I made a simple little YouTube ad for my book. In theory, I have a wider reach on YouTube than on any other platform, because I have 3.45K subscribers, mostly thanks to one music video I posted in 2015 that has over two million views. In practice, this video has gotten six views in six days. Yay, I love being me.
But I'm also friends with a host of a Star Wars podcast, and I arranged to exploit that for some free advertising under the rationale that my book drew lots of inspiration from Star Wars. I listened to this episode on mute because I want to support my friend but I'd rather slit my wrists than hear my own voice. This was my first time being interviewed about what I hope to leverage into a career, and I think I did pretty well right until the end. I've decided that from now on I'm not going to be apologetic or self-deprecating about the fact that I self-published. That was my choice, and I stand by it. I don't know how much rejection I would have experienced or how many changes the publisher would have wanted to make if I'd gone the traditional route, but the fact that I didn't is not a reflection on the quality of my writing. Also, at the end, I should have mentioned my Goodreads author page. I only mentioned my Amazon page and this website and said that should about cover it. My mind was racing with all my different social media profiles, and I thought I should keep it simple by not including them, and then I didn't mention the Goodreads author page because I haven't done anything with it, I have one follower (the podcast friend), and I don't have a strategy for using it to further my career. I should, though. But see, I'm learning already, and it's a very good sign that I don't hate everything about this interview.
A few days later, as it happens, another friend sought out people to participate in a podcast that she's making for a college class. The topic is "life lessons you wish you had learned sooner." I'm not sure if I'll do it or not, because the biggest life lesson I wish I had learned sooner, besides the generic and boring ones, is one that she, a Mormon, wouldn't want to hear. The biggest life lesson I wish I had learned sooner is this: Feelings are not a reliable method of evaluating truth. I've only learned this in the last couple of years. My parents and everyone in the LDS Church taught me from a young age to base my worldview in large part on "spiritual witnesses" that are actually just normal human emotions. As an adult, I thought I was so open-minded and well-rounded because I accepted spiritual methods of evaluating certain kinds of truth in addition to empirical methods for evaluating other kinds of truth. But this sandy foundation, and my desperate wholehearted efforts to follow God's direction for my life, eventually brought me a world of pain and disillusionment. Pleasant feelings are not the Holy Ghost. Unpleasant feelings are not Satan. This is so obvious now. I'm pretty pissed off that I was indoctrinated to think that way. I try not to be pissed off at any specific person who indoctrinated me, because I know they all meant well.
There was a very specific point in my life, age seventeen, where I chose to continue believing the church, despite all the evidence I'd stumbled upon that Joseph Smith was a fraud, because of the powerful "spiritual witness" I'd felt at EFY. It's hard to say I regret that as such. I don't regret moving to Utah, going to USU, or meeting many wonderful people and having many great experiences through the church. It's impossible to even say how my life would have turned out otherwise. But eventually, my fidelity to this decision - to God, I thought - drove me to twist myself into intellectual pretzels, put up with a lot of bullcrap that was so clearly wrong, and waste several years of my life defending and promoting a lie. I wish I had still come to Utah and gone to USU but left the LDS Church years earlier. And I hope to help others figure it out sooner than I did before they base their major life decisions on unreliable feelings, perhaps with less positive results. Think of all the women who gave up their dreams because their prophet told them to be stay-at-home moms, for example. Think of all the irrational things people may do because they think the Holy Ghost told them to. Someone posted this on reddit a few months ago. They filed it under Humor/Memes, but it's not funny, it's terrifying that children are being groomed to think this way. Or more precisely, to not think at all.
People in every religion appear to get the same "spiritual witnesses" that the LDS Church wants to monopolize, and I point this out at every opportunity. Mormons typically give me one of two responses. The first one is that of course all these people feel the Holy Ghost because all religions have some truth. But that still undermines the claim that Mormons' spiritual witnesses specifically prove that their religion is the most true. Mormons have no right to assert that their subjective personal feelings are more powerful or more authentic than everyone else's subjective personal feelings. This also fails to explain why "the Holy Ghost" bears witness of the truth of suicide cults, as attested by people who have been filmed bearing emotional testimonies a few days before they killed themselves because their prophet told them to. And when I bring that up, Mormons give their other response, which is that Satan deceived those people by mimicking the Holy Ghost - something that the LDS Church specifically taught me he couldn't do. My sister said that's why we have to evaluate religions by their fruits. I tried to explain that nobody in the world sees the LDS Church protecting child abusers or lying about its obscene wealth and thinks "Ah, this must be the true religion."
Someone posted this on reddit a few days ago. I can vouch that nothing in it is inaccurate. I was taught all of this in the LDS Church, and now, from the other side, the manipulation and circular reasoning are so obvious (without even getting into the fallacious claim that the church is automatically true if the Book of Mormon is true).
The LDS Church quite noticeably pulls this same bullcrap with tithing. If you pay it and good things happen, that proves tithing is a true principle and you should keep paying it. If you pay it and good things don't happen, that means you need to wait on the Lord's timing or you're just failing to notice the subtle ways he's blessing you, and tithing is still a true principle and you should keep paying it. There is no scenario in which the church will concede that the tithing promise has been falsified.
While I'm on the subject of the Book of Mormon, though, I want to address a couple of faith-promoting cliches that I saw all over Twitter when Mormons began studying it in their church curriculum this year. The people saying these things weren't the usual alt-right jerks that I interact with, so I left them alone unless they specifically invited feedback. But I can't stand the claim that Joseph Smith only had 85 days to translate the Book of Mormon and therefore it was miraculous. According to his own narrative, he had five and a half years between the time he first mentioned the golden plates and the time he started translating them. His mother later wrote of this period, "During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelings, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them." He even got a bit of a practice run when he dictated the original 116 pages and then didn't reproduce them after Martin Harris lost them, as he would have been able to do if he'd actually received them by revelation. And then he only needed to dictate for three to six hours a day to get the Book of Mormon finished in 85 days. Suddenly it's a little less miraculous.
I also saw a lot of assertions that the Book of Mormon has "held up to scrutiny" for almost two hundred years. That one just baffles me. Orthodox Mormons will continue to believe in it because of their "spiritual witness," not because of external evidence or internal consistency, regardless of what anyone says. Meanwhile, the people outside of the LDS Church and the tiny Mormon splinter groups who take it seriously as an ancient document can be counted on one hand. Virtually all scholars of anything regard it as an obvious work of nineteenth-century fiction. Even many Mormons regard it as a work of nineteenth-century fiction. I have no real idea, but I think it would be generous to estimate that 0.05% of people in the world believe the Book of Mormon is what Joseph Smith said it was. So why does that tiny fraction of a percent, whatever it happens to be exactly, get to decide that the book has "held up to scrutiny"? What does that even mean under these circumstances? Just that the book has continued to exist? That's a pretty low bar, and not miraculous by any stretch of the imagination. It's the same bar to which they hold the entire LDS Church now that its "miraculous" growth rate has been plummeting for three decades in a row.
So that's why I'm not sure if I'll appear on this other friend's podcast.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.