THE MORMON CURTAIN
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EX-MORMON OPINION - SECTION 2
The "Opinion" topic was created to separate out recovery from opinions on posts made in Ex-Mormonism. A large selection of posts made by Ex-Mormons that do not fit in "Recovery". These are more considered "Soap Box" posts. While they may be opinions, they are still very important in the steps to recovering from Mormonism.
| Now that archaeology, genetics, linguistics, etc. have come down solidly against the historicity of the Book of Mormon the
brethren are saying "the Book of Mormon can't be proven by scholarly study, it can only be proven by a spiritual witness." or
variations on that theme.
Whenever stark facts are presented to a TBM they often point out that the facts are no match for their testimony--their spiritual
The spiritual witness overcomes any possible evidence in the Mormon worldview. It is "undeniable" etc.
However if a Mormon meets with a Christian that had a spiritual witness that Mormonism is false that spiritual witness is easily
dismissed as incorrect. The thousands of Catholic women who have had spiritual witnesses from the Virgin Mary are all dismissed
Mormons dismiss out of hand ANY spiritual witness that doesn't agree with their own. They are very willing to dismiss as
untrustworthy the vast majority of spiritual witnesses that hundreds of millions (at least) of members of competing religions
This strikes me as amazingly arrogant. The underlying message is "MY spiritual experiences are undeniable proof that my beliefs
are correct but the vast majority of spiritual experiences that occur to other people shows that they are deluded." The spiritual
witnesses that thousand of Mormon fundamentalist polygamists have had (Brian David Mitchell for instance) are taken as evidence
that they are either crazy or evil.
My question to them is this: What's so special about you? If hundreds of millions of people can be completely wrong and deluded
in their spiritual experiences why can't you be similarly deluded in yours?
The answer usually comes down to "I know I'm not deluded!"
I usually point out that that's what deluded people typically say.
And what is amazing is that Mormons will call anything an "undeniable" witness of the spirit if it falls their way. A nebulous
"peaceful feeling" or some dime-a-dozen coincidence can be latched onto as undisputable proof that God is telling them something.
I once talked with a man who was out praying in the open late one night and suddenly saw a shooting star. For him this was,
without question, God telling him the church was true etc.
So Mormons trust without question a means of finding truth that they admit fails to work correctly at least 99% of the time it is
used. However they say that there's no chance of it failing to work correctly with them.
Isn't that the textbook definition of "arrogance?"
| As a TBM Youth growing up along the “Wasatch Front”, I could buttress my faith in Mormonism with FACTS.
1. I knew Lehi had descendants because I could see them in the American Indians.
2. I could look to archeological evidence in Central America where vast “BoM” cities existed.
3. I could read about Word of Wisdom health studies that supported the church’s claim that worthy Mormon’s lived healthier life's
than the rest of humanity.
4. I could refer to Joseph’s prophecy of the coming Civil War as evidence of his ability to foretell the future.
5. I could trust in the Historicity of the Book of Mormon since its claim of 2 landings in the America’s, one in 2200 BC and the
other in 600 BC, coincided with the archeological thinking of the day, according to my seminary teachers.
6. Knowing in my youth that the Church practiced what it preached, namely honesty and truth, I could trust in the faith promoting
stories of the restoration.
7. The Book of Mormon witness’s were trustworthy, reliable, credible individuals who could be counted on to tell the truth.
8. Joseph Smith was a loving, caring, faithful husband.
Over time each of these “ Mormon FACTS” have disappeared, the supporting buttresses of my Mormon faith have had to face the
painful reality that the church is not what it claims to be.
I have observed that the church no longer uses facts to support faith within the church...in fact there is an obvious movement
within the church to support the churches claims only through the use of feelings/spirit. We are required to over look facts that
contradict the churches claims and rely only on feelings.
I’m reminded of a statement by Thomas Edison...’For faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction
- faith in fiction is a damnable false hope."
| Watch any General Conference and you're sure to hear one or more of the speakers mention the "world" and how good members of the church should be "in the world but not of the world". Focusing on a common enemy (real or invented) is a common technique that is used to solidify loyalty to a group, be it religious, governmental, tribal or otherwise.
In Karen Armstrong's excellent book about the rise of fundamentalist groups withing Judaism, Christianity and Islam, The Battle For God, on page 368 in the Afterword she writes:
"First, it is important to recognize of these theologies and ideologies are rooted in fear. The desire to define doctrines, erect barriers, establish borders, and segregate the faithful in a sacred enclave where the law is stringently observed springs from that terror of extinction which has made all fundamentalists, at one time or another, believe that the secularists were about to wipe them out. The modern world, which seems so exciting to a liberal, seems Godless, drained of meaning, and even satanic to a fundamentalist. If a patient brought such paranoid, conspiracy-laden, and vengeful fantasies to a therapist, he or she would undoubtedly be diagnosed as disturbed."
Who hasn't heard an "authority" speak of the evils and dangers in "the world"? Who hasn't been warned that partaking of the evils of "the world" will lead you away from the truth of the Gospel?
Many of you have realized this well before me - but it's amazing how blatantly this occurs in Mormonism.
I'm glad I can see through it now!
| My wife is still active so I see the Ensign on a regular basis. It reminds me of all the twisted thinking that is required, if one thinks at all, to stay active. I just ran across a statement from some authority that, from my experience, reflects the attitude of the general membership. This is the belief that the world is getting worse. Usually this is stated in such a way as to imply that this is common knowledge, obvious from the mere face of it.
I strongly disagree and think that the world today is a much better place compared with what it was 100 or 150 years ago. The horrors of the US Civil War, World War I and II; child labor; racial, religious, and sexual discrimination; the treatment of the mentally ill; as well as infant mortality, life expentancy, and many other improvements make me happy that I live today and not 50, 100, or 150 years ago.
This belief seems to mesh with the general Mormon dismissal of the achievements of non-Mormon peoples, times, or cultures. I cannot walk into a gothic catherdral and not thrill to the beauty and reflect upon the dedication and inspiration of the people who created it. When I've been in the company of Mormons, a typical comment is about displays of abomination and apostacy with no thought given that these are the people who pulled western Europe out of barbarism and raised the lamp of learning. Of course, if you believe that the nothing happened until 1830, and that despite Joseph Smith and the BOM the world has been going down hill, it's hard to give credit where credit is due.
Questions: There is nothing new or unique in thinking that the world was better in the "good old days." People have been saying that for thousand of years (i.e. The Garden of Eden) But is this thinking part of the core of the Mormon worldview? Where does it come from? Millenialism? The thrill of self induced fear? The need for social control (everybody into the life boat of the church!)? Ignorance of the facts and the need to stay ignorant? Does this appeal to non-members? Doesn't it weaken the potential to do good if you believe that everything is going to hell in a hand basket anyway?
I remember many a Sunday school lesson where the teacher talked about how 'interesting' it was that the industrial revolution took place after the church was established. 'Interesting' in this case meaning 'it's because the church is true.'
Myself, I think it's interesting that the church has lost its momentum since the coming of the age of information. Yet, the church seems to think that TV, satellite broadcasting, internet, etc. was invented for the sake of the church.
Groups define themselves by what they are and what they're not. When what they are becomes less clear or less compelling, they crank up the "what they're not" side of their identity. If you can't unite around the principles, then unite against an enemy. Any enemy. The more enemies the better. And if the group can convince you that only unspeakable horrors await outside the safety of the group, then you'll be more willing to put up with the group's crap. "Life sucks," you think to yourself, "but it's better than that evil, dangerous, depraved world out there."
An honest, careful study of history (not just LDS Church history), is, at its essence, an anti-Mormon pursuit.
I'm talking about the journey of Lewis and Clark, the Industrial Revolution, the Gilded Age, The Progressive Era, the Civil War, the French Revolution, etc., etc.
Careful and diligent study of such topics over an extended period of time tend to give the dedicated student a broad perspective of the human story, and tend to make the Mormon worldview seem very provincial, even wacky.
That's perhaps why so few Mormons tend to truly be interested in history.
The very subject threatens their identity.
Think back those 100 or so years to WWI (or even WWII). How long did it take a soldier to arrive in Europe or the Pacific? Or a letter to arrive from the front lines? How about news from correspondents? The battles were over long before news of it reached home.
Our current world experiences instantaneous access to information. I can IM someone across the country. I can call my son's cell phone and see if he's going to be home in time for dinner. Satellite broadcasts give us at-the-moment accounts of at-the-moment situations.
The mormon worldview - "We're in the Last Days, you can tell by what's happening" - has been the same for 150 years!
The faster information arrives, the more access we have to that information, and the more likely an individual with a millennial view will believe we're almost out of time.
Civilization often develops physically and economically at the expense of nature and the conquered. Religion is then used to comfort those who are economically dying, or already dead. It is there to give them hope and potential real estate in some other world. (It is also used to discourage any modern ideas that question this economic demise).
So, this opiate called religion is to seduce the masses as they become insignificant. It also makes sense that this general-purpose religion should feature a general downgrade of nature, materialism, reason, knowledge, and especially personal dignity (in order to train people to kiss the feet of others). To do this, a religion might simply declare the meaning of all truth, end of discussion.
What is not so apparent is that this general pacifying religion also features a very stubborn and aggressive use of a false history. This mythology is deemed very necessary for them to believe, and if not, for them to honor. This is because the brain is able to remember these myths and act accordingly when no other decision-making information is allowed to compete with it.
So, basically, you can program people with stories and parables. The main story, for our discussion, features the pure beginning, fallen from a perfect and free paradise, but it doesn't mention the people who enslaved them. The last story is the personal doom, foretold, from behavior that can also be described as natural (so it can't be avoided). The middle story is their salvation atonement, a human sacrifice to explain the possibility of hope, and justice of saving them. The setting is all supposed to degrade in the scope of one's lifetime, and over the generations, according to the story.
You can spend the rest of your life trying to figure out why most people are entranced and helpless against it, but it doesn't need a rational explanation or even necessarily comport to psychology. When people are helpless in their traditions and poorly raised, anything bad is possible. Just ask any Puritan who will tell you that anything bad is to be expected anyway.
| "Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't. " Mark Twain!
That pretty well sums up Mormonism's claims, doesn't it?
Who needs the "truth" when fiction has so many more possibilities and only requires faith to believe it.
