillment record of
Biblical prophecy is not very impressive.  The last few years I
have been making a list of Biblical prophecies for my own notes,
and there are an awful lot of them that were not fulfilled and
never can be fulfilled.  The list is pretty long.  What I find
interesting is that Christian apologists who try to explain why
all these prophecies were not fulfilled use exactly the same
arguments that Mormons use to explain the failure of practically
all of Joseph Smith's prophecies.  So, if you can make excuses
for the nonfulfillment of all these Biblical prophecies, are you
willing to allow Joseph Smith the same latitude?

  (I debated with myself about including a list of failed Bible
prophecies here, but it would make this post too long.  I'll send
it to anybody who wants it.)

>"...the basic reality of God is plain enough.... By taking a long and
>thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to
>see what their eyes as such can't see:  eternal power, for instance and the
>mystery of his divine being."  Rom. 1

Richard comments:

  I think we see some circular reasoning here:  If we look at
what God has created, we will realize that God created it? 
Merely by choosing the transitive verb "create" you have biased
the statement.  I can just as easily (and just as justifiably)
say:  "By taking a long and thoughtful look at what exists, all
by itself, and has existed by itself as long as we can tell, we
can see how existence simply exists, without any outside force,
whether we understand all the details of it or not."
> 
>A strong evidence with me is birds.  Yep.  Birds.
> 

  Well, I'll bite, Sharon!  :-)  Does it have anything to do with
the Holy Ghost appearing in the form of a dove?

>I assume you are knowledgable of F.F. Bruce's "The NT Documents--Are They
>Reliable?"  and "The Defense of the Gospel in the NT"?

  No, I'm afraid I am not.  Are you familiar with Randell Helms'
book "Gospel Fictions" which shows the fictional nature of the
gospels?

> 
>Sharon    
> 
> 
==============================================================
Pat writes:

>Richard,
>   We have been trying to tell you that we think we have sufficient evidence
>for the claims of Christianity, but what we present is not acceptable to
>you.

  And I have been trying to tell you that your evidence does not
meet the standards of the ordinary rules of evidence, which was
the standard Ankerberg claimed he was using.

>    Earlier in you post you said, "If a historical record claims something
>contrary to human experience or scientific knowledge, I assume that it is a
>myth or legend."  Why so?  That is the only option, or the only one that you
>will accept? 
>    And you said, "Because I do not find convicing evidence for an alleged
>historical event which contradicts all human experience before and since
>(the alleged bodily resurrection of Jesus), that does not mean that I call
>into question evidence for historical events which do not claim to be
>miraculous."  So it is the miracle part that you object to?
>    If you are going to take the position that there can be no miracles,
>then hasn't your bias (against miracles) arbitrarily eliminated options up
>front?
>   A Christian, on the other hand, can believe in the laws of nature, but
>also be open to the possibilty of God's intervention.  Both can be
>consistent with his world view.
>    Can you tell me with absolute certainty that miracles cannot happen?
>Wouldn't you have to know everything about the way the universe works; how
>reality itself works?  Isn't the idea that miracles cannot or do not happen
>an article of faith in itself?

Richard responds:

  I think I referred you to my article on this issue at
<http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1998/1/981heart.ht
ml>.  The "bias against miracles" argument is often used by
Christian apologists to deflate criticism of biblical miracles,
and particularly the resurrection and virgin birth.  I think it's
a false issue, and it is misused by both sides of the debate.  

  I suggest that the issue is confused by the use of the word
"miracle."  The issue is not whether an event is a "miracle" or
whether a "miracle" has occurred.  The issue is whether a
particular person (Jesus) really died, and then a couple of days
later, after having *really* been dead, came back to life (and
then flew off to heaven with a lot of people watching).  I don't
care what you want to call it.  I just want reliable evidence
that it happened.

  I offered the testimony of a witness who had been born on the
planet Pluto.  That's pretty hard to believe.  Do you believe
what the witness said about his birthplace?  Would you believe it
if you had sufficient evidence?  If so, what would that evidence
be?  (Or are you biased against the idea of people being born on
the planet Pluto and coming to earth?)

  I probably should have stated my position (which you quoted) a
little more precisely:
"If a historical record claims something contrary to human
experience or scientific knowledge, I assume that it is a myth or
legend."  I should have added: "...unless there is a tremendous
amount of evidence which shows that it really did happen, and
there is no other explanation for that evidence."

  You ask whether I can tell you with absolute certainty that
miracles cannot happen.  Let me remind you that the burden of
proof is on the one asserting something, not the one contesting
it.  So, define "miracle" and then prove to me with absolute
certainty that such a thing can happen.  You have the burden of
proof.

>>...[snip of quote from Richard]...
>>...  Give me a test that I can
>>apply to the evidence offered on behalf of any religion or system of belief
>>that will clearly show that all the others are false, but that the one you
>>are promoting is true.  (Be careful - no question-begging tests, such as "If
>>it follows the teachings of the Bible, it's true!" or "If its God died for
>>your sins and was resurrected, it's true!")
> 
>The test of Christianity rests in the resurrection of Jesus.  When you look
>at Islam, the question is, did Mohammed return from the dead, or is he still
>in his grave?  

 No, Pat, you are doing exactly what I warned about:  you are
creating a test that only your religion can satisfy, without
showing us why that should be the test of the "true" religion. 
Why should the death and coming to life of the founder of a
religion be the only possible evidence that it is true?  I think
a much better test would be that the founder never died at all,
but is still alive after 5000 years.  Or that he is still walking
around, visible to anybody, and emptying the hospitals and the
graveyards, 24 hours a day.  I can think of a hundred better
tests than the one that happens to fit the Christians' claims
about Jesus.  

>If he is still in his grave, does he have the power to save
>anyone?  The same goes for any other religious leader.   How many have
>returned from the grave?   By the way, haven't most religious leaders urged
>their followers to follow their teachings as a means of enlightenment, etc.?
>How many claimed to have the power to  raise people from the dead.  

  Claims are easy, Pat.  This discussion is about the EVIDENCE
for claims.  And the issue of whether Jesus returned from the
dead is the VERY ISSUE we are discussing, precisely because you
Christians do not have any reliable evidence that it actually
happened.  You are begging the question terribly here, Pat.

>That is
>the claim that Jesus made - for Himself and eventually for us.  Jesus was
>not just a teacher whe asked people to listen to his teachings. He asked
>people to believe that He is God.

  Pat, you are preaching here, you are bearing your testimony,
not presenting evidence.  (Actually, if I wanted to be flippant,
I would ask you to believe that I am God.  Does that make me
God?)

>    Getting back to miracles.  Actually, there is only one important one
>when  God intervened in human history that we need to mainly concern
>ourselves with.  Paul was convinced of that, for he said,"For what I
>received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our
>sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on
>the third day according to the Scriputres, and that he appeared to Peter,
>and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred
>of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some
>have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally
>born." (1 Cor. 15:3-7)  If this did not actually happen, then Jesus' claims
>to be the only way to God can be dismissed.

  Again, can you prove to me that what Paul claimed actually
happened?  How does his claim have more credibility than the
claim of Joseph Smith?  Claims are easy to make, but hard to
prove.  

>    But, in order to dismiss the resurrection, there are still a lot of
>circumstantial evidence that would have to be explained away.  I guess that
>is the bottom line.  While I don't think that anyone can prove to you
>scientifically, that it actually occurred, ...

  Ah, but that's exactly what Ankerberg claimed:  that the
evidence to prove the resurrection was overwhelming....

>...the question is, what is the most
>reasonable explanation for the outcome of the empty tomb?  All of the
>explanations that I have heard require as much or more credulity than
>believing that Jesus is who He said He is.

  I thought I had posted the evidence rule about circumstantial
evidence.  It must be credible, not contrary to ordinary human
experience or the laws of science and nature, and it must not be
explainable by any other possible theory other than the one which
it is being called upon to support. 

  You also seem to be assuming that we must accept the gospel
reports - contradictory and late and third- or fourth-hand (or
even more remote) - as word-for-word reliable.  I fail to see why
we must do that.

  I really fail to see how the "empty tomb" report is that
important.  I can imagine all kinds of explanations for a report
of an empty grave or tomb which do not require one to assume that
the occupant has come back to life.  We are bound by Ockham's
Razor (the "law of parsimony") to take any of those mundane
explanations in preference to assuming that the body has come
back to life.  And circumstantial evidence won't do it, under the
laws of evidence.

  I have suggested (as have many others) several explanations for
the reports in the New Testament, utilizing what we know about
human psychology, about mass movements, about the culture of the
times, about literary and theological customs of the time, about
how legends develop.  With the evidence that we have, without
being credulous, those events are 100% explainable.  No miracles
occurred, no rising from the dead, nothing which cannot be
explained by what we know from our ordinary experience.  So,
shall we accept a perfectly mundane, ordinary explanation, or
shall we be credulous and take the most outrageous possible
explanation (which is no explanation at all, really, but a "great
mystery of Godliness")?

  The only miracle about the resurrection, it seems to me, is
that so many people insist on believing it with so flimsy
evidence for it.

  The burden of proof is still on those who claim that the
resurrection occurred.  The evidence that Christians have
presented does not pass the test of the ordinary laws of
evidence.  I have pointed out exactly why that is.  You have not
pointed out how my analysis is incorrect.

==============================
Evelyn writes (Richard's comments follow):

>Richard, dear!
> 
>I have to say that I am an eye witness to a vision of the cross right here
>in my living room in broad daylight. This occurred on Sept. 19th at noon in
>1989. I was very much a Mormon. When it faded I made a colored sketch of it
>in every detail my mind's eye remembered. I shared my sketch with a Navajo
>Mormon missionary who was hoping my lovely daughter would wait for him and
>for Christmas that year he made me a wood carving of my vision. Mormons
>don't want to look upon a cross. Yet this fellow had a personal
>relationship with Jesus and he treasured my experience as much as if he had
>it himself. It was one of the puzzle pieces that eventually came together
>to bring me out of Mormonism. Plus a dear friend and I had shared a
>vision/tongues experience in the Celestial room at the Chicago Temple on
>June 13, 1993 at about 3 p.m. This one revealed to us that  the Temple God
>was Satan. Another puzzle piece to add to the whole picture. A dream both
>my friend and I had on the same night-Sept. 26, 1993-where Jesus came to us
>and told us both-she living 25 miles from me-that He came for the whole
>world-not just a select group of people. Another puzzle piece. A Bible
>Study wherein we read in Job 33:14-18, 28-30 why we LDS sisters had our
>visions and dreams. You can read it for yourself. BINGO!!! The puzzle
>pieces finally fit together and formed a clear picture as to why we had to
>resign from the Mormon cult and from there we learned through the Holy
>Spirit what our purpose was and through our witness between us we have
>touched about one thousand people's lives and stopped them from going on to
>get baptized as Mormons (since Nov. 1993 when we finally had the guts to
>stop going to that cult.  
> 
>Two sisters ( I was her visiting teacher for 5 yrs). finding the truth
>through something supernatural. We both experienced it. WE both saw visions
>and had the same dream. I could no more deny what happened to me and Sandra
>than you can deny what happened in your life to cause your decision to
>leave the cult. We personally lived it and witnessed it and I can't deny
>it. I guess if someone threatened to kill me if I didn't change my story
>then they would have to kill me. Because I can't change my story. It really
>happened.
> 
>My minister told me that Constantine also had a vision of the cross and
>very few people in history have had that same vision (that recorded it
>anyway). 
> 
>Well, that's my  eyewitness report!!
>Best wishes,
>Evelyn

Richard comments:

  Dear Evelyn, I hope you know how much I respect you, the
sincerity of your beliefs, the continuing affection you have
shown to such a persistent atheist as I am.  You have shared with
me before (I don't recall whether you posted it on exmormon also)
some of your very moving spiritual experiences, and I find them
very moving.  I understand why you are so firm in the convictions
which you base on those experiences.

  And because of my affection for you, I am reluctant to say
anything about your experiences - which were so profound and so
personal.  But, in order to keep this discussion open, frank and
rational, I'm afraid that I must.

  Let me assure you, right off, that I do not doubt for a single
moment that you experienced what you report.  I am certain that
you did.

  But I must, in my own mind, place your experiences alongside
the experiences of thousands of others who have used similar
words to report similar (and, unfortunately, in some respects not
so similar) experiences.  Human beings have been having religious
experiences - dreams, visions, rapturous visitations, etc. -
through all of recorded history.  William James wrote his classic
"Varieties of Religious Experience" on this subject.  And when
one studies these religious experiences - from all cultures and
religions - one is struck by two things:  their great similarity
and their great dissimilarity.  They are similar in that the
person who has such an experience is profoundly moved by it, it
sometimes changes his life, it is the most real and vivid
experience he has ever had.  They are dissimilar in content,
however.  The experience had by the Muslim testifies of Mohammed
and Allah; the experience by the Christian is "proof" of Christ;
the Mormon sees Joseph Smith in the Celestial Kingdom, etc.  Can
all of these visions and manifestations be from the One God?  Why
- if the true God is Jehovah/Jesus - would a Muslim have a moving
religious experience which confirms his faith in Islam, which
teaches him that he will spend forever in hell if he believes in
the divinity of Jesus?

  Now, you will immediately object that you had a vision of the
Christian cross while you were still a Mormon.  Paul saw a vision
of Jesus while he was persecuting Christians.  Constantine saw
the vision of the cross while he was still pagan.  I think that
is no problem:  an obvious possible explanation is that the
vision involved something already present in the subconscious
mind.  What seems never to happen is that a Tibetan monk who
never heard of Jesus has a moving vision of him (and the monk has
to ask, Who are you? and the vision answers 'Jesus the Christ,'
and the monk has to say, I never heard of you.)

  To use such visions as hard evidence, however, causes immediate
problems.  We have your report of your visions and dreams.  We
also have the reports of the Three Witnesses to the Book of
Mormon.  Shall we give them equal credence?  We have Joseph
Smith's report of his visitation from the Angel Moroni (I'll not
mention the First Vision, since there seems to be contradictions
there in the reporting, just as there is in the reports of Paul's
vision).  Mohammed testifies of his communications with the angel
Gabriel.  And so on.  Either we must accept them all at face
value, or we must look for more solid evidence.  The ultimate
problem, of course, is that a "religious experience" can only be
evidence for the person who experiences it.  Even the Bible warns
us to "test the spirits" - but how do we test them?  If we are
believing something false, wouldn't an evil spirit confirm us in
that false belief?  The testimony of the vision or the spirit
must be tested by some other means.  

  Even if I were to have such an experience, I would have to
remind myself that a hallucination is a hallucination precisely
because it seems so real.

===============================
Bruce writes (Richard's response at the end):

>Dear Friends on this thread,
> 
>Since I last posted I went to Adam's funeral and have been on the road.  I
>have done some real soul searching, yes also prayer..  I wish to share with
>you all some my thoughts and considerations on this topic.  I have no outline
>for what I wish to say so I will simply let the thoughts come as they will and
>hope it is not too fragmented.
> 
>I was thinking how so many exmormons I've seen come the list with their belief
>in God shattered.  It seems common.  I think it is perfectly logical IF one's
>belief in God was based on the man Joseph Smith, Jr.  
> 
>Another thought I had was that if there is a God, it is obviously Its Nature
>to allow false prophets, false claims, false scripture and false religions.  
> 
>It should also be obvious that all religions cannot be true yet many religions
>have huge financial assets and large followings.  Based on this observation I
>must conclude that it is also God's nature to allow false religions to
>flourish and succeed and deceive.
> 
>Other thoughts I will save for another post.  (I just realized I have so
>many!!)
> 
>****
> 
>In the most recent discussion I read on this thread Richard asked Rauni the
>following questions: 
> 
>...[snip of Richard's request for a test to apply to religious
claims]...
> 
>Bruce:  Richard, allow me to answer according to my ability. Please keep in
>mind that most believers believe that God is Invisible and Jesus the same -
>Invisible.  I am not a witness to the resurrection of Jesus nor do I know
>anyone who is.
> 
>Invisible things are VERY real.  The very Love one feels for his or her family
>is very real yet entirely invisible.  I offer this only as one example and I
>could list many other examples of Invisible Realities but I don't feel the
>need to.
> 
>It is not my belief that it’s God's Nature to hide -- on the contrary.  I also
>don't believe that it is our job to "pierce the veil" so to speak and find
>God.  
> 
>In my humble opinion our part is small -- the greater part is His.
> 
>If you would like me to expound what I think "our part" is please ask.
> 
>***
> 
>I won't attempt to answer the other questions because I am not in a position
>to apologize for or defend certain things.
> 
>This thread has been most helpful to me and is very close to me.  I wish to
>thank all contributors.
> 
>Love,
> 
>Bruce

Richard's comment:

  I have no problem admitting that many "real" things are
invisible.  (I might point out that imaginary things are usually
also invisible.)  But the resurrection of Jesus is claimed to be
an actual, non-invisible event, and Ankerberg (and many other
Christians) also claim that the evidence for its having actually
happened is sufficient to convince any open-minded person, using
the ordinary rules of evidence.

  It seems to me, in fact, that one of the most convincing
arguments against the existence of the Christian God is the very
paucity of the evidence for the historicity of the events on
which that religion is based.  It seems utterly inconceivable
that God would make my eternal salvation depend on my acceptance
of certain things as facts, and would provide me with a brain,
yet not provide the evidence to permit me with good conscience to
acknowledge those supposedly essential truths as such, but rather
make them appear contradictory, absurd, and unbelievable.  Why
shouldn't the true religion make sense?

Best wishes to all,

Richard

Comments? (Please, no preaching or hate mail!) Write:  packham@teleport.com

©  1998 Richard Packham    Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included

TO RICHARD PACKHAM’S HOME PAGE


“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”    — John 8:32

The Death of Reason and Freedom

The Death of Reason and Freedom

ORIGINS

I was born into the church by parents whose lineage goes back to the founding of the LDS church. While they had their faults and mistakes, I was raised in a loving home with a very dedicated mother and father. They were wonderful examples to me of faith and endurance in trying circumstances and they tried every day to center their family’s life on the principles of the LDS Gospel.

I was born with a membrane disease in my lungs that nearly took my life at birth. My parents, extended family and several members of their local LDS congregation fasted and prayed many times on my behalf. My parents had already endured the devastation of losing their first-born son two days after his birth and they begged God not to take me. By virtue of the fact that I am writing this, I am there miracle baby. I was spared.

I went through all of the LDS Church rights of passage: Baptism at 8, priesthood at 12, president of my priesthood quorums, Seminary graduate/scripture mastery, mission at 19, marriage at 23 and two beautiful daughters by the age of 28. By all accounts I was on the highway to heaven. I was the good son with the ideal family, budding successful career, faithful service in church callings, and extensive understanding of the LDS gospel.

SHOCK

In January of 1995 I prepare to go through the temple for the first time in preparation for my mission. I have been taught through the years that I would learn all that was necessary to gain my salvation by going through the temple. I believe it to be the pinnacle of true worship. I have expectations of learning great things through the covenants and true order of prayer as these parts of the temple have been quietly intimated to me through the years by my parents and teachers.

My parents, grandparents, various uncles and aunts and myself meet at the Idaho Falls Idaho temple on a bright clear Saturday morning. I am a little nervous about the unknown but tremendously excited that I have reached this point in my life. I have one older sister who had made some serious mistakes and fallen away from the faith during her teen years. I am the first of my parents children to ‘make it’ to the temple and it is the healing balm for their souls to see their oldest son ‘staying the course’.

…Let me take you now through my first experience in the temple…

I get my temple clothing packet from the rental counter. The first two whispering questions surface to my conscious mind… 

~What is this clothing for?

~Why are there moneychangers in the temple?

‘No matter’ I rationalize, I am hear to receive enlightenment and make covenants in the House of the Lord. I go with my father to a small room that serves as some kind of office. There, the temple president explains to me the sacred nature of the Garment and the need to wear it from this point on as a shield and a protection. I go through the Washing and Anointing and New Name ceremony without much concern. I accept these ordinances based on references in the bible regarding the washing and anointing of priests and the periodic assignment of new names to various biblical patriarchs in the Old Testament.

