Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was no dodo. He was a medical doctor (ophthalmologist), a stanch supporter of compulsory vaccination, and studied botany. He is most known for writing the Sherlock Holmes books. Yet he was fooled by two young girls into thinking fairies were real.
In 1917 two cousins used to play by a steam and come back muddy. This upset their mothers, so the girls told them they only went to the stream to play with the fairies. To prove it, they took a camera and came back with photos of fairies. The photos eventually received widespread publication, and came to the attention of Doyle. He was already famous for this books, so when he wrote several magazine articles supporting the photographs as real, it created quite a stir.
The argument in favor of the photographs being real was that “how could two young girls with no experience in photography pull off such as elaborate hoax?”. Sound familiar? If someone had done some digging into the background of the older cousin (she was 16), they would have learned that she worked part time in a photography studio. But there was no internet in 1917. The cousins finally admitted in 1983 that the photos where a hoax. They said they were too embarrassed to admit it was a hoax after fooling somebody as important at Doyle.
“Two village kids and a brilliant man like Conan Doyle – well, we could only keep quiet.”
“I never even thought of it as being a fraud – it was just Elsie and I having a bit of fun and I can’t understand to this day why they were taken in – they wanted to be taken in.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cottingley_Fairies
This would not be the first or last time that a woman kept quite so as not to embarrass a man.
I guess the moral of the story is that one does not have to be a dodo  to be taken in by a hoax. Even really smart people can be fooled. “Often, smart people get taken in because they’re smart. They have a track record of seeing things others don’t, making good bets and winning big. People give them deference, come to them for advice and laugh at their jokes. They’re used to seeing things others don’t. For them, a lack of discernible evidence isn’t always a warning sign. It can be an opportunity” 
 “We’re not a cult. I’m not an idiot, you know. I’ve read a couple of books and I’ve been to a pretty good school, and I have chosen to be in this church because of the faith that I feel and the inspiration that comes. I’ve met people, and if people want to call us a cult, they can call us a cult and you can call us a cult, but we are 14-million and growing, and I’d like to think that your respect for me would be enough to know that this man doesn’t seem like a dodo.” – (Elder Holland, interview BBC)
 “Why smart people are so easily fooled” Digital Tonto May 15, 2022
What is a cult? The classic text definition goes something like this: small group not part of the mainstream; urged to give all for the cause; be willing to forsake family if needs be; willing to die for the cause; a charismatic leader(s); blah blah blah.
Does this remind you of biblical history? Jesus and his disciples?
Rather, I suggest a better definition is when a person is urged to let others do their thinking for them. Isiah 1:18 charged us to “come and reason. ” If one is urged to simply believe despite all evidence and let a higher general authority do your thinking for you, then buyer be aware.
Are you out of the Church Bishop Bill? Cultural Mormon only now, glad for the heritage but out of the cult? Still TBM? Is this post a not so subtle hint?
I just assume you’re gone from the tone of all your postings over the last year or two.
Point #1: Of course there are fairies. Why would anyone plant a garden if it wasn’t to provide a home for fairies, silly goose. The jury is still out on the existence of dodos, but since it’s such a cool word, I hope they exist.
Point #2: The definition of a religion: what I believe. The definition of a cult: what you believe.
Point #3: In the preface of one of his stories ( I forget which one) Arthur Conan Doyle presented a description of America’s Great Basin (i.e. Utah and Nevada) that made it sound like one of the most abysmal places on earth. I once used the paragraph in a 24th of July sacrament meeting talk, concluding with “and this, brothers and sisters, is the place we call ‘home'”. Doyle later admitted that he had never visited the area. Some still think it’s abysmal, but I kinda like it.
Point #4: Belief. Faith. Truth. When it come to my religion, I sorta understand Garry Harrison’s thoughts in South Park: Gary [to Stan] “Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life, and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you’re so high and mighty you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, buddy.”
The LDS church is a soft cult.
In 2022, I marvel at the number of intelligent family members who refuse to learn more about the LDS church history and the current dialogue. Most of them still think the church does more good than harm. (why are we accepting the harm? ) And the church can do good for a stage of life for certain personalities. And the church can be a good place, if you always win the leadership roulette. But if you step back and take an objective view, the LDS church is not what it claims to be. @seeker, the church may teach its members to be nice and helpful…..but when it is not nice or helpful repetitively how should that be managed.? If the church squeezes you out of your ancestral home or never even accepted you as a real member? If you are abused spiritually by MP or leadership, do you just think of the fairies and the cute stories? and when the institution is purely narcissist, the protection of the fantasy faith promoting story persists over real people ?
Believing in fairies and Santa Claus can be sweet and childlike. But maturation requires each person to become an adult, and Mormonism keeps people in their spiritual infancy.