This would apply to Joseph Smith Jun.:
When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not.
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.
Mark Twain, Letter to Mrs Foote, Dec. 2, 1887
"Faith is believing what you know ain't so."
And on the Book of Mormon:Excerpts from Mark Twain's book "Roughing It"
pp. 102-103, 110
"All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the "elect" have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so "slow," so sleepy, such an insipid ;mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print.
If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle-keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate. If he, according to tradition, merely translated it from certain ancient and mysteriously engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason.
"The book seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New Testament.
The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James' translation of the Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel-half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity.
The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern-which was about every sentence or two-he ladled in a few such scriptural phrases as "exceeding sore," "and it came to pass," etc., and made things satisfactory again. "And it came to pass" was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet.
". . . The Mormon Bible is rather stupid and tiresome to read, but there is nothing vicious in its teachings. Its code of morals is unobjectionable-it is "smouched" from the New Testament and no credit given."
Humor is mankind's greatest blessing.
- Mark Twain, a Biography
| I heard a speech yesterday on NPR that made me think of your recent interview on NPR where you pleaded with the white members of the church to raise their voices and help out the black members of the church in demanding change, since the blacks have done what they can and they were tired.
Yesterday I turned on the radio just in time to hear these powerful words that were spoken when I was two years old, which I'd never heard until yesterday, 40 years later...
"It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. Because it's not just Negroes, but really it's all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.
And we shall overcome."
Lyndon Baines Johnson: "We Shall Overcome" Address to Congress, 15 March 1965
40 years ago today Martin Luther King sat in a room in Selma, Alabama where he was speaking at the memorial service of a slain civil rights activist, with tears rolling down his cheeks after hearing an President Johnson utter the powerful words of the civil rights movement that would lead to the landmark civil rights legislation, ending the shameful denial of the right to vote for blacks.
Amazingly, I was two years old when blacks finally earned the right to vote in America. 100 years after Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg address, proclaiming "our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
It would take another 13 years after those words were spoken, before the Mormon church would end the disgraceful 120 year ban restricting blacks from recieving the "full blessings" of Mormon life, its highest privilage, entry into their temples and recieving the priesthood. Although the practice of overt racial discrimination against blacks ended in the Mormon church in 1978 with the lifting of the ban on blacks recieving the priesthood, the racist idiology behind the ban has yet to be overcome.
40 years later it still stands since it has never been renounced.
It is still privately taught to the next generation of Mormons behind closed doors. There is still a common belief amongst Mormons that blacks are inferior to whites because those who were supposed to represent God have said so in no uncertain terms and nobody with any authority in the Mormon church has had the courage to say they were wrong. The conspicuous absence of that admission implies that the current leaders of the church still believe those same racist myths since they have done nothing to debunk them. And allow them to continue to be taught without comment. That is a sin of ommission.
It has been 40 years since those powerful words were spoken, yet "the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice" spoken of by Lyndon B. Johnson, is still a large elephant sitting in the corner, ignored by the Mormon church.
This was most recently illustrated by the comments of Gordon B. Hinckley when asked by Mike Wallace on CBS's 60 minutes, "Church policy had it that blacks had the mark of Cain. Brigham Young said, "Cain slew his brother, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin."
Gordon B. Hinckley: It's behind us. Look, that's behind us. Don't worry about those little flecks of history. "
The fact that the leader of the church dismisses 120 years of history of institutionalized discrimination against blacks as a "fleck of history" illustrates the depth of the inability of the leadership of the church to examine and deal appropriately with its significant history of racism. Simply claiming that it is "behind us" before opening any kind of discourse or acknowledging the issue, does not put the issue "behind us."
It is what LBJ called a "cripling legacy of bigotry and injustice" and cannot be overcome in Mormonism until the leadership of the Mormon church renounces its racist myths and folklore, which are deeply rooted in the Mormon racial attitudes. That attitude continues to be passed down from generation to generation as it has over the entire history of the church. Those false racist doctrines are still being taught to this day. The racist mormon oral traditions are alive and well, depite the public denials of its leaders and inflated claims of success amongst African converts.
While my 16 year old son was in LDS early morning seminary they were discussing Brigham Young. He brought up some of the outlandish things the prophet Brigham Young had said about race, like "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." (Journal of Discourses, Vol.10, p.109)
His teacher's response was, "I hate to say this, but that's true."
She went on to explain why she thought this statement was true based on the false racist doctrine that blacks were cursed with dark skin because they were descendants of Cain.
I was shocked!
Here it was the 21st Century and my child was still being indoctrinated with a 19th century, false, racist myth, used to justify slavery, that totally contradicted the main commandment of Jesus Christ to "love our fellow men as ourselves."
I asked him if there were black people in the room.
He said, "No! Thank God!"
I told him that it really should not matter wether we are black or white, it is an outrage that these racist myths are being perpetuated through indoctrination of the next generation of youth.
I could not complain to my priesthood leader, since my bishop was her husband and I had to assume that he believed the same things, despite the fact that both of them were highly intelligent, respected and well educated people.
Two years earlier I had been teaching a very bright class of 17 and 18 year old Mormon youth. One of them, a 17 year old, named Craig, was home on break from studying Nanotechnology, in German, at MIT's sister school in Achen Germany. Three other students had recieved full ride accademic scholarships to BYU.
We were discussing the old testament and Craig asked me a question that caught me off guard, "How did the curse of cain survive the flood?"
I could tell that this genius student had his doubts about the reality of this racist myth or he wouldn't be questioning it.
I looked around the room to see if anyone else was as suprised by that question as I was. Nobody appeared to be as suprised as I me.
Nobody registered any expression of disbelief. They all sat there doe eyed waiting to see how I would faithfully answer that question.
I told him I had a better question, "How did the curse of cain survive the attonement since we believed that Jesus atoned for the sins of all mankind, including Cain?"
He admitted he didn't know how that would be possible.
I told him I would have to research that question and I would get back to him. I never got back to him because my research led me to conclude that the whole curse of cain doctrine was really just a racist myth used to maintain the "crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice."
The bible never says that the curse of cain is black skin. It simply says that Cain and his descendants were cursed with an indescript "mark" so that they would be distinguishable from the other descendants of Adam and would not mix with them. The bible never says that the curse survived the flood and logically it couldn't have since it was a sin for the descendants of Abel to intermarry with the descendants of Cain and we all know what happened to the sinners (and their innocent babies).
However, contrary to logic, Mormon scripture provides a convenient way for the curse of Cain to survive the flood through Noah's son Ham, who had married Egyptus according to the Book of Moses.
Unfortunately there is no denying the fact that Mormon scriptures clearly state that the Curse of Cain is black skin.
Moses 7: 8
For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.
Moses 7: 22
And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them.
Not only does the Book of Moses clearly state that God created black people as a curse for the sins of their fathers, but 120 years worth of church leaders have clearly articulated and elaborated upon that doctrine to the point where denying it is indefensible and undeniable.
Mormon racism is not limited to blacks. It also applies the same "divine principle" of god cursing whole races of people with dark skin for the inniquity of their forefathers to Native Americans or as the Book of Mormon refers to them, "Lamanites", which the Book of Mormon maintains are the "principle ancestors of the American Indian".
2 Ne. 5: 21
And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.
My children are partially Native American. Seeing them hold their fingers up on the backs of their heads while singing "Book of Mormon Stories" I came to the shocking realization that they were still being indoctrinated with negative racist myths about their own race.
pg 118 in the Children's Songbook
"Book of Mormon stories that my teacher tells to me
Are about the Lamanites in ancient history.
Long ago their fathers came from far across the sea,
Giv'n the land if they lived righteously.
Lamanites met others who were seeking liberty,
And the land soon welcomed all who wanted to be free.
Book of Mormon stories say that we must brothers be,
Giv'n the land if we live righteously."
Any Mormon who claims that Mormons do not believe that Native Americans are the same race of people cursed with dark skin in the book of Mormon must not have been paying attention in primary, but I was.
I found this and many other racist teachings in the church intollerable in this day and age, not only because they contradict the basic commandments of Jesus Christ to love our fellow men as ourselves, but they have been proven false by advances in modern science.
According to the most conclusive genetic studies that have been done, 99.9% of Native American DNA has been proven to be from Asiatic descent. The other .1% is conclusively non-semetic.
Scientists have proven, using the same techniques used to send men to death row, that Native Americans are not descended from so-called Lamanites.
So why teach my children that they are descended from a cursed race of people?
I decided I had to tell my children the truth. It's a racist myth, don't believe it, don't teach it, don't support it.
But by my continued participation in the Mormon church at any level implied my compliance with those doctrines I found unconscionable. That was something I lived with for many years, but I could not live with propogating those racist myths by subjecting my children to the systematic racist indoctrination they were recieving in the church. I could not in good conscience allow my children to be crippled by that "legacy of bigotry and injustice."
I gave up trying to debunk racist myths in the church when I realized that I would be disciplined for speaking out against racist false doctrines in the church.
People I knew in the church who spoke out and tried to debunk racist myths were threatened with excommunication if they would not agree to remain silent.
I had nowhere to turn.
My bishop's wife was the one who told my son that Brigham Young was right when he said that the punishment for interracial marriage was death on the spot. My Stake President told an African American friend of mine who raised concerns about current climate of racism in the church, "Do not expect an appology for past racism because it was based on divine revelation." When he raised the same concerns with the mission president he was told, "We don't know why God did not allow blacks to receive the priesthood prior to 1978 and it is not important to our salvation."
Most members of the church are sadly satisfied with that explanation.
I was deeply troubled that my priesthood leaders still maintained that racism was somehow sponsored by God.
The God I love is not a racist bigot.
I would not raise my children to worship that God.
Since I had nowhere to turn except to my priesthood leaders, who still supported these these racist beliefs and thought there was no racial issues to deal with in the church I had no other option but to remove my implicit consent by resigning.
I can no longer support an institution that maintains 19th Century racist myths as "divine revelation" that still apply today, completely disregarding the whole point of atonement and christ's entire purpose for coming to earth, not to mention his commandments.
I refuse to have my children taught these racist myths. My children are beautiful and innocent. I will protect them from the "cripling legacy of bigotry and injustice" still institutionalized in the Mormon church.