 

I proceeded to the waiting chapel to sit and meditate until the time of the next session. The time has arrived and the company of people assembled in the chapel is ushered into the creation room (the Idaho Falls Temple still has separate creation, garden, telestial and terrestrial rooms with the video and audio segments appropriate for those parts of the ceremony queued up in succession). I sit and wait.

~The company is seated… 

~The lights grow dim… 

~I sit silently in the darkness…

~This is the beginning of the end…

“You will be required to take upon yourselves sacred obligations, the violation of which will bring upon you the judgment of God. For God will not be mocked…”

~I feel fear in the darkness…

“If any of you wish to withdraw rather than receive these covenants of your own free will and choice, you may now make it know by raising your hand…”

~I look around in the darkness…

~I see my family silhouetted in the darkness…

~I feel fear in the darkness… 

~I remain seated in the darkness…

I witness the creation and go into the garden room. The fruit is eaten. The fall has commenced…

“Take some fig leaves and make you aprons. Father will see your nakedness. Quick! Hide!”

“Brothers and Sisters put on your aprons.”

~I obey Satan…

I make my first covenant to obey God’s law and keep his commandments. I see the sisters bow their heads in submission to their husband’s. I am now ready to receive the first token of the Aaronic Priesthood with its accompanying name and sign. 

~What is a token?

~What will I do with it?

I receive the first token: A secret handshake.

~A secret handshake…

I make the sign. I make the covenant. “I, Jesse, solemnly covenant before God, Angels, and these witnesses at this altar, that I will never reveal the first token of the Aaronic Priesthood with it’s accompanying name and sign” 

~A secret combination…

All my life I have been taught from the Book of Mormon that secret signs, oaths and societies are from the devil. They are responsible for the destruction of civilizations and untold misery.

~I have joined a secret society…

~I am now a part of a secret combination…

~I feel fear…

Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden. I go into the telestial room. 

~Satan is looking at me…

“I have a word to say concerning these people. If they do not walk up to every covenant that they make at these altars in this temple today, the will be in my power…”

~I feel terror…

Satan is cast out. I receive more tokens and signs. I put on strange clothing.

~I look at my father…

~His face a mask of concentration, staring resolutely ahead…

~I look at my mother…

~Her face devoid of emotion, following by rote…

I look around at all the other patrons following en masse. All dressed in strange ceremonial clothing. All bow their heads and say yes.

~I am in a cult…

~My mind whispers quietly: Please God no…

“Each of you bow your head and say yes.” 

The company chants in unison: “YES”

~I am trapped…

~My mind screams: PLEASE DEAR GOD NO!

“EACH OF YOU BOW YOUR HEAD AND SAY YES.”

~I bow my head…

~I say “yes”…

“Raise both hands high above the head and while lowering the hands, repeating three times the words: O God, hear the words of my mouth”

~Everyone raises their hands…

~I raise my hands…

~Everyone repeats the chant…

~I repeat the chant…

The sound of many voices as one has a numbing effect…

~I am no longer an individual…

The True order of prayer is introduced. I feel relief. Finally a prayer to sooth my tortured mind. We gather in a circle around the altar. This sisters veil their faces. We do not pray. We make the signs of all the tokens of the priesthood. We each take the hand of the sister to our left in the patriarchal grip, raise our left arms to the square, and rest them on the shoulder of the person to our left.

~The officiator kneels…

~He begins to pray…

“Those in the circle will repeat the words of the prayer”

~We repeat the words of the officiator…

~Our words are a monotone chant…

~I am in a séance…

The sound of many voices as one has a numbing effect…

~I am no longer an individual…

~I feel my mind growing numb…

~I obey…

~I accept…

I pass through the veil after receiving the name of the second token of the Melchizedek Priesthood and go into the celestial room. Family congratulating me in hushed and reverent tones surrounds me. I sit for a moment to ponder.

~I am in a cult…

~Dear God what have I done?

~I am in shock…

~I have learned nothing…

I visit the temple repeatedly to gain more insight. None comes. I just accept it all as I have been taught to do and eventually the questions and doubts are silenced as the euphoria of accomplishment enshrouds me.

~I made it…

~I am one of the elite…

~This is the beginning of the end…

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

After my first time through the temple, I learn from my mother that the ordinances have been changed recently. I simply nodd in acknowledgement of here statement, still too shocked to really respond to this revelation. Looking back, it was the perfect time to broach the subject, as I would not give it another thought for 10 years.

While on my mission I become aware of the existence of the Masonic order. I learn that Joseph Smith was a Mason. I learn of the similarities between the Masonic and Temple ceremonies. I learned that the temple endowment ceremony was introduced within two months of Joseph Smith’s induction into the Masonic Order. I learned that Joseph restored the endowment to its full purity from its ancient and corrupted Masonic origins. I am too indoctrinated as a missionary to even entertain a concern about the whole situation. I accept it all.

In my second year of college in 1999 a fellow student, upon learning that I was a Mormon confides in me that he used to be a Mormon but that he left because of the Book of Abraham. As I listen, he explaines to me that is was nothing more than a common Egyptian funerary text and that Joseph Smith’s translation was completely false. He tells me how everybody told him to ‘read this or read that’ writing written by various apologists to explain away the problem but none of it made any sense. He summarizes by saying that maybe he doesn’t have enough faith. He cannot reconcile the glaring inconsistency. My faith was unwavering. I feel pity for him.

By the end of 2004 I am a traditional believing married Mormon Father of two with a home in the northern Utah suburbs and a college degree completed. I am in the elder’s quorum presidency, working in my field of interest and life is good. Over the last few years, I have encountered and ‘resolved’ to my satisfaction a multitude of evidences and questions that would shed doubt upon the divinity and authenticity of the church. I am a stalwart member. In October of 2004 I get a job offer within my company for a position at the corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. My wife and I prayerfully consider and accept the offer. This is the first big move for us. My wife’s father works at the Bountiful Utah temple and he and his wife are preparing to serve a mission. We sell our home during the Christmas season and move to a small suburb north of Atlanta in January 2005. We are now on our own.

Shortly after our move to Georgia, my wife relates to me a phone conversation she had with her parents (they call usually once a week) in which her father mentioned in passing that the Initiatory ordinance had been changed. The comment passes and the conversation continues. All is well.

~All is not well…

~Deep inside my mind, a thought emerges…

COLLAPSE

~It keeps gnawing at me…

~I can’t seem to shake it…

~I’ll get over it…

I take the time one day to peruse the junk mail and run across an Oprah mail order book club list. I am browsing through the titles when I come across the title: Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith by Martha Beck. I am intrigued and I read the brief description. I am always interested in why people leave the church if only to reinforce the various arguments I have constructed to bolster my faith. I do a search online at work and find that this is the daughter of Hugh Nibley, the most renowned church apologist. I read a few excerpts online…

~There is a crack in the foundation of my fortress of faith…

~The Book of Abraham is back…

~For reasons I know not, I cannot ignore it this time…

I begin to read. I read stories online about why people leave the LDS church. I read for two months. I collect their stories. I laugh with them, cry with them, I sympathize with them.

I am now in violation of question number six in the temple recommend interview: “Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?”

~I bow my head and say yes…

HOPE

~I begin to think…

~I begin to question…

~I begin to doubt…

~I begin to learn…

~I begin to awaken…

I spend every available break time at work reading on the Internet. I revisit all of my concerns with an objective point of view. The evidence is devastating. It has been here all along and I have refused to see it in the light of rational thought. I have forcefully refused to use the brain that God gave me for over 10 years. I drink from the fountains of knowledge like a man dying of thirst. I have never felt so liberated. I ask God if what I am doing is right. I feel an incredible sense of peace and love envelope me and I know in my heart and mind that what I am doing is right. 

~I am an individual! 

~I am alive! 

~I am free!

I am… married to a devout Mormon woman and I have two daughters. I am… in the elder’s quorum presidency. I am… in a large Mormon family that, with only 2 exceptions, is all devout believers. I start to think again. We are on our own now. Family is thousands of miles away. I begin to hope. If I make the information passively available, my wife will listen to the voice of reason. I share my concern of the changing temple ordinances with her. She is shocked but tries to understand and agrees that I need to prayerfully study my concerns to get the answers that I am seeking. I bring ‘By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus’ by Charles Larson home to casually read.

I am reading more and more each day. Finding a special thrill in entertaining serious questions and using my reason and intellect along with inspiration to find the truth. I am learning to love absolute truth without loyalty to any organization. It has truly set me free. I can question anything! I can reach my own carefully thought out conclusions! No information is off limits! I can truly exercise my mind! It is incredibly intoxicating.

~I know the truth now…

~The Mormon Church is a man made institution…

~It has no claim to exclusive authority…

~I know…

~I am so happy…

By this time I have stopped paying tithing. I am getting a better handle on the family finances as a result. I am cultivating a more tolerant and loving worldview. I am less judgmental. I no longer view life through the confining prism of Mormonism. 

~The freedom is intoxicating… 

~I don’t tell my wife… 

~This is my fatal mistake… 

Thursday, July 28th, 2005: we come to an emotional confrontation that lasts until four o’clock in the morning. Because I now hold the church in suspect, my wife tells me that our marriage is based on a lie. She tells me that she wishes that our children had never been born. She tells me that she does not want her daughters raised in a home with an unbeliever.

~I read the writing on the wall…

TRAPPED

Friday, July 29th, 2005: I come home from work and my wife tells me she has come to some conclusions. We sit and talk. She has read ‘By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus’. She tells me that the truth is anti Mormon. She has thrown away the book. She tells me that Satan is tempting me with the facts. She tells me her testimony is unshakable. She tells me that in order for her to support me in my journey, I must do things her way. I must study only the scriptures and approved church scripture study guides alone and with her. She tells me I must put aside the facts and the truth for now. If at the end I still feel that the church is not true, she does not know what she will do. She may go into therapy. She may leave me. She may take my children away. She has called her parents and my parents while I am at work. They have all agreed to open their homes to her immediately if necessary. She tells me that my parents are prepared to come to my home this weekend and if necessary, she will go back with them. She has set an appointment with the bishop for Sunday morning. 

~I am trapped…

DECISION

Saturday, July 30, 2005 – midnight: I cannot sleep. I go to the downstairs living room. I lay on the couch. I talk with God. I know the truth now. I love my family more than life itself. I would rather die than lose my children.

~Truth is irrelevant…

~Truth must be ignored once again…

~Facts must be buried once again…

~Freedom must be surrendered once again…

~I put on the blindfold…

~I put on the shackles…

~I am a voluntary prisoner in my own mind…

~I commit intellectual suicide tonight…

~I commit spiritual suicide tonight…

~I do this willingly, fully aware of the consequences, for the rest of my life…

~Freedom and reason are buried under the crushing weight of the foundation of my prison…

~I cry tonight… 

~My soul dies tonight…

I go to the bishop Sunday morning. I say what is necessary. I will conform. I talk to my parents that night. I will conform. Because I love my family more than life itself I will conform. This is the legacy of Mormonism: conformity. I voluntarily submit myself to the horrifically comforting mental conditioning once again. I close forever the covers of enlightening literature. I will read and understand only what is approved.

~It is so easy…

~It is so simple…

~Yes…

~I understand…

~I bow my head and say yes…

~But…

~Buried in the recesses of my conscience, there will always be a bright spark of pure truth…

~Lingering…

~I know…

REMEMBER US…

To those of you on the outside reading this, I beg you, please do not forget us. Please remember the hundreds of thousands of unique, special, beautiful individuals that are currently serving life sentences in the prison of Mormonism. Please do not cease to pray; to whatever God you serve, for our deliverance. Some of us have no hope for redemption or liberation. For the greater good, we willingly sacrifice our souls upon the altar of conformity and orthodoxy. Our pain is real. Our sentence is absolute.

I will always hold out hope that one day, perhaps within my lifetime though not likely, that pure truth will prevail. I hope someday that the desire to understand the truth at all costs will override the desire to maintain tradition and conformity. Until that day I will try to find some grain of happiness somewhere, anywhere, in the spiritual abyss that I have willingly entered into.

~I bid farewell to progress…

~I bid farewell to truth…

~I bid farewell to reason…

~I bid farewell to freedom…

To those of you on the outside, I thank you. I thank you for your courage. I thank you for your wisdom and insight. I thank you for your compassion and understanding. I thank you for your stories. I thank you for showing me the truth and allowing me to bask in its warmth, even if for a small moment. I love you all. I hope that truth will ultimately prevail. I hope that you and I will live to see it. 

Until that time, I go, quietly, shackled and blinded once more into the prison that awaits me. I bid you all farewell.

Remember me…

Remember us…

~I feel myself submerge once again into the group…

~I feel the darkness close around my mind…

~Strange…

~It feels so comfortable…

~So familiar…

~It doesn’t hurt very much anymore…

~I feel my identity slipping quietly away…

~I am no longer and individual…

~I bow my head and say yes…

Richard Packham Story

by Richard Packham

I left the Mormon church in 1958, when I was 25 years old.

That was a long time ago: David O. McKay was the prophet, seer and revelator. There were only eight temples, and none of them owned a movie projector. Every ward had its own meeting house, Sunday school was at 10:30 a.m, and sacrament meeting was at 7:00 p.m. There were no black people in the church (at least none were visible). Garments were in a single piece. The temple endowment ceremony still had the death penalties, the minister, the five points of fellowship. The Book of Abraham papyrus scrolls were still missing. New missionaries learned the language of the country they were assigned to by arriving there two weeks early.

Why, after all these years, would I still be concerned, then, about Mormonism? Why have I not yet come to terms with that distant part of my past and left it behind?

There are several reasons:

First, I am descended from a long line of faithful Mormons. All of my ancestors in every branch of my family, for four, five and six generations, were Mormons. The Mormons and their history are my heritage. It is my only heritage. It is where I come from. None of my Mormon ancestors were great or famous, but I have read their stories, and they were good people. They were faithful, hard working, and deserving of my respect. The history of my family is inevitably intertwined with the history of the Mormons, their migration to Utah and the settlement of the mountain West. I cannot ignore Mormonism and Mormon history without forgetting my past.

Second, my family are still faithful Mormons, almost all, including my parents, my brothers and sisters, my older children, my grandchildren, my nieces and nephews. Their lives are permeated by their Mormon beliefs. Their day-to-day existence is intertwined with the activities of the busywork-making church, their friends are all Mormons, their hopes and fears are Mormon hopes and fears. I cannot ignore Mormonism without ignoring the lives of those I love.

Third, the Mormon church is becoming more prominent and more powerful in our society. In my state (which, unlike Utah, is not thought of as a “Mormon” state) it is now the second-largest religious denomination. Our present U.S. Senator is a devout Mormon. Mormons are occupying influential positions in our state and national governments far out of proportion to their population in the United States. The church has become a mega-wealthy financial enterprise, with billions of dollars worth of money-making businesses and property all over the country – a fact of which most non-Mormons are unaware – with wide-ranging (and usually unseen) influence on many aspects of American life. Its income has been reliably estimated to be millions of dollars per day, not only from its thousands of businesses but also from its faithful members, who are required to donate a minimum of ten percent of their entire income to the church.

The Mormon church boasts of its rapid growth. This growth, in addition to its stance in favor of large families, is because it maintains a large voluntary corps of full-time missionaries who are a well-trained and thoroughly indoctrinated sales force whose sole purpose is to bring more people into the church. Their goal is not to convert, but to enroll, not to enrich lives, but to baptize, not to save sinners’ souls, but to enlarge membership rolls. This missionary force is not directed by caring clergymen, but by successful businessmen, because the Mormon missionary effort is a business, and a very successful business, when judged by business standards.

But the ultimate goal of the church, as stated publicly by its early leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (but not mentioned so publicly by more recent Mormon leaders), is to establish the Mormon Kingdom of God in America, and to govern the world as God’s appointed representatives. The church is already influential in the making of secular policy, as was proven not so long ago when the Equal Rights Amendment was defeated with decisive help from the Mormon church.

To me, the possibility that the Mormon church might control America is a frightening prospect.

Those are some of the more important reasons why I am still vitally interested in Mormonism and the LDS church.

Mormons will tell you that Mormonism is a wonderful way of life, bringing happiness in this mortal existence and, if we earn it by our faith and obedience, ultimate joy (and “power and dominion”) in the next. The promises and hopes it gives to its believers are very attractive and inspiring. Why, then, did I reject that? Here is the story of my own particular journey through (and, eventually, out of) Mormonism.

My Mormon childhood was very happy, with loving and nurturing parents and family. We were “special” because we had the “Gospel,” meaning Mormonism. In my small town in southern Idaho we Mormons easily were the dominant social and political group. We felt sorry for those not so fortunate, for whatever reason, that they were not blessed with the gospel. Our lives centered around the church. We had perfect attendance records at all our meetings. We studied our lesson manuals. It was a wonderful life. Wonderful because we had the Gospel, for which we thanked God several times a day, in every prayer and every blessing pronounced over our food.

We Mormon teenagers participated in school activities, of course, with non-Mormons, but we also had our own church-sponsored events, which were just as good, or better. Really good Mormon teenagers did not date non-Mormons, because of the danger of “getting involved seriously” with a non-Mormon, which would lead to the tragedy of a “mixed marriage” which could not be solemnized in the temple, and which would thus ultimately mean the eternal loss of the possibility of entering the highest degree of heaven, the celestial kingdom. None of us dared to risk that.

So my high school sweetheart was a good and faithful Mormon girl. We fell deeply in love and were devoted to each other without risking any immoral physical activity beyond long kisses and hugs (no touching of body skin or of any area below the waist or around her breasts, etc.). When she graduated from high school and I was in my third year at Brigham Young University, we two virgins got married in a beautiful ceremony in the Idaho Falls temple, and started to have babies. We were the ideal young Mormon couple.

I enjoyed my four years at BYU, being surrounded by devout fellow- students and being taught by devout and educated teachers. One professor of geology was also a member of our ward. I was just learning about the age of the earth as most geologists taught it. I asked him one Sunday at church how he reconciled the teachings of his science with the teachings of the church (which said that the earth was created about 6000 years ago). He replied that he had two compartments in his brain: one for geology and one for the gospel. They were entirely separate, and he did not let the one influence the other. This bothered me, but I didn’t think more about it.

After my graduation from Brigham Young University I was offered a scholarship at Northwestern University to work on a master’s degree. So my young wife and I with our two (at that time) babies moved to Evanston, Illinois, and for the first time in my life I was surrounded by non-Mormons. I was the only Mormon in my university program. This did not intimidate me in the least. I felt that I was intelligent enough, knowledgeable enough about religion, and skillful enough in debating skills (I had been a champion debater in high school) to discuss, defend and promote my religion with anybody. I soon found takers. Since it was no secret that I had graduated from BYU, many of my fellow graduate students had questions about Mormonism. They were friendly questions, but challenging. For the first time in my life I had the opportunity to spread the gospel. It was exhilarating. We had some wonderful discussions. Even my professors were willing to listen, and so I educated my linguistics professor about the Deseret Alphabet and my German literature professor about the similarities between Goethe’s worldview and Joseph Smith’s.

Some of my fellow students, however, had tracts and other literature about the Mormons which they had obtained from their own churches. They asked me questions that I was unable to answer satisfactorily because they were based on facts I was unfamiliar with. I had never heard about the Danite enforcer gangs, about the Blood Atonement Doctrine or the Adam-God Doctrine. Where did these horrible allegations come from?

I realized that in order for me to defend Mormonism I would have to know what its enemies were saying about it, so that I could be prepared with the proper facts. I had never been an avid student of the history of the church, although I had earned the highest grades in the third year high-school seminary course in church history. I mean, what was there important to know about church history, beyond the story of how Joseph had his visions, got the plates, translated them, and how Satan had persecuted the Saints until they got to Utah? I was more interested in doctrine: the Truth, as taught by the prophets. The Truth, eternal and unchanging.

But now I began to read church history, both the authentic histories published by the church and the awful lies and distortions published by its enemies. How different they were! It was almost as if the authors in each camp were writing about different events. And the university library, where I spent a good deal of time, seemed to have more of the latter than the former.

After one year I got my master’s degree in German and accepted a teaching job in Ogden, Utah. We returned to Zion and had our third child.

