The No Illusions Podcast #57 – Brad Heitmann, Mormon

My guest today is Brad Heitmann. Brad lives in Utah, has a background in investment banking and start-up strategy and loves history. Today, however, he joins me to talk about his religion – The Church Of Latter Day Saints aka Mormons. To all those people asking me for years “when are you going to a show about Mormons” – you can now shut the hell up.

Brad and I discuss the life of the founder of the Mormon religion, Joseph Smith – I especially wanted to focus on his trial for being a conman (he was found guilty), his polygamy and the reasons behind his eventual murder. We also discuss the methods by which we search for Truth.

I’d like to thank Brad for having the balls to come on the show. He was a good sport and I hope he takes me up on my offer to come back soon. You can follow him on Twitter @bradheitmann

If you’re interested in the Mormon religion, here’s a few links I recommend:
Wikipedia’s many entries on LDS
Reddit’s Ex-Mormon Group
The Annotated Book Of Mormon

6 thoughts on “The No Illusions Podcast #57 – Brad Heitmann, Mormon

  1. Cameron summed it up well; “By the book answers” – it is my experience of dealing with the religious when you put them on the spot you get , “Oh I haven’t studied that,” “how do you know that,” “I don’t agree the scientific method applies to my religion” trotted out whenever the awkward questions were asked.

    With Mormonism we have some very specific claim that the Ancient Hebrews came to North American, built a civilization which included using horses and chariots. The tribes split; one was exterminated during a genocidal campaign and the winners were cursed by ‘God’ with red skin. Based on this, one would expect the following:

    • Ruins with Middle Eastern influence – not found.
    • Middle Eastern style pottery. Pottery tends not to change when society moves, compare 17th and early 18thC pottery in England and North America.Naturally, not found.
    • Whilst there is evidence of horses in North America at the end of the last Ice Age, say 10,000 to 8,000BCE, there are no finds of horse remains before 1500CE. So what happened to the chariot horses?
    • Interbreeding with the native population should leave DNA traces, and yet there are no First
    Nation populations with DNA markers showing links to the ancient Middle East.

    The Mormon response to these questions can be summed up with the Oddball from the film “Kelly’s Heroes” where he said: ‘Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?’ Naturally, you could give Moriaty’s reply ‘Crap!’

    Please don’t let’s have Brad Heitmann back for more non-answers or fuzzy logic. Instead, please interview J David Markhan again who is far more informative and entertaining.

    1. Elliott, you don’t think there is value is exploring how people justify their religious beliefs to themselves? I’m fascinated with it. I also think it’s important to understand how and why intelligent people allow themselves to ignore logic and reason. I keep thinking there has to be a key into understanding why they do it.

      1. Elliott,

        You reach a point, as I did, where the evidence, without going into detail as much of it is of a personal nature, is so insurmountably in favor of believing in God that you become “Convicted.” Conviction is visceral, it’s not logical. It’s primordial, essential, and, in some cases, irrefutable. Kind of like how you make your decisions in your gut and then the language part of your brain creates words later to explain why you did what you did and in some cases even distills meaning. It comes from the heart and the head. And it’s a product of experience.

        When I had my first experience of Conviction it was a shock to me, as I had no intention of following the religious path of my mother’s side of family, all of whom lived far away in Utah (I grew up in Washington State). My father is Lutheran by birth, but is non-practicing. We didn’t talk about religion in our home. And I only picked up the Book of Mormon to satisfy my intellectual curiosity and establish once and for all that I was ready to leave going to church on Sunday behind.

        Well, that didn’t really work out as planned as the experience I had with that book was as startling as it was upsetting. Because I knew, and I knew that I knew, and I knew that I knew that I knew…… that I knew that I knew that I knew that I knew………….. you get the picture. And I was going to have to live a different life as a result.

        How I received this knowledge I can only surmise. All I can say is that as sure as I live, I know it is true. And all the conjecture, ad-hominem attacks on myself or Joseph Smith (who was accused of crimes, and sentenced to jail) or Jesus Christ (also accused of crimes and sentenced to die) etc, logical conundrums, disputes over “he said, she said”, historicity or our understanding of it, what we think we know about science etc. cannot come close to the verification inherent in a close, personal relationship with Deity.

        What opens up after that, is a quiet confidence that allows EXPLORATION. An appreciation for the views of others. The reason I can come on this podcast, indeed openly admitting there is a possibility that I’m totally wrong and all of this is bogus, is because of this bulwark called FAITH. My faith is strong. It’s my foundation.

