Monday, November 25, 2013

Feeling vindicated in 2013

I can't help but feel vindicated these days. When I left the church around 2001 the internet was just starting to really grow into the powerful source of information and communication that it is today. But during the time I was leaving it was a time when former Mormons were still intensely vilified by many Mormons; and some (not all) LDS apologists would often verbally attack me in emails, and the church still taught the hemispheric model of the Book of Mormon, the seed of Cain dogma, and was hiding most of the controversial doctrines, etc. All that is changing within the last ten years or so since I left. Whereas members who left Mormonism before the internet never got to see these changes, I am lucky enough to see the truth I uncovered (that has been heard all around the web by numerous authors) actually affect the LDS church and lead to more positive changes I discuss in the link below.

As a result I feel vindicated. For while I was told by members I was wrong and I was the problem, today the LDS apologists and leaders are admitting these are real problems and are actually changing the doctrines because THEY ARE IN FACT WRONG; or at least offering full disclosure more often. All the hard work and research of numerous authors has paid off. We were not wrong, we weren't the problem; Mormonism was wrong, and it was the problem all along.

I just updated my blog post on A Short List of the Positive Aspects of Mormonism & The Goodness It Creates. In the process I show how core doctrines that I grew up with are now changing. I especially find it powerful to watch the video examples in my blog post linked above, on the difference between the film God's Army by Richard Dutcher and the apologist's video I discuss in my updated post. There is an obvious change in tone among many apologists; the internet and the truth is forcing them to realize that they can't smugly dismiss the members doubts and attack and blame them anymore. The truth is too powerful. You can attack the messenger but the truth of the message will plow forward.

So yes the LDS church is making positive changes because they were wrong about core doctrines, and yes I feel vindicated; and so should all the former Mormons over the years who had the courage and integrity to speak out and affect these changes. We weren't wrong, we were right. We weren't the problem, we were the catalyst to the LDS church changing many false doctrines; and in their own way admitting we were right by sympathizing more with dissidents and being more open about the controversial issues.

I truly believe that while the mind control is powerful in Mormonism, the fact that Mormon culture does place a high value on honesty and truth; that overtime the membership and the leaders will eventually come to discount all or most of the false claims of Mormonism.   

Monday, November 04, 2013

Communicating with Mormon Loved Ones: A Five Step Method

It doesn't matter whether you're selling Jesus or Buddha or civil rights or 'How to Make Money in Real Estate With No Money Down.' That doesn't make you a human being; it makes you a marketing rep. If you want to talk to somebody honestly, as a human being, ask him about his kids. Find out what his dreams are - just to find out, for no other reason. Because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it's not a conversation anymore; it's a pitch. And you're not a human being; you're a marketing rep” ~ From the movie, The Big Kahuna (1999).

Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still
~ Dale Carnegie

If you want to gather honey don’t kick over the beehive; a drop of honey catches more flies then a gallon and gall” ~ Abraham Lincoln.

I should begin with a word of caution ... 

Many former Mormons who speak out about why they reject Mormonism have lost their job, or if they ran a business they lost LDS customers which affected their business. Many marriages and relationships have been challenged or ruined because of Mormonism. I think it is important that the person understand the risks of voicing their opinions about Mormonism. It might be wise to select carefully those who you can trust to confide in about your doubts. It is probably wise to prepare to make new friends, business contacts, and customers who are not LDS if you plan to openly declare you are no longer a Mormon.

The following is some advice on communicating with a Mormon about why you are questioning the Mormon religion. Even if you have already concluded it is false, it is best to keep an open mind during your conversations. First, let me begin with how this blog post came to be.

I began my journey out of Mormonism with a chip on my shoulder. Since I was expecting to be rejected by Mormons who knew I rejected their religion, I projected my fears and insecurities outward and became very angry and aggressive in my speech with some Mormons. I also tried to debate with every Mormon I could because deep down I wanted to be proved wrong. I didn't like knowing what I did and I wanted someone to show me where my logic was in error. The more LDS members didn't want to discuss it the more agitated I became thinking they didn't care about me. I knew I needed to make a decision about Mormonism. So in order to wake them up to my dilemma I would fire off facts and details about the man-made origins of Mormonism in hopes of eliciting a desire from them to correct me where I might be wrong.

