Ecclesiastical Abuse

according to science

I was recently told by a friend that since the mormon church brings some people comfort, even though he’s left the organization, he feels that his family’s continued association with mormonism is a good thing. To that I say: the church feels comfortable because it is familiar to them, but the church organization seems like an abusive relationship to me. I told him that I actually feel that it is actively harming my mormon family members.provides comfort.jpg

I didn’t possess the language to describe the abuses I suffered during my first marriage until years after it had ended. I couldn’t even call it abuse, even though it was. All I knew was that I felt bad about myself and the world all the time, and I couldn’t seem to change it, no matter how I tried. Years later, after evaluating the dynamics between my ex-husband and I, I saw that his treatment of me was abusive. He used to tell me that I was not a battered wife because he never hit me. I see these same tactics being used by the Mormon church. The leaders have emotionally abused, spiritually abused, and gaslighted members since the inception of the organization. The members learned abusive behavior from early church leadership and they pass this abuse around to each other and on to their children.

The plain fact that members are afraid to leave the organization is evidence of abuse. What are they afraid of? I was taught by the leadership that I might be cursed for the rest of my life if I left the mormon church, but it wasn’t right for me (a woman who needed to divorce and to work outside of the home to support her children). I love myself and my daughters too much to stay in a situation where women are second-class citizens, so we left and let the consequences follow. Astonishingly, life got better.

Shame

Adult members are taught to feel ashamed if their children leave the church. “If only we’d prayed more often as a family!” Or “If only we had gathered our children together for daily scripture study!” Guess what? My family did those things, in addition to going to Girls’ Camp every year that I was in the Young Women organization, two one-week stints at Camp Oakcrest (expensive girls’ camp in Utah), and participating in Pioneer Trek, a re-enactment of the pioneers’ migration to the mormon valley – complete with rationed water and pulling/pushing handcarts. I left because the church is not right for me. I need to be able to wonder about things instead of being told what to think by church leaders. There’s no need to punish my mom for that.

failed as a parent
Some parents disown or stop supporting their children who have left the church. My mother is a lovely, loving person and did not disown me or punish me in some way for leaving, but I hear about this happening in other apostates’ lives and it sickens me. I listened to Godless Rebelution podcast episode 120 where they interviewed author Michael Rupp, who sheds a little light on what’s going on. He said that his parents limited their contact with him after he revealed he was gay and left the church. When asking Michael over for dinner, they’d request that he not bring his partner (now his husband) with him. Michael eventually told them that if he couldn’t bring his favorite person in the world, he would have to cut off contact out of self-preservation (paraphrased). Michael said that later on, through some training for work, he discovered that because mormons are taught that god’s love is conditional and that they could lose that love if they “disobeyed” commandments (basically, being involved with a person, place, or thing that doesn’t conform to mormon culture), they needed to reject anyone who didn’t conform out of their own self-preservation, so that they would not be rejected or punished by the church by holding non-conforming opinions. They patterned their love after the church’s conditional love.

if approval of your family

Tithing

Mormonism is a pay-to-play organization. In order to be “worthy” to go to the temple, members must pay tithes to the church in the amount of ten percent of their income. Bishops make sure members are keeping this “commandment” by scheduling meetings called tithing settlements at the end of each year. If the member hasn’t kept up on their tithing payments, their temple recommend (permission slip for entrance into the temple) can be revoked.highway robbery.jpg

Tithing is sometimes called “fire insurance” by church members and they often attribute good fortune in their life to having faithfully paid their tithing. Random things still happen to these faithful members (because life is random happenstance), but they don’t question their misfortune in the face of being a full tithe-payer. Instead, illness, death, and injury are stumbling blocks to test their faith – or even sent by Satan to tempt the member to question their faith. Paying tithing produces blessings. Pay to play for blessings, baby! I once heard an ex-mormon say that a car of one of the members of their congregation had broken down, so they took it to an auto mechanic who gave them a quote on the work that needed done, then gave them a discount. They attributed The Great Deal to having kept up on their tithing. But tithing couldn’t keep their car from breaking down in the first place. Weird, I know.

Paying tithing didn’t stop Elizabeth Smart from being kidnapped. Her family was living with a false sense of security because they believed church leadership that when members dot their Is and cross their Ts, they’ll be blessed with metaphysical protection. It is a lie. Random decisions made by people we don’t know affect our lives, whether we’re true believers, or not. Being mormon did not protect Elizabeth. I count her parents and other family members as victims of the kidnapping of Elizabeth, also. They thought they were living under an umbrella of protection, but they were not. The false sense of security the church teaches is a lie.

Many mormons don’t dare stop paying tithing, because they believe misfortune will visit them if they do. The randomness in my life didn’t change at all after I stopped paying it. What did happen is that I gained a 10% raise and developed an internal locus of control.

I worry about the amount of tithing my family pays to the church. It’s a physical sacrifice and an investment into their faith. If they look back on their years of paying, do the math, and discover that they’ve given $40,000 to the church, they’re $40k invested into the enterprise and are unlikely to walk away without that cash.

Obedience

Mormons are taught that obedience is the highest law. There are hundreds of rules detailing what they can or can’t eat or drink, the kinds of movies they can watch, and even the color and style of their underwear (which they buy from the church!). They trust in an external locus of control instead of developing their own internal locus of control – where true freedom is found. They possess agency with which to make decisions, but if a member made the decision to go shopping on a Sunday, an eerie feeling that they might be destroyed plagues their brain. Maybe they experienced good fortune in finding no waiting at the checkout line while they were at the supermarket, but they know that they broke the rules and now must wait for the unspecified consequences to play out. Next rotten circumstance they find themselves in, Boom! it’s because they shopped on Sunday (and the ox was not in the mire).

mormon teachings1

During a past general conference talk, the man speaking told the membership that even if a mormon leader told them to do something that was wrong, instead of questioning the leader, they should just obey. Through their obedience, they will be blessed – whether the leader was correct or not. I suppose that it is simpler to obey instead of thinking for one’s self, but the fact is, that leader is teaching the membership to turn off their brains. Members must surrender their will to the leadership, and if they don’t, the member is wrong.  When I was a mormon and trusted in the external locus of control of a heavenly father, I would watch for signs or listen for a still, small voice for direction in my life, along with following the teachings I learned at church. That method led me straight into the lair of a sociopathic spouse.

Since leaving mormonism, I’ve gone back to school for a B.S. and MBA, got SCUBA certified, traveled, and learned to fly fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft. I finished raising two happy and sweet daughters and followed my dreams to own a ranch and plant a vineyard. I would never have taken on these pursuits as a mormon, since members’ attention is supposed to always be focused on the church. (Even though the church touts that they’re all about families, the church is still the main focus, stealing the time and attention children need as their parents fulfill church-assigned duties.) The church keeps members’ attention through assigning busywork such as attending temple “sessions,” fulfilling church callings (unpaid jobs), doing temple work for their deceased family members (this is where their obsession with their family tree comes from) and translating death and birth records from various languages to English. They are expected at weekly congregation therapy, attend random ward barbecues, subscribe to church magazines, purchase church books, listen to speeches from top leadership twice a year during general conference, attend devotionals and firesides (talks by influential mormons which are re-broadcast from KBYU, BYU’s television station), read the Deseret News (Utah newspaper written for mormons by mormons) and act out their assigned gender roles. When I was growing up, two adult women in my ward (neighborhood) had nervous breakdowns and had to be hospitalized. These women were kind and gentle beings and I believe (now) that the church’s rigid control broke them. I’m glad they reached out for help, at least. The rest of the membership can’t wait for the end of the world. The World is a terrible and frightening place, they’re told. They’re taught that only the mormon church can save them from their fallen state.