        And MY, what intellectual freedom this foundation gives me. Because this foundation is essentially unassailable so long as I live a good life, I thrive on new ideas and points of view. I can’t get enough. I don’t feel threatened — quite the contrary. Do you?

        I must admit, however, I do get bored by people who are closed to exploration and the possibility of what else might be out there. At a certain point, we all must embrace the uncertainty resulting from those things outside of our control. Including the possibility we are wrong.

        No, despite what you may think about us unwashed/brainwashed religious masses, I have absolute freedom, albeit discerning tastes, in what I choose to learn. Freedom to learn from atheists such as yourselves (and please don’t infer a tone of derision when you here me say “atheists” — I genuinely appreciate your views). Freedom to learn from the agnostics (like Einstein). Freedom to learn from the Buddhists, the Sikhs, the Zoroastrians, the Muslims, other Christians, e.g. I can’t get enough of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin these days it seems.

        I have the intellectual freedom to try on a very expansive and interpretive view of human knowledge with enough humility to realize that, as limited humans there is no possible way for us to grasp the cosmos without the help of an Other who is beyond the scope of our reality.

        Einstein says it like this: “The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations.”

        If we can’t determine the most fundamental aspects of our material existence, let’s say, for example, the momentum and position of a particle, then how do we think we, on our own, are going to contemplate God? Or attempt to disprove His existence? Or hold on to this quaint notion that we are even capable of “OBJECTIVITY”?

        When 95% of the universe is comprised of either dark matter or dark energy — and we don’t really have a understanding of what they are — how can we be so sure God doesn’t exist? What evidence do you have that He doesn’t exist? When we see the systematic workings of the universe, is it such a stretch to even consider the possibility that God had a hand in its architecture?

        I’m comfortable with duality, with not always having the answer to questions like “why do bad things happen to good people,” because in the limit I believe everything works itself out in the end and anyone who sincerely seeks, regardless of race, religion / lack thereof, nationality, etc., will indeed find. And this mortal life, in the grand scheme of things, is but a snapshot anyway. At a VERY high shutter speed I might add.

        I’m comfortable with contradictions — I know, rhetorically SCANDALOUS. It’s really hard for me to get worked up about what other people perceive to be contradictory evidence, rhetoric, logic, etc etc etc. Especially when we compile our thoughts and abstract them into human written language, only to have them misperceived (intentionally or unintentionally) with brash overconfidence and just a touch of cognitive bias as our words are misinterpreted years later (CS peeps who have ears, let them hear). Jacques Derridas would have a field day with over-dependence upon such things.

        I think our grip on the nature of reality gets even more slippery people hold so tightly, with an almost religious zeal, to the rod of the so-called “law of non-contradiction.” What if things aren’t as they seem? Maybe try on dialetheism for a while and see how it suits you. And if that doesn’t persuade you, maybe dig around quantum gravity and string theory for a while, the holographic principle in particular having interesting implications vis a vis the nature of reality and our perceptions of it.

        If nothing else, shouldn’t simultaneity in the theory of relativity give you a flavor that one person’s point of view of the nature of existence may actually be different from that of another for good reason? It doesn’t mean either are wrong (although it’s possible one or both might be), or that one or more of said individuals should be admitted into an institution, but it does make for interesting banter at Starbucks. (Grande hot chocolate, extra chocolate please).

        As for how I carry on as one of these “BIZARRE” Mormons and actually manage to function as a member of society, I get to enjoy my time here on Earth learning about business strategy, neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, art, poetry, computer science, finance, foreign relations, physics, design, complexity theory, and, YES, NAPOLEONIC and other sundry history, from Mr. Cameron Reilly and the Honorable J David Markham etc. and then use what I learn to try to make the world a better place in my own way. I mostly try to do good through my work with startups. Yes, really. I’m a business person who actually wants to make the world a better place by building profitable businesses. I’m also, apparently, a unicorn.

        I know there are many things I will never understand in life (e.g. “dating”). That said, in open dialogue I believe we can ask questions sparked by our curiosity and creativity. We can seek to build, to understand, to explore, to grow. To discover something new about me from something I admire in you. And if that’s all there is, then perhaps it’s still a life worth living. I mean, odds are I’m wrong, right? Of course, it’s at this point that feel obliged to break out one of my favorite Han Solo lines: “Never tell me the odds.”


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