Sometimes I feared things and reacted preemptively. For example, since the LDS religion rejected me, labeling me an "apostate" and other derogatory names, then I would "weed out" those who weren't going to accept me -- because I didn't profess the correct articles of faith -- by very aggressively arguing about why I reject Mormonism with them nearly every time I saw them. The problem was that I was engaging in a self-fulfilling prophecy, for by sometimes being rude and insensitive, arguing and ridiculing rather than listening, sharing, and caring, I was generating the negative responses I feared.

If you are reading this it is probably because you are interested in getting along with someone who doesn't share your views about Mormonism. Many former Mormons who have been “burned” by the LDS religion are often ready on the trigger to fire round after round of arguments and facts at their loved ones trying to convince them that Mormonism is man-made and harmful. I had to learn from experience that this is the wrong way to go about it. Instead, when it comes to family and friends (and acquaintances) your main goal should be to earn their trust and respect because only then will they be willing to hear you out.

After many conversations with Mormons I have learned that argument rarely works for it most often just arouses resentment. I also learned that throwing information at them is not good either. I learned the hard way that  Mormons are trained to avoid anti-Mormon literature (which is anything critical of Mormonism). This conditioning they receive causes them to be literally phobic of anything deemed “anti-Mormon,” thus if you spring facts on them they will experience an amygdala hijack and may associate you with those negative emotions for years to come. So below I have devised a simple step by step communication method, which starts with trying to understand the Mormon’s psychology.

This blog post thus grew out of trial and error when communicating with LDS members. What follows is what I believe to be the best course of action when communicating with LDS members about why you reject Mormonism.

Before you begin any conversation with an LDS member, take some time to understand the psychology of a Mormon:

• First, take some time to understand the amygdala hijack that Mormons often experience when they're confronted with evidence and data that calls into question their worldview. In short, this means that whenever we are faced with life threatening decisions, like whether or not to run or somehow confront the grizzly bear in front of us, the natural instinct and brain mechanism of “fight or flight” kicks in and takes over our nervous system. When a Mormon is confronted with a grizzly bear of facts disproving their dogma they will usually respond with a natural fight or flight response.

• Understand the concept of "cathexis": this is the act of a person attaching one’s ego onto another person, place, or thing. For example, a father might become so attached to his son’s performance at a baseball game that when his son strikes out, he will become very angry. Mormons tend to form a cathexis around LDS dogma.

• Realize that your loved one is experiencing Groupthink, i.e. constant social reinforcement/peer pressure and so try not to take it personally when they seem to not act like themselves but as a product of the "Mormon Machine."

• Take a moment to consider their personality type. A lot has been written on this subject, which you can read up on via Google. But for now consider whether they are highly rational or more emotional, assertive or passive, outgoing or more shy; are they more prone to anxiety, or are they easy to anger or slow to anger, etc. All of this can help you understand how and why they became so deeply involved in Mormonism and how best to communicate with them. Several books offer advice on how to deal with each personality type.

• Consider how much fear, guilt, and other emotions they are experiencing as a Mormon and be compassionate.

• Understand that a lot of the information you will share will cause severe cognitive dissonance and they will seek to avoid the anxiety this will cause through various methods of dissonance reduction and avoidance.

• Realize that some very intelligent people are Mormon which is best explained by a concept called mental compartmentalizing: this is where a person will ignore a thought or idea if it challenges their beliefs, by putting it on the metaphorical “shelf” in their mind; or deal with it using the non-rational part of the brain and appeal to emotions. For example, a person may use their frontal lobe (the rational part of the brain) and be skeptical when buying a car to make sure it does not have problems. Yet this same person may see another car they instantly like and start to compartmentalize all the problems with the car by ignoring their frontal lobe analysis and instead focusing on its pretty color becoming influenced by their emotions. The person will then place all the problems with the car on a shelf, in a hidden compartment of their mind, while focusing on its pretty color.

