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Testimony of Ed Bliss

Unlike many ex-Mormons, whose doubts about the Church began because of things in the Book of Mormon, my doubts began because of things that are NOT in the Book of Mormon.

It was while I was on my mission that I first began studying the book carefully, and early on I began to have the feeling that something was missing. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I felt that it was incomplete, that it didn't quite measure up to what I had hoped for.

It finally dawned on me what was missing: Mormon doctrine! I had wanted to expand my understanding of the gospel by delving into such subjects as pre-existence, the spirit world, the three degrees of glory, eternal progression, baptism for the dead, the multiplicity of gods, the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods, eternal marriage, the rationale for polygamy, the nature of the Godhead, the denial of priesthood to blacks, and so forth. So I combed through the Book of Mormon looking for information about these teachings. After all, Apostle Bruce R. McConkie had assured us that "almost all of the doctrines of the gospel are taught in the Book of Mormon with much better clarity and perfection than those same doctrines are revealed in the Bible." So I started looking.

I was astounded when I discovered that none of those doctrines are to be found in the Book of Mormon, and that Apostle McConkie's assertion was absolutely false. I was puzzled. I thought, surely an apostle would not knowingly lie, and McConkie couldn't have failed to read the book. So how could he have been unaware of what was in (or rather what was not in) the book that was "the cornerstone of Mormonism"?

I was disillusioned and disheartened. Why were these things missing?

I was nearing the end of my mission when I realized all of these doctrines had been added to Mormonism after the Book of Mormon was in print, when there was no way to go back and put them in. They were all "postscripts" to Mormon theology ­­– which explains, incidentally, why Joseph Smith never quoted from the Book of Mormon when discussing doctrine: there was nothing there to quote.

It amazes me that this fact is not more widely known. Why do people argue about such abstruse questions as whether there are traces of Judaic culture in Mayan relics, or whether there were horses in ancient America, or whether the "limited geography" theory explains the "narrow neck of land" problem. Why waste time tilting at windmills? There is a simple irrefutable argument against LDS claims: namely that none of the basic doctrines of Mormonism can be found in the book that is the "cornerstone" of Mormonism, and when you remove the cornerstone of any building it collapses. End of discussion. Case closed.

So where did those missing doctrines come from? It wasn't until many years later that I found the answer to that question. Most, but not all, are simply adaptations from a book that Joseph Smith discovered after the Book of Mormon was in print, Emmanuel Swedenborg’s Treatise on Heaven and Hell. Swedenborg, a Swedish theologian, believed in pre-existence, eternal progression, the three degrees of heaven, a period of learning between death and resurrection, eternal marriage, the existence of other inhabited worlds similar to ours, and other doctrines that Joseph Smith adopted and embellished, as I have explained in my book, A Friendly Discussion: Mormonism Pro and Con. Swedenborg came up with the concepts, and Joseph Smith wove them into elaborate doctrines – just as he took the exodus story from View of the Hebrews and transmuted it into Lehi's journey.

Once I realized that the Book of Mormon was not the source of Mormonism my testimony, of course, vanished into thin air. Now I faced a dilemma: I could ask the mission president to send me home early (I had a few weeks left before my mission would be complete), or I could say nothing and serve out my remaining time. The first course would be devastating to my parents, my family, and my friends, to say nothing of the good people I had worked with during my mission. On the other hand, I had always been taught that Truth is the ultimate virtue, and I felt it would be dishonest to pretend to be a believer when I no longer was.

After some anguishing soul-searching I decided to say nothing, and during the remainder of my mission I focused on administrative tasks. Instead of proselytizing I worked with the several small branches I was assigned to, helping them with organizational and personnel problems, and with upgrading the meeting facilities. In my homecoming talk when I returned from my mission I simply related a few anecdotes and said that my mission had been a time of challenge and a time of learning, which was true. And I made it a point not to "bear my testimony."

As time has passed I have never regretted my decision to leave the Church. As someone (Richard Packham, I think) has pointed out, it is fallacious to talk about having "lost" one's testimony, because that phrase implies giving up something of value. It makes more sense to consider what has been gained. What I have gained is a feeling of authenticity, a realization that I can make decisions solely on the basis of reason and logic, instead of trying to reconcile erroneous beliefs with what I know to be true. That's a "testimony" I am comfortable with.

Ed Bliss is a former journalist, editor, legislative assistant, lobbyist, and business consultant. He is author of several books, including A Friendly Discussion: Mormonism Pro and Con.