Gaslighting

Members are taught to automatically believe anything that comes out of the mouths of the leadership. The problem is, the leadership lies (but they don’t like that word. They’d rather you use ‘untruth’). They don’t tell all that they know. They obfuscate (cover up or attempt to conceal church and leadership flaws and church history) to blind the members to problematic doctrine or history. Trust the prophet, they say. They want members to believe what they’re saying without question – and if a member questions them, they spiritually eviscerate that person, providing an ugly example of absolute power and control for other members.

and you know it

Members are taught to use their emotions over their intellect. They may inherently know that the golden plates Joseph Smith claimed to have run through the woods with to evade robbers weighed more than 400 pounds, but the church teaches them to focus instead on the “persecution” Smith was experiencing as he tried to bring about this “great work.”

Speaking of emotions, there is a full range of emotions that humans are capable of feeling and expressing, but the mormon church teaches members that the only acceptable emotions to express are happiness and joy. This causes the membership to be extremely passive aggressive. What do they do with their suppressed anger and frustration? Turn it toward outsiders, say the authors of “Captive Hearts, Captive Minds.” Church leadership call Others derogatory names, such as apostate, anti-mormon, non-believer, Korihor, and “so-called intellectuals.” Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 9:28-29 says “O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” This keeps members from considering their own ideas and developing their own moral compass. Repressing emotions leads to dysfunction and a need for counseling. But don’t go to counseling, because “prayer works!” the leadership teaches.

The church reassigns feelings of elation as The Spirit™ (holy ghost) and feelings of frustration or discord as the influence of satan.

The church strips the members of their humanity by asking them to call each other ‘Brother Smith,’ or ‘Sister West.’ In my opinion, the sisters are worse off by this practice because they’re not addressed by their own name at all, but their husband’s name. They’re in effect defining themselves by their husbands.

The church tricks members by not sharing what goes on in the temple until members actually attend the temple. You can google video of the ceremonies taken by NewNameNoah on YouTube. They don’t tell people that they have to dress up in silly baker uniforms with white hats and green aprons, that women have to veil their faces, that there is no mention of love within the marriage ceremony, that they will learn secret handshakes, or that men and women are each given a secret name. The man will learn his wife’s “new name,” but the wife is never supposed to know the husband’s new name. The church says the reason for this is because the husband is supposed to call his wife by her new name “through the veil” in the next life, taking her by the hand and physically (or metaphysically, as this existence is on another plane) pull her through a curtain into his kingdom. If you forgot your new name, never fear, ex-mormons have been compiling them at the Temple Name Oracle website for years. The names are volunteered by ex-members who no longer believe in the sacredness of new names.

Members are taught to sing the praises of church founder Joseph Smith, a conman, who once had to go to court (where he plead guilty) over an accusation of defrauding his neighbor by pretending to find treasure using a magic [seer] stone. Once members are in love with the idea that Joseph Smith was god’s gift to the world, any criticism of him or supposed evidence of sexual deviance is more easily dismissed as being anti-mormon.

The church possesses trite sayings in order to make their gospel sound simple: “The natural man is an enemy to God” (so, go un-natural?). “I know the church is true” (and I know Star Wars is true. I’ve seen all the movies). “Love one another” (I’m in love with the human race. We’re adorable! But mormons are taught to be judgmental of everyone, including themselves). “Families are forever” (this is so, even outside of mormonism. This saying prevents members from considering divorcing, even if it would be in their best interest to do so). “Even the very elect will be deceived” by false prophets (this one is in reference to people who leave the church and is meant to keep members holding tight to the iron rod. It’s another tool of self-flagellation because life is easier outside of the church; take my word for it). In truth, it is the member who’s being deceived. Even the very elect members.

The church teaches members that being human means they’re broken in some way. Members are pretty much unlovable dirtbags, “[But] the church loves you.” How can an inanimate organization love anything or anyone? We all feel security and well-being when we know we are loved, but how about just teaching members how to love t heir amazing, fabulous selves instead of teaching them they’re all sinners (a deceptively subjective label)? You know why. It’s to keep you inside the only organization who could ever love a silly human being like you.

gods abusive relationship

If you’re unlucky enough to attend a mormon funeral, you’re in for a sales pitch for their plan of salvation sermon. Family members might give talks on their relationship with the deceased or cheerful past memories that included the deceased, but while there’s a captive audience, the presiding bishopric member in attendance must try to sell the product (mormonism) to the people present. (There are no free rides – or usage of chapels – in this life!) It is morally offensive to me that they find a person or group of people who’ve lost someone special in their lives and then try to sell their loved one’s presence back to them by promising [complicated] eternal life. People attending funerals are somewhere in the grieving process. To convert them at a time like that is to take advantage of them, plain and simple. Mormons believe they’re providing comfort to the bereaved, but they’re factually collecting people at the lowest points of their lives: in a moment of weakness or vulnerability. This practice is an abomination. I’ve previously talked myself out of attending any more mormon funerals, but I’d secretly like to yell out “Crock of shit!” at least once during a future funeral. Maybe when I reach the little old lady stage, I’ll get away with it scott-free…

Church leadership teaches members that anyone who drinks alcohol is an alcoholic.

Mormon women are forced to ponder what it will be like when they have to share their husband with multiple women in the next life. I had to consider it in this life because my ex-husband floated the idea that it was in line with Brother Joseph’s original teachings. In fact, Brigham Young moved the fledgling mormon church outside of U.S. territory so that members could practice polygamy unhindered by the U.S. laws that prevented it. That’s why their mecca is located in Utah, which was part of Mexico during the 1840s. This is abuse. When my ex would talk about it, I would wonder why I wasn’t good enough that he’d need to recruit more wives. Women should not be taught that multiple women equal one man. They should never have to consider that their loving spouse’s time and attention will some day be shared with others.

Church leadership makes up words – like ponderize and non-consensual immorality -another word for rape. LGBTQ+ are not gay, according to the church, they’re SSA (same-sex attracted). They redefine words such as ‘true’ and ‘know.’ As in I “know” the church is “true.” How can they know? None of us have seen the golden plates. No one has, not even Joseph Smith (who fabricated their existence). What about ‘true?’ Shouldn’t they really say “I believe the church is truthful?” ‘True’ loses its meaning within the LDS realm.

Church leaders have incorporated the word ‘grace’ into their lingo since I’ve left the church. In other christian religions, grace is what Jesus Christ offers to sinners who accept Christ as their savior. Just believe in a christ, and you’re saved (you’ll go to heaven instead of outer darkness). Mormonism teaches that grace is offered after all of the good works one can do. Members can never be good enough, so grace makes up the difference.

Leaders in the church modulate their voices to a soothing cadence, lulling their audience into a trance-like state where harsh truths are accepted as gentle guidance instead of emotionally or spiritually abusive micromanagement. Members should be taught that they can trust their own minds, but the church won’t go there because they would lose the control they’ve been asserting over the membership for 180 years.

The church requires members to continuously rationalize their association with an organization where they must defend indefensible acts by said organization. Some members feel emotional and physical sorrow over the actions of the church against LGBTQ folks, but they feel that nothing can be done. They’re along for the ride (I felt this way when my ex would flout the rules). “Where will you go [if you leave us]?” church leaders have asked.