Thank goodness, that the story of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is just a cute story that all can chuckle at. However, it did not wrap its self around a religion, a lifestyle, and everyone’s eternal salvation and connection to God.
I recently watched the Hulu series “The Dropout” which I give two thumbs up and highly recommend.
Elizabeth Holmes fooled George Schultz and Henry Kissinger and many other smart investors to the tune of $700 million as well as being responsible for people dying. But she couldn’t fool George Schultz lowly grandson Tyler. Despite having his grandfather take Elizabeth’s side, he continued to call Elizabeth out as a fraud. And what do you know, it turns out the whole thing was a fraud.
My point? Smart people are capable of making mistakes both big and small. The Holland quote above is merely deflection from answering tough questions.
There was a time I used to tell myself smarter people than me believe in the church so why can’t I believe? But that’s not the right question. If they believe then great. If I don’t believe then I don’t believe. I don’t need the validation of smart people to make faith-based life choices.
Smart people can be some of the dumbest people around. They keep getting told how smart they are and then get arrogant about how smart they are and forget that cynicism and doubt are what made them smart. They start thinking they cannot be wrong and forget to question everything and demand proof.
The same with religious people. Christians can be some of the most un-Christian people you ever met as in the current “Christian Nationalists”. Pro-life people can become blood thirsty killers when they bomb abortion clinics. They surround themselves with others who “know” they are right, keep telling them how inspired they are. Then they get arrogant about how right they are and forget the very principles they based their beliefs on.
The problem of their arrogance is they look down on others as simple, innocent, even stupid. “Simple farm boy” equals too stupid to dictate, off the top of his head, a whole book, with long quotes from the Bible. The logic goes, “well, I am smart and I couldn’t do it.”
No, Holland isn’t a dodo, but then again, his intelligence is book learning, not an unusual kind of intelligence like a photographic memory or the kind of unusual ability to synthesize religious ideas that Joseph had. He doesn’t have the kind of intelligence of, say the woman who made people believe in past lives because the stories she told of life 100 years ago in Ireland were so detailed and accurate. Turned out, she had a nanny as a baby who had told her all kinds of stories about the nanny’s life in Ireland when she was a child. This woman somehow remember these stories in great detail 50 years later, but had no idea where the stories had originally come from.
Doyle knew that *he * couldn’t have faked pictures of fairies because with all his education, he didn’t know the tricks of photography. But instead of accepting that a 17 year old peasant might know something he didn’t, he accepted that fairies had to be real. See the arrogance? The inability to accept that someone with little formal education knows more than he knows?
Holland knows he could not make up a book like the Book of Mormon, and he knows that he just *has* to be smarter than a “simple farm boy”, so therefore, the BoM could only exist if God helped it come into existence. Instead of recognizing his own lack of ability to write a book by dictation as some skill or ability that Joseph had, and Holland lacks, he believes God did it.
Me, I accept the brilliance of Joseph Smith. Yeah, he did something that I know I couldn’t do. But instead of defending my own education by pretending that someone with less formal education couldn’t possibly do anything that I can’t do, I just appreciate how truly brilliant Joseph was. Maybe not so honest, but yeah pretty smart.
And dodos were not stupid. They had just evolved in an environment where they survived just fine without flying. Until humans showed up. It was the humans who were stupid to kill all of them and drove them extinct.
I’d posit this isn’t about being smart or a dodo. Religion is about emotions and community (not entirely, but largely). Seeker’s quote from South Park is a good illustration of that – it doesn’t matter to some people that the doctrine and stories are bizarre as long as you fit into the community and feel like it helps you have a good life.
Mormonism wants people to be happy. The plan of salvation is also known as the plan of happiness. We’re not only taught stories and doctrine at Church, we’re taught how to feel. We should be grateful, cheerful, happy to serve, at peace, loving towards everyone, and grateful again. As long as the community accepts you and you feel valued by them, it’s easy to feel these feelings while going to church, accepting callings, and doing the other things that the Church wants you to do. After all, the Church only wants you to do things so you can Feel The Spirit and be happy.
Being a faithful Mormon isn’t so much about being smart enough to analyze its truth claims. It’s more about fitting into the community, and having the feelings that you’re instructed to feel. I mean, we’re not even allowed to say a Church meeting is boring – if we’re bored at Church, it’s our own personal failure for not preparing well enough. Once you start having non-approved feelings (church meetings are boring; feeling agitated at the temple; resenting your calling; not feeling like you want your assigned family role for eternity), you’re on the high road to apostasy. Being a faithful member means having the right feelings about the right things, whether your understand them or not.
