I do not believe in the Bible since it too has many issues that I am not comfortable with. For example, I believe that the world is older than 10,000 years old and that man evolved as Darwin and others have discovered.Don't make the mistake of thinking that Mormons necessarily believe like mainstream fundamentalist Christians. Many Mormons believe the world was created in six PERIODS, not DAYS. Each period could have lasted hundreds of millions of current earth years. Also, Mormons allow room for evolution as a creative tool of God. One of the most fascinating books I've ever read covers many of these topics: Earth: In the Beginning by Eric N. Skousen.
I do not believe that Moses parted the Red Sea or that Jonah was swallowed by a whale or that God flooded the world and Noah built an arc and saved two of every species. None of the above is logical nor can it be explained by contemporary scientific knowledge.First of all, "contemporary scientific knowledge" still has many blind spots and lack of understanding. Second of all, one does not have to believe these Old Testament stories to still believe in the overall Mormon gospel. Many people are agnostic about some details while still having an overall testimony. They are willing to defer judgment on these Bible stories until finding out the whole story, perhaps in the afterlife.
I also do not believe that God cares about what land Jewish people inherit or whether or not men were/are circumcised, etc. Plus, there is so much war, hatred, incest, rape, fear, etc. throughout the Bible and all of which is apparently condoned by God so this is very hard for me to make sense of or justify.
God allows these things to happen, but he doesn't condone it. Earth life is a test with two conditions: 1) both good and evil can entice people, 2) people are free to do whatever they want. So many bad things happen, but it's all part of the testing conditions and will be sorted out later. From an eternal perspective, earth life is the blink of an eye.
From my perspective, it looks like religion broadly and the Bible specifically was a creation of man's imagination. I do believe that religion has done a lot of good for the world but I also believe it has done just as much evil, if not even more. Think of all of the war and suffering caused in the name of religion. Again, much of this was actually condoned by god so I really struggle with this.
Don't lump Mormonism in with religion in general. The true, pure gospel has been relatively rare on the earth, and most religions are a mix of truth and man's imagination, as you say, including his propensity to misuse power and mistreat others. Even within Mormonism you get some individuals and groups who do that, but overall Mormonism is the pure gospel that does no evil in the world, only good.
So in short, no, I do not believe in God and Jesus as they are portrayed in the scriptures. However, I am hopeful that there is a higher power but I do not "know" if there is or not. This might be hard to hear or even understand but again, it is something that I am at peace with and definitely something that I have spent a tremendous amount of time thinking about and continue to think about.
If you are aware of all of the holes, have you found reasonable answers for them? If not, how have you been able to make sense of it?
You are taking an approach that is too intellectual, not spiritual enough. Read Alma 32 carefully. First of all, you have to WANT to believe. If you don't want to believe, then all the seeming inconsistencies and holes will give you plenty of reason not to. But if you want to believe and put some effort into developing faith, then the spirit will lead you through undeniable experiences that make it so you can be patient with the earthly flaws and the seeming holes. People who believe don't expect to understand everything all at once, but they understand everything enough to give God the benefit of the doubt that troubling things will eventually be explained to our complete satisfaction.
What jumps out at me the most is [Elder Holland's] claim that the Book of Mormon has stood up to, if even conquered any opposing claims that have been brought forward in question of its veracity. The fact of the matter is that Holland could not be more wrong about this. There are still countless claims that Book of Mormon scholars have yet to answer in a way that satisfies the scientific community or even contemporary wisdom. Ironically, one of the most damning works against the Book of Mormon was a book written about 80 years ago by Elder B.H. Roberts called "Studies of the Book of Mormon." I encourage you to read it. B.H. Roberts did a significant amount of research on several claims that challenge the veracity of the BoM to provide to the Quorum of the 12 with the hope that they could provide answers, which they did not. His final opinion is that there was an extremely high probability that Joseph Smith could have, and very likely did write the Book of Mormon (he gives several examples that are quite damning). Roberts never gave up his testimony but he definitely poked a lot of holes in the book and it is very interesting to read. To this day, most of his concerns still remain unanswered and unexplained and they are of the type that should have answers. Holland knows of this book and he also knows of all of the problems that the BoM has, so I find it disturbing that he would stand before the members of the church and claim that the BoM can stand up to modern day critics; those who don't bother to see for themselves will believe him, the rest of us who have seen and know otherwise will find fault with him.
Further, there are absolutely NO modern-day non-LDS scientific experts that believe there is any evidence that supports the Book of Mormon. In fact, if you
study some of the issues yourself, you will see that the BoM has several inaccurate historical claims, e.g. there were not any horses (or any domesticated animals for that matter) in North America during the time of the BoM, most of the food items that are mentioned are inaccurate, the tools and weapons that are mentioned in the BoM were not found or even invented at the time of the BoM, civilizations were not nearly as advanced as the BoM would suggest - people actually traveled in small nomadic groups, i.e. wanderers and gatherers, etc... There are many, many, many problems that FARMS or other LDS "experts" can not rationally explain to get support from the broad scientific communities. This is a fact and it is a problem.
