A Clear Picture

As far as we can tell from a purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not part of some divine cosmic plan, and if planet earth were to blow up tomorrow morning, the universe would probably keep going about its business as usual. As far as we can tell at this point, human subjectivity would not be missed. Hence any meaning that people inscribe to their lives is just a delusion.

~sigh~

Since my excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who are now distancing themselves from a nickname they received in the founder’s own lifetime, which nickname the founder claimed and proudly owned, which nickname is “Mormon”, I have learned a lot. (Helluva sentence, that!) My life has been so tangled with Mormonism that it will take another lifetime to overcome its effects. At 64 years of age, I don’t have a second lifetime!

I’ll have to work fast.

😉😉😊😀😁😁😂😂

Is a Myth as Good as a Mile?

Which makes more sense?

The mythology contained in the revered collection called the Bible (Adam and Eve, global flood, people living centuries, creation, people conversing with non-humans, talking animals, miracles, virgin birth, resucitation of the dead, god with human attributes, etc., etc., etc.). All in 6000 years, or so.

Or, billions of years of evolution and all that goes with it.

Which makes more sense will depend on one’s biases. The first, for most of my life, made more sense as a member of a Christian sect called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose current leadership is trying to steer clear of a very long term nickname. Mormon. Maybe you know of them?

They excommunicated me for apostate behavior. Essentially, for making a single Facebook post January 31, 2016. The subsequent excommunication was March 31, 2016. Story here.

Since then, my overall viewpoint has experienced a dramatic shift. The shift was augmented and supported by reading “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari.

So, the second scenario makes sense to me now. I’ll take reality over the comfortable myth, every time. No god or gods required.

And religions are a leftover from mankind’s infancy.

Me

I am the man in the mirror and I like what I see. I approve.

There are flaws, yes. They give the man in the mirror character. They give him work to do on himself. But the work in progress, overall, is good.

That man in the mirror smiles.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 11 A Backward Glance

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

What have I learned?

1) Steer clear of narcissists.

2) Seek fidelity in others.

3) Be faithful (non religious context) to others.

4) Find a friend in your spouse.

5) Be a friend to your spouse.

6) Eschew religion.

7) Think critically.

Odds and ends (from my perspective, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary)):

1) After a shift in view, from religious to secular, and realizing your family members still remain in the clutches of a cult, don’t be too vigorous in your efforts to deprogram them! The Backfire Effect is real!

2) Gentle discussion and Socratic questioning may avoid the Backfire Effect and promote better, more loving, discussion.

3) Have patience. Loved ones in a cult are not easily removed. It will take time.

4) My own mistakes and missteps in my first marriage and second relationship have left scars on some family members, particularly those involved and some close in relationship. Patience may win them over but they may also choose to hang on to their scars. I will let them. It’s no longer my problem but theirs.

5) Be honest. Have personal integrity.

6) Love.

7) There is nothing inherently wrong with Apostate Behavior. Religion is, ultimately, a leftover from humanity’s childhood. Adulthood (apostate behavior) is preferable.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 10 Rebirth’s Stuttering Steps

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

Redemption. Rebirth. A new start.

Call it what you will.

A compatible spouse can make a world of difference. I am the common denominator in two marriages. Moreover, I am the common denominator in three relationships. I lived with a woman between marriages. This relationship brought my youngest daughter into being, for whom I am grateful and who I love, along with my other 5 living children.

It also was the cause for my first excommunication. My Stake President said there were mitigating circumstances for my “acting out” behaviors in my first marriage, due to my struggles with a spouse with narcissistic attributes, but my refusal to break off my growing relationship with a new woman to whom I was not married (I had split with my wife by this time and was pursuing divorce) was certainly cause for excommunication. And so I was excommunicated, for adultery.

Kind of a nasty word, adultery.

So, expanding on my last Chapter and offering more clarity into the murkiest part of my life, I was married 12 years (6 children, 5 living), lived “in sin” (religious definition) for a couple years (1 child), then remarried “in the Faith” one month after rebaptism (no children). And I was the common denominator in the relationships.

I was the same man but did I behave differently in each of the three relationships? Indeed I did!

Marriage to a controlling woman whose favor I was seldom able to gain (my perspective, of course) brought out the worst in me. Living with a free spirit had its perks but carried a lack of commitment. That relationship broke down in my learning of several of her infidelities. I say “infidelities” because I was committed and thought she was, too. My misunderstanding of free spiritedness!

Eventually, after getting acquainted, mostly long distance, I got to know the woman who became my second wife, third relationship. We had become best of friends. This, prior to treading the path of romance.

This last brought out the real, and best, me. It seems I dislike being controlled. I am no longer. It seems I value fidelity. I now have that.

Being married to my best friend is the best scenario I can imagine! It has worked for over 27 years by this writing. I can’t imagine it NOT working for the rest of life.

Even though she and I married “in the Faith” and I have since been excommunicated for Apostate Behavior, or marriage is solid. It seems she loves me for who I am, really am, and I love her for who she is, really is.

That makes all the difference in the world!

I am grateful.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 9 Life, the Universe, and Everything

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

Hang on. This will be a fast trip! There will be a lot said and unsaid.

I was a fifth year Senior in college with a young, growing family. First, a son. Then my first daughter and second child was born 16 weeks too early and lived only 6 hard fought hours. School, by then, became a lower priority. I left with 6 credit hours short of a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management with minors in Accounting, Economics, Computer Science, and Spanish so I could find work to support the family. Life was handing me a lot to handle and I was not handling it all very well.

I burned out.

With a spouse who had (still has) narcissistic traits and saw me as someone moldable to her mental image/ideal, life was not ideal. After 12 years of marriage, 6 kids (5 living), I was very, very near a breaking point. Along the way, my mental and emotional states were betraying me and I did things of which I am certainly not proud, one of these things sent me to jail (2 weeks with work release). My boss got wind and I lost my job. The inner darkness was so complete I attempted suicide. I admit it was half-hearted and, obviously, it failed.

Life was unraveling. I was failing. I couldn’t take it anymore.

But I managed to pull myself up and I struggled along, changing my career path, doubling down religiously, doing what I thought would make things better.

Again, after 12 years of marriage, the Faith I was brought up in confirmed my failure. I was excommunicated, divorced, and lost another job, all in the same month. Details? To painful to discuss publicly. One on one, I might open up but there really would have to be a purpose in the asking. Suffice it to say that if Hell existed, I made the trip.

Like a dog to it’s vomit, as the expression goes, a little over two years away from the family Faith did not enlighten me enough to stay out after the excommunication. I was rebaptized. I recommitted myself to living that Faith fully.

And I remarried.

The Angry Still Apostate

While “repenting” my decision to delete my FB account (too much of my history is there, too much of my journey out of Mormonism and then religion in general), this did not assuage my anger. Family should understand their hypocrisy. WWJD? Certainly not what they’ve chosen to do.

Another very good reason to never trust Jesus. Another good reason not to believe he existed, at least not as believers believe him to be today.

Mormons. Judgemental. Holier than thou. Passive aggressive. Behaving just as poorly as I am now.

But I’m angry, for the moment. It will pass. The lesson has been learned. Respect for my family’s feelings will come as they begin to respect mine.

The Angry Apostate

Today I will delete my Facebook account. I ranted to family last night. It was, quite understandably, poorly received. Research the Backfire effect for the reason why.

I knowingly ranted. Why? Censure. I’ve been effectively censured by family. For three years. I’m emotionally full to busting!

And now I have gone from just an Apostate (or “that” Apostate) to a damn, rabidly ANGRY Apostate.

So, right now my account data is being collected into a file I will download. Once that file is downloaded, my account will be deleted.

I need time to emotionally heal.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 8 Transition

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

How does one transition from two years “serving god” to the everyday routines of life? Every Mormon missionary has to do it upon returning home. Before leaving, the Mission President reinforces the idea that the returning missionary should maintain scriptural study habits, prayer, and being a member missionary. At home, the Stake President does the same. Both encourage marriage and place education/work as much less important in life.

This can mess up a young person. Big time. It did me but I didn’t realize it until much later, when consequences were larger. I’ll mention some things now but will explain more fully in a later chapter.

What did I do, after the mission?

I needed money for school. My parents had probably sacrificed a lot of money, just for the mission, so it behooved me to find work fast. Coming home in April meant the rest of Spring and all of Summer could be dedicated to work to earn that money.

But then there was the girl. She did not “wait” for me the two years I was gone but had attended BYU and spent one semester at BYU Hawaii. She was still unattached and we began to date.

A friend of mine from the Chicago area, who I’ve mentioned prior, also had a sweetheart and he was freshly returned from his mission, so we four went on a few double dates. He was head over heels over his girl and I was falling for mine. She was the first girl I ever dated seriously. I should have let that relationship run its course and either end or mature, to be able to gain experience with dating other women or to better know this girl.

But the Church puts pressure on RM’s (returned missionaries) to get married ASAP. I was dutiful. My girl seemed a lot of fun and we got along well so, feeling “the Spirit” confirming a suitable choice (yeah, more likely confirmation bias coupled with hormones), I proposed. She accepted. After we divorced twelve years later, I discovered through a third party (reliable) that she was not in love with me when I proposed but thought I was good husband material, I could be molded into what she wanted, and she was following god’s will, too!

God’s a putz.

(Life plot note: He’s also imaginary)

Day two of our honeymoon revealed a totally different woman than the fun girl I had dated, proposed to, and now had married. That’s when the manipulation began. With the image of the man she wanted firmly in her mind to compare with me, she subtly molded me. But there was the inner me, wanting to grow and become what I wanted to be, the natural maturation process. The two efforts, being incongruent, resulted in something being broken.

In the meantime, children began joining our family.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 7 The Missionary in Australia

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

I felt my proficiency in Spanish was good. I was raised speaking English (US version). However, I was yet unprepared for communication upon arriving in Sydney! Going through Customs I had to ask the official to repeat himself at every question! Australian English was foreign to my unaccustomed ears, as alluded to in the prior Chapter.

My first discussion in Spanish was the same. Book learning and practice don’t always accustom the ear in the presence of a native speaker.

But it didn’t take long to become accustomed to both Spanish and Australian English. My days were spent speaking English unless my companion and I had a teaching appointment or encountered a Spanish speaking person while we were tracting (in LDS Missionary parlance, this is the going door to door activity with the hope of entering the home to teach a “Discussion”) so my ability to communicate improved greatly. By the time my two years were ending, I was frequently complimented on my Spanish and was told I had an Ecuadorian accent (most of the Hispanics I taught or conversed with were from Ecuador; Argentines and Uruguayans followed). As a result, I was asked to translate for Church General Authorities at a Church Area Conference held in Sydney in April of 1976, just prior to my return home. Specifically, President Spencer W. Kimball and Elder William H. Bennett, an Assistant to the Twelve Apostles (a group later to become Quorums of Seventy).

My relationship with the other Elders (missionaries) and, later, two Sisters (female missionaries) was good. I enjoyed each of my companions (none of the Sisters was a companion, somewhat obviously!). I am connected to some of them on Facebook today. There were a half dozen or so, plus or minus at any given time during my mission, that were Spanish speaking like me. Eventually I became a District Leader (oversight over multiple companionships geographically close) and later a Zone Leader (oversight over multiple Districts). At no time did I get a car. I traveled by bicycle, public transportation (bus or electric train), walked, or some combination of these.

I greatly admired and respected my Mission President, Earl C. Tingey. He was/is the same age as my Dad and so, away from home and in a foreign country, it was easy to place a natural trust in him. It helped that I believed then and still believe now that he was and is an honest and good man by nature. He was and is deluded by the LDS cult, as was I.

Two years, less the two months in the LTM, were spent doing what I thought god wanted me to do. I was not a total goody two shoes, as my first “greenie” (new missionary) could attest (he was a strict by the book missionary at first but loosened up later). Life was easy. I would get a monthly check from my parents and would take it to the bank to exchange it for Australian currency, to pay rent for our”flat” (apartment/room), buy food, pay for transportation, repair/resole shoes, take care of any needs.

Oh, and to buy our cartons of Books of Mormon which we sold for 50 cents Australian each, or would give them away at times, if the situation warranted.

We met people from all over the globe and from all walks of life, mostly blue collar workers. We would assist Hispanics find work, get medical help, find housing. At times, anyway. Actually very few. Mostly, we tried to peddle our brand of religion in Spanish.

But the people were great! I loved the Hispanics I met, “member” and “non-member” alike. I loved the Aussies too. All in all it was a great experience for me as a 19-21 year old. I grew from a painfully shy introverted boy to a confident young man.

I returned home in April of 1976, to a new Ward, my family having moved into the new house built in Centerville, UT. Prior to returning home, I was interviewed by President Tingey. During that interview I was counseled to go home, maintain my standards acquired as a missionary, and to get married as soon as possible. Education and work were secondary to marriage.

I suppose it was good I had a girl, not exactly”waiting” for my return, but we had dated prior to my mission. And she was still “available”.

She would become my wife.

A Pause That Refreshes

Any blogger is only speaking into the wind if no one reads. I want to take a moment to give sincere thanks to those reading this blog!

Thank you!

I would also like, from time to time, to be able to share the wisdom of those I follow, which means I may be making such requests as I find our thoughts converging. I learn so much from you!

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 6 The Missionary at the LTM

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

Having studied Spanish in high school three years did little to prepare me for the Church’s Language Training Mission. That level was surpassed in the first week due to a program called “Live Your Language” meaning for me only speaking Spanish. We were taught how to ask “How do you say…” so that we could augment our knowledge in the moment.

Missionaries were segregated by language. We all met together, though, as an entire “Mission”. Further divisions were called “Zones” corresponding loosely to actual missions in most cases and consisting of several “Districts” and I was a District Leader. My District did not live in the usual dormitories but were housed in the Larsen home on 900 East, east of the Wilkinson Center (BYU), due to overcrowding. We walked to the Joseph Smith Building (current Benson Building) for classes in the Spanish language and culture. I loved the “Live Your Language” program as well as my daily classes. My fellow missionaries were a good group of guys and we got along well, from my standpoint. If there were issues, I did not see them.

After eight weeks, it was time to fly to Sydney Australia.

The flight on Qantas was long. We stopped briefly in Hawaii to refuel and spiff up the passenger area. We did not disembark. The next stop was in Fiji for the same reasons. We also did not disembark there. Finally, twenty plus hours later, we arrived in Sydney. It was raining. As we were circling before landing, I noted the red tile roofs of many of the homes below.

Being processed through Customs was uneventful except I was unaccustomed to the Australian accent. It was difficult to have a conversation! I kind of felt the first pangs of homesickness or feeling like a fish out of water, not being able to communicate with Australians in English and hoping my Spanish was good enough for any Hispanics encountered! But first things first.

We were met by the Assistants to the Mission President (referred to as AP’s) and were taken to the Mission Home in Wollstonecraft on the north side of Sydney Harbour. The address was, at the time, “Paxton” 5, Wollstonecraft. I don’t recall why some buildings had “names” or if homes did, too. I may have to research that!

Anyway, we were to meet our training Elder (first “companion”) but mine was ill so the Zone Leaders (leaders over multiple Districts) over the Zone I was to be in took me to my first “Flat”. There I met my new companion. He was standing at a gas stove, cooking cracked wheat, dressed only in a robe, with his garments hanging below the robe hemline. The rain and the sick first companion, dressed as he was, was an auspicious beginning, right?

Intermission

Recent blogging has dredged up some long lost memories. Two things, for today: immerse myself in these renewed memories; enjoy a scheduled chat this evening with a friend from long ago, a very intelligent friend (graduated high school in 3 years, graduated from BYU in 3 years, got his law degree from BYU Law School, you know, smart!).

Oh, and it’s a gridiron football playoff weekend ad so I will be watching a little footy. 🏈😎

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 5 The Missionary

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

I don’t remember packing. I don’t remember the drive to Salt Lake City. I don’t remember parking.

I do remember there was a “Welcome Missionaries” banner inside the entryway to the Salt Lake Mission Home, where I was to spend the next three days. My memories of those three days are too dim 45 years later! Only one thing I do recall vividly was we got to spend the afternoon with family after registration. Then it was goodbye.

So, what did my family and I do that free afternoon? Did we go grab a bite to eat and chat about what lies ahead, what’s gone on before, joke and kid around? Nope. None of that.

We meet my maternal grandparents at the genealogical library. We spent the afternoon doing genealogy.

Awesome.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy genealogy. But then, on that afternoon, a good burger would have been much better, I think!

The three days passed and I am sure I was fully indoctrinated with rules and instructions. I was excited, yes, but was never one to be full of fire and missionary zeal. Introvert, remember?

Oh, a memory from those three days just surfaced! Okay, one from those days and another prior. I will start with the latter.

I had received my endowments February 1, 1974. It was a unique experience, for sure. I concerned myself, though, with trying to remember the process, making sure I could do it again without prompting or assistance.

I was certainly aware of how “different” it was. Making covenants without having known what they would be beforehand. Special handshakes. Pantomiming ways I could die if I ever revealed the “signs and tokens” that went with the covenants. Oh, and a secret new name.

Definitely unexpected, for sure. But I was told there was a lot of meaning to be found in the ceremony. I was told it might take a lifetime to tease out even a small part of all the knowledge found in the endowment.

I now figure that’s just a ploy to encourage attendance! There’s just not all that much to it!

Unless you’re a Freemason.

Even then, there isn’t much.

The other memory was a special session in the Salt Lake Temple in the Solemn Assembly room, upstairs. We went behind the sealing rooms, passing by the locked door to the Holy of Holies. Then upstairs. I was in awe.

I do not recall the General Authorities present. There were some. One or more allowed us to ask any question we wanted. Because I don’t recall anything earthshaking, we must not have asked anything noteworthy.

The three days passed and it was time to head to Provo, to the LTM. It was raining. I was a Missionary.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 4 Return to Zion

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

A move to the Deep South halfway through fifth grade and then 5 years in a western Chicago suburb gave me experience “in the world” while learning how to bifurcate worldly life from religious life (Mormon concept: as members, we are advised to live in the world but be not “of it” – this idea probably stems from the New Testament, see the book of John).

Chapter 2 ended with me heading to college. I was accepted to Brigham Young University. The fall semester of 1973 would be the only semester I would attend prior to my mission call (see LDS Church website topic on Missionary Work – calls are not based on the desires of the potential missionary but are “inspired” by the Missionary Selection Committee). As I mentioned, I lived with the second eldest of my mother’s younger brothers (Mom was the eldest of my grandparents’ 9 children – 5 daughters, 4 sons) in Pleasant Grove, Utah to save some money to help support me when my mission call was issued.

However, prior to moving to Provo, I attended Church in our new Ward in Bountiful, the Bountiful 13th Ward. There I met the girl who would become my wife after my return from Australia. She was tall, blond, and pretty, with big pretty eyes. She was friends with the sister of one of my friends who also moved to Bountiful from the Chicago area and whose family were members of the West Suburban Second Ward (later becoming the Naperville Ward) with my family. Their father was a counselor in this new, to us, Bountiful Ward Bishopric.

Also before heading to BYU, I took a language aptitude test. I don’t recall if I received the results or not, but it doesn’t really matter to my story. That they needed to test my aptitude does. In my own opinion, it goes directly to the idea of “inspired” calls.

Just hold that thought for a bit.

BYU.

Dallin H. Oaks was the University President. You remember him; he was a counselor in the Chicago South Stake Presidency while my family lived there. For a bit of a biography, look here, here, and here.

Anyway, I attended my first BYU semester and prepared for my mission call. College was quite different from high school! I had to be more self-directed and I that did not come to me easily. I was an introvert, as I have mentioned before.

My mission call came in the Spring of 1974 after that first semester ended. Here is the certificate from the front of my Mission “White Book”, which contained general Church rules of conduct for Missionaries (there was a separate White Book specific to my mission!):

mission call

My call was to be a Spanish speaking missionary in the Australia East Mission, which was headquartered on the north shore of Syndey Harbour in Sydney Australia. Hmmmmm, Spanish-speaking in Australia? Weird, eh? I thought they spoke English! One of my uncles, the very same one I lived with my first BYU semester, also served a mission to Australia, about 10 years earlier. I knew they spoke English!

This call was interesting in that my own internal desire was to serve a Lamanite mission (Hispanic or Native American) outside of the United States. This call fulfilled that desire. Also, I apparently had an aptitude for language But, was my Spanish-speaking call inspired or was it based on the results of my aptitude test?

One wonders!

With the receipt of the call, I did not enroll in another semester at BYU. Rather, I went with my Mom to Mr. Mac’s for two suits, a few white shirts, some ties, and a couple pair of shoes that would, hopefully, last for two years. Hardly anything else was needed as I was to travel rather light. The girl I had met and had gone on a few dates with me, several doubling with my Chicago friend and the girl holding his attention, said she would not “wait” for my return and I thought that was fair and mature. We were yet young. I still had hopes she’d be available after the mission.

But before I was to go to Australia I had to be able to teach and converse in Spanish. I had taken three years of Spanish in high school but still had to attend the Church’s intense 8-week language training course at the Language Training Mission (LTM) located on the BYU campus in Provo, Utah. I would go there after a three day stay in the Salt Lake Mission Home across the street from Church Headquarters aka the Church Office Building skyscraper on North Temple.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 3 Chicago – Brief revisit

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

Before I continue with the move back to Utah, I have a little more to say about my time in the Chicago area.

I was not popular in high school but, then again, I was not exactly unpopular either. I was a bit of a geek but made friends with those who were also a bit geeky and, maybe because I participated in football my freshman year and was injured, I got to be friends with a few others.

Ronnie Davis, Bob Manley, and another (name withheld), who ended up being my best friend in high school, were a core that I hung around with until Bob moved. I collected a few others here and there. I found a few more after high school who were not part of the crowd I ran with and they remain good friends today. I was able to see a few in October 2017 at an All Years Reunion in Lisle, Illinois. I thoroughly enjoyed that trip! These friends are people whose friendship I will cherish for life.

I am still in touch with my best friend from those days. He, however, found the courage to be the person that was always inside, hidden. He is now a transgender she and we remain very good friends. My wife has taken the place of my best friend but I am pleased I still have that friend from the past who is becoming, day by day, more of the person she was meant to be, against all the prejudice still in existence today.

The Church became a more solid party of my life in Lisle. I grew in responsibility in the Aaronic Priesthood. I made several Church friends, too. I learned to keep the two worlds apart. I learned to keep things hidden when people would not understand them because they belonged to a different part of my world. This “skill” was used later as I learned more and more about Joseph Smith, Jr. and the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I began piling up a heavy load on my mental “shelf” (a term used by many former Church members to describe setting aside uncomfortable issues to be dealt with later, even until the afterlife).

Throwback Post Regarding Cults

Yup, that word again! However, if it applies…

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/laughingindisbelief/2017/03/finland-votes-to-protect-children-from-christianity/

So Finland recognizes religion as Bronze age mythology. It’s about time a whole country did!!!

But your religion has been around a long, long time and just can’t be a cult? Really?

I suggest you think again.

Go Finland!

Edit: Just came across this

New Year Post Mortem

My last post showed my level of frustration after just shy of three years since my “fatal” (LDS Church membership-wise) Facebook post January 31, 2016, wherein I declared Joseph Smith, Jr. was a fraud. He was a fraud! It’s more clear to me now than ever before! It’s still not a concept my family is willing to entertain, though.

My studies in recent advancements in cognitive and neurological science have broadened my understanding of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. Along with the backfire effect, I should have known better than to post as I did on Facebook! I should know by now that I cannot convince my family to think for themselves. They have drunk too deeply the Kool-aid of Mormonism.

I should have known, and I did know! But my hubris overcame common sense and I posted. Stupidly.

My bad!

So I had to apologise and suck up my pride. I will now act as if I was wrong, which I was, in a way. Too much hubris!

Never again.

My religious posts will remain here, on my blog.

With you, dear reader! Thank you for spending time with me and my rants and thoughts. This whole process serves to help me grow and mature, as a person and a writer.

Happy New Year!

New Year Break and Facebook

I was passionate! I was open! I was honest! I was blunt!

And I failed.

Facebook sucks.

Unless your posts are benign, humorous, catchy, or contain pictures and videos of cats, they suck.

You would think I had learned this lesson many times before, and I have. It has now “stuck”. I will never post as I did again. Ever.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 2 Chicago

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

After our two and a half years in Birmingham, Alabama we moved Lisle, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago (about 30 miles west of downtown Chicago). I was about to start 8th grade. Two neighborhood boys had heard (from who?) there was a boy their age moving in and they came over to introduce themselves. One, Ron, became a good friend.