The only way I can contribute to the struggle to overcome that cripling legacy is to tell my children the truth and to teach them that it is wrong to discriminate against people based on their race and the most important thing we can do is to love one another as ourselves. That should be our standard for measuring the correctness of any religious principle. Is it just? Is it loving? Is it consistent with the commandmetns of Jesus Christ and basic human dignity?
If not, then it is wrong.
Obviously racism is wrong, but it is still alive and well in the Mormon church, which is why my family will no longer contribute to that "cripling legacy of bigotry and injustice."
I will spend years trying to undo the indoctrination they have recieved in the Mormon church, but I see it as my moral obligation to debunk those myths, at least in my circle of influence, which is mainly my children.
"....it's all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.
And we shall overcome." LBJ
Teach the children the truth.
| Once it is understood that God Myths are not strictly about right/wrong, true/false, they begin to make sense for what they are and what purpose they serve.
First of all, history shows that they are beliefs, mostly long standing ones that are rooted in the social/cultural mores (fixed morally binding customs of a particular group) of the human condition and do not vary that much in their core beliefs, relying heavily on metaphysical, supernatural claims.
Secondly, they provide a social, connecting structure for humanity that appeals to the general populace.
As such, they are immensely powerful emotionally and over ride reason, logic, and factual evidence.
It is a misconception to conclude that people leave Mormonism, for instance, only because it's claims are false. That alone is an acceptable reason, (as are all reasons), however, in the case of Mormonism, it is very easy to show it's claims are not verifiable and do not hold up to scrutiny.
Other beliefs, however, such as Christianity in all it's forms are no more verifiable but they do have some still standing places to lend credence to their claims, but that is about it. Tradition, even it dates back to the first century, does not lend credibility to the metaphysical, supernatural claims.
Any time the idea of metaphysical, supernatural beliefs takes center stage in a group of people, the allure of their power takes on a politically correct base that supercedes anything else.
Mormonism is a perfect example of an American God Myth (the only one that I can find) that fits all those categories and requirements. It functions as an integral part of an American culture and has produced, what is often proudly claimed as a "peculiar" people, with it's own language, (often called Mormonese) and customs, traditions, attire, music, etc.
To think or believe or behave outside the God Myth becomes a reason for exclusion, shunning, unacceptance, and withholding of love etc. and even death in some cases.
Add the notion that some group has the only true belief and all hell breaks loose if it is the reining power and they feel threatened. History shows that God Myths wield a heavy sword upon the dissenters.
The ideas, self contained in a God Myth are often so cemented in the thinking of a person that there is often no room to even consider anything different.
The threat, fear, and guilt of thinking outside the culturally prevailing God Myth World View is so horrific, that even to contemplate it produces a word flurry sharp as a sword, of disapproval!
Humans, throughout history (especially as witnessed here on this board) have been so conditioned and programmed to believe there is something so threatening, evil, sinful, about a non-believer, particularly one who claims to be an atheist, that they can't contain their need to destroy the imagined enemy. The keyboard becomes the gun with bullets firing away at those who dare to leave.
To leave that safety net of the God Myth and venture out into a world view that honors the human and all it's humanity with no outside controls from authoritative religious figures is often part of leaving Mormonism for many people.
Interestingly, what most of us have found (from my observation) is that life outside the mental, emotional confines of the Mormon World View is filled with greater life rewards than ever imagined. The promise of Mormonism's happiness falls flat. There is a more to life than it's restrictive view and it is so expansive, that it cannot be exhausted.
I am glad that I figured out that I had the right to change my mind (ignoring any fear of recrimination), and detach emotionally and mentally from the programmed input while I have the age and maturity and wisdom to take a stab at understanding it!
Closing the door on Mormonism has been the best thing I ever did. Now, to get that screen door to stay shut and stop that nasty draft from wafting in and annoying me and reminding me of the life I used to live!
That's my two cents. Your mileage may vary! Especially with the high cost of gasoline these days! :-)
| The church does not allow active Mormons to pick and choose which doctrines they can and can’t believe in. however there is evidence that the church itself is being selective in which things its members are exposed to. In effect, doing the selection of doctrines to believe in by promoting certain dogma over other items.
Case in point:
This year the church is emphasizing Church History through lesson’s focusing on the Doctrine and Covenants in its Gospel Doctrine classes. However instead of teaching a chronological history of the church, as in years past, the church is teaching the DandC by emphasizing a particular subject. The Gospel Doctrine teacher then uses verses from through out the DandC to support that topic.
This allows the church to avoid the difficult questions that may other wise appear if Church History was taught as it unfolded...thus the church itself is promoting cafeteria Mormonism...picking and choosing which doctrines to emphasize and which doctrines to ignore.
GBH's assertions that he doesn’t know if we teach that.... when referring to eternal progression of men...
BKP’s pronouncement that some things that are true are not very useful....
I could go on and on but you get the point.... Mormonism has become a Cafeteria Religion and it’s coming from the TOP.
| Despite anything a devout Mormon will tell you, they already know beneath the surface that "priesthood power" is a sham.
Anyone who has attended a dozen or so Fast and Testimony meetings knows how much Mormons like to talk about reveiving and giving priesthood blessings. You know story: "When Johnny fell off the top bunk, my husband ran in and gave him a blessing that he would live until we could get him proper medical attention."
Mormons talk about the utility of priesthood power as though it were a kitchen appliance. You moved into a new house? You bless it. Your daughter has a high fever? Give her a blessing. A cancer patient is about to die? Give him a blessing. Scared about losing your job because the market bubble is poised to burst? Get a blessing.
But what is the batting average? Do blessed homes catch fire as often as non-blessed homes? Do blessed daughters lose their fevers faster than non-blessed daughters? Does the blessed cancer patient recover while the non-blessed dies? Do fewer Mormons lose their jobs to economic downturns than non-Mormons?
When Mormons talk about their higher-than-average life expectancy, they talk about the Word of Wisdom and how it makes them healthier. When they talk about the power of God working through mankind, they often refer to Mormon inventors or other men who were inspired by God to establish free nations and invent great things. When Mormon leaders talk about the authority of God given to mankind, they talk about the supreme authority of the First Presidency and the Apostles, and the supremacy of Mormonism among the world's religions. But they say surprisingly little about the effects of priesthood power, especially on any scale that can be observed.
Mormon priesthood "power" is probably invoked more often than any other decidedly Mormon practice. That is to say, it is more than likely that priesthood blessings are given more frequently than any other religious practice in the church. I doubt that a single minute goes by without a Mormon priesthood blessing being given somewhere in the world. This is probably a gigantic understatement, even when you subtract the blessings being performed in temples or in chapels.
Yet, if this priesthood "power" was really powerful at all, why do Mormons point to the Word of Wisdom as the reason for their longevity? Why do they point to "inspiration from God" as the motivation for earthly leaders of innovation and change? Why does the cold and flu season inflict Utah as much as any other state? Why does the Utah State Health Inspector even bother inspecting restaurants in Orem or Provo, knowing that most meals eaten there are blessed first, often by priesthood holders? Why do missionaries get sent home for medical reasons? Why does an apostle die of leukemia?
If priesthood blessings are even remotely effective in removing disease and calamity from our lives and property, then why aren't these effects being noticed by insurance companies or journalists? More importantly, why aren't these effects being noticed by MORMONS?
One answer that some Mormons offer is that priesthood blessings don't really do anything more effective than provide a sense of comfort, which is supposed to be good enough by itself. But how much comfort does a priesthood blessing really provide? If a blessing really did bring lasting comfort, we might expect to find that fewer women in Utah take anti-depressants than the national average, rather than more. We might expect to see fewer teenage girls in Utah taking "Sandy Candy" than the national average, rather than more.
If the priesthood power really was effective in any sense other than providing a tradition of outward performances, Mormons would certainly be aware of it. They would publish this evidence, and the world would beat a path to Utah. Some Mormons might say that the church would never publish such information, since it should be taken on faith. But this argument obviously isn't maintained by the First Presidency, who spare no effort in telling us of their efforts to help tsunami victims and give thousands of wheelchairs to cripples everywhere. The church regularly demonstrates that it will use any information about itself to solicit world attention. This is all academic anyway, since the church has nothing to report about the power of priesthood blessings. Otherwise, the report would be: "Priesthood blessings are the reason why faithful Mormons live to age 98 on average; it is why relatively few Mormons suffer heart attacks and strokes; it is why Johns Hopkins Medical School and the Fred Huchinson Cancer ResearchCenter have opened new research facilities in Salt Lake City." Of course, these things are not true. Mormons will always die of the same causes, and at the same age, more or less, as non-Mormons. Any variation from the average can be attributed to the Word of Wisdom, which is testable, and not the priesthood.
Like anything else in Mormonism, priesthood "power" is only valuable to the degree that it cannot be tested. If a blessing fails to restore health to a child, it is because God has some other purpose, or because the priesthood holder was sinful. Or the oil was rancid. Or any other reason than the possibility that the priesthood "power" is a fantasy. Thus, lack of effect is a sine qua non of the Mormon priesthood power. The desired effect, then, is making you feel good about the priesthood being used, rather than someone being healed, turbulent waters being calmed, or demons being cast out of your house.
There are various other parallels between Mormonism and communism, so much that McConkie called communism a false religion. Both have the United Order, they call each other 'brother so and so' or 'comrade so and so,' both have glorious new plans every few years which then don't work. Both have grand building pans. Both have a false but official belief in equality (an Elder has the same power as a prophet, but different stewardship). But I don't know if these things are particularly Stalinist as opposed to other ideologies.
- It is totalitarian. Before Correlation, it was simply authoritarian, that is, members were expected to obey blindly. But with correlation, it became totalitarian - that is, every activity of the church was specifically directed to support the party. The priesthood directly controls everything, even the women's stuff. Anything not directly supporting the priesthood (roadshows, women's magazines, etc.) is dropped. Even 'the Activity Book' directs every physical activity to a 'Priesthood Purpose.'
- Obsessive centralization, leading to 'one size fits all'
- A desire to kill all enemies (see early temple oaths, Danites, and longing for Jesus to return and cleanse the earth) - thankfully, this falls into the 'without the power' part. Note that, even during the worst of Stalin's purges, the majority of Russians supported him.
