At age 65 there is still much to learn and much to be reminded of that you learned before.

Sugar vs vinegar. As a recovered Type II Diabetic I avoid sugar. I like sugar but I also enjoy sour, so vinegar is a nice addition to some foods. But in conversation with loved ones, sugar seems to be a necessity. Vinegar in conversation can sour relationships.

I’ve been rightly reprimanded for the high vinegar content of my posts. So, at age 65, I am still maturing.


I have probably had time to blog a lot more than I have (nary a one!) during this pandemic. COVID-19 has created quite the stir in humanity, excepting my blogging finger.

In my defense, both my wife and I have probably experienced COVID-19. My wife had a slightly worse case than I, exhibiting some of the unique symptoms like the loss of her sense of smell (anosmia), “covid toes”, lethargy, cough, pneumonia, headache, and conjunctivitis. No fever. Neither one of us had a fever. I had pneumonia, some slight headaches, lethargy, a bit of a cough, and that’s it. With each of us, the pneumonia was successfully staved off by a regimen of Prednisone.

But we were never tested. Here in Weld County Colorado, testing has been predominantly, if not exclusively, provided for medical workers, law enforcement, etc. but not for the general public. I believe only those hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms were tested, outside of those listed above, and even then there were too few tests for everyone hospitalized. Because my wife and I were never hospitalized, we were never tested.

We’ll have to wait for antibody testing to know for sure, in spite of being very positive (pun intended) we had it! Besides, our county was one of the top counties for cases in Colorado. My city had the most in the county. My doctor told me the city was a “hot bed” for COVID-19, so I would not be surprised if an antibody test came back positive.

In the meantime, I’ve successfully offended, or in some small way injured the sensibilities of, many family members by some posts on Facebook. They. Just. Don’t. Get. It.

Objectivity is more reliable than subjectivity. Facts over belief. While I’ve been accused of being an empiricist, empiricism has only been a focus to highlight the unreliability of myth/belief/subjectivity. I am an empiricist when it is appropriate AND when it’s possible. Sometimes it’s neither.

And I do have an imagination, but the logical razor of the friar William of Ockham serves me well.

And with my wonderful imagination, I can picture divers ways to torment my believing family, if I were actually prone to be a tormentor. But I’ll stick to the drier posting of facts from time to time, instead. Maybe, just maybe I will succeed in breaking the familial chain of belief and forge new links of skepticism, logic, and evidence. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

I imagine it would be!

Four Years Ago (Part 6, Anniversary post)

First of all, so much has happened since my last post, with COVID-19 wreaking global havoc. Stay home!

Both my wife and I have had a virus this entire month. We both started pneumonia but quick treatment kept us from things more serious. We’re still fighting it but seem to be getting the better of whatever it was (COVID-19? Some other upper respiratory virus? Testing in my county is not available to those not seriously ill).

So, I am very grateful for quick medical care or we could have become negative medical statistics! Again, I strongly suggest you to STAY HOME! Be smart.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Four years ago, today’s date, I attended a Disciplinary Council. My own. For apostate behavior.

The place: the Windsor Colorado Stake Center, Fort Collins.

The time: 7:30 pm

You may listen to it here (there is a link on the page).

Happy fourth anniversary to me!

Four Years Ago (Part 5)

These two letters were part of a post I made here on my blog about 6 months ago as I documented my excommunication from the Mormon church. I have provided them again to show the Church leadership generally, as high as the top spot for lay clergy, is only superficially acquainted with Church History. Their commitment to the church and its doctrines stems solely from feelings of elevation (a well known emotional phenomenon) and confirmation bias through publicly shared “testimony”, leadership addresses, correlated curricula, tribalism, avoidance of outside publications, etc. One might check the BITE model to discover that this source of commitment happens to be among the criteria listed for cults/cultish organizations/organizations that exert undue influence.