I was somewhat of a novelty, as were my siblings, at school. Our family was one of two in Lisle who belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Peet family was the other. A couple other “Mormon” families moved in and back out during our years there but our family and the Peet’s remained, ours until after my high school graduation.

These years are very fondly remembered by me. Yes, I was teased mercilessly and bullied by a few because of my Southern accent (at first, my accent now is rather nondescript), my shyness, and my religious beliefs. But I had good friends. Several still remain in contact with me after all these years!

The LDS Ward we attended met in Naperville, just to the west of Lisle, and was titled the West Suburban Second Ward of the Chicago South Stake. A “Ward” is what Mormons call a congregation. It is led by a Bishop and his two counselors. Several Wards in a local region are collectively called a “Stake”, led by a Stake President and his two counselors. The Stake also has a High Council consisting of 12 High Priests (men). The Stake Presidency at the time and subsequent, just before we moved back to Utah, consisted of several men who eventually moved up in the ranks of the overall church hierarchy, one becoming one of the Twelve Apostles and is now, at this writing, a member of the First Presidency (First Counselor to the President/Prophet). His name is Dallin H. Oaks (any initials in an authority’s name are important, it seems).

The Stake Presidency and High Council structures will become important to my story later, hence my attention to this detail now.

Anyway, it was in Lisle and the Suburban Second Ward that I progressed through the Aaronic (Lesser) Priesthood (young boys ages 12 through 18) “offices ” of Deacon (12-13), Teacher (14-15), and Priest (16-18, sometimes older). This took me through high school graduation in 1973.

The Chicago area gave me a peek at non-LDS scenarios, situations, and ideas. I participated in some academic extracurricular activities, such as an after-school Biochemistry Seminar, membership by special invitation to a special Boy Scout Explorer Post sponsored by Standard Oil. There was a core of students that got invited from regional high schools. Five from my high school, including me. Some of the others from my school were part of the “cool kids” and so, by association, I was able to expand my circle of friends from mostly outcasts to include some of the cool kids. That was helpful to a very shy kid, as was I.

My experiences in the Aaronic Priesthood in the Birmingham Branch first and then the West Suburban Second Ward included leadership. I usually was “called” to be a counselor in the Presidency of the Quorum and before being “advanced” to the next office would wind up being the president. Except for the Priest Quorum. The Bishop of the Ward is the president of that quorum and he has a group leader with two assistants. I progressed the same through the Priest Quorum as I did in the others, leaving finally as Group Leader just before we moved back to Utah.

As a Priest, there were times we were asked to partner up with the missionaries on “splits”, meaning the two missionaries (missionaries are usually found in companionships of two) would split up and each would take a Priest. We would go to teaching appointments but would also be involved in “tracting”, i.e. going door to door. This gave us a little glimpse into missionary life, in which we were expected to take part at age 19.

Which age was just around the corner and followed the move alluded to earlier.

I graduated 14th in my class and a member of the National Honor Society. I had been accepted to BYU (my ACT score was 28, so acceptance was no problem) and I had a good interview with my Bishop (worthiness interviews are required for acceptance). Near the end of my Senior year of high school, Dad got a job offer in Salt Lake City, Utah he decided to accept.

So, after graduation, my Dad took my three younger brothers, loaded a Toyota Corolla with stuff he would need for the new job, and off they went, to pave the way for the rest of us after the house sold. Once sold, we loaded the station wagon, three dogs (miniature schnauzers), and stuff we would need at the new house and drove to Utah, Mom and I trading off as drivers.

Our new home was only temporary, being a rental, while our new house was being built just a few blocks north in Centerville. I wouldn’t see that house finished until after serving a mission for the Church. But first, I went to Provo, Utah to attend my first semester at BYU (Brigham Young University). I moved in with an uncle and his family in Pleasant Grove, Utah. That helped me save some money that could go toward my upcoming mission.

Holiday break

It’s the Holidays in the USA. Thanksgiving was November 22nd. Christmas is coming up soon. Veteran’s Day, November 11th, will be remembered for a while. It’s the day my Dad died. This year.

It was a little sooner than expected, but not totally unexpected. Back in July my wife and I spent a week with him. The day we packed up to return home we found him face down between his toilet/shower area and the vanity in his bathroom, quivering and not very cognizant of his surroundings. Well, okay. I found him. It was a little unnerving.

911 was called and the EMT’s arrived. Dad was not very responsive. They got him turned over and took his vitals. The got him on a stretcher and into the ambulance. Mary and I drove over to the hospital Emergency area, in our van. My next to youngest brother and his wife arrived shortly thereafter.

Eventually he was admittied and spent a week being treated for pneumonia and sepsis. Then, released. Mary and I went home before he was released.

Anyway, he had another episode in August. Then, after moving in with my sister and her husband early in September, Dad had one more episode late in October. In the meantime he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Poor guy!

This most recent visit to the hospital took him to November 10th. He was released that day into hospice care at my sister’s house. Meanwhile, I drove from Northern Colorado to Northern Utah to see Dad and, probably, say goodbye. It turns out I was right. He died, peacefully, the next evening. His funeral was November 17th.

My siblings and I worked together to make all the arrangements. We work well together. No jealousies or other negative relationship issues that other families might experience. I love my siblings and their excellent spouses.

So it’s been just over a month since Dad’s death and just under for his funeral. I have contemplated much during this time. No, my religious views have not changed. I am still convinced religion is just man made myth. And now we head into a time set aside for joy, happiness, and fun.

And that’s what I will experience! I am happy Mary and I got to spend that week with Dad back in July. I am happy I got to be there with him when he died. I am very happy my siblings and their spouses are the caliber of people they are. I am glad my in-laws are also.

This holiday season will be joyful, happy, and fun! For us. In years to come, it will also be memorable.

May yours be filled with happiness, joy, and fun, as well!

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 1 In the beginning

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

My mother slipped on some stairs November 14, 1954. The next day I was born, premature. I spent the following 2 weeks in an incubator. During those two weeks, my Dad spent a lot of time pleading for my life in prayer. Here I am, 64 years later. And I am an apostate.

Dad was born October 2, 1934. Mom, January 2, 1936. Dad was not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (referred to hereafter as the Church or by its full name – however, many know of the Church by a nickname, “Mormon”) prior to marrying my Mom. Dad’s Mom never having joined the Church and his Dad, being divorced prior to marrying Dad’s Mom and being an inactive member of the Church and progressing only minimally in the Aaronic Priesthood, was an inactive member. Grandpa and Grandma Holt drank coffee and alcoholic drinks. I understand Grandpa Holt was a happy drunk, when he drank a bit too much. However, Grandpa was once an active member in an unbroken line from Joseph Smith, Junior’s time and the early Church in Nauvoo, illinois. My Dad broke that line until he met Mom.

Mom was raised in the Church, her parents coming from long lines of Church members. Mom and Dad met in a high school speech class. Dad was converted to the Church and was baptized by Mom’s Dad. Here is his story, in his own words as written in a document he titled, “I got my Testimony by Osmosis”:

That sounds strange, Doesn’t it? Osmosis is the way all plants get nourishment. Water and minerals are absorbed through the roots and transported through capillaries up through the stem or trunk to the leaves and into the cells and by means of chlorophyll and sunlight they are transformed into energy and the building blocks of the plant. There is no motor or pump to make the solution go up into the tops of the plants. That is osmosis.

So, what about me? My father, Aaron Glen Holt, only progressed in the LDS Church as far as a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. My mother, Ida Mae Wolf did not belong to any church. Over the years as they were visited by Ward Teachers and Stake Missionaries who preached the gospel to them but they resisted.

Now, the beginning of osmosis. One day every week as my friends and I walked home from school I noticed most of my friends going into the old ward building that was on the corner of 4th east and 8th south in Springville. Over time, curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to follow them into the building. What were they doing? First, everybody went into the chapel where they sang songs and were taught new songs out of a hymn book. Then they divided up according to age and gender and went into the different classrooms. They called this the Primary.

I went into a room with boys my age and the teacher taught us principles of the gospel. We were given green felt sashes to go around our necks, they were called bandalos. We learned the names of the 12 apostles. We learned the names of the temples. We memorized the 13 articles of faith. As we recited what we learned to the teacher we received yellow felt emblems to be attached to our bandalos. Most of them were shaped like chevrons. I took mine home. My mother didn’t sew them onto my bandalo so I did it myself.

The different classes for boys were named Blazers, Trekkers and Guides and each year we advanced through all these classes according to our age, 9, 10 and 11.

Now, mind you, through all these years no one tried to preach to me or single me out. I was just accepted as if I were already a church member. I was never baptized!

Starting at the age of 12 we attended classes one evening each week instead of the daytime classes after school. This was called the MIA and my friends and I became Boy Scouts. My gospel learning slowed down considerably as I now proceed to learn about scouting. However I learned the scout oath and the 12 parts of the scout law and the motto and the slogan. Although the Boy Scouts is non-denominational it encourages a belief in God. I also learned the Scout sign and Handshake and how to tie knots. I learned how to build cooking fires and how to cook my food with my scout cook kit. I learned many other scout skills. My mother took me to a store in Provo, Utah where they sold scout clothing and equipment and she bought me a complete uniform including a neckerchief and slide and cap. I was very proud to wear that uniform to the scout meetings every week.

When I was a Senior in high school I played football. Practice was held during the last period of the day instead of Physical education class. After football was over I had to enroll in another class during the last period. I tried accounting but was bored with it. My friend Stephen Clark encouraged my to sign up for a Speech class with him and I did that. We were the only 2 seniors in a class of Sophomores. In that class I was attracted to a young lady named Janice Weight. Eventually I asked her to go on a date with me. She countered with a suggestion that I attend her MIA class Rose Prom with her. That was the beginning of our relationship.

We went to all the basketball games we could and the dances that were conducted in the gymnasiums afterward, I visited with her and her family nearly every Sunday. I attended sacrament meetings, and sat with her and her family and listened to the speakers, many of which gave inspiring talks. Janice’s Seminary class sold Books of Mormon and Janice bought one that she gave me for a Christmas gift. When I enrolled for college at BYU it was required that the students take a religion class. I signed up for the Book of Mormon class.

Near the end of my first year of college I contacted my Bishop, Oliver H. Dalton, and asked if I could be baptized. He invited me to go to his home for an interview. He wanted to know what I knew about the gospel. I told him what I had learned in Primary and in scouting. He gave me some additional counsel and then gave me a recommend to be baptized. Soon after that I was baptized and confirmed at the age of 19 years by Janice’s father, Leslie LaMar Weight. The next Sunday I was confirmed by the congregation of the Second Ward to receive the Aaronic Priesthood and become a Priest. Bishop Dalton ordained me to the office of Priest after that meeting.

When I asked for baptism that was the end of the process of osmosis for me. In other words advancement from the ground up that was initiated by me. From that time on any advancement I made was by callings from my priesthood leaders, vote of approval from the congregation and ordination or confirmation by the laying on of hands of the appropriate priesthood leaders. Some of my callings were: Priest, Elder, Elder’s Quorum Secretary, Seventy, High Priest, Counselor to three different Bishops, Scout Master, District High Counselor, Stake High Counselor. In all my callings my testimony grew and was strengthed.

I am, then, a product of two (ultimately) unbroken lines of Church members. I was a sixth generation member of the Church. My children and grandchildren are mostly members of the Church, the exception being my youngest daughter and her daughter. My early life in central Utah was uneventful, barring the death of an uncle two years older than me in an accident. I was 7 going on 8. He was 10, being my Mom’s youngest brother and she being the eldest of my grandparent’s children. I am also the eldest grandchild on both sides of my extended families.

Early life was essentially idyllic. Friends were made in spite of my introversion. Some friends were “ready made”, being uncles, cousins, and one aunt near my age. Indoctrination by the Church came by way of Sunday School Sunday morning, Sacrament Meeting later Sunday evening, and Primary Thursday afternoon after school. Ward Teachers and Family Home Evening rounded it all out. These early years took place in Springville, Utah, USA. After Kindergarten the family moved to Granger, Utah, a western suburb of Salt Lake City that is now part of West Valley City.

An uncle 10 years older challenged me, just before he left for his Mission to Australia, to read the Book of Mormon before he returned. I met his challenge easily because of my ability to read quickly. The story that stood out was that of Ammon and his method of protecting the King’s sheep. Most of the rest was too uninteresting to stick in my mind, at that age (around 9 years of age). The edition of the Book of Mormon was the large print illustrated edition and was given to me by the Primary Presidency after my baptism. I liked these illustrations although the men seemed to me to be overly muscular. Unproportionally so. Smallish heads.

Half-way through fifth grade (1966?) we moved to Birmingham, Alabama. The race riots and aftermath were still near the surface. George Wallace was still the governor. Again, in spite of strong introversion, I made friends easily. Half were Church members and half were schoolmates. Walking home from school we could find persimmon trees and muscadine (grape-like fruit with thick skins) bushes. Lots of plant an animal life was very nearby. A creek running in the woods near our neighborhood ran into Hackberry Creek. I would have called it a small river! My neighbor, Jeff Travis, and I would find all kinds of lizards, frogs, toads, ankes, and snapping turles there. To me it was a place to escape. In actuality, it’s fortunate I was never bitten by an Eastern Diamondback Rattler, Copperhead, Water Mocasin, or Snapping Turtle!

I first entered the Aaronic Priesthood in the Birmingham Branch. My first major “shelf item” (an idea that causes cognitive dissonance, to be dealt with later – or never) was created at this time.

The Pearl of Great Price (cannonized Church scripture) fascinated my adolescent mind. I already loved science and the Book of Abraham drew in my curiosity of all things Egyptian. The Facsimiles with translations. The text referring to the facsimiles and their translations. The text itself explaining how to interpret the facsimiles. It was cool!
In May of 1966, Aziz S. Atiya, a coptic scholar from the University of Utah, was looking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection when he came across some papyrus fragment among which he recognized as Facsimile 1 from The Pearl of Great Price. The Church acquired them in November of 1967 and announced an upcoming “Improvement Era” (the Church’s magazine) would bedevoted to Egypt and the papyrus fragments.

Wow! Joseph Smith, Jr. could now be proven a translator!

How disappointed I was when the January 1968 Improvement Era came out! Funerary text! No Abraham. Major cognitive dissonance.

But I mentally shelved it to be dealt wih later, after somebody could receive more light and knowledge on the matter.

Which never came. But that’s another chapter in this story.

Apostate Behavior: Introduction

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

Definition of Apostate

Dictionary definition

For me, “runaway slave” seems appropriate given that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be seen as a controlling organization and, therefore, “cultish” if not fully a cult. I did, indeed, “escape” as a runaway slave. Well, maybe it would be accurate to say I effected my escape by forcing the Church to excommunicate me.

This, then, is my story.

Returning to my Return to Faith

For Continuity.

The breakdown:

  • Faith is not the scientific method.
  • Faith is trust in something or someone or confidence in something or someone.
  • Faith is something less than knowledge regarding what is not seen but hoped for.

In my opinion, the religious use the word faith with the preceding and silent word “blind”. It’s effortless. When in doubt, have more faith! When a crisis arises, have more faith! When new learning contradicts doctrine, have more faith!

Blind, blind, blind!

Effortless!

Well, until cognitive dissonance rears its ugly head!

We have three concepts at play here. The first is confirmation bias. This “protects” our core self, our core beliefs. As we perceive and then interpret events around us, confirmation bias draws our attention to that which confirms our core beliefs and “hides”, if you will, that which contradicts the same. For an example, this is a reason the religious believe a god hears and answers prayers. You’ve seen this on television newscasts I’m sure! Some horrific accident happens and a loved one is not injured severely and quickly recovers, in answer to prayer.

But we then notice there was the loved one of someone else involved and they died. No miracle for them, no answer to prayer or, at the very least, not the answer sought for. Fickle god or serendipity?

You decide.

Confirmation bias is my contention.

Oh, God needed them! Um, how do you know? God sent you a letter? An e-mail? Anything physical? No? It was just a feeling? You just know it? How?!?!?

Confirmation bias.

The other side of the coin is that we neglect to track all the unanswered prayers! They do not confirm our bias! We “forget” the many times we did not get an expected answer. Think about it. Honestly. How many have we forgotten?

I mentioned a second concept, cognitive dissonance, above. This is the very uncomfortable feeling one gets when confronted by contrary evidence to a core belief. We then do a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g we can to ameliorate that discomfort! We rationalize, minimalize, or just plain ignore the cause of our discomfort.

We can become blind to the fact discomfiting us.

Cognitive dissonance.

The third concept I wish to put forward for consideration is tribalism. Why do we believe what we believe? Parents, extended family, local teachers all play a part in our tribalism. Babies are born with no knowledge of any god, religion, politics or any other tribally based teaching. They get this because of where they are born geographically and to whom they were born (or raised, as in the case of adopted infants) locally.

I was born to parents in North America, in the United States of America, in the State of Utah who were practitioners of the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and who descended from parentage who were also practitioners of the same faith.

That’s why I was a Baptist!

Seriously, no. That’s why I was also a practitioner of the Latter-day Saint faith. Parents to children. Tribal knowledge passed down, generation to generation. My chances of actually being a Baptist or adherent of any other faith would be very, very slim until I reached adulthood and chose for myself.

So, please consider for yourself why you believe what you believe. Was it tribal knowledge? No? Really? You say you’ve had “confirmation” from “spiritual experiences” that have let you “know” your faith is factual?

Are you certain your interpretations are not due to tribal knowledge indicating the how of your interpretations? You know, if you see this or hear that or think this or feel that, the experience is from God or is “spiritual”?

Until you can provide objective evidence to confirm your claim, it’s not factual. It’s not what you think (or feel) it is.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

You do realize that with the sheer number of faiths/religions/belief systems that we, as humans, no longer (if ever!) rely on objectivity. Some few do, but not as a whole. We’re tribal.

Mormons, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Taoists…

Americans, Russians, Chinese, Europeans, Indians, Africans, Scandinavians, Oceanics…

Utahns, Coloradans, Texans, Alaskans, Georgians…

Holts, Weights…

Tribal.

When, in fact, we are all…

Human.

Once we can appreciate our tribalistic differences along with the same in others, we can better appreciate our own humanity and appreciate it more than what differentiates us tribally, culturally. Maybe even start using objectivity to better navigate life together as a single species. Maybe make this world a better place, reduce division, be better stewards.

Not be blind.

(I know, I waxed very philosophically at the end! I just got caught up in the whole concept. I’m human. smiley emoticon)

Think About It

This will be tough! I, in this post, will ask the true believing reader to pause for thought. I will ask the true believing reader to do the opposite of what we do when reading fiction; suspend disbelief. What I will require instead will be thought and common sense. Realize, though, that what I write here only touches the topic lightly.

Right. Here we go.

What is my purpose?

To overcome confirmation bias and inspire some cognitive dissonance.

Right.

Why?

Until we all can apply our wonderful brains, belief in mythologies cannot be overcome!

If I have not lost you already, let’s start.

The whole idea that religion is valid i.e. contains the “truth”.

Creationists (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one; see D & C 77:6) are at odds with archeological and/or scientific evidence. Joseph Smith, Jr. stated the full temporal existence of the Earth will be 7000 years in total.

Really? Think about that.

Science tells us the Earth is 4.543 Billion years old. The Moon is 4.53 Billion years old. The Solar System is 4.571 Billion years old. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is 13.51 Billion years old.

Which is right? How can we decide?

We (I speak as a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) believe scripture because it comes from God through His Prophets. God has said, more than once, the Earth is less than 7000 years old. We pray about it and feel good (spiritual witness), so we decide it’s true.

Easy. That’s all it takes!

But wait. Just how many religions are there? Roughly 4,200. Why? Because each one feels a little differently about some belief or multiple beliefs than the rest. Apparently, god(s) does not/do not speak the same things globally. Weird. One would think a supreme being could overcome this.

Ah, but there’s faith. We just have to have faith this supreme being knows what’s best for us. My own guess is that confusion is the preferred state the SB wishes to keep us human subjects in. I mean, if we had no differences in beliefs, what need would there be for faith? Faith keeps us from thinking too much, from needing all the answers.

At this point, we see why religion impedes the progression of knowledge. At this point, we see how religion encourages a man-made hierarchy that suppresses the believing masses and exalts themselves. We see how regions are nothing more than man’s tendency toward tribalism (grouping into social units of shared values and beliefs) and selfishness.

Then we have science. Some talk about science as a thing. It is not. It is a method. It is the best method to date that mankind has created to gain actual knowledge. The scientific method is a series of steps followed by scientific investigators to answer specific questions about the natural world. It involves making observations, formulating a hypothesis, and conducting scientific experiments.

The (generic) steps of the scientific method are as follows:

  1. Observation.
  2. Question.
  3. Hypothesis.
  4. Experiment.
  5. Results.
  6. Conclusion.
  7. Evaluation and refining the experiment until results are consistent.
  8. Statement of theory.
  9. Communication and peer review.

Can we be wrong using this method? Absolutely! We often are. Not just that but one favorite activity scientists enjoy is disproving accepted theories! It’s how we advance in knowledge. It works. It self-corrects.

Using the scientific method over a few centuries of observation, our knowledge of our planet, solar system, galaxy, and the universe has advanced tremendously. Meanwhile, faith has kept us stationary using knowledge up to thousands of years old.

This is why religion declares the Earth is less than 7000 years old.

Think about it.

The excommunication of Sam Young

This brought back memories. The steely gaze of my Stake President, signifying to me his decision had already been made and the purpose for a Disciplinary Council was moot. In a prior one-on-one interview with him, he declared the next level in authority above him (Area Seventy, specifically a member of the Church’s 6th Quorum of Seventy) encouraged my excommunication. I imagine the Area Seventy had received counsel, as well, from his peers and maybe some from those in even higher authority.

So this decision was, seemingly, not entirely “local”. Nor was it the result of counsel (the High Council and Stake Presidency). It was predetermined.

It wasn’t just my Stake President’s steely gaze, either. It was his cold, business-like vocal tone. No love. No concern. Just, essentially, “good riddance”! And how can I know he was happy to be rid of me?

This man, who spiritually assassinated me, who took away all eternal blessing and promises, saw me with my wife and my sister-in-law at Costco before Christmas the same year I was excommunicated and he called to me, mistaking my identity and using the name of some other church member. And when he realized his error, well, after I corrected him and extended my hand to shake his in a friendly greeting, he guided his wife away from the aisle we were in and speedily left the area. No apologies for the mistaken identification. No further greeting. He just exited, stage left, as fast as he felt he could go without drawing too much attention to himself! His wife looked back a couple times in confusion. I suspect he explained to her later.

So, Sam Young (and my dear reader). This is not Christ’s church. Godly men do not walk its “hallowed” halls. Godly men do not sit at the helm.

It’s a corporation, with billions in real estate and business holdings. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve can live for quite some time on those investments, with or without any further donations from church members. Society and its issues do not dictate the church’s direction. Membership does not have its privileges.

While you (Sam) and I have left (been forcibly kicked out, rather), the church will go on.

And so will its abuses. For now. Maybe, just maybe, “god” will drop a clue into Russ’ head and the policy will change. But not any time soon.

To quote an infamous malignant narcissist in today’s political scene who tweets in the wee hours of the morning nearly every day, “Sad.”

Man cannot change the church. Only “god” can. (Well, in my opinion, it’s all a myth and man-made, so the pretense of revelation will come down from the top in due time, as I said above. Probably when all the “heat” from the furor you inspired, Sam, dies down.)

I leave it to you, reader, to decide for yourself:

Link to a short (13 minutes) recording taken by “Alma” at Sam Young’s Disciplinary Council. This is the portion of the meeting where the Stake President reads the charges.

Link to the recording I made of my own Disciplinary Council. Link to my story on MormonThink.com. Link to the Facebook post that led to my interviews with the Bishop, Stake President, Area Seventy, and eventual excommunication.

 

Note 1: As of right now, there are Sam Young Aftermath - quitmormon resignation requests submitted and waitingresignation requests that have been sent into church headquarters from QuitMormon.org alone to be processed. That would be, roughly, a full Stake. Yesterday there were nearly one thousand submitted and in legal review after Sam’s letter was read.

Kick out one honorable man and, in a single day, hundreds follow willingly! Well done, leadership. Well done!

Note 2: To learn more about what Sam Young stands for, please visit his site ProtectLDSChildren.org and click on the “Read The Stories” link. You’ll come to know why Sam was and remains so outspoken. This is his personal blog, as well.

Note 3: Comment! Please! Do not just “hit and run”.

More, on manipulative organizations

This site, needing translation for us English readers (your browser can do it), offers a quiz for evaluating how manipulative any organization one might belong to might be. I took it and answered regarding my years of membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You could compare the questions with all the things I have posted on this blog regarding cults, aka manipulative organizations.