The entire process of conversion is about feelings. Read the Book of Mormon and pray. Did you feel calm and peaceful? That’s the Spirit telling you this is true and now you need to be baptized and do everything the Brethren say for the rest of your life. I mean, that’s quite a leap, but that’s what I taught investigators. That feeling means you’ve discovered the truth. Have the feelings you’re supposed to have — truth is based on feelings, not on reason and doctrine and history.
Elder Holland’s feelings fit very well into the framework of accepted Mormon feelings. Whether or not he’s smart is beside the point.
Anna – that was a really good comment. I love the insight that smart people assign accomplishments to inspiration rather than believe that maybe someone who isn’t as “smart” could still do something that they can’t do.
Janey – I LOVE your response and I strongly agree with your comments regarding the community aspect. You’ve eloquently stated my own feelings much better than I’ve been able to articulate in my own life. Thank you!
Good Question “Just Asking”. I taught Elders just a few months ago, but it was on the Church Essays. Last Sunday the new SP came by my house to visit. We are old friends, and he was the bishop that replaced me when I was released. I told him why my attendance was less than active: how they treat LGBTQ members (I have a grandchild that is non-binary), and the lack of transparency with money. He told my they need people like me in the church to ask the hard questions in class, and invited me back. I told him to please convey my reasons to the Area Authority next time he has a meeting with him.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
Since wife and I, stopped going NO Bishop, EQ, SP or anyone has called, asked or stopped by. One the rare occasion we run into a member they say, thought about calling you (but never did or do) They know we have had health problems. They know nothing about a faith crisis. Not even tried to fake love bomb us. I just did not return one Sunday…which led to many many Sundays to the present.
After giving thousands of hours to the church, after visiting members in EQ for decades, after giving thousands in tithing, after having 100% HT for 30 years, taking my kids away, taking my own childhood away, dealing with their nonsense rhetoric in the name of “faith” and God……. this is how they apprecaite the members and service. …….”Crickets”
I became an untouchable for commenting and disagreeing on their early morning seminary and the cliqish groups of adults and youth at church. ……that eventually led me down the rabbit hole. No regrets, other than wishing I would have left decades ago and not raised my kids in the church.
From personal experience I can say the church is in complete denial of its own internal problems. The AA will give you lip service, but in the end they do not care. I only join you each Sunday to stay in the loop, so when more family members are ready for the 2nd half of life they have someone to talk to.
Bishop Bill living in CA.you probably have more open minded people, than the rest of us do. But in the end…it’s their way or the highway and the dodo bird is part of road kill and the risk of crossing a busy road. Thank you for your weekly blog.
I’m surprised you made absolutely no mention of Doyle’s deep involvement in Spiritualism. I enjoyed most all of his Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger stories (“The Disintegration Machine” short story is a must read), with one of the latter being dedicated entirely to spiritualism, complete with footnotes linking elements of the stories to the “real life” experiences of himself and his associates. Along with the inclusion of Mormons in his first Holmes novel, there’s a brief mention of them in his spiritualist novel as well.
I personally think Spiritualism and séances are easier to fake than a lot of other things, but I can totally understand his fascination with it. I think he did appear to maintain at least some level of skepticism from time to time, though his novel would completely show otherwise.
I’ve often wondered what would lead to such thinking. I sometimes feel that the light of Christ gives every human being a finite amount of faith, with the option of enlarging that faith with the right tools. Many put all their faith in science and/or politics, and when science continues to explain things to their satisfaction, with no more need for that faith, they either reinvest that faith in it further (sometimes detrimentally beyond science’s intended capabilities) or they sort of subconsciously start reallocating it elsewhere. Even if you don’t believe in the light of Christ, I think the phenomenon is observable in just about everyone. I’m sure there’s a psychological explanation for it as well.
At the most cynical time in my teenage years, I did look to other members. I grew up in a college town and a large portion of my ward held doctorate degrees. But for all their intelligence, that wasn’t what made me think they knew something I didn’t. It was the twinkle in their eye and the sense that in some of their testimony bearing, they were holding something back even more wonderful.
I think feelings have their place, but after having experiences with the pure intelligence conveyed by the Holy Ghost, I feel like I’m starting to get an inkling of where they were at and what they were struggling to either share or hold back. Those experiences, for me, make my faith both validated and reasonable. I can see how it wouldn’t for others. Without those experiences, I can see how others would make mistakes similar to Doyle’s, but even with those experiences and growing more faith, I think members can be too quick to allocate that faith properly. It will probably take me a lifetime.
There are many reasons for people to stay in or leave the church. What makes me feel sad is that, much like this post, when one chooses to leave, it is usually done by calling those who choose to stay any number of insulting names. Dodos probably the least offensive, but having looked at the church and its claims, as well as some of the problematic issues, people still find truth in its teachings. To call them naive, dumb, cultish, etc…. does not help the dialogue. It merely makes those who still believe become more insular as their core values, morals and culture are being attacked by former friends.