Interestingly enough, the Church’s own Historian, Steven Snow, thinks most members do not know enough Church History! Even more interesting (to me, at least), is that many of those who do delve are those who tend to fall away! What’s Mr. Snow thinking? Well, he does seem to think the Church’s spin on its history will quiet any fears members may have upon discovering the disturbing bits in church history.

Check it out.

Anyway, as I approach the 4th anniversary of my excommunication, I wanted to share again what led to it (maybe I do this too much or too often? It was, though, a traumatic event in my life).

Back to the story. As it stands now, I’ve:

1) Finished a 14 month intensive and comprehensive study of Church history from January 2013 to March 2014

2) Read the Church’s Standard Works (KJV Bible, Doctrine & Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, Book of Mormon during the above period of study

3) Held discussions with my church leaders to seek their wisdom 2014 – 2016

4) Discovered Church leadership generally has no depth of knowledge of Church history and cannot offer any wisdom to help my crisis of faith

5) Arrived at the conclusion it’s all mythology

On January 31, 2016 I decided to make a fateful post on Facebook. I realized I had a high probability the post would ultimately result in a “serious conversation” with leadership. But the family rumor mill was spinning a few tales at that time and I wanted to make certain they were told accurately. That post clarified the rumors. It also caught the attention of leadership, as I thought it might.

Subsequently, the months of February and March of 2016 contained a few interviews with Church leadership (Bishop and Stake President). The point of contention being their desire that I remove the FB post and my polite refusal. I have audio recordings of these meetings. In one such interview with my Stake President (Mormon hierarchy note: a Bishop presides over a congregation, a Stake President presides over several congregations, an Area Seventy presides over multiple Stakes in a region and is the highest lay authority and who reports to the Church’s General Authorities), he mentioned his line leader (Area Seventy) asked him to get me to take the post down or I would be subjected to a Disciplinary Council with the threat of excommunication. With my repeated refusal, the interview ended with the pronouncement my DC would be held in a week (March 30, 2016).

Part 6 will be posted on the anniversary of my excommunication, March 30.

Four Years Ago (Part 3)

In my last post I included the letter sent to me from our local Area Seventy. For those unaware of Mormon Hierarchy, an Area Seventy reports to the body of the Church’s General Authorities i.e. the General Authority Seventies overseen by the seven Presidents of the Seventy who report to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency of the Church. This Area Seventy would be the topmost “lay” clergyman. The General Authority clergymen serve for life with the General Authority Seventies converting to an emeritus status around the age of seventy.

All that to show this man, at the top level of lay clergy, had no answers for me, only feelings, aka “testimony”. Re-read his letter. Can you find anything of substance that would help a person in a crisis of faith due to facts recently learned? Any answers to any questions at all? Feel free to comment your response.

My next post (Part 4) will be my response to his letter, which I sent November 7, 2015.

Four Years Ago (Part 2)

With my mind whirling, my wife and I moved from a suburb south of Dallas, Texas to Greeley, Colorado in February of 2014. My mother in-law had slipped on ice and broken her nose, left arm, and right thumb. My father in-law was still recovering from an illness and so we moved to assist them. We moved into their basement until we found a home. Our house in Texas sold in June and we closed on our house in Colorado in August.

I continued researching Church History and, through the Church’s own website, found some “essays” in their Gospel Topics section that dealt with some of the more “prickly” historical issues. These were later moved to their own section with a link to them on the Gospel Topics landing page, along with a video from the Church Historian Elder Steven Snow.

Reading these essays was frustrating because they whitewashed things I read during my 14 month reading project. It seemed to me to be gaslighting.

I participated in Church during this time, even taking turns as a new Ward member in teaching the High Priest Group a couple times. The Bishop was a known friend of my in-laws and close to my age. Ultimately, after my Church activity dwindled, we began to discuss the issues raised by my reading project.