Screenshots of my answers to the quiz.

Your answers will surely differ from mine on some points. One possible reason might be that people in manipulative organizations seldom realize they are in one.

“The cult member doesn’t believe that he or she is in a cult. Instead, he or she believes they have achieved a privileged status in an elite group which offers them ultimate salvation.”

“Your attempts to save them from the group ring hollow or sound nefarious.” – Sam Smith

It takes something powerful to enlighten them. It took something powerful to force me to see.

Anyway, let’s see where we differ and maybe explore why. Are you game? Answer in the comments.

Return to Faith

Not what you’re probably thinking! I am not getting re-baptized or doing any such thing. I am, though, returning to the topic of faith.

Here is my last treatise on the subject. Take time to read or re-read it. I’ll wait.

.

.

.

Now read this. I’ll wait again.

.

.

.

For now, I am going to leave both “out there” without further comment (unless no one comments, per my usual experience!) awaiting comments from readers. Another post, in a while, will explore this topic further.

Poser

So, a while back, I decided to post blogs here instead of “spouting vile garbage” against the LDS Church on Facebook. I do post links on FB to my blog here in the slim chance one of my dear family members ever deign to give it a glance. Some claim to read what I write. Admittedly, it’s a very, very slim “some”!

Those who read leave little evidence they’ve been here. Few (if any) comments. Few opinions.

Hit and run, basically.

Those who do comment are those who have experienced similar things, made similar discoveries, as I have. Not family members. Friends in the unfaith. Except for my Uncle George. He would like to see me back, securely in the “fold” so his comments align with current LDS apologia.

It would actually shock the hell out of me if one of my family members (except Uncle George) read something I post here and then thought about it enough to have questions and/or comments!

However, instead of having family pour through my past postings, although they are encouraged and welcome to do so, I have a poser:

Explain how Nephi beheading Laban differs from this sad story. I refer to the core of the matter. The reason action was taken.

Muddled thoughts

What is the difference between me, a former Mormon and believer, and many (well, most) of my believing Mormon family members? What would make me leave the community wherein I was raised and go against all I was taught (well, rather than leave, get myself excommunicated)? How could I dash all the hopes and dreams of my family? How could I break the trust?

It’s not a small thing to be excommunicated for apostate behavior. Temple recommends can be denied believing members for simply associating with apostates. I am a risk to my believing family.

This (my unbelief) is certainly my own perspective. I can provide evidence to support it. My believing family can only provide feelings. They’ve been taught feelings provide all the proof they need to support beliefs. I was taught the same.

Feelings. What kind? Well, here is a talk by a current high placed leader. Read it. Watch it, if you wish. Please point out any actual evidence his interpretations are factual. Please. In my mind, he is just using what he was taught to interpret in the manner he was taught.

There is no evidence.

However, cognitive and neurological science are delving into physiological responses and their causes. “Burning bosoms”, elevation, frisson, goosebumps, etc. These things have many causes, not just “spiritual” experiences. But many are taught that these are evidence of the “Spirit” working in us.

How do we know when the cause is “spiritual” and when it is not? What. Is. The. Evidence? Is there evidence?

I’ve said it several times outside this article in other conversations and so I will need to say it here. The sensations are common to all mankind. It’s the interpretation that differs! Each sect has traditional interpretations passed down generation after generation. This is why we have thousands of religions. Interpretation.

The experiences do not differ. Mankind shares in wonder and the unknown. We react with feelings. And we interpret. No real evidence. No supernatural being or force leaves an undeniable and unambiguous physical signature.

Interpretation.

Show me an undeniable and unambiguous physical evidence that an experience is “supernatural” and not the result of interpretation and I will take all this back.

Think about it. Really think.

And keep an eye on what fascinating things cognitive and neurological science are bringing to light.

Zarahemla Branch

A meeting in March 2018

Suggested starting and ending points: 7:30 to 1:28:00 (at 1:17:30 there is an Elder Joseph F. Smith, who is self-deprecating as he begins, with some humorous incidents along the way). Go ahead and watch the whole thing, if you wish. At 1:38:13 begins a section of Q&A. I like that they counsel self-determination of the “truth” of the subject presented earlier and do not necessarily endorse it from the pulpit. 2:32:45 is about the end. The recording finishes at 2:38:51.

Do some digging on their website. “Feels” somewhat familiar, in parts, doesn’t it, dear family and other LDS readers? Post your comments, please! It’s so hard to read your minds! Impossible, in fact. Please comment.

…and we’re back!

Dr. John Dehlin (Mormon Stories podcasts, Open Stories Foundation, etc.) interviewed Steven Hassan M.Ed. LMHC, NCC recently. Here are the two parts:

Part 1: Mormon Stories #938 What the Mormon Church Can Learn From Cults to Do/Be Better

Part 2: Mormon Stories #939 What the Mormon Church Can Learn From Cults to Do/Be Better

Please watch both, all the way through (I know, they are not short! Take your time. Break them up.).

Comments here are eagerly sought and welcomed!

Steven Hassan’s BITE Model…Part “B”

The BITE model: the specific methods that cults use to recruit and maintain control over people.

“B”: Behavior Control

  • Promote dependence and obedience
  • Modify behavior with rewards and punishments
  • Dictate where and with whom you live
  • Restrict or control sexuality
  • Control clothing and hairstyle
  • Regulate what and how much you eat and drink
  • Deprive you of seven to nine hours of sleep
  • Exploit you financially
  • Restrict leisure time and activities
  • Require you to seek permission for major decisions

To me, a former member of the LDS Church, these are self-evident. To a current member, they may not be so evident. Why? Confirmation bias. Obedience to authority, depending on authority for the current word of god, behaving in accordance with prescribed actions, paying tithes and generous offerings in order to receive anticipated rewards (blessings, status, ability to participate in ordinances not available to those who don’t), sexuality (including modes of dress, abstinence until marriage, heterosexual only, personal arousal, etc.), “busy work” (Ministering – formerly Home/Visiting Teaching), time consuming callings and assignments, recommendation to date and marry within the Church, Word of Wisdom, etc.

These are methods to control behavior! Period!

Members will protest, saying they choose these things and are not forced. However, each of these things has a reward if they are chosen, meaning they ARE, absolutely, forms of control! Sure, one does not have to follow or comply with these things, but where does that leave this member? What will happen? Will he/she be left alone?

If they are noticed, no (have you ever attended a Ward Council meeting??)!

This is behavior control, pure and simple.

Thoughts Pro/Con? Please comment!

The BITE Model, Applied

(Original article here, Copyright 2005, Luna Flesher)