A Simple 5 Step Strategy for Approaching Communication with Mormons:

The following Five Step Method is based on the idea that it is better to have an open minded dialogue than come at the person with an “I’m right you’re wrong attitude.” Thus the frame of mind is one of questioning. Even if you've concluded Mormonism is false, you are coming to them with only your questions. You are giving them a chance to search the truth WITH you, rather than you coming to them and trying to PERSUADE them. This lowers the person’s guard and sets you up as team members rather than rivals. However, I am not suggesting deception; you need to be genuinely sincere about being open to letting the truth unfold in your discussions even if that means you go back to the Mormon Church. Hence you are not coming to them with, “I’ve left here’s why,” but “I have questions, will you explore them with me?”

Here is the simple method:

Step 1: Set a friendly mood and avoid argument
Step 2: Set the frame as teammates and engage in Socratic dialogue
Step 3: Set the frame as co-detectives and/or two jurors looking at both sides of the case in an objective and impartial manner
Step 4: Share your de-conversion story if/when steps 3-4 run stale
Step 5: Invite them to have six Post-Mormon discussions

The underlying intention of your interactions is to inspire critical thinking and taking an objective look at the evidence for and against Mormonism. This is the heart of your approach. For once you get them to change their epistemology (the study of how we know things) from emotion-driven rationalizing to reason-driven scientific methodology; the rest is downhill from there. In other words, once they are convinced that a rational science-based method of inquiry is superior to appeals to emotion, and have their own desire for truth and doing their own research, the rest will fall into place naturally. Meaning they will naturally discover the truths out there to discover once they have a healthy curiosity and open mindset. At that point your work is done, for they will voluntarily read the books, search the web, and critically think their way independently to the truth and freedom.

Step 1: Set a friendly mood and avoid argument

Start with the frame of mind presented in the book How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Your attitude should be one of humility not pride, sharing ideas not winning a debate, and caring more about their feelings than you being right. You need to approach each communication in a friendly way. Your attitude should be, as Carnegie puts it (paraphrasing) “I could be wrong, I often am, so let’s examine the facts.” It is not about you, but the truth. Let the facts of reality speak for themselves. Here are just a few examples of the principles in Carnegie’s book and how they can be applied to conversations with a Mormon:

Begin in a friendly way: instead of starting a conversation with your agenda to disprove Mormonism. Begin with asking how they are doing and engage them in a conversation about themselves, their interests, and uplifting topics.

Be genuinely interested in them as a person: when they feel that you are curious about them and care about their well-being, and that you like them irregardless of their beliefs, they will be more receptive to you.

Don’t criticize and avoid argument: try to avoid criticizing the LDS church and its leaders which will only arouse resentment.

Give honest and sincere appreciation: frequently point out what you do appreciate about them and their values as a Mormon which you can both agree on.

Give them a fine reputation to live up to: instead of pointing out how silly their beliefs are or how erroneous their ideas are; point out how smart you think they are and how you understand to a degree why they chose Mormonism. Point out how you think they are very rational if this applies, doing so sincerely. Thus hopefully they will seek to be rational in your dialogue.

There are more principles in the book which I highly recommend implementing during your discussions. If you apply these principles you will be less likely to create adomosity or hurt feelings and will create greater receptivity to the truth.

Step 2: Set the frame as joint investigators, fellow team members, seeking the objective truth through the universal laws of logic and shareable evidence

Avoid any dialogue that leads to an argument and the two of you seeing each other as adversarial rivals. The goal is to work together as if you were two investigators working the same crime scene. That is the frame of mind you want the two of you to have at all times.

