So much wind.

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

So much wind.

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

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

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

In spite of evidence.

How can they be so blind?

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

In spite of evidence.

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

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

Just note that wind storms pop up occasionally. 😁

The Passion

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.

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 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!

Returning to my Return to Faith

For Continuity.

The breakdown:

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

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

Blind, blind, blind!

Effortless!

Well, until cognitive dissonance rears its ugly head!

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

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

You decide.

Confirmation bias is my contention.

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

Confirmation bias.

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

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

We can become blind to the fact discomfiting us.

Cognitive dissonance.

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

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

That’s why I was a Baptist!

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

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

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

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

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

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

Mormons, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Taoists…

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

Utahns, Coloradans, Texans, Alaskans, Georgians…

Holts, Weights…

Tribal.

When, in fact, we are all…

Human.

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

Not be blind.

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

Think About It

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

Right. Here we go.

What is my purpose?

To overcome confirmation bias and inspire some cognitive dissonance.

Right.

Why?

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

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

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

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

Really? Think about that.

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

Which is right? How can we decide?

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

Easy. That’s all it takes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think about it.

The excommunication of Sam Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

More, on manipulative organizations

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

Screenshots of my answers to the quiz.

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

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

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

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

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

Return to Faith

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

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

.

.

.

Now read this. I’ll wait again.

.

.

.

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

Poser

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

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

Hit and run, basically.

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

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

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

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

Muddled thoughts

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

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

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

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

There is no evidence.

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

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

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

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

Interpretation.

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

Think about it. Really think.

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

Zarahemla Branch

A meeting in March 2018

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

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

…and we’re back!

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

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

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

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

Comments here are eagerly sought and welcomed!

Steven Hassan’s BITE Model…Part “B”

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

“B”: Behavior Control

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

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

These are methods to control behavior! Period!

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

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

This is behavior control, pure and simple.

Thoughts Pro/Con? Please comment!

The BITE Model, Applied

(Original article here, Copyright 2005, Luna Flesher)

The BITE Model and Mormon Control

by Luna Flesher

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

It’s “That” Word Again – part 2

For review:

BITE Model:

Behavior Control

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

Information Control

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

Thought Control

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

Emotional Control

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

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

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

More from another site here.

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

Please comment. Your opinion is welcomed.

It’s “That” Word Again

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

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

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

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

Cults.

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

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

Cultists are blind to their own cult membership. Period.

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

Information/Background

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

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

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

BITE Model:

Behavior Control

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

Information Control

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

Thought Control

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

Emotional Control

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

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

And this one.

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

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

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

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

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

Beware dissent, dear Mormons! Beware.

The Real Danger of Tribal Mythology

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

But this is real. Especially real today. Why?

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

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

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

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

All because of an ideology. Not because of fact.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update on TKR update

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

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

Progress!

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

This has gone so much better than I ever hoped!

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

smiley emoticon

TKR Update

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

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

"And I don’t."

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

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

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

Here’s my update.

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

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

Facebook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am sure family will be grateful.

Honesty

de·cep·tion
/dəˈsepSH(ə)n/

noun

the action of deceiving someone.

“obtaining property by deception”

a thing that deceives.

“a range of elaborate deceptions”

synonyms:

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

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

informal crookedness, monkey business, monkeyshines

“they obtained money by deception”

LDS lesson on honesty.

From LDS essay on plural marriage:

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

From the “History of the Church”:

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

Deception? Fraud?

Discuss.

One Is The Lonliest Number

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

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

Nauvoo.

Joseph Smith’s time.

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

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

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

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

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

And so I did, fulfilling my goal.

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

And was excommunicated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can feelings prove the truth of anything? No.

Why?

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

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

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

What else, indeed?

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

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

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

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

I am not sure.

Whatever it is, it also makes me alone.