Nothing he offered was helpful except for his acceptance of me as a friend. Mid-year 2015 my Stake President and our local Area Seventy were going to hold a youth “Q &A” fireside and they asked my Bishop if there were any families they could visit prior. He suggested me and then asked me for permission. I accepted.

From my reading I was able to ask pointed and specific questions. None of their answers were satisfactory. None were evidential. All were testimonial. No facts. All faith.

I recorded the visit and have saved the audio file. As they left, they invited me to the fireside (which was when I learned its purpose i.e. a Q&A). I suggested they might not like the questions I would be asking in front of those youthful ears. I knew they certainly could not answer them or they would have, already!

They left.


Over three months later I receive a letter from the Area Seventy (I apologise for the poor photo quality).

Judge for yourself. Claims. Mythology. No facts.

Part 3 coming.

Four Years Ago

But first, three years before that.

January 2013. I was the First Assistant to the High Priest Group Leader. High Priest. Doesn’t that phrase call up some interesting mental images? As a Mormon then, it was a “calling” I took very seriously. I had responsibilities. They were not lightweight.

I also had a time-consuming job as a Database Administrator for a very well known luxury retailer in the DFW Metroplex in Texas. Yeah. That luxury retailer!

Time, being precious as well as scant, I tried to balance these two major parts of my life; providing for my family and the ecclesiastical responsibilities assigned to me. One of those of the latter was the responsibility for doctrinal education and teaching. I oversaw the small group of instructors for the High Priest Group. Many times an instructor would fail to show up or had a last minute conflict with meeting time and so, those many times, I was the defacto substitute instructor.

My knowledge of Mormon doctrine was pretty solid, if I do say so myself. It was no problem for me to, without prior preparation, stand before the group and present a cogent lesson with just a brief perusal of the lesson material.

But back to January 2013. The course of study for the adult Sunday School and correlated lessons for the Priesthood “brethren” and the Relief Society “sisters” was Church History and the Doctrine and Covenants. (If any of this terminology confuses you, don’t worry too much. Effectively all men and young boys 12 years of age and older all belong to the Church’s male “priesthood”. All women 18 and older belong to the women’s organization called the Relief Society, whose origins are interesting but will not be discussed at this point.)

Taking my teaching responsibility very seriously, I took advantage of the course of study to delve deeply into Church History, USING CHURCH PUBLISHED BOOKS. It took 14 months but I read the Church’s Canon of scripture twice, the seven volume “History of the Church”, the six volume “Comprehensive History of the Church”, the “History of Joseph Smith by His Mother” (Joseph Smith, Jr. founded the Mormon Church in 1830), and the twenty six volume “Journal of Discourses”.


My mind was whirling! My “testimony” lay in tatters. My whole world had been severely shaken.

My next post will pick up with the next part of this story.

Uncommon sense

Faith. According to Hebrews 11:1, faith gives certainty regarding things hoped for and in things we cannot see. The first, hope, intimates a future result or occurence. There are times certainty can apply to the future and we base this on experience. Things unseen can apply to future events, too, and this certainty is not based on experience but what has been taught (scripture, ecclesiastical leadership, personal inspiration).

But is certainty the right concept, especially with regard to the future?

Are you certain?

I opine you’re forgetting all the times faith failed, all the times prayers were not answered, all the times certainty disappointed. Selective memory, fueled by confirmation bias, is probably the source of this forgetfulness. Spend some time recognizing this phenomenon. It’s got to be a weekly occurrence, if not a bit more common. Be honest with yourself.

At length, you’ll come to realize faith is faithless.

Or, you’ll explain it away as the will of god (kind of a god of the gaps scenario).

This is where common sense should take over and hold sway.

Unfortunately, common sense is no longer so common.

Holiday hiatus

My last post dealt with illusion. Then came the holidays. I feel like I’m losing my motivation to blog, mostly because those I would like to be reading what I post either read and stay silent or just don’t read. Plenty of like-minded readers comment on my posts or on Facebook where I link to my blog. But from those I wish would read?


