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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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. 😉

Perpetual Mormondom

I have recently come to realize a couple of things about LDS Mormonism. The first is that Mormonism makes complete sense once you know that it’s all made up. All the questions that don’t have answers are responded to by the organization in this manner: “Some day—perhaps in the next life—we’ll know the answers.”

And the missing 116 pages of the BoM that Martin Harris lost? Brother Joseph couldn’t re-accomplish the translation because there surely would have been differences between the first and second translations–and then Mrs. Harris would have been proven right about her husband falling for a ruse (Martin Harris was described as being a superstitious and very gullible person) and that Joe Smith, Jr. was a fraud (already a charismatic storyteller from birth, according to his mother, Lucy Mack Smith).

The second is realizing the pure perpetuity of mormonism and recognizing the fact that, as much as I’d like it to cease existing, mormonism will probably exist for-actual-ever, until the end of time. With an initial push from Brother Joseph, the ball was rolling and was set up in such a way that the LDS organization will never die.

My epiphany on this subject came about by asking myself this question: what if the whole sending-mormons-on-missions is a self-sustaining method of keeping mormonism alive through the centuries? The mishies contact people, letting their distinctive and obvious presence be known, thereby biting and leaving an itchy, mosquito-like bite on the world’s butt.

Maybe some people will convert to the religion, but those who don’t are at least aware of the religion’s existence, even if they’re not irritated by the unwelcome intrusion. Those people who are contacted and don’t join are “against the church,” say the leaders, while the people are really just wondering, “WTF? Is this for fucking real??”

This supposed persecution of LDS members helps to form the cohesion for true-believers to huddle ever-closer to each other and whisper-chant that they know what they know to each other, over and over again.

Members feel jumpy and defensive about the situation they’re in because not only are they a part of an organization known for its extremely unusual customs–along with occasionally being mistaken for polygamists–but their leadership keeps their ideals about 30 years out of sync with the rest of surrounding society, so members are constantly kept off-balance (but they’re really, really nice, folks. They’re so nice. So you feel like a mean and awful person to consider telling them to their face, “It’s very weird for a totally normal-looking, nice person, like you, to actually believe these stories.”). Members may hold conflicting latter-day opinions with the leadership, but they still want to “follow the prophet, follow the prophet…” as the song goes.

repels logic

Possibly mormonism’s most unusual custom: allowing leaders to dictate the color and style of members’ underclothes–which they must wear to remain “worthy”–and which just so happen to only be available for purchase from an LDS-owned business.

The members feel the need to shield themselves from attacks they’re told are coming from the outside world from people who don’t understand mormonism—when often, “attacks” (or what I call “observations and conversation”) are coming from former members who are trying to point out all the confusion, contradictions, impossibilities and general wrongness of the organization to members. The members have also been prepped to expect these “attacks” from friends and family who are former members and so they cling ever closer to their “truth” and to the faith of surrounding members.

There will always be a core of true believers who will not entertain the idea that mormonism might be wrong or false. Cognitive dissonance with what they “know” causes them to reject anything that does not dovetail with mormon teachings. Purposely-close-knit mormon communities raise children, who grow up to become fully-mature mormons, go on missions, and upon their return, they marry other mormons, have children, children grow up, they go on missions, then return and marry, ad nauseum.

If a wondering child member (or grown-up member–doesn’t matter) asks questions, they’re considered obnoxious or out-of-line. If they happen upon the LDS apologist sites, they’ll find such fantastic doublespeak, they won’t be able to follow the logic through all of the mental gymnastics (‘cuz there is no logic! It’s all made-up, after all). Some members decide that they must be too stupid/immature to understand it, so they yearn to stay inside the LDS organization, where they “know” it’s safe, and everything is told to you and everyone is always cutting your meat. Those who determine it’s B.S. graduate and become the new agitators to “real” mormons, causing members to turn inward and believe even more fervently.

Joseph Smith, by accident or genius, created a perfect circle of a religion, which will live on in perpetuity.