The BITE Model and Mormon Control

by Luna Flesher

Introduction
Nearly every cultist, no matter what cult they are a member of, completely and fully believes their group is the one and only true way. They believe they are elite, of better stuff than outsiders. They strive for near-impossible standards of moral purity. They believe the world as we know it will soon end, but that they alone will be safe. They follow a long list of rigid rules and are required to obey. They are restricted access from material that would expose deceptions and lead them away from the group.
These are just a few of the common attributes of cults, and Mormonism is no different.
Thought reform and authoritarian groups are not usually as glamorous or “far out” as media and entertainment would have them be. We like to look to extremes to define things we don’t understand, but the reality is much more subtle. Mormonism is also no different from cults that appear friendly, clean-cut, happy, and productive. This is just one of the persuasive methods that draws and retains members.
Much like my earlier paper, “Is Mormonism a Cult?” – A Rebuttal, this paper takes a step-by-step look at a secular definition of cults. Steven Hassan’s BITE model details the manipulative methods used to keep members trapped, by controlling Behavior, Information, Thoughts, and Emotions. Each category is broken down into specific points distinguishing a cult from more ethical organizations.
The details of each point are more thoroughly explained in his book, Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves. There, and in other sources, we learn that this list is not all-inclusive. It does not address subjects such as how cults gain converts, the process through which the personality is torn down to be replaced by a cult personality, methods of influence and persuasion, the negative effects of belonging to a cult, and recovery from the lingering effects after leaving a cult.
This paper barely scratches the surface of the complexity involved in this subject. I would recommend that each curious reader explore the topic further by reading selections from the bibliography, especially works by Hassan, Langone, and Singer.
I will also note that individual experiences are unique. The Mormon Church is vast, and the folklore and customs can be slightly different from region to region, family to family. Few will relate to every single point I bring up, but most readers familiar with Mormonism will relate to most of the items, and recognize the overall picture.
The differences of experience will depend on things like variations in the finer points of doctrine (interpretations and emphasis) and the intensity of behavior from family and fellow members.
An apologist may be able to point to a few of the specifics, and claim they have never heard of such a thing. But I would not have bothered to mention them had they not been a major part of the Mormon experience, somewhere. I draw not only from my 26 years in the Church, but also the stories of hundreds of others who have lived a similar life. The overall experience is a sum of the parts, and it is fallacy to belabor the exceptions.
Cults can be psychologically, spiritually, emotionally, and sometimes physically damaging to individuals. Again — Mormonism is no different. My purpose for writing this paper is to help those who are struggling with difficulties that arise from being or having been Mormon. In order for there to be recovery, there must be understanding.
“…And the truth shall set you free.”
I. Behavior Control
1. Regulation of individual’s physical reality
a. Where, how and with whom the member lives and associates
The Church’s official doctrine is that members can be friends with anyone. Contradictory teachings imply and state outright that one should not associate with non-members or people who have “lower standards”. Members may risk having their morality affected through peer-pressure, and may even be “deceived” and lead away from the Church. Members are reminded to “always stand in holy places”.
Sunday school curriculum states:
“Think to yourself about any situation you know in which someone followed the wrong kind of friend or group. Think about how often these situations ended in sadness, tragedy, or suffering.” (“The Presidents of the Church, 19: Make Peer Pressure a Positive Experience”)
Non-member dating and dating under the age of 16 is prohibited. Marriage to non-members and “unworthy” members is discouraged. A 19 year old Mormon male is strongly pressured to go on a Mormon mission for 2 years, where they are cut off from friends and family. Many members are encouraged to go to BYU and other church-sponsored schools.
b. What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears
There is heavy emphasis on “modest clothing”, especially enforced on the youth. Usually the focus is on girl’s clothing. Skirts should be knee-length or longer. Shirts should have sleeves. Shirts should not be cut too low at the top or too high at the bottom. “Hip-hugger” pants are discouraged. The midriff should not show. Bikinis are not allowed. One-piece swim suits are, but only to be changed into at the pool (not to be worn en route). Shorts are sometimes discouraged as well, particularly anything that would preclude wearing of the authorized under garment. Men should not go shirtless.
Women are expected to generally look feminine. Earrings for men are strongly discouraged. More than one set of earrings for women is strongly discouraged. Tattoos are strongly discouraged. Hair should be of natural color. Men should keep short haircuts and are encouraged to be clean-shaven.
During Sunday church and many other meetings, women should wear dresses and men should wear suits or shirts and ties.
After going through the temple, all members are required to wear white “garments” (special underwear) both day and night. These are bottoms that go almost to the knees and tops with sleeves. For women, the top must go under the bra. These must be worn at all times, including to bed. They may be removed for showering, swimming, and sex, though a few decades ago, married couples were even instructed to have sex with the garments on. Some members old enough to remember still practice this.
Punishment for violation of the dress standard is usually social pressure, even ostracism. At some Church institutions (missions, universities, employment) violation can mean formal discipline, up to and including being removed from the institution. Failure to wear the official temple garment (after the member has been “endowed”) can result in having temple privileges revoked.
It seems that the purpose is to make a good impression on the outside world, to make the Church appear clean-cut.
“Servants of God have always counseled his children to dress modestly to show respect for him and for themselves. Because the way you dress sends messages about yourself to others and often influences the way you and others act, you should dress in such a way as to bring out the best in yourself and those around you. However, if you wear an immodest bathing suit because it’s “the style,” it sends a message that you are using your body to get attention and approval, and that modesty is not important.” (“For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet)
Temple garments serve to remind one of their commitments, enforce phobias (protection from physical and spiritual harm), and separate Mormons from the “outside”.
c. What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects
No alcohol, tobacco, coffee, or tea. This is known as “The Word of Wisdom”. While this one started out as a recommendation in the early Church, it has become a commandment that is is very heavily emphasized. The general feeling is that breaking this commandment is second in severity only to having sex outside of marriage (which in turn is second only to murder).
This same scripture also recommends other healthy ideas, such as eating meat sparingly, but these are not taken seriously by most members. As a result of ignoring these extra dietary concepts, many members are overweight and suffer from health problems, in spite of the promise to “run and not be weary, walk and not faint” (Doctrine & Covenants 89:20).
Cola and non-specified caffeinated products are discouraged, but many members drink them anyway. This has been controversial for some time, where some are extremely judgmental of the practice, and others find it one of the few relatively “safe” ways to rebel.
d. How much sleep the person is able to have
Nothing is said or indicated either way on sleep. A few Church publications have recommended getting plenty of sleep as part of staying healthy. Generally members are pressured to be productive, and are very busy with Church-related activities, so often don’t get enough sleep by default.
To my knowledge, there have been no formal studies done on this topic, so all of this information is anecdotal and from personal experience. A recent unscientific survey of a Mormon Sunday School class (17 adult men) indicated 64.7% of the class members got only six hours of sleep per night, while 29.4% got as much as seven. (http://www.postmormon.org/forum_vb/showthread.php?t=639)
e. Financial dependence
Members are encouraged to be financially independent. Many Mormons (especially outside of Utah) are financially stable on their own, being middle to upper class.
Other factors sometimes lead families to extreme poverty. Members are encouraged (even commanded) to have large families to bring spirits into the Gospel. They are also expected to pay a minimum 10% tithing. Members in communities highly populated by other Mormons with large families find it difficult to find good-paying jobs, and often support families of 6-10 on low incomes.
Advice given to resolve financial difficulties is to “Make sure you pay your tithing first”. Utah leads the nation for bankruptcies.
The Church has a welfare system which provides food and sometimes money to struggling families. Members who use this system are encouraged (but not required) to pay back the Church in the form of volunteer service.
After the Second Coming, the “Law of Consecration” will be enacted, at which time there will be no individual possessions. Each will be given according to their need in a type of theocratic communism.
f. Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations
Having “good, clean fun” is not openly discouraged. However, recreation is sometimes defined as “re-creation”, and members are encouraged to spend recreational time productively — developing talents, serving others, reading the scriptures and Church publications, listening to “uplifting” music, etc. Members also have a huge number of time-commitments, including numerous church meetings on Sunday and throughout the week, church callings (jobs), family time, praying, reading the scriptures, service projects, visiting members (home & visiting teachers), having productive jobs (men) and clean houses (women), genealogy, temple attendance, etc.
I estimate the bare minimum for being a “good Mormon” is 22 hours a week filling Church duties, with the following breakdown:
3 hours/week Sunday Church meeting
Average 8 hours/week for callings
2 hrs/week additional meetings
2 hrs Monday for Family Home Evening
1 hr/day scripture reading & prayer
This does not count extra projects, special Church events (General and Stake conferences, Girl’s Camp, scouting, dance festivals, ward parties/gatherings, special conferences and training for callings, talent shows, etc.), Temple attendance, genealogy, gardening, food storage collection, writing in your journal, service, and other encouraged activities.
“Cinderella, you may go to the ball — but only when you get all this work done.” The end result is that there is very little time to spend on leisure.
2. Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals
All members attend 3-hour Sunday meetings. Teens attend weekly “mutual improvement” activities. Teens also attend daily “Seminary” (scripture study) classes in their high schools. Male teens are members of Mormon-run Scout troops. Female teens attend Girls Camp (1 week per year). Various annual conferences are provided for teens. Weekend nights there are dances provided for teens and single adults. Pre-teen girls participate in twice monthly ‘Activity Days’ which prepares them for the Young Women’s program, and reinforces Church and Young Women’s values and standards.
Two-year missions are expected for 19-21 year-old males. Senior citizens also serve full-time missions. Women aged 21 or older who are not otherwise married may serve a mission, but they are not encouraged to do so. The higher priority for women is to marry a worthy returned missionary.
College-attendees are encouraged to attend “Institute” classes, much like seminary.
After church there are often “Firesides”, 1-2 hour meetings for various ages, discussing church themed topics. There are also various dinners and ward (congregation) activities.
Adults usually have callings (Church jobs) that require additional meetings and preparation time. Women have Family, Home and Personal Enrichment (formerly known as “homemaking meetings”) every month. Adult institute classes are available to those interested.
Home Teachers (men) and Visiting Teachers (women) are assigned to visit families once a month and give a lesson.
Personal and family scripture reading is encouraged. Monday nights are reserved for “Family Home Evening” during which a lesson is given at the family-level.
Twice a year there are General Conferences which are held all weekend in four 2-hour sessions, with an extra hour for the men. Attendance to one session on Sunday is expected. Extra-faithful members attend all sessions.
3. Need to ask permission for major decisions
There is no need to ask the church leadership, but you are strongly encouraged to pray and fast and ask God and get confirmation from “the Spirit”. However, many members choose to seek counsel from their Bishop for many important decisions, with the thought that if he approves, then they have tacit approval from God.
Members are always encouraged to “Choose the right” in every aspect of their lives. A wrong choice is said to have dire, long-lasting consequences. Even for non-religious life choices, members are instructed to seek council in the scriptures, in fasting, and in prayer. Because of this reliance on “The Spirit”, many members are afraid to make even the simplest of choices.
Members become susceptible to persuasion through “revelations” from fellow members, leaders, and parents, especially in the realm of marriage and careers. These come in the form of promptings, feelings, visions, and dreams.
Parents can (but don’t always) exert a lot of control in both major and minor life decisions.
4. Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors
All “major sins” must be confessed to the Bishop (lay-clergy ward leader). The definition of what needs to be reported varies greatly. It is generally accepted that sexual sins, drinking alcohol or coffee, or smoking, are all reportable offenses, as are sins considered “crimes” by law (traffic violations not included). Some think that lesser sins are also reportable.
What constitutes a reportable sexual sin varies. Some include oral sex, heavy necking/petting (making out), and masturbation. Some include sexual fantasies and pornography.
All members are regularly interviewed by the Bishop for various purposes: temple recommends (starting at age 12), annual tithing settlement, when given a calling, and other major events. Youth are interviewed at least two other times annually, during the month of their birthday, and 6 months later. This can easily constitute 3-5 regular interviews a year or more, depending on various factors. “Worthiness” is determined based on the outcome of these interviews.
During regular interviews, members are asked a series of questions, including whether they have a testimony (believe in God, Jesus, Joseph Smith, Book of Mormon, etc.), whether they sustain their leaders, whether they are honest in all their dealings, whether they are sexually chaste, etc. Some Bishops have been known to go outside the written questions and ask deeper, more personal questions.
Sometimes members are led to believe a Bishop can discern if you are lying during the interview process. God and angels also know your actions and inner-most thoughts and are watching you all the time.
There have been many reports of ecclesiastical abuse during interviews. Some members confessing sexual sins will be repeatedly asked for in-depth details. Some of these members are between the ages of 12 and 18. Some members (both adults and children) who go to the Bishop for help with domestic abuse become further victimized when the Bishop disbelieves the claim, minimizes the trauma, or blames the victim. Several such cases have been settled out of court, and even more have been written about, including in published accounts.
This problem is partially due to untrained lay-clergy, a culture of secrecy, and the belief in the divine authority of the Bishop without accountability to earthly authority. There is a strong focus for members and leadership to keep up appearances. Members will rarely hear about domestic abuse, infidelity, bitter marriages, or mental illness, unless they are experiencing it themselves. This tendency towards silence exacerbates trauma and even the normal difficulties of life. Such things are often seen as imperfections or at worse, sinful, so a member may suffer alone and in silence.
5. Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques- positive and negative).
Official punishments include being barred from the temple, disfellowshipment and excommunication. Disfellowshipping includes the inability to partake in the Sacrament, inability to pray publicly or give talks, and inability to hold a Church calling. Excommunication is a complete eradication of all membership privileges with extreme social and spiritual consequences.
Social pressures can be very strong. This topic is a mixed bag, as some members are sincere, good-hearted people, and others are judgmental and shaming. The overall vibe, however, is to appear righteous, or you are unworthy, inferior. It is a part of the culture.
Members and families who seem to be following the commandments very closely are highly respected. Those who have visible problems are considered inferior. This is never expressly said, for the doctrine is “Love one another”, and we’re all equal in the sight of God, nevertheless various levels of status exist in the culture very strongly.
One could be considered of lowered status if: a child in the family is rebellious or has left the Church, one of the parents is inactive or a non-member, any member of the family is observed visibly disobeying a commandment (drinking/smoking, dressing immodestly, criticizing leadership, not wearing garments, turning down a calling, cussing, missing a lot of meetings, etc), if the family is poor (though not always), if no one in the family has ever held a leadership calling (President or Councilor of an adult group, Bishop, or higher), or even if they just don’t seem “valiant”.
The threat of social ostracism is implied by how people talk about others. The language is loaded with negative words for people who sin, criticize, or leave. “Apostate”, “wicked”, “sinner”, “blind”, “hard-hearted”, “unrepentant”, “deceived”, “mocking”, “rebellious”, “contentious”, “misguided”, and “spiritually weak” are just a few.
Some phrases use guilt to punish, i.e. “By sinning, we crucify the Savior anew”.
Spiritual/intangible rewards and punishments abound. These include blessings (financial, situational, spiritual, physical, etc), The Spirit (to enlighten), promise of eternal heavenly life, and promise to be with your family forever. Spiritual punishments consist of the loss of these things. Satan is targeting members of the Church, so you are at risk of being tempted or even harassed by him. Mormons have a very real fear of evil spirits, and are inclined to see the hand of Satan in any tragic circumstance.
It is implied that it is difficult to find happiness outside the Church, especially if you once knew the truth and go against it, “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.” (D&C 82:3)
6. Individualism discouraged; group think prevails
Officially, individuality is encouraged. The actual result is a unified group-think church. Mormons tend to look and act the same. Living up to standards is strongly encouraged, which makes people the same in many areas, since there are so many commandments. See section above on clothing and appearance.
It is assumed that because the Church is true, it is true for everyone. If someone is spiritually seeking or not in agreement with Church teachings, it is because they are “lost and deceived”. Here is an example from a story published in a Church magazine:
“My church attendance slipped as I began to feel that the adults in our ward disapproved of my attitude and my hair length. (It wasn’t until much later that I learned that they had prayed numerous times for something to happen in my life that would help me find myself.)” (“What If This Is Really True?” by Derek Preece, Ensign Sept. 1990.)
Note that he says, “…help me find myself”. The beliefs of both the author and his fellow members were that his attitudes and long hair weren’t really him. The “real Derek Preece” would cut his hair, go to Church, have a good attitude, go on a mission, and generally conform to the ways of the group. By the end of the story, he does all of these things.
There are many small things which are not really commandments, but considered good things to do. These are all socially reinforced. Many have to do with appearances, such as: Don’t listen to loud music; be humble; wear nice clothing; look normal (no extreme fashions); sew quilts; bake apple pies; and play basketball.
Obedience to leadership is expected. Free-thinking and personal beliefs are only allowed up to a point, so long as they do not contradict central dogma. There are many doctrines which should never be questioned. “Dissenting” by sharing contradictory information or ideas (whether it can be backed up or not) can be a serious offense, up to and including disfellowshippment and excommunication.
7. Rigid rules and regulations
There are far more commandments and rules than anyone could ever possibly have the time or energy or strength of will to complete. Mormons are considered very strict in their behavior in all aspects of their lives. People who question the rules are “murmuring” and “contentious”. (“…he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil…” (3 Nephi 11:29))
In addition to a long list of commandments and “suggestions” from on high, many local leaders will implement their own rules. As a youth, my Stake President said that girls must wear dresses to weekday youth activities. At dances, our dresses had to be knee-length. Mission presidents apply their own strict rules, including curfews and what music can be listened to.
8. Need for obedience and dependency
Unquestioning obedience to leaders of all levels is required.
“Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:37-38, required memorization for youth, emphasis added.)
“Keep the commandments, in this there is safety, in this there is peace…” (Keep the Commandments hymn)
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, required memorization for youth)
“Follow the living prophets, as we have just been admonished. One Church leader taught: ‘Always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it. … But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.’ (Heber J. Grant, quoted by Marion G. Romney in Conference Report, Oct. 1960, p. 78.) We walk in uncharted mine fields and place our souls in jeopardy when we receive the teachings of anyone except he that is ordained of God.” (“Opposition to the Work of God” by Elder Carlos E. Asay Of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, Ensign Nov. 1981)
II. Information Control
1. Use of deception
Most true believing members will never notice deceptive practices on the part of the Church. Yet ex-Mormons and non-Mormons who study the Church have found many deceptions in Church history, obsolete doctrines, use of Church funds, personal stories told by General Authorities (higher Church leadership), etc.
There are many quotes from leaders (unknown to most members) justifying misleading and deception “for the greater good”.
Boyd K. Packer said, “there is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.” [Emphasis added] (“Do not spread disease germs!” Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1981)
The few members who ask critical questions regarding doctrines and authority are often mislead or lied to. Deceptions are easily hidden by warm-fuzzy, blame-deflecting language, such as “You misunderstood”, “Milk before the meat”, “We love you”, “Heavenly Father’s ways are mysterious”, “Trust/Have faith”, “You will understand in time”, “Listen to the Spirit”, “You’re not worthy enough to understand”, “God’s ways are not man’s ways”, and “Don’t be deceived by Satan”.
Members are usually unaware of deception because their sole source of information is the Church. Members are usually discouraged from reading that which is critical of the Church (known as Anti-Mormon or apostate material). Such material was inspired by Satan. Reading it will take away the Spirit so you will be deceived and misguided. Your testimony will be endangered. Supposedly Church critics are angry, hateful, spiteful, disrespectful, destroyers, “faith-killers”, followers of Satan, and persecutors. “You can leave they church, but you can’t leave it alone.”
Mormons cannot see any legitimate motives for criticism. From their reasoning, where is there room for criticism of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the one true Church, and God’s own anointed leaders? Questioning all of that makes no sense to the practicing Mormon.
Documented historical data is discounted as lies and crafty deception from Satan.
a. Deliberately holding back information
There are many documented cases where information was restricted from members.
For instance, members (and the public in general) are not allowed to know anything regarding the church’s prodigious financial empire, the extent of its holdings, or the annual revenue generated from corporate holdings and member contributions. They are not allowed access to any information about the dynamics of church membership, other than the single announcement of the increase in membership since the last general conference (the methods of the calculation of this number is undeclared).
They have no information about the inactivity rates of members around the world, the effectiveness of missionary conversions, or the improprieties of highly placed leaders. Furthermore, history that has been recorded (by a self-proclaimed “record-keeping people”), is often reworked, revised and completely rewritten in the spirit of keeping the history “faith-promoting.”
b. Distorting information to make it acceptable
Mormon language is very loaded. Many words and phases have different meanings and connotations to members than they do to outsiders. Concepts are pumped full of feel-good terms so that any new information which is contrary to this image seems impossible.
For instance, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young are seen as loving, wise, kind leaders called of God. Any negative information regarding them stealing the wives of other men, or having people killed, is an impossibility in the Mormon mind.
The Temple ritual is not secret, it’s sacred (even “Top Sacred,” according to former Mormon Martha Beck). Even though many members find it to be a strange experience, it is advertised as a very spiritual, comforting ceremony.
Women are flattered to the point of not realizing they are being demeaned. They are told they’re naturally more spiritual, so they don’t need the Priesthood. They’re more nurturing, so they should raise children instead of working outside the home. They have softer hearts, so they need to be lead by righteous men.
The polygamous lifestyle of the early Mormon prophets is under-emphasized. The darker underside of Mormon polygamy is never mentioned (abuses, stealing wives, spiritual manipulation, etc).
The wording of quotes by early prophets have been changed in newer documents. Abrasive doctrines have been removed and denied to have ever existed. An includes the changing of the word “wives” to “wife” in all quotes by Brigham Young in a recent lesson manual.
The “Blood Atonement” doctrine taught that some sins could only be forgiven if the sinner spilled their own blood on the ground, or, if they couldn’t see the wisdom in doing this, if they were helped along in the act by faithful ward members. The death penalty was in order for adultery, failing to obey leadership, and apostasy. Yet this information is completely withheld from members.
Reports of rape and childhood sexual abuse are covered up. The victim is blamed and told to be silent, and thereby doubly abused.
Returned missionaries who had bad experiences are told to report their experience as happy, and to only tell beneficial, faith-promoting stories.
A recent Prophet (Ezra Taft Benson) was mentally unable to lead the Church for a long time, but this was not reported to Church membership. Efforts were made to make him appear capable.
Scandals that would make the Church look bad have been covered up.
Church membership statistics are misrepresented.
c. Outright lying
General Authorities (high-ranking Church leaders) and local leaders have told outright lies. Most notably, Paul H. Dunn who frequently told faith-promoting war stories and other tales of his life at Church General Conferences, and published in books and tapes. These were all exposed as lies.
2. Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
a. Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio
The command to not watch R-rated movies is followed by most of the members most of the time, with a few exceptions for movies with redeeming moral qualities, such as Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, and more recently, The Passion of the Christ. Certain types of music are discouraged by some church leaders and most parents. Music with inappropriate lyrics is always discouraged, as is loud music.
When viewing media, Mormons live by the creed, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy, or of good report, we seek after these things”. By implication, any media not fitting this standard is avoided.
Mormons tend to avoid sexual content more than violence.
b. Critical information
Members have been disfellowshipped, excommunicated, and fired from Church-related jobs for publishing alternate views, conflicting doctrines, and scientific and historical knowledge that is damaging to Mormon dogma.
Members have also been excommunicated for being politically active in certain areas, for instance, for organizing feminist groups. Sonia Johnson was excommunicated for being an ERA activist in the 1970s.
c. Former members
While not officially discouraged from having contact with former members, there is a social stigma that has a strong effect. Members who left voluntarily (apostates) are considered misguided at best, and evil at worst. There is a fear that an apostate might lead one astray, so there is a general avoidance.
Members who were excommunicated are sinners, and are also considered a bad influence.
Sympathy toward apostates, apostate groups, or anti-Mormon groups is considered grounds for having temple privileges revoked and possible disfellowshipment.
Here are some examples of attitudes against apostates, from a Conference talk by Elder Carlos E. Asay, General Authority, October 1981:
“[A] new convert [then excommunicated] had fallen under the influence of a very dedicated apostate who was successful in destroying the convert’s testimony…”
“…The approach used by the apostate is common among those who are more interested in shadows than in light.”
“…Belief in modern prophets and continuous revelation is absent in the lives of many apostates. They would pin their hopes for salvation upon things other than those related to living prophets and living faith.”
“…Avoid those who would tear down your faith. Faith-killers are to be shunned. The seeds which they plant in the minds and hearts of men grow like cancer and eat away the Spirit. True messengers of God are builders—not destroyers.”
d. Keep members so busy they don’t have time to think
Many commandments, church meetings, church callings, service opportunities, and family obligations. See above under the leisure activities and time commitment sections.
3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
a. Information is not freely accessible
See above under deception section.
Additionally, prospective members are often pressured to join within a matter of weeks, and aren’t given much time to consider or gain a good understanding of the church before joining. Temple ceremonies are kept secret until one is worthy to get a temple recommend, and is ready to go on a mission or get married to a fellow Mormon. Older church doctrines and true church history is suppressed.
Women often don’t know what the Priesthood (men) know,particularly since only the men can hold most of the leadership positions. Members who have not been through the discipline process are usually unaware of what it entails beyond confessing to the Bishop.
b. Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid
This issue primarily applies to temple ceremonies and matters of “deep doctrine”. Many historical documents are kept under wraps, and only Higher Church leaders and Academics have access to this information.
Brand new members have much to absorb in too little time. Retrospectively, ex-Mormon converts look back and find they accepted much more over time than they would have had they been told all things up front.
Those who experience a full-time mission will undergo far more aspects of control than a member who does not serve. (Having a constant buddy, contact with family only through letters with one phone call at Christmas and Mother’s Day, no access to newspapers, no access to any non-Mormon media, very strict rules of behavior, a 6-day work week, 12-16 hour work days, etc.) While this isn’t a pyramid shape, it does indicate that some members have more extreme experiences than others.
c. Leadership decides who “needs to know” what
This is less noticeable to the normal member. This is more noticeable by members involved in higher leadership positions or church discipline proceedings.
4. Spying on other members is encouraged
a. Pairing up with “buddy” system to monitor and control
The family is considered the most basic unit of Mormon organization, and there is no mistake its importance is emphasized. Families are very close and hierarchical/patriarchal. Children are expected to obey parents, often even into adulthood. The judgments and suggestions of family members can hold powerful sway.
Missionaries must always remain with their companion and report offenses.
Members are paired up for Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching to visit assigned families and sisters once a month. They give a lesson and offer service. If the family needs help with something major or appears to be struggling, HTs and VTs are encouraged to report to the Bishop or women’s auxillary (Relief Society) leader. This is for the purpose of making sure people are taken care of, but sometimes results in monitoring of spiritual/emotional issues as well.
Priesthood holders are supposed to have regular “Personal Priesthood Interviews” with their leaders, at which time they account for their stewardship relative to the families they home teach, including reporting any issues they believe the Bishop should be made aware of.
Some members take it upon themselves to be snitches, reporting the unsavory or inappropriate activities of members to the Bishop, which might include observing someone not wearing their garments or garment-worthy attire, internet activity of neighbors, disparaging remarks about church leaders that were overheard, etc. This behavior is generally not discouraged.
There is a little-known organization called the “Strengthening Membership Committee” that is suspected of directly spying on members by tapping phones and assigning neighbors to watch comings and goings. This is usually experienced by high-profile members, i.e. Bishops and other leaders, BYU Professors, authors of controversial material, and activists. Unfortunately, little is known about the activities of this group or how it is organized. Most evidence is anecdotal, as reported by excommunicated members.
b. Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership
This does not appear to happen frequently. Some high-profile or controversial members are watched by Mormon neighbors and report having their phone tapped.
Sometimes suspicious activities are reported by anonymous members, such as evidence of sexual affairs or apostasy.
5. Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.
There is a church magazine for each age level (children, teens, adults). There are many books, tapes, movies, CDs, and all other forms of media available from Church and Church-related publishers. Members are encouraged to partake.
b. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources
Yes, but only to about the same extent as most other organizations.
6. Unethical use of confession
a. Information about “sins” used to abolish identity boundaries
Clergy confidentiality is usually respected.
Sometimes church members will be verbally judgmental of others where apparent sins are noted. Or speaking in general terms of sin, i.e. “People do X because they are Y”. Members who hear these things and know of their own “guilt” will often then associate their behavior with the identity or emotion label, or refrain from doing the sin because they do not wish to be identified with a negative.
b. Past “sins” used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution
According to official church doctrine, a sin is “washed clean” when it is repented of.
However some ex-members have noted that when a sin is repeated, or a new sin committed, the Bishop or Stake President will bring up the old sins again, sometimes in an accusatory way.
A common object lesson when teaching on chastity includes pounding a nail in a board, noting that the nail can be removed (repentance) but the hole remains.
III. Thought Control
1. Need to internalize the group’s doctrine as “Truth”
a. Map = Reality
Mormonism is the only true church on earth. It is implied that following Mormonism is the only way to be happy. The entire purpose for the creation of Man is explained by Mormonism.
b. Black and White thinking
Mormons tend to think in terms of polar opposites for most issues. Emotional states are either “happy” or “unhappy”. You can choose life, or death. People are either right-wing conservative religious Republicans or left-wing liberal atheist Democrats. People are moral or amoral. You are living the Gospel, or you are not.
“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (1 Nephi 2:27
“Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10)
“And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.” (1 Nephi 14:10)
c. Good vs. evil
If it is not of God, it is of the devil. Evil spirits and Satan are considered real entities that actively seek to destroy all that is good. Moral relativism does not exist. If you do not conform, you are being lead astray by the devil. Mormons often discuss the ongoing “war in heaven” that resulted in the “fall” of Satan and one third of the hosts of heaven, and which continues to this day. Evidence for that war is anything ‘bad’ that happens in the world, especially that which is perceived as anti-Christ or anti-Mormon, such as the rise in Islamic fundamentalism.
“…For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.” (2 Nephi 32:8)
“For the natural man is an enemy to God…” (Mosiah 3:19)
“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” (3 Nephi 11:29)
“…for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil…” (Moroni 7:16-17)
d. Us vs. them (inside vs. outside)
Mormonism is very elistist. Members believe they are elect, the most valiant servants in the pre-existence. Mormons born in these latter days are called of God, his chosen people, to be his warriors before the Second Coming. Saturday’s Warriors. “…among all these [intelligences/spirits] there were many of the noble and great ones…These I will make my rulers.” (Abraham 3:22-23).
Oft used quotes include: “Ye shall be a peculiar people”, “Ye are the elect”, “Be in the world but not of the world”, etc.
Mormons identify themselves with most references to Israel in scripture, and “The World” (everyone else) is equated to Babylon. All the responsibilities and good things promised to Israel are promised to Mormons, while the bad things that happen to wicked Babylon will happen to the rest of the world. Non-members are often referred to as “gentiles,” in the manner that Jews generally refer to non-Israelites as gentiles.
While Mormon rhetoric claims everyone is equally loved in the sight of God, other doctrines — and more importantly, attitudes and actions — contradict this. Mormons believe they have a noble birthright so long as they continue to keep the lengthy list of commandments. Non-members and less active members are looked down upon as weak and sinful. They are usually treated with less respect or as irrelevant. Members who leave the Church are labeled “apostates”, which has many negative connotations. Ex-Mormons are encouraged to come back to the fold, but in condescending, often pitying tones. The “righteous” will be exalted, the wicked will be smitten.
It is difficult to deny that Mormons believe they are special. It is drilled into their heads in Church lessons, conference talks, and hymns. Many hymns use battle imagery to show the righteous slaying sinful enemies.
Mormons also have a persecution complex, believing that the world is against them.
2. Adopt “loaded” language (characterized by “thought-terminating cliches”). Words are the tools we use to think with. These “special” words constrict rather than expand understanding. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous “buzz words”.
Words often don’t mean the same thing to Mormons as they do to outsiders. Words and actions don’t always match. Doctrines contain contradictions, so that something seems good and right, when the reality is different. Some doctrines are used to justify unethical behavior while contradicting doctrine is used to make things look good.
Example, “Reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost, and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy,” (D&C 121:43). This scripture is sometimes used by fathers to justify child abuse. Other scriptures talk against “unrighteous dominion” and “offending children”, and these show good intentions. Members who are not in any way involved in abuse will notice these anti-abuse scriptures, and ignore (or alternately interpret) the “reprove with sharpness” scripture, making them blind to abuse that does happen in other families.
I’m still working to compile a list of thought-terminating clichés. Here are a few:
1) Instructions to hum or sing a hymn when an undesirable thought enters the mind
2) Pray when an undesirable thought enters the mind
3) “Get thee behind me Satan” and other phrases which label the undesirable thought as evil so that it cannot be considered
4) “Endure to the end”
5) “Be of good cheer”
6) “I will not be tempted beyond that which I’m able”
7) “Do not harden your heart”
8) “Do not crucify the Savior anew”
9) “Is this [question, reading material, speculation] necessary for my eternal salvation?”
10) “Stand for truth and righteousness”
11) “We love you!”
12) “I know the Church is true”
13) “Put your shoulder to the wheel”
14) “Count your blessings”
15) “The Church is perfect, but the people are not”
16) “Better that one man should perish than a whole nation dwindle in unbelief”
3. Only “good” and “proper” thoughts are encouraged.
No sexual thoughts are allowed. No violent thoughts. No critical thoughts of leaders. No mean thoughts towards others. Anger, jealousy, and other negative emotions are wrong.
4. Thought-stopping techniques (to shut down “reality testing” by stopping “negative” thoughts and allowing only “good” thoughts); rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism.
a. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
If confronted with critical material, a Mormon will become defensive or respond irrationally, such as “I know it’s true!”, “They’re liars!”, or “Don’t test my faith!”. Members are taught to accept things on faith.
Apologists believe they are responding rationally, but they employ logical fallacies and fantastical theories.
Members believe their righteous living will produce blessings, even in the face of evidence against. For instance, members are promised that if they pay their tithing first, their other expenses will be taken care of by God. Many times this does not happen, and the family goes hungry or goes bankrupt.
b. Chanting
No.
c. Meditating
Meditation is encouraged, but not in the same sense as generally practiced by other sects. Rather, meditation to Mormons means “to think long and hard about points of doctrine,” or to “ponder the meaning of some scripture”.
The Sacrament ritual may count as meditation, but again, only insofar as it is focused meditation on the crucifixion and atonement of Jesus and the related symbolism of the sacrament.
d. Praying
Both public and private impromptu prayers are expected, and members make it a matter of pride to be able to stand an offer a prayer at a moments notice without any preparation. Personal and family prayers are to be offered both morning and night, and when ever one wants to pray in between. Several scriptures command that one should “pray always”.
e. Speaking in “tongues”
This is listed as a “spiritual gift”, and at one time was practiced frequently. Now it would by highly irregular to hear tongues spoken in a modern Mormon Church meeting.
f. Singing or humming
Music is given strong emphasis in Mormonism. Hymns are sung at practically every church meeting. Members are encouraged to sing or hum a hymn when thinking a bad thought or tempted.
“…yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” (D&C 25:12)
A study of common Mormon hymns reveal quite a few double-binds, guilt-trips, and emotional traps.
It is interesting to note the place of hymns during the Sacrament ritual. Sacrament is held every Sunday. It is similar to Communion in Catholicism. First, a Sacrament hymn is sung. These are all in minor keys, very sad, slow, and plodding. Lyrics are usually very emotional, with vivid imagery of Jesus being crucified or suffering for our sins. There is a lot of guilt and humility.
After this, prayers are said (renewing baptismal commitments), and bread and water is passed around to the entire congregation. This takes roughly 15 minutes, during which time, everyone is very quiet (“reverent”). You are to think of the Savior’s sacrifice. Many people cry during this experience, and “feel the Spirit”.
5. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate
Serious criticism is treated as heretical. Members who are critical or who publicly point out problems with church policies and doctrine, and who do not repent by retracting their comments, are often excommunicated as apostates.
Non-Mormons or ex-Mormons who publish critical material are considered hateful, evil, or influenced by Satan.
6. No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful
To an extent, other belief systems are recognized for their value. The official line is that, “All religions contain some of the truth, but only the Church contains ALL of the truth”. The result is that members rarely “waste their time” by investigating other belief systems.
Contrary to this belief are Mormon scriptures which teach that there is the Church of the Lamb of God (Mormonism), and there is the Great and Abominable Church (Babylon, The Great Whore, led by Satan). You either belong to one or the other, which is part of the belief that even Satan can cite scripture to deceive for his own nefarious purposes.
If an outside belief (including philosophy and science) comes into conflict with Church doctrines or leadership, the Church position takes precedence. The scientific fact will have to be bent to fit the Church paradigm. Unfortunately, this often applies to psychology. “Love one another”, “Pray”, and “Trust God” are often seen as more effective than, “See a therapist”. When therapy is recommended, members usually go to LDS Social Services or a Mormon psychologist. Counsel from these sources is not usually very objective, and is often considered more a part of the extended repentance process than real therapy.
IV. Emotional Control
1. Manipulate and narrow the range of a person’s feelings.
This one is pretty complicated and deep. Feelings are frequently labeled as “good and bad” or “negative and positive”, “happy and unhappy”, although the recent influx of self-help books has dispelled this belief for a lot of people.
The Church and members will subtly mislabel or guess at a person’s feelings, which causes people to be confused about what they are feeling. For example, if a leader or members of the group say, “The Spirit is very strong today”, and people are crying, one may feel confused if they do not feel the same. Mind-reading frequently occurs, “That person is sinning because they are rebellious”, or “People who are critical of the church are angry”. Many normal human feelings like love and excitement are reframed as “The Spirit”.
Here is an example story from the Family Home Evening lesson manual, to be taught to children. The lesson is on “Gaining a Testimony”:
“Would you like to hold your new brother?” grandmother asked Lindsay as she placed the baby on her lap. “Lindsay, you know this baby boy was with Heavenly Father just a few short days ago. Heavenly Father sent him to our family to love, guide, and train. You must always be kind and good to him.”
As Lindsay held her new brother and looked at him, she had a good, warm feeling inside. She knew Heavenly Father had sent her little brother to their family.
The same lesson continues:
…there is another way we can tell [Jesus and Heavenly Father] are real just as there is more than one way we can tell if the sun is real. That way is a testimony or a feeling we get inside us when the Holy Ghost tells us these things are true. It is a good, warm feeling inside us. When we do what is right, we get that good, warm feeling. When we help someone or do what our mother or father wants us to do we get that feeling. That is the Holy Ghost letting us know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are real. (Family Home Evening Lesson 16, Gaining a Testimony through the Holy Ghost.)
Accusations of “negative” feelings are sometimes used to place false motives on a person who is motivated by something else. Negative feelings are from Satan. “Contention is of the devil” is often used to stop legitimate anger or legitimate disagreements.
2. Make the person feel like if there are ever any problems it is always their fault, never the leader’s or the group’s.
The Mormon Church is full of double-binds. Members are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. There are so many commandments that it is easy for a member to feel unworthy. If a promised blessing does not come true, it is because of the member’s lack of faith or worthiness. If the Spirit does not confirm the Prophet’s words, then it is because one is not worthy enough or has a hardened heart. If a member is unhappy, there is some commandment they are not following. If a member finds truthfulness in critical material, they were not open to the Spirit, they were deceived, they did not have enough faith, or they just don’t understand.
Many scriptures make many conditional promises, and when they are not fulfilled, it is due to the member’s “not trying hard enough”.
If there is no way to blame the victim, then it was God’s will, or Satan was working overtime.
Another common saying is, “The Church is perfect, but the people are not.” It is a way of excusing hypocrisy and bad behavior on the part of fellow members and leaders, so that the Gospel itself is never at fault (even if such behaviors are epidemic or deeply engrained in the culture). Such a saying could be used to dismiss most of the BITE model, since a large portion of thought reform comes from social modeling and pressure, not from “official doctrine”. It’s a way of giving the organization plausible deniability.
3. Excessive use of guilt
a. Identity guilt
1. Who you are (not living up to your potential)
Members are held to a very high standard and told they are chosen and elect. Mormons believe they can become gods, which is often used to control. “Remember who you are”, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect”, “[Jesus] I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.”
2. Your family
The family is a very strong part of the Mormon religion. Many families are very good at placing guilt on other family members. You are responsible for your family (both the living, and dead ancestors!). Families are forever, but only if they are all righteous enough to enter the Celestial Kingdom (highest level of heaven). If they fall out of line, you are likely to emotionally take the blame, even though there are conflicting Church doctrines officially commenting on the matter.
A common phrase is, “Raise up your children the way that they should go, and they will never depart from it.” (Attributed to Joseph Smith, but it is actually Proverbs 22:6.) Parents feel the obligation to fulfill this. Parents with wayward children feel terrible guilt, as this seems to place all the guilt on them.
Another oft-quoted phrase, by Prophet David O. McKay, “There is no success that can compensate for failure in the home.”
“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.” The Family: A Proclamation to the World, Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, 1995
Because of all the stress on the importance of family, divorce is extremely taboo. Couples are “sealed” for eternity. For married Mormons, it becomes even more difficult to leave for fear of betraying the spouse. They cannot get into the highest level of heaven without a righteous marriage partner. Marital pressures keep many non-believing members trapped in the cult.
3. Your past
For the most part, if you’ve repented of the sin, it’s gone. If it’s a personal issue you’ve struggled with, there can be a lot of self-generated guilt that is triggered by repetition of the principle at church meetings.
Victims of rape and sexual abuse suffer greatly due to certain doctrines and heavy sexual shame induced by the Church. A victim doesn’t usually need to confess to a Bishop in order to find this guilt, although many Bishops make it worse by denying events, minimalizing the impact of the abuse, or blaming them on the victim’s own actions.
4. Your affiliations
For the most part, Mormons affiliate with one another (or with people of similar morals) so there’s not much room for guilt there. However, it is notable that one of the questions to determine a Mormon’s worthiness to participate in Temple activities pertains to whether or not you sympathize or associate with apostate or anti-Mormon groups or individuals.
5. Your thoughts, feelings, actions
You are taught that God knows your thoughts and feelings, so there is a constant sense of being watched and monitored, even when you are alone. Every action and thought are recorded. When you die, you will have a full recollection of your guilt. You will see how every action affected everyone else. All of your sins will be shouted from the roof tops, and the events of your life will be read from the Book of Life.
b. Social guilt
Mormons believe they are above the society of man. If anything, members feel more persecuted by society, than guilty towards it.
They do feel a great deal of guilt in the context of their own society. Because there is such a long list of requirements on an average Mormon’s time, invariably some requirements go unattended to, or short-changed. Members commonly associate a great deal of guilt with failing to do their monthly Home or Visiting Teaching, failing to attend the temple regularly, failing to prepare adequately for a lesson, failure to have Family Home Evening, failure to conduct family prayers or scripture study, failure to help other people in the ward, etc.
c. Historical guilt
Same as above. Members feel Mormon history is above reproach.
4. Excessive use of fear
Here is a list of common Mormon phobias:
-Last days, second coming, including fires, floods, earthquakes, storms, volcanoes, plague, famine, authoritarian government
-God and angels are watching, recording every action, every thought
-Loss of eternal salvation
-Loss of eternal family
-Loss of ancestor’s salvation if we don’t do the work for them
-Bishop knows if you are lying
-Taking off garments will leave you unprotected from evil spirits and physical harm
-Satan, evil spirits, unseen devils, and ghosts of all kinds are everywhere.
-The occult, paganism, magic, playing cards, tarot, oiuja boards, Dungeon’s and Dragons
-Unhappiness and life disasters if you leave the church. Loss of all types of blessings, including financial stability.
-Financial hardships if you ever fail to pay tithing.
-Fear that if you date a non-member, you’ll be lead away from the Church
-Terrible fear of committing sexual sin
-Fear of having to confess to a Bishop
-Fear of being disfellowshipped or excommunicated
-Fear of making major decisions; you might make the wrong one
-Fear that if you leave you’ll be overcome by worldly passions and live a life of addiction and wild debauchery
-Fear that without the Church, life will have no purpose, no meaning
-Fear that if you read critical literature, you’ll be deceived
-Fear of sex
-Fear of death
-Fear of shopping on Sunday
a. Fear of thinking independently
Members believe they already are thinking independently. However, they would never dream of thinking contrary to their leaders or church orthodoxy. They are fearful that doing so will lead them away from the True Church and ultimately their salvation.
They are taught that they are free to think for themselves as long as they are thinking within the parameters circumscribed by the gospel and by the teachings of the modern prophets. Subsequently, they feel secure pondering whether or not Adam had a belly-button, but they are not free to consider whether or not the story of Adam was allegorical.
b. Fear of the “outside” world
This is a common side-effect for many Mormons, especially those who have been born into the church and sheltered all their lives. Satan is alive and well, and doing his best to lead away the elect. He’s especially working hard on Mormons, so it’s really easy to be tempted.
“We are in the world, but not of the world” is a popular Mormon quote.
c. Fear of enemies
Satan is still persecuting the Church. Stories are told of the early Church where Mormons were killed for their beliefs (supposedly unprovoked). Anti-Mormons and apostates are still working to destroy the Church. This very document would be considered such an attack.
d. Fear of losing one’s “salvation”
The Celestial Kingdom (highest level of Heaven) is really difficult to attain. One has to be practically perfect to get in, so there’s always a good chance you won’t make it. “What if it’s true?” keeps many doubting members in the church.
Few people will be damned. Most people will go to one of the lower kingdoms of heaven, which are all far better than Earth. Nevertheless, the pressure to make it to the Celestial Kingdom is very strong, and the fear of falling short just as strong.
e. Fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group
For many Mormons, fear of being shunned or even harmed by the Church is a significant issue. Some ex-Mormons have lost their families, friends, and even business associations. Others have loving, supportive families and friends who keep loving them anyway, though always with the hope, whether expressed or not, that the wayward family member/friend will return one day to full fellowship. In nearly every case, the ex-Mormon loses at least some friends or family for leaving the church.
Those who live in the “Mormon Corridor” (strongly-Mormon communities particularly in Utah, Idaho, and parts of other states in the region) find it extremely difficult to leave due to social pressure. Nearly everyone around them is a member. You could lose your job, your house, your business, all your friends and associations. If you work for the Church or BYU, you could lose your entire career.
f. Fear of disapproval
Many members are under social pressures to keep looking good in all ways. Disapproval can come from family members, friends, fellow-members, and church leaders.
5. Extremes of emotional highs and lows.
Some members experience this. Members express spiritual highs, yet Utah leads the nation in consumption of anti-depressants among women, and suicides among men.
6. Ritual and often public confession of “sins”.
This no longer occurs in the Church. However, public testimony meetings are given where members are encouraged to bear their testimonies. Many members make this a chance to confess their more minor sins (thinking bad thoughts, lying, not being nice enough, not listening to the Spirit, etc).
7. Phobia indoctrination : programming of irrational fears of ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader’s authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.
a. No happiness or fulfillment “outside”of the group
Members are told they will never find happiness outside of the church. Many church doctrines imply that fulfillment comes from the Church and obeying the commandments, which implies the converse if one leaves or disobeys. Many exiting members express fear that they will not know how to be happy outside of the church. Many members become surprised when ex-Mormon family members continue to live happy, moral, family-centered lives.
b. Terrible consequences will take place if you leave: “hell”; “demon possession”; “incurable diseases”; “accidents”; “suicide”; “insanity”; “10,000 reincarnations”; etc.
The Mormon version of hell is separation from Heavenly Father, and is the result of failure to attain the highest level of heaven, or the Celestial Kingdom. Oddly enough, though the lower levels are still heavenly, Mormons are still terrified of messing up. Some exiting Mormons question, “What if I’m wrong?”
The Second Coming (due any day now) is also feared, as most of the wicked will be destroyed while faithful members will be protected and then have the opportunity to usher in the new Millennium.
Loss of blessings is also feared. Some exiting members are afraid they will have unspecified terrible things happen to them.
Ultimately, the worst fate in the Universe is reserved for Mormons who knew the truthfulness of the Church, i.e. had obtained a witness by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Church was true, and then rejected that witness. Such unpardonable sinners are referred to as “Sons of Perdition,” and they alone are cast into outer darkness. It is important to note that the elitism of Mormons even extends to their potential for wickedness, as no one but the highest level of Mormons can ever be cast into outer darkness for knowingly rejecting the truth.
c. Shunning of leave takers. Fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family.
See above.
d. Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the group’s perspective, people who leave are: “weak;” “undisciplined;” “unspiritual;” “worldly;” “brainwashed by family, counselors;” seduced by money, sex, rock and roll.
Apostates are considered to have been lead astray by Satan. The word “apostate” itself has a negative connotation. Other perceived reasons for people leaving the Church include: “There was some commandment they were simply unable to keep”, “They never worked hard enough to get a testimony”, and “They must have been offended by someone and their testimony was too weak to withstand it.”
Legitimate reasons are never suggested, such as “Maybe the church isn’t actually true”, or “Maybe that person’s spiritual path lies elsewhere.”
Conclusion
Hopefully the reader will now have a better understanding of the complexity and reality of group control. A cult does not need to employ every tool available in order to shape people in the image of the group. In Mormonism, we will not find public confessions, chanting, or heavy mediation but we do see a majority of the other elements. This is quite enough to cause members to stay, in spite of discomforts, deceptions, psychological issues, and even possible trauma, in extreme cases.
It is quite clear that according to Steven Hassan’s descriptions, Mormonism employs coercive persuasion to manipulate members who might not otherwise remain with the organization. Those who have exited or are exiting Mormonism should consider a process of exit counseling, even if it is self-directed. Researching the Church from a critical perspective and learning about thought reform techniques will aide in the healing process.
Bibliography
Allred, Janice M., My Controversy with the Church, http://www.lds-mormon.com/controve.shtml
Beck, Martha Nibley, Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Life, New York: Crown Publishers, 2005
Benson, Steve, Good-bye to God: Editorial Cartoonist’s Journey From Jesus to Journalism– and Beyond, http://www.lds-mormon.com/benson2.shtml
The Book of Mormon, written or translated by Joseph Smith, 1830
Giambalvo, Carol, Post-Cult Problems: An Exit Counselor’s Perspective, in Recovery from Cults, ed. Michael Langone (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993)
Hassan, Steven, Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves. Somerville, MA: Freedom of Mind Press, 2000.
Hassan, Steven, Freedom of Mind Center http://www.freedomofmind.com
Kline, Diana, Woman Redeemed, Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse, 2005
Langone, Michael D., ed. Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.
The Official Internet Site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, http://www.lds.org
The Pearl of Great Price, written or translated by Joseph Smith, ed. Elder Franklin D. Richards, 1851
Siever, Kim, “Is Mormonism a Cult?”, FAIR, http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/LDSCult.pdf
Singer, Margaret Thaler, Cults in our Midst. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1995
Smith, Joseph, Doctrine & Covenants, 1829-1842
Stricker, Marion, The Pattern of the Double-Bind in Mormonism, http://www.lds-mormon.com/doublebind.shtml
Stricker, Marion, Life After Mormonism and the Double-Bind, http://www.exmormon.org/pattern/index.htm