The church teaches members to focus on the next life instead of this life (in addition to their myriad church callings). This results in members living in misery as the mis-matched remain married, children [naturally] rebel, and general life happenstance (illness, death, financial insecurity) devastates families. But you can wait out most things – even if you cannot find joy in this life. “Endure to the end,” says the leadership. Members could find happiness if they viewed their life circumstances objectively, absent their mormon-colored glasses, but church leaders tell the membership that people who leave the church never find true happiness. But how can they know, if they have never lived life apart from the church? This is how stealthy their gaslighting can be.

study things outThe church whitewashes Joseph Smith history. They have to do it, because if you read any biographies about the man, he sounds like a megalomaniac. It isn’t fair to the members, though. If they don’t do the research themselves, they won’t find out from the church that Smith was practicing polygamy without his wife’s knowledge or permission. Smith was first sealed to Fannie Alger, not Emma Smith. Emma learned about sealing (marriage rites) after Smith had already established it. When Emma vocally opposed the practice of polygamy, Joseph pretended to receive a revelation from god, telling her she must accept the practice. Members won’t find out from the church that Smith was convicted of fraud in New York state just prior to organizing the religion. They won’t know that while the mormons were in Kirtland, Ohio, they started an illegal bank (Mormon leaders didn’t receive the required permission from the government, but they started the bank anyway. It failed). They won’t know about the Smith family being involved in counterfeiting unless they read this book, which they won’t, because anything critical of mormonism is not allowed.

Members are finally being informed about the seer stone that Smith used to supposedly divine the Book of Mormon from, but why all the talk about the urim and thummim, then? The urim and thummim was supposedly a pair of glasses Joe would look through to interpret the Reformed Egyptian language that was supposedly etched into the gold plates. Now the church posits that Joseph instead divined the Book of Mormon through a seer stone (and never needed the gold plates!). This is gaslighting. Finding out that the church has been lying to them for their entire life and having to yet again rationalize their continued participation in this secretive church is cruel.didnt need gold plates

What do members know? Member A possesses some knowledge of some things, and member B knows other things. If member A discovers something disturbing that they didn’t know before and they ask member B about it, member B might assuage member A’s fears about it by saying “Oh, I’ve known about that for a long time” if they’ve ever heard of it. Member B’s continued association with the church influences member A to set aside their reservations about the new information. Member B’s continued association with the church – even if the knowledge is that Joseph Smith once bribed a guard to let him out of jail using a horse – proves to member A that the church is true. The church is okay with this level of knowledge among the membership. It keeps the members off-balance and feeling like they’re not intelligent enough to know everything about the church, let alone everything they’d need to survive successfully without church leadership to guide them.

nothing to hide

This is a lie. The church doesn’t even expose the membership to its full history

Mormons seem to prefer to live in the state of arrested development their leadership proscribes. Adult members of the church could choose to watch a rated-R movie, but they’re taught to shun them. They might imbibe a beer or a glass of wine every now and then, except that church leaders have taught that this action leads to addiction. They use substitute swear words, like ‘fetch.’ You’re still swearing, man! (And doesn’t it feel good!?) They try to remain pure as a little child. Why? You’re adults! You can grow up and manage adulting in The World – and still remain an upstanding human being.

Conclusion

Why does the church practice abusive behavior? Because it keeps butts in seats. Members are filled with fear by the prospect of leaving their abuser. They count out all the good things about being in the religion and ignore the bad.

dont bail

When I was making the decision to divorce my first husband, it was the most difficult decision I’d ever encountered. I made a comparison list of all the good and bad things about our relationship that I could come up with. There were good times in the marriage, but the list of the bad was extensive.

Mormons dare not make a list.

They discount every rotten thing that happens in the church as if it couldn’t possibly be borne of systemic abusive practices. Practically speaking, mormons don’t see the abuse because they’re not looking for it. But abuse is abuse, even if the victim doesn’t know it’s abuse. Besides, their abuser reassures them often, telling them not to dwell on things that make them mad or sad, lest they allow a spirit of contention to grow in their hearts. Once the spirit of contention is present, satan enters your heart, then controls your actions. I’m not making up this next line, claimed as an excuse by christians everywhere: “The devil made me do it.”

Religion might bring comfort to some because it seems to organize the chaos in the world, but I’ve learned to trust myself in making decisions, instead of a corporation. Amid the chaos, I’ve carved out a lovely little life. I believe in myself and that I am the only one who can make decisions with my best interests at heart. I also believe in the milk of human kindness. I meet lovely people wherever I go. Mormonism will tell you different.i am not anti religion

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Organizational Morality

I recently read “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathon Haight. In an early chapter, the author explains how people reason with themselves to decide in which direction to proceed in a moral argument. This concept got me thinking about the moral template of religion – and specifically mormonism, since that’s the religion I’m most familiar with.

Mormonism comes with a template of morals complete with the reasoning already done for participants (believers). All a member has to do is plug into the system, act like everyone else acts, wear the same kinds of clothes (a uniform, in a way) and recite their beliefs. The recitation of beliefs can be done through myriad methods: song (hymns), sacrament rituals – including a memorized prayer,¹ or listening to speakers who touch on common themes and use the same words over and over again, such as: blessings, tender mercies, loving, happiness, heavenly father, and etc. These techniques all use repetition, but none matches the rote recitation that is also prevalent in mormonism.

For example, I still have the young women’s theme partially etched into my brain because I stood and recited it with my female peers every Sunday from ages 12 to 18:

“We are daughters of a heavenly father – who loves us, and we love him. We will stand as witnesses of God in every time and place…

faith,
divine nature,
individual worth,
knowledge,
choice and accountability,
good works,
and integrity.

We believe that as we come to accept and act upon these values…make and keep sacred covenants…receive the ordinances of the temple…”

I’m starting to forget – which I count as a good thing. I need the space for more important matters! If you’d like to know the full theme, find it here. There have been a couple of revisions since I was a teen.

It felt simple and safe to believe that the morals we were taught were the highest that mankind could achieve. As a naturally helpful person, I was already inclined to feel good about looking for ways I could help others (good works) and the choice and accountability part of the theme seemed logical to me because I believe that we all should be responsible for our actions. In a black and white world, they might stand the test of time, but the problem is, our world is mostly shades of gray.

When my moral template was challenged in the real world, I couldn’t explain the reasoning behind the morals I learned at church because I had not thought them through. I hadn’t come to my own conclusion, so when an atheist coworker in the military challenged me about whether heaven did or did not exist, I had to admit that I didn’t know. I just had to trust that my parents and leaders were correct in teaching me that heaven existed. (In fact, they said that it not only existed, but there were elaborate explanations regarding separate kingdoms according to how “worthy” or believing mormons were in this life.)

A friend and former classmate of mine, whose mother was briefly married to a mormon man several years prior, confided that she always found the concept of mormonism’s baptism by proxy – or baptism for the dead – to be a very strange practice. I surmised that from her point of view, I could see why she thought it was weird, but since I had grown up with it all my life (24 years at the time), it seemed normal to me.

A few years after that, I was challenged by yet another military coworker who asked me why I was a member of a racist church. This caused a lot of cognitive dissonance for me – first and foremost causing me to wonder how he knew about this open secret. I naively thought that only other mormons knew that the priesthood and temple ordinances had been inaccessible to black members of mormonism until 1978, when, bowing to legal pressure (specifically that the church was going to lose its tax-exempt status if it did not allow African Americans to become full members of the organization), and President Spencer Kimball rescinded the exclusion. Basically, there were no reasons left to exclude blacks, so the organization had to cave into the legal and social pressure.

(One might assume that a kind, loving, and all-knowing god in heaven would never have allowed the exclusion in the first place, but in order to remain a faithful mormon, free thoughts like these are not allowed. Just stick to the script and believe what they tell you.)