Additionally, many of the linguistic virtues of the BoM were actually plagarized from the King James version of the Bible, which diminishes their value. I think I recall that something like 40-50% of the BoM is plagarized word for word from the King James version of the Bible (I saw this for myself and you can too if you'd like). Further, there are even a few scriptures in the BoM that were plagarized from the Bible, which Joseph Smith ended up correcting in the Bible but forgot to correct in the Book of Mormon (I also saw this for myself). How could this ever happen if Joseph Smith was really translating a record that was written by an entirely different people than those who wrote the Bible, especially considering that Mormon's believe the King James version of the Bible is not even a pure translation like the BoM theorhetically is? The list of problems go on so either Jeffrey Holland is not being truthful or he is ignorant of the facts, both of which are problematic for someone of his position.
There are better answers for a lot of these things than you think (start plugging in some search terms at http://www.fairlds.org/), although it's true that debating the Book of Mormon on scientific grounds is never going to prove it. It's a book that tests faith, and it's possible to receive divine, supernatural confirmation of its truth. Looking at it using human tools of understanding is always going to make it come up short. It may be that God designed it that way, to help people develop faith.
Holland mentions that in the "Last Days" it is prophesied that the elect will be decieved. I have a few problems with this type of discussion. First, it is a common fear tactic that can be mis-used to convince people to belong to a specific organization simply out of fear (Mormon leaders have been guilty of this since the beginning). For example, if you lose your testimony and question the church, you will go to hell. This is a scary scenario and certainly is reason for keeping many people "in" the church. It used to scare me too but at this point, I see it for what it is and find that there is more virture in questioning and thinking for yourself than following blindly.
Your language is inaccurate and misrepresents reality. Mormons don't say you're going to go to hell for these reasons. Doubt is something to work on and can eventually lead to greater faith, but even if someone never overcomes their doubt but still lives a good life, they will receive a high degree of glory in the resurrection. And also, it's quite possible to question in the Church while still retaining a basic testimony, or enough of a testimony to know the Church doctrine and organization are the truest in the world and have divine origins.
Second, and speaking about my situation specifically, before I decided that the Church was no longer what I thought it was, I spoke with several leaders about my questions. All of them had "answers" for me, NONE of them were the same. I found this to be very problematic, especially within a church that is supposed to be lead by a living prophet. Furthermore, throughout time all of the prophets have said very different things on the same subject points and are therefore in conflict with one another, which again, is another red flag for me. Therefore, to say that I've been deceived and am in error is inaccurate when I diligently tried to find answers and only came up with more confusion. How is this my fault? I turned to my leaders and none of them had any answers that made sense or even remotely answered the question. The one answer I did get is "listen to the spirit and don't be mislead". This is quite unhelpful and an easy answer when there are no others. If Holland has the answers to all of my questions and the many others like me who also question, then he should write an authoritative book that clearly states the church's position. Unfortunately, the church is unwilling to be very clear on many simple subjects for fear of being wrong, as they have been on many occasions in the past.
Again, you are being too intellectually rigid, not relying enough on spiritual insight. Humanity is too imperfect to give you the perfect doctrinal/historical system you want. If such a thing existed, there would be no test of your faith, which is a big part of why we're on the earth. I would say humble yourself, quit relying so much on intellectual pride, and quit thinking you know better than so many other people. And if you don't want to believe, fine. It may be part of your test to go through years or decades of doubt. But if and when you get to the point where you want to believe again, the Church will be waiting for you, and you'll have to humble yourself and not expect to have all the answers be easily communicated. You're going to have to do a lot of spiritual work, not intellectual.
Regarding the spirit, this is a very elusive and vague element of faith. I saw this all of the time on my mission, as I assume you did too wherein people would share their testimony with me regarding their faith and experiences. I clearly remember many people telling me about how they believed in the Virgin Mary and even saw her. They cried as they told me, would not doubt and even bore testimony to me that they had the truth. I would always doubt their stories because they seemed so implausible but then I would bare testimony that I knew Joseph Smith's story was true, when I didn't experience it myself firsthand. So then, how can I question those feelings and not expect them to question mine? The point is, this is a very slippery slope and people of ALL religions claim to strong spiritual feelings that validate their faith, what makes the feelings Mormons have any more special or true? I've never tried to admit that I didn't have spiritual feelings about the church and uplifting experiences, I did, however I now have a hard time explaining that these feelings came from god when there is plenty of scientifc reason to support that these feelings/experiences are from the mind and can easily be explained psychologically, especially when people all over the world claim to similar feelings for different reasons.