In Ogden I encountered for the first time the writings of the Mormon fundamentalists, who believe that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were true prophets, but that the church since then – especially since the abandonment of the practice of polygamy – is in apostasy. At the time I was studying the doctrines and history of the church extensively, and it seemed that the fundamentalists had a lot of historical information that was not otherwise available. For instance, they relied heavily on the Journal of Discourses, a multi-volume work containing practically all the sermons preached by the church leaders in the first thirty or forty years after coming to Utah. Many years ago, I learned, every Mormon home had a copy of this work. But then the church leaders decided that it wasn’t necessary for the members to have it, and ordered all copies to be turned in. It became a rarity. Why? Every anti-Mormon work I had read relied heavily on quotations from the sermons in the Journal of Discourses. But the present-day church leaders almost never referred to it. Why? It bothered me, but I put the thought aside.

While I was living in Ogden, a fundamentalist publisher brought out a photographic reprint of the entire Journal of Discourses, in hard binding, for $250. If I had not been a poor schoolteacher I would have bought it, because I yearned to be able to read the wise words of the early leaders. But the question of why this work was suppressed by the church still bothered me. I put the thought aside.

One of the accusations made by anti-Mormon works I had read was that Brigham Young had taught that God had revealed to him that Adam was, in fact, God the Father. To substantiate this, they quoted Brigham’s sermons in the Journal of Discourses. If only I could check for myself! I was reminded of a strange comment made after class one day by Sidney B. Sperry, the BYU professor and authority on Book of Mormon and Bible studies. I had taken a Book of Mormon class from him, and admired him greatly. One day he said mysteriously to a small group of students who had stayed after class, “I think, when you get to the Celestial Kingdom, you may be greatly surprised to find out who God really is!” Wow! That implied that Dr. Sperry knew some secret that not many people knew; that we students didn’t really know all there was to be known about this; that the prophets had not told all. What could that secret be?

As I researched this more, and found again and again the same words quoted from Brigham Young’s Journal of Discourses sermons, it began to fit together: Adam was really God!

After two years teaching high school in Zion, I was offered a scholarship to continue my graduate studies in Baltimore. We accepted. Again we were surrounded by Gentiles, and again I had a large research library available.

Certain events in church history really began to bother me. Why had Zion’s Camp failed? Why had the Kirtland Bank failed? Both of these enterprises were organized for the benefit of the church by God’s prophet, who promised that they would succeed. It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that God was not doing much to direct the affairs of his church. And, as I thought about it, the same could be said for the experiments in the United Order (holding all property in common), plural marriage, the Deseret Alphabet – all projects begun with great promise, directed by God’s anointed leaders, and all of which failed and were soon abandoned. It bothered me, but I put the thought aside.

What began to bother me most was that the church did not seem to be telling the entire truth about many events in its past. The evidence I read seemed to leave no doubt that the church had encouraged, if not organized, the enforcer gangs called the Danites or the Avenging Angels. Too many independent and primary sources testified of their activities. At that time in my researches the true story of the Mountain Meadows massacre was becoming known, an atrocity which the official church history passed off as the work of Indians, whereas it was becoming clear that the primary blame was on the church. The massacre itself was bad enough, but to me the subsequent whitewash by the church was worse, so far as the divine nature of the church was concerned. It bothered me, but I put the thought aside.

Among the papers of my grandfather, who had served a mission to England in 1910, I found a number of tracts and pamphlets that he had used on his mission. One was the transcript of a debate in 1850 between John Taylor (then an apostle, and on a mission in England) and a Methodist minister. Among the topics discussed in the debate was the rumor, common at the time, that the Mormons were practicing plural marriage. Taylor vigorously denied the rumors as a vicious lie, and firmly asserted on his honor that Mormons were good monogamists. At that very time, however, Taylor himself was married to twelve living wives. All of the top men in the church also had multiple wives at that time. How could a prophet of God lie so blatantly? It bothered me, but I tried to put the thought aside.

The Adam-God problem continued to occupy my mind. I finally decided to try to settle the matter. If the doctrine were true, I was willing, as a faithful member of the church, to accept it. If it were not true, I needed some explanation about the apparent fact that Brigham Young (and other church authorities of his time) vigorously taught it. So I composed a letter to Joseph Fielding Smith, whom I respected very much, and who at the time was the Church Historian and the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. If he would only answer my letter! I spelled out to President Smith my dilemma: the evidence seemed to be clear and uncontroverted that Brigham Young had taught that Adam is God the Father. But the present church does not teach this. What is the truth?

I secretly thought (and perhaps hoped) that President Smith would write back and say something like: “Dear Brother, your diligence and faith in searching for the truth has led you to a precious secret, not known to many; yes, you can be assured that President Young taught the truth: Adam is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to deal. The church does not proclaim this precious truth because we do not wish to expose the mysteries of God to the mockery of the world. Preserve this secret truth as you do the secrets of your temple endowment.”

I received a short and clear answer to my letter from President Smith. It was quite different from what I had expected. He wrote that such an idea was unscriptural and untrue, and completely false. He did not deal with the evidence that Brigham Young had taught it. He ignored the whole problem as if it didn’t exist. It bothered me, but I tried to put it out of my mind.

At the time I was auditing a class at the university in the history of philosophy. It was fascinating. I had no idea that ordinary human beings had given such thought to some of these questions. It occurred to me that my religion had plenty of answers and explanations, but it provided those answers without even really realizing what the questions were. The answers my church gave seemed rather flimsy and superficial, not even dealing with the really basic problems. I was introduced to the study of ethics, and was surprised to find the same thing: my religion, which claimed to be the ultimate, final and complete answer, was not even an introductory primer to the great ethical problems with which great thinkers had been dealing for hundreds of years.

However, I remained a faithful member of the church, fulfilling all my church obligations, attending meetings, observing the Word of Wisdom, wearing my temple garments. But I was struggling mightily to reconcile the church’s inconsistencies, lies, and dubious past with my faith in its divinity.

It was at a single moment one day in the university library when I was pondering this problem. I was suddenly struck with the thought, “All of these problems disappear as soon as you realize that the Mormon church is just another man-made institution. Everything then is easily explained.” It was like a revelation. The weight suddenly lifted from me and I was filled with a feeling of joy and exhilaration. Of course! Why hadn’t I seen it before?

I rushed home to share with my wife the great discovery I had made. I told her what I had learned: the church isn’t true!

She turned away and stomped up the stairs. She refused to accept anything I said critical about the church. It was the beginning of the end of our marriage.

I tried to continue my church responsibilities, primarily as ward organist. But I found it more and more difficult to sound sincere in public speaking, public prayer, or participation in class discussions. During the next summer my wife took the children back to Utah for a visit, and I felt it was silly for me to continue to wear the temple garments. And why shouldn’t I have a cup of coffee with the other students, or have a glass of wine at a party? I had never tasted coffee or alcohol in my life, but there was no reason now, I felt, to deprive myself of those pleasant things. The next year was an armed truce in my marriage.

My wife left me suddenly, with no warning, taking the children. Her friends at church helped her escape, and she returned to Zion and divorced me. A last-ditch attempt at reconciliation failed when she said that her return would be conditioned upon my returning to the faith. I realized that I could not do it, however much I wanted to keep my family. Of course she got custody of the children. She remarried four years later, her new husband a faithful priesthood holder whose wife had left the church. (How ironic, that a church which places such a high value on family ties actually destroys the very thing it claims to promote!)

In the years since leaving the church I have never regretted my decision for a moment (other than the fact that it caused me to lose my wife and children). Subsequent study has given me a hundred times as much damning information about the church and its history as I had at the time of my original decision to leave it. Many Mormon friends and family members have tried to convince me that I made a mistake, but when I insist that they also listen to what I have to say about my reasons for believing the church to be false, they soon abandon the attempt, even though I assure them that my mind is open to any evidence or reasoning I may have overlooked. They are convinced that I apostatized because of sin, lack of faith, stubbornness, pride, hurt feelings, lack of knowledge or understanding, depravity, desire to do evil or live a life of debauchery. None of those reasons is correct. I left for one reason, and one reason only: the Mormon church is not led by God, and it never has been. It is a religion of 100% human origin.

My wife believed, I think, that since the church had taught me to be honest, loving, faithful, hard-working and a good husband, my leaving the church would mean I would soon become just the opposite. She was probably not alone in believing that I would soon be a shiftless, godless, miserable bum, dead at an early age of syphilis and alcoholism.

However, my life since leaving the church has been a rich and rewarding one. I have been successful in my profession. I married a lovely girl with beliefs similar to mine, and we now have two fine adult sons whom we raised with no religious training whatsoever, and who are as admirable human beings as one could ever want their children to be. We have prospered materially (probably more than most of my good Mormon relatives), and our life has been rich in many other ways as well, rich in good friends, in appreciation of the beauty to be found in our world. We have explored all the intellectual and spiritual riches of our human heritage and profited from it all.

And as I am getting older I also realize that I have no fear of death, even though I have no idea what to expect when it comes. In that regard I find I am unlike many Mormons, who are desperately worried that they have not been sufficiently “valiant” in their devotion to the church to qualify for the Celestial Kingdom. Again, how ironic it is that a church which begins by promising its members such joy and happiness actually causes them such worry and despair!

I am still proud of my Mormon heritage. I still enjoy doing genealogy work (I have more complete records than most of my Mormon family members). I still love to play and sing some of the stirring old Mormon hymns. I still keep a good supply of food on hand. And I still believe in eternal progression: things just keep getting better and better.

As a postscript: Apostle Bruce R. McConkie admitted that Brigham Young did teach that Adam was God, and that the church has indeed lied about its own history. (read his letter here) He says that Brigham Young was wrong, but he has gone to the Celestial Kingdom; but if you believe what Brigham Young taught about that, you will go to hell. The fact that the church can put a “positive spin” on these admissions is truly mind-boggling.

My Story

If you’ve been hanging around cyberspace awhile, like me, and frequent places like RfM you’ve probably seem me around. I used to be Koriwhore on RfM, but have not been contributing to that forum for about a year. I’ve moved on to PostMormon.org, which is far more civil and less snide and cynical. It has it’s fair share of criticism, and critical thinking, but it’s just not deeply committed to enabling a victim mentality, the way I think RfM is. It’s more aimed at providing support for those going through the difficult process of disengaging from Mormonism, which is something I’ve been trying to do for the better part of a decade. According to my therapist, I need to shrink the relevance of Mormonism in my life.

Over on PostMormon.org, I’ve dropped the “whore” from Koriwhore and now I’m just Kori.

The reason I chose the name Koriwhore in the first place was because over the years since my awakening to reality, I’ve come to identify more and more with the secular humanist character of “Korihor” in the Book of Mormon, whom Joseph’s Myth obviously modeled after Thomas Paine, (the author of “Common Sense” and “The Age of Reason”) who was the inspiration for Jefferson, Adams and Franklin (all of whom embodied the humanist enlightenment principles to which I can only aspire) when they collaborated on the Declaration of Independence. Koriwhore is the most reasonable character in all of scripture and presents an existentialist philosophy on a par with Fredrich Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, who is another one of my intellectual and spiritual heroes. Korihor also seems a whole lot like another one of my heroes from Mormon history, William Law, who was apparently the one man in Nauvoo with a shred of integrity in the 1840’s, and was responsible for seeing to it that Joseph’s Myth got exposed for what he was, an adulterer and a fraud, which led to a whole series of events that culminated in Joseph’s death, unfortunately, before he was brought to justice for his serious crimes.

I started out at a relatively realistic and well educated TBM, mostly defending the faith on the internet, first at Alt.Religion.Mormonism, which is totally unmoderated and ends up being completely contentious, hostile and just plain nutty. Thankfully somebody over there told me about New Order Mormons, which was like a breath of fresh air for me. I couldn’t believe there was actually a place where people spoke honestly about the doctrines I had problems with, mainly racism, but also all other forms of bigotry that I found to be a complete contradiction of Christ’s commandment to love our fellow man (and presumably women) as ourselves.

Personally I’m a BIG believer in the concept that relationships are far more important than religion, any religion.

I’ve been officially out of the Mormon church since 9-11-02, exactly a year after my faith was shattered by the events of 9-11, which convinced me that the god I believed in prior to 9-11, the loving interventionist great white gawd / “Father in Heaven” of Mormonism, didn’t really exist.

If he had, he would have intervened to prevent the senseless death of 3,000 innocent people on 9/11.

I had one question after 9-11, “Where was god?” I went to listen to the man I considered to be the prophet of god at the time, Gordon B. Hinkley and he had nothing meaningful to say, at all.

I told this to a former missionary companion of mine who wanted all the details of my departure. He said, “Well, what did you expect him to say in response to 9-11?”

How about something, anything, meaningful? How about anything to put this in perspective? How about, we’re not alone. God is in charge. God knows why this happened, even though we may not understand the ways of God.

But no, nothing. He was completely devoid of anything meaningful to say after 9-11. When I turned to him or to god, I felt like I was looking into an abyss.

The real confirmation for me was the General Conference following 9-11, where GBH just seemed morally ambivalent about the war against those who carried out 9-11. What kind of a prophet is morally ambivalent? Where’s the righteous indignation? Where’s the fire and brimstone, the doomsday predictions, the call to repentance like you’d expect from a real prophet? Instead he expressed his disappointment in the direction the youth were headed in and his response was to demand that women limit their earrings to one per ear and men should have no earrings and neither should have tattoos.

“OMG! Here 3,000 innocent people have just been senselessly killed by religious fanatics and God’s biggest concern is fashion accessories?”

That just seemed like the most trivial and superficial thing a prophet could have said in light of the state of humanity.

To me it became apparent in light of the events of 9-11 that religion was used to dehumanize others in order to justify inhumanity and self preservation. What I witnessed on 9-11 was the most barbaric kind of tribalism and religion was a major part of the inhumanity. I had to seriously question my religious beliefs after 9-11 as a former Muslim and convert to Mormonism. I rejected religion after 9-11.

I felt like Ellie Weisel in “Night” when he witnessed the execution of an angelic child during the holocaust and believed that he’d just witnessed the execution of god.

For the first time in my life Nihilism seemed more tenable than my previous world view.

Fortunately for me that hopeless state of dark, hopeless despair didn’t last long.

From the smoldering ashes of 9-11 heroes started emerging.

Common men and women who knew full well that there was a good chance they’d be sacrificing their lives as they went into the smoldering ruins of ground zero. Undeterred, they went in anyway, simply because they loved their fellow men and women.

They cared more about rescuing their fallen comrades than they did about preserving their own lives. That was one of the most beautiful and ironic moments I’ve ever witnessed.

I recognized that bravery and courage. It was the same kind of humanity I’d seen on the faces of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, knowing full well there was a good chance they wouldn’t survive, but that their sacrifice was worth securing freedom from tyranny.

I realized after 9-11 that we were alone in this world to solve the problems we’d created, which was a little terrifying at first. For the first time in my life I had this overwhelming feeling that there was no God who was going to intervene on our behalf.

If we were going to overcome the worst aspects of ourselves, it was up to us to do so, individually and collectively. We each had a choice to make, am I going to be governed by the worst aspects of myself, fear, hatred and dogma that leads to the kind of inhumanity of 9-11, the holocaust and MMM or am I going to be governed by the best aspects of my self, compassion, love, conscience, respect, responsibility and common human decency?

I knew what choice I had to make. Not only for my own good, but for the good of my children and of future generations and civilization and the evolution of mankind.

In the interest of survival, I had to reject anything barbaric, tribal and unkind.

Years later, recently in fact, I found this, message from the Dali Lama in response to 9-11.

“Today the human soul asks the question: What can I do to preserve the beauty and the wonder of our world and to eliminate the anger and hatred-and the disparity that inevitably causes it – in that part of the world which I touch? Please seek to answer that question today, with all the magnificence that is You.

What can you do TODAY…this very moment? A central teaching in most spiritual traditions is: What you wish to experience, provide for another. Look to see, now, what it is you wish to experience – in your own life, and in the world. Then see if there is another for whom you may be the source of that.

If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another. If you wish to know that you are safe, cause another to know that they are safe. If you wish to better understand seemingly incomprehensible things, help another to better understand. If you wish to heal your own sadness or anger, seek to heal the sadness or anger of another.

Those others are waiting for you now. They are looking to you for guidance, for help, for courage, for strength, for understanding, and for assurance at this hour. Most of all, they are looking to you for love. My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

That works for me. That’s the kind of thing I would expect a real prophet to say, but this guy doesn’t even claim to be a prophet.

Like the Dali Lama, my religion is very simple, my religion is kindness.

Now I can answer that question for myself and for my children, “Where was God on 9-11?”

God was in the hearts of those who responded out of love for their fellow man. God is love. Love is divine. We’re all kindred people. We’re in this together. This is the only world we’ve got and its not up to God to save us, it’s up to us, each one of us individually.

It’s like Carl Sagan said here

“Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known. ”

and like Einstein said here

“A human being is part of a whole called by us “Universe”, a part limited in space and time. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison to us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”

Carl Sagan, again, “A religion that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by traditional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.”

And Christopher Hitchens, “Consider for just a moment what it means to be the first generation to receive the images we’ve received from the Hubbel Space Telescope and to unravel the human genetic code. The awe, wonder and meaning you derive from considering the implication of those two things for just a moment in time, will prove more profoundly powerful than what you could derive from a lifetime of considering the simplistic fairy tale myths of religion.” from his lecture on “The Moral Necessity of Atheism”

That works for me.

It’s like Einstein’s friend, Max Planck said, after Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity was proven by an astronomy experiment 17 years after he developed the theory, “You have never doubted what the result would be, but it is beneficial, nonetheless, if now this fact is indubitably established for others as well. The intimate union between the beautiful, the true and the real has again been proven.”

This for me is a much more tenable and useful world view than the one I inherited and hopefully it will serve me and my children and future generations well as a guide for their lives, how to interact with their fellow men and respect themselves, life, and the lives of their fellow men and other life forms and the source of life, nature, in all its forms.

If not, then hopefully they will at least free their minds from the mental slavery of dogmatism in the free thought tradition of great men like Socrates, Plato, Lao Tsu, Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, Paine, Jefferson, Lincoln, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Einstein, Sagan, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchins.

Although I consider myself more of a pantheist than an atheist, I tend to identify with the natural world view currently being described by guys like Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris far more than any theist (supernatural) world view I’ve been exposed to, although I’m not as convinced as those three that religion is as evil as they claim it is.

But I do agree with them that religion, like all other forms of tribalism, does far more harm than good because it actually inhibits progress and the evolution of mankind by conserving the anachronistic traditions we inherited, long past their usefulness.

Mormon racism, homophobia and misogyny make a great case in point.

They do far more to dehumanize others than they do to accomplish the kindness Christ commanded.

Any kind of elitist, patriarchal, caste system, like Mormonism, violates Christ’s main commandment to us, to love our fellow man as ourselves.

We’re all kin, kindred people, the same kind, genial spirits, genius, 99.9% genetically identical, yet somehow we still manage to blow that .1% that makes us superficially different, completely out of proportion and wage war over it, over and over again, endlessly and we’re running out of time for devoting our precious resources to destroying ourselves and our planet instead of progressing, nurturing and healing the true source of our sustenance, nature and our living, breathing planet.

If we, individually and collectively, simply remember what the Dali Lama claims humanity has forgotten, that, “We are all one.” we can realize the authentic utopian dream, here, now, in real life, realizing our authentic connection to each other and to the larger universe/nature/cosmos.

© 1998 Richard Packham Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included.