After this coworker’s verbal challenge, I had to admit to myself that my coworker was right, but I rationalized that the church had corrected this discrepancy. Besides, I am not racist. Before I could think this through properly, however, in the moment, I went into denial that the church’s racist policy had ever existed. As I heard the words exiting my mouth, I knew I was “lying for the Lord,” but I couldn’t stop myself. I felt shame that I was lying and was also irate that the church had put me into that position by never sharing how to handle the situation if it ever came up. It is likely that the subject never came up because church leadership never wanted to acknowledge the dastardliness that was former-day Mormonism. Just deny that it ever happened and – Poof! – that’s true. Mormons have the greatest moral template on earth, after all. Or so they believe.10802062_10205598119017558_5084894123910431133_nYears after I left mormonism, the church began to quietly release essays addressing prickly subjects that often cause people to leave (I say quietly because I heard that these essays were not delivered over the pulpit to members or discussed in class). I view the essays as apologist attempts to retain members. If a member searches lds.org for answers on the past racism of the church, they will find an essay titled Race and the Priesthood where current church leaders have thrown Brother Brigham (Brigham Young) under the bus for holding and teaching racist views. Those were different times, they say, when everyone was racist. Brother Brigham wasn’t the only one spouting ill-informed opinions from the pulpit. MormonThink.com has evaluated the contents of the racist priesthood essay (and is full of resources with which to examine mormonism more closely).

brigham-young-1058019

Um, excuse me, but if the organization is led by an all-knowing god – one who converses daily with LDS prophets – how could the organization ever have excluded someone based on something that they could not change? Besides that, anthropologists have proven that all human life originated in Africa. All of mankind shares the same DNA. I am half Finnish and a quarter Norwegian. My undersides are lily-white, yet my body contains African DNA – as do we all. I’d love to read a future essay addressing race and the priesthood including an explanation of their acknowledgment of this concept. Perhaps this could be combined with a future essay explaining how at first, the church taught that being gay was a choice and was sinful. As the mormon church has come to accept the social and medical sciences conclusions that being gay is natural and that human sexuality exists on a spectrum, church leaders teach that it’s okay to be gay – unless you act gay, in which case, you are a sinner.

If the LDS organization was in constant contact with an all-knowing being today, there would already be a place within mormonism for LGBTQ+ members – not merely a place of tolerance, but of loving acceptance of who they are and a celebration of their unique views. Instead, gay members are filled with more self-loathing than the standard, white, straight members – who, being taught that they are weak and need Jesus Christ to make them whole, are trapped into believing that their human-ness is bad or wrong, and a case for self-flagellation. Even worse, it causes members to judge non-members as being evil or amoral because we don’t follow or believe the teachings of The One True Church™. Members learn to distrust and fear outsiders. This concept is not really thought through by members, who are repeatedly taught that they hold the moral high ground in a black-and-white world.

If you haven’t thought through the reasoning of certain moral concepts being taught by your leadership, I encourage you to give it a go. Here’s another subject of morality having to do with racist practices in the LDS organization: Why are there no interracial couples or families pictured on church publications? Surely, they exist (I admittedly did not notice that this was the case until it was pointed out by another ex-mormon who is married to a man of another race). Church media includes photos of all the world’s races, but it seems that they don’t want to encourage its members to intermarry. Why do you think this might be the case?race priesthood pic

One more moral thought exercise: The LDS church has set up a welfare system to support its members who are less fortunate, but you’re not supposed to ever use it – and if you do, you’d better be a full tithe-payer, or you’re shit out of luck.² How moral is that? Because mormons participate in a prosperity gospel, they view the poor in their congregations as not as faithful as the middle class or wealthy families in the group. Else, why would Heavenly Father withhold blessings from them?

Look, if you don’t think through the rules and morals you live your life by, and merely accept them as they are taught to you, you are basically amoral. But the good news is, you can change your mind, engage your brain, and develop morals regarding all subjects and situations that come your way. I did, and I continue to run scenarios in my mind in order to work out what I’d do in any given situation because I want to back my actions with thorough reasoning.8514_10206846221292382_6014518731971186288_n

1. A funny story a friend in high school told me when it was his turn to pray over the sacrament: They were having problems with the microphone. They couldn’t get it to stay on, so my friend was having to re-start the prayer over again because if it’s not perfectly recited, it doesn’t work (or something!). The bishop finally just instructed my friend to recite the prayer as loudly as he could so that the congregation could hear him (because rules). Just before he set his voice to the prayer, the mike came back on, and the first two words came blasting through: “OH GOD!” This story still makes me chuckle.

2. A former coworker told me that his mom tried to get monetary help from her bishop, but the mom was behind in paying her tithing (10% of income), so she was turned down. My coworker was still an active mormon at that point. I wondered how I would feel about the church if I found out my mother had been treated the same way.

2a. Bishops have some leeway in whether they will provide assistance and for what. I knew a man who worked for a television cable company in Hawaii and he said he once saw a check written by the LDS church to pay for a member’s cable bill.

A final meme: atheist exp 1

Persistent Repetition

Although I left mormonism more than 15 years ago, every now and then I find myself frustrated over lingering susceptibility to some of the control techniques used within the organization. In a recent instance, it was a repetitive request to install a security update on my phone—and which resulted in shutting down my hot spot.

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I originally bought the phone to replace my internet service provider – a satellite service which was capped off at 20 GB per month. It was also sometimes quite slow, so my husband would have to move over to the hot spot on his business phone in order to get any work done. The ISP slow-ness became so obvious and frustrating that sometimes I’d just have to stand up and walk away or go mad. I began to also use my husband’s business hotspot after working hours. It happened so often that my husband suggested that we budget for a phone so that I could have a hot spot of my own. Then we could cancel our $60/month ISP and use the unlimited data on our hot-spot phones. My husband warned me though, that I shouldn’t install any software updates, or my third-party hot spot app might shit the bed.

I bought my phone in September and dutifully dismissed the requests for software updates that occurred every couple of weeks. But something unusual happened in February. I received a text and a “returned” call from two individuals whose phone numbers were similar to mine (the area code and prefix were exactly the same; only the last 4 were different), but were not in my contacts list. My number had been spoofed.

Luckily, the effects were short-lived, because one of the “fixes” I found for being spoofed was to change my number. I’ve had the same cell phone number for the last 13 years, so I didn’t really want to do that.

This experience left me feeling vulnerable, so the next time I received a prompt to install a “software” “security” update, I scheduled it to occur that night at 3 AM.

And it knocked out my hot spot.

I’m disappointed in myself for giving in to the redundant requests, but they had taken on an unrelenting quality and in the moment, I felt that if I went ahead with the update, I wouldn’t receive any more for a while.

Less than a week later, I received another software update request.

Sadly, when I look back to evaluate how my weak human brain allowed me to give in to a persistent, repetitive request – even though I knew it was dangerous – I find that the LDS organization isn’t the only entity that has taken advantage of this vulnerability. My first husband – a varsity level gaslighter – would do this all the time in order to convert me to his point of view. I won’t list all of the bullshit that he would tell me over-and-over-again (some of which regrettably slipped out of my mouth to others on subsequent occasions) suffice to say that repetition works as a planned, purposeful method of control. Television commercials use it (and any “brand” will put this to work, really). The trick is to harden this vulnerability into an impenetrable fortress – something I may be working on for the rest of my life.

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ICYMI: The title of the article linked at the top of this post is “Repetition Important In Teaching and Learning, Elder Bednar Says.”

Related: Mormon repetition and Gilligan’s Island

Joseph Smith’s 14-year-old Brides

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I recently participated in an online discussion on a good argument to someone defending Joseph Smith’s marriages to 14-year-old girls as being the standard age during the 1830s-1840s. My friend, James, had a multi-faceted argument that he agreed to let me share here. In this piece, he mentions children growing up in Joseph Smith’s home. He and Emma fostered several children over the years and Joseph ended up marrying some of the girls–two who were sisters.

Guest Post by James

To start with:
1) Clearly, it was NOT normal “standards of the day” — because if it was, Joseph wouldn’t have had to keep it so secret from his wife, the church, the rest of the world, and destroy a printing press over it.

2) It’s a double standard to paint Joseph as a poor, unlearned 14 year old farm boy – too young to even decide which church to join — yet say that 14 year olds were so super mature they could totally handle polygamy.

3) The average age of first period was ~17 back then: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menarche…

OK, now let’s talk sexual morality.