It’s “That” Word Again – part 2

For review:

BITE Model:

Behavior Control

Promote dependence and obedience
Modify behavior with rewards and punishments
Dictate where and with whom you live
Restrict or control sexuality
Control clothing and hairstyle
Regulate what and how much you eat and drink
Deprive you of seven to nine hours of sleep
Exploit you financially
Restrict leisure time and activities
Require you to seek permission for major decisions

Information Control

Deliberately withhold and distort information
Forbid you from speaking with ex-members and critics
Discourage access to non-cult sources of information
Divide information into Insider vs. Outsider doctrine
Generate and use propaganda extensively
Use information gained in confession sessions against you
Gaslight to make you doubt your own memory
Require you to report thoughts, feelings, & activities to superiors
Encourage you to spy and report on others’ “misconduct”

Thought Control

Instill Black vs. White, Us vs. Them, & Good vs. Evil thinking
Change your identity, possibly even your name
Use loaded language and cliches to stop complex thought
Induce hypnotic or trance states to indoctrinate
Teach thought-stopping techniques to prevent critical thoughts
Allow only positive thoughts
Use excessive meditation, singing, prayer, & chanting to block thoughts
Reject rational analysis, critical thinking, & doubt

Emotional Control

Instill irrational fears (phobias) of questioning or leaving the group
Label some emotions as evil, worldly, sinful, or wrong
Teach emotion-stopping techniques to prevent anger, homesickness
Promote feelings of guilt, shame, & unworthiness
Shower you with praise and attention (“love bombing”)
Threaten your friends and family
Shun you if you disobey or disbelieve
Teach that there is no happiness or peace outside the group

You’ve seen some videos in Part 1 of defectors from religions and you had the opportunity to evaluate what they said against the BITE Model above. Now let’s look at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).

Steven Hassan asked some questions, following his BITE Model here.

More from another site here.

There are certainly others, if you are willing to research, objectively (check your biases, we are all biased, even me, but I try to be objective).

Please comment. Your opinion is welcomed.

It’s “That” Word Again

I won’t apologize. Facts will not allow me to do so. Facts do not care what we think of them, they just are, they just exist, apart from any belief.

This is why faith, in the presence of contrary fact, is stupidity.

I am not talking about “truth”. I speak of fact. They are not the same.

In spite of having written recently about this topic, I am revisiting it now.

Cults.

The really weird thing about cults is that members DO NOT THINK OR BELIEVE THEY ARE IN A CULT! They cannot fathom being so duped. The more one suggests a person is actually in a cult, the more firm that person becomes fixed in denial. It’s near impossible to get them to admit cult membership.

For example, I watched the HBO movie “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” and the concept I am describing is voiced in the movie, that Scientologists do not realize they are in a cult. The person watching with me commented that it is unbelievable they could not recognize their cult membership, that it should be obvious to them! This person is a member of another cult!

Cultists are blind to their own cult membership. Period.

Have you asked yourself yet if you are a cult member? Could you be in more than one? (The answer to the second question is, “Yes.” We will explore the first one. With some honest critical thought, we will find the answer.)

Information/Background

“Destructive cults, groups, movements and/or leaders ‘maintain intense allegiance through the arguments of their ideology, and through social and psychological pressures and practices that, intentionally or not, amount to conditioning techniques that constrict attention, limit personal relationships, and devalue reasoning.'” — Margaret Singer, Ph.D.

“Many people think of mind control as an ambiguous, mystical process that cannot be defined in concrete terms. In reality, mind control refers to a specific set of methods and techniques, such as hypnosis or thought-stopping, that influence how a person thinks, feels, and acts.

Based on research and theory by Robert Jay Lifton, Margaret Singer, Louis Jolyon West, and others who studied brainwashing in Maoist China as well as cognitive dissonance theory by Leon Festinger, Steven Hassan developed the BITE Model to describe the specific methods that cults use to recruit and maintain control over people. “BITE” stands for Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional control.” (Steven Hassan’s Freedom of Mind website)

BITE Model:

Behavior Control

Promote dependence and obedience
Modify behavior with rewards and punishments
Dictate where and with whom you live
Restrict or control sexuality
Control clothing and hairstyle
Regulate what and how much you eat and drink
Deprive you of seven to nine hours of sleep
Exploit you financially
Restrict leisure time and activities
Require you to seek permission for major decisions

Information Control

Deliberately withhold and distort information
Forbid you from speaking with ex-members and critics
Discourage access to non-cult sources of information
Divide information into Insider vs. Outsider doctrine
Generate and use propaganda extensively
Use information gained in confession sessions against you
Gaslight to make you doubt your own memory
Require you to report thoughts, feelings, & activities to superiors
Encourage you to spy and report on others’ “misconduct”

Thought Control

Instill Black vs. White, Us vs. Them, & Good vs. Evil thinking
Change your identity, possibly even your name
Use loaded language and cliches to stop complex thought
Induce hypnotic or trance states to indoctrinate
Teach thought-stopping techniques to prevent critical thoughts
Allow only positive thoughts
Use excessive meditation, singing, prayer, & chanting to block thoughts
Reject rational analysis, critical thinking, & doubt

Emotional Control

Instill irrational fears (phobias) of questioning or leaving the group
Label some emotions as evil, worldly, sinful, or wrong
Teach emotion-stopping techniques to prevent anger, homesickness
Promote feelings of guilt, shame, & unworthiness
Shower you with praise and attention (“love bombing”)
Threaten your friends and family
Shun you if you disobey or disbelieve
Teach that there is no happiness or peace outside the group

Keep these points in mind as you watch the following YouTube video.

And this one.

This has been way too much for a single blog post so this topic will be continued in the next post.

Thank you for sticking with me so far on this post! As always, I invite your comments, please.

It didn’t work for me or, how to win at leadership roulette

Let’s begin here. Please read it, first. I will wait 🙂

I dissented in a single Facebook post, back on January 31, 2016. After that I um, er, “won leadership roulette“. My Stake President couldn’t get the idea out of his head that I, via my FB post, was “teaching” false doctrine when I was, in fact (and I should know because I am the only person who can determine what my intent was), offering a declaration of my status of belief at the time. Read the post. Do I “teach” anything besides doing one’s own homework? The result of his stubbornness (encouraged by our local Area Seventy which was admitted to by my Stake President) was my excommunication. The story is here, including a link to the audio of my “disciplinary council” aka my excommunication “hearing”.

Beware dissent, dear Mormons! Beware.

The Real Danger of Tribal Mythology

I just read about a woman who committed suicide. It seems she was very anxious over leaving the LDS Church AND very concerned about family (how she might be treated because of leaving). I am so sorry she felt so anxious. So anxious her life meant so little.

But this is real. Especially real today. Why?

We seem to be becoming more “tribal” and not just that, we’re more polarized in our tribes. “Us” versus “Them”, to the nth degree!

Religion is tribal. Very tribal. But it deals in belief. All religions do possess truth, tribal truth. But fact? Not so much, else why are there so many?

My lifelong tribe has been “Mormonism” (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or LDS Church). Mormon tribalism is particularly strong in the “Us” versus “Them” ideology because they claim to be the one true church of God. Strongly.

This woman had real concerns, enough so that the resulting anxiety majorly contributed to her suicide. That is so very sad to me. It’s a tremendous loss.

All because of an ideology. Not because of fact.

That is why I eschew belief in the presence of fact. Fact is unaffected by belief. It is self-sufficient. One might not believe the fact, but the fact remains unaffected and is still factual.

But there are so many belief systems globally! Thousands! They persist. Why?

I don’t know, for sure. I might guess that tribal myths are what help keep us members in good standing in our particular tribe, and we humans value being members in good standing. So we pass along the tribal myths to our children. The myths persist. That’s my guess.

We could debate the values of tribes. We could debate the downsides of tribes. And we have, collectively speaking. But tribes persist.

What if we could eventually get to the point of membership in a single, human, tribe? What if belief systems were replaced by critical thought? Now think about this woman who committed suicide, would it have happened? We can’t know for sure but it is certain it would not have happened for the reasons it did!

Religion is nothing more than tribal myths, passed down from parents to children, with various transitions from one tribe to another from time to time.

Today, though, we are seeing more transitions OUT of mythology altogether, and that gives me hope (go check out Pew Research for details, or the Freedom From Religion Foundation)!

Update on TKR update

The new knee is improving every day. Pain levels were never an issue, after the first couple days home. I took myself off the opioid painkillers as soon as I could and have been off them for weeks now. Tylenol is all I use.

My physical therapists push me, hard! At the same time, they are respectful and listen, understanding when I have reached a limit I cannot exceed at the moment. Three weeks ago I had trouble at 40 degrees of flexion. 108 degrees is my current limit.

Progress!

The actual limit of my new knee is supposed to be between 120 and 130 degrees so I am very near to accomplishing full flexion.

This has gone so much better than I ever hoped!

As for my religious posts, the familial response still sucks but I expect that. I have stopped religious oriented posting on Facebook altogether. I am sure family is appreciative.

smiley emoticon

TKR Update

About a month and a half ago, two posts ago, I said the following:

"Having been a member of the LDS Church,
it would normally be an expectation that
such a procedure be prefaced with a
Priesthood Blessing for the success of my
procedure. Of course, having been
excommunicated, it’s not really expected.
I doubt anyone at church or even in my
family will be asking if I want a blessing."

"And I don’t."

"It’s all a myth (religion). I trust in
medical science. I also know that things
can and do go awry but I fully expect to
wake up in recovery and to begin the hard
and painful work to complete making the
replacement successful. In the case I do
not awaken in recovery as planned, I have
lived a good life! I have a great
posterity but do wish they would look
deeper into the mythological roots of
religious belief. I really do! If my time
is up, there is no more time, at least
for me. But there are no regrets. I will
leave behind a great legacy (family) that
I have loved (still do!) deeply."

"Now, not to be maudlin, I fully expect
success."

"And to be writing more blog posts.
Aren’t you lucky?!?!?"

Here’s my update.

Without the assistance of magical or supernatural means (Priesthood blessing), my recovery has been much better than my first TKR ten years ago (I had a Priesthood blessing that time). Part of that is due to advanced knowledge and techniques, I am sure, over those ten years. Bottom line, no magic was needed. I trusted medical science. I trusted my surgeon.

Now, a separate update. Something completely different. Some may note a sardonic tone. They may be right.

Facebook.

It’s become more of a nuisance than an advantage. Yes, it’s great for keeping up with family, especially kids and grandkids (photos). I thought it might help family dialogue about my transition out of the LDS Church. Yes, I thought it might help answer their questions while, at the same time, give me an outlet to express the thoughts and emotions I was experiencing.

Few were interested. None really wanted to discuss, as far as I can tell, without trying to reel me in, “back to the fold”.

There is only one difference, in my opinion, and observation, between my conclusions derived from my knowledge of Church issues and the conclusions of family and friends who also have knowledge of the same issues. I deem my conclusions rationally derived. I deem theirs heavily influenced by faith. I try to follow the evidence, wherever it leads. I think they follow their faith and discard contrary evidence.

My own judgment, to be sure. It might seem harsh but it is what it is.

And no family members seem interested enough to talk with me, at least for any length of time. They get too offended, I suppose, or too aggravated. I call it cognitive dissonance. I am not sure what they call it.

So, I am “vacationing” from Facebook. My return is TBD.

I am sure family will be grateful.

Honesty

de·cep·tion
/dəˈsepSH(ə)n/

noun

the action of deceiving someone.

“obtaining property by deception”

a thing that deceives.

“a range of elaborate deceptions”

synonyms:

deceit, deceitfulness, duplicity, double-dealing, fraud, cheating, trickery,

chicanery, deviousness, slyness, wiliness, guile, bluff, lying, pretense, treachery;

informal crookedness, monkey business, monkeyshines

“they obtained money by deception”

LDS lesson on honesty.

From LDS essay on plural marriage:

After receiving a revelation commanding him to practice plural marriage, Joseph Smith married multiple wives and introduced the practice to close associates.

From the “History of the Church”:

“What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.”

Deception? Fraud?

Discuss.

TKR = a new knee.

I played high school football in my freshman year. During one game in November I was injured, hyper-extending both knees. I had to be dragged off the field because I could not stand up. Within a few days in PE class, I finished tearing my ACL. My very first knee operation took place on December 19, 1971, to rebuild my ACL and perform a meniscectomy on the medial meniscus. That ended my football career!

They didn’t know so much about knee surgery then but I was fortunate enough to have a young orthopedic surgeon by the name of Dr. James Zettas. He passed away January 6, 2016. I remember, at the time, he was very strong! As a young football player, I prided myself on the strength of my legs. Dr. Zettas was able to bend my injured right knee in whatever position he wished and there was nothing I could do to prevent it! His strength was also evidenced when I returned to the exam room, where my parents were waiting, and he took down a plastic model of a knee and showed my parents what was happening with my knee. He stopped mid-explanation and, with one arm, lifted me off the table, set down the model, grabbed my Dad, and then, with two arms free now, he lifted my Dad onto the table and laid him down. It seems he was getting woozy contemplating my knee injury!

Anyway, December 19 was my surgery date. It was also the date my allergy to Demerol was discovered. Apparently, my respiration stopped twice during my operation and I had to be resuscitated. That week following I was in and out of consciousness, mostly being conscious long enough to projectile vomit across the room. They sent me home Christmas Day (or Eve, or…I really don’t remember the day) because I was not improving at the hospital and they thought I would do just as well at home.

I did. I recovered.

Six months later I had a meniscectomy (medial meniscus) on my left knee. The tear probably started at the same time as the other knee was injured, but the very day I was cleared for light sports and in a casual volleyball game, I finished the tear. So, another surgery in June 1972.

Eventually and oddly enough, my left knee wore out before the right. It was replaced in November of 2008. Now it’s time to replace the right. That will take place a week from tomorrow, Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

I am glad my “original equipment” lasted this long! Now it’s time for another new part.

Having been a member of the LDS Church, it would normally be an expectation that such a procedure be prefaced with a Priesthood Blessing for the success of my procedure. Of course, having been excommunicated, it’s not really expected. I doubt anyone at church or even in my family will be asking if I want a blessing.

And I don’t.

It’s all a myth (religion). I trust in medical science. I also know that things can and do go awry but I fully expect to wake up in recovery and to begin the hard and painful work to complete making the replacement successful. In the case I do not awaken in recovery as planned, I have lived a good life! I have a great posterity but do wish they would look deeper into the mythological roots of religious belief. I really do! If my time is up, there is no more time, at least for me. But there are no regrets. I will leave behind a great legacy (family) that I have loved (still do!) deeply.

Now, not to be maudlin, I fully expect success.

And to be writing more blog posts. Aren’t you lucky?!?!?

One Is The Lonliest Number

Or, another jumble of thoughts. I hope you can follow them!

My third great-grandfather, James Holt, was a convert to Mormonism, during the time the Saints had built the City Beautiful.

Nauvoo.

Joseph Smith’s time.

I have communicated with other Holt descendants from different lines who refer to James with the descriptor “the Mormon”. Joining this new movement had put him at odds with his family, with his dad. Eventually, however, he and his father would reconcile.

As much as Mormonism touts families are forever, it also divides them. Only with understanding can some rifts be mended, as was the case for James. He doesn’t say much in his autobiography about it but he had to have known and conversed with the “prophet”, Joseph Smith, Jr., as well as his family. James was truly converted and lived out his life faithfully, at the expense of his father’s family. I am sure he wished his father and siblings could have accepted the teachings of the Church. I think some may have eventually or, he at least had some in-laws who were members. He was not totally without family who shared his beliefs.

Thankfully I have family members, also, who no longer believe in Mormonism. Like James, we are breaking new ground into a different way of thinking than our predecessors. I think I have a better understanding of James and how he may have felt, breaking new ground and breaking familial hearts.

To us, his descendants and faithful Mormons, James is revered. To other related Holt’s, he’s James “the Mormon”. They might as well say “the deluded”. Their attitudes, at least of some of the older Holt relatives with whom I’ve communicated, insinuate such. They were polite when I told them I was Mormon, too. But I could tell what was behind their politeness.

Now I find myself apart. Like James, I think and believe in a manner different from my family. At least most family members. In 2013, while still a faithful member of the Church and with a responsible “calling”, I embarked on a course of study. As a missionary years before, I made a goal to study church history more completely and more deeply than is usually taught in church curricula.