- Leader worship, particularly of Josef S.
- Systematic changing of history (monogamous Brigham, re-recording conference talks, etc.) plus obsessive secrecy, distorting of records (e.g. membership), etc.
- Sham elections ("all those opposed" without needing to look around)
- No unofficial opinions are allowed; control of the media (where possible - note the limits of power)
- Paranoia regarding (outside) enemies and (inside) intellectuals
The only major difference I can see is that Stalin broke with communist traditions of expansion - he preached 'socialism within one country.' But the Mormon church is still trying to export Mormonism throughout the world. But even here, Mormonism is more Stalinist than Trotskyite. Trotsky wanted revolution, but Stalin focused on total control of the people already within communism. No doubt history buffs can correct me on the details.
| Andy and I tuned in to BYU TV tonight for kicks and caught a talk by Robert J Matthews titled: "The Great Millennium Shall Come" that was recorded from Education Week in 2001. Not only was is extremely boring, it was appalling that an institute of higher learning can produce such a pseudo scientific approach that does not have even an ounce of reasonable thought and think that it is appropriate for an event titled "Education Week." He quoted many Mormon leaders including Joseph Smith, Bruce R. McConkie, and a bunch of scriptures to back up his stance that the Millennium as described in his talk will be a literal event, that there is no symbolism. It really will happen.
Basically according to Bro. Matthews, the Earth will change from its current Telestial state to a Terrestrial state aka "Paradise" which is the condition described in Genesis as the Garden of Eden. This "Paradise" is where all of the animals will live in perfect harmony and every creature on the Earth will be a vegetarian. There will be no Fires, no earthquakes, tidal waves, monsoons, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, blizzards, and no variance to the weather. There will be no seasons. There will be no disease, no accidents, nothing that will end life until old age. And, once old age is reached and death occurs, men will automatically be resurrected and stay here on Earth. He also spoke of the wondrous expansion of development. There will be temples, meeting houses, other infrastructure, housing, and recreational facilities pervading the globe to accommodate the ever-expanding population.
Sounds wonderful doesn't it?
All of the animals on Earth will be running rampant throughout civilization. There would be no population control of the animals since they can only die of old age. When they do die, they will just automatically be resurrected "in the twinkling of an eye" and remain here on Earth. Imagine the rodent and insect infestation problems in "Paradise" with every fly, ant, flea, lice, cockroach, senior citizen, rabbit, mouse, rat, NEVER leaving the Earth with a constant influx of MORE on the way. Our hands would be tied since there will be no "enmity between man and beast."
Imagine an Earth that is a perfect balmy 72 degrees all the time. There is no variance. How would you ever be able to appreciate the weather when you have known nothing different. How can you appreciate a wonderful balmy 72 degree day when you have not experienced the freezing 30 degree days of Winter or hellish 100+ degree days of Summer? Somehow, despite the lack of seasons and curious lack of precipitation, there will be plentiful grain and other crops to sustain not only every human being, but also every beast during this time when people and animals can not die until they reach old age. There will be no seasons, so apparently there will not be any hibernation of animals either. Somehow the ever expanding population of the Earth will allow for room for the needed ever expanding farms to produce enough food for the ever expanding population of animals and people. This also brings the interesting question of whether the Earth at a constant Spring-like state will influence the animal kingdom to be in an ever-present mating season?
There will be no disease, so all the doctors, nurses, dentists, and other health care personnel will be out of a job. I think they would best be of use in the ever expanding field of sanitation. Somehow all the sanitary needs of this ever expanding population would need to be met. Imagine all animals and people on a raw foods organic fruit and grain diet and the effect that would have on the sewage processing needs of this Planet.
Sounds like "Paradise" to me.
| What's with mormons? I think their individuality is so compromised that they belive you are demeaning them if you don't uphold their idiotic priesthood blessings and creepy temple rites.
In the US we have freedom of religion. We also have freedom of speech. That means we tolerate churches we don't believe in. We mustn't do damage to church property or spit on people who dunk the dead, but we can speak about the church as we see fit.
That doesn't mean we owe mormons or any weird cultists respect. The definition of that word is "treat with special consideration and high regard." That's not the exact opposite of disrespect, which involves overt acts of denegration.
Do you hold these ludicrous beliefs in special high regard?
1. Systematic sexism? Refusing to allow females to live up to their innate high potential?
2. Secret necro rituals in disregard to the wishes of next of kin or stated directives of the victims?
3. Regulation religious underpants with purported magical powers?
4. Systematic religious harassment in the street and in private homes?
5. Magic words on tidbits of white bread, lying about church history, lying to prospective converts, extorting money from church members, breaking up families who don't all agree on religion, multiple gods, forced polygamy, antiquated dress codes, harsh and worthless dietary restrictions, and the worship of leaders, buildings, and lock step image promotion.
Really, churches need to earn respect. Those who seriously don't feel respect for some of the precepts listed above don't owe special high regard to a church that encompasses them. We owe mormons and their organization a level of ciivily. We don't owe their baseless cult an iota of respect.
| No wonder Mormons are going crazy. |
The following 2000-2001 Priesthood/Relief Society Manual lesson titled "Liberty
through Obedience," gives contradictory messages. Look how schizophrenic this is:
"We do not preach the gospel of
fear. We do not seek to terrorize the souls of men. We do not ask a man to be righteous because of the terrors of the damned.
We do not want you to be good because you fear the punishment of the wicked. We do not want you to do right because of the
penalty that attaches to the doing of wrong."
"You will suffer the consequences of your own mistakes, of your own
errors, though they bring sorrow, or sickness, or death! So, I acknowledge the hand of the Lord in this agency that he has
given to the children of men."
"Can you find an organization, ecclesiastical or otherwise, that has the same
perfection of government and organization in it as can be found in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, established
by inspiration through the Prophet Joseph Smith? And what is the object of that organization? Is it to crush men? Is it to injure
you? Is it to bow you down unto the earth? Is it to deprive you of your liberties, of your rights, of your privileges? Is it to
make you slaves, menials, and degrade you unto the dust? Or is it to raise you up into the scale of intelligence and of
manliness and increase your liberties, for there is no liberty like the liberty of the gospel of Jesus Christ?"
"The free agency of man is a fundamental principle which, according to the tenets of the Church, even God Himself does not
"I believe that there is not a freer, more independent nor a more intelligent people to be found
anywhere in the world, who are more independent in choosing the course which they pursue, in the work that they perform and in
everything that they have to do with, than the Latter-day Saints. There is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, in good standing, anywhere in all the world today that is not such by reason of his independence of character,
by reason of his intelligence, (and) wisdom.."
- Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 32: "Liberty
through Obedience", From the Life of Joseph F. Smith, Page 283
Does anyone actually experience the LDS Church as
place of greater freedom and independence than "anywhere else in the world?"
If you were a TBM reading this, wouldn't
you think there was something wrong with you if you didn't feel liberated by Mormonism?
| I can't feel sorry for a mormon woman who destroys a marriage because her husband changes his mind about religion. That goes double or triple if they have children.
This never happened when I was a mormon kid. Hubbies did leave the church, though rarely. The wives continued to attend and brought the kids much of the time. As TBMs they knew they needed to continue to be good wives and mothers if they wanted to be blessed.
Doctrine is clear. Their kids would make the "right" choices to be mormon when the time came. If hubby/dad never came back to the fold, HF would provide a "worthy" CK priesthood holder to guide them into glory.
So what the devil is with these spoiled a** women these days? What brats! Do they think they deserve a perfect looking mormon family to show off for their friends at the ward house? Are they of such little faith that they assume their kids won't be faithful mormons if dad doesn't wear regulation underwear and back bite his way into the stake counsel?
Or do they lap up the attention and sympathy from all of their shallow RS friends as they whine about their ex and complain about attending alone? What's worse, they must start being teens again and jump into the world of dating. Sounds like they never matured beyond about age 16.
These women are selfish and shallow creatures!
TBM women, don't whimper to me about "eternal consequences" and how they trump commitments already made in this "dispensation." That's nothing but hot air.
Keep your promises to be a good wife and a good mother. Breaking up marriages does NOT help children be better mormons. It tears up their world and destroys their family security. It's all for a stupid pipe dream, a dream that has no connection with mormon doctrine or being a good decent parent.
I think any woman who pulls this stunt should automatically have to relinquish child custody in this life. After all, it's eternity that they claim to care about.
| Any activity performed in unison will foster a sense of connectedness, which is simply a means of casting off the ego and any other self-centeredness. This is the purpose of all religious ritual (temple work, congregational prayer, attending church, etc).
Fasting also lends the effect of authenticity by mediating new physical experiences within the religious context. Mormons are taught that performing a physical act of self-deprivation will make them more spiritual. This is powerful because it is predictable and can easily be repeated, unlike the speshul warm fuzzies that you may or may not get in Sacrament meeting. Anyway, since the physical effects of fasting are interpreted as "spirituality," Mormons place special emphasis on it.
In reality, the only thing that is really being accomplished by fasting is a sort of mortification and loss of self-awareness. Mormons mistake this experience for developing a closer relationship with God.
| For awhile now I've wanted to collect my thoughts on the price a person pays for being Mormon. Here's what I've written as a
--- The Cost of Being Mormon ---
Utah has been known for several years as
the Prozac capital of the U.S. Utah also has the highest concentration of Mormons in the U.S (70%). Is there a connection? I
think so, speaking from personal experience. And, others would agree. In a recent Salt Lake Tribune article entitled Got the blues? You're not alone in Utah (April 27, 2005) it was
- "Among the nation's 20 most depressed cities - as recently scored by Men's Health magazine - Salt Lake City
came in 12th, with a D grade. Researchers at the magazine assigned grades based on information from the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention on antidepressant sales, suicide rates and the number of days residents reported feeling down."
- "There's a lot of pressure for males here to succeed due to large families and perceived expectations for members of the
dominant religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
- "Antidepressant use in Utah is higher than
any other state, with 16 percent of the population taking them, according to Express Scripts, a company that compiles a yearly
drug trend report."
- "Suicide is the eighth-leading cause of death for all Utahans. Nationally, it is the
eleventh-leading cause of death. From 2000 to 2002, the suicide rate in Utah was 14 per 100,000 people, compared with 10.7 per
100,000 countrywide, according to the Utah Department of Health."