14 year olds CAN, and do, have sex. So beyond the “icky” factor, why is it immoral for a teacher to have sex with a student? How old is too old?

We have statutory rape laws to prevent abuse of power dynamics, and preserve the ability of teenagers and children to fully consent to sex. A 14 year old can very easily be manipulated by adults, especially if the adult has a power dynamic in play (eg. parent-child, teacher-student, boss-employee).

In the case of Joseph, you have classic abuse of power — limited time offer, position of authority, threats, grooming, isolation from family members, the list goes on and on. Helen Mar Kimball even describes that she “freely gave to purchase so great a reward.” (e.g. promised eternal salvation for her and her family). Other wives agreed only after Joseph said that an angel would kill him, and faced with the threat of the Prophet’s death, the women agreed. This is like walking through a park and having a guy with a gun jump out, with your bishop held at gunpoint, saying he will shoot if you don’t have sex. This is also called rape. It is wrong.

In the church’s polygamy apologetics, God is a rapist and a pimp, Joseph and the leaders are victims, and women, wives, and teenage girls are to be pimped out to increase the glory of the priesthood leaders:

“Benjamin F. Johnson later remembered Smith teaching during this time about the eternal implications of the families created through plural unions. “The First Command was to ‘Multiple’ [sic] and the Prophet [p.116] taught us that Dominion and power in the great Future would be Commensurate with the no [number] of ‘Wives Childin [sic] and Friends’ that we inherit here and that our great mission to earth was to Organize a Neculi of Heaven to take with us. The increase of which there would be no end.”

Citation: (http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fsignaturebookslibrary.org%2F4-zinas-05%2F%23mormon42&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNFOrsYU81or9E3KWctRoen0KYmrnw)

Some apologetics say Joseph didn’t have sex, so it’s OK. They are still horribly wrong, because these women were stuck with Joseph. They couldn’t have sex with anyone they chose. It’s also immoral to “claim” a child as yours, but wait to have sex with them until they’re 18. That’s still violating their ability to consent to who they can have sex with.

Mostly Good, But…

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One thing I often hear from mormon members is that the LDS organization accomplishes a lot of good. They do have a pretty good welfare program for members in need, even if said members must be full tithe-payers (10% of gross or net income, depending on which mormon you ask) in order to take advantage of the food, clothing, or a check for rent–or other, depending on what the member’s local bishop decides they need (a member once told me that his mother couldn’t get help from her bishop because she hadn’t been paying tithing (because she didn’t feel she could afford it)). The LDS organization also donates to natural disasters, although some say that that they could afford to donate more, especially as compared to Walmart, an actual corporation.

No matter how much “good” comes out of the mormon organization, the organization itself is tainted by the obfuscation of their origins and outright lies (such as an LDS leader recently saying that there are no gay mormons).

Sara, blogger of Sara Simply Says, gives the organization the cookie test. Even if there are minute traces of dog poop in a cookie, you still wouldn’t want to take a bite out of it. Great analogy, Sara!

Dog Poop Cookies

 

Another Exit Story

This person describes how he studied LDS history in order to bolster his testimony and defend the LDS organization against criticism. He was, in effect, an apologist of the fairlds(dot)org variety. But when he studied information for and against the Book of Abraham, he concluded that the BoA was a work of fraud–and that Joseph Smith compiled it with the full knowledge that he was not being truthful.

It is monumentally jarring to realize the expanse of the fraud once your mental shelf has crumbled and you clearly see what the LDS organization really is.

I like how, when he realized that he could no longer believe in the LDS organization, he immediately asked to be released from his calling in the bishopric and no longer participated in LDS meetings. When I realized in 2001 that the LDS organization was not being truthful (even if they only lied through omission of its history, as far as I knew), continuing to participate in the organization would have felt as if I were lying to other members and perpetuating a fraud on the world.

http://entreated.blogspot.com/2006/05/why-i-left-lds-church.html?

Borrowing from @NewNameNoah: Do you want the truth, or do you want the church to be true? I want to know the truth–every time.

truth

 

 

Deifying Joseph Smith

Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints claims to worship Jesus Christ (re: their official name) and, I assume, God, the members seem to worship and deify Joseph Smith, a mortal man. Just read through the lyrics of Praise To The Man:

(Opening verse:) Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah, Jesus anointed that prophet and seer. Blessed to open that last dispensation, Kings shall exalt him and nations revere!

Hail to the prophet, ascended to heaven. Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain. Mingling with Gods he can plan for his brethren; death cannot conquer the hero again.

Or view this YouTube video of the hymn if you prefer (note the accompanying video description, which I read with great irony: “For a testimony of the restored gospel to be complete, it must include a testimony of Joseph Smith’s divine mission. The truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the truthfulness of the First Vision and the other revelations the Lord gave to the Prophet Joseph. President John Taylor, the third President of the Church, wrote, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it”.”).

If you’ve never criticized Joseph Smith’s personality or actions in the presence of a mormon, let me just tell you that they take criticism–or skepticism–regarding Joe’s motives or mannerisms in the same way they receive “blasphemous” observations about God: poorly!

A family member once asked me if I was calling Joseph Smith a liar–and did I really think that a garden-variety liar would subject himself to the persecution that Brother Joseph did?? What I wanted to say was that, not only was Joe a liar, but I’m pretty sure he was a narcissistic sociopath. I held back, though–regrettably.

Mormons are so enamored by Joseph Smith that they have even improved and upgraded his likeness in their modern-day materials, to make him more appealing to a modern-day audience, I assume.

This is the likeness that I was familiar with, which was included on the inside cover of Books of Mormon published in the 1980s:

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Since that time, this image has been circulated:

joesmithimages

And I’ve recently discovered that this is an official Joe Smith portrait circulated by the LDS organization:

Joseph book

He looks sort of beautiful here–and knowledgeable, with a book in his hand

It’s unfortunate that Brother Joseph didn’t live in the age of photography, so we could see his actual image–or did he??

This site asserts that the picture below might very well be a photo taken of Joe Smith around 1839. They include digital comparisons between this photo and his death mask.

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Looks nothing like the blonded-up, current portrait

The author at the death mask comparison site makes a pretty convincing argument, including the dates he might have visited a Pennsylvanian photographer.

Here are early portraits of Joe, the second of which graces the cover of Fawn Brodie’s Joseph Smith biography, No Man Knows My History:

weggeland-joseph-smith-2                         Joseph_Smith,_Jr._portrait_owned_by_Joseph_Smith_III

He appears to be decidedly brunette, just as his first wife Emma described him in her journal.

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So, why does the LDS organization want him to appear more blonde and beautiful? Maybe we can get a clue from the current Primary (LDS children’s organization) presidency:

primary

For a worldwide religion, their leadership sure over-represents the white and delightsome demographic

 

To re-cap, here are the side-by-sides of the Joseph Smith likeness over the 186-or-so years of the existence of the LDS organization:

deified

The LDS marketing organization is hard at work, crafting an ever-more appealing likeness, I’m sure. Marketing is sort of a lie, though. It is the duty of a marketing department to create a need within potential customers to convince them to buy the product or service (or religion!) they’re selling.

I don’t find the new packaging appealing–but that’s because I’m fully aware of what’s included in the fine print on the package they’re selling.

Is this appealing to you?

 

would i lie

Beware anyone asking this question, because the answer may very well be “yes.”

 

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Edit: I recently realized that I neglected to include an assertion by Brigham Young that bolsters my claim that Latter-Day Saints have deified Joseph Smith and, therefore worship him. (I’m only human, so I hope the reader will forgive this oversight.) Brother Brigham claimed that Joseph Smith approves or rejects those who desire to enter into heaven.