And so I did, fulfilling my goal.

What I learned was unexpected. What I learned was the Church could not be “true”. In expressing my knowledge (as opposed to any “belief”), I fell into disfavor with my ecclesiastical leaders. I was accused of apostate behavior and asked to retract what I had said in my expressions of my current state. How could I? It would be a lie. So I politely declined.

And was excommunicated.

My wife and I do not discuss my situation. Her parents asked me once what it was that caused my disaffection and once I began, they changed their minds about wanting to know more.

With all but a very few, my conversations with family seldom touch on my disaffection. My posts on social media garner responses similar to this, “Thanks, that was interesting. But here is my testimony. I still love you.”

They don’t understand how that feels. But, let’s speak of feelings, in a different light.

Feelings. Emotions. These are demonstrably unreliable for fact-finding. For proof. And yet that’s what works, it seems, for believers. If it feels good, it is true.

I approach things more and more often with objectivity. And I am accused of empiricism as if it is a bad thing.

But am I devoid of emotion? No. Do I trust it? Sometimes. Is it valuable? Sometimes. Maybe as more of a guide.

Can feelings prove the truth of anything? No.

Why?

Ask yourself how many ideologies there are in the world? How many religions. How are they “proven”? Do adherents “feel” their chosen path is true? Are these feelings all the proof they need? Do these proofs conflict with other religions and ideologies? Indeed, they do!

Here is where my “empiricism” might be helpful. Objectivity.

There are “visionaries” in the family. Church members are encouraged to have and recognize “spiritual” experiences. So in having such, rather than empiric discovery or investigation, the answer has been taught. It was spiritual! What else could it be?

What else, indeed?

The real problem is that my family won’t look at things empirically. It’s always the eye of faith. Because that is what they have been taught. Even those who ARE knowledgeable about the things I studied maintain faith. They revere “spiritual” experiences. It’s all the proof they need. I know. I used to value them, too. I had some myself.

But I have learned there are other explanations. Natural ones. Not spiritual.

But it ends up in spite of mounting evidence from objectivity, science, empiricism; faith.

I should understand why. I was as they are. What makes me different?

I am not sure.

Whatever it is, it also makes me alone.

Two Years

One year ago I posted this. Much still applies. I have grown a little since.

(What follows now is very succinct and much is left unsaid and is seemingly nebulous. As I usually counsel, though, if you’re curious, do your own homework.)

I purchased and read “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari. I have his subsequent book, as well and am looking at getting his book on Jewish magic sometime in the future. While I am still digesting what I’ve read, so far most of it strikes a chord in me.

As mankind transitioned from hunter-gatherer and allowed grain to domesticate the species (yeah, that’s what Mr. Harari proposes, in a sense, and I agree with his reasoning), the ability to imagine came to play a much more important role. Modern mankind has yet to dispel and discard many of the myths that grew from mankind’s imagination so many eons ago.

One such is religion.

This myth has been honed and refined to a fine polish. I wish nothing more with which to do with this myth. I wish my family members could see through the deception but they, except for a very few, are true believers. They are raising the next generation of true believers. The myth perpetuates. In my own case, it’s Joseph’s Myth, aka Mormonism, aka The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (founded by Joseph Smith – now you see the pun).

It is so easy to see through the myth! Yet, cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, and other cognitive conditions are very effective in keeping family blind. I watched the movie “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” with a believing family member and they shook their head at how blind members of Scientology are, even commenting how unbelievable it was that these Scientologists just couldn’t see through this cult.

And yet, this same family member is unable to see through the cult to which they belong.

The mind is an amazing device.

Maybe, given enough time…

2018 – Thoughts to begin the Year

And what’s better than a few quotes from a renowned physicist to inspire some thought?

Lawrence M. Krauss. Brilliant.

“I cannot stress often enough that what science is all about is not proving things to be true but proving them to be false.”

“Keeping religion immune from criticism is both unwarranted and dangerous.”

“What we can do is provide the tools, through our educational system, for people to be able to tell sense from nonsense. These tools include the scientific method, skeptical questioning, empirical evidence, verifying sources, etc.”

“A universe without purpose should neither depress us nor suggest that our lives are purposeless. Through an awe-inspiring cosmic history, we find ourselves on this remote planet in a remote corner of the universe, endowed with intelligence and self-awareness. We should not despair, but should humbly rejoice in making the most of these gifts, and celebrate our brief moment in the sun.”

“…every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. and, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. it really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: you are all stardust.”

“Forget Jesus, the stars died so you could be born.”

“I should point out, nevertheless, that even though incomplete data can lead to a false picture, this is far different from the (false) picture obtained by those who choose to ignore empirical data to invent a picture of reality (young earthers, for example), or those who instead require the existence of something for which there is no observable evidence whatsoever (like divine intelligence) to reconcile their view of creation with their a priori prejudices, or worse still, those who cling to fairy tales about nature that presume the answers before questions can even be asked.”

“A truly open mind means forcing our imaginations to conform to the evidence of reality, and not vice versa, whether or not we like the implications.”

Kind of reminds me of someone else I admire and respect.

RIP Carl.

Mythical Proportions

What makes Homo Sapiens sapiens different? How many animals create things envisioned in imagination? I suppose until we can look into the minds of animals, we will not know for sure. Maybe reliance on evidence will have to suffice for now.

Animals do transform materials to build communities and homes but nothing to compare with man’s cities. At least from the perspective of this representative of HSS! And how many animals have left this planet or have sent mechanical devices to investigate other bodies nearby and further into space? Only us.

Imagination has driven much of this. We have observed other animals demonstrate the ability to see the consequences of various actions and choose a course that resolves a problem but none, so far, have demonstrated the gigantic imagination of Homo Sapiens sapiens.

We have created governments, currency, races, corporations, software, and millions of other imaginary constructs! Some of these are very long-lived. Maybe some stem from before agriculture domesticated mankind.

Like religion.

Why have we hung on to this myth so firmly and for so long, and in the face of scientific advances? Spiritual experiences are finding their roots in the human brain. In brain chemistry. In brain development. In brain injury. In the memories of teachings. In bias. In many other things.

But in spite of new learning, we cling to myth.

We cannot prove god exists. We also certainly can’t prove there is no god. We marvel at the immensity of the universe and its (sometimes savage) beauty and declare god made it. But who assigned god the deed? Mankind. No god has irrefutably and universally revealed itself, ever, and claimed to be the author of creation. But we assign the inexplicable to a god. We do this. Us. We have created the myth.

I continue wondering how long, in the face of scientific advancement and the atrocities committed in the name of some god against mankind, it will be until we discard the myth? How long before we discard the imaginary differences between us and we find what we share in common?

I wish we could discard all the stories of mythical godly proportions.
Anyway, just my first of the year musings.

Happy New Year and imagine, with me, a year with fewer myths and more humanity.

2017 – Reflections

As 2017 closes I look forward to 2018. Well, what else can I do? smiley emoticon

There were many lessons learned this year but most of all, I learned I should just keep my religious perspectives to myself.

And so I shall.

Except for here.

Facebook will be relegated to staying in touch with family and friends and the occasional wisecrack. My religious musings will stay here.

Is that a sigh of relief I hear?

Happy New Year!

The Book of Abraham

Sometime around the year 2012, the LDS Church began adding to the Gospel Topics pages of lds dot org. As they were “fleshed out”, they existed among the Topics but were hard to find. I believe in 2014 they were linked to from their own landing page, along with a video by the Church Historian, Elder Steven E. Snow. In this video, he exhorts Church members to study Church history and these “essays” (the term by which the new Topics were to become known) and laments the lack of knowledge Church members actually have about the Church’s own history.

In February 2016, Elder Ballard made several statements of interest to this topic. The summary of his talk can be found here. Among several key points he made are these:

“Gone are the days when a student asked an honest question and a teacher responded, ‘Don’t worry about it!’ Gone are the days when a student raised a sincere concern and a teacher bore his or her testimony as a response intended to avoid the issue. Gone are the days when students were protected from people who attacked the Church.”

“Church leaders today are fully conscious of the unlimited access to information, and we are making extraordinary efforts to provide accurate context and understanding of the teachings of the Restoration,” *Note: This refers in part to the writing of the “essays”. The Church’s point of view is that they provide this “accurate context and understanding”.

Using the 11 Gospel Topics essays available on LDS.org as an example, Elder Ballard said it is crucial that teachers “know the content in these essays like you know the back of your hand.” *Note: The Church acknowledges many Bishops and Stake Presidents have never read these “essays”. Ask your own leadership about these essays, about their contents. Test them. Don’t be surprised if they are unaware of them or, if aware, are unfamiliar with their contents.

To summarize, the Church wants the membership to do more than just read the “essays’, but to know them, like the back of their hand! That’s a bold move, in my opinion. But here’s the thing, even knowing these “essays”, just how much content is actually “accurate”? Let’s explore one such “essay”.

Here is the link to the landing page of the “essays”. This is the link to the “essay” on the Book of Abraham. Please, click my link to the “essay” and keep that window open for reference, if you wish.

We begin. From the “essay”:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the book of Abraham as scripture.”

“The book of Abraham was first published in 1842 and was canonized as part of the Pearl of Great Price in 1880. The book originated with Egyptian papyri that Joseph Smith translated beginning in 1835. Many people saw the papyri, but no eyewitness account of the translation survives, making it impossible to reconstruct the process. Only small fragments of the long papyrus scrolls once in Joseph Smith’s possession exist today. The relationship between those fragments and the text we have today is largely a matter of conjecture.”

Interesting. “Conjecture.” Really?

“… with W. W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery as scribes, I commence the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt, etc. – a more full account of which will appear in its place, as I proceed to examine or unfold them. Truly we can say, the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth.” (History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 236).

This seems to indicate a standard definition of “translate”, doesn’t it? It seems Joseph was evaluating each character in a small sample, right? It indicates that to fully translate, Joseph would be involved in examining or unfolding the scrolls, right?

That’s how it seems to me.

Further, the preface to the Book of Abraham declares:


“THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM

TRANSLATED FROM THE PAPYRUS, BY JOSEPH SMITH

A Translation of some ancient Records, that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. – The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.”


It seems clear. “TRANSLATED FROM THE PAPYRUS, BY JOSEPH SMITH” and “written by his own hand, upon papyrus.” The indication is that the writings of Abraham existed physically ON THE PAPYRUS. That Joseph went through the exercise of translation character by character. Michael Chandler, the person from whom Joseph bought the mummies and papyrus scrolls, even gave Joseph a “certificate” as follows (recorded in the History of the Church):


“Kirtland, July 6, 1835.

This is to make known to all who may be desirous, concerning the knowledge of Mr. Joseph Smith, Jun., in deciphering the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic characters in my possession, which I have, in many eminent cities, showed to the most learned; and, from the information that I could ever learn, or meet with, I find that of Mr. Joseph Smith, Jun., to correspond in the most minute matters.”


A search of the History of the Church finds several entries regarding the translation process:


The remainder of this month [July 1835], I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham and arranging: a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients.

October 1, 1835, This afternoon I labored on the Egyptian alphabet, in company with Brothers Oliver Cowdery and W. W. Phelps, and during the research, the principles of astronomy as understood by Father Abraham and the ancients unfolded to our understanding, the particulars of which will appear hereafter.

On October 7, 1835 …this afternoon I recommenced translating the ancient records.

November 19, 1835, I returned home and spent the day in translating the Egyptian records.

November 20, 1835, We spent the day in translating and made rapid progress.

February: Monday 22 Spent the afternoon translating with my scribe, Elder Warren Parrish, at his house.


The essay says, “We do know some things about the translation process. The word translation typically assumes an expert knowledge of multiple languages. Joseph Smith claimed no expertise in any language.”

And yet he did, certificate and all!

Joseph said he translated, and indications in his journal (which became entries in the History of the Church) are that he did it in the traditional sense. That is, interpreting the characters, even to the point of creating an alphabet and grammar!

Saying the method of translation is a matter of conjecture is dishonest, in my opinion! Why? Because it is misleading! The Church’s own definition of dishonesty includes being misleading.

Shame!

So we now come to the content of the book. The “essay” suggests, “The relationship between those fragments and the text we have today is largely a matter of conjecture.” Let’s check that out.

This is Facsimile 1. Also known as Figure 1 in the text. Abraham 1 sets a scene that matches the figure above. In fact, in the middle of the scene setting we are interrupted by this in verse 14, “That you may have an understanding of these gods, I have given you the fashion of them in the figures at the beginning, which manner of figures is called by the Chaldeans Rahleenos, which signifies hieroglyphics.”

Check it out. Read the text. See how it matches with the facsimiles. THIS IS IMPORTANT. We can see directly, without the need for any papyrus extant, Joseph’s ability to translate. The text itself is represented by hieroglyphics, according to the self-same text. No translation by dreams. No translation by inspiration. It’s simply translation by normal means i.e. by someone who had a knowledge of two languages, one language into the other.

This blows up anything the “essay” has to say on the matter of translation. Moreover, with these three facsimiles, we have a method to check out Joseph’s ability as a translator of Egyptian hieroglyphics and the facsimiles matched with the text.

Egyptologists have weighed in on this topic, over the years.

One such, University of Chicago Egyptology Professor Robert K. Ritner, wrote:

“The published text of the Book of Abraham is accompanied by three woodcut ‘Facsimiles’ with explanations authored by Joseph Smith himself. The facsimiles are all based on ancient Egyptian documents, and the Egyptian texts of all three can now be deciphered. In addition, the representations on all three conform to well-known Egyptian models. Facsimiles 1 and 3 represent sections of one papyrus: the ‘Breathing Permit of Hôr’ (P. JS 1), part of the group of Egyptian texts purchased by Smith in 1835 and long thought lost in the Chicago fire of 1871. These papyri were rediscovered in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1967 and quickly transferred to the LDS church, which published the first photographs of the texts the next year in the church magazine The Improvement Era. Comparison of the surviving initial vignette of the Hôr papyrus with Facsimile 1 proves beyond doubt, as the LDS web post agrees, that it was ‘the vignette that became facsimile 1.’ However, neither Facsimile 1 nor 2 is a true copy, and both contain added forgeries, including the human-head and knife of the supposed ‘idolatrous priest of Elkenah’ (Fig. 3 on Facsimile 1) as can be seen in the crude pencil additions to the original papyrus sheet as mounted and ‘improved’ for publication by the LDS church in 1842. Facsimile 2 derives from a separate burial, for an individual named Sheshonq. Large portions of this published ‘facsimile’ were improperly inserted from unrelated papyri. All of Smith’s published ‘explanations’ are incorrect, including the lone example defended by the new web posting: the water in which a crocodile is swimming (Fig. 12 of Facsimile 1), supposedly a representation of ‘the firmament over our heads … but in this case, in relation to this subject, the Egyptians meant it to be to signify Shaumau, to be high, or the heavens.’ Although Egyptians might place heavenly boats in the sky, that is not relevant ‘in this case’ where the water is placed below the figures and represents the Nile, not the sky. The selective defense of these explanations by the church is telling, and all other explanations are simply indefensible except by distorting Egyptian evidence. In Facsimile 3, Smith confuses human and animal heads and males with females. No amount of special pleading can change the female ‘Isis the great, the god’s mother’ (Facsimile 3, Fig. 2) into the male ‘King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his hand,’ as even the LDS author Michael D. Rhodes accepts. Here Smith also misunderstands ‘Pharaoh’ as a personal name rather than a title meaning ‘king,’ so he reads ‘king king’ for a goddess’s name that he claims to have understood on the papyrus!”

No. Joseph did not understand Egyptian hieroglyphics. No, he did not translate. As far as the Church fomenting the idea Joseph received the Book of Abraham as an inspired dream, I might agree that the whole was a product of his imagination! A fraud.

And we haven’t even discussed the absurd astronomical notions included in this book. If I could hie to Kolob…

Addendum:

abraham papyri cog dis

Spiritual Experiences

Cognitive science is relatively young (compared to other branches) but it has made tremendous strides of late. What most people would call “spiritual” experiences can be replicated in the lab, even the sensation of “being in the presence of a god”. So, I do not doubt people have had experiences. But I doubt attribution to a supreme being as the source is required. If there is a simpler, more logical explanation, then that’s the likely answer (Occam’s Razor).

This relatively young branch of science has also, very recently, attributed the “spiritual” experiences many people have to specific brain damage or lack of development in certain areas of the brain.

So, here we sit. Logical, rational explanations vs “feelings”. Regarding “feelings”, remember that other faiths have them as well. They each believe them as strongly as any other. Which seems more likely?

References:

First

Second

Third

Fourth

Fifth

Sixth

Seventh (an interesting blurb on being a slave to emotion – with Muppet-type puppets)

Eighth (the Mormon Testimony – by a former Mormon)

And, of course, each of these links contains other references. This is only the tip of this iceberg. There is so much more. Google (seek) and ye shall find…

Cult sure

I know. Bad pun. What are ya gonna do? smiley emoticon

When a cohesive group collects in one locale the culture is definitely affected. But does a pervasive culture necessarily comprise a cult? Let’s explore. Maybe my simple-mindedness will suffice as a guide.


Steven Hassan – From Wikipedia:

Steven Alan Hassan (born 1954) is an American licensed mental health counselor who has written on the subject of mind control and how to help people who have been harmed by the experience. He has been helping people exit destructive cults since 1976. Hassan has appeared on the TV news programs 60 Minutes, Nightline, and Dateline, and is a published author and lecturer.

Hassan is a former member of the Unification Church (aka “Moonies”), and he founded Ex-Moon Inc. in 1979 before assisting with involuntary deprogrammings in association with the Cult Awareness Network. In 1999 Hassan developed what he describes as non-coercive methods to help members of cults to quit their groups.


How does one recognize a cult? What are the signs? Can an organization or a culture posses only some of the characteristics and still be called a cult?

Steve and his organization have a website deserving exploration here. Please visit and explore. Answers to these questions may be found on the site.

One part of the site I will share and discuss here. It regards the “BITE model”. I will share this model and then make a comparison with a familiar organization.

The BITE Model

As a preface to the BITE model, Hassan’s site has a very brief page with some pertinent and important information and questions I suggest you review. Please do so now.

The BITE model is linked on that page and I hope you looked at it as well. If not, you may find it here.

BITE:
B – Behavior control
I – Information control
T – Thought control
E – Emotional control

These things are clearly understood by me, a former Mormon for the vast bulk of my life and now an ex-Mormon because of “apostasy” after a 14-month intensive study of LDS Church publications and scripture. I have the not so unique (nowadays) viewpoint of both member and non-member. My LDS family and friends may be aware of some of the issues I have learned but they make a choice. This choice is based on complex emotions, attitudes, and indoctrination. In my case, reason finally broke “the spell” of this complex mix. I freed myself from a cult on my own, essentially challenging leadership which responded in a way cults sometimes do.

They excommunicated me.

Cults work so hard to retain members but some become more “toxic” than can be tolerated and must be ejected, impugned, and shunned. The complex makeup of some Mormons can lessen or obviate the shunning but it still happens too often. I am the beneficiary of the former, fortunately for me.

Let’s evaluate the LDS Church. An ex-Mormon’s analysis is here. An expert’s analysis is here. Please review these. Then, come back here for my own perspective, having been “in” and now “out”.

B: Does the LDS Church control behavior?

Does it promote dependence and obedience?

President Monson

President Monson

Modify behavior with rewards and punishments? Oh, too easy! The promise of Eternal life? Forever families?

Dictate where and with whom you live? It used to encourage (note: not dictate) joining with Zion. Members are “in the world, but not of it”.

Restrict or control sexuality? Yes.

Control clothing and hairstyle? Modest is hottest! Women are to dress to keep men from having impure thoughts! Men, no beards or long hair.

Regulate what and how much you eat and drink? Word of Wisdom.

Deprive you of seven to nine hours of sleep? Callings. Temple work. Genealogy. Home and Visiting Teaching. Meetings, although less than years ago. Early morning seminary. You get the idea.

Exploit you financially? Conference talk by Elder Valeri V. Cordón, see section “Second: Strong Modeling in the Home”

Restrict leisure time and activities? See sleep time question.

Require you to seek permission for major decisions? No. Seek guidance? Yes. Stay within prescribed guidelines? Yes.

I: Does the LDS Church control information?

Deliberately withhold and distort information? Yes. Ask about the Journal of Discourses. What about the “Essays“? Isn’t that transparency? No. It’s inoculation. Unless you follow the references and the references they reference, you will not get the right perspective.

Forbid you from speaking with ex-members and critics? Temple recommend interview question.

Discourage access to non-cult sources of information? Yes.

Divide information into Insider vs. Outsider doctrine? Most definitely!

Generate and use propaganda extensively? Missionary program.

Use information gained in confession sessions against you? This will depend on leadership! Church-wise and church-wide, I would say no.

Gaslight to make you doubt your own memory? Depends, as well. Your interpretation may vary. All I will say is that you should refer to the Gordon B. Hinckley interviews by Mike Wallace.

Require you to report thoughts, feelings, & activities to superiors? Worthiness interviews.

Encourage you to spy and report on others’ “misconduct”? Not per se, but members and former members can become “projects” and may be discussed in councils.

T: Does the LDS Church control thought?

Instill Black vs. White, Us vs. Them, & Good vs. Evil thinking? Yes. “One true church.”

Change your identity, possibly even your name? Not your name. Your identity? Potentially.

Use loaded language and cliches to stop complex thought? Absolutely.

Induce hypnotic or trance states to indoctrinate? Only if High Council droning counts! Actually, there have been studies on the sing-song cadence of GA speeches that indicate they do, indeed, induce somewhat of a trance state.

Teach thought-stopping techniques to prevent critical thoughts? Not so much.

Allow only positive thoughts? Certainly encouraged.

Use excessive meditation, singing, prayer, & chanting to block thoughts? I would have to say generally no.

Reject rational analysis, critical thinking, & doubt? Oh, yes!

E: Does the LDS Church control emotion?

Instill irrational fears (phobias) of questioning or leaving the group? Yes.

Label some emotions as evil, worldly, sinful, or wrong? Yes.

Teach emotion-stopping techniques to prevent anger, homesickness? This may vary. As a rule, only missionaries would seem to me to be so subjected.

Promote feelings of guilt, shame, & unworthiness? Yes.

Shower you with praise and attention (“love bombing”)? Absolutely!

Threaten your friends and family? No.

Shun you if you disobey or disbelieve. Disobey, no. Disbelieve, more likely.

Teach that there is no happiness or peace outside the group? Absolutely!


I have presented my case. The decision is yours. Do your homework. Anything I have written here, including the materials from Steven Hassan and his site, can be verified. I try to be honest. And I honestly wish to free my family.

From a verifiable cult.

Last thought, from “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari (my advice is to read the whole book):

Now, it’s your turn. Please, comment with your own opinions! I am very interested in your thoughts on this matter.

Critical Thinking

Google Bertrand Russell. Amazing man. Allow me to share his Ten Commandments of Critical Thinking and Democratic Decency.

  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worthwhile to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

My journey into critical thought is challenging. Here’s to becoming “eccentric” in opinion!

Attribution

“Hooked On A Feeling”

Credit Mark James (songwriter) and B. J. Thomas (singer)

Disclaimer: No ooga chakas were harmed in the making of this post. (Yes, I know the “ooga chakas” came from a cover by Jonathan King and, more popularly, by the Blue Swede. B. J. Thomas did the original, though, in 1968. Without any “ooga chakas”.)

Fact:

Truth:

Evidence:

Proof:

Elevation: See this Psychology Today article.

Also, see this Psychology Today article on Confirmation bias.

————————————————-

Now that the stage is set and you, reader, have reviewed the information above (I know, I do suffer from fantasy and delusion!), let’s proceed.

The Spirit.

Some claim that personal revelation and other manifestations of “the Spirit” are individual experiences and cannot be subject scientific or other objective means of evaluation. They are personal experiences beyond the reach of science.

And are your experiences “true” while those of other faiths “false”?

Let’s reason together.

Let’s say you receive a ‘revelation’, in whatever mode of manifestation that appeals to you, that a certain idea is true. Let’s also say a member of another faith receives a ‘revelation’ that an idea is true, through identical means as you received yours. The two ideas are diametrically opposed. For example, the idea is that the member’s faith/religion/church is the one and only church of god.

How can that be? They can’t both be true! Truth isn’t subjective. It doesn’t “care” how you feel about it. It exists independently. How can you determine who is right? What if you are both wrong? More importantly, why would a god be so inefficient as to give two people identical means to determine a truth that ends up being contradictory?