As Dale Carnegie teaches, don't tell people they're wrong or try to argue with them; which will only arouse resentment. Instead do what Socrates did. Ask a series of questions aimed at helping the person reach a logical conclusion on their own through their own critical thinking skills; that was induced by your thought provoking, non-threatening, and friendly questioning. For more information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socratic_method

I have found that it sometimes helps to follow a method/model during conversation so that when you are tempted to be obnoxious, rude, sarcastic, or ridicule; you can go back to the method. So I put together what I shall call The Friendly Socratic Method which implements both the Socratic Method and the friendly approach of Dale Carnegie; with some reflective listening I picked up from Steven Covey’s Seven Habits book and his habit Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. So the method goes like this:


Click on image to enlarge

You simply repeat this process over and over again during conversation. The content of the conversation should be around 70-80% non-Mormon related; unless of course they are being very receptive and comfortable with the Mormon questions. So it goes like this. You start a conversation with non-Mormon related subject matter, and then midway through you begin the cycle:

  • You ask a Socratic question
  • As they are talking you read their body language for signs of discomfort (e.g. are they agitated, threatened, or fearful? Or curious, engaged, analytical?)
  • Listen and reflect their thoughts and feelings back to them in your own words (paraphrasing); so they know you are truly listening and understand their perspective, which validates their feelings.
  • After the questions and their responses make sure you leave on a positive emotional high note by raising their self-esteem (their confidence and emotional well-being) with anything from a sincere compliment (e.g. about their intelligence, open mindedness, their character, etc); and/or show gratitude for their willingness to discuss the topic with you.
  • Release any tension that may have developed through anything from a friendly hug (if appropriate) to the use of humor, etc.


If you were successful they will leave the exchange feeling good not worse; and any tension will have been released by you listening and building their self-esteem and then quickly changing the subject and offering some levity; so any anxiety your questions may have caused don’t fester and transform into anger, defensiveness, and/or phobias. 

Make sure you have these Socratic dialogues in private. Pick the proper time and place to be having a discussion about Mormonism. Sometimes the LDS person is not in the mood, or they are surrounded by LDS friends or family members who might gang up on you like a mob for even asking questions. Timing is everything and by choosing the right times and places to have a friendly discussion you avoid problems.

Avoid the urge to turn the dialogue into an argument. Although you may feel a strong urge to de-convert them in one day and convince them to see things exactly as you do. Realize that's unrealistic and instead of trying to change their mind all at once, just try to help them to want to understand the perspective of others, and think about things objectively. You goal is to get them thinking on their own so that once they start down the road of courageous and honest truth seeking they will find the truths of reality along the path on their own.

Arguing will likely only make matters worse for you, for it will stir up “contention” and set off an amygdala hijack in them; and the Mormon will likely interpret this as proof Mormonism is true and you are the enemy.

Remove from your psychology the need to de-convert them with the power of your arguments and persuasive skills. It is not your job to persuade them. Your goal is to spur within them a desire to investigate the true roots of Mormonism on their own voluntarily. All you can do is nudge them toward the process of learning for themselves. You cannot make them read history or examine the facts. They have to want to do that. Your goal is to generate that want. But it is ultimately up to them to develop their own curiosity and desire to know the facts beyond the white-washed sugar-coated propaganda the Mormon Church feeds its members.

Don't try and just shove facts down their throat; allow the Mormon to go at their own pace by asking them questions that ignite their own curiosity. Allow them room to form their own conclusions without you pressuring them. As the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”

You are essentially seeking to move their epistemology (the study of how we know things) from subjective emotion to objective evidence through investigation and logical analysis. In step three you will examine the evidence, here in step two you’re simply reasoning together.

During the dialogue you might introduce how logic works and discuss fallacies. You can then apply a fallacy to a claim unrelated to Mormonism. Then later in the discussion bring up a Mormon issue or claim and ask if that sounds like a fallacy.