Why is this? I believe anyone seriously
considering life as a Mormon needs to ask themselves this question. My children are in this position. I'm writing primarily for
them. I want them to understand that there's a serious price to be paid for being Mormon. There's depression. And, there are
other costs as well. I cover those I'm familiar with here.
Faults Hidden. Mormons tend to hide their faults. The
emphasis is on looking good versus on being genuine and authentic. Very rarely do you hear heart felt expressions of what
weaknesses people are struggling with in a Mormon meeting. Compare this to other spiritual programs or self help groups where
people openly and honestly share their problems. This is the type of sharing that the New Testament talks about when it says to
"confess your faults one to another." (James 5:16) In the Mormon church, though, the emphasis is instead almost entirely on "let
your light so shine." (Matthew 5:16) This too is good advice, but not when taken to the extreme.
This emphasis on
looking good over being authentic has several negative effects:
- First, it causes a person to feel shame, since they are
hiding things about themselves that they feel bad about.
- Second, the person does not get the compassionate warmth
and support they could otherwise get, since the person's struggles are hidden.
- Third, there are fewer opportunities
to improve since the problem remains hidden.
- And fourth, it leads to superficiality. A person cannot be genuine and
authentic when they when they have to hide their imperfections. Instead, they have to put on a facade.
tendency is systemic. The church as an organization functions on this same principle by hiding anything "not faith promoting".
Church president Gordon Hinckley is famous for this, as a result of the Hoffman debacle where it became clear how the church buys and locks away any historical documents that are
embarrassing to the church. As well, leading church apostle Boyd Packer has taught that "some things that are true are not very useful" and so should be hidden.
Lost Identity. Many Mormons have a hard time being their own unique selves. It's tough when there are so many
unrealistic expectations. A Mormon is expected to be: happy, nice, meek, humble, respectful of authority and never question those
over him, etc, etc. The list goes on and on. This leaves little room for being oneself.
The best example of this is
what happens to a young person that goes on a Mormon mission. This event happens at just the moment in a young person's life when
they should for the very first time be experimenting with adult autonomy. This is a time when a young person should be growing
into themselves: exploring competing ideas, ways to think, talk, and act.
Instead, when a Mormon male turns
nineteen he goes on what is called a Mormon "mission" where is confined to an extremely restricted mental, spiritual, and
physical world. In this world he is told nearly everything about who he is: what he can say, think, and do. He is under complete
control of the church hierarchy. He isn't allowed to contact family or friends, except through letters and one or two phone calls
a year. He is prohibited from ever being alone, told what to read, how to worship and pray, what music he can listen to, what
movies he can watch, how to dress, how to touch, how to wear his hair, how to shave, when to go to bed, when to get up, what he
can and cannot buy, the sports he can play, what transportation he can use, and on and on. It's no exaggeration to say that
almost everything about his life is controlled from the top down.
This lasts for two years. And then he returns
back to the "regular" Mormon world of being all those things a good Mormon is expected to be.
Lost in all of this
is a person's true identity. Gone is the opportunity to be oneself, to be genuine and authentic. Instead a person turns into an
automaton, unable to express his or her true self. It's ironic that in a religion that places so much emphasis on the right to
choose, that most Mormon's live lives not having had the chance to choose who they really are.
Avoidance. Mormon's avoid conflict. They teach "the spirit of contention...is of the devil" (3 Nephi 11:29) and so should be
avoided. This is a nice idea, but not very realistic. Utopian societies were also a nice idea, but have been tried and shown to
be a naive approach to building a community in the real world. In the same way, avoiding conflict is a naive approach to living
life in the real world.
Conflict avoidance creates several serious problems. The first is that it tends to ignore
the source of the conflict. The problem is never addressed and so is never solved. Second, conflict avoidance creates adverse
emotional reactions in the person avoiding the conflict: depression and anxiety. Depression results when the person resigns
themselves to the source of the problem, realizing that it's never going to go away. Anxiety results from the body's natural
response to situations that create conflict. The body produces adrenalin that is meant to resolve the conflict. When a person
doesn't, they begin to feel anxious. Left in this state for too long or repeatedly, the anxiousness often turns in to full blown
One of the most common places this conflict avoidance is found is in the relationship between man
and wife. A healthy and passionate relationship requires that both parties express themselves openly, honestly, and
regularly. But the Mormon world is very patriarchal. Women are placed in a secondary role to men. A woman who is bothered by a particular issue or
who wants to do some particular thing to further her own personal interests, is either told or concludes that it's not her place
to do something about it -- that she must put her husband and her children before her own well being. So she avoids conflict to
conform to the system she is taught is "from God", and suffers depression as a result
Attitude of Inadequacy. Mormonism fosters an attitude of
inadequacy, a feeling of not measuring up. A recent Sunday School lesson my Mormon wife attended had as it's title this phrase
from the Book of Mormon: "They did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness." (Alma 57:21) Two words
stand out: every and exactness. Of course the implication is that if these people could obey every
word with exactness, then so should you. This is not a realistic expectation. It just sets a person up to feel
inadequate. After years and years of this, a person can wind up with serious emotional and mental problems. It's the kind of
thinking that causes a person to begin to do a lot of negative self-talk and self-loathing for not being able to measure up.
And it's not just the degree of expectations that causes a sense of inadequacy, but it's the type of expectations as
well. One of these is the expectation that every young man become a great leader. Not everyone is cut out to be a great leader,
though. Some are far better at simply being followers. And, that's OK. But if you're a Mormon young man, you don't get that
message. Instead you're expected to grow into the mold of the "perfect leader" as defined by the Mormon church, no matter how
much that mold may not fit.
Another unrealistic expectation is the attitude the Mormon church has towards
masturbation. Mormon's are taught that masturbation is evil. This creates a huge unrealistic expectation, especially for young males. A young male has a
tremendous desire and even need for sexual release. It's far better to simply get that release with occasional masturbation
rather than to try to live under the unrealistic expectation to never masturbate.
These are just some of the
unrealistic expectations that Mormon's live with. There are many others. Many of them would be OK by themselves, but again create
unrealistic expectations when combined together: have children early, have as many as you can possibly handle, hold a church
service "calling" (some of which can consume many hours a week), do your monthly "Home Teaching" visits to other families, share
the Mormon message with your neighbors, pray multiple times a day, read scriptures every day, etc., etc. And, provide well for
your family because the more money you earn the more God must be blessing you and therefore the more "righteous" you look to
everyone else. The net effect is to leave a person feeling overwhelmed and inadequate.
Mormon's tend to blindly obey their leaders. They are taught that when the church leaders speak it is the same as if God has
spoken. Mormon scripture reads "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and...whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my
servants, it is the same." (DandC 1:38; emphasis added.) This is a dangerous idea because it causes a person to not apply
rational thought to major life decisions. Instead they do whatever they've been told, since they assume it was God who was
There are many examples of nonsensical things done as a result of this. I'll mention just a couple to
better illustrate what I'm talking about.
The first is the command that couples have as many children as they
possibly can. This was what the church told its members up until the early 1980's. There was no rational thought involved. A couple was simply supposed to produce as
many babies as they could possibly produce. But child rearing is an incredibly demanding task and many couples are just not cut
out to have as many children as they can possibly have. It's not healthy for them, and it's not healthy for their children.
Another example of blind obedience can be seen with what happened to church members back in the 1830's. They were told
to move to Jackson County, Missouri. They were told to attempt to purchase the land their first. Then if that didn't work, they
were told they would take possession of it by force.
The Mormon scriptures on this, written as if God were speaking
directly to them, read: "Purchase this whole region of country...Let them do this lest they receive none inheritance, save it
be by the shedding of blood." (DandC 58: 52-53; emphasis added.) And then later it reads: "Behold, the destroyer I have
sent forth to destroy and lay waste mine enemies; and not many years hence they shall not be left to pollute mine heritage, and
to blaspheme my name upon the lands which I have consecrated for the gathering together of my saints...I have commanded...my
warriors, my young men, and middle-aged, to gather together for the redemption of my people, and throw down the towers of mine
enemies, and scatter their watchmen." (DandC 105:15-16; emphasis added.)
You can imagine what the people already
living in Jackson County thought. There was conflict between the two groups from the beginning. Each side ended up issuing an
extermination order against the other. The Mormons had the weaker military force by far and were chased out of Missouri.
The whole event was very tragic. Neither side should have done what they did. But human societies have always been very
tribal and when one tribe moves in aggressively against another, there's bound to be trouble.
It seems so obvious
to someone looking at the situation from the outside that it made no sense to do what they did: to move in to an area and tell
the people living there that God had given their land to them and that either they needed to sell it or lose it by bloodshed.
But, the early Mormon's had a leader they thought spoke for God and so there was no need to think. Instead, they blindly
Grandiosity. Mormons tend to be grandiose. It's not always evident because they are also told that
they must be humble, and many honestly do try. But it's hard not to feel grandiose when you believe that you are one of God's
chosen people. Youth get this message especially strong. They are told that they are better than people born at any other time in
the history of the earth. These are the "last days" and only the "very elect" were saved to be born now. This does have the
effect of making a person feel good about themselves. It can be comforting (just as a child's belief in Santa Clause can be
comforting.) But that comfort comes at the cost of feeling superior to others. The superiority is only imagined, though, and as a
person grows older the realities of life wear on them. They begin to realize who they really are. The mismatch between who they
realize the really are and the comforting fantasy they had can be depressing. Ideally this depression would cause a person to
seriously question what they had been told. But what is more common is for the person to try to compensate for the depression
with more grandiosity. This of course doesn't solve the problem. Instead it creates a tragic cycle of grandiosity and depression
repeated over and over.
Intellectual Blinders. Mormonism causes a person to not want to fully explore all
there is to know about the world. This is because much of what there is to know runs counter to what a Mormon has been taught is
"the truth." Whenever science runs counter to Mormon dogma, the science is discarded in favor of the dogma. And not only that,
but the source of the science is discarded as well. Science becomes something to fear when it causes a person to question the
dogma that gives them comfort.
An example of this is the book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. This book gives a high level overview of the history of
the world's civilizations. It has tremendous lessons to offer about why certain civilizations have thrived and others have not.
