Thursday, February 21, 2008

Faith Subverting Rumors

Every extended family has one: the person that forwards you the email with a "faith promoting story." I received one such email this morning relating the story of a construction worker who worked on the Nauvoo temple.

According to the story, as the statue of the angel Moroni was being hoisted to the top of the temple, a shaft of light shone down from heaven upon the statue. According to the story it was September 22nd, the anniversary of when Joseph Smith took the gold plates from the hillside.

Now if that doesn't give you a warm feeling inside, I don't know what will. Oh wait, maybe that's just heartburn.

The story seamed off to me so I did some research (my main motivation being to have some fun with this particular family member), and found a web cam that was taking a picture once every minute of the construction of the temple. Surely this camera would show the "shaft of light", right? Well no--there's no light. Of course, it's possible that the shaft appeared for only a short time and the web cam just didn't catch it. Ok, I'll give you that. But the other thing the picture from the web cam shows is a large crowd of people watching as the statue was raised. I searched online but couldn't find any other account of anyone else seeing the shaft of light.

Also, the statue was placed on September 21st, not 22nd. This wouldn't be important except for the story was detailed on why the 22nd was significant. The 21st is important in Mormon history also, and is related to the angel Moroni, but it was not when Joseph Smith received the plates. (But since it is also an important date, I suppose it's possible the author of the story was just confusing the dates).

To me it seams very likely that the light in the first picture is an over-exposed reflection from the metal cord holding the statue, or else someone who is mildly familiar with Photoshop was having some fun.

I proudly emailed back to this family member. Again, my intent was just to have some fun. But then my wife called me a "party pooper" and I felt bad. But pondering on whether I really should have rained on the parade, I realized that these sorts of things really could be harmful.

If someone who is trying to establish a true testimony were to stumble across this, they might use it to buttress their faith. Then what happens months or years later when they find out that it might not be true?

So the lesson is clear: If you're going to spread faith promoting rumors, at least make sure they are not easily proven false. I prefer my faith promoting rumors unverifiable, thank you!


JK said...

Faith promoting rumors drive me nuts. My question is not so much about people who spread them, but people who start them. What possesses them to make these things up? Do they actively know they are making stuff up? How could they not? Don't they have better things to do?

Mike said...

My feeling is that whoever started this one was just trying to have some fun and see how far it would go. But starting and spreading such things are not harmless.

Although I suppose it could have been started by someone not a member of the church, but just trying to have fun at the expense of chuch members, in which case they probably wouldn't care if it hurts the faith of those in the church.

Jared said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing this experience.

Anonymous said...

FYI -- I think the word you were looking for is spelled "seem/seems/seemed" not "seam/seams/seamed".

Mike said...

Thanks for the correction. I always get that one wrong (my mind knows the difference, but my fingers always type if wrong). Unfortunately they haven't invented a spell check smart enough for me yet.:)

I considered revising it, but I'll leave it for all the world to see my weakness.