I agree that emotion and spiritual influence are difficult to separate. But that doesn't mean that sometimes the spirit doesn't actually speak to people, beyond their own emotions. You are discounting all of it just because lots of it may be faulty. We call that throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Regarding Joseph and his brother Hyram in Carthage Jail...many people in the church do not realize that the reason why they were there in the first place is for breaking the law. Joseph Smith ordered that the printing press be burned down because reports were about to be published about his polygamous affairs and he knew this would be damning. Many of his additional wives were actually already married to other members of the church who were away serving missions overseas. These men did not know that Joseph Smith had taken their wives into secret marriages after which he had sex with them. He was not in jail being persecuted as the prophet of the church, he was in jail for breaking the law and therefore, he died because of his own mistakes and this is a fact. As an aside, I personally believe there is no purpose in polygamy, especially knowing all of the harm that it has caused the church. God could of course forsee the damage polygamy would cause and therefore, if he was really running the church, he would not have introduced such a problematic practice. Why did Joseph need to have secret marriages and have sex with other men's wives and even girls as young as 14 years old? Where is the virture in this? What is the purpose of this, especially seeing that he was the primary beneficiary of
the doctrine? Keep in mind that Joseph's wife never was in support of the doctrine and after his death, she distanced herself from the church for this purpose.
Joseph Smith may have made mistakes, but that does not negate his role as a prophet. I agree that he perhaps acted unwisely with destroying the Expositor's press. He admitted to mistakes throughout his life, but in my opinion that makes him all the more believable. As far as polygamy, it was practiced in the Old Testament and Joseph restored it. If he went too far with it, I don't really blame him and am sure he has repented. But I'm not sure he did go too far. We cannot judge until we have all the details, which we definitely do not.
Again, if you WANT to believe that God would restore the true gospel to the earth and that he has instituted the plan of salvation, etc. then God will give you ways to deal with the ambiguities. If deep down you don't really want to believe, or you want to think you're smarter than believers, or you have some other character flaw that makes you too proud to follow the path of faith, then you'll have to work through those flaws somehow. I think there's something to be said for sticking with it even if you don't have all the clarity and answers you want, and God eventually rewards such displays of would-be faith.
Not to go on and on but the bottom line is that I am happy and have peace in my life. Going to church does not make me happy anymore because I find that there are simply too many unanswered questions and it doesn't work out for me logically. I wish it did because I know it has been hard on my family but at the end of the day, you have to be true to yourself and that's what I am doing.
Personally I would probably be happier in the short term too if I didn't have to go to church. It's a discipline to go. And if you are an (overly) intellectual person, I can see where some things would irritate and dissatisfy. But you don't have anything better to replace the Church with, as far as I can see. And deep down you probably know there isn't anything any better out there, as far as religions or belief systems or whatever. So by default you join the world's growing secular/agnostic/atheist movement, which offers absolutely nothing meaningful as far as explaining why we're here on this earth or where we're going after. But that's a religion too, with its own morals and values, etc. Good luck with that.
Reconsider the story of Korihor, because you're on the same path: Korihor (c. 74 B.C.) was an extremist, rejecting all religious teachings. He was labeled "Anti-Christ" because he taught that there was no need for a Christ and that none would come. He described the religious teachings of the church as foolish traditions designed to subject the people to corrupt and lazy priests. In a dramatic confrontation with the Nephite chief judge, and with the prophet Alma, Korihor claimed that one cannot know anything that cannot be seen, making knowledge or prophecy of future events impossible. He ridiculed all talk of visions, dreams, and the mysteries of God. He called belief in sin, the Atonement of Christ, and the remission of sins a derangement of the mind caused by foolish religious traditions. He denied the existence of God and, after demanding a sign as proof of his existence, was struck dumb. After Alma accused him of possessing a lying spirit, Korihor confessed that he had been deceived by Satan, had taught words and doctrines pleasing to the carnal mind, and had even begun to believe them himself (Alma 30:6-60). [Korihor text comes from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.]
You may not acknowledge the reality of Satan, but one way he deceives is by overemphasizing human intellect and science, overreliance upon which are a form of unhealthy pride. He is feeding these ideas to you in his subtle ways, and you are biting on them. Humble yourself, give up on your need to know everything perfectly, refocus on what's good and right in the Church, and build on that.Sorry this came out a little preachy, but I've known so many people who've gone this route, and I get so tired of it. Oh, and you better be damn sure you don't have any secret sins going on that would blunt your spirituality and make it impossible for you to really exercise faith. The majority of my friends who have lost their faith have eventually mentioned that they enjoy looking at porn, for example. Well, duh. I'm not saying that EVERYONE who looks at porn loses their faith or that everyone who loses their faith has looked at porn, but I think that's true more often than not, if not with porn than with some other secret sin.