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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5 thoughts on “Ecclesiastical Abuse”
A relevant article: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2018/04/13/how-faith-breaks-your-feeler/
Well, golly, sounds a whole like Protestantism and Catholicism and pretty much every religion ever. Glad you got out. 🙂 (I found your blog while trying to find something for a post I was writing. Hope you’ll write more soon.)
Wow, sounds like you have had a lot of deceptive things in your mind, Don´t know why you are waiting for everyone thing to be perfect, think you must be confusing religion with perfection, it is absolutely absurd to think religion will be perfect when man is not, god gave us free agency, I have left the church for a couple years now but I found all of this to be extremely over exaggerated. I don´t know what church you went to but the last time I went to the mormon church I found none of this to be true. If you are really interested in the any religion go to the source rather than people that go on a rant trying to explain how this one speck of dust is this black hole. Sad to think people waste their time writing such things just to create more negativity in the world. Last thing I have seen the mormons haven´t made the world any worse only better with there values and beliefs. I don´t have any specific religion but man this whole page was uncalled for.
So you would trust a restaurant’s online review of itself over the reviews of people who have eaten the food and experienced the service of the wait staff?
Excellent post, Michelle. When you finally decide to go to that funeral and call bullshit, let me know! I want to come along! Meanwhile, my step-son and his fiancee are considering using the services of the local Bishop and the Relief Society Room for their wedding (seeking tax benefits) in a couple of weeks. I swore I would never go into an LDS Church again, but I may have to make an exception. I am sure there will be a Sales Pitch For the Lord during it, and won’t it be hard not to call it out? I will be thinking of little old lady you.