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. It goes deeper than the ban, though. Just ask a Mormon why people are born with black skin. Mormonism’s answer is that blacks were less valiant during the war in the pre-existence. They were supposedly fence-sitters and for that, God was punishing them on earth. My coworker relayed this information and gave me food for thought for the next several years.)

In the moments 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, 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).

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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 lacking in faith as compared to the faithful 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

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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

valentine

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

 

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:

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.

 

 

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?