Let Us Reason Together: Is the Mormon Church Like a Pyramid Scheme?

A former Mormon, John D. (I’m not going to give his last name, but he is now a self-employed, highly paid anti-Mormon) recently wrote the following analogy about the Mormon Church.

“Imagine that you and all of your extended family became heavily invested in a pyramid scheme, entrusting your entire life savings therein.  Then imagine one day stumbling upon a preponderance of factual evidence proving that the entire scheme was fraudulent.”

To support his oddball analogy he went on to write three reasons, after careful thought and consideration, why the Mormon church is a fraud.

  1. The LDS church was not open and honest with its history and punished people for decades for speaking openly about it;
  2. Members have given time and money to the church without having a full understanding of the church’s founding narrative — and many of them, had they been given the full and accurate narrative, might have made very different choices with their lives and money; and
  3. Precious family relationships and friendship are being destroyed over these religious differences.

To begin, I agree that the three reasons John D. provides have kernels of truth, but when closely inspected, they don’t even come close to supporting his outlandish, oddball analogy that the church is like a pyramid scheme.

#1-John D. says the LDS church was not open and honest with its history. Let’s start with President Monson. When did he know all the details of church history that John D. knows in this day and age? I would guess, because only President Monson knows for sure, but I would guess when he became an apostle in 1963, he didn’t know anywhere near what John D. knows today. Why? Because President Monson and most, if not all the apostles and prophets of his day didn’t have access, for a variety of reasons, to what we have available today.

I spent a lot of time in the Harold B. Lee library’s Special Collections in the early 1970’s studying LDS doctrine and history. In addition, I talked extensively with BYU religion teachers. Hyrum Andrus and I became good friends. We talked about everything. The big issues in that day were Adam/God doctrine and Joseph Smith using a hat and seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon. The Tanners and other critics of the church were focusing their efforts to discredit the church on those issues.

I don’t think the majority of church leaders in that day knew much about church history and doctrine outside of what the average member was aware of. They relied then, as today, on BYU scholars for help with the controversial issues. So, John D.’s argument that church leaders were conspiring to withhold information from church members to dupe them into being part of a scheme of any kind just doesn’t fit reality. Church leaders focused their time and means on the doctrines of salvation as found in the standard works. That brings us to the next point.

#1 Continued-Did church leaders punish those who spoke openly about controversial issues? To a certain extent, yes, they did. I remember some church members who wouldn’t follow church leaders counsel not to teach about Adam/God, whether Jesus was married or not, and other issues of the day, were disciplined. The primary intent wasn’t to conceal information, but to further the mission of the church, that is, missionary work, redeeming the dead, and perfecting the saints. Those like me, who wanted to know the history and doctrine, and were faithful members, were able to have access to sensitive material. Rodney Turner’s thesis on Adam/God was available in Special Collections, as was Wilford Woodruff’s journal, and all other kinds of material were available. But if you were determined to sensationalize doctrine or history contrary to the counsel of church leaders, aid the fundamentalist by preaching about controversial issues or advocating polygamy, you were subject to church discipline.

#2-Apparently, John D. thinks the church is misleading those investigating the church, as well as new members, and seasoned members, if they don’t trot out all the troubles, perplexities, and controversial issues the church has experienced in its history. Would John D. fault Jesus Christ for not disclosing to the apostles, on the first day he called them, that if they followed him they would eventually die a horrible martyr’s death? How about applying for a job at a company. Would John D. expect the company to provide a binder filled with information and details about law suits, financial challenges, outstanding loans, employee discipline issues, health information about key personal, and other disclosures that most would agree shouldn’t be provided to a job candidate. 

#3-Whether it is religion, race, or politics relationships with friends and family can to be subject to difficulty when opinions and feelings differ.  The best remedy for such challenges is to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. John D., can you offer a superior way to deal with precious family and friend relationships that suffer because of religious differences than what is taught by the church?

John D. and some others like him feel the Mormon church has betrayed them. I know and understand the issues and concerns they have. However, it is important that John D. and others who are transitioning out of the church realize that most people who have equal knowledge about church history and doctrine as they do, stay Mormon. I wonder if John D. and others like him feel that they have conclusive proof Mormonism is a complete and utter fraud. No such smoking gun evidence exist. If it did, general authorities, church leaders, teachers, and those in the know would be leaving in mass.

I’ve read the Book of Mormon many times. And each time I have been moved intellectually by Lehi’s teachings about “opposition in all things”. His discussion of this topic has provided me with many worthwhile insights. It is an intellectually stimulating topic. It has helped me understand the purpose and value in some of life’s experiences that are difficult to bear, let alone find purpose and value in.

Lately, I have been thinking about another dimension of this topic that may be worthwhile to consider for those experiencing a faith crisis. The idea of opposition is clear in its meaning, but I’ve wondered lately about the “in all things” part. He didn’t say opposition in “some” or a “few” things, but he said, “in all things”. If I apply “all” to the challenges that are currently visiting Mormondom I come away considering some things I haven’t before thought.

Did the Lord allow or could He even have arranged for circumstances to come about so that His purposes could be accomplished by the opposition church members are experiencing in our day? Is there evidence in the scriptures that God would permit or do such things?

I think there is. Go here for more on this topic.

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