This is not a complaint or a whine, mind you! It is a lament. I feel sad for those firmly ensconced in a cult…or cults (we can belong to many!). They are loved ones.

They, in turn, feel sorry for me, being eternally damned, an apostate. Lost forever. The hole found in an otherwise eternal family.

This appears to be an unassailable divide. Yet I rail at it! I. Want. It. Gone!

I want my loved ones to wake up! I’m sure they would love to welcome me back to the fold. I am, however, no longer a sheep!

The curtain has been pulled back and the Great and Terrible Oz has been found to be a humbug. There is no evidence for gods. There are only the mythologies mankind created from its collective fear-soaked imagination to explain what could not be explained at the time.

It’s the 21st century now and time to put away childish myths. Trust in the natural. Set aside the supernatural.

Prove me wrong. The onus is on you, believer. I triple dog dare you.

Critical thought

Traditionally, critical thinking has been variously defined as follows: ‘The process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion.’ ‘Disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.‘” – dictionary definition

“Indoctrination often refers to religious ideas, when you’re talking about a religious environment that doesn’t let you question or criticize those beliefs. The Latin word for ‘teach,’ doctrina is the root of indoctrinate, and originally that’s just what it meant. By the 1830s it came to mean the act of forcing ideas and opinions on someone who isn’t allowed to question them.” – dictionary definition

Is there any reason to not think indoctrination, particularly religious indoctrination, can damage the ability to think rationally? Is there any wonder many studies indicate the religious are slightly less intelligent than the nonreligious?

No, I’m not saying the religious are stupid. Not at all! The difference might be so small that it’s compensated for by a margin of error, but 83 studies? It does bear further investigation. Some, um, er, critical thought? Maybe?

Recently I had a series of conversations with a believer. It was completely unfruitful. This believer redefined words to support belief and refused to consider factual evidence or to employ reason.

Conversations with believing family members result similarly. Evidence is ignored or redefined in manners more conciliatory to belief. The indoctrination runs deep.

I left belief after a 14 month reading project. Going from Mormon to atheist was a rapid progression. However, getting to that reading project took a bit over 58 years.


But, now atheist, have I actually “wised up”? Hmmmmm…

That remains to be seen!

In conjunction with my post, you might also wish to read a post I just read by an atheist friend of mine here. My post and his go hand in hand. He’s a much better writer than I. I have much to learn.

Facebook again

Here is a recent Facebook post of mine. So far, only my sister in-law has responded. In a comment she challenges me. Read this first comment if hers and the subsequent thread, down to my promise to craft an answer.

This will be that answer. It meanders (as is my wont).

Damaging ideologies

I would like to have everyone read “Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind” and let reader draw their own conclusions but that would be me dodging an opportunity. Go ahead and read it, though! It’s a wonderful book, provoking a lot of thought, at least in my case.

But allow me to meet my obligation and offer an answer. What is a damaging ideology? My own opinion is any ideology that creates a group of followers that consider themselves different or, worse yet, special. This creates an “us vs them” scenario. Many bad things, up to and including murder, are committed in the name of that ideology. Many times the ideology itself does not promote these bad things. Sometimes the ideology even proscribes against these bad things!

So, in three words, in my opinion, damaging ideology reduces to “us versus them”.

Cult specialists understand damaging ideologies quite well. What about major religions? In my own opinion, they are just generally accepted cults, but cults nonetheless.

My beef is with the Mormon church specifically, having been born into and raised under it’s ideological umbrella. My thoughts can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Several more of my blog posts could contain thoughts regarding ideologies, damaging and obsolete.

My preference with regard to ideologies is to choose reality, as best as I can determine it to be, realizing I have many leftover biases from years of Mormon (and other) indoctrination.

Cud Chew

I was just ruminating about my time in the Greater Chicago Area 1968-1973. I attended 8th grade and all 4 years of high school there. From half way through 5th grade to the end of 7th grade was spent in post riot era Birmingham, AL.

