The Passion

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.

Almost.

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.

No

Church

Necessary

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.

The Angry Apostate

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

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

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

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

I need time to emotionally heal.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 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?

Throwback Post Regarding Cults

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

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

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

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

I suggest you think again.

Go Finland!

Edit: Just came across this

New Year Post Mortem

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

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

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

My bad!

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

Never again.

My religious posts will remain here, on my blog.

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

Happy New Year!

New Year Break and Facebook

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

And I failed.

Facebook sucks.

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

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

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 2 Chicago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The excommunication of Sam Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

More, on manipulative organizations

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

Screenshots of my answers to the quiz.

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

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

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

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

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

…and we’re back!

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

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

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

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

Comments here are eagerly sought and welcomed!

Steven Hassan’s BITE Model…Part “B”

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

“B”: Behavior Control

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

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

These are methods to control behavior! Period!

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

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

This is behavior control, pure and simple.

Thoughts Pro/Con? Please comment!

The BITE Model, Applied

(Original article here, Copyright 2005, Luna Flesher)

The BITE Model and Mormon Control

by Luna Flesher

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

It’s “That” Word Again – part 2

For review:

BITE Model:

Behavior Control

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

Information Control

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

Thought Control

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

Emotional Control

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

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

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

More from another site here.

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

Please comment. Your opinion is welcomed.

It’s “That” Word Again

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

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

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

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

Cults.

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

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

Cultists are blind to their own cult membership. Period.

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

Information/Background

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

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

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

BITE Model:

Behavior Control

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

Information Control

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

Thought Control

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

Emotional Control

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

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

And this one.

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

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

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)!

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…