I recently had the chance to spend some time chatting with Michael Quinn and thought some here might be interested in a brief report. I did not hear anything from him in private that he has not indicated in public, so I can tell you exactly what he said. And, by the way, the first thing I did upon meeting Quinn was thank him for the role he played in helping me out of Mormonism. His research put a number of key pieces of information in place for me. He is one of my heroes.
Some have suggested that Quinn’s “attacks” against the Church are inconsistent with his current stance as a non-Mormon Mormon. Quinn does not perceive himself to have attacked the Church, but rather he was simply doing his job as a scholar with integrity. He is far better informed that I will ever be regarding where all the Mormon skeletons are buried.
Quinn has had spiritual experiences that from his point of view establish the “reality” of Smith’s divine appointment in such a way that the evidence he has seen to the contrary is still insufficient to shake him. This includes the belief that the Book of Mormon was really translated by divine inspiration from real golden plates; that God’s exclusive authority was given to Smith and passed on by him to Hinckley et al.; etc. The whole load.
Quinn indicated that he understands that his view is improbable – that most “objective” people who have simply reviewed the evidence re Smith would not agree with him. He again referred back to his personal, and admittedly subjective, experience.
I had expected Quinn to tell me that his beliefs were of the post Modern, metaphorical sort. Not the case. He is a literalist.
We discussed cognitive dissonance and other topics at some length. His comments in that regard can be found in a recent Sunstone magazine. He did not mention that article to me although the conversation occurred after the article was first published. I thought this a little odd once I found the article. It is, however, consistent with what I observed to be his understated nature.
Quinn understands what the literature says regarding cog dis and biases, understands that his behavior smacks of cog dis, and shrugs his shoulders. He chooses to give primacy to the spiritual experiences he has had and the conclusions they impressed upon him.
I reviewed my experience with him and the quite different conclusions I have reached. For the long story, seeÂ http://mccue.cc/bob/documen… starting at page 77 andhttp://mccue.cc/bob/documents/rs… starting at page 39. He acknowledged the reasonableness of my approach, noted that there were many things about his position that were inconsistent, and indicated that his experiences were so compelling that he still felt justified in maintaining his beliefs.
I note that the experiences Quinn described to me as more real than real sound similar to what Newberg describes as a typical “mystical” experience that should be expected to give rise to powerful beliefs. See the “Out of My Faith” essay linked above for this discussion.
I found Quinn to be likeable, sincere and not surprisingly, very intelligent. I look forward to continuing to interact with him. I don’t think he is playing a publicity game, as some have suggested. Rather, I think that given the abuse and pain he has suffered at the hands of Mormonism, his continued profession of belief is testament to the powerful nature of the experiences he has had. It would be interesting to know if he has a history consistent with minor epilepsy or other medical conditions that sometimes accompany apparent paranormal experiences. See, for example, McNallyÂ http://cms.psychologytoday.com/artic…\ for a summary as to how certain types of sleep paralysis and hypnopompic hallucinations can produce physical symptoms related to alleged alien abductions stronger than those experienced by soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after war experiences.
In any event, there is no clear cut explanation for Michael Quinn. What is clear is that he always has been, and still is, a deeply spiritual person with a great deal of integrity. One does not have to agree with the conclusions he has drawn about Mormonism to hold that view.