This is where we need to consider elevation and confirmation bias. The following quote from Carl Sagan might be helpful:

“The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what’s true. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth — never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities. Cleverly designed experiments are the key.” Carl Sagan – “Wonder and Skepticism”, Skeptical Enquirer Volume 19, Issue 1, (January-February 1995)

Simplified restatement (hopefully): The truth may be hard to understand. It may be something we have to struggle with. It may be strange and not what we expect. It may go against what we believe deep inside. It may not be what we want to be true. But what we want does not decide what’s true. We have a way (science), and that way does not tell us perfect truth, but what it tells us is always closer to the truth than last time — never there, just closer and closer, always finding new things that are possible. Making experiments wisely is the key.

I submit that feelings are not a reliable way to determine or discover truth/fact. We need a process involving evidence. Truth, to be the truth, must be backed by proof.

This is where science and the scientific method come in, as alluded to in the simplified restatement paragraph above. Mankind has not found another method better than the scientific method for evaluating hypotheses. Religious people have complained that this method is unreliable because it has contradicted prior accepted “truths”.

Well, that’s the point! That’s how we learn! That’s how we went from an Earth-centered viewpoint to a heliocentric viewpoint regarding our relationship to the sun and our neighboring planets! It’s how we will continue to advance our shared knowledge.

Old knowledge being refined, or even replaced, by new. New knowledge being discovered.

Makes more sense than the current cacophony caused by conflicting ideologies engendered by the multitude of differing and opposing human feelings, right? It makes THE truth supersede YOUR truth and MY truth, right?

Think about it.

May your seeking be fruitful…and scientific!

Run in against faith

For the second time in Facebook, I was involved in a secret FB group with over 70 members of LDS faithful, ex-Mormons, and those between. I created the first one over a year ago and gave it up after determining it would never gain traction, go where I wished, or resolve anything. The second was one founded by a friend of similar mind, wishing to accomplish similar goals.

The second group was terminated even faster than mine was. I think he’s smarter!

What was it that caused the demise of both groups? Those of a faithful mind cling to faith. Some do so in the face of staggering evidence. What I thought weird was that there was one who grabbed at straws, it seemed to me, and offered arguments that made no sense, supported by facts that were made up, and wouldn’t see what was blatantly obvious to several of us. In the cases of both my group and the second group, only a few participated out of a much larger group membership. I know there were some lurkers but certainly many invited into the groups probably were not interested enough or too busy to participate.

My friend and I thought we had something to share that would become obvious to our believing friends but the reverse is what happened. Faith budged not. Reason failed to overcome.

In my opinion, this victory of the faithful is hollow.

My First Weighty Shelf Item

Shelf. A place to put things.

Mental Shelf. A place to put things to be dealt with later.

Cracked shelf. A shelf with too many things on it to deal with or one holding very weighty items.

Crashed or broken shelf. A shelf destroyed by the number of things and/or the weight it held.

It is common in the ExMormon world to describe a broken shelf incident or incidents. A broken shelf is a destroyer of testimony.

There are things that are put off for later that demand attention due to their sheer number or their heavy weight. If not dealt with soon enough or sufficiently enough, the shelf breaks. A cascading event then takes place that usually involves, eventually, each of the related shelf items. Testimony is lost.

My very first major shelf item was the Book of Abraham. I have written about this before but I will retell the story. Picture it:…no, wait, that’s Sophia’s (think “The Golden Girls”) storytelling setup! I’d better tell it my way.

We lived in Birmingham, Alabama from 1966-1968 (I think that’s the range!). In November of 1967, I would turn 13 years of age. I seem to remember it was about this time that it was announced the Church would be publishing a special edition of the Church’s magazine, “The Improvement Era”, soon due to the recent re-discovery of some papyri fragments associated with the Book of Abraham, which is in one of the Church’s “Standard Works” called the Pearl of Great Price.

I had previously become fascinated by both the Book of Abraham and the Book of Moses. With the Book of Moses, we had Joseph seeing and repeating a vision given to Moses. With the Book of Abraham, Joseph translated Egyptian papyri that came with some mummies the Church purchased from one Michael Chandler. Read the story, under the section heading “Origin of the Book of Abraham”, here.

With this announcement of the found papyri fragments, I eagerly awaited that upcoming magazine issue! Why? The Book of Abraham is unique among Mormon scripture in that there are these three drawings, called “facsimiles” that were part of the scrolls Joseph translated. These facsimiles had translations themselves, apart from the text of the Book of Abraham but were, at the same time, referenced in the book’s text. In effect, the text had places where it had a sort of “see reference 2” or “see Table 1” convention that referred to the facsimiles. See Abraham 1:12, particularly, “I will refer you to the representation at the commencement of this record.”

What, though, got me so excited? The rediscovery of these fragments would show the world that Joseph could translate Egyptian and we could, therefore, rely on his ability to have translated the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon came and, ultimately, would prove Joseph could do what he said he could and was who he said he was: a prophet, seer, and revelator. Wouldn’t this excite you if you were a Mormon?

January 1968 saw the arrival of the anticipated issue of “The Improvement Era”! It did, indeed, dedicate itself completely to Egypt and the papyri fragments and their rediscovery.

But I was sorely disappointed to find there was no concrete confirmation that Joseph could translate Egyptian. Instead, the papyri were discovered to be nothing more than common funerary text.

“CRACK!” went my shelf.

It held, though. For many years.

After reading the “History of the Church” in 2013-14, particularly volume 6, I discovered Joseph really did pretend to translate, with “translate” carrying the meaning as commonly used. He worked on translating characters. He worked on the grammar of the Egyptians. This took months. He received a certificate from Michael Chandler, from whom he (um, “the Church”) had purchased the papyri and mummies, declaring Joseph very capable of translating Egyptian. Remember, the Rosetta Stone existed but had yet to be deciphered at this time. Joseph allowed this certificate to be published in the Church newspaper, he being the Editor, but he never really declared that he knew how to translate Egyptian, himself. Others had spread that rumor and Michael Chandler added his certification, true or not!

So, even though Joseph professed to work on translation, he was rumored to be a translator, and Michael Chandler certified Joseph to be a translator, the translation is totally wrong.

Modern apologists excuse this. The link above to the Church’s essay on the subject confirms Joseph obtained what is written in the Book of Abraham in an unknown way, not necessarily by direct translation.

But in Joseph’s day, Joseph allowed the impression that he was translating in the manner commonly understood to be an actual translation. Not some vision. Not some dream. This took months. He worked on it.

Worse, the text in the Book of Abraham refers to the facsimiles. The facsimiles have translated portions. All of it is wrong. Totally wrong.

Even worse than that, the principles of astronomy contained in the book are 19th-century ideas and are now known to be completely bogus.

My shelf lay in fragments, like the papyri.

But don’t take my word for it. Study it yourself.

Nuanced Mormonism

Today there are a number of Mormons with a nuanced view of beliefs. In years past they were sometimes referred to as “Cafeteria Mormons” who selected what appealed to them and set aside what did not. With internet access, information formerly available only in books, sometimes hard to find, is only a few clicks and keystrokes away. The trick is figuring out what is factual and what is not. Research, more than just looking up stuff, is required.

As an additional and side note, today’s Millenials are seemingly less religious than their ancestors. (See this article, this article, and this article)

Are we tiring of authoritarianism and strict obedience?

This Mormon Discussion Podcast has quite a few references and is an interesting read, regarding this topic.

Let me know what you think, how you would answer my question above. I look forward to your comments and your questions!

Your turn

I tire. Researching religious topics to inspire family and friends to dig deeper, think more openly is exhausting. My research will now be performed for my own benefit. I don’t mean to sound irked, petulant, bothered, angry, or anything else but tired. Tired is it!

But never too tired to help a family member or friend when these kinds of questions arise. They might arise when I post something (no, I won’t stop posting but will continue as ideas occur or interesting articles need sharing). Whatever the cause, I will be here. Feel free.

Don’t be surprised, though, when I turn the table and ask you for proof, for evidence. You see, even though I cannot prove there is no god, you will have to prove there is, that prayer works, that spirits are real, that…well, whatever it is that you claim.

So, why DO you believe? (Remember, I was a believer once, too)

Oh, and as with all my posts, “you don’t have to take my word for it” because it is all researchable! Do.Your.Homework!

Why couldn’t I have found this earlier?

Watch this YouTube video by Seth Andrews, “The Thinking Atheist”. If you are part of the extended family to which I belong, please watch. If you are an LDS friend, please watch. All else are certainly welcome to watch but I love and care about my family and friends and the better we understand one another, the stronger our relationships can be.

Don’t go into this with assumptions. Just watch. Trust me, it is worth it.

Letter to a Christian spouse

Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)

It has been a journey! Begun in 2013 as a means of solidifying my knowledge of LDS Church history, my forced departure (excommunication) has inspired the name of this blog, Mental Whirlwind.

But I am more than that. Several months before my Mom passed away, my parents and I had a very vocal and emotional discussion regarding my newfound unbelief. My excommunication had not yet occurred because I was yet to make that fateful Facebook post that set that process in motion. But we were able to conquer the emotions and arrive at a point of respect for one another’s position and, of course, reaffirm our mutual love. After the discussion, my Dad noted that I am a man of deep emotion.

Indeed I am!

As much as I value intellectual study, I am a man of deep emotion. It is seldom overtly displayed but it is felt. It can cloud my intellectual pursuits but I am learning to study with more clarity. Critical thinking will become my course of study for the rest of my life. It will take that long to gain results!

So, for those who have been offended by my religious posts on Facebook you, too, must be of deep feeling. I apologize for offending your sensibilities but do not apologize for attempting to inspire critical thought! You, too, can overcome the deep emotions that can make us irrational. We have developed our intelligence over eons, but the last centuries have been astounding when it comes to innovation, scientific discoveries, and technological advances.

Religion is a remnant of times long past. My condition has been checked and found to be headed in the direction for which I hope. That being discarding the superstitious and magical for the wonders of scientific and technological discoveries.

And finally (for now, anyway)…

Illustration

Please read this story. I offer this as an illustration of the difference between faith and critical thought. Here is the story, quoted from the article:

One memory that the Spirit often brings to my mind is of an evening sacrament meeting held in a metal shed in Innsbruck, Austria, many years ago. It was under a railroad track. There were only about a dozen people present, sitting on wooden chairs. Most of them were women, some younger and some older. I saw tears of gratitude as the sacrament was passed among that small congregation. I felt the love of the Savior for those Saints, and so did they.

But the miracle I remember most clearly was the light that seemed to fill that metal shed and with it a feeling of peace. It was nighttime, and there were no windows, and yet the room was lit as if by noonday sunshine. The light of the Holy Spirit was there that evening. And the windows that let in the light were the humble hearts of those Saints, who had come before the Lord seeking forgiveness of their sins and committing to always remember Him.

It was not hard to remember Him then, and my memory of that sacred experience has made it easier for me to remember Him and His Atonement in the years that followed. The promise in the sacramental prayer is that the Spirit will be with us and so bring feelings of light and peace.

Where, in this story, can incontrovertible evidence be found of supernatural events? Where, in this story, can incontrovertible evidence be found of “magical thinking”? See the difference between faith and critical thought?

Discuss, if you will, in the comments.

Blacks and the LDS Priesthood – analysis of the Essay on LDS dot org

This is too well written and researched to bypass. If honest research on Race and the Priesthood in the LDS Church is something you wish to bury your head in the sand about then, by all means, do not read this! On the other hand, if you are honest and researching the Essays on lds dot org (slash topics slash essays) this analysis is well worth your time.

I leave it up to you.

There is additional information in the comments by several knowledgeable people.

Post found here.

The Illusion of Choice

Vaporware: software or hardware that has been advertised but is not yet available to buy, either because it is only a concept or because it is still being written or designed.

I am a software engineer. My current project is integrating two other software systems, both produced by the company for which I work. I write code. It gets tested against design specs. It is not vaporware. It exists now. It has been purchased by and implemented at a few customers. It is undergoing a Software Development Lifecycle and a few versions have been released. Again, not vaporware.

Why would someone buy into vaporware versus available and tested software? Loyalty to a vendor? An anticipation of promised advantages and benefits? An anticipation of a competitive edge? Some of that and other reasons, I am sure.

I loosely compare religion to vaporware. Long-term promises, advance payments. Eventually, is there a product? How would we know?

Cognitive science is yet young but is producing interesting results. More and more “spiritual” or “supernatural” experiences have been replicated in the lab. In fact, the very feeling of being in the “presence of deity” has been replicated. I look forward to future results, further illumination.

So what has this to do with choice?

Religion promises things like blessings, answers to prayer, miracles, external life, families in the hereafter, damnation, purgatory, fire, and brimstone, and the existence of a hereafter itself! Is this real or is it vaporware? How can we tell?

Aside from the advances in cognitive science, what if we performed an experiment? Take, for example, prayer. Does it work?

Let’s evaluate what happens when we pray, what are the potential outcomes. I suggest:

  1. Positive response i.e. request fulfilled
  2. Negative response i.e. request denied
  3. Delayed response i.e. request involves other possibilities, like an opportunity to learn a lesson

I realize, of course, that these outcomes are also serendipitous. The question becomes, how do we know if the answer was from the deity? Does he/she/it leave evidence of his/her/its presence? A fingerprint? Any physical signature?

Or do we assign the source to be a deity in our own minds? Try this experiment (I read about this a couple times somewhere, can’t remember where, using a rock in one example and a milk jug in another). Pray to an object of your choice. Wait for the answer. Does the answer meet the scenario in the three items listed above? Did you have any evidence the object was involved in the answer?

It’s up to you to decide if you wish to try or not. If you do, be honest. I figure many will feel this kind of experiment is blasphemous. I only suggest this to those who feel a modicum of rationality.

Now, how does this tie into the Illusion of Choice?

How can a real choice be made if the choice favors vaporware? There lies the illusion. Is religion anticipating something never to be delivered, rendering null any choice made?

This is your question to be answered on your own, if you will.

Hodgepodge

It was not just one thing, necessarily, that pushed me over the edge into unbelief regarding the LDS Church. Maybe not even a few. Because there are numerous issues the sheer weight of them all did the deed. The following is a disorganized hodgepodge of some issues.

I am interested in your thoughts, dear reader. Please don’t just hit and run. I encourage comments.

===============

The Basics

“We declare without equivocation that God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared in person to the boy Joseph Smith.”
“When I was interviewed by Mike Wallace on the 60 Minutes program, he asked me if I actually believed that. I replied, ‘Yes, sir. That’s the miracle of it.'”
“That is the way I feel about it. Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens.” – Gordon B. Hinckley -October 2002 “The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith”
=====

“Well, it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most important thing in the world. Now, that’s the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true. And that’s exactly where we stand, with a conviction in our hearts that it is true: that Joseph went into the Grove; that he saw the Father and the Son; that he talked with them; that Moroni came; that the Book of Mormon was translated from the plates; that the priesthood was restored by those who held it anciently. That’s our claim. That’s where we stand, and that’s where we fall, if we fall. But we don’t. We just stand secure in that faith.” – Gordon B. Hinckley – Interview “The Mormons” – PBS Documentary, April 2007

=====

“Finally, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church. But in like manner, if the Book of Mormon be true—and millions have now testified that they have the witness of the Spirit that it is indeed true—then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it.” – Ezra Taft Benson – 1986

=====

“Everything in the Church — everything — rises or falls on the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.” – Jeffrey R. Holland – Excerpted from a Church Educational System Religious Educators’ Symposium address given at Brigham Young University on August 9, 1994.

=====

“I am suggesting that we make exactly that same kind of do-or-die, bold assertion about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the divine origins of the Book of Mormon. We have to. Reason and rightness require it. Accept Joseph Smith as a prophet and the book as the miraculously revealed and revered word of the Lord it is or else consign both man and book to Hades for the devastating deception of it all, but let’s not have any bizarre middle ground about the wonderful contours of a young boy’s imagination or his remarkable facility for turning a literary phrase. That is an unacceptable position to take—morally, literarily, historically, or theologically.” – Jeffrey R. Holland, “True or False,” New Era, June 1995, Page 64 (Excerpted from a CES Symposium address given at Brigham Young University on August 9, 1994.)

=====

“The Book of Mormon claims to be a divinely inspired record, written by a succession of prophets who inhabited ancient America. It professes to be revealed to the present generation for the salvation of all who will receive it, and for the overthrow and damnation of all nations who reject it.

This book must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God to man, affecting both the temporal and eternal interests of every people under heaven to the same extent and in the same degree that the message of Noah affected the inhabitants of the old world. If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who will sincerely receive it as the word of God, and will suppose themselves securely built upon the rock of truth until they are plunged with their families into hopeless despair. The nature of the message in the Book of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it. Therefore, every soul in all the world is equally interested in ascertaining its truth or falsity.
In a matter of such infinite importance no person should rest satisfied with the conjectures or opinions of others: he should use every exertion himself to become acquainted with the nature of the message: he should carefully examine the evidences of which it is offered to the world: he should, with all patience and perseverance, seek to acquire a certain knowledge whether it be of God or not. Without such an investigation in the most careful, candid, and impartial manner, he cannot safely judge without greatly harming his future and eternal welfare. If, after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, should be extensively published to the world as such; the evidences and arguments upon which the imposture was detected, should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived, may perceive the nature of the deception, and be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion, may be exposed and silenced, not by physical force, neither by persecutions, bare assertions, nor ridicule, but by strong and powerful arguments–by evidences adduced from scripture and reason. Such, and such only, should be the weapons employed to detect and overthrow false doctrines–to reclaim mankind from their errors, to expose religious enthusiasm, and put to silence base and wicked impostors.
But on the other hand, if investigation should prove the Book of Mormon true and of divine origin, then the importance of the message is so great, and the consequences of receiving or rejecting it so overwhelming, that the various nations–to whom it is now sent, and in whose languages it is now published, (being the first in these latter times who have been so highly favored as to receive a preparatory message for the second advent of the Son of God,) should speedily repent of all their sins, and renounce all the wicked traditions of their fathers, as they are imperatively commanded to do in the message: they should utterly reject both the Popish and Protestant ministry, together with all the churches which have been built up by them or that have sprung from them, as being entirely destitute of authority; they should turn away from all the priestcrafts and abominations practiced by these apostate churches (falsely called Christian), and bring forth fruits meet for repentance in all things: they should be immersed in water by one having authority, and receive a remission of their sins, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” – Orson Pratt -“DIVINE AUTHENTICITY OF THE BOOK OF MORMON” – 15 Wilton Street, Liverpool, October 15, 1850.
=====

“Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false, for the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth. If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect. The doctrines of false teachers will not stand the test when tried by the accepted standards of measurement, the scriptures.” -Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1954, vol. 1, p. 188

=====

“Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.” -Gordon B. Hinckley, “Loyalty” – April 2003 General Conference

=====

There. Basic. The basis of the whole matter boils down to two things, either of which, if false, will declare the whole a fraud.

  1. Was Joseph Smith a prophet who saw what he said he saw and/or
  2. Is the Book of Mormon true?

It follows that if #1 then #2 is more likely to be true but doesn’t necessarily have to be. So, I say it boils down to #1. All the quotes above would tend to lend credence to this proposition in my opinion. All the above also demonstrate the dichotomous proposition originates in Church leadership, not with me.
===============

Sundry quotes

I think a full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret nor underhanded, and I for one want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation. – John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 20:264

=====

Now, most historians, Mormon or not, who work with the sources, accept as fact Joseph Smith’s career as village magician. Too many of his closest friends and family admitted as much, and some of Joseph’s own revelations support the contention. – B. H. Roberts, Church Historian, Treasure-seeking Then and Now, Sunstone, v. 11, September 1987, p. 5

=====

One other subject remains to be considered in this division… viz. ‑ was Joseph Smith possessed of a sufficiently vivid and creative imagination as to produce such a work as the Book of Mormon from such materials as have been indicated in the proceeding chapters… That such power of imagination would have to be of a high order is conceded; that Joseph Smith possessed such a gift of mind there can be no question…. – B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon by B.H. Roberts, p. 243, 250

=====

In light of this evidence, there can be no doubt as to the possession of a vividly strong, creative imagination by Joseph Smith, the Prophet, an imagination, it could with reason be urged, which, given the suggestions that are found in the ‘common knowledge’ of accepted American antiquities of the times, supplemented by such a work as Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews [published in Palmyra in 1825], it would make it possible for him to create a book such as the Book of Mormon is. – B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon by B.H. Roberts, p. 243, 250

=====

We talk of obedience, but do we require any man or woman to ignorantly obey the counsels that are given? Do the First Presidency require it? No, never. – Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses 16:248

=====

We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts. – Hugh B. Brown, “Final Testimony” An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown

=====

[Joseph Smith] described the men as averaging near six feet in height, and dressing quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style. In my patriarchal blessing, given by the father of Joseph the Prophet, in Kirtland, 1837, I was told that I should preach the gospel before I was 21 years of age; that I should preach the gospel to the inhabitants upon the islands of the sea, and ‑‑ to the inhabitants of the moon, even the planet you can now behold with your eyes. The first two promises have been fulfilled, and the latter may be verified. – Oliver B. Huntington, as told to him by Joseph Smith, Young Woman’s Journal, vol. 3, p. 263‑264 (1892)

=====

The coming of the Lord, which is nigh ‑‑ even fifty‑six years should wind up the scene. – Joseph Smith, History of the Church, v2, p 182

=====

Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter‑day Saints never ran away from me yet…When they can get rid of me, the devil will also go. – Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 408, 409

(This one ticks me off! Blatant lie!)

=====

I insert fac‑similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook… I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and that he received his Kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth. – Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, v. 5, p. 372

(Translating a hoax? Additionally, the Church has vacillated between hoax, not hoax. Look it up.)

=====

To our great grief, however, we soon found that Satan had been lying in wait to deceive,… Brother Hiram Page had in his possession a certain stone, by which he obtained certain “revelations” … all of which were entirely at variance with the order of God’s house, … the Whitmer family and Oliver Cowdery, were believing much in the things set forth by this stone, we thought best to inquire of the Lord concerning so important a matter … – Joseph Smith, History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, vol. 1, pp.109‑10

(Hiram Page was getting too many followers. Joseph curtailed that. Stone against stone!)

=====

Now regarding Adam, He came here from Another planet, an Immortalized being, and brought his wife Eve with him, and by eating of the fruit of this earth, became subject to death and decay… was made mortal and subject to death. – Joseph Smith, Records of both Anson Call and Patriarch John M. Whitaker. Nauvoo, Illinois

=====

Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none. – Joseph Smith, Teachings of Presidents of the Church

=====

It is not always wise to relate all the truth. Even Jesus, the Son of God, had to refrain from doing so, and had to restrain His feelings many times for the safety of Himself and His followers, and had to conceal the righteous purposes of His heart in relation to many things pertaining to His Father’s kingdom. – Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 392

(Lying for the Lord stemmed from this concept. Check the Church’s teachings on honesty. An omission is dishonest.)

=====

[Joseph taught] that the Gentile blood was actually cleansed out of their veins, and the blood of Jacob made to circulate in them; and the revolution and change in the system were so great that it caused the beholder to think they were going into fits. – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:269

=====

I have never preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture. – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 13:95

=====

Until the last ones of the residue of Adam’s children are brought up to that favourable position, the children of Cain [blacks] cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion. – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:290

=====

Adam & Eve had lived upon another Earth, were immortal when they came here. Adam assisted in forming this earth & agreed to fall when he came here, & he fell that man might be & the opposite principle to good, the devil, the serpent, the evil, was placed upon the earth that man might know the good from the evil, for without an experience in these things man could not know the one from the other. As soon as the devil was on earth he sowed the seeds of death in everything so as soon as they began to eat of the fruit of the earth they received into their system the seeds of mortality & of death so their children were mortal & subject to death, sorrow, pain & wo. Then when they partook of life, joy, ease & happiness, they would know how to prize it. Father Adam would never cease his labors to redeem his posterity & exalt them to all the glory they were capable of receiving. – Brigham Young, Journal of Wilford Woodruff, May 6, 1855

=====

While the statement has been made by some writers that the Prophet JS used a seer stone part of the time in his translating of the record, and information points to the fact that he did have in his possession such a stone, yet there is no authentic statement in the history of the church which states that the use of such a stone was made in that translation. The information is all hearsay, and personally, I do not believe that the stone was used for this purpose. … It hardly seems reasonable to suppose that the prophet would substitute something evidently inferior [to the U&T] under these circumstances. It may have been so, but it is so easy for a story of this kind to be circulated due to the fact that the prophet did possess a seer stone, which he may have used for some other purposes. – Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation vol.3 pg 225‑226

=====

Apr 11, 1842

Joseph Smith writes a letter to sixteen-year-old Nancy Rigdon in which he attempts to persuade her to become his secret, plural wife. The letter expounds Joseph’s version of situation ethics: “that which is wrong under one circumstance, may be and often is, right under another.” Willard Richards delivers the letter to Nancy. The letter makes its way to John C. Bennett who publishes it in the SANGAMO JOURNAL. Smith denies having written the letter but after his death the Church publishes its content in the HISTORY OF THE CHURCH as an “essay” written by Joseph Smith. In succeeding years portions of the letter/essay are often quoted in general conference and in official church publications.