When/if you're feeling frustrated that they just won’t follow the logic toward the rational conclusion, try to accept where they’re at and realize we’re all at different stages in life and in regards to Mormonism. Remember that if you're a former Mormon, they are at a stage you used to be at. Maybe wherever they are at is the place they need to be at right now, either as a necessary stepping stone on their path or because that is where perhaps they were meant to be whole and content? Realizing we are all on a journey can help us have compassion and understanding for those with differing metaphysical opinions. Thus I think it should be the journey itself and not convictions that unite us.

Understand that their desire and ability to investigate the true roots of Mormonism is a process just as for you it was a process. By allowing them to go at their own pace, allowing your questions to marinate in their mind; you are allowing them to make their own decisions and think on their own which will eventually lead them to truth much faster than you trying to persuade them; which will likely only create resistance. That is the problem with arguments is that they usually become adversarial exchanges with each other’s ego involved. Feelings inevitably get hurt, and each party retreats to their secluded line drawn in the sand. To be most affective it is very important that your need to be right and score points take a backseat to your desire to make them feel validated/appreciated and listened to, respected, and understood. Your ego must recede and compassion proceed if you want to be effective. Your goals are to maintain mutual respect and build a bridge of understanding between your two points of view with maturity and respect.

The best form of persuasion in these matters is not your arguments anyway; but your love and respect and your display of high character. When you are a pillar of integrity and exemplify noble character it is more difficult to do what the Mormon Church teaches them to do; which is attack your character in various ways for doubting.

Use Inclusive Language

Try to avoid using divisive language like, "YOU guys believe this," instead try to be inclusive by saying something like, "when I was LDS ..." Try to use words like us, we, ours, etc.

Start with example X

I like to start with talking about an example in another organization that uses, for example, mind control tactics and/or distorts the truth, etc. Then when the LDS member agrees that those tactics are wrong, I will then later in conversation return to that example and ask them to ponder the similarities. For example, early in the conversation I might bring up how Hare Krishna's claim that it is through a subjective experience that you can know that their claims are true. If the LDS member agrees that such a method is faulty, later on in conversation I can bring up the Hare Krishna's when the LDS member starts appealing to their own subjective testimony; I can then ask them to explain how their subjective experience is different from the Hare Krishnas’; when they told me earlier the other was flawed. This is in no way manipulative, for all you are doing is encouraging them to be consistent and think logically. The LDS missionaries, the last time I saw them in action, do a similar thing all the time; for example, they might have an investigator read a scripture passage and then they'll ask them what they think it means, then they will teach an LDS doctrine that seems to accord with that scripture and what that investigator just said they think it means.

Keep in mind that having friendly Socratic dialogues while using Dale Carnegie’s principles can go on for months and years. The idea is you are slowly planting seeds of truth in their mind via your honest questions which will ideally sprout into them thinking critically on their own. This is a slow and patient process but the fruits of your cultivation are worth the wait.

If a person is thinking of joining the Mormon Church or is a new member you can ask them questions that get them to think of the seriousness of their commitment with these types of questions:

Note that your tone should be like the TV character Colombo. You are not being sarcastic or critical, you are just asking questions. Here are some sample questions.

Appeal to contradictory testimonies: “You know I heard that there are Mormon factions in Missouri, where they have their own testimony that Utah Mormonism is not true. I don’t understand this. How can you disprove their subjective revelation? Because if you can’t claim they don’t have a testimony based on subjective feelings/experiences, how can your testimony be infallible?”

Appeal to logic: “I was curious, why do you have to learn secret handshakes in the temple to present to the angels that stand guard at the entrance of heaven? I mean if the handshakes are already on the internet couldn’t anyone learn them? I am confused by that, can you explain that to me.”

Appeal to the person’s vanity: “Wow, I am really impressed with your commitment to Mormonism. To think that you are brave enough to be willing to wear those long john LDS underwear night and day for the rest of your life. That takes a lot of dedication; to say no more tank tops or certain dresses that expose the arms or legs; to change how you dress, that takes dedication. How did you come to that decision?”  

