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Mormonism, Fraud, and Feelings

by Sharon Lindbloom
1 May 2019

Deseret News posted an article this week addressing the magnitude of investment fraud in Utah. Asking, “Does Utah deserve the title ‘fraud capital of the United States’?” journalist Dennis Romboy says the answer is yes:

“Utah has a long-held reputation as the fraud capital of the United States, mostly based on anecdotal evidence.

“But a nationwide Ponzi scheme database that Florida attorney Jordan Maglich compiled offers proof that the ignominious label appears deserved…

“When Salt Lake attorney Mark Pugsley ran a per-capita analysis of the numbers, Utah topped the list for the most Ponzi schemes — and it’s not even close [to other states] …

“‘This is a question people have been asking for a long time, “Is Utah really that bad?”’ he said. ‘This for the first time gives us some quantifiable basis to say yes, we are that bad. Not only are we bad, but we’re way worse than anyone else by a long shot.’”

Everyone is vulnerable to being conned, but why do the folks in Utah seem more susceptible to falling for these lies? According to Mark Pugsley, there’s no clear answer. However, Deseret News reports,

“…after helping people recover losses from investment fraud for 25 years, [Mr. Pugsley] said he’s learned that Utahns are simply too trusting, particularly when the person soliciting an investment is in their Latter-day Saint ward or shares their religious affiliation…

“Pugsley said Latter-day Saints are taught to trust their feelings, but while that might be a valid basis for religious decisions, it’s not for business decisions.”

I strongly disagree with Mr. Pugsley on the second part of this statement. Trusting one’s feelings is not a valid basis for business decisions, nor is it a valid basis for eternal “religions” decisions. At least the Bible says it isn’t.

Those of you who read Mormonism in the News regularly have heard this before. Many times. Yet it is well worth repeating.

According to the Bible, our feelings are unreliable. Our hearts are deceptive and untrustworthy (Jeremiah 17:9); there are times when things might seem right to us, but they lead to destruction (Proverbs 14:12); sometimes we want to believe an appealing lie and we turn our backs on the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11).

Instead of trusting our feelings, the Bible says we are to examine the evidence: Test the prophets (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 18:20-22); try the spirits (1 John 4:1); search the scriptures (Acts 17:11). These are tools we are to use to keep from being deceived — to avoid being conned and taken in by a lie.

Utah is the financial fraud capital of the United States because, at least in part, Latter-day Saints place too much faith in the trustworthiness of their feelings. The scary thing is that these are the same feelings that have led them to place their faith in the power of Mormonism to lead them to eternal life.

Mormons are taught to obtain a “testimony” that confirms (among other things) that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, that the Book of Mormon is true, that the LDS church is Christ’s restored church, and that the LDS church is led by a true and living prophet. This testimony is to be gained by praying to know that these things are true, “and if it is right,” an LDS scripture says, “I [God] will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right” (D&C 9:8). Because LDS leaders (the same LDS leaders about whom Mormons have sought to gain a testimony, by the way) tell them that these subjective feelings outweigh any evidence that might contradict, many often don’t even bother to use the other tools that God wants us to employ. They have set themselves up to be easy marks – they trust in their feelings first and foremost, and believe they are therefore free to forego examining the facts.

This approach has not worked out well financially for the people of Utah. Instead of providing financial security, by trusting their feelings first they have been led to some measure of financial ruin.

And from a Christian perspective, this approach has also not worked out well spiritually for the Mormon people. Instead of finding redemption and peace in the one true God who has revealed Himself in the Bible, by trusting their feelings first — placing them above the biblical Word of God — they have been deceived about God and His truth, which leads to sure and certain spiritual ruin (John 17:3).

May we all consider the status of Utah being the fraud capitol of the United States to be an object lesson. It teaches us that trusting our feelings above or to the exclusion of examining evidence makes us highly vulnerable to deception. That deception can have grave consequences when it comes to things like our health or our finances, though we may be able to recover from these. But when it comes to eternal “religious” decisions, such a deception will have eternally fatal consequences – unless we turn from the fraudulent scheme we have embraced and seek forgiveness in the only true God.

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