I used to love the discussion on Wheat and Tares. It challenged me and invited me to see other perspectives. Lately, it is more and more like an exmo thread on Reddit. For that, I am also saddened.
Conan Doyle was also fooled by Houdini, even as the latter tried in vain to convince Conan Doyle that magic tricks are, in fact, tricks.
@Gilgamesh: Who called whom a dodo? Bishop Bill’s point is that intelligence isn’t a foolproof shield against being fooled.
Gilgamsesh, are you equally upset when believers call those who question or leave names? If you are, then I assume you must be furious with the general authorities who call us “lazy learners” and deceived by Satan and all kinds of other derogatory from the pulpit at general conference.
I grew up with my inactive parents being called all kinds of nasty things, sometimes even by my grandparents, and all my life, I have listened to believers badmouthing nonbelievers. The believers seem to feel that the negative things they call unbelievers are perfectly justified and that if the unbelievers don’t like it, they just need to repent. This all is part of why I stopped believing, that the believers are so unkind and refuse to see any good in someone who disagrees with them.
My own questions were met with condemnation about my attitude of failing to understand was going to take me straight to hell. Never once did I find someone I could honestly talk to about real problems with the church. I tried to ask about polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, the confusing endowment, why women are so second class, and all I ever got was being called bad names and blamed. It was all my fault that I didn’t understand how “subject to” was “equal”. It was all my fault that I thought it was wrong back in 1970 that blacks were second class members, who could ever be anything but servants to whites in the CK. It was my fault that my acceptance of God as father was damaged because my earthly father was sexually abusive and that I was worse than he was because I struggled to heal the damage, which to idiot priesthood leaders meant I was unforgiving. So, I got called names because my father was this wonderful, forgiven child rapist.
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black or trying to get the mote out of your neighbor’s eye, while you have a beam in your own. Go to Sacrament meeting and complain about how unkind the believers can be toward those who question, or just shut up. I find your whining about nonbelievers saying unkind things about believers a bit offensive, when even your general authorities bad mouth and blame those who question.
Sorry if you think this is nasty, but I get tired of the double standard that believers can call those who question any evil name they can come up with, while us doubters have to accept it and praise the believers in our lives as more righteous than we are.
It seems really hard to label the way people choose to believe in Church teachings and they way they want to live their lives (like labeling people “dodos”). Maybe there is a spectrum of belief, from non-believer on one end to 100% all-in, on the other (and hopefully all feel welcome; all their voices are needed and valuable). I currently teach Gospel Doctrine in our ward. Yesterday in the course of the lesson, when we talked about current sources of information about Church History, I asked how many people in the class had read “Rough Stone Rolling” (by Richard Bushman). In a class of 60+, only 3 raised their hand (and two of those three were my wife and I). I asked how many had read all of the Gospel Essays (only me). I asked how many had read at least ONE of the Gospel Essays (maybe 7-8 hands went up out of 60 people!). Despite a seeming lack of interest in widening their knowledge about these facts (which made me a bit sad), we had a robust discussion (based on the OT Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther) about faith, about finding answers to questions, about following promptings, about helping other people (including the LGBTQ community), about being better humans. It was uplifting, and I feel that people walked out of class determined to be better and kinder. We just need to take people where we find them, and hopefully our interactions with each other in the Church can be uplifting and motivate us to treat everyone with more empathy, compassion and kindness. We all have a ways to go until we can be of one heart. Hopefully church can be a place of unity and inspiration. I am trying to do my part– that is all I can do.
Anna, first of all I’m sorry you have had to go through so much crap in your family and church life. I have seen the effects crappy dads have on their children. Regarding the double-standard of name calling, I think Jesus placed the standard such that ALL name callers are on the wrong side, regardless of whether they are believers or non-believers. Jesus did call some people hypocrites and vipers, so maybe the name calling line can get a little blurry at times. Probably safest to leave the name calling up to Jesus and refrain from it ourselves.
If we are humans, we’ve all been dodos at some point. Ponzi schemes, MLMs, cold fusion, WMDs, charlatans, Prop 8, prosperity gospel, etc. So we shouldn’t be too quick to judge. But with Q’non and Trump, things have gone too far.
Christians believe in the Atonement, resurrection, Christ’s miracles. Mormon believe in visions, the BoM, endowments, etc. We all have “eerie” beliefs. We shouldn’t be too quick to judge other religions. Doubters shouldn’t judge the stalwarts. And vice versa. We shouldn’t make laws that interfere with the human rights and legitimate beliefs of others.
Anna, I can only say that I’m grateful you’re a survivor. Of course, I have no idea what it cost you to get there but you weren’t crushed and I can’t think of a higher level of victory over evil.
I hope the road gets easier every day. And I want you to know how much I admire you.