Appeal to their freedom of food choices: “To think that just last year you were drinking (fill in the blank: coffee, tea) and now you have sworn it off because of a feeling you got. That’s fascinating. Does it ever feel restrictive to be an adult and being told what you can and can’t drink in order to be a member in good standing and to be able to go to the temple and get into heaven?”

Step 3: Introduce content into your discussions as fair and objective jurors on the same team examining both sides

After you have exhausted the Socratic dialogue approach it may be time to introduce some research material to enhance their learning of the truth. Be very careful here though, for as I mention above, Mormons are trained to avoid anti-Mormon literature which they are often literally phobic of; thus if you spring it on them they will likely experience an amygdala hijack and may associate you with those negative emotions for years to come. It is important that they are willing to learn both sides before sharing information.

The best way to introduce content is to stay on the frame of you two as joint investigators on the same team. To accomplish this I'd first recommend sitting down with them to watch the the following internet video created by Mormon apologists; this should relieve all fears for the video was produced by Mormons. What I like about the video is that it portrays LDS members dealing with a doubting member in a respectful manner. In the video the Mormon parent even willingly investigates both sides with his son. I think this video can create compassion and open mindedness in LDS members while watching it; for it gives them what Dale Carnigie would call "a fine reputation to live up to." The video is called Alone (available on YouTube). The video description reads, "Feeling alone, Justin shares with his father and wife his concerns about his church and comes to a new understanding of his faith and those he loves."

After watching the video with them and asking what they thought of it and discussing the themes of the video. At this point I would invite them to also look at both sides with you so that they can understand where you are coming from.

You can mention how in a court of law jurors are presented with both sides. To be accepted a juror must show that they can be fair and impartial. You can ask them if they would be willing to be a juror with you and examine both sides. You can even mention to them that this what LDS missionaries do, that is they ask investigators to read a part of the Book of Mormon and then return to discuss what they read.

They can start by recommending a video the two of you can watch together that is pro-Mormon. Like a video by a Mormon apologist and then investigate the contents together. Then you can suggest watching a video by a critic. I use to recommend asking the LDS member to listen/watch a certain video produced by John Dehlin. This video is completely pro-Mormon while also explaining why many people leave the LDS Church or go inactive; the link to that video is here. However, the video is flawed in that the ending is meant to help LDS members understand their former Mormon loved ones better so that they can better help them come back to the Mormon Church. I have since seen a better video called "Top 10 Mormon Problems Explained" by MormonHistoryBuff, linked here. Another video that does a great job of presenting the former Mormon view in a slow and non-confrontational process is the YouTube video series Ask Reality by Chris, here. Rather than listing ten reasons why Mormonism is false, Chris explains how learning that other religions do what Mormonism does, he was able to see the errors. I’d recommend the Ask Reality series be watched first, followed up by the Top 10 Mormon Problems Explained.

I next recommend the following two books that are critical of Mormon claims:

  • An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins by Grant Palmer
  • For Any Latter-Day Saint: One Investigator's Unanswered Questions by Sharon I. Banister (note: on amazon.com I saw this book listed in the used book section for hundreds of dollars, which is insane. The book is only worth 10 to 20 dollars. Don’t pay more than that. Last I checked it was available for purchase at a reasonable price at utlm.org).
I selected these two books because they are very comprehensive in nature and have a very friendly tone. Thus they cannot be accused of being “anti-Mormon” books. In fact, Palmer’s book was sold by Deseret for a time. Now there are many other books but I think these are the best introductory books that are friendly in tone. 

Step 4: When all else fails, or the time is right, share your story

After your Socratic dialogues have gone on enough and you've introduced them to a book and video, you can later write them something along the lines of, “I have greatly enjoyed our open and honest conversations. I have felt greater compassion for you and your point of view. Our joint studies as objective jurors in search of the objective truth has been very rewarding and I appreciate your team spirit. I have continued my own studies after you seem to have lost interest in investigating things further. Here are some things that I have learned ….” In the letter you can move to step five and invite them to have further discussions or you can choose to do so in person.