Brigham Young recorded this in the Journal of Discourses (a record of speeches given to members):

“Joseph Smith holds the keys of this last dispensation, and is now engaged behind the vail in the great work of the last days. I can tell our beloved brother Christians who have slain the Prophets and butchered and otherwise caused the death of thousands of Latter-day Saints, the priests who have thanked God in their prayers and thanksgiving from the pulpit that we have been plundered, driven, and slain, and the deacons under the pulpit, and their brethren and sisters in their closets, who have thanked God, thinking that the Latter-day Saints were wasted away, something that no doubt will mortify them – something that, to say the least, is a matter of deep regret to them – namely, that no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are – I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent. He holds the keys of that kingdom for the last dispensation – the keys to rule in the spirit-world; and he rules there triumphantly, for he gained full power and a glorious victory over the power of Satan while he was yet in the flesh, and was a martyr to his religion and to the name of Christ, which gives him a most perfect victory in the spirit-world.  He reigns there as supreme a being in his sphere, capacity, and calling, as God does in heaven. Many will exclaim – “Oh, that is very disagreeable! It is preposterous! We cannot bear the thought!” But it is true.”     – Journal of Discourses 7:289 (Oct 9, 1859)

Notice that Brother Brigham used the persecution complex tool that Brother Joseph established for the organization while he was alive.

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As per usual, apologists for the LDS organization have rationalized Brother Brigham’s comments on this subject by using circular logic and biblical sources. Note that the third of the three apologists goes to great lengths to justify Young’s claim. However, if you know anything about human nature, over-explaining things is usually an indication that it is a lie. Truth is simple.

Brigham Young claimed many other interesting (and blasphemous? despicable?) things during his tenure as president of the mormon church. Luckily, they were recorded for our perusal and consideration. This site has compiled many of them. If the reader suspects that these statements are taken out of context and desires to read the full speeches, they can be searched for within LDS sites, including this Journal of Discourses site.

The Passive-Aggression of [the Church of Jesus] Christ [of Latter-Day Saints]

Former mormons are familiar with the passive-aggressive manner in which our mormon friends and family “deal” with us—partly because we were also conditioned to act that way while growing up. Whenever my family would have an argument or other conflict, we would exit the situation, go on, and pretend that it never happened. This was mostly due to always trying to be a peacemaker (as we were trained), but this reaction (or non-reaction?) stunted our interpersonal skills.

It’s been an ongoing process for me to develop healthy conflict resolution methods in the here and now. A lot of times, I let my frustration with a person or situation build until it results in blowing my top. I know blowing up is a ridiculous way to act, but when could I have altered course to keep from getting so angry? This is a character trait I’m actively working on. I recently bought the book Thank You For Arguing so that I might be able to develop skills for persuasive argument sans anger.

Mormon leaders have long taught the passive-aggressive way to handle the problem of people leaving their organization by attacking the character of those who dare to leave. You’ll see this method at work if you ever disagree with a mormon about something. The “You’re stupid” is invoked in place of an argument when their arguments over an issue get them nowhere or are otherwise non-persuasive. This is not an accident. This is how they’ve learned to deal with people who think outside of the mormon box.

LDS leaders have conditioned members to act like that by participating in name-calling. If we left their organization, there must have been something wrong with us, not the organization (which, members are told, is “perfect”). We “heathens” are their “enemies.” We are inactives, dissenters, unbelievers, amoral/immoral, prodigal sons and daughters, apostates, lost, sinners, blind, anti-mormon, Korihors, unworthy. Some might use even stronger labels like dumb, idiots, losers, and damned, and they expect us to “be destroyed” (whether that’s a curse from god or apostates are prone to self-destruction are left undefined). And we are also apparently patty-cake taffy pullers.

In a recent talk at a conference in Arizona, Elder Jeff Holland came up with another couple of creative names for people who leave mormonism. He declared with some anger that those who leave have no conviction (loyalty). “What kind of patty-cake, taffy-pull experience is that?” he demanded.

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My choice to leave mormonism was not an easy one. Truth be told, it would have been easier to stay in the group, with all its social benefits, and pretend to believe, but out of honesty to myself and others–to be authentic–I could not remain a part of the organization. I abhor trickery and fakery, which meant that I could not continue to participate in or support mormonism.

Jeff Holland’s words were not meant for those of us who apostatized, though. They were stated to keep members from considering leaving–to prevent them from thinking critically about the LDS organization or its teachings. If members don’t have the conviction to stay, they are told that there is something wrong with them–they’re not as faithful and strong as those who stay. Members naturally don’t want to be called names, so they insulate themselves with the community and propaganda that mormon artists, authors, and wards provide. They don’t want to know what life is like without the religion that they love and feel protects them. Holland’s words remind them that they will be looked down on if they decide to leave, so they avoid anything that might shake their faith.

I believe that faith and being faithful are characteristics of good quality. However, since leaving mormonism, I have discovered that I have the choice in where or whom I place my devotion in. Thinking critically about everything and everyone coming my way has concentrated my trust in myself, my family and my friends. I used to implicitly trust anyone else who was mormon–because that’s what I learned to do while growing up. But now I know that each of us has quirks and personalities that should be evaluated individually. Just because someone is a part of a certain organization (that they’re taught to “stand for,” whatever that means) doesn’t mean that they or their organization is worthy of trust.

I have a life example of this misplaced trust being abused. When I was 6-7 months pregnant with my first child, I developed a pain in my side which worsened to the point that I couldn’t stand straight up. It was a kidney infection, but I didn’t know it at the time. I’d never been pregnant before, so I didn’t know if it was a complication of the pregnancy (which was already uncomfortable) or another health issue. I spent a couple of days shuffling around work Quasimoto-style, until a coworker urged me to visit the doctor.

My middle-aged coworker told me that her friend had had a similar symptom and when she finally visited the doctor, she found that she had a disease (so many years have passed that I can no longer recall the particular disease she mentioned). This information frightened me and I made an appointment with the base Naval hospital for that afternoon.

Military medicine did not assign a primary caretaker for pregnancy then, so I was used to seeing a different doctor each time I visited the clinic for checkups. That time, a female doctor I’d never seen before took my case. I was so agitated when I reached the hospital that I must have misheard the specific instruction to disrobe. I took off my boots, socks, and pants and sat on the examination table with the paper robe provided by a nurse covering my lap.

When the doctor arrived, I found that I was instead supposed to disrobe my top half, not the bottom. Oops. Already feeling foolish, I told the doctor what my coworker had explained about her friend’s dread disease.

She laughed at me.

She told me that the baby had probably just turned and was leaning up against one of my internal organs. She told me to take two aspirin and hold a cold can of soda against my belly to try to urge the baby to turn again. As she was leaving, she also instructed me to stop by the lab and provide a urine sample for analysis.

I was feeling ashamed and belittled–and I was angry at the doctor for being so flippant and dismissive. I left the hospital without going to the lab. In my experience, the results of labs weren’t even looked at until my next appointment (with a new doctor), so I wondered what the use was. But mostly, I was just mad. Later that night, my (now-ex) husband took me back to the hospital because not only did the pain not dissipate, but I had also started to vomit over and over again. That’s when I found out that I had a kidney infection. I was put on meds and ordered to rest for three days.

That might have been the end of the story, except…

A couple of months after that, I was in the Relief Society (mormonism’s women’s organization) room at the ward house and who should I see, but that dismissive doctor! I felt so much more betrayed by her presence there. Here she was, a mormon like me, but she’d made me feel small and even more foolish than I had started out that day, right in front of her assistant–and while supposedly carrying out her “professional” duties.

It jarred me to realize that I couldn’t trust other mormons to be kind. Growing up in the religion, I was taught that mormons have higher standards than everyone else (anyone not mormon), but I experienced a first-hand account of being mocked and made to feel foolish for no good reason except for the doctor to have a laugh at the ignorant (and maybe a bit spastic and hypochondriac-al) girl.