Richard Packham

RICHARD PACKHAM: Autobiography

Autobiography of RICHARD PACKHAM

CHRONOLOGY

  1933 Born in Pocatello, Idaho  
  1939 Started school in Blackfoot, Idaho
  1946-1950 High school in Blackfoot
  1950-1954 At Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah
  1952 Married Elaine Kirby
  1953 Daughter Laura Jane born
  1954 Son George born
  1954-1955 At Northwestern University
  1955-1957 Teaching at Ben Lomond High School, Ogden, Utah
  1955 Son Kirby born
  1957-1960 Studies at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
  1960 Divorced by Elaine
  1960-1961 Fulbright year in Munich, Germany
  1961-1964 Teaching at University of California, Berkeley
  1964-1990 Teaching at City College of San Francisco
  1965 Married Janet Riggs
  1967 Son John born
  1970 Moved to 363 14th Avenue, San Francisco
  1970-1974 Law studies at University of San Francisco
  1972 Son David born
  1974 Admitted to California bar
  1974-1984 Part-time practice of law in San Francisco
  1990 Moved to Roseburg, Oregon
  1991-1994 Worked at Crawford & Associates (attorneys)
  1992 Admitted to Oregon bar, began practice of law with Crawford firm
  1994 Elected director, Douglas Soil & Water Conservation District, four-year term
  1994 Appointed by county commissioners to Douglas County Museum Advisory Board (resigned 1998)
  1995 Retired completely from practice of law
  2001 Founded The Exmormon Foundation, served two terms as president
  2005 Drama critic for News-Review (local Roseburg newspaper)
  2005 Began column “View From The Hill” on alternate Sundays for News-Review
 

 

I was born in Pocatello, Idaho, on September 21, 1933, as the first child of Howard Packham and Delmar Lucille Walton. I was named Howard Richard Packham, after my father, but was never called Howard. (I was called “Dickie” until I started school, when I insisted on being called “Richard”, and have been called that ever since. Until 1974 I signed my name “H. Richard”, but gave up using the “H.” when I started practicing law.) My father was a college student at the University of Idaho, Southern Branch, and my mother had just graduated from high school in Pocatello. He was the youngest son of a large farming family at Groveland, outside of Blackfoot, Idaho, and had just turned 21. (He had been born July 30, 1912, when his parents lived in Pleasant View, Weber County, Utah. She was an only child, adopted at birth. (She had been born September 9, 1915, in a home for unwed mothers on 25th Street in Ogden, Utah. Her biological parents are unknown.) Her family were all railroad people, on both sides. My parents lived with my mother’s parents, whom I called “Ba” and “Nana” in their home on Lincoln Street, on the hills at the western edge of town.

My sister Jane Ann was born not quite two years later, on July 19, 1935. Since my father had a family to support, and it was the depth of the Great Depression, he worked at several successive jobs, but the most permanent one was as an apprentice undertaker at Hall’s Funeral Home in Pocatello. Soon the family moved to Blackfoot, where my father also worked at several jobs, but finally worked permanently at the Brown, Eldridge Company, which was a combination furniture store and funeral home. He got his embalming license and worked as an embalmer and sold furniture. For a while we lived in an apartment above a store at the corner of Broadway and Pacific, but then my parents bought a small wood-frame house at 556 N. University Avenue. It had a large yard, a shed and chicken coop and a small garage. The cess-pool had to be dug out and recovered, and the garage had to be extended to fit the car, but it was a home. Jane Ann and I shared the front bedroom, after it had been calcimined. Mom had to cook on a coal stove for a while, but eventually she got a new electric stove. Dad also enlarged the cellar, simply by digging a bigger hole. The entrance to the cellar was a large trap-door in the floor of the back porch. The heat for winter was a large, brown enameled coal stove, which was set up in the living room when the weather got cold, standing on its special metal plate, but stored away in the summer when we didn’t need it.

There were a lot of deaths in the family while we lived in the “little gray house” on University. Grandpa Packham was killed in a farm accident, Uncle Austin Packham died (Aunt Phyllis had died not very long before), my mother’s father (“Ba”) died of kidney disease, Great-Grandpa Hickenlooper died, and finally Grandma Packham died. The loss I felt most was Ba. He left Nana no insurance, only her house, which she had to rent out to have any income at all. She got rid of all her furniture, rented the house for $55 a month, and moved in with her parents- in-law, Grandpa and Grandma Walton in Pocatello, with extended visits to us and to her sister Aunt Dee in Logan. (Aunt Dee’s real name was Lillie Paull Johnson, married to Christian Hilman Johnson.)

In 1939 I started school in the first grade at Central School, in Miss Bell’s class. There were two first grade classes at Central; the other first grade teacher was Mrs. Grimes, and she looked mean. I was very happy to have Miss Bell, who was a cheerful and attractive young woman. I was very disappointed when I learned that, even though she was a teacher, she did not know the answer to every question I might ask.

In third grade I had Miss Smith as a teacher. She was a friend of my grandmother’s somehow, and she took a special interest in me. When I finished third grade, she arranged to have me promoted directly to fifth grade, skipping the fourth grade. She felt that I could do it, and that the only thing I would need to learn that was taught in the fourth grade was the multiplication tables. So I spent the summer drilling the multiplication tables with Nana. I had no trouble with the schoolwork, but it was very difficult being the youngest kid, by far, in the class. I did not have any close friends at school, and it was not really until my last years of high school that I came to be accepted.

Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and life changed for all of us, even though no one in my immediate family had to go fight. Rationing of strategic materials began immediately, first gasoline, then sugar, then shoes, then all food. Anything made of metal or rubber was no longer available. Standard brands of many things were no longer available, such as Hershey chocolate, Kleenex tissues, Log Cabin syrup, and substitutes appeared on the market that were not nearly so good.

Many kids saw their dads drafted into the military. My best friend and neighbor, Donny Williams, with whom I often played, spent the war with his dad in the Navy while his mom took over his father’s job of managing the dime store. But my dad was considered to be in an “essential” occupation, namely, undertaker, and there were only two in the whole town. So he was deferred from the draft.

About 1942 Mr. Peck, who managed Brown-Eldridge (and he might also have been an owner – I don’t know) joined with my dad in a partnership to open their own funeral home. Brown, Eldridge closed for good, and my folks bought an old boarding house at 288 North Shilling Avenue, just a few blocks from the house on University, at the corner of East Alice Street in Blackfoot, with the idea of remodeling it into a funeral home with living quarters upstairs. I think they paid $3200 for the house.

We moved into the house in the summer of 1942. It was a larger house than we could fill, with one bedroom on the main floor and five bedrooms on the second floor. Jane Ann and I each got to choose a room of our own upstairs. The folks took the downstairs bedroom so that they could be close to the telephone. We had an entire room to keep our toys, and two of the bedrooms were just closed off.

Construction materials were very hard to get, and very expensive, because of the war effort, but remodelling began late in 1943 or early 1944. No sooner than the work began, I got scarlet fever, which meant that we were quarantined. Jane Ann was sent to Pocatello to live with Nana, and I spent weeks in bed on the first floor in the living room while the carpenters pounded away upstairs. I listened to soap operas on the radio and learned to knit and crochet. The cost of the remodel was so great that we could not afford to build the bedrooms in the attic, as originally planned, so the apartment had only two bedrooms, one for the folks, and one for Jane Ann and me (and for Nana, when she was staying with us). The attic bedrooms were not built for another couple of years.

My little brother Dean was born January 8, 1945. I was very happy at the prospect of having somebody to play with. He was a very beautiful baby, but very fussy; it seemed he always had colic. Jane Ann and I often babysat.

The war ended finally in 1945, and the nation’s life began to go back to normal. Blackfoot was in the national news when the Atomic Energy Commission decided to build a major reactor in the desert west of town.

In 1946 I entered Blackfoot High School. I enjoyed English, math, history, Latin, Spanish, and public speaking. I did not like science or physical education. In fact, I did not ever enroll for P.E., even though it was required. I also did not take any music classes, even though I enjoyed music. I had started piano lessons in 1940, after I had finished the first grade, and continued with them for about six years, even going once a week to Pocatello on the train or in a car pool for lessons. I was allowed to quit for a year or two when I became very bored, and then took lessons again for a couple of years while I was in high school from Gaylord Sanford in Pocatello, who taught me popular music, harmony, and playing by ear.

In the summer of 1947 Dad bought a new funeral coach and decided to take delivery at the factory, which was in Lima, Ohio. Mother was pregnant, so Dad took me. We took the Union Pacific’s train “City of Portland” to Chicago, where we stayed with relatives of friends in Blackfoot. I had a wonderful time sightseeing (Museum of Science and Industry, Morrison Planetarium) and shopping (Marshall Field). From Lima we drove home. It was a long trip because the new engine had to be broken in by staying under 35 mph for the first 1000 miles. Although Dad was anxious to get home, I convinced him to take a different route going home so that we could see different country, so we drove through northern Missouri, Kansas and Colorado to Salt Lake. I think it took us six days to get home.

Michael was born September 17, 1947.

In high school I was active in speech and, in my senior year, in debate. I participated in the state speech tournaments every year, in dramatic reading, oratory, retold story, radio drama and other categories, always getting an “excellent” or “superior.” In my senior year in 1950, my partner Larry Elison and I were the state champions in high school debate for the State of Idaho. We went on to become the Northwest regional champions and thus eligible to compete in the national high school debate contest, held that year in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The school did not have the money to pay for our trip, so we used our savings and took the bus to Kenosha, just north of Chicago. Bud Miller also went, since he was the state champion in another speech category. We tied for seventh place in the nation in Kenosha.

I started to earn money in 1946 when I got a job delivering the local newspaper, the Daily Bulletin. My route was on the far side of town, where I didn’t know the streets and sometimes the streets were just gravel and difficult to negotiate on a bike. I earned about $3.50 per week, and hated the job. After a couple of months I looked for something else, and was hired at Jay’s Drugstore, in the Eccles Hotel building. Jay Bramwell was the owner. I was stock boy, janitor, and soda jerk, as needed. I don’t think I was a valuable employee, even though I earned only about $8.00 per week, at 35 cents an hour, working after school and on Saturdays. After a year, Steve Clayton, who had the same job at Nixon’s Drug Store, and whose parents were friends of my folks (who were also friends of Mr. Nixon), quit, and Mr. Nixon offered me Steve’s job. I told Jay that I had been offered another job, and he was very cheerful, paid me what he owed me, and didn’t even ask for time to find my replacement. I worked at Nixon’s all through high school, from 4 to 7 in the afternoon, every Saturday and every other Sunday afternoon, earning about $12 a week, at 40 cents an hour. In the summers I worked full time.

My ancestors on both sides had been Mormons, for several generations back. My family was always very active in the Mormon church, but especially after my father was called to be Second Counselor to the Stake President, about 1943 or 1944, when President Williams succeeded President Duckworth, who had died. We were all quite surprised, because Dad had not really held any other important positions in the church, and was relatively young.

About 1942 or 1943 the two Blackfoot wards were divided. The First Ward was divided into the First and Third Wards, and our ward, the Second Ward, was divided into the Second and Fourth Wards. We ended up in the Fourth Ward. The Second Ward church building was kept by the Second Ward, and our new ward (and the new Third Ward) had to meet in the Stake Tabernacle building. The Third Ward got to meet upstairs, in the main meeting hall, and we got the basement, which was ordinarily used only for dances, plays, dinners and other recreational activities. Since the times were not good for building new church buildings, we spent about five years sitting on folding chairs in a drafty, echoing rec hall. The only organ was an old pump organ, which I learned to play quite well, first as Sunday school organist and then ward organist.

My high school had about 400 students. I did not make many friends in high school until my junior year. I knew almost everybody, of course, but I was younger than my classmates (and, until I was a junior, than almost everybody else). Also, it was so easy for me to get good grades and perform well in class that I was considered odd. My nickname, used by almost everyone among my classmates, was “professor.” It was not intended to hurt; it was just what everybody called me. During my four years of high school I got one B (in biology, because I refused to do a “project”) and one C (in geometry, for cutting up in class, as all of us did in Mr. Pipheny’s classes). All the rest were A’s. I graduated as class Valedictorian.

The summer before my junior year the Kirbys moved into our Ward. Mr. Kirby was the new cashier at the sugar factory. His daughter Elaine was entering the high school as a freshman. I got to know her a little at church, where we were in the same Sunday school class. When school started, each day on his way to work Mr. Kirby dropped Elaine off at the corner of Alice and Shilling, and she would walk the few blocks to school. Sometimes I would walk with her. That fall Elaine was asked to play a piano number for church, and Mrs. Kirby invited me to play instead a duet with her. I pedaled my bike several evenings out to the end of Alice Street and then out North Asylum Lane to the Kirby house to practice the duet with Elaine, and we performed it in church. In November there was to be a “Sadie Hawkins Day” dance, based on the comic strip Li’l Abner, where on Sadie Hawkins Day each year the single women were allowed to chase the single men, and any man who got caught had to marry the girl who had caught him. For this school dance, the girls invited the boys, and Elaine invited me. We started dating very regularly. She was the first regular girlfriend I had ever had, not counting a couple of childhood infatuations. During my junior year Elaine and I went everywhere together and spent as much time as possible together. At the end of the year, though, the Blackfoot sugar factory closed down permanently and her father was transferred to the sugar factory in Garland, Utah, just across the state line.

During my senior year I was much more accepted as an equal by the other kids in my class, and I also dated other girls, even though I was still very fond of Elaine and missed her very much. She and I wrote to each other a lot, and I sometimes took the bus to Garland (or she took the bus to Blackfoot, or to Idaho Falls to her older sister’s) and we would spend a weekend together.

In September 1950 I entered Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, as a freshman. I lived in the men’s dorms, which were just a row of seven surplus two-story wooden army barracks on the campus, with another wooden building a block away to serve as the cafeteria. Rent was $17.50 a month for a single room, $15.00 per person for a double. My parents were generous and got me a single. That included one clean sheet and pillowcase each week. Meals were simple but hearty. At BYU I learned to enjoy a large breakfast, with oatmeal, eggs, bacon, toast, juice and milk. I don’t remember what a monthly meal ticket cost (about $35?). Tuition was $50 per quarter.

When my parents took me to BYU for my freshman year, Mother was pregnant again. She wanted a girl very much, but didn’t think her chances were good, after the two boy babies. I told her I thought she would have a girl, and made a bet with her that if it was a girl I would get to name her. She had a baby girl on January 12, 1951, and I gave her the name Suzanne, which Mother modified to Susan.

The very first college class I ever attended was Photography, at 7:45 a.m., which I took as one of my required science courses. The new Science Building had just been completed, and many of my classes were held there, including the foreign language classes. I wanted to take second year college Spanish, to continue my high school Spanish, but as I read the catalog, it said that second year language courses were “upper division” courses, and freshmen were not allowed to take upper division courses. So I took beginning German, a “lower division” course, which I immediately liked. I completed one year of German, and took the second year of German in an accelerated summer course the following summer. So by the beginning of my sophomore year, when I found out that the rule about upper division courses did not apply to foreign languages if you had had them in high school, I was further advanced in German than I was in Spanish. In my sophomore year I took third year German and second year Spanish, and realized that I liked German better.

I enjoyed college very much. Except for the first quarter, when I got a B-minus in English (that was to be the worst grade I got at BYU), I did very well. I met a lot of other students, and I no longer had to suffer the prejudice of being younger than everyone else. I dabbled in some extra-curricular activities such as drama and radio, and started working on my family genealogy. I found it inspiring to be surrounded by Mormon students and Mormon teachers, who could relate every subject studied to the Gospel.

Soon after starting college I looked for a job, and got work at the university’s photography studio, which did all the university’s photo work, including all the portraits for the yearbook. I worked there all through college, starting in the print darkroom and eventually becoming a portrait photographer. I enjoyed that work very much. Because there were generally about three portrait photographers, working about the same hours, about a third of all the BYU yearbook class portraits were taken by me during the last three years I was there. During my last two years I also worked in the BYU Press, which published the yearbook, as a layout man.

During my sophomore year I moved out of the dorm and into a nice private home, where I shared a room with Var Lindsay, who was about four years older than I. I knew him from Blackfoot, where his family also lived in the Fourth Ward. He had recently returned from a mission for the church, and was studying agriculture to be able to run his family’s farm. We did not have a lot in common, but we became very good friends because he had a wonderful sense of humor, a deep faith, and a sincere consideration for others. There were four fellows sharing two rooms on the lower level of this nice but small home, with beautiful patio and view out of our windows. The house was actually surrounded by the campus, so that it was like living on campus still. We still ate at the men’s cafeteria.

It was Var who suggested that Elaine and I should consider getting married. I had assumed that once I was out of college, if Elaine and I still felt the same, that we might get married. I didn’t think that we could get married while I was still in school. Elaine was just graduating from Bear River High School in Tremonton. But the more we talked about it, the more it seemed a wonderful idea. My parents seemed pleased, primarily, I think, because they were worried that otherwise we might get carried away and get ourselves into trouble and become “morally unclean.” And so we got married on August 27, 1952, in the Idaho Falls Temple. My parents gave us a beautiful 1950 Studebaker as a wedding present, costing $1500, so that we had a car.

Elaine and I moved into a small basement apartment near campus, for $50 a month rent. It was a dingy place, with concrete walls and tiny windows near the ceiling. Our furniture was cast-offs from our families. My parents promised to help us by paying our rent, although they actually helped us a great deal more. Elaine enrolled one quarter as a freshman, but the second quarter she only took one class, I think. By that time she was pregnant. We were quite surprised. I guess we thought that the ordinary laws of reproduction did not apply to us.

Before we had been long in the basement apartment, the old refrigerator we had bought stopped working, and we decided to look for a new apartment. We found a nice one-bedroom apartment at 344-B North 1st West, for $65 a month, in a small four- apartment brick building. It was much nicer, and on June 27, 1953, our baby Laura was born. On the previous Mother’s Day Elaine had woke up with terrible abdominal pains, and her appendix had to be removed. Being as far along in her pregnancy as she was, it was frightening. But the baby, Laura Jane, was born just fine, about 2 a.m. on a hot summer night, and I was able to watch from the door to the delivery room, which they had had to leave open for ventilation.

My Spanish professor had organized a small three-week tour of Mexico for the summer of 1953 for about a dozen students. There was still one place unfilled, and he offered to let me go on the trip for $100, for everything: transportation, hotels, and meals. Since he knew that I wanted to be a Spanish teacher, and had no first-hand experience in a Spanish-speaking country, he urged me to go. I had a week before the departure date to decide. I asked my folks for the money, which they sent me, and Elaine took the baby to Garland for a visit while I was gone. The trip was wonderful, educational, and great fun. Two carloads of BYU students, with the professor’s Mexican-born assistant as guide. We drove through New Mexico to El Paso, along the Rio Grande to Laredo, where we crossed into Mexico, to Monterrey, then to Mexico City, from which we made many day-trips to sights nearby. Everything was new and exciting. We had good hotels, fine meals, and visited all the cultural and historical monuments. It was a wonderful trip. We returned via Guadalajara and Chihuahua.

When I went to Garland to pick up Elaine and the baby, I learned that Elaine had wrecked her dad’s car, and Laura had somehow been caught or thrown so that both the baby’s legs had been broken, and she was in the hospital, with her legs and lower body in a cast. Elaine had also been hurt, but not nearly so seriously. It was terrible. Fortunately both healed soon.

Elaine never drove a car again as long as we were married.

Poor Laura also had to go through another ordeal as a baby. She had been born with a large red blotch on the skin under her chin, and it had to be removed chemically, or she would have had that large birthmark on her neck.

Laura was still a baby and Elaine was getting used to being a mother, when we learned that she was pregnant again. George was born on June 17 just after I graduated from BYU, in 1954.

I had majored finally in German, with minors in Spanish, English and Secondary Education. I had qualified for my Utah teaching certificate, and in my senior year had done student teaching in English at BYU high school (the laboratory high school for the university’s teacher training program) and at Provo High School, where I taught Spanish. Provo High needed a Spanish teacher, and I was asked to take the position without pay, but with student teaching credit. That year I was taking a full course load, teaching at both BYU High and Provo High, working at the photo studio, at the BYU Press, and also at a privately-owned printing press in Orem that was printing the Provo High School year book. It was a busy year.

I had applied for graduate school scholarships in German at several schools, and was offered two: at Washington State in Pullman, Washington, and at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Because the offer at Northwestern did not require my furnishing any services, as did the one from Washington, but was a cash stipend plus tuition, we took the Northwestern offer. The scholarship was for $1000. My parents again offered to pay our rent, and we figured that we could cover our other expenses with the scholarship money. My parents sold the Dodge limousine which they had bought for the business, I learned later, in order to be able to finance my year of study. I got a ride with some people who were driving to Chicago that summer so that I could look for a place to live. It was very discouraging. Housing was still scarce, and very expensive. The only thing I could find was in a large apartment house just off Howard Street, where Chicago and Evanston adjoin, in a crowded, run-down neighborhood, unlike any place I had ever seen. It was $110 a month, for a living room, bedroom and kitchenette, and I leased it for 10 months.