But, the book starts out by talking about evolution. For many Mormons, this is enough to stop reading with the thought that if
the author thinks evolution is true then there's no telling what other "untruths" are in the book. And so the opportunity to
learn great things about how the world works are lost.
Lack of Professional Help. Mormon's suffering from
emotional or mental problems have limited access to professional help. They are first instructed to go to their local leader, the
bishop. But a bishop is a layperson with no formal training as a health care professional. This is like asking a grocery store
butcher to perform an appendectomy. Neither is trained to do the job they are being asked to do, and both are likely to do more
harm than good.
If a bishop decides that someone needs additional help, he can refer the person to a professionally
trained therapist. However, the therapist needs to be another Mormon and has to be approved by the church. This creates two
- First, a church approved therapist does not take a systemic approach to solving emotional problems. They look
primarily at what the individual is doing wrong. This is as opposed to the approach most therapists take where they look not only
at the individual, but also at the individual's environment: both their current environment as well as the one that has shaped
who they are over the course of their lifetime. This kind of analysis requires looking at things that are taboo according to
Mormon dogma: family history, and the effect of religion. In Mormon theology, it's important to honor your parents and ancestors.
So any discussion of the negative effect they may have had is avoided. And then Mormon theology itself could never be the cause
of any emotional or mental problems, and so it isn't considered either. So the therapist's work is limited to only what the
individual is doing. As a result, many times the person's problems remain unsolved.
- Second, a church approved
therapist is encouraged to limit the number of visits they have with a person. Church members are supposed to solve their
emotional problem's "The Lord's Own Way". This way does not include a lot of counseling by others. Instead, a person should primarily pray and read their scriptures. So after a few weeks the therapy ends, and the persons problem's remain unsolved.
Miscellaneous Costs. There are other miscellaneous costs associated with being a Mormon. They are not as significant as the costs already mentioned, but need to be considered by anyone thinking about being a Mormon. They are:
- Time. Being Mormon takes up a lot of time. Sundays are spent in three hours of meetings, and then after that either in more meetings or at home doing a very restricted set of activities. Then each Mormon has one or more "callings" that can take anywhere from a several hours a week up to twenty or more. Young Mormon males are expected to serve a two year full time mission for the church.
- Money. Mormons are required to pay ten percent of their income to the church.
- Entertainment. Mormons are not allowed to watch R-rated movies. But there are many great R-rated movies that not only entertain but inspire and teach important lessons.
- Sex. Mormon's are not allowed to: masturbate, have oral sex, or even sleep naked together as man and wife.
- Coffee, Tea, and Alcohol. Coffee, tea, and alcohol are prohibited. But each of these when used in moderation has been found to have healthy side effects and they can all enhance a person's enjoyment of life.
Spiritual Opportunity Cost. There is one final important cost to consider: the spiritual opportunity cost of choosing Mormonism over another spiritual path. The term opportunity cost comes from economics and means whatever was given up for making a particular choice. So for example if I choose to stay home and read a book on an evening when I've been invited to a movie with friends, then the opportunity cost for reading the book that evening is going to a movie with friends. In the same way, there is an opportunity cost associated with choosing to be Mormon. Mormonism is just one spiritual path among many. But by choosing it, a person is also choosing to not benefit from other spiritual paths. Mormon's believe they have the "fullness" of the truth, and that other churches are an "abomination in [God's] sight." (Joseph Smith History 1: 19) But, there are other spiritual paths that offer more opportunities for spiritual growth than Mormonism, and without all the negative side effects.
| A post about the pentagrams on the SLC temple got me thinking. IMHO, TBMs seem to fear "satan" (in quotes because I don't believe he/she/it exists) more than other religious people I have met.
LDS believe "satan" to be a real person that is just waiting to get possession of all of us. I have known people that become visibly shaken when anyone even said the word "satan" (or any of his other nicknames). Many only say his name in a whisper. They believe that the fear that they are experiencing is PROOF that he is present at that moment... "you can just FEEL the evil spirit...blah, blah.." That kind of thing.
In seminary, church, and at home, I was told to fear anything that was in any way "satanic". Things like ouija boards, pentagrams, Stephen King books, horror movies, etc. even talking about "satan" could bring his evil spirit around to wreak havoc on our eternal souls.
My mother was especially superstitious about such things. She believed that "satan" was lurking in every shadow and that she had the "power" to detect him. I think my mother could find the devil in a bowl of cheerios!! She was constantly telling me she could "feel the evil" around a certain person, book or whatever. She once forbid me to see someone because his name was "satanic".....his name was Nicholas (uh, I have NO explanation for that!)
As a TBM did you fear "satan" in this way? I am most interested in your personal stories....or was my mother crazy even by TBM standards?? (she does have mental problems)
BTW, I know that by TBM standards that I have been deceived by the evil one himself....he has fooled me into believing that he doesn't exist. LOL. TBMs are not only afraid of him, but they are afraid of NOT being afraid of him (that would mean they are under his spell!!!) The mindgames!!!
| I am making top ten lists as discussion starters for my TBM family and friends. I would appreciate any feedback and corrections or additions to this list. Thanks!
TOP TEN MOST OFFENSIVE STATEMENTS BY MORMON LEADERS:
1) "It is also to the Book of Mormon to which we turn for the plainest description of the Catholic Church as the great and abominable church. Nephi saw this 'church which is the most abominable above all other churches' in vision. He 'saw the devil that he was the foundation of it' and also the murders, wealth, harlotry, persecutions, and evil desires that historically have been a part of this satanic organization.(Bruce R. McConkie. Mormon Doctrine , 130.)
2) "I think no more of taking another wife than I do of buying a cow."
- Apostle Heber C. Kimball, The Twenty Seventh Wife, Irving Wallace, p. 101.
3) "Brethren, I want you to understand that it is not to be as it has been heretofore. The brother missionaries have been in the habit of picking out the prettiest women for themselves before they get here, and bringing on the ugly ones for us; hereafter you have to bring them all here before taking any of them, and let us all have a fair shake."
- Apostle Heber C. Kimball, The Lion of the Lord, New York, 1969, pp
4) "You may inquire of the intelligent of the world whether they can tell why the aborigines of this country are dark, loathsome, ignorant, and sunken into the depths of degradation ...When the Lord has a people, he makes covenants with them and gives unto them promises: then, if they transgress his law, change his ordinances, and break his covenants he has made with them, he will put a mark upon them, as in the case of the Lamanites and other portions of the house of Israel; but by-and-by they will become a white and delightsome people" (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:336).
5) "The day of the Lamanites in nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome. . . The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation. . .There was the doctor in a Utah city who for two years had had an Indian boy in his home who stated that he was some shades lighter than the younger brother just coming into the program from the reservation. These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness. Spencer W. Kimball; The Improvemant, Era, Dec. 1960, p. 923)
6) "You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind....Cain slew his brother. Can might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, page 290).
7) "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110.)
8) "Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race."
(Tenth LDS President, Joseph Fielding Smith The Way to Perfection, p.101.)
9) "Let us consider the great mercy of God for a moment. a Chinese, born in China with a dark skin, and with all the handicaps of that race seems to have little opportunity. but think of the mercy of god to Chinese people who are willing to accept the gospel. In spite of whatever they might have done in the pre-existence to justify being born over there as Chinamen, if they now, in this life, accept the gospel and live it the rest of their lives they can have the Priesthood, go to the temple and receive endowments and sealings, and that means they can have exaltation. Isn't the mercy of God marvelous?
Think of the Negro, cursed as to the priesthood... This Negro, who in the pre-existence lived the type of life which justified the Lord in sending him to the earth in the lineage of Cain with a black skin, and possibly being born in darkest Africa--if that Negro is willing when he hears the gospel to accept it, he may have many of the blessings of the gospel. In spite of all he did in the pre-existent life, the Lord is willing, if the Negro accepts the gospel with real, sincerer faith, and is really converted, to give him the blessing of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.
(Race Problems--As They Affect The Church, An address by Mark E. Petersen at the Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College level; Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, August 27, 1954.)
10) "We do not intend to admit to our campus any homosexuals. If any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly.... We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence." (Ernest Wilkinson, president of Brigham Young University, in a 1965 lecture to the BYU student body, titled: "Make Honor your Standard."
| I was curious to see what families and institutions SHOULD do to foster mental health, and see how the church compares. Quotations are from "How Family and Peer Relationships Promote Social Competence". Numbers, and of course comments, are my own. Please note that my experience is of growing up as the only Mormon in School.
1. "If a young child is having social difficulties in kindergarten and first grade, he or she is more likely to have difficulties later on."
The church is interesting at the very start: like a drug, it gave me short term advantages at great long term cost. I felt confident in having all the answers. I raced headlong down a social blind alley. At first my (nonMo) peers admired my enthusiasm and confidence. Eventually, as I got further and further away, they looked on me as an alien.
The church taught me that I was different. Superior, but different. It taught me that many normal childhood practices (swearing, experimenting) are morally wrong. My duty went beyond simply learning. Even as a young child I knew stuff that was MORE IMPORTANT than anything school and peers can teach. I was expected to be the missionary - the teacher! Unsurprisingly, I found it difficult to fit in.
Of course, if a Mormon kid fails to embrace the message one hundred percent, it just makes her feel guilty, more awkward, and more shy.
2. "When fathers or mothers are warm, responsive, structuring, and limit setting, and encourage a developmentally appropriate level of autonomy, their children are more likely to see themselves as socially competent, and their teachers and classmates see them that way too."
The church does reasonably well at telling people to be warm, responsive, structured and limit setting. But the centralized structure means "warm" and "responsive" are shallow or empty words. Where the church fails big time is on giving autonomy. Remember: the first rule of heaven is obedience.
3. "Those who are able to resolve their disagreements and arguments without (a) going into a "deep freeze" or (b) escalating their conflict out of control, are more likely to have children who are socially competent."
The church fails here. Faith and "endure to the end" mean "deep freeze" - when your (church approved) behavior leads to problems, just be patient.
"Escalating the conflict" - in the church, every problem has the most dire eternal consequences. Even in this life, missing church leads to a broken family, pornography leads to child abuse, alcohol leads to death in the gutter.
This is an area that constantly bothers me. Like many here, I am married to a TBM. Discussing the church leads to escalation. So I choose silence instead. Neither approach is healthy. I think our compromise is better than the alternatives, but I don't like it.