I had my pride wounded and my feelings hurt due to misplaced trust in my former organization and its membership, but at least I haven’t lost my life’s savings in an investment scheme. Apparently, affinity fraud is an enormous problem in the mormon capital of the world: Utah. Mormons may say that their standards are higher than the general population, but there are still wolves among them, ready to take advantage of the trust of other mormons.

My default setting (thanks to mormonism) is still to trust what people say, but now that I know that some people are untrustworthy, I can use new knowledge and past experiences to make better decisions. Next time someone has a great, ground-floor-level, don’t-pass-this-up, good-only-for-today, no-brainer of an investment deal or business idea, be sure to use a Bullshit-O-Meter (or critical thinking) to make sure it’s really valid. For starters, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

Trust no one.

 

 

Letter to My Mormon Family

I posted this missive on Facebook following my Love & Horror post. By writing this, I hoped to give a voice to every apostate from mormonism as to what they wish they could say to their families who remain mormon.

Dear Mormon Family,

You didn’t expect that a person with “hell” in their name wouldn’t raise some of it every now and again, did you?

I know I won’t reach everyone with this missive; out of self-preservation, some are looking in the other direction or have unfriended me completely. I understand. You should do what you need to do to protect yourselves. So as prayers are being emitted on my behalf from homes in every clime and place this weekend, I just wanted to let you know that I love you and that I always will. I would never purposefully harm you. That being said, please read on.

Growing up Mormon taught me that family was the most important institution on earth. Where would we be without our families? I still hold that families are the most important organization anywhere. I was born into a great one. But something is coming between us, barring open communication and the building of relationships. It is the Mormon church. Did you know that I mute what I really want to say on Facebook and in our personal interactions? I do, for fear that you might take offense. Often, I read a great article or essay that I’d love to share on my wall, but I can’t. It contained a swear word. Nor could I previously air my current views on the LDS church or religion. My family is amazing and I love knowing you and keeping in touch, but Mormonism is preventing us from knowing each other as we really are. Does it seem right to you that we have to wear masks in front of each other?

In a previous post, I suggested that members are in love with the LDS church and that’s why they feel that any criticism of the church is criticism directed toward themselves. It hurts to be criticized over something that we can’t change. I know the pain, because I was once in your shoes and I felt it. I wish that it didn’t have to be so! The thing is, being part of the Mormon church is a choice we’re making, right? It can be changed, right? You can leave…as long as you’re okay with disappointing your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins—basically all the rest of your family who are members, past and present. It almost feels like they’re holding my family hostage. (What a jealous lover!)

LDS church leaders know that in our hope to always be loved and accepted by our family members, we don’t want to disappoint them, so many members stay with the organization to please their families, even with a mental shelf heavy with problems or issues that they privately hold about the church, but don’t dare to explore. Mormon teachings have institutionalized a divide by labeling those family members who leave as inactives, dissenters, unbelievers, amoral/immoral, prodigal sons and daughters, apostates, lost, anti-mormon, Korihors, unworthy. By assigning a label, the church would have you believe that those who leave should be cut out of the family, lest they infect the rest. The only reason that it’s safe to have an inactive family member at family functions is if they don’t say anything negative about the church. I believe that’s why my family hasn’t turned their back on me so far—because I knew that the church was a sensitive subject that I needed to keep quiet about. It’s like walking on eggshells around this entity. This is the same reason that my other relatives who have left do not speak out about the church. In fact, I write this knowing that they’ll probably experience pain by proxy, knowing that it will hurt my believing family members to hear me speak plainly. Is it too much to ask that we stop all the secret-keeping?

Mormons whose family members have left the church literally believe that those who have left are lost to them, because they’re not going to end up in the same part of heaven as a forever family. But we’re not lost. We’re right here with you. If the church was gone from the earth tomorrow, we’d still be a family. Literally forever.

There are a lot of great qualities about the LDS church. They have done craploads of genealogical research and shared it with the world so that everyone can know their roots. They have wonderful music and the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The church has inspired artists to create lovely works of art and literature. But they don’t have a monopoly on everything lovely or beautiful. Consider all of the wonderful and amazing art and music that was created before the church came about and is still being created outside of the church. Isn’t that also inspired?

I was once in an abusive marriage, but didn’t realize it. I didn’t know verbal abuse was actual abuse. Family members offered their hands to try to help me out, but I waved them away. I was fine. Except that I wasn’t. My right hand didn’t know what my left hand was doing. While I was manning a military post as a gate guard one night, my ex-husband was carousing and committing crimes against other people. And I was along for the ride. The LDS church is harming already-marginalized people (and their children) by trying to convince their members that any family unit that doesn’t meet the cookie-cutter mold of Mormonism is wrong, bad or evil. Some Mormons may disagree, but what can they do? They’re along for the ride.

I wish that Mormons would not agree and go along with everything their leaders are preaching, especially because they can’t be sure whether they’re truly inspired by God this time, or just men speaking as men (as they’ve characterized racist statements made by Brigham Young and other leaders). I know why members can’t stop following blindly. It’s because they are in love and that love has made them blind to any faults that the church or leaders have. Instead of creating an enemy out of anyone who is different, the LDS church could be tackling real-world problems like eradicating world hunger or disease. They probably already do some work to eliminate these (actual) problems, but what is the purpose of perpetuating an Us versus Them myth? In my opinion, it is being done strategically to “circle the wagons,” just as Mormonism has done since its inception, by spoon-feeding its members out of a big bowl of persecution complex. But if you believe in a loving god, why would He want you to exclude people who are different? They are still people, after all.

Think of what this newly-enacted policy regarding gay members teaches Mormon children. Kids can be cruel, especially when they view themselves as living in a black and white world with no gray areas. Not only will they learn that it is okay to be fearful of (and fear leads to hate) LGBTQ folks, but the progeny of those people as well. They already create mini-tribes of their own within the church—exclusive clubs who pass judgment on and exclude their peers. I first ran into such a group when I moved to Utah. I don’t know if it was because I was ugly, poor, didn’t have a father, or what. The exact reason that a particular group of girls my age wouldn’t open their arms in friendship and inclusiveness to me during all of our growing-up years remains a mystery. I was 8. Do we really want to keep perpetuating this exclusivity and judgment of others?

So, I want to ask my Mormon family members to break up with their abusive boyfriend—the one who controls what you think by repeatedly telling you what you should think. You are proud when news articles cast Mormonism in a positive light, but embarrassed, confused, or defensive when the news is not so rosy. It doesn’t have to be a divorce, just take some time away in order to develop some outside perspective. Call it a month-long mini-break. Talk to his mom (read Lucy Mack Smith’s diary), read church history (the earliest versions of the Doctrine and Covenants available). Read any biography on Joseph Smith you can find.

The LDS church leadership doesn’t want their secrets spilled, especially to their members. In fact, they’d rather rename the term “secret” to “sacred” because being secretive might denote something sinister. So they keep sacred secrets. But if a neighbor or authority figure told your child to keep a secret—even a sacred secret, would you be okay with that?

In the end, if you stay with the Mormon church, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s nice to feel comfortable and safe. I felt comfortable there for 30 years, until I realized I was being lied to. I love you, all of my family members and I always will. I want you to leave this belief system that is harmful to you and to our family. The sacrifices they ask you to make are too great. I hope you will take this in the spirit of love that it was intended to be. I know that I don’t possess the flowery language heard over the pulpit. I haven’t been deceived by Satan. I’m still me. This is the real me and I’d like to know the real you. I’ve learned some things about the religion that we all grew up in that you should know about. Don’t take my word for it. Do the research and discover for yourselves. Ask former members why they left. Just…”do it.”

Love always,
Michelle

P.S. Don’t let your embarrassment by proxy cloud what I have just said (Mom). I literally do not care what people think of me. I shed that hangup when I left the church. I just want my family intact and out of this organization. If this essay cuts me out of my family, well, that’s exactly what the LDS church would want, isn’t it?