Elaine and I packed our things into a large rented trailer, put our two babies in the Studebaker and set off across the plains, pulling all we owned behind us.

At Northwestern we were very cordially welcomed into the German Department. I had difficulty keeping up with all the readings in German, because my German had not been practiced much. But the faculty was excellent, and I learned a great deal. Most of my courses were with Professor Jantz, but I also had courses with Professors Goedsche, Spann, and Leopold. The latter was the linguistics expert. I was the only Mormon, and it was a new experience for me. One of my classmates, Arthur Adams, who became a very good friend, was a devout Lutheran. Another was a devout Catholic. Those two often had at it over religion, and they only joined together to have a go at the Mormon. It was all very stimulating and challenging. I realized that I didn’t know nearly enough about my own religion to defend it adequately, and I particularly felt my lack of knowledge about the history of the Mormon church. I had never been interested in the history of the church – it had always seemed to me of secondary importance.

But now I was challenged to find answers, and I knew that if I could only find those answers I would be able to defend the church and perhaps even convert some of my friends. I discovered that the university library had an excellent collection of materials on the Mormons, including some of the anti-Mormon material that my friends had obviously got their incorrect information from. I realized that I would have to read those false reports in order to know what to refute. I had no doubt that these anti-Mormon books would be so clearly the work of hate-mongers and spiteful people that their fallacies and lies would be easy to expose to the light of reason and fact.

I found it not so easy as I had expected.

When the school year ended in 1955, I received my Master’s degree in German, with a straight A record. My parents took the train to Evanston for the commencement, and took the babies back with them on the train, to make our drive back easier.

Professor Jantz had urged me to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship for the following year, so that I would have a chance to spend some time in Germany and improve my German. I was hesitant, and perhaps a little frightened. I think I felt that I was getting in over my head. All I really wanted to do was to teach high school, not get a Ph.D. At his urging I filled out all the papers for the application. As soon as I dropped the application in the mail box, I regretted it, and immediately went home and wrote a follow-up letter withdrawing my application. Instead I wrote applications for teaching jobs at places in the West. I received a telegram from the Ogden City Schools, asking if I could take a job teaching English, German and Latin. I responded that the only Latin I had had was high school Latin. The superintendant replied that he would offer me the job if I could just keep a chapter ahead of the students. I accepted, for a salary of $3300 per year ($100 extra because of my Master’s degree). So we moved to Ogden.

We found a nice little house with two bedrooms, garage and a large yard at 598 Chester Street, in a very nice residential area just off the main street in the northern part of town and about five minutes from Ben Lomond High School.

Ben Lomond was a brand new school, only a few years old, and a very nice school to teach in. I had one German class (a combination of first and second year), one first year Latin, one second year Latin, and two tenth-grade English classes. I enjoyed them all. I made many friends among the faculty. Ogden being a town with a large non-Mormon population (one of the West’s major railroad hubs), some of my best friends on the faculty were not Mormon. Fabian Giroux, who taught history, had, in fact, converted to the church, served a mission for the church in Czechoslovakia, and then left the church to become a devout Roman Catholic! I continued my studies of church history, and discovered some of the off-shoot sects of Mormonism. At that time the Journal of Discourses was just being republished privately (the church had not kept it in print, and had, in fact, tried to keep copies out of the hands of the public), and I considered buying a copy, but it was very expensive, so I did not.

Since Ben Lomond was a relatively new school, it was working at establishing its traditions. During my second year a contest was held to select a school hymn and a school anthem. I wrote the lyrics (to the melody “The Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond”) that won the hymn contest.

Another reason that I was not anxious to take my little family to Germany was that we knew that Elaine was pregnant again, and Kirby was born on November 26, 1955.

In some ways the two years in Ogden were very happy. We had a nice house. We were able to get a piano. I liked my job very much. We were just close enough, but not too close, to our families. I taught one quarter in the evening at Weber College, and earned $275, which we spent on our first television set (with built-in record player). In other ways things were not so good. Elaine had three little babies to take care of, and she was often stressed. We had fights and disagreements. I made a feeble attempt at suicide after one of them, for which Elaine was very angry at me.

To make some extra money during the summer, I tried selling encyclopedias door-to-door, but was a complete failure. I also worked one summer as an assistant playground supervisor for the city of Ogden, which required that I learn to drive a school bus to take kids on outings into the canyons above town.

During our second year in Ogden I received a letter from my former professor Dr. Jantz, who had accepted a position in the German department at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He had arranged for Arthur Adams to follow him there as his research assistant, but Arthur was going to give up that post (a research assistant could only serve two years), and he wanted to offer it to me, if I would be interested in pursuing a Ph.D. after all. Of course I would also have tuition paid, and he would guarantee me scholarships sufficient to finance my completion of the degree. Although I had been very uninterested before in getting a doctorate, this seemed to be an offer that I could not refuse. I gave notice at Ben Lomond and we began to make arrangements to move to Baltimore.

I asked my friend Arthur to find us a place to live, which he did. Again we packed our furniture into a rented trailer and towed it off toward the East behind the Studebaker in late summer of 1957.

The trip was uneventful until we got to southern Pennsylvania, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, where the turnpike turns northeastward toward New York, when we were supposed to be headed due east and south toward Baltimore. We left the turnpike and immediately were on a narrow two-lane in Pennsylvania’s Appalachian Mountains, starting down a long, steep downgrade. I immediately realized that the brakes were not allowing me to keep a reasonable speed – the trailer was pushing us faster and faster. We were gaining speed so fast, and there was no end in sight to the long downgrade. I was having more and more difficulty maneuvering the curves. I realized that I had to stop, somehow, or we would all be killed. The brakes by now were smoking and useless. The only thing I could think of was to edge the car over enough so that the friction of the right side against the mountain would stop it. It did, helped by a culvert that we hit on the right side of the road. When we caught our breath, we realized that Laura was missing. She had been thrown out of the car somehow. But no one, not even Laura, was injured, not even a scratch. The car was damaged, of course, but I couldn’t tell how much.

A couple of fellows in a truck stopped and took us to the next town, McConnellsburg, at the foot of the hill about five miles further down. It was a quaint, lovely Appalachian mountain village, almost unchanged since Civil War days. The largest building, on the only street in town, was the hotel, a large, two-story white frame building with a porch the whole length of the front. We checked in, and I arranged with the local garage to have the car and trailer towed into town.

The garage owner told me that the car could not be repaired, but he would buy it for scrap, which would cover the towing bill. He had a shed that I could store the trailer and our furniture in until I could get to Baltimore and arrange to pick it up.

We took the bus into Baltimore and stayed a few days in a dreary hotel until I could rent a truck and drive back for our things. Our new home was on Woodland Avenue near the corner of Pimlico road (a few blocks from Pimlico race track) in an older middle-class neighborhood of Baltimore “row” houses, where the houses were wall-to-wall. It had a living room, dining room and kitchen on the main floor, with a porch the width of the house, three bedrooms and a bath upstairs, and a full, empty basement. It was old and dingy, but livable, and the rent was reasonable at $75 a month. The Koritzers were our landlords, and they and their nine children had just moved out into a larger house a few blocks away.

I began my graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University, where I was the research assistant and secretary to Prof. Jantz, and had a desk in his office in Gilman Hall on the Homewood Campus, a lovely collection of classic brick buildings with broad lawns and walks between. Johns Hopkins was proud of being the first American university to offer advanced degrees and to have patterned its graduate studies programs after the German university model. I was disappointed that the chair for German linguistics had not yet been filled because the brilliant young German professor who had been apppointed to that chair had not been able to leave his responsibilities in Germany yet. So I took some German literature courses, Sanskrit, Old English, Greek, Ancient Philosophy and other courses. The second year the new professor still had not been able to come, so I took Romance linguistics, Gothic, Middle English, Icelandic and more German literature.

Arthur Adams had also followed Professor Jantz to Hopkins, and he was one of many friends among the other graduate students. We all had carrel desks in the library stacks, and I spent many hours among the wonderful collection of books in the library, which was accessible through a door (to which I had a key) just across the hall from my office.

For a few months I had to take the bus to the university, but then I was able to buy a used 1950 Chevrolet for $100, and could drive. Not only did it make getting to school easier, but it also allowed us to get to know Baltimore and some of the country around the city. We visited Gettysburg, Rehoboth Beach, Washington, Annapolis and other historic places.

My research duties consisted primarily of cataloguing Prof. Jantz’ collection of German Baroque and Renaissance literature, and then his collection of 18th and 19th century German Americana. He was a world-known authority in both fields, and had one of the finest private Baroque collections in the world (It was later given to Duke University, when he moved there).

One summer he got me a research grant from the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia to research the history of their German members. This meant that I had to make frequent trips by train to the Society’s headquarters in Philadelphia to work in their archives. I was able to identify several of their early German members and shed some light upon its early relationships with German scientists.

It was during my second year at Hopkins that I became very frustrated trying to rationalize what I had been learning about church history with what the church was teaching today. It just did not make sense, and suddenly one day in the library stacks it struck me that the only way everything I had learned about the church could be explained was to view the church as a creation of Joseph Smith, not of God. I had never before even considered that as a possibility. But once I did, then everything fell into place, and a great cloud seemed to lift, allowing the sun to shine clearly on everything. I went home and told Elaine with much enthusiasm that I had learned that the church wasn’t true. Instead of being as happy as I was about my discovery, she stomped up the stairs and refused to speak to me.

I tried at first not to let my discovery have any effect on my daily life. I continued to wear my temple garments, to keep the Word of Wisdom, to say the blessing before meals, to go to church and to participate in church activities. But there was definitely a strain on my relationship with Elaine.

During the summer of 1959 Elaine took the children on the train back to Utah for a visit. I had been finding it more and more difficult to keep the outward trappings of Mormonism, and during the summer I bought myself some ordinary underwear and got rid of the garments. I also sampled martinis and wine, and decided I liked both as an enrichment to life. When Elaine came back to Baltimore, things were more strained.

My last year at Hopkins was also different academically. My research assistantship was replaced by a teaching assistantship. I got an office in the attic of Gilman Hall. And finally the long-awaited linguistics professor arrived, Prof. Joachim Bumke from Berlin, who spoke no English, and who was only a few years older than I. I took Middle High German from him and he tried to get me started on research for a dissertation. I chose as a topic the development of the periphrastic perfect tenses in German.

Prof. Bumke also encouraged me to apply for a Fulbright scholarship, which I did, and was accepted for the University of Munich. Prof. Jantz also arranged for an additional scholarship from Hopkins to support us while in Germany. The plan was that I would continue my dissertation research in Munich, and hopefully write it, with Bumke directing me from Baltimore. At the same time I could take a few courses at the University of Munich and be immersed in the German culture and language.

I believe that Elaine was frightened by the prospect of going to Germany with me and the distance from the members of her church and family. She was unable to accept me unless I was a good and faithful church member, and was trying to get me to come back to that status. In the spring I came home from the University one day and she and the children were gone. I assumed that she was in a snit and was spending the night at a Mormon girlfriend’s. When I called the friend the next day, she told me that Elaine had taken the children and gone by train to Utah. I became very depressed and very panicked, since Elaine had told me about a friend of hers who had left her husband without telling him, but simply sold all the furniture one day while he was at work so that he came home to an empty house and a process server. I called Elaine long distance, and she was noncommittal about everything. I got the impression that she wanted a divorce, and so I consulted an attorney, who drew up separation papers. I sent them to her to sign if she wanted a separation, but she refused to sign anything. I felt very vulnerable. Somehow I finished the semester, and immediately took the train to Idaho. Elaine was staying with her sister Harriett in Idaho Falls, and when I got there she had a process server waiting for me with Idaho divorce papers.

I had come to Idaho hoping that I could take my family back with me, but that now seemed impossible. I decided to stay in Idaho for a couple of weeks to be able to visit with the children a few times, and then go back to Baltimore to finish my duties at the university, close the house and leave for Germany.

An old high school friend, Marianne Harward, was also in town, also back home from a marriage which had just ended, and we went out to dinner to commiserate and reminisce about high school days. Marianne’s family had lived just a couple of blocks from mine. She had been in my high school class and her younger brother Jon had been in my sister Jane Ann’s class, and Jane Ann had always liked Jon. Marianne and her boyfriend (and now her recent ex-husband) Ray Terrell had even double-dated a time or two with Elaine and me. She had just left Ray after a long and unhappy marriage and three children, and was living with her grandmother in Blackfoot and working at the atomic plant out on the Arco desert. We immediately hit it off, primarily because she was the first person who was not pointing an accusing finger at me for the terrible thing I had done. She had always been a lively, witty, cultured and attractive girl, and I spent most of my time in Blackfoot with her. We soon decided that we should stay together, get married when my divorce was final, that she (and her youngest daughter, Victoria) would come to Germany with me (her mother agreed to keep the older girls for a year) and we would be happy forever after.

We did get married as soon as my divorce was final, and I left to finish my duties in Baltimore, with our plan being for Marianne and Victoria to come East in time to catch the ship for Europe. I gave up the Baltimore house, sent Elaine half of the furniture and lent the other half to another graduate student, John Bohi, to help furnish his apartment, in exchange for letting me be his roommate for the few weeks left in the summer.

I was soon getting letters from Marianne, begging me to let her come and spend the rest of the summer in Baltimore with me. She was certain she could find a temporary job to make up for giving up her job in Arco. She was so insistent that I couldn’t say no. I then had to find a small apartment for us to live in for the rest of the summer.

We sailed from New York for Bremen on the S.S. Berlin in September 1960. The crossing took 11 days. We arrived in Munich and moved into a small pension while I looked for an apartment and Marianne looked for a job. The fact that she spoke no German limited her search to American government agencies. It was very frustrating. While in Baltimore we had contacted various agencies in Washington inquiring about jobs in Munich, but they all told us that hiring was done abroad. In Munich, however, they told us that Americans had to be hired in the U.S. Money was running out, and tempers were getting short. Marianne and I disagreed about how to spend money (or not spend it), about how to discipline Victoria, and a number of other things. Marianne decided after just a few weeks that she wanted to go back to the United States. When I reminded her that we had no money for a ticket, she said that she could get the money from a man she had been dating at the atomic plant if she would promise to marry him. So she called Philip Wall long distance, and he was very happy to send her the money for a ticket, and with my last $200 she and Victoria took the train to board the M.S. Rotterdam back to America. (Marianne did marry Philip Wall. They stayed together for over 25 years until he died in the late 1980s. Marianne finished her education and became a teacher, and now lives in Seattle.)

I was now alone in Munich. I found a nice small furnished room in the apartment of Dr. and Mrs. Hirschberger at Ludwigstrasse 31, just a few doors from the university, right at the Siegestor (Victory Arch). The rent was 150 marks a month. I was receiving 400 marks a month as the Fulbright stipend, so the rent was relatively high. The exchange rate at that time was 3.75 marks to the dollar. During the year it went to 4.10 marks to the dollar. My stipend from Hopkins was going entirely to paying the child support payments to Elaine.

The Hirschbergers were very kind and interesting people. Dr. Hirschberger’s father had been court physician to the Bavarian royal family (the Wittelsbachers), and he had grown up with all the princes and princesses, and remained on intimate terms with all the members of the Wittelsbach family. Though technically a republic and not a monarchy, Bavaria’s people preserved a deep fondness and respect for the royal family, which had ruled continuously for longer than any other royal family in Europe. Dr. Hirschberger was a dentist, and treated his patients in his apartment, in a room set aside for that, just across the hall from my room. He had served with the Bavarian army in both world wars, even though he had been anti-Nazi. He had also been a friend of Eva Braun, Hitler’s mistress, before she had become involved with Hitler, and had also been her dentist (he showed me Eva’s dental chart). The first postwar Bavarian government had been set up by the occupying Americans and prominent Munich anti-Nazis at a meeting in the Hirschberger apartment.

I registered at the University and began attending classes. I could not get my mind on research, and the German library system was not very easy to use. I made little or no progress on my dissertation, other than general reading. I found that my textbook German was inadequate at first, but I soon began to gain fluency. I met some students in classes, but the students I found myself spending time with were the other American Fulbrighters, and that bothered me, since I wanted to learn the German language and German culture.

I got the idea of putting up an ad on bulletin boards at the University, offering English conversation practice in exchange for German conversation practice. It was a very successful idea. I had over a dozen responses, and through people who answered my ad I met many others, and soon had a very active social life, with very few Americans.

I had very little money, and so lived frugally. I had breakfast in my room; Mrs. Hirschberger always made extra tea for me and left it on a table in the hallway outside my door (for some reason they drank tea for breakfast, not coffee). I bought fresh Semmeln (rolls), butter and strawberry jam, and that was breakfast. Sometimes I would also buy oranges, apples or bananas. Lunch and supper were at the student cafeteria, which was just across Ludwigstrasse. Lunch was 1.25 marks, and supper was 50 pfennigs. It was pretty poor, but it staved off starvation. (I found, however, as the year passed, that I lost both weight and hair.) Marianne had been a smoker and had got me started smoking, so I also had to set aside enough money for cigarettes. The German cigarettes were not very good, but only cost one mark a pack. American cigarettes were 1.75 marks. Some days I had to decide if I would rather do without supper or cigarettes.

I became very fond of some of my German friends and was able to keep in touch with them for a number of years. Frau Osterbauer and her 12-year old son Johannes, who became a doctor and made his mother so proud, and then died; Annegret Kirn and her cousin Vreni, both of whom fell in love with me and competed for my attention (Vreni later married and had children and then died a slow and agonizing death); Gudrun Schoefer, who was 17, and also fell in love with me and wanted to come back with me to America (I saw Gudrun later – more of that below); Gunther Schleicher, a refugee from Halle during the uprising in the East, whose mother practically adopted me as another son; Angela Freytag, whom I fell in love with, but who never wanted to be anything more than a pal to me, and who spoke American without an accent, who desperately wanted to be an American, and who very soon did so, living in New York and in Los Angeles as a free-lance writer.

I saw much of Germany during my year. The Fulbright commission took us to Berlin for a week (my first commercial airline flight) where we met Oberbürgermeister Willy Brandt, who later became the first Social Democrat chancellor of the Federal Republic. I took numerous day excursions with the AStA (Associated Students), to Oberammergau, Schloss Neuschwanstein, Linderhof. Through a woman I met from my conversation ad I was invited for several trips to the village of Kreuth, near the Tegernsee. During semester break (March-April) I took a 10 day trip to Salzburg and Vienna with my fellow Fulbrighter Sid Timmerman, and then I took a four-week trip by myself to Italy, visiting Sicily (Palermo, Agrigento, Taormina), Paestum, Naples, Pompeii, Rome, Florence, Ravenna and Venice. I stayed mostly in youth hostels, travelled by rail pass, and carried only a knapsack. The four weeks in Italy cost me exactly $100. I had not really been interested in Italy, but an American friend in Munich, Joan Beadling, whom I had known when she was a graduate student at Hopkins my first year in Baltimore, had just been to Greece and southern Italy, and insisted that I had to go there to see the Greek ruins. Since I really didn’t want to go to Greece, I compromised on Sicily and southern Italy. Then I had to learn Italian. The Hirschbergers were pleased when they learned I was going to go to Italy, since they vacationed every year in Italy and spoke fluent Italian. I spent four weeks with a teach- yourself-Italian book (in German, of course!), and got on the train south.

When the university year ended in July 1961, I took another couple of weeks to see some of northern Germany as I travelled back to Bremen to get the ship home. I saw Nürnberg, Regensburg, the Rhine, Cologne and Hamburg. It was very sad, boarding the M.S. Berlin again. I had come to love Germany very much.

I had not completed my dissertation, but had applied at a number of American universities on the strength of my having passed my oral examinations and having a dissertation in progress. I had been offered (and I had accepted) a job as Acting Instructor at the German Department of the University of California in Berkeley, at a salary of $5500 per year. It was a wonderful opportunity: a top-notch university, a good salary, and an exciting city. I visited my family in Idaho, then took the bus for Berkeley, in the fall of 1961. I had only been in California once before, in 1951, when a friend of mine took me and Elaine on a quick trip to Los Angeles to drive his girlfriend home to Anaheim.