Born into the Mormon faith, both areas were foreign to me, in many respects. However, they both happen to have created some of my fondest memories!


I have no idea, specifically. Generally, from Lisle, IL, I have regained connection to a core of high school classmates. It’s an odd mix, from different “cliques”, although some seemed to cross over into more than one or, maybe more accurate, didn’t belong to any. I was an outsider. Always. I was bullied, too, by being an outsider.

Shy and Mormon, I just didn’t fit in! Not comfortably. Not consistently. Mormon youth activities widened the gap by preventing my attendance at school activities, being held, many times, at the same time.

In spite of this, I was able to make friends with some of the other quiet types. Not great friends, just friends.

A couple of them are now very good friends, thanks to Facebook. Okay, they’re great friends!

(Shifts cud to a different set of molars)

The thing about ruminating is that the course is never direct or straight. It meanders.

Ah, you’ve noticed! 😁

None of the friends made in Birmingham persist today. Only a handful of high school classmates and one Church friend (last name Hickenlooper). Connections to the rest have been lost.

But still, I have fond memories. I just can’t put my finger on why.

(Reshift of cud)

As an adult and an apostate, some remnants of the Chicago days are kind of pertinent.

The current “Prophet” and President of the LDS Church is followed in seniority by one Dallin H. Oaks. He’s next in line according to the rules of succession, when Russell Nelson passes away. Russ just turned 95 this month and Dallin turned 87 last month. Who will pass first? Both seem to be in excellent health.

Anyway, the Chicago connection. Dallin was in the LDS Stake Presidency (an LDS Stake is a group of local congregations) of the local area in which I lived. The Chicago South Stake. Eventually he became the President of the Church’s Brigham Young University and then later became an Apostle in said Church. He has risen through the ranks to now be the Senior Apostle and is the President of the Quorum of the Twelve but, owing to his call to be a Counselor to Russ, one M. Russell Ballard is acting President of the Twelve.

Clear, right?

Anyway, Dallin’s brother in-law was my Priest Quorum Advisor in the congregation in which I attended (the West Suburban II Ward in Naperville). I have the possibility of knowing, personally, the probable next President of the Mormon Church.

And he wouldn’t want to admit to knowing me, an apostate! Although, why he, a former prominent attorney, would remain a believer is beyond me. Fame? Adoration? Lifestyle benefits? Who knows! He knows the Church’s warts as well as do I.

(Rumination complete, for now. No answers, just more rumination in my future)

It Should Be Easy, Right?

Proof. Evidence. If it’s important – that thing in which your trust is placed – you’ve got proof or evidence, right? I don’t place my trust in things willy nilly, either! I need proof or evidence that is worthy of my trust if I’m going to give it.

To buy a house, would I forgo an inspection? Would I just buy any house or would I look for what meets my needs? Would I buy one anywhere or would I research the right location? Do I care about the school district? Good shopping? Medical?

And so on.

It takes thought, research, and more thought.

We’re each born into a belief system (or lack thereof), the one to which our parents subscribe (or none). When we’re old enough, why do we persist in that belief system? (Certainly there are some who do not persist and, for various reasons, do change belief systems or eschew then all.) Do we fear disappointing our parents? Maybe it doesn’t occur to us that we can make other choices? Maybe we really believe?

If we really believe, why do we believe?



The proof…

The evidence?

To be a.c.t.u.a.l proof or evidence, it cannot be strictly internal. In other words, it must be replicable by anyone, with the same (consistent) results. Do you ever wonder why there are so many religions? It’s because results are not consistently replicable by anyone and the “proof/evidence” is internal, i.e. “feelings”. Why would any god operate that way? Wouldn’t consistent results be better evidence of a god, for that god?

Why is it necessary to have faith, if results are inconsistent? Is it a test? Faith doesn’t work. To quote Peter Boghossian, faith is “pretending to know what you don’t know.”