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What Mormonism Taught Me

Last year I read a book called Recovering Agency – Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control by Luna Lindsey. It isn’t only mormonism that uses mind control techniques, but for all high-demand groups, they must manipulate their members to keep them from leaving. The author illustrates this in her book. For example, she tells of the researcher who was fully aware of these mind control techniques who visited a religious meeting with the purpose of studying these techniques and she felt so flattered by the attention of the members that she felt that she’d like to be a part of their group.

Reading Recovering Agency showed me how I had been manipulated by the LDS organization (and other organizations such as participating in a multi-level-marketing scheme) and why even very intelligent people are sucked in or are stuck in it. When the LDS policy leaked last year specifying same-sex marrieds were to be labeled apostates and excommunicated and that their progeny could not become members until they were 18 years old and disavowed their parents’ relationship, I wrote this essay:

Mormon Sensitivity (alternate title: Love & Horror)

I’ve been turning this question over in my mind for the last few days and it has finally resulted in an epiphany. My question was this: Why is it that mormons are so sensitive about criticism directed toward their organization? The members aren’t THE mormon church–the corporate entity. They are only participants of said association and most are in fact lovely, kind, and generous people. Yet, they persist in taking ownership of the barbs directed at the organization. I wish it weren’t so, because they deserve so much better than to be objects of flagellation. But I clearly recall that I did the same thing when I was a member.

This extreme sensitivity is not a good thing. It has surely had a negative impact on my relationships with my mother, my siblings and possibly my extended family. I don’t particularly enjoy hearing about mormon events and culture (their lives, basically!) and they certainly don’t want to hear what I have to say about mormonism, so there’s a lot that we can’t talk about.

My realization occurred this morning when I recalled getting upset over criticism that was directed at my ex-husband last year, of whom I’ve been divorced from for eight years. Mike and I were visiting friends in Boise and the subject of my ex came up. My friend heartily (and with relish!) crucified my ex for all of his many faults. My friend, a former coworker, had gotten to know my ex while we lived in Boise for a little over a year between 1999 and 2000.

My friend was right about my ex. He was not a nice person. He was horrible to me and to our children. I’m fairly certain that he will be in prison someday…again. This is one of my shameful secrets that I don’t normally reveal. Even though it’s not really MY secret. This happened while we were both in the Marine Corps. He was in the brig and I was a military police officer. Talk about awkward. I remained married to him before, during and after his court martial and jail sentence. Looking back, that would have been the perfect time for me to leave the marriage, but I was a good, little mormon girl and I believed in the process of repentance that my ex could go through to correct his “mistake” and return to the path of righteousness. I also believed in keeping the family together.

I also loved him.

When my friend was talking about what a misogynistic, racist, narrow-minded loser my ex had been, I started to experience feelings of helplessness and defensiveness. And confusion. After all, I had chosen to be with him. I didn’t leave when he first began to be verbally abusive, controlling, and unpredictable in his outbursts. It started out as joking, actually, then increased in sharpness and frequency over the years. I stayed, hoping and praying that we could overcome what was happening in our relationship. I still stayed after he screamed in my face–so close to me that his spittle rained down on my cheeks. I stayed even when he broke several items of furniture in our home after I had somehow raised his ire. He often assured me that I was not a battered wife because he never laid a hand on me. He only used words. And threats. And shaming.

According to him, I was a workaholic, an internet-addict, and a person whose
capacity to forgive was defunct. (Oh, I’d forgiven him for doing what he did to
land himself in jail, but forget? Never.) He accused me of cheating on him. He accused me of lying about how I’d gotten a scar on my elbow! I wasn’t trustworthy. He made me feel badly for being a woman. While I may have been each one of the -aholics listed above (later, during the divorce, he added alcoholic to this list), there was nothing that I could do to change being female.

So it flew in the face of reason that I would come to my ex’s defense. I didn’t really say anything just then, only felt the feels, but what I was really doing was feeling that I needed to defend myself for choosing him, for marrying him, and for staying with him for far, far too long. I stayed with the full knowledge that he hated me with such passion that if he could have gotten rid of me without losing his meal ticket (that’s right, he was jobless) and hide the body so that he could possibly avoid jail, he would have done it.

So, even though the LDS organization is not a living, breathing entity and is not deserving of protection (let their many lawyers handle it!), I know why its members feel defensive over criticisms of it.

They love it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My story has a prequel. It is this: growing up in the LDS organization made me the perfect candidate for an abusive relationship.

I was conditioned to implicitly trust the adults in my life.

I was never taught about boundaries–how to erect my own, nor how to respect the boundaries of others.

I was taught to wear a mask. No matter how awful things were at home, when you went to church, you put that smiley mask on and made nice.

I was taught that showing any emotion aside from joy was a bad thing.

I was taught to hide who I really was and to pretend we were the perfect family. Unbeknownst to me, I couldn’t hide the “eccentric” (his words) behavior of my ex. He was/is pretty much a narcissistic sociopath, which everyone could see, but me. His behavior had become normal to me.

I was taught that there is dishonor in saying the words “I don’t know.”

I was taught not to think for myself. “When our leaders speak the thinking has been done.” I was always waiting for someone to tell me what to do or to confirm whether I was right or wrong, not to think critically and consider things from all angles.

I was taught to suspend reality by not worrying about the here and now, but to look instead toward my existence in the next life.

I was taught that our trials in life were put there on purpose, to teach us a lesson that we must learn.

I was taught that I was working toward some great reward.

I was taught that if I just prayed harder and had more faith, god–a father who knew me and loved me–would bless me and somehow lift me and my girls up and out of the terrible situation we were in.

I was taught that if it was the will of the lord, I would die at the hands of my ex-husband and that this would have been predestined if it had taken place.

I was taught that I was weak and that instead of fighting back, I should be a peacemaker and smooth things over.

I was taught that everyone’s a sinner. I was a sinner and I was pretty much worthless unless I took on the mantle of being a mormon and truly believed in a savior to make up for all of my shortfalls.

I was taught to judge others. Some “sins” were greater than other “sins.” But if I could hide my sins, I might still be accepted by my LDS peers.

I was taught that men are better than women. That men should be the leaders in the home, not women. I, as a woman, couldn’t make the journey to the highest kingdom in heaven without a man to take me there.

My ex used each of these things that mormonism had originally taught me and shamelessly used them to control and manipulate me, but the last was the worst.

I was taught that divorce was one of the most hideous acts that one could partake in. And my ex was counting on my being a good mormon to keep that in mind and allow him to keep ruling over his kingdom. This tenet of mormonism was what took me so long to pull the trigger (well, that and being in denial for a long time about how awful the situation was). When I finally made the decision to file for divorce, it was only after thinking to myself that surely, a loving god/father would not leave their child in a situation like mine. If I didn’t get my children out of that situation, they could look forward to a lifetime of abuse and manipulation from this person. It seemed to me that even if I weren’t there to keep him in the lifestyle he was used to (the walmart lifestyle, lol), my ex would somehow enlist his daughters into serving him for the rest of his life. And this religion seemed to be sanctioning the cycle of abuse by demonizing divorce. I realized then that religion could be harmful. I was in an impossible situation because of an organization with impossible rules and responsibilities. I could never hope to achieve the level of perfection that was held up as the standard mormon woman. Who could? It suddenly felt like an elaborate lie. I mean, if someone could invent a religion, is that what Joseph Smith did? My daughters deserved better and I deserved better. I left the church, then filed for divorce.

Epilogue:
It still took five years for my divorce to be finalized. This was mostly because my ex was exacting revenge for divorcing him. He’d promised me that he would make it last as long as he possibly could. Utah courts obliged. I’m still alive all these years later. My ex didn’t kill me. But that’s probably only because I told him that I would haunt him if he did. 😉