I quickly found a furnished studio apartment at 2525 Durant Avenue, just one block from the south entrance to the campus, half a block from Telegraph Avenue, on the first floor of a pleasant but old apartment building. The bed folded up into the wall during the day. The rent was $75 a month. I had no furniture. Jon Bohi had written me in Germany that he had had to give up his apartment, and so had sold everything I had lent him. My books and personal belongings he had boxed up and given to Mrs. Koritzer to store in her attic. I arrived in Berkeley owning nothing but the contents of five suitcases, one typewriter, and the books in the Koritzer attic. I began to learn to cook and bake, since I had my own kitchen for the first time. I wrote to Mrs. Koritzer several times to get her to send my books, but with no response. I tried phoning, but with no result. I finally wrote to a friend in Baltimore and asked him to see what he could do to get my books, and he went to the Koritzers and found that the children had played in the attic, broken open boxes and torn and scattered the contents, mice had gotten to them, and they were in such a state that Mrs. Koritzer had not been able (or willing) to deal with it. He took upon himself the responsibility of boxing my books and sending them to me.

My mother’s uncle and aunt, George and Olive Phillips, had lived for years in Berkeley, near the city hall, and mother urged me to contact them. George had been retired for years, but was an amateur woodworker. He offered to build me bookshelves. They were very kind to me while I lived in Berkeley.

George was actually a first cousin of my grandfather E. Albert Walton, and the Waltons and the Phillipses as young marrieds had shared living quarters to save money. Neither young wife was successful in getting pregnant, so both couples decided to adopt babies. They put their names on the waiting list at a home for unwed mothers in Ogden, and Olive got the first baby. Laura and Olive took the train together to Ogden, and Laura met the mother of Olive’s baby (Olive didn’t want to see her). Six months later they went down to get Laura’s baby, and Olive met the mother. She said that she was “a lovely, dark-haired young woman.” Olive’s baby Dorothy did not remain an only child, because Olive soon became pregnant and had two more children. Dorothy began to have mental problems in her late teens, and spent her entire adult life in a mental hospital.

I spent three years at the University, teaching German, trying to finish my dissertation, and trying to learn to live alone. I made many friends. My best friend was Dick Sheirich, who was about my age, was just finishing his dissertation, and was also recently divorced. Although I was technically faculty, most of my friends were from among the graduate students in the department, since I was closer to their age. I did become friends with Blake Spahr, Fritz Tubach, and Kathleen Harris, who were younger faculty members. The first year I did not have a car, but that was no problem, since everything in Berkeley was within walking distance.

I taught second-year German, third-year grammar and composition, and German translation for scientists. I shared an office on the fourth floor of Dwinelle Hall with Clair Hayden Bell, who was retired and rarely came to the university.

I was having a difficult time emotionally, with frustrations from being separated from my children, being unable to get ahead financially, being unable to make progress on my dissertation, being unable to form any romantic attachments.

In the spring of 1962 my grandmother Laura Walton became seriously ill, and I bought an old Plymouth and drove to Idaho to see her. She died the day after I arrived.

In October 1962 I became very depressed and took an overdose of sleeping pills. I was hospitalized for three weeks at the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco. When I was released I began weekly psychotherapy at an outpatient clinic in Berkeley. The therapy lasted about a year and a half, and helped me greatly to deal with my depression and frustration.

In the institute I had become friends with a woman who was also a patient, and much worse off than I. She invited me several times to visit her and her husband in San Mateo. She introduced me to a neighbor of her parents in San Francisco. The neighbor was an attractive young woman, Pat Wenzel, divorced with a little girl. I liked her immediately very much, and began to see her regularly. I soon was very much in love with her, but in the spring of 1963 she told me that she wanted to be able to see other men, and my heart was broken again.

I had learned that I could fall in love and have my heart broken and still recover to try again, and it was an important lesson. There were many attractive young women in Berkeley, and attitudes and inhibitions were loosening (it came to be called “the sexual revolution”), and I was living a full and pleasant life.

In the spring of 1963 one of the graduate students, Rolf Panny, undertook as a seminar project to stage Artur Schnitzler’s play “Reigen” in German. I tried out for a part and was cast as “Der junge Herr,” (the young nobleman). It was a very nice and professional-quality production, and I learned a great deal about acting and theater from Rolf. We were sold out for three performances.

After two years in the apartment on Durant Avenue, I moved in 1963 to a charming two-room apartment at 2341 Ellsworth Street, just a few blocks away. It occupied the second floor of a small frame house, the entrance being up a narrow stair at the back of the house. It had lots of windows, a tiny kitchen, a very tiny bathroom, but lots of character. I lived there two years, paying $77.50 per month. I found it through George and Olive.

My dissertation was not making progress, however, and the department chairman informed me that they would not be able to hire me for a fourth year without my having the Ph.D. I was very jealous of Philip Glander, who had been hired at the same time and in the same situation (dissertation unfinished), but who had been able to complete his dissertation, and would be able to continue at U.C. Berkeley. (Ironically, five years later Glander was given a similar message, since he hadn’t published enough scholarly articles. He applied for a position we had open at City College. We interviewed him, but he was not the best candidate and was not offered the job. He got a job teaching high school in San Francisco, where he spent the rest of his career.)

Fortunately my friend Tubach knew the senior German teacher at the City College of San Francisco, Eric Moeller, who was looking for a German teacher, and the Ph.D. was not required. I told him I was interested, and was hired to teach 18 hours a week of first and second year German starting in September 1964.

I was glad to have a job, but I did not want to leave Berkeley, where I had spent three very exciting years. So for a year I commuted every day across the Oakland Bay Bridge. Fortunately the freeway had just been completed that summer from the bridge to the college, so that my commute only took about 30 minutes.

Just before the school year ended in the spring of 1964, a friend of mine told me that a Berkeley travel agent was looking for a person to accompany and supervise a group of college-age tourists on an 11-week tour of Europe. I checked it out and was offered the job. No pay, but a free trip, including meals and spending money. After one afternoon of briefing by the travel agent, Harry Andersen, I flew to New York with 33 college girls on Andersen Tour #642, carrying travel vouchers and $15,000 in travellers checks. It was a marvelous experience. We flew to Dublin, then to England, toured England, crossed the channel to Holland, where we met our continental bus (German driver), which took us to Amsterdam, Ghent, Paris, Poitier, San Sebastian, Madrid, Barcelona, the Riviera, Florence, Venice, Rome, Athens, Belgrad, Vienna, Munich, the Rhine, Goettingen, Berlin, Copenhagen, and then by ship and train to Stockholm, Oslo, Bergen, and Edinburgh, and back to London from which we flew home. In Germany I saw Gudrun Schoefer again. She was studying at the university of Giessen, and came to Goettingen to see me. After we had been together for just a few hours it seemed a shame to part. She had changed from an awkward teenager into a charming woman. I invited her to accompany us to Berlin, which she did. There she met Harry Andersen, who invited her to stay with us until Copenhagen, as his guest. Unfortunately Gudrun resented my not being able to devote myself exclusively to her because of my responsibilities in seeing that the tour ran smoothly, and we began to bicker. I was not sorry to see her board the train in Copenhagen to return to Germany.

In August 1964 Elaine married Ellwyn Stoddard, who was a good Mormon but whose wife had divorced him. They moved to Des Moines, where he was teaching college.

With the dissertation no longer hanging over me, as it had done for seven years, I felt free and optimistic. I enjoyed teaching at City College. I was also teaching German evenings for the university Extension, which gave me some extra money. I was making friends among the college faculty, and I still had friends in Berkeley.

When the spring semester started in February 1965, one of my beginning German classes had only two female students, and one of them was a very homely redhead. The other one, though, was very attractive and pleasant. I immediately realized that this young woman named Janet Riggs would be the only possibility of making the teaching of this gang of men tolerable. Unfortunately, after just a few days I received notification that she had dropped the class. Contrary to my usual practice, I telephoned her at home to ask her why she had dropped. She told me that she worked nights at the University of California hospital, that she realized she might not be able to keep up with the work I was demanding, and that therefore she had dropped. So I asked her for a date. After two dates we were seeing each other constantly. In a couple of months we were engaged to be married the following September.

I had been asked by Harry Andersen to take another group to Europe for him during the summer of ’65, and Janet was worried that if I went to Europe with 30 girls I might change my mind about marrying her. She got very upset while we were having dinner at a nice French restaurant on Polk Street on a Sunday evening, June 6, and so in desperation I suggested that we drive immediately to Reno and get married. We did, arriving in Reno about 1 a.m., where we discovered that although you can get married at any time of day or night in Reno, you have to have a marriage license, and the only place to get a marriage license 24 hours a day is in Carson City, 50 miles away. We drove to Carson City, got a license, roused the people at one of the 24-hour wedding chapels in Carson City, and were married about 3 a.m. on June 7, 1965.

Janet moved into my apartment on Ellsworth Street in Berkeley for the remaining couple of weeks until I had to leave for Europe, and then she spent the summer with her sister Carol Bauer in San Diego. I repeated the Anderson tour, except for the Norwegian and Swedish part, flying home from Copenhagen. During the trip, as a thank-you gift, the students in my group presented me with a zither, which I taught myself to play when I got back home.

We moved into a large flat in the Mission district, on the third floor at 1024 Sanchez Street, just off 24th Street, for $140 a month. We spent most of our combined savings buying used furniture to furnish it. Much of what we bought we are still using, except that now it is “antique” furniture.

About a month after we moved in, Janet said she would like a dog. She used to have a dog, which her parents had made her give up, and she had always wanted a dog. I asked her what kind of dog she wanted, and she said “a Doberman pinscher.” So we bought a puppy and named her “Schaetzel von Ahrtal.” The “von Ahrtal” was because many dogs in her pedigree seemed to have that as part of their name. Only later did we learn that we had committed a faux pas in the dog world.

Our first Christmas together included a visit from Laura, George and Kirby. It was a lovely Christmas, except that we spent so much money that Janet had to go back to work. We also sold her car, which had been her first car and which she loved very much.

Schaetzel was a good dog and quickly learned to fetch the paper as soon as the paper boy pushed it through the mail slot at the foot of two flights of stairs. However, the landlord, who lived in the flat below us, did not like having a dog upstairs, and gave us notice that he was increasing the rent because of the dog.

We decided instead to look for a small house with a yard, and found one, very near the college, at 1 San Gabriel Avenue. Because we had a yard, it seemed a good idea to get another dog to keep Schaetzel company. So we found Thor, a red male Doberman. They enjoyed the yard, but made a mess of the little bit of landscaping we had done. Janet thought she would like to try raising registered Doberman puppies as a way to make a little extra money, and so she became interested in meeting other Doberman breeders, and started to go to dog shows.

While we lived on San Gabriel John was born, on April 7, 1967, three days after we had had a litter of puppies. Because Janet’s kidneys had been severely damaged by chronic infection when she was younger, she was very closely monitored during the pregnancy by the staff at the University of California medical center in San Francisco. She was not able to complete the pregnancy normally, and the baby was taken by caesarean a full six weeks prematurely. He only weighed three pounds, and was kept in an incubator attached to monitoring instruments for about a month. He became part of an extensive study on premature babies done by the university, and was examined by the university every year until he became an adult.

The following summer (1967) we had a visit from Laura, George and Kirby.

Janet had quit her job, and stayed home to take care of John. She raised a couple of more litters and sold them, but soon we had a total of three dogs.

My teaching was going well. My assignment was 18 class hours per week, usually two sections of first semester German, one section of second semester, and one section of third semester “scientific” German. Eric Moeller, the other German instructor, liked to take the early classes, starting at 8 a.m., so my schedule usually started at 10 and ended at 2. He and I shared an office in the recently-built Arts Building, room 203B, which was really just a cubby-hole in 203, where about a dozen teachers had offices.

I soon got to know some of the other instructors on campus, even from other departments, partly because Eric introduced me into the faculty coffee-room in the Science Building, where teachers from business, science, math and English would sometimes spend their time between classes. Many of the people I met in the coffee room became close friends.

I also joined the union, the American Federation of Teachers, which was the smaller but more active of two faculty groups, the other one being the NEA affiliate. I soon became quite active. At that time the college was a part of the San Francisco Unified School District, and was governed by the same board that was in charge of all schools in the city. In 1968 the AFT went on strike, for the first strike in the history of the school district, and it was a very emotional time. The NEA teachers opposed the strike, primarily because they were opposed to anything so “unprofessional” as a strike (the NEA has changed their policy in the meantime). We won some important improvements: our workload was reduced from 18 hours to 15; we got dental and prescription insurance paid by the district; we got payday shifted from the 10th of the month to the first; and some other minor gains. About this time I was elected to be the vice-president of the union local, under president Jim Ballard, who had been the executive secretary.

At about this time the state legislature authorized community colleges to form Academic Senates (or Faculty Senates) and required the governing boards to “meet and confer” with them on academic issues. Our faculty had a number of meetings and drafted a constitution, and I was elected a member of the 15- member executive board for a two-year term, and served one year as secretary under President Al Tapson, who was one of the most influential union members in the city.

In the late 60’s I also made the first weak attempt at getting the college involved in overseas education, and made a proposal to the administration. But nothing came of it. They weren’t interested.

One older couple from the City College faculty who had befriended us was Norman and Catherine Johnson. They informally adopted John as a grandchild. Norman had spent many years in the merchant marine, and finally bought his own boat, an old motor sailer, on which they sometimes took us out on the bay for an afternoon. We became interested in sailing, and I took the Coast Guard Auxiliary course on boating. We finally bought our own sailboat, a 26-foot Ericson, which we berthed in San Rafael (no berths were available in the City) and used for day-sailing. We kept it about two years, and then realized that it was an expensive luxury we couldn’t afford. I had come to love sailing, and was sorry to lose our boat.

To earn some extra money, I got a summer job working as a Gray Line bus driver in 1969. I got about a week’s training learning to drive a 45-passenger GM diesel bus, and learned to be a tourist guide for San Francisco and the Bay area. I worked three summers at that job.

In 1969 Janet wanted to look for a house for us to buy. We had met a nice real estate agent named Laurie Foglia (she had bought a puppy from us) and Laurie was anxious to help us find a house. Laurie and Janet went house-hunting almost every Sunday for about a year, going to hundreds of open houses. If they found something that might work, they would have me look at it. I looked at a lot of houses. We were somewhat at a disadvantage because we didn’t have much money. We finally found a lovely old house at 363 14th Avenue, with lots of room and charm, at a price we could perhaps afford. We bought it for $39,000, with monthly payments of $232, which seemed like an astronomical sum. Laurie even had to lend us the closing costs. We moved in April, 1970, helped by a crew of ex-convicts Laurie’s husband had hired from a half-way house.

At a New Year’s Eve party at the Foglias (December 31, 1969) I got talking to a man about my age who was in his second year of law school, studying law at night. I had always been interested in the law, having been a debater in high school, and at that time had even considered becoming a lawyer rather than a foreign language teacher. But since BYU did not offer any pre-law program, I went into teaching. I had always wondered, though, if law might not have been a more lucrative choice. This man encouraged me to try it – even if I only took the first year, and never practiced law, he said the training would be invaluable. That got me to thinking, and I found that I just had time to register for the next LSAT test, which I did very well on, and so I applied for admission to the night law schools at University of San Francisco and San Francisco Law School. I was accepted at both, and registered in the fall of 1970 at USF, with classes four nights a week.

The next four years were very busy. The first semester I was at the head of my class, but I was not able to maintain that lead. I resigned my union job and my academic senate post. I arranged my schedule so that I had all my classes between 8 a.m. and noon, so that my afternoons would be free for studying.

In 1972 David was born, on July 27, also by caesarean. George had come to live with us that spring. Things had not been going well for him at his mother’s in El Paso (where his step-father taught at the university), and they did not go well for him in San Francisco, either. After a few months with us, he moved out, and after a few months living on his own in San Francisco, he went back to El Paso. Kirby also lived with us for a short while a year or two later.

In trying to give myself every advantage in my studies, I taught myself shorthand so I could take notes faster. In 1972 I also read several books on self-hypnotism, with the idea that I might be able to use it to improve my memory, and I found it to be very useful. On a whim I also thought I would see what effect it might have on my cigarette habit, and I was truly amazed to find that after a single session, lasting about an hour, I had permanently lost all desire to smoke.

In June 1974 I graduated with my class, 9th in a class of 41, and a member of the honor society. My whole family came to the commencement exercises: my parents and my four brothers and sisters. I spent the summer studying for the bar examination, which was held in late summer.

In August I was contacted by John McGuinn, an attorney whose wife Renee had taught German part-time at City College. He was a partner in the two-man firm of Lewton and McGuinn in the Jackson Square area, at 220 Jackson Street. His wife worked part-time as a secretary in the law office. John offered me a job, as a law clerk until I passed the bar, and as an attorney after that. I arranged my schedule so that I could continue teaching full-time with a morning-only schedule, and working afternoons at the law office. By the time I had worked a year for Lewton and McGuinn I had been able to earn enough at the law to replace all the money that it had cost for the four years of my legal education.

Fortunately I passed the bar exam successfully, and was sworn in as a member of the California bar (and the Federal bar of the Northern District of California) in December 1974.

While working at Lewton and McGuinn I had to get to work using public transportation, because it was impossible to park downtown. That was the year that the subway tunnel was completed under the bay to Oakland, and I rode the train beneath the bay to Oakland on the first day the tunnel was in service.

After almost a year at Lewton and McGuinn I asked for a raise, and they decided they wanted a full-time attorney, so they let me go. I rented a tiny office in the Monadnock building on Market Street for $110 a month, and continued to practice part- time, but never very successfully. After a couple of years it became apparent that I was not going to make a lot of money practicing law. I did not enjoy it, either, and so I gave up the office and cut back my practice even more. I continued to handle a few small cases, write wills, write nasty letters for friends and give advice, but finally gave up entirely in 1984 by going on inactive status with the bar.

The San Francisco schools were so poor that we hesitated to send John to them, so we applied for his admission to Town School for Boys, a very presigious and expensive private boys’ school in Pacific Heights. Janet went back to work to finance his schooling there. While there he associated with some boys from very wealthy families. When David was ready to start school, we realized we could not afford the continued expense. Fortunately we had heard in the meantime that our neighborhood elementary school was not so bad, and so both boys entered the public schools.

In the late 70s the college was separated from the unified school district, and at about the same time the state legislature passed a law which authorized public school teachers to elect a collective bargaining agent and required school districts to bargain with the elected agent. The American Federation of Teachers won the election, and has been the bargaining agent for the district ever since.

At about the same time I was asked to run for the Academic Senate again, and was also elected to be the president of the senate, which post I held for a year. During that year my duties included meeting weekly with the president of the college, attending the monthly meetings of the board and of the college administration, as well as representing the faculty in all academic matters. During that year the president of the college, Dr. Kenneth Washington, was evaluated by the board to enable them to decide whether to renew his contract, and I was one of a committee (including several college officials hired from other districts for this purpose) appointed to conduct the preliminary evaluation for the board.

In 1979 I became interested in learning to fly, and began to take flying lessons at the Oakland airport, flying in a Piper Tomahawk. I took lessons about once a week, and enjoyed it very much. I soon was flying solo, and I passed the written exam with a high score. I checked out for my solo cross-country, but then the strike of the air traffic controllers temporarily halted general aviation, and by the time the strike was settled my instructor had changed jobs, and I became discouraged. I never got my private license.

Late in 1980 I was invited by the director of the Goethe Institute in San Francisco to be the guest of the German government and attend a seminar for American German teachers to be held for three weeks in December in West Berlin. It was very interesting and educational, and I enjoyed being back in Germany, especially at Christmas time.

In the spring of 1982 we answered a classified ad looking for exchange of a German boy with an American boy for a year. John was going to be going into the 10th grade, and so we thought it would be a nice opportunity for him to be able to live a year in Germany. We worked it out, and so we got Kai Flache, from Hamburg, and John went to live with Kai’s father and brothers in Hamburg. It was not altogether successful. We became concerned about John’s health and the lack of parental supervision in Hamburg, and Kai was making no effort to learn English, to make friends or to become a decent human being. When we learned that Kai was causing unacceptable problems for David, we called the whole thing off, brought John home and sent Kai back. John had become very fluent in German, of course, which was the one plus from the experience.