Prove me and Peter are wrong on that concept.

And why must we be tested? Why can’t we demand this god prove him/her/itself to us? If I were to respect some god, there would have to be valid reasons! That god would have to be undeniable, and physically so! No imaginary friend for me.

We hominids have large brains. Why do we use them to persist mythology from eras long gone by, when we were still learning about the world around us? We’ve put men on the moon! We’re learning about the cosmos now, while still peeking into the remaining unknown nooks and crannies of mother Earth! There is no room for these old myths in the 21st century! They serve no real or valuable purpose.

Evidence. Proof. It should be easy!

If you have it, I’m ready. Lay it on me!

Thoughts; aka regrets?

I’m not eloquent. I am untrained in critical thought. My education is “middling”, neither in depth or breadth. Some concepts are difficult for me to understand.

So I keep things simple, as much as I can, leaving the more complex and complicated to those capable.

However, if there are simple concepts that are easily grasped by the likes of me, why are they not more widespread in my family? Family members are just as intelligent as I am, if not moreso, because we share some “good” DNA from our ancestors.

Why, then, are they religious?

I was raised religious but I broke away at age 61. I am an apostate, so labeled by my former sect, and I accept this label. I do think of myself as a “runaway slave”.

The sect from which I ran might view things differently. They excommunicated me so, rather than being a “runaway”, I was expelled because I represented a risk to the “good name” of this sect. What risk? My expression of unbelief.

A concept. An idea, expressed, was responded to by an action seen, within the sect, as spiritual death. I was excommunicated; was spiritually assassinated.

For the expression of unbelief.

Can I make that more clear?

It seems clear enough already, to me, as unlearned and untrained as I am. I don’t think it really takes a genius to figure it out!

Because I expressed unbelief I lose:

1) My Eternity
a) with my “righteous” family
b) and with no chance of eternal progression i.e. procreation, worlds without end.

2) Full fellowship in this life
a) with faithful sect members
b) in sect ceremonies and practices
c) with faithful family.

Regarding 2c, even with a professed absence of a “shunning” policy/practise, the reality is that the faithful, including family members, see an apostate as lacking, somewhat less than a member in full fellowship. Sometimes apostates are looked upon as dangerous. Logic and critical thought are, indeed, dangers to ideology, particularly ideology of the mythological sort.

For religion is nothing more than “Santa Claus” for adults. A comfortable myth.

As an infant I was free from ideology. The indoctrination I received was based on the ideology of my parents. What is the likelihood I would choose, as an adult, another or discard all? Well, 100%! For family members? 100% for a very, very few who have seen through the comfortable myth; 0% for the rest.

But with each one who leaves of their own volition or those, like me, who get up the nose of leadership and are ejected, another chain is broken, freeing subsequent generations from being slaves to false ideology.

5 of my 6 children are still chained to my former sect and I think the one is still chained to Christianity. I wish I had gained my secular/skeptical outlook much sooner, saving my children unfounded familial/traditional indoctrination and giving them the tools for rational and critical thought.

My hope, though, is that they will, at the very least, be late bloomers.

Like me.

(See how untrained my mind is, by how jumbled these thoughts are?)

So much wind.

For more than three years I have voiced my opinions regarding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to my church member family and friends. They cannot see what is patently obvious to any objective observer. My words just drift off with the wind.

So much wind.

My efforts have engendered the backfire effect, for sure. I knew they would but I kept throwing those words into the wind, nonetheless. The passion driving the words overcame my normally judicious nature, unfortunately. Now my family members, at least a couple, admit they choose faith in the face of contrary evidence.

Reading recent studies regarding specific testing during “spiritual” moments leads me to understand the basis for them lies in the brain. The science is new as are the discoveries. I look forward to what comes next, with great anticipation.

