Darrell, I understand what you're saying. The important distinction to make is that just because that was your unfortunate experience does not mean that this necessarily represents the status quo. I'm very sorry that you had such an experience that caused you to feel hurt and now bitterness towards the Church. You really probably feel that you know the “real truth” and feel duty bound to share what you know with those of us who just don’t see it and are trapped. I can't blame you for feeling the way you do. I only blame you if you've become too blinded to see that opposite perspectives exist, or if you feel justified in polemics rather than simply having a civil and honest dialogue.
I deeply love my experience being a Mormon, as happy and as frustrating as it can be at times. I can’t help but detect goodness when I see how faithful Latter-day Saints live their lives. And after all, isn’t that “end product” the best test for any religion? Now, I’m under no illusions that Latter-day Saints have a monopoly on goodness, I’m just expressing that I personally feel grateful to belong to the Church and also that I believe in the doctrines of the Church. But for me, it's not even really about the Church--it's about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that the Church is not perfect. It can't be because it's made up of imperfect people. But I still believe that it is inspired. For me, it truly is about coming to know my Savior and serving my brothers and sisters. I also recognize God's hand, His truth, and His power. I've had too many experiences to deny this.
I don't know how long it's been since you left the Church, but I'll assume it was before Richard Bushman's landmark biography of Joseph Smith came out. I think that this book has helped all kinds of people see the issues that can be so disturbing about Joseph Smith, and also to see them in context. I learned some uncomfortable things I didn't know before, but I never felt the Church was lying to me for not having made them a big deal. Yes there are things that can be a little jarring to members of the Church who are under-informed about the past, but I was able to adjust my paradigm just fine. For example, see my post One Year After The Paradigm Shift--"Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling".
I concede that many people are badly under-informed, but then again we don't use Sunday School as the place to spend time on controversial issues. Who likes to dwell on messy issues? Furthermore, just because there are controversial issues doesn't automatically rule out the "truthfulness" or the "usefulness" of the Church, nor of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which it proclaims. I, for one, am proof that it's completely possible to know about the controversial episodes in Joseph's past yet till maintain belief in the inspiration of this work. I feel it’s added a more realistic depth to my faith.
The more I've learned, perhaps the more philosophic and less dogmatic I've become in how I approach my faith, but I can still believe Joseph was a prophet even though there are a lot of things about him and his past that make him an easy target to dismiss as a fraud/false prophet. Some people can work through these and some cannot. The more I've assimilated them, the less of a "big" deal it is, and the more I can focus on all the great and truly amazing things about the Church and its doctrines. And at the end of the day, the focus isn't on Joseph Smith anyway; the focus is truly on the Savior (although some members and wards do better at balancing this than others.)
When all is said and done, is the Church obligated to talk openly about the disturbing things? Does anybody want to focus on just the warts? I welcome this new era of openness that I'm seeing in the Church, but I can also understand why many would hesitate to talk about these things openly. We shouldn't ignore the warts entirely but we also can't focus in so much on them that we fail to see all the goodness, truth, and inspiration that came about as a result. To do otherwise would be to create a caricature. In all fairness, both sides can be satisfied and multiple perspectives shared, although we would probably disagree on how this should be done. But I'm fine with that.
I'm perfectly happy with you having your perspective of truth and me having mine and agreeing to disagree. After all, I'm not interested in converting anyone to my "side". I don’t hesitate to share what I know with others, but I recognize that good people truly know the Savior with or without my Church, and that He often uses them right where they are. I personally just enjoy the benefits and education that come from seeking out mutual understanding in having interfaith dialogue.
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