In 1981 I began to become interested in the possibilities of using computers for foreign language instruction. I attended several workshops, but did not learn much. My only direct experience with computers had been at U.C. Berkeley, where I had had some help from a consultant in the computer department about using the university’s computer to analyze data for my dissertation. I had even received some research money to hire a student to punch all my data onto cards. The consultant then lost the cards. At that time I had also taken a class in Fortran programming, but had not completed it.

In the spring of 1982, however, the college began a faculty development program where they would lend faculty members a small Sinclair Z-80 computer to take home, if they would promise to complete a home-study course. The Z-80 was very tiny, about the size of a small keyboard. It plugged into a television set for a monitor. The only storage was an external tape recorder. It had 4K of memory, and had BASIC built in. The study course was really an introduction to BASIC programming. I brought it home, completed the course and thoroughly enjoyed using it.

We began investigating various computers available then, with the idea of buying one. The Apple II was the most popular, but it had numerous shortcomings. The Apple III was just coming out, and we almost bought one, but then we were persuaded to buy one of the new computers which had just come out from IBM, the IBM Personal Computer (or PC). It came with DOS version 1.1, BASIC was on a chip, built in, with cassette storage and 16K memory. We paid extra for expanding the memory to 128K, which seemed to be twice as much as we would ever need. We also got it with two disk drives, an amber monitor and dot-matrix printer. This was to be our Christmas present for 1983. It cost $5,500. So that the boys would not want to use our computer, we bought them a Texas Instruments computer for about $200. I began teaching myself how to use the computer, and became an avid convert.

In 1982 I had been appointed chairman of the foreign language department. I installed a computer terminal in the foreign language department office and eventually developed programs on the college’s mainframe computer that could be used by foreign language students to help them learn foreign languages.

I also began working again to develop some interest in a foreign studies program. Because of this work I was given a scholarship to attend a seminar of foreign language department heads being held in Los Angeles in conjunction with the annual Modern Language Association Convention, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania.

I also was awarded a scholarship to participate in a junket for American German teachers sponsored by the Austrian government, to visit Austria for a week in February 1983 to inspect locations for possible summer foreign studies programs. I have always loved Vienna, and it was a pleasure to be able to return. The group visited schools in Baden, Mistelbach, Zettl, Melk, and saw much of Lower Austria.

I resigned as deparment head effective the end of 1983. I had held the position for a year and a half, but was very frustrated by the job and did not like anything having to do with administration. I did not like working with the new college president, Dr. Ramirez, and wanted to return to the classroom full time, and when it became apparent that my efforts as department head were not being appreciated by the administration, I submitted my resignation, even though my appointment had been for three years.

In the mid-80s foreign language enrollments at the college had been dropping in the day classes. The size of the department had jumped tremendously about 1981, however, when all of the adult evening classes in foreign languages were transferred to the college from the adult education division. As a result, our department had about 12 full-time day faculty and about 60 part-time evening faculty. Day enrollments in foreign languages (especially German) were declining, and the administration was trying to find something for us to do. In 1976 I had already been assigned to teach one section of Spanish for one semester. Now I was given the course in the court reporting program on general law for court reporters. The two other full-time German teachers were assigned to teach one section of English as a Second Language (ESL). We also were each assigned to teach evening classes as well as the day classes. About 1986 I was also offered an assignment to teach one section of beginning BASIC programming in the computer science department, which I accepted, and I continued teaching in both the foreign language department and the computer science department until I retired.

I also became active in the faculty development program, and developed several short courses (one to four sessions) for faculty to introduce them to the use of computers in instruction. I gave four or five of these seminars every semester until I retired.

About 1984 I became acquainted (electronically, through the Compuserve computer network) with a German professor in Massachusetts who was starting an international translating service. I began working for him occasionally, doing German translations. He would receive the original document by computer network from Germany, transmit it to me via Compuserve, I would translate the document and send the translation to him, again via modem, and thus we could do translations with only a few hours’ turn-around time. In 1985 he invited me to attend a translator’s workshop in Fort Lauderdale, which gave me a chance to visit Florida.

About 1986 Janet was offered a part-time position as accountant at the University of California with the Radiology Research and Education Foundation, a private, non-profit foundation. The director of the foundation wanted to get the staff “computerized,” and hired me as a part-time consultant to train the staff in using PCs and to do some programming for their needs. I continued for several years to work occasionally for the Foundation as a consultant. It was very interesting and lucrative work: I was paid $50 per hour.

Through the 70s and 80s Janet had become more active in the dog world, breeding and showing. Beginning about 1969 we began to exhibit every February at the two-day Golden Gate Kennel Club show held at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, one of the few benched shows left in the United States, and the only one where the dogs had to remain on display for two days. Janet’s first puppy to become a champion was about 1976, and we celebrated with a big party at our house. It became a tradition for some time that each new championship called for a celebration, and some of the parties were tremendous. For one pair of championships we had a sit-down dinner for two dozen people at the Fairmont Hotel. By 1990 Janet had produced 15 champions, and had become well- known for the quality of her Dobermans. She learned from Dr. Tully of Los Angeles how to crop ears, and from that time always did the ear crops on her puppies.

About 1985 a friend of Janet’s named Colleen Topacio, whom she had met through the dogs, was having trouble with her husband, and wanted to leave him, but had no job and no place to go. Janet offered to let her and her three children stay with us until she was able to get a job and find a place to live. They lived with us for about two months, and she found work. But she loved animals, and wanted to work with animals. At the Golden Gate show in 1986 a flyer was distributed advertising a boarding kennel for sale. It occurred to Janet that Colleen might be good at running a boarding kennel. Janet began looking for a kennel to buy, with the help of a friend who was a real estate agent and who had bought a dog from us. They located a small kennel in Novato, on five acres in Marin County, that was for sale as part of an estate, and we bought it. The price was $250,000, and Janet was able to finance the purchase with no money down. There was a small house on the property, Colleen moved in, and after considerable clean-up and repairs, the Atherton Acres Dog and Cat Kennel reopened. It was the first time that either of us had had anything to do with running our own business. Janet continued to work part-time at the radiology foundation, and operated the pick-up and delivery service for the kennel. It was a very busy time, and she spent many long days. Colleen ran the kennel for about a year, and then quit suddenly. After that we had to hire live-in help and hope for the best.

At about the same time we bought a 26-foot 1968 Airstream trailer for $5000 so that we could travel around to dog shows and stay on the grounds instead of having to get a motel. We kept it for a year and replaced it with a slightly larger 1984 Airstream, for $17,000. We kept the trailer parked at the kennel, since there was no room to park it in the city. We traveled all over the West in that trailer, mostly to dog shows.

In 1986, on John’s birthday, we were burglarized. I had driven the Volkswagen to school, and about noon, when I wanted to go home, I discovered that it had been stolen from the faculty parking lot. Because it contained an electric garage door opener as well as the registration papers with our address, the thieves were able to get in through the garage and load the car up with whatever they wanted. It was a terrible experience finally to get home and realize your home had been violated. They took the television, VCR, all the mantle clocks but one, the handguns and our jewelry. They did not take cameras or computers. The saddest loss was heirloom jewelry of Janet’s grandmother and my grandfather: her grandmother’s diamond engagement ring, my grandfather’s (Ba’s) ruby ring, gold pocket watch, cuff links and other items. The thieves were caught because of the handguns, which were the only items recovered besides the car.

My experience with self-hypnotism and the results of techniques I had learned at a couple of seminars on “super- learning” had impressed me with the untapped powers of the mind, and in May 1989 I attended a four-day seminar given by the Jose Silva organization and was greatly impressed with the training I received. I began to incorporate much of it into my teaching, I believe to good effect. In August 1989 I attended the Silva convention in Laredo, Texas, taking the opportunity to visit Kirby and his family in Provo, Laura’s family in Omaha, and George and Ali in Austin, Texas.

The house at 363 14th Avenue had been a fixer-upper when we bought it in 1970, and through the years we worked on it a lot, scraping the paint off the woodwork and returning it to a natural stained finish, building shelves, repapering, replastering, landscaping, but it was still far from what our vision of it was. We never had quite the time or the money, and we always had other things to think about. We tried to furnish it with antiques, and Janet had become very good at picking up bargains at the Butterfield and Butterfield auctions. It was a great house for dinners, parties and guests.

As the 80s came to a close, we realized that San Francisco was changing, becoming not nearly such a wonderful place to live as it had been for the 20 years we had been there. We began to realize that I would be able to retire before much longer. (Actually, I qualified for retirement with the minimum pension when I had reached the age 50 and served 20 years. I turned 50 in 1983 and completed 20 years in 1984.) We considered several possibilities, such as building a house on the five acres at the kennel, or moving completely out of the San Francisco Bay area, preferably to country property. We toyed briefly with North Carolina, the California Mother Lode country, Montana, and Oregon. At first the most attractive possibility was building in Novato, and we even had plans for the house drawn up. The plan was that we could build the house, move into it, and I could continue to teach in San Francisco as long as I liked, as Janet continued to run the kennel.

In 1989 our attention was drawn back to Oregon when an acquaintance at the college mentioned that he had just bought property in Roseburg. Roseburg had always seemed an attractive area to us. We had spent time there on several occasions because there had been an annual series of dog shows at the fairgrounds there. This acquaintance praised the area highly and emphasized the great bargains that could be had in real estate. We decided that we should go to Roseburg and look around, and made a trip there in July 1989.

Our initial plan was at most to buy a piece of property that would be inexpensive enough for us to be able to afford it, and that we could then rent out and make payments on it until we finally decided to retire there. When we saw what was available, however, and how little it cost, we calculated that we could retire at once, if we liquidated our California property, namely the house on 14th Avenue and the kennel. We found a piece of property outside Roseburg, about 260 acres of mostly timber, with two modern houses and outbuildings, in excellent condition, priced at $475,000. We made an offer contingent on our selling our house, came back to San Francisco and began the process of shutting down our life as we had known it. I applied for my retirement to be effective at the end of the school year, and Janet put the kennel up for sale. We also began a thorough remodel of the house, since we had been advised that we would be foolish to try to sell it as a fixer-upper.

The kennel was sold within a week, on very good terms, for $610,000. I undertook to teach as much overtime as possible, since the amount of my pension would be based on my total earnings my last year. One of the other German teachers, Sid Timmerman, had become very ill, so I took over some of his classes. He died in the spring. (I had first met Sid in Munich, where he was also a Fulbrighter, and I had been influential in getting him the City College job.)

In October we were notified by our realtor in Roseburg that our contract to buy the property had been breached by the seller, who had already sold the property to someone else. He was very upset, and so were we. We decided that we would just have to find something else. We made another trip to Roseburg and found a beautiful 320 acre piece of timber and pasture land, completely undeveloped, on Melton Road. The sellers, Jeanne and Ben Melton, were already negotiating with a potential buyer, but we learned that the adjoining 320 acres was owned by relatives of the sellers and that it might also be available. Our broker advised us to make offers on both, contingent on our getting both, which would force the sellers to pressure each other to accept our offers. It worked, and we ended up buying not only those two parcels, but a third 66-acre adjoining parcel across the county road and an additional adjoining 13 acres from still another member of the Melton family.

In San Francisco the great earthquake of 1989 struck in October, destroying much of the Marina district, flattening elevated freeways, and collapsing a section of the San Francisco- Oakland Bay Bridge. We had just begun work on the house, and some walls had already been torn out. The earthquake toppled furniture and lamps, dumped all the books onto the library floor, crashed pictures, cracked walls and gave us a good scare. We were able to get government earthquake loans to repair the damage, which was work which was going to have to be done anyway for the remodel.

The year 1989-1990 was very hectic. I was working long hours, we were living like campers, with the construction workers in the house with us (after January we had no kitchen). We were trying to move things to Roseburg into storage, driving up loads in the van when we could. We were trying to design the house for the Roseburg property and arrange to get power, water, telephone and septic systems installed. We considered buying a small house in Roseburg itself to live in while a house was being built on Melton Road, but decided instead, when the time came, to move a mobile home onto the property to live in for the few months until a house could be finished.

John was in school at the University of California at Davis, studying animal science with the goal of becoming a veterinary doctor. David graduated from high school in January, and in April the mobile home was set up near the homesite and the systems were put in. Janet and David moved in May, and I came when school ended in June, 1990. The mobile home was only 12 feet wide. David’s room was 8 x 6 feet, and he had to stand his mattress on end during the day if he wanted to walk around. We had no room for a regular table, so Janet and I ate sitting on stools at the small 3 x 4 kitchen work table and David ate sitting at the kitchen counter. We didn’t complain because we assumed we would only be in such cramped quarters for six months or so.

The remodel cost much more than we had anticipated, and the contractor claimed that we owed him $75,000 more than we had already paid him. He sued us for it, placing a lien on the house. The lawsuit was finally settled, but it delayed the sale and cost us almost as much in legal fees, bond premium and settlement as what he had originally claimed.

The residential real estate market had also dropped drastically in San Francisco from the time we had first decided to sell, and we were unable to sell the house as soon as we had planned nor for as much as we had hoped. Because of this, we did not have the money to start construction on the new house. Janet and I both had to find work, and we postponed start of house construction.

I found a job as a law clerk in the law office of Thomas W. Crawford in Roseburg in January 1991. Janet worked for several months in the Douglas County Housing Authority, but she had also started a small cattle operation, and realized that she could not take care of the cattle and hold a job in town. David was attending school at Umpqua Community College, intending to go into computer science.

Janet was finally able to arrange a loan for us to build the house, and construction began in the summer of 1991. David hired on to help with framing and other work. The house was completed in September 1992, and we were finally able to sell the mobile home, which we had lived in for almost two and a half years.

In 1991 I attended the 40th reunion (they held it a year late!) of my high school class in Blackfoot. It was sad to see how old we had all become.

I soon realized that I was going to have to continue working, and that I would earn much more as an attorney, so in October 1991 I applied to take the Oregon bar examination the following February, which I did, and was admitted to the Oregon bar in April 1992, and worked then for Crawford as an attorney, with much better hours and at a much higher wage.

Janet began to work at building up a herd of registered black Angus cattle, and through careful breeding and some purchasing increased her herd from four cows and three calves in the fall of 1990 to a hundred head in 1994. In addition she assumed the management and development of the timber on the property, and supervised several thinning operations, the construction of numerous ponds, and the laying out of an extensive road system.

In 1992 John got engaged to a classmate, Andrea Shook, and they both graduated from U.C. Davis in animal science in June 1992. They married the following August 22. They were both disappointed at not being accepted to vet school. John got a job as a biologist with the Baxter pharmaceutical firm in Sacramento, and Andrea spent a year completing her master’s degree in animal behavior.

David completed as much education as he could at U.C.C., and in 1994 was accepted at Oregon State University (Corvallis), where he intended to study agriculture. When the time came, however, he decided that he would rather help run the ranch, and did not register for the university.

In Roseburg I became interested again in amateur theater. I had acted in several shows in high school. I had had a part in a melodrama at BYU, and then the German play in Berkeley. But it had been over 25 years since I had been in a play when in September 1990 I saw the announcement that the local community college drama department was holding auditions for Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit.” I tried out, and got the male lead part of Charles. I later acted in “The Majestic Kid” (1992) and “And a Nightingale Sang” (1993). In 1994 I directed “The Belle of Amherst.”

We joined the Douglas County Livestock Association, the Farm Bureau, the Oregon Small Woodlands Association and several other organizations. In 1993 I was elected to the county Farm Bureau board of directors and in 1994 became its vice president. In 1993 I was also appointed by the county commissioners to a three- year term on the Douglas County Museum advisory board. In 1994 I ran in the November election for a seat on the Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District board and was elected to a four-year term with 60% of the votes cast.

In September 1993 Mother became seriously ill, requiring round-the-clock care. All the children came home to help care for her, hoping that a few days or weeks, with all of us helping, might see her through safely. She had been diabetic for many years. But now she seemed unable to formulate a thought, to stay awake, or even move. She had been briefly hospitalized in Idaho Falls, but her doctor had said that there was nothing they could do for her in the hospital and she could be cared for adequately at home. He then went on vacation. After a few days Dean and I insisted that she be checked by another doctor, and she was immediately hospitalized by him. Jane Ann arrived that day, and we truly thought that Mother would possibly die during the night. Once she began getting proper treatment, with close supervision of her drug intake, she began to get better, and within a short time was fully recovered.

Music has always been an important part of my life. In addition to the piano lessons, I had about a year’s worth of voice lessons while I was in high school, and in Ogden I had some organ lessons on the Ogden Stake House organ. I had also picked up how to play such simple instruments as the mouth organ and the ocarina. I learned the ukelele when I was at BYU and Mother gave me her ukelele. I then got the banjo the Ba had brought back from England, which had been made by a relative of his there, and I learned the banjo. While living in Germany I bought a beautiful chromatic Hohner harmonica. In 1965 my tour group gave me a zither, which I then learned to play, and that was also about the time that we were able to buy a used baby grand and a used Espey reed organ with two manuals and a pedal keyboard. I also became interested in the recorder about this time, and we ordered a tenor and alto recorder from Germany. In the early 70s Janet gave me an Italian mandolin and a concertina, which I learned to play. I later bought a used accordion and learned to play that. In the 80s I bought a used guitar at a garage sale for $7.50, and learned classical guitar. About 1985 I wanted to try the violin, and bought a used one and learned to play it well enough to enjoy it. In 1989 I bought a used flute at a hock shop, but I never took the time to learn to play it until years later.

I have never been good at playing music with other people, or for other people (other than when I was an organist in church), but I have mostly used my music for my own enjoyment and peace of mind. I can enjoy simply sitting at the piano (or organ, or whatever) and just improvising. I have also enjoyed writing songs. I also had some private students in 1991-1992, in piano, guitar, mandolin and voice.

I also enjoy cooking and baking, especially sourdough breads. I enjoy computer programming, playing cards, reading, shopping at thrift stores, and being alone in the silence of nature. My interests in reading are history, biography, popularized science, psychology, philosophy, the occult, and well-written fiction. I love books and can sit for hours simply browsing in an encyclopedia. I like to shop for books in thrift shops. I have never wanted expensive or stylish things and, probably because for so many years I did not have much money, I have always tried to spend my money carefully.

After I no longer believed in Mormonism I occasionally attended church services at more traditional churches: the Unitarian Church in Baltimore, various Catholic churches in Munich, and the Congregationalist church in Berkeley (a few times), but it was more for the entertainment or social value, as one would attend a concert or a dramatic performance. In Munich some of my German friends and I had become interested in the Ouija board and got some very interesting and astonishing results. Over the years I did a great deal of reading in magic, sorcery, witchcraft, ESP, reincarnation, Buddhism, Lamaism, astrology, the Tarot, yoga, out-of-body experiences, UFOs and all kinds of other occult and esoteric subjects. I also read a great deal in popularized material about nuclear physics, astronomy, quantum mechanics, anthropology, and Einstein’s theories, especially as they deal with time, space and the nature of the universe (all in books written for the layman, of course). As a result of my experiences and readings I came to realize how little we know and how little we are aware of the universe we live in. I came also to believe that we greatly underestimate and – contradictory as it may sound – overestimate the powers of the human mind. I think that probably all our society’s traditional notions of “God” are quite far off the mark. I also have no fear whatsoever of death or whatever may come.

I have been very fortunate to have had a generally happy life, filled with good fortune. Neither I nor anyone in my family has suffered great tragedy, misery, unbearable loss or been forced to live an intolerable life. We have all enjoyed relative prosperity, largely from the good luck to have been born (this time, at any rate) in a place and at a time when it is not a rarity for human beings to be able to live in comfort, peace and happiness. We have enjoyed good health, largely, I believe, through good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. I have enjoyed moderate success in the things I have set out to do, and my failures have been tolerable and, in the last analysis, valuable learning experiences.

 


Update – July 2012

In 1997 my father died, and my mother followed nine months later, in 1998. I gave the eulogy at both his and her funerals.