(This is vile.)

===============

That suffices for now.

I extend a challenge to anyone wishing to accept it. It is possible. I know because I have completed the challenge myself. Yes, it is daunting. It is at times very tedious. It is also illuminating. One gets the “flavor” of early Church leaders, who knew and served under the direction of Joseph Smith.

The challenge is to read the 7 volumes of “The History of the Church”, the 6 volumes of “A Comprehensive History of the Church” and the 26 volumes of the “Journal of Discourses”.

Anyone willing?

More on Faith

I discussed very, very briefly some thoughts on faith here. Likewise, choice was very, very briefly discussed here. I would now like to expand a little on these two topics.

First of all, some might read this title as “Moron Faith”. I don’t actually blame them! My sense of humor in combination with my new outlooks on the use of rational, critical thought might seem to support this notion! Now, please do not be offended! I mean no offense. But let’s instead apply some critical thinking.

Let’s begin with the LDS idea of faith. This can be found here. The LDS idea of faith is twofold. First is the idea proposed by Paul in the New Testament, Hebrews 11:1. Second, this faith must be centered on Jesus, Acts 4:10-12Mosiah 3:17Moroni 7:24-26, and Articles of Faith 1:4.

For the first part, LDS teachings follow the Great Experiment on Faith as described in Alma 32. This supposedly helps us determine if a “seed” or idea is “good” (it produces good fruit after sprouting, being nurtured, and growing). Verses 33 and 34 are key, making clear that faith becomes dormant in that particular thing in which your faith was exercised and you then can be assured your knowledge is perfect, in that same thing. In other words, regarding anything in which you exercise faith sufficient to gain knowledge, your faith goes dormant regarding that thing. Faith leads to knowledge.

Some in the LDS Church say this procedure is the equivalent of the secular Scientific Method. It just might seem so, at first blush, but is it? A question arises from observation and a hypothesis is created and tested. Results are obtained that give knowledge. It succeeds or it fails. Isn’t this the Scientific Method?

In a word, no!

Why?

Most of the parts are there, i.e.:

  • Observation
  • Question
  • Hypothesis
  • Experiment
  • Results
  • Conclusion

 


Of course, based on the results observed, the hypothesis is supported or not or variations between. Modification of the hypothesis may be required, more tests may need to be designed or the original modified. Eventually, a hypothesis is supported, maybe not the original. This seems to be Alma’s procedure but there are two steps missing.

Repeatability.

Peer review.

Alma’s procedure is individualistic. Your own results are not given to others to repeat, although the Church has its own dogma ready to be supported by the prescribed one size fits all experiment to obtain results. Study, ponder, pray, “feel” the answer or, upon observing events potentially in answer, interpretation can be given those events based on feelings.

While repeatable, the results are not peer-reviewed. Individuals can request and get answers without consulting ecclesiastical leaders. There is potential for members to run afoul of their leaders. All one needs to do is observe how many variant religions are based on the “testimony” of the Book of Mormon. They all cannot be “true”, can they? What kind of god would be cruel enough to foist this kind of method on his children/subjects? One would think there would be a more sure way.

So, to me, faith seems a backward tack to take. To exercise faith in something implies, in my mind, that the person already hopes the answer is correct! It involves a faulty methodology to arrive at a conclusion. It is not peer-reviewed, unless the person discusses the whole matter with someone else, like family members. Instead of objectivity, the ideology the person developed over a lifetime exerts an influence on how to interpret results. And so the final action taken is individual and is usually based on their own “feelings of truth” obtained by this faulty method.

The scientific method is the best method mankind has offered for advancing knowledge. The best. Nothing else has been invented that is better.

Here, then, is where choice enters. Here is where I differ with those faithful members who have studied the materials I have, and even more than I have. This is where the rubber meets the road.

They choose to believe in spite of knowledge (those things they have learned but push off to some future afterlife where a better explanation is supposedly forthcoming, an attitude due to faith). I choose to disbelieve because of knowledge (trust is placed in data that can be verified and by an attitude that accepts that ducklike characteristics indicate a duck). Faith pushes them over the cliff. I stand at the edge and watch, helpless.

Addendum: For an example of what faith offers, read this.

Neuroscience

We, being a general pronoun, are learning more in the relatively new field of neuroscience. This is helping to bring us closer to understanding phenomena now attributed to religious or spiritual experiences. I do not offer this as an absolute. We have a ways to go.

That said, note the section on epistemology.

I look forward to more in the future.

Backfire effect.

This “e-book” treatise on the backfire effect has some “language” (very little) but it explains the backfire effect very well. I recommend it. My reason for the recommendation is that I have probably caused this effect with my online posts. Sorry about that! Take some time and read it through. It’s worth it, in spite of a few words I know you have already heard and read before.

The Backfire Effect

Update: they created a clean version

Benefits

Since leaving (okay, being kicked out of) the Church I have met, online mostly but a few IRL, some very awesome people! People I would have never known otherwise. People I would have avoided as a church member had I known their beliefs or lack thereof.

What a terrible shame that would have been! My life has been made immeasurably richer by becoming friends with these people. I am grateful I do not have to miss out on their association. Thank you, my new friends!

My ability to think rationally is improving. It makes a difference IRL too! I can spot liars more easily. Con men have a more difficult time pulling the wool over my eyes. Pseudoscience holds no interest. Evidence is what I want. It is what I seek.

The study of History is much more interesting now, Church History included. My library has expanded dramatically, both in hard copy as well as digitally.

I feel no guilt having a coffee with coworkers when I travel to the office (I normally work from home). I would not feel any guilt if I were to have a beer or glass of wine at a company party, or elsewhere. I don’t usually partake at home out of deference to my wife, who is a believer in the LDS faith, but when I am out and about partaking would hold no guilt.

Sundays are truly a day of rest! I do not have to perform any assignments like Home Teaching. I don’t have to teach lessons, although the calling of Gospel Doctrine Instructor was my all time favorite, followed very closely by instructing priesthood quorums or groups. No talks in Sacrament meeting. No more uncomfortable pauses during Fast and Testimony meeting or during a particularly “off the wall” testimony. No more straining to hear over squalling children. No more splits with the missionaries.

No more tithing. In fact, it has been a prior struggle to build up my savings over the years while paying tithing, which I did fully and faithfully. In the year and a couple months since my ejection from the church, I have saved a tidy sum! Imagine where I could be financially had not tithing robbed me of my retirement!

Peace of mind is probably the biggest benefit. I see things more clearly and so don’t worry over trivialities. I live by the golden rule. My life has peace.

Choice

On Facebook, I have been attempting to engage my family so they can explore for themselves things I have learned. I suspect, though, that the backfire effect has reared its head and my family has entrenched themselves even deeper into the delusion of LDS belief. I am my own worst enemy.

So, I have chosen to desist on Facebook and put my thoughts here.

Now, speaking of choice.

What differentiates me from someone like one of my uncles, an educator who has read at least as much as I and who has studied areas I have not? How can I drop the beliefs I grew up with while he has developed an attitude of expansiveness?

Choice.

Faith or…?

I am a reasonable person, I think. Rational. I look back on my religious upbringing and see a lot of encouragement to exercise faith. Faith in what? LDS members are told their faith should ultimately be placed in Jesus Christ. But that isn’t all. Faith must be placed in leadership. In teachers. In parents. In teachings. In the Spirit. In scripture, particularly the Book of Mormon.

That seems to me to be a lot of faith needing to be placed in insubstantial things. Of course, leadership, parents, teachers, and books are not insubstantial! But where one’s faith needs to be placed essentially is insubstantial.

Like when leaders tell us that when leadership speaks, the thinking has been done. Like believing the story of the First Vision (but which version?). Like believing the story of the translation of the Book of Mormon (interpreters, Urim and Thummim, or seer stone in a hat?). Well, read any of the so-called “Essays“. There are things contained therein that I was not taught in my youth, that I did not teach as a Missionary, or that I was not taught as a young married adult. Or was taught differently.

Faith is asking too much. I am sticking to reason. If there is evidence, I’m in!

A Journey of a Year

One year ago today I posted this on Facebook. I was pleased to receive so much understanding and support. There was disappointment, too, of course. That is to be expected. It was confirmed that the caliber of family and the friends I’ve surrounded myself with is very high. I am truly grateful for that!

My wife is amazing! I expressed concern to her about what others might say about me but she told me to send them her way and she’d straighten them out! She’s not just my wife and partner, she’s my best friend.

But, back to the post on Facebook.

Apparently, my LDS Church Priesthood leaders were less than excited about it. I think, though, that my Bishop was willing to let the post stand and would have worked with me through whatever questions I might have about Church Doctrine and History. With that thought, I need to step aside for a moment.

Questions about Church History? Doctrine? It used to be that people who doubted, went inactive or outright left the Church were offended or had “sinful” habits they couldn’t or wouldn’t give up. Or were just lazy. Couldn’t commit. Or didn’t have enough Faith. Now it’s “questions” and “doubts” that seem to be the culprits. Well, the others are still considered, just not as much. What it was with me, being unable to speak to anyone else’s case, was that I learned Joseph Smith, Jr. was a con man and a fraud. I learned the LDS Church was not true. No questions. No doubts. No sinful habits. Faith didn’t even apply! In fact, Church leaders seem to advise an increase in Faith will overcome my doubts and questions but even their own doctrine contradicts that. Faith leads to knowledge. Knowledge is the goal. Once knowledge about a thing is obtained, Faith becomes dormant with regard to that thing. (The Book of Mormon, Alma 32)

I have knowledge the Church is false. Faith no more.

Now, back to the task at hand.

This is my own impression of the motivations behind the sequence of events that this post “inspired”, but if there are differences in reality, I think they’re insignificant. Also, one year has passed and I’m 62. The making of this post here helps my recollection!

So, after interviewing with my Bishop the prior year (June/July), an appointment at my home was set up for the Stake President and our local Area Seventy. (Break: nutshell explanation regarding LDS hierarchy – Bishops lead congregations, several congregations – 6 to 8 or so – comprise a Stake, overseen by a Stake President, several Stakes comprise an Area, overseen by an Area Seventy, Area Seventies report to the Seven Presidents of Seventy, the First and Second Quorums of Seventy and the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency of the Church are General Authorities and lead the global church)

They visited, I explained what I had learned. They bore testimony and left. January rolls around and I make my fatal FB post, mentioned above. Because of that meeting in my home with both the Stake President and his line leader, the Area Seventy, the two of them spearheaded my spiritual demise. I think this saddened my Bishop, who also a friend. In any subsequent conversation with the Stake President, he would reiterate that the Area Seventy was fully supportive and in accord with him, the Stake President.

Can you say predetermined decision coming up?

My “last chance” interview with the Stake President was held at his home. He asked me to take down the post which, by this time in late March, had been up for almost two months! I politely but firmly declined.

March 30, 2016, I was excommunicated. The fulfillment of the predetermined decision.

Well, my story caught the attention of the guys at MormonThink and they asked if they could post the short version of my story. It can be found here (including a link to my Disciplinary Council audio recording, where I was excommunicated from the LDS Church).

Do I have regrets? Just one.

I regret my own family cannot yet see.

Time, though, will tell.

Reflections

2016 closes.

Yes, it’s a manmade construct, this ending and beginning. Mankind is a superstitious lot. Our brains are highly developed pattern recognizers, even when there is no pattern! We place significance on some. So, with so many other humans, I celebrate the ending of one trip around the sun and the beginning of the next.

Looking back, significant events have occurred and upon those, I now reflect.

The 30th of March I was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for apostate behavior. I come from Pioneer stock, going back to the days of the Church’s founder, Joseph Smith, Jr. Some of my ancestors were part of Joseph’s inner circle. The Church is an integral part of what makes me, me.

The 11th of May my 80-year-old mother passed away after suffering a series of strokes, ischemic first and then hemorrhagic. Being notified by a brother the day before my Mom’s passing, my wife and I drove overnight, arriving about 12 hours before she died. It’s hard to know if she knew we were there by that time, but we were able to say our goodbyes.

Any other negative or perceived negative events in 2016 pale in comparison. Both are life-changing.

On the bright side, my wife has been awesomely supportive! Not surprising since she is not just my wife but my best friend. Proven. She still wishes to believe in the Church but supports me in my new secular orientation.

My in-laws have been respectful as well. My own family is disappointed but has not censured me.

I hope our relationships continue in love and respect.

I have a high caliber set of longtime friends and I am making new ones constantly. Aside from the political scene, 2016 has been one of good things and personal growth. The personal growth was somewhat forced due to the two major negatives, but I am now in a place where I am happy and content.

All in all, 2016 has been good, using a certain perspective. While 2017 is just a continuation rather than an ending/beginning, I look forward to what my future holds.

Happy New Year!

“…yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom…”

Reading. Study.

I have always been a voracious reader. Mom instilled in me a love of reading. Eventually, as a teen, I developed my own style of speed reading. For example, ultimately I could read a 300-page novel during my 45-minute study hall.

No brag, just fact. (Will Sonnett – “The Guns of Will Sonnett” television western, 1967-9. )

I graduated from High School in 1973. I attended Brigham Young University that Fall Semester (1973) and then prepared for a mission. I served in the Australia East Mission, Spanish speaking, returning in April of 1976. I worked the summer and restarted at BYU that next Fall Semester.

University courses ruined my self-taught speed reading methodology. Quizzes and examinations forced me to slow down to guard against missing a key phrase or definition. So, I slowed.

After BYU, my reading for pleasure increased in speed but non-fiction still took (and takes) more time. But reading is fundamental! In his book “The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark“, Carl Sagan wrote of the importance of reading, of literacy. I quote:

“Frederick Bailey was a slave. As a boy in Maryland in the 1820s, he had no mother or father to look after him. (“It is a common custom,” he later wrote, “to part children from their mothers … before the child has reached its twelfth month.”) He was one of [sic] countless millions of slave children whose realistic prospects for a hopeful life were nil.”

“What Bailey witnessed and experienced in his growing up marked him forever: ‘I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom [the overseer] used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood … From the rising till the going down of the sun he was cursing, raving, cutting, and slashing among the slaves of the field … He seemed to take pleasure in manifesting his fiendish barbarity.'”

“The slaves had drummed into them, from plantation and pulpit alike, from courthouse and statehouse, the notion that they were hereditary inferiors, that God intended them for their misery. The Holy Bible, as countless passages confirmed, condoned slavery. In these ways the “peculiar institution” maintained itself despite its monstrous nature—something even its practitioners must have glimpsed.”

“There was a most revealing rule: Slaves were to remain illiterate. In the antebellum South, whites who taught a slave to read were severely punished. ‘[To] make a contented slave,’ Bailey later wrote, ‘it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.’ This is why the slaveholders must control what slaves hear and see and think. This is why reading and critical thinking are dangerous, indeed subversive, in an unjust society.”

“So now picture Frederick Bailey in 1828—a 10-year-old African-American child, enslaved, with no legal rights of any kind, long since torn from his mother’s arms, sold away from the tattered remnants of his extended family as if he were a calf or a pony, conveyed to an unknown household in the strange city of Baltimore, and condemned to a life of drudgery with no prospect of reprieve.”

“Bailey was sent to work for Capt. Hugh Auld and his wife, Sophia, moving from plantation to urban bustle, from field work to housework. In this new environment, he came every day upon letters, books, and people who could read. He discovered what he called ‘this mystery’ of reading: There was a connection between the letters on the page and the movement of the reader’s lips, a nearly one-to-one correlation between the black squiggles and the sounds uttered. Surreptitiously, he studied from young Tommy Auld’s Webster’s Spelling Book. He memorized the letters of the alphabet. He tried to understand the sounds they stood for. Eventually, he asked Sophia Auld to help him learn. Impressed with the intelligence and dedication of the boy, and perhaps ignorant of the prohibitions, she complied.”

“By the time Frederick was spelling words of three and four letters, Captain Auld discovered what was going on. Furious, he ordered Sophia to stop. In Frederick’s presence he explained:

“A n****r should know nothing but to obey his master—to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best n****r in the world. Now, if you teach that n****r how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave.”

“Auld chastised Sophia in this way as if Frederick Bailey were not there in the room with them, or as if he were a block of wood.”

“But Auld had revealed to Bailey the great secret: ‘I now understood … the white man’s power to enslave the black man. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom.'”

“Without further help from the now reticent and intimidated Sophia Auld, Frederick found ways to continue learning how to read, including buttonholing white schoolchildren on the streets. Then he began teaching his fellow slaves: ‘Their minds had been starved … They had been shut up in mental darkness. I taught them, because it was the delight of my soul.'”

“With his knowledge of reading playing a key role in his escape, Bailey fled to New England, where slavery was illegal and black people were free. He changed his name to Frederick Douglass (after a character in Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake), eluded the bounty hunters who tracked down escaped slaves, and became one of the greatest orators, writers, and political leaders in American history. All his life, he understood that literacy had been the way out.”

And then later in the chapter:

“Frederick Douglass taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom. But reading is still the path.”

Ponder that a moment.

Ponder just a little longer!

Now, returning to life in 2013, I was working in the Information Technology Services department of a well-known luxury retailer in Texas and my schedule was not strictly 8-5. I carried a pager and was on an “On Call” rotation. I would have to take trouble calls 24/7 for the week I was Primary On Call and provide backup for the week I was Secondary On Call. Then I had a week to finalize the issues that arose while I was on call. Eventually, I became the one-and-only UniVerse (a multivalued database) Database Administrator, which put me on call 24/7/365.

One benefit, though, is that during issues outside the usual 8-5 workday I could start up my Kindle Fire and read. I have many LDS Church history books downloaded.

I read and I read!

My reading project took me until March of 2014. In the meantime, I had left the employ of that well-known luxury retailer and joined the company that owned the database I had been supporting. I worked from home. Nice!

In this new position, my wife and I were free to move from Texas to Colorado in order to help my in-laws through some difficult health episodes. We sold our house in Texas and bought one in Colorado, 3 miles from my in-laws.

The contents of my reading project percolated in my mind, creating a bit of a mental whirlwind (hence the name of this blog). It has become a pleasant breeze now! But at that time, wow! In my employment, I was very successful as a troubleshooter because I could correlate seemingly disparate symptoms of an issue that would guide me to the root cause and allow me to propose a solution. This very same ability kicked off a whirlwind of correlation from all that I had read on my Kindle over 14 those months.

Those correlations didn’t bode well for my belief in the LDS Church and its leaders, both present and past.

In July of 2015, I spoke with my wife about my unbelief. I next spoke with my Bishop. The story, from this point until my Disciplinary Council, including a reiteration/retelling of some of what is here as well as the audio of my DC, can be found here.

This brings us up to date on my state of unbelief. Future posts will tell how this mental whirlwind plays out in my life.

58 Years – summarized!

I’ve never been good at keeping a journal, even on my mission, although I did better on my mission that at any other period in my life. So this will be an experiment in recall!

At the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon lies the little (but growing) town of Spanish Fork, Utah. Late in the year of 1954 a young woman, expecting her first child in February of 1955, took a little tumble down some stairs. The next day I made my early debut into this world.

It was touch and go back then as to whether I would survive or not. Nowadays the survival rate of preemies much smaller than my 4 pounds survive much more often. But it was a tense couple of weeks for my parents as I struggled to live in an incubator.

Obviously, I lived!

My parents raised me the best way they knew. My father was a convert to the LDS church, having a mother who was never a member and an inactive father. My dad’s conversion kept the LDS line from my paternal third great grandfather to me intact.

My dad’s parents had agreed that religion would never become a question in their marriage. They held to that mutual promise, as best as I can tell. When held against other marriages I observed over the years it was theirs that stood out. They were devoted to one another. Grandpa was a heavy equipment mechanic and operator, mostly operating a road grader on new roads in Utah. I-15 was one such road upon which he left his mark. Properly graded mountain roads were others. It seems his perfectionism in his work was highly requested among Utah’s road engineers.

Grandpa’s work took him away from his home for long stretches of time. Grandma and Grandpa had a little trailer house they took out on the job when Grandpa had to spend these long stretches away. Grandma wanted to make sure Grandpa could come home after a day at work to a home-cooked meal. As for social activities while out on the job, Grandma and Grandpa loved to find a local/nearby bowling alley. If the job was to be a long one, they’d join a league for a season. They made many friends!

My father was born in a small town in southeastern Utah but really grew up in north-central Utah. It was in a high school drama class that he met my mom. It was my mom’s dad who baptized my own dad prior to my parent’s marriage. They were sealed in the Salt Lake LDS temple a year later. I was sealed to them as well. The rest of my siblings were “Born In the Covenant” aka “BIC”.

My youth was nondescript. I was kind of shy. I attended kindergarten in the same little town my parents and both sets of grandparents lived. Before first grade, we moved to a southwestern suburb of Salt Lake City and I attended first through the first half of fifth grade. The second half of fifth grade and 6th through 7th grades were spent in a southern suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. Our move to Birmingham was precipitated by a job promotion my dad received.

Birmingham in the mid-1960’s was an interesting place in an interesting time. George C. Wallace was the Governor of Alabama and was noted for his firm stance on racial segregation, including an infamous stand, blocking entry to the Foster Auditorium of the University of Alabama by two black students, and a speech on State’s rights when a US Deputy Attorney General tried to interfere.

We attended church about 30 miles away. Membership wasn’t large enough for a full LDS Ward, but it had enough to be a large Branch! My dad was called to be a District High Councilman and my Scoutmaster.

My first “Hmmm…” moment happened in Birmingham. In 1966 some of the papyrus fragments were located in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. I heard talk late in 1967 that an upcoming issue of the Improvement Era (LDS church’s magazine at the time) would be dedicated to this discovery and what it implicated.

The January 1968 issue is that issue. You decide for yourself what the implications were/are. In my case, I was very disappointed the magazine contained absolutely no proof that Joseph was a translator.

After approximately 2 and a half years in the South, another job change for my dad took us to a western suburb of Chicago. I began and finished 8th grade and went on to 4 years of high school there, graduating in 1973, the tail end of the Viet Nam war.

This was an interesting time as well.

There were few members of the LDS church in my high school. There were never more than three or four families with kids in my high school at any given period. I think that helped “cement” my faith at the time and at a relatively young age. One activity I engaged in while a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood was to go out with the missionaries. It only happened a couple times but that also helped “cement” my faith in place.

One thing I’ll mention for this period of my life is that the Stake Presidencies of the stake in which we resided had some rather powerful (in LDS church terms) men. All of them except one ended up serving in one of the Quorums of Seventy and that one exception became an Apostle (Dallin H. Oaks)

After graduating from high school, my dad took another job opportunity that brought us back to Utah and near family. I started my first semester at BYU in Provo, Utah. Dallin Oaks was the President of the University then. My first semester came and went and I was called to serve a mission. I was called to the Australia East Mission (Spanish speaking). Yes, Spanish speaking. I served under President Earl C. Tingey, later called into the quorums of Seventy ultimately as the Senior President among the seven Presidents of Seventy. He is currently Emeritus status, meaning he is still a General Authority but not actively assigned.

I married soon after returning from my mission in the Salt Lake temple. Six children followed, with my one and only son being the eldest of them and my eldest daughter being born early and only surviving about six hours. I don’t think I was really prepared at such a young age to be the single pallbearer at my daughter’s funeral. Experiences add to the person.

Twelve years of marriage ended in divorce. I married again but between the two marriages was an on and off relationship with a Hispanic woman that resulted in my bringing one more daughter into the world. My second marriage is childless. This year, though, we celebrate our 25th anniversary. She’s truly my best friend, aside from being my wife and companion.

After my first marriage failed and due to the relationship with my youngest daughter’s mother, I was excommunicated from the LDS church. Cohabitation without the benefit of marriage is highly frowned upon! I was re-baptized a month before my second marriage (NOT to the mother of my youngest – she was a little “untrustworthy”, so to speak). We eventually moved from Utah to Colorado. My “priesthood blessings” were “restored” in Colorado in the summer of 2001 by Neil Anderson (now an Apostle) who was then in the Area Presidency. We moved later to north Texas and while visiting family in Colorado, my wife received her “temple endowments” in the Denver temple. Later we were sealed in the Salt Lake temple.

This summarizes a life of 58 years, ending up in early 2013.