To expound on this a bit further, there are several things that mormons cannot or will not do and, even though they’re slightly envious of non-mormons for going forth in experiencing everything there is to in this world (one example is watching contemporary television shows about people whose values do not match the values that their leaders preach), they also see themselves as more righteous than those who live without religious restrictions–and that makes them feel good about themselves (and special!) and satisfied within the confines of the LDS organization.

Now that I understand this, it doesn’t make me feel so sorry for my family or feel the need to exert any further effort in trying to convince them to leave mormonism. They’re happy, after all. Or so they say.

Instead, I feel lucky to have mormons in my life. Not everyone has the opportunity to observe these strange and elusive creatures in their man-made, unnatural habitat, but I have.

 

My Exit Story (the Short Version)

I love a good exit story. Whether it’s leaving a bad relationship, a poisonous work environment, or the oppressive belief system one was raised with, the personal growth and introspection that leads a person to head for the exit of a ruinous atmosphere is fascinating to me and I enjoy hearing about and sharing the exit stories of myself and others.

My “short” exit story from Mormonism is pretty typical. I had a crisis of faith where I felt that the rules and tenets of Mormonism were so biased against the well-being and independence of women that it caused me to look critically at the reasons that a loving “father” in heaven might have set them up in that manner. Or did s/he? Could the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, have made it all up without regard to the impact it would have on women? What I discovered was that Joseph Smith could have created the religion, then I came to the conclusion that he did create the religion. The ponderizing over this matter and the resulting epiphany all happened in one day. Mormonism was not for me–and I left.

The next day, I debunked Christianity in my own mind. Not only did it not make sense to me that someone should be punished for crimes committed by others, but science doesn’t support a virgin birth. I just couldn’t believe it anymore.

Pondering the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka The Mormons) claimed to be the one, true church at the same time that all other practicing religions claimed the same thing, created confusion. Which was the “right” one? The clarity I found by realizing that all religious leaders are misleading their followers gave me peace–and therefore, I did not seek a religion to replace the one I’d escaped from.

I now consider myself a Humanist, but that’s really just another name for atheist. I believe that people possess the capacity to change themselves and the world around them for the better. I no longer believe in a god or gods who will swoop in and provide a long-awaited rescue to those who have been marginalized or abused by other people. I love what Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of American Atheists had to say about what atheists believe:

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I started this blog because fifteen years ago, I unburdened myself of the requirements and backpack full of shame/sin/judgement/guilt that comprises Mormonism and I blossomed. I had no idea how heavy the load was until I’d set it down! I felt nothing but relief. The promised destruction due to former members who have rejected their “truth” has never arrived. Fifteen years after leaving, here I sit: healthy, happy, and feeling pleased with the direction my life has taken. Not only am I happier now than I ever was when I was a member of Mormonism, but I possess more empathy and less judgement toward others. I forgive others and I forgive myself for being human. I wanted my Mormon family to experience the freedom and joy that I have found, so I started a truth campaign to see if I could get any of my Mormon family members to look beyond their guilt spiral, see the truth about Mormonism, and free their minds.

That was six months ago.

My endeavors haven’t turned out as clear-cut as I’d anticipated. Although I haven’t changed any minds (that I am aware of), my family and friends now know where I stand regarding Mormonism and I’ve at least provided them with general truths about their belief system and avenues where they might find more information (incidentally, this information (aka truth) is something that Mormon leaders have specifically instructed members not to look at–even if it exists within their own history books!). I’ve identified myself as a disbeliever to the other non-believers among my friends and extended family and hope that I’ve left my door open for doubters to feel free to approach me with their questions or concerns.

I hope that the truth/logic seeds I have planted will someday take root and eventually come to fruition. In the meantime, since I also recognize that I have no control over what others will or won’t do (and before I completely alienate my family through continuous criticism of their precious religion), I have abandoned my truth campaign within the Facebook platform and carry on with the knowledge that I’ve done all that I can do for my family.

Through this blog, I hope to cast a wider net to show the world the truth about Mormonism and religion in general. If I can’t save my family from their comfortable prison, perhaps I can save other seekers-of-truth?