4. "Relationship patterns tend to be repeated across the generations. For those in families doing well, this is good news. For those in families with a history of relationship difficulties, breaking the intergenerational cycle may require special effort."
How true. The church relies on its fourth and sixth generation bots. Breaking free is extremely hard, but we must do it for our children.
5. "Rejection by peers in kindergarten and first grade seems to have long-lasting effects."
See first point. All together now, let's sing the primary song "I want to be a missionary now..."
6. "To institute change, teachers need to feel empowered, and to be treated as professionals."
In the Mormon world, the ideas of men are ALWAYS, by definition, second rate. Evolution, comparative religion and sex education are just the most obvious examples. And this extends even to Mormon leaders. If your seminary teacher is too liberal you can use The Spirit(TM) and QuotesFromChurchLeaders to reject his false teachings. Church education is like Mao's cultural revolution. Officially, the passionate young people know more than the experienced educators.
7. "It is possible to identify troubled families early on, even based on brief systematic observation."
This is where the church is most insidious. Good Mormon kids actually do BETTER in their early years. I don't remember the research (it was reported in Sunstone) but Mormon culture is gives kids extra confidence. After all, it was designed for kids. So, by the usual outward measures, young Mormon kids are relatively healthy. But like any drug, this early boost comes at a high long-term cost. Mormon kids quickly reach a certain stage of maturity, but seldom move beyond it. And by then, when the problems become apparent, it is much harder to do anything about it.
| Mormonism extols lying as a virtue.
The Mormon prophet lies. Mormon leaders lie. Missionaries lie. Members lie.
Converts are not "second class", "brain dead", of low IQ, desperate, grasping, needy "low quality people" who join for what they can get. Not me. Not any other convert I knew.
The same church, leaders, beliefs, techniques and practices that keep BICs ill-informed and shoulders to the Mormon wheel, all help to pull the ol' bait and switcheroo on hapless converts.
Let's see, when deciding whether to join the Mormon church or not, did I know I had to ask DO THEY LIE? No.
Are converts - people of faith - trusting? Yes.
Lacking important info? Yes.
Low quality? NO
And who decided that unless you are "leadership material" or in the marriage sweepstakes you are a "low quality convert"? That makes me seethe.
Do the beliefs of the Mormon church make liars out of their prophets, leaders, members and missionaries? YES (except where said individuals just say no).
It's appalling for an entire religious program to judge every human on the planet by what they DO, to deem each one worthy or unworthy, high quality or low. We're talking people here, not the grade of hamburger in the meat cooler.
*Church* is the "the worldwide body of believers" (in Jesus Christ) according to my beliefs. The people _are_ the church (yes, divided into congregations but that is not "the church"). It is not an organization and certainly not a corporation. You give your time, talent and resources (to your congregation and to the world) as you are able and as you wish. When someone joins your congregation the question is "What can we do for you?" not "What can you do for the church?"
If it's a little old lady who needs a ride to Sunday meeting, she gets a ride and people are happy to see her. Never ever ever have I heard it said that she is a "low quality" person because she needs some assistance. And if a young family joins the church, it is well understand that the parents are busy raising their kids and they're not available to take on major work for the congregation. It's their "season" (in life) to look after their marriage and family. In a different season for them they might decide to teach a Bible class. Their quality as a person is not determined by what they can do for the church.
The Mormon church leaders LIE. They set up systems that encourage/necessitate that members LIE. They actively withhold facts and information from those they seek to convert. Their religious system results in them judging and grading their members, converts and investigators to standards of worthiness/quality based on "WORKS". The same system that hurts BICs hurts converts - different roots, different effects, different issues, different outcomes - but same system, same lies, same negative impact.
Supercilious Mormon leaders can tell me I was never fully converted. They can say I disengaged because I want to sin. Self-righteous members can say my concerns arose from my lack of faith, failure to pray (the right way), failure to commit, work hard enough, get with the program - anything but the fact that the Mormon church program is based on lies and maintained by lies. Lies that hurt people.
Those who walk into the honey trap, like myself, may be many things. One thing we are not is low quality people.
I would hope that non-convert exmos, having been irrevocably affected by the lies themselves, would not heap upon us the same lack of understanding, scorn, pity and incredulity at our so-called stupidity as we are subjected to by those who uphold the Mormon system.
Converts are a subset of exmos at large. We share a lot in common with BICs. We've all been hurt by the Orwellian Hell of Mormonism.
Don't call me low quality because I fell for the Big Lie.
A ready mark (i.e., "golden")? Well, OK.
Stupid? I don't think so.
Low quality? Please, no.
(And neither is the single mom on welfare with no car and a passel of kids who believes the nice missionaries who say "We want to help you").
| A brief Google didn't turn up anything. I will, however, submit the following:
The LDS church has, as a core teaching in Sunday School manuals and elsewhere, that "The spirit of contention is of the Devil". This powerful aversion to dischord can be found everywhere within the LDS community. From the public voting (which strongly discourages dissent due to peer pressure; only secret ballots can assure that people vote their conscience) to the private interviews, this conformity is reinforced.
One of the questions in the temple recommend interview, held once every two years for every true-believing Mormon, is this question:
"Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?"
Reading anti-Mormon literature can be construed, by many, to be "affiliation" or "sympathy". This is an implicit commandment to avoid assocation with any anti-mormon individual or organization, with the implied threat that such affiliation can result in the denial of a temple recommend. This is stated quite explicitly by many local and regional leaders. From the time on my mission through serving in various leadership capacities, the message was powerfully clear: avoid anti-Mormon propaganda.
As I continue to study Mormonism in greater depth from my new "outside" perspective, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is Mormon policy or practice, and that this is an entirely separate thing from core Mormon doctrines. Often these policies and practices grow as an implementation of a doctrine, but in themselves they are not regarded as important by members of the Church. They consider the core doctrine, however, to be sacrosanct, and a change to the policy or implementation of a doctrine doesn't imply, to them, a change in the doctrine itself.
I witness my relatives blowing off the changes to the LDS temple ceremony, and see this attitude toward policy or practice deviating from doctrine. They retain unshakeable faith in the doctrines, even though the implementation of those doctrines changes radically.
For myself, I fail to see the distinction that clearly. Policy, practice, and doctrine are hopelessly intertwined, resulting in a muddled mixture which is tough to nail down. This serves the Church's interest of preserving membership.
I don't doubt that there have been leaders of note who have discouraged members from reading anti-Mormon material. You'll probably find their quotes mixed in with talks about not watching or reading pornography.
In the minds of many Mormons, anti-Mormon literature and pornography are nearly synonymous.
| Growing up in TSCC there was never any question of right vs. wrong. Making out with a boy was "immoral", drinking alcohol was "bad", shopping on Sunday was "evil", and now they're even narrowing it down to such a ludicrous degree that you are no longer allowed to wear more than one earring per ear.
Have you ever noticed how bizarre people get when they have such a definite line between what they are told is right and wrong? My son had a college roommate who had his (mormon)girlfriend spend the night one Saturday night, yes... full fledged sex, the works. The next morning, when they got up, he suggested to his girlfriend that they go to IHOP and get some breakfast. The girlfriend's response: NO, because spending money on a Sunday was against her religion!! HELLO? I guess she could confess to her bish that she'd been sleeping with her boyfriend, but shopping on a Sunday was inexcusable? LOL!
I've noticed the same sort of reaction from TBM's if they see you drinking a cup of coffee. You can tell that all they see is pure 'EVIL' emanating from you. Problem is, you could be totally sloshed on Tequila slurpees and they would be thinking exactly the same thing.
I think a real problem with not attaching any level or degree to various so-called "wrongs" is that you get a totally skewed sense of what is good and bad. You no longer are a good person, simply for the sake of BEING a good person, you only do it because TSCC tells you it is good or bad. Thus, if they tell you that wearing two earrings in one ear is evil, anyone you see with two earrings is all of a sudden an evil person. Who they are inside has nothing to do with it.
I've noticed since I left the morg that I'm having to teach myself the true difference between good and bad. I find myself having to actually learn someones character before I can decide if I think they are a good or bad person. I can't rely on the fact that if someone is holding a cup of coffee that they should be avoided at all costs. Has anyone else noticed this?
| With the coming attention to "The Lion , the Witch, and the Wardrobe," I cannot help but think of the pleasure I got from reading C.S. Lewis years ago. He did a great deal to make Christianity appealing, even understandable.
He had great impact, and the movie will give him greater impact. His was a more rational and embraceable Christianity.
I contrast him with Joseph Smith, and his 200 years of impact. And yes, Joseph Smith has had an impact. He has had legions helping extend his impact --Smith and his white-shirted army.
But how much good has it done? In truth, his church makes many feel creepy, slimy, and uncomfortable. His views of God and Christ are impossible to take seriously. I doubt all the missionaries, all the copies of the Book of Mormon, all the hours of boring meetings, depressing conference talks, lightweight and downright idiotic theology ,have had even a tiny fraction of the impact Lewis had. "The Book of Mormon" does not trump "The Chronicles of Narnia," and Lewis said his stuff is a fairy tale. Joseph Smith , and his minions, could not, and will not, tell the truth about The Book of Mormon, a much less appealing fairy tale. Lewis could think and write. Smith could scheme and dictate. Smith has had an army of white- shirted locusts covering the earth. Lewis had his books. Smith , and his followers, have tried to force Mormonism down the collective throats of the earth's dwellers. Lewis made people feel there is something to Christianity. And he did it gently.
Mormonism has never been major league. It is, and always has been, peanut league. All the Mormofascism has not really influenced much. A flash in the pan, a pain in the ass.
| Growing up the way I did in Mormon fundamentalist society made me do a lot of thinking when I was a kid. Now, I obsess over the same questions I had back them. The difference now is that I'm better able to articulate these questions in order to finally start making some sense of the world. To me, one of the most frustrating, yet compelling features of life has always been normativity. I didn't know what to call it when I was a kid, but it was everywhere. I wanted to know where it came from. This is one of the most pressing questions in my mind as I approach my fortieth birthday. Where does the normativity come from?
OK, I'll explain it a little better now, I promise. But it's going to take some time, so get yourself comfortable. I think many of you will also find that you have also been asking this question for a long time.