Yet, despite my passion, objectivity remains my domain alone. Familial cognitive dissonance dissuades the use of objectivity. Their confirmation bias ensures what is observed and accepted is only what confirms beliefs. This situation (belief) can even damage the ability to think rationally (modern studies suggest). So, they will continue to believe.

In spite of evidence.

How can they be so blind?

Then I remember. I was blind, too. Off and on (mostly on) for 61 years I believed.

In spite of evidence.

You see, my preference now is for objectivity. And in the presence of familial declarations based in faith, the onus is on them to provide the evidence and the reason the evidence is evidence. Extraordinary claims (the supernatural, aka the “spiritual”) require extraordinary evidence.

I’ll wait for that evidence and fewer will be the words I toss into the wind…

Just note that wind storms pop up occasionally. 😁

The Passion


The bulk of my family is trapped in a cult and I have been passionate in my efforts to extract them! If you’ve followed my story, you know this cult to be The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was once trapped, as well. Unlike my trapped family, the Church ejected me.

And I became free.

And my passion burned hot. I would show my family the way out! Free them.

But they don’t want to be out.

In spite of any evidence contrary to Church beliefs and teachings, in spite of historical problems, in spite of current bigotry, they want to believe. They choose this belief system instead of the tons of contrary evidence, in spite of bigotry.

So be it. They can have it.

My passion has been quelled.

But I will remain and be available when those niggling, pesky questions come up. This Age of Information almost guarantees the questions.


Eyes wide shut

Humans. Fascinating, aren’t we? I think so. Particularly the human mind.

The human mind is not a computer. It can do math, yes, but what it is, though, is a powerful pattern recognition machine and “crystal ball” with memory, wrapped into a 3 pound mass of convolutions.

Add hormones and emotions and you might get a hot mess. Add cognitive biases and…

Eyes wide shut.

After being excommunicated from the Mormon Church, I spent the next three years pointing out the fallacies of the Church. They are patently obvious to me and very plentiful. To my believing family, not so much.

Faith is an effective blinder. Choosing faith means my family chooses to be blind.

And there’s nothing I can do!

So nothing is what I’ll now do, and not worry about it. I’ll chalk the last three years up to experience.

And that, ultimately, is the hardest thing about my excommunication.

Three Year Anniversary

March 31, 2016 was the date I was excommunicated from the Mormon Church. I will refer to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as Mormon because I wish to. Being an apostate anyway, why should it matter to me what the cult wishes to call itself? Mormon it is, then.

Being an apostate, Mormons might ask how could I possibly succeed in life and be happy when I have been forcefully ejected by the One True Church? Where will I find my guidance. My morals?

How could I not!!

I no longer view life throught magical spectacles. I do not think in a magical manner. Priesthood is not a power. God has never been proven to exist. Prophets speak for themselves.

So, my brain working with my human emotions, the latter always being tempered by the former, will do nicely. And I have already experienced success and am as happy if not happier than at any time in my life.




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.


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.

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.

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.

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?

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.


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.


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.

Throwback Post Regarding Cults

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

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!

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!


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…


When, in fact, we are all…


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.



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 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 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 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.


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.


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 (note: link removed due to website no longer existing but here is a link to a member with an auspicious Mormon surname). “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!

The BITE Model, Applied

(Original article here, Copyright 2005, Luna Flesher)

The BITE Model and Mormon Control

by Luna Flesher

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. (
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
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.”
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.
Allred, Janice M., My Controversy with the Church,
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,
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
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,
The Pearl of Great Price, written or translated by Joseph Smith, ed. Elder Franklin D. Richards, 1851
Siever, Kim, “Is Mormonism a Cult?”, FAIR,
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,
Stricker, Marion, Life After Mormonism and the Double-Bind,

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.


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.)


“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.


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

"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.


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.




the action of deceiving someone.

“obtaining property by deception”

a thing that deceives.

“a range of elaborate deceptions”


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?


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.


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.


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…

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 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:



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.


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…


abraham papyri cog dis

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!


“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”.)





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!

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!