In 1997 the local theater group produced my original play “Red Roses, White Roses”, based on events in my parents’ family, which ran for twelve performances and received excellent reviews. After my first appearances on the local stage, I continued to act. In addition to the plays already mentioned, I had the following roles:

 

  • 1995     The Man Who Came To Dinner – Sheridan Whiteside
  • 1996     Hay Fever – David Bliss
  • 1997     Barefoot In The Park – Mr. Velasco
  • 1997     Three Viewings – Emil
  • 1999     Prisoner of Second Avenue – Mel
  • 2001     Cat On A Hot Tin Roof – Big Daddy

To help me learn lines for parts, I wrote a computer program that allows me to “run lines” without help from another person. I called it “Prompter.”

About 1997 we got Internet access. In browsing the web I discovered other people who had left the Mormon church. A group of them were gathering once a year in Las Vegas, and I attended in February 1998. I realized that I could be useful to people leaving the church, and so I became quite active in the exmormon Internet community. The group was very unorganized, however, so in 2001 I took it upon myself to set up a non-profit organization, The Exmormon Foundation, which has continued to hold an annual convention each year, usually in October. I served two terms as its president, and have given several presentations at its conferences.

David finally decided in 2001 to return to college, to pursue a career as a veterinarian. We therefore sold off most of the Angus herd, keeping only about 20 head. He completed his bachelor degree at Oregon State and was accepted into the veterinary school, but had difficulty maintaining the necessary grades, and did not complete the program.

In 2005 I was invited to write the drama reviews of local stage productions for the Roseburg newspaper, the News-Review. A few months later I also began writing an opinion column for the paper, “The View From The Hill,” appearing on alternate Sundays. I gave up the theater reviews in 2009, but as of this writing I still do the Sunday column.

©  1998, 2012 Richard Packham    

 

TO RICHARD PACKHAM’S HOME PAGE

Why I Left The Mormon Church

Why I Left the Mormon Church

by Richard Packham


I left the Mormon church in 1958, when I was 25 years old.That was a long time ago: David O. McKay was the prophet, seer and revelator. There were only eight temples, and none of them owned a movie projector. Every ward had its own meeting house, Sunday school was at 10:30 a.m, and sacrament meeting was at 7:00 p.m. There were no black people in the church (at least none were visible). Garments were in a single piece. The temple endowment ceremony still had the death penalties, the minister, the five points of fellowship. The Book of Abraham papyrus scrolls were still missing. New missionaries learned the language of the country they were assigned to by arriving there two weeks early.

Why, after all these years, would I still be concerned, then, about Mormonism? Why have I not yet come to terms with that distant part of my past and left it behind?

There are several reasons:

First, I am descended from a long line of faithful Mormons. All of my ancestors in every branch of my family, for four, five and six generations, were Mormons. The Mormons and their history are my heritage. It is my only heritage. It is where I come from. None of my Mormon ancestors were great or famous, but I have read their stories, and they were good people. They were faithful, hard working, and deserving of my respect. The history of my family is inevitably intertwined with the history of the Mormons, their migration to Utah and the settlement of the mountain West. I cannot ignore Mormonism and Mormon history without forgetting my past.

Second, my family are still faithful Mormons, almost all, including my parents, my brothers and sisters, my older children, my grandchildren, my nieces and nephews. Their lives are permeated by their Mormon beliefs. Their day-to-day existence is intertwined with the activities of the busywork-making church, their friends are all Mormons, their hopes and fears are Mormon hopes and fears. I cannot ignore Mormonism without ignoring the lives of those I love.

Third, the Mormon church is becoming more prominent and more powerful in our society. In my state (which, unlike Utah, is not thought of as a “Mormon” state) it is now the second-largest religious denomination. Our present U.S. Senator is a devout Mormon. Mormons are occupying influential positions in our state and national governments far out of proportion to their population in the United States. The church has become a mega-wealthy financial enterprise, with billions of dollars worth of money-making businesses and property all over the country – a fact of which most non-Mormons are unaware – with wide-ranging (and usually unseen) influence on many aspects of American life. Its income has been reliably estimated to be millions of dollars per day, not only from its thousands of businesses but also from its faithful members, who are required to donate a minimum of ten percent of their entire income to the church.

The Mormon church boasts of its rapid growth. This growth, in addition to its stance in favor of large families, is because it maintains a large voluntary corps of full-time missionaries who are a well-trained and thoroughly indoctrinated sales force whose sole purpose is to bring more people into the church. Their goal is not to convert, but to enroll, not to enrich lives, but to baptize, not to save sinners’ souls, but to enlarge membership rolls. This missionary force is not directed by caring clergymen, but by successful businessmen, because the Mormon missionary effort is a business, and a very successful business, when judged by business standards.

But the ultimate goal of the church, as stated publicly by its early leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (but not mentioned so publicly by more recent Mormon leaders), is to establish the Mormon Kingdom of God in America, and to govern the world as God’s appointed representatives. The church is already influential in the making of secular policy, as was proven not so long ago when the Equal Rights Amendment was defeated with decisive help from the Mormon church.

To me, the possibility that the Mormon church might control America is a frightening prospect.

Those are some of the more important reasons why I am still vitally interested in Mormonism and the LDS church.

Mormons will tell you that Mormonism is a wonderful way of life, bringing happiness in this mortal existence and, if we earn it by our faith and obedience, ultimate joy (and “power and dominion”) in the next. The promises and hopes it gives to its believers are very attractive and inspiring. Why, then, did I reject that? Here is the story of my own particular journey through (and, eventually, out of) Mormonism.

My Mormon childhood was very happy, with loving and nurturing parents and family. We were “special” because we had the “Gospel,” meaning Mormonism. In my small town in southern Idaho we Mormons easily were the dominant social and political group. We felt sorry for those not so fortunate, for whatever reason, that they were not blessed with the gospel. Our lives centered around the church. We had perfect attendance records at all our meetings. We studied our lesson manuals. It was a wonderful life. Wonderful because we had the Gospel, for which we thanked God several times a day, in every prayer and every blessing pronounced over our food.

We Mormon teenagers participated in school activities, of course, with non-Mormons, but we also had our own church-sponsored events, which were just as good, or better. Really good Mormon teenagers did not date non-Mormons, because of the danger of “getting involved seriously” with a non-Mormon, which would lead to the tragedy of a “mixed marriage” which could not be solemnized in the temple, and which would thus ultimately mean the eternal loss of the possibility of entering the highest degree of heaven, the celestial kingdom. None of us dared to risk that.

So my high school sweetheart was a good and faithful Mormon girl. We fell deeply in love and were devoted to each other without risking any immoral physical activity beyond long kisses and hugs (no touching of body skin or of any area below the waist or around her breasts, etc.). When she graduated from high school and I was in my third year at Brigham Young University, we two virgins got married in a beautiful ceremony in the Idaho Falls temple, and started to have babies. We were the ideal young Mormon couple.

I enjoyed my four years at BYU, being surrounded by devout fellow- students and being taught by devout and educated teachers. One professor of geology was also a member of our ward. I was just learning about the age of the earth as most geologists taught it. I asked him one Sunday at church how he reconciled the teachings of his science with the teachings of the church (which said that the earth was created about 6000 years ago). He replied that he had two compartments in his brain: one for geology and one for the gospel. They were entirely separate, and he did not let the one influence the other. This bothered me, but I didn’t think more about it.

After my graduation from Brigham Young University I was offered a scholarship at Northwestern University to work on a master’s degree. So my young wife and I with our two (at that time) babies moved to Evanston, Illinois, and for the first time in my life I was surrounded by non-Mormons. I was the only Mormon in my university program. This did not intimidate me in the least. I felt that I was intelligent enough, knowledgeable enough about religion, and skillful enough in debating skills (I had been a champion debater in high school) to discuss, defend and promote my religion with anybody. I soon found takers. Since it was no secret that I had graduated from BYU, many of my fellow graduate students had questions about Mormonism. They were friendly questions, but challenging. For the first time in my life I had the opportunity to spread the gospel. It was exhilarating. We had some wonderful discussions. Even my professors were willing to listen, and so I educated my linguistics professor about the Deseret Alphabet and my German literature professor about the similarities between Goethe’s worldview and Joseph Smith’s.

Some of my fellow students, however, had tracts and other literature about the Mormons which they had obtained from their own churches. They asked me questions that I was unable to answer satisfactorily because they were based on facts I was unfamiliar with. I had never heard about the Danite enforcer gangs, about the Blood Atonement Doctrine or the Adam-God Doctrine. Where did these horrible allegations come from?

I realized that in order for me to defend Mormonism I would have to know what its enemies were saying about it, so that I could be prepared with the proper facts. I had never been an avid student of the history of the church, although I had earned the highest grades in the third year high-school seminary course in church history. I mean, what was there important to know about church history, beyond the story of how Joseph had his visions, got the plates, translated them, and how Satan had persecuted the Saints until they got to Utah? I was more interested in doctrine: the Truth, as taught by the prophets. The Truth, eternal and unchanging.

But now I began to read church history, both the authentic histories published by the church and the awful lies and distortions published by its enemies. How different they were! It was almost as if the authors in each camp were writing about different events. And the university library, where I spent a good deal of time, seemed to have more of the latter than the former.

After one year I got my master’s degree in German and accepted a teaching job in Ogden, Utah. We returned to Zion and had our third child.

In Ogden I encountered for the first time the writings of the Mormon fundamentalists, who believe that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were true prophets, but that the church since then – especially since the abandonment of the practice of polygamy – is in apostasy. At the time I was studying the doctrines and history of the church extensively, and it seemed that the fundamentalists had a lot of historical information that was not otherwise available. For instance, they relied heavily on the Journal of Discourses, a multi-volume work containing practically all the sermons preached by the church leaders in the first thirty or forty years after coming to Utah. Many years ago, I learned, every Mormon home had a copy of this work. But then the church leaders decided that it wasn’t necessary for the members to have it, and it was not reprinted. It became a rarity. Why? Every anti-Mormon work I had read relied heavily on quotations from the sermons in the Journal of Discourses. But the present-day church leaders almost never referred to it. Why? It bothered me, but I put the thought aside.

While I was living in Ogden, a fundamentalist publisher brought out a photographic reprint of the entire Journal of Discourses, in hard binding, for $250. If I had not been a poor schoolteacher I would have bought it, because I yearned to be able to read the wise words of the early leaders. But the question of why this work was suppressed by the church still bothered me. I put the thought aside. (The church then very quietly did republish it, in a paperback edition.)

One of the accusations made by anti-Mormon works I had read was that Brigham Young had taught that God had revealed to him that Adam was, in fact, God the Father. To substantiate this, they quoted Brigham’s sermons in the Journal of Discourses. If only I could check for myself! I was reminded of a strange comment made after class one day by Sidney B. Sperry, the BYU professor and authority on Book of Mormon and Bible studies. I had taken a Book of Mormon class from him, and admired him greatly. One day he said mysteriously to a small group of students who had stayed after class, “I think, when you get to the Celestial Kingdom, you may be greatly surprised to find out who God really is!” Wow! That implied that Dr. Sperry knew some secret that not many people knew; that we students didn’t really know all there was to be known about this; that the prophets had not told all. What could that secret be?

As I researched this more, and found again and again the same words quoted from Brigham Young’s Journal of Discourses sermons, it began to fit together: Adam was really God!

After two years teaching high school in Zion, I was offered a scholarship to continue my graduate studies in Baltimore. We accepted. Again we were surrounded by Gentiles, and again I had a large research library available.

Certain events in church history really began to bother me. Why had Zion’s Camp failed? Why had the Kirtland Bank failed? Both of these enterprises were organized for the benefit of the church by God’s prophet, who promised that they would succeed. It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that God was not doing much to direct the affairs of his church. And, as I thought about it, the same could be said for the experiments in the United Order (holding all property in common), plural marriage, the Deseret Alphabet – all projects begun with great promise, directed by God’s anointed leaders, and all of which failed and were soon abandoned. It bothered me, but I put the thought aside.

What began to bother me most was that the church did not seem to be telling the entire truth about many events in its past. The evidence I read seemed to leave no doubt that the church had encouraged, if not organized, the enforcer gangs called the Danites or the Avenging Angels. Too many independent and primary sources testified of their activities. At that time in my researches the true story of the Mountain Meadows massacre was becoming known, an atrocity which the official church history passed off as the work of Indians, whereas it was becoming clear that the primary blame was on the church. The massacre itself was bad enough, but to me the subsequent whitewash by the church was worse, so far as the divine nature of the church was concerned. It bothered me, but I put the thought aside.

Among the papers of my grandfather, who had served a mission to England in 1910, I found a number of tracts and pamphlets that he had used on his mission. One was the transcript of a debate in 1850 between John Taylor (then an apostle, and on a mission in England) and a Methodist minister. Among the topics discussed in the debate was the rumor, common at the time, that the Mormons were practicing plural marriage. Taylor vigorously denied the rumors as a vicious lie, and firmly asserted on his honor that Mormons were good monogamists. At that very time, however, Taylor himself was married to twelve living wives. All of the top men in the church also had multiple wives at that time. How could a prophet of God lie so blatantly? It bothered me, but I tried to put the thought aside.

The Adam-God problem continued to occupy my mind. I finally decided to try to settle the matter. If the doctrine were true, I was willing, as a faithful member of the church, to accept it. If it were not true, I needed some explanation about the apparent fact that Brigham Young (and other church authorities of his time) vigorously taught it. So I composed a letter to Joseph Fielding Smith, whom I respected very much, and who at the time was the Church Historian and the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. If he would only answer my letter! I spelled out to President Smith my dilemma: the evidence seemed to be clear and uncontroverted that Brigham Young had taught that Adam is God the Father. But the present church does not teach this. What is the truth?

I secretly thought (and perhaps hoped) that President Smith would write back and say something like: “Dear Brother, your diligence and faith in searching for the truth has led you to a precious secret, not known to many; yes, you can be assured that President Young taught the truth: Adam is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to deal. The church does not proclaim this precious truth because we do not wish to expose the mysteries of God to the mockery of the world. Preserve this secret truth as you do the secrets of your temple endowment.”

I received a short and clear answer to my letter from President Smith. It was quite different from what I had expected. He wrote that such an idea was unscriptural and untrue, and completely false. He did not deal with the evidence that Brigham Young had taught it. He ignored the whole problem as if it didn’t exist. It bothered me, but I tried to put it out of my mind.

At the time I was auditing a class at the university in the history of philosophy. It was fascinating. I had no idea that ordinary human beings had given such thought to some of these questions. It occurred to me that my religion had plenty of answers and explanations, but it provided those answers without even really realizing what the questions were. The answers my church gave seemed rather flimsy and superficial, not even dealing with the really basic problems. I was introduced to the study of ethics, and was surprised to find the same thing: my religion, which claimed to be the ultimate, final and complete answer, was not even an introductory primer to the great ethical problems with which great thinkers had been dealing for hundreds of years.

However, I remained a faithful member of the church, fulfilling all my church obligations, attending meetings, observing the Word of Wisdom, wearing my temple garments. But I was struggling mightily to reconcile the church’s inconsistencies, lies, and dubious past with my faith in its divinity.

It was at a single moment one day in the university library when I was pondering this problem. I was suddenly struck with the thought, “All of these problems disappear as soon as you realize that the Mormon church is just another man-made institution. Everything then is easily explained.” It was like a revelation. The weight suddenly lifted from me and I was filled with a feeling of joy and exhilaration. Of course! Why hadn’t I seen it before?

I rushed home to share with my wife the great discovery I had made. I told her what I had learned: the church isn’t true!

She turned away and stomped up the stairs. She refused to accept anything I said critical about the church. It was the beginning of the end of our marriage.

I tried to continue my church responsibilities, primarily as ward organist. But I found it more and more difficult to sound sincere in public speaking, public prayer, or participation in class discussions. During the next summer my wife took the children back to Utah for a visit, and I felt it was silly for me to continue to wear the temple garments. And why shouldn’t I have a cup of coffee with the other students, or have a glass of wine at a party? I had never tasted coffee or alcohol in my life, but there was no reason now, I felt, to deprive myself of those pleasant things. The next year was an armed truce in my marriage.

My wife left me suddenly, with no warning, taking the children. Her friends at church helped her escape, and she returned to Zion and divorced me. A last-ditch attempt at reconciliation failed when she said that her return would be conditioned upon my returning to the faith. I realized that I could not do it, however much I wanted to keep my family. Of course she got custody of the children. She remarried four years later, her new husband a faithful priesthood holder whose wife had left the church. (How ironic, that a church which places such a high value on family ties actually destroys the very thing it claims to promote!)

In the years since leaving the church I have never regretted my decision for a moment (other than the fact that it caused me to lose my wife and children). Subsequent study has given me a hundred times as much damning information about the church and its history as I had at the time of my original decision to leave it. Many Mormon friends and family members have tried to convince me that I made a mistake, but when I insist that they also listen to what I have to say about my reasons for believing the church to be false, they soon abandon the attempt, even though I assure them that my mind is open to any evidence or reasoning I may have overlooked. They are convinced that I apostatized because of sin, lack of faith, stubbornness, pride, hurt feelings, lack of knowledge or understanding, depravity, desire to do evil or live a life of debauchery. None of those reasons is correct. I left for one reason, and one reason only: the Mormon church is not led by God, and it never has been. It is a religion of 100% human origin.

My wife believed, I think, that since the church had taught me to be honest, loving, faithful, hard-working and a good husband, my leaving the church would mean I would soon become just the opposite. She was probably not alone in believing that I would soon be a shiftless, godless, miserable bum, dead at an early age of syphilis and alcoholism.

However, my life since leaving the church has been a rich and rewarding one. I have been successful in my profession. I married a lovely girl with beliefs similar to mine, and we now have two fine adult sons whom we raised with no religious training whatsoever, and who are as admirable human beings as one could ever want their children to be. We have prospered materially (probably more than most of my good Mormon relatives), and our life has been rich in many other ways as well, rich in good friends, in appreciation of the beauty to be found in our world. We have explored all the intellectual and spiritual riches of our human heritage and profited from it all.

And as I am getting older I also realize that I have no fear of death, even though I have no idea what to expect when it comes. In that regard I find I am unlike many Mormons, who are desperately worried that they have not been sufficiently “valiant” in their devotion to the church to qualify for the Celestial Kingdom. Again, how ironic it is that a church which begins by promising its members such joy and happiness actually causes them such worry and despair!

I am still proud of my Mormon heritage. I still enjoy doing genealogy work (I have more complete records than most of my Mormon family members). I still love to play and sing some of the stirring old Mormon hymns. I still keep a good supply of food on hand. And I still believe in eternal progression: things just keep getting better and better.

As a postscript: Apostle Bruce R. McConkie admitted that Brigham Young did teach that Adam was God, and that the church has indeed lied about its own history. (read his letter here) He says that Brigham Young was wrong, but he has gone to the Celestial Kingdom; but if you believe what Brigham Young taught about that, you will go to hell. The fact that the church can put a “positive spin” on these admissions is truly mind-boggling.


Comments?   Questions?  (Please, no preaching, testimonies, or hate mail!)   To send a comment or ask a question, click here.

Click here to visit the Recovery from Mormonism Website.

©  1998 Richard Packham    Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included

TO RICHARD PACKHAM’S HOME PAGE

Meet RICHARD PACKHAM

I am a retired college teacher (foreign languages) and retired attorney. I live with my wife Janet in Roseburg, Oregon, where we have a home outside of town with room to raise some cattle and some trees.

I grew up as a Mormon and left the church many years ago.

I have three grown children by my Mormon ex-wife. I have two grown sons with Janet, my present wife of over 45 years, one of whom helps us operate the ranch.I am interested in history, religion, philosophy, amateur theater, cooking and baking, writing, and music (I play piano, guitar, and several other instruments). I also like to cook, bake, knit, tat and do cross-word puzzles.

I love garage sales and thrift shops. I rarely watch television, but we occasionally rent a movie.

My friends tell me I’m a nice person. My enemies don’t talk to me.

For more information about me see Why I Left the Mormon ChurchHow I Became an Atheist, and my longer autobiography.

Here is a candid snapshot of me (taken at the Exmormon convention in January 2008:

 


To search this website or the web:

Google  
 Web  packham.n4m.org

Screw the mormon church

Load more suggestions