Philosophy is usually divided into four distinct disciplines. Epistemology, Metaphysics, Ethics and Logic.
Epistemology concerns knowledge. What constitutes knowledge? What distinguishes knowledge from opinion? What does it take to prove that our knowledge is true?
Closely related to epistemology is metaphysics, which is an inquiry into existence. The way the two work together can be seen in this example: Metaphysics involves questions of what exists, and what is the nature of that which exists, while epistemology follows hand-in-hand asking how we can know.
Logic is the rulebook. The most important rule of all is that contradictions can never be tolerated. The rules of logic can be thought of as the rules for avoiding contradictions. I think it is helpful to think of logical fallacies with this in mind. A logical fallacy allows contradictions to slip in, and truth can never be found in a contradiction. This is the beauty of philosophical thinking. There is no authority. A contradiction is what puts philosophy out of action. Nobody owns this principle. In this sense, as in many others, philosophy is like mathematics. If your professor informs you that two plus two does not equal five, it isn't by virtue of authority that you are incorrect in thinking that it does. There's nothing personal at all. But committing oneself to avoiding contradictions is no small effort.
Finally, ethics concerns questions of what to do. This makes it very distinct from the other disciplines for reasons explained by logic, epistemology and metaphysics. The four disciplines work together, but navigating their distinctions is crucial for reasons that will be obvious soon, I hope. Ethics is further subdivided into meta-ethics, normativity and applied ethics.
Meta-ethics is the source of normativity. A meta-ethical theory is a theory that provides foundations for further ethical inquiry. Values are meta-ethical devices. We decide what is important to us, and we pattern our normativity accordingly. Normativity concerns statements of what to do, while meta-ethics explains how and why we decide what to do. A normative statement is an "ought" statement. "One should not steal" is an example of a normative statement. So if anyone wonders why we shouldn't steal, one then asks the meta-ethical question: Why? A familiar example of a meta-ethical explanation might be: "Because it deprives others of their rights, and therefore undermines our own rights." Or, here in the West there is the all-too-familiar: "God has so commanded it."
Now we can see two types of meta-ethical theories. The first involves a theory of rights, and the latter is a divine command theory. When John Locke wrote about rights to life, liberty and property, he was giving a meta-ethical theory. Political liberalism and libertarianism are meta-ethical theories. Utilitarianism is also a meta-ethical theory. Goals and values are part of the meta-ethical discussion. How are we to decide what to do? That is the meta-ethical question.
Normativity is part of life. Nobody escapes it. We couldn't function without it. A military order is one kind of normative statement (one that I can live without!), but so are rules of etiquette, club rules, laws and even personal resolutions like getting up in the morning and going to work instead of lying in bed all day. "Do this" is a totally bare normative statement.
Normativity has a logical feature that makes it unique. Grammar makes normativity possible through devices like the imperative. One absolutely crucial thing to remember about normativity is that "is" can never be logically connected to "ought". Any attempt to do so is dangerously susceptible to contradiction, which logic will never allow. Normativity is a very tricky subject, since it has to be supported by meta-ethics, which is a field of inquiry that calls for considerable boldness, or it doesn't seem to get done at all. Far too often it is simply easier to go along with the normativity without questioning the meta-ethics because a bad decision here can really mess up one's life. If there is any confusion about the contradictory nature of comparing is with ought, think of it in terms of metaphysics. The present concerns what is, that is, being. The future is confined to not-being. The present is what is, the future can only be what is not. See the contradiction? The difference between the present and the future is separated by a metaphysical barrier that we cannot cross without implying a contradiction. This is why it is intuitively frustrating to be given an "is" answer to a question of "ought". A contradiction truly offends the mind. I am willing to believe that this is an adaptational feature conferred through the process of natural selection.
Freedom is a very controversial topic in ethics. When I look at my own life, I sometimes feel convinced that I have virtually no freedom except the freedom to give my assent to whatever proposition warrants my consideration. This is the freedom to believe, but even this freedom is questionable. In any case, it's going to take place inside my head according to my own terms. If I find a proposition implausible, that is the only reason I need for rejecting it. Nobody can tell me that I must give my assent to any given proposition. Any normative statement of the form "one must believe x" is impossible to make, according to my meta-ethical observations. So when I was growing up in Mormon fundamentalist society, I couldn't help but balk when I was told that I must believe, and that I am obligated to employ "faith" if I truly find the propositions implausible. If it seems truly implausible to me that God exists, I am obligated to profess my faith, regardless. One must believe in God. There seemed to be no flexibility in this normative statement, yet such a statement infringes on the only liberty I can truly conceive, the freedom to give my assent or withhold it, based on nothing more than whether I find the proposition plausible.
I have spent countless sleepless nights pondering this stuff. As a result, I have developed a very acute sensitivity to normative statements. I recognize well the need for normativity, but I am ever-suspicious of the meta-ethical foundations. Our need for normativity presses us to make normative statements every day. But if a normative statement does not have good footing through meta-ethics and, of course, logic, how can anything follow but poor decisions and irrational behavior?
I am too self-conscious to feel comfortable getting caught doing anything irrational. And I'm skeptical and cynical, thanks to my experiences with falsehood and deception in Mormon fundamentalist society. I'm not going to get caught doing anything illogical if I can possibly avoid it, because I've seen first-hand how this conflicts with freedom and in my own case, brings misery and is quite frankly embarrassing. I detest hypocrisy and nothing makes me feel ashamed more than catching myself engaging in it. I want good reasons for doing things. I want truthful reasons. I've spent years of my life in crushing depression because I felt that my intellectual freedom, that is, my freedom to give my assent on my own terms, was being denied.
So now, I see the normativity everywhere, and I question it relentlessly. I need normativity too, but it had better be legitimately founded. Normative statements creep up everywhere, and my cynical attitude makes me suspicious that a lot of people are trying to “slip one by me.” Normative statements can sometimes be couched into the most innocuous dialog, for example, in some kinds of rhetorical questions. There is someone in my family who I love dearly, but she has a habit of reacting to certain behaviors to which she disapproves by making a certain facial expression and "asking": "Why would you do that?" I consider this passive-aggressiveness. It is a normative statement in the disguise of a question. Doing what I do here in Utah, I invite this sort of thing, or so it seems. I never put up with it. I will seek out the normative statements, and then I'm going to corner these people and ask the meta-ethical questions. If they can't give me the answers, then I'm going to make them squirm as much as I can. I hate feeling obligated to behave according to someone else's ill-defined whim.
Where does the normativity come from? That is the question I've been carrying with me throughout my life. If I'm ever going to bask in the freedom that I crave, it will be because I have asked this question relentlessly.
P.S. Applied ethics involves bringing our normative statements into reality, like enforcing laws or protesting a political action.
Here's my normative statement for today, with some good reasoning behind it.
Always avoid contradictions!
| The only relationship TSCC truly cares about is between the member and the institution that is the Mormon church. All other relationships are purely secondary and of lesser importance.
TSCC knows that people are hardwired to want and need "community". We are social creatures and seek out relationships with others. TSCC plays on this need rather cravenly, in fact - this is what it shamelessly sells to unwitting "investigators". The desire for community is a major reason people join this cult.
The problem is, the community of Mormonism is false. The bonds that one builds within the context of TSCC are only with the institution, just in close proximity with other people. In fact, I think the church actively tries to weaken deep and meaningful bonds between members and family or other human beings. It is always trying to insert itself between the individual member and other human relationships. You only have a relationship with others THROUGH the church or sometimes in spite of the church, but seldom because of it.
Relationships between members are often shallow and superficial. In some cases, they are distant and overly formalized or stilted - they are relationships between office holders or "callings" - not real people. Deep intimacy on an individual personal level is discouraged.
How do I know this? What are the signs that TSCC offers only false community? Here are what I see:
1. People who are connected to one another in a meaningful way within a true community work together in an empathic, understanding, sympathetic and cooperative fashion. From what I observe, members of TSCC are engaged in a great deal of individual competition and "one-up-manship". It is all about showing other members how "worthy" you are and judging others on how "unworthy" they are. It is about winners an losers - who is "better" in HF's eyes....People in competition with one another are not functioning in a "communal" fashion.
2. Members of a true community typically interact with each other in honest, respectful and tolerant ways. In Mormonism, honesty is completely discouraged - it is all about obedience and towing the party line. When people are afraid to say what they really think, it is because they do not trust other members of the so-called "community". The average Mormon ward is a veritable beehive of gossip, prejudice, tattling, shunning, condemnation, and public pillorying. This is NOT the way that healthy communities function. When members of a community distrust one another, there can be no true connection.
3. The Mormon emphasis on idealized family relationships actually discourages true community. Members feel the need to "pretend" that their marriage and family is perfect, wonderful, the LDS ideal. As we all know, no real family is that way. This constant pretending creates false identities or personas which then have to be protected - this takes a great deal of energy! People who are play- acting cannot have truly deep and meaningful relationships with others - the pretense is far too difficult to maintain over time this way. Better to have shallow relationships where one can keep the mask on. Again - in true communities, people are safe to be themselves. Only when we are comfortable in who we really are can we establish REAL and satisfactory relationships with others.
4. In true communities, there is a sense of sharing and helping that comes from a sincere and unselfish desire to assist others. In TSCC I have seen a great deal of really ugly "charity". Members have to prostrate themselves before the bishop to request assistance. He then decides if they are "worthy" of the help requested. In many cases, the help is provided by people who then judge or belittle the one being helped - there is talk within the ward - whispering about what help was needed and offered. The person being helped often has "conditions" placed upon that help - there are things that person must do - ways that person must behave in order to get assistance. This is about control, guilt, shame, and being "unworthy" again. This is NOT what occurs in a healthy community.
I could probably think of more examples - but this is enough. The Mormon "community" is an unhealthy one in many respects. Oddly enough, memebers become so used to it, so addicted to it, that leaving this sick community is actually painful. It is very difficult to becone accustomed to living in normal communities after experiencing the Morg version.
The only relationship that really matters is the one that members have with the Morg - it is about the STATE, not the individual. THE WHOLE IS FAR, FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE INDIVIDUAL HUMANS THAT COMPRISE THE WHOLE! This is scary stuff when you really look at it - scary stuff, indeed.
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