Step 5: invite them to have six discussions

After steps 1-4 are completed, I recommend moving on to having Six Post-Mormon Discussions. There are risks with this approach however. For once you get them to commit their fellow Mormons will see this as an attack and it is likely they will withdraw before you get through all the planned discussions. It also puts them on the defensive a bit due to the formal nature of the meetings. They have to be very courageous and open minded to do this. They also have to really trust and respect you to be willing to do this. The person has to decide what they think is best way to proceed.

What if they refuse to even have a Socratic dialogue; refuse to read or watch anything; and ignore or disregard my letter and refuse to have six discussions; and have no interesting in trying to understand your perspective? What if they flat out refuse to read or listen to you and do not want to hear you out?

Well, be glad you got that out of the way. Be thankful you did not waste hours, days, months, or years trying to convince someone to understand you when they don't want to! I spent years trying to get a Mormon to think critically and one day I just asked them, “Do you want to understand my perspective? Would you even want to know the truth if that meant making your uncomfortable?” They simply said “no,” and explained in so many words that it was more important to them to feel good and feel secure with their current worldview than learn anything that would make them uncomfortable. Here I was bending over backwards trying to have conversations with someone who was not open minded and simply did not want to know the truth if it would make them uncomfortable. When they finally said what they really felt I felt relief. I then knew where they stood, I didn't understand it because for me the truth is worth some discomfort, but I accepted their position.

Why confront them with your new perspective anyway? As long as they are not trying to convert your children behind your back without your consent and aren't slandering you why bother confronting them at all?

Also, understand they're not you. Are you trying to create a clone of yourself? Try to accept that they might not think and feel the same way you do. If you had their exact genes, upbringing, neurochemistry, personality type, social pressures, and personal experiences you’d probably think and believe and behave the same way they do (did); since you’d essentially be them and would have had their experiences. Think about that.

Allow them time to come around on their own and perhaps in time they might seek to investigate Mormonism objectively; and discover the truths waiting for them to discover at the touch of a computer keypad or just a book away. At the same time accept that they may never try to fully understand where you are coming from nor seek the truth for personal reasons (e.g. fear, phobias, or feeling secure where they're at, etc.) that has nothing to do with you, and that time will also help you to accept that.

Seek professional help if needed:

If leaving Mormonism or going inactive is affecting your self-esteem and/or causing friction in your marriage or relationships consider seeing a non-Mormon counselor either alone or together that can be neutral.

For more advice, see the video, The Strategic Interaction Approach by Steven Alan Hassan. Below is a summary of the lecture by Hassan:

• Do not make your goal getting them to leave the religion. Make them truly feel that your goal is to empower them to think for themselves and thrive as an individual.

• Treat them with respect and build rapport and trust.

• Use other fanatical-religions and cults as examples. Do not directly attack their religious beliefs. Instead, critique a religious idea they have indirectly by bringing up another religion and hopefully they will see the connection that their religion does the same thing.

• Gather information about other cults and share that information.


• I also recommend Daniel J. Simonsbasketball video. Tell the Mormon “When viewing the video, try to count the total number of times that the people wearing white pass the basketball. Do not count the passes made by the people wearing black.” After they are done ask how many passes they counted? Then have them watch the video again without counting and see if they spot the person in the guerrilla outfit. Point out that this is how so many Mormons are unable to see what is often before their eyes.

• Plant seeds of curiosity by asking questions and pausing for them to think about the question, e.g. “so did you ever find out why your friend left the church?” Then pause for a response.

• Ask what would it take to convince them the religion was not what it claims to be? Then use that information to reveal the truth to them.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Mormon Shame and Tame Cycle

Disclaimer: In this post I am not saying that feeling healthy guilt is wrong. In fact healthy guilt is sometimes important toward facilitating personal growth and ethical change. In this post I am critiquing Mormonism's methods of extreme demands on the membership to live up to the Mormon ideals, followed by unhealthy shaming techniques and the implementation of emotional manipulation. For my readers who are Christian, nothing I write herein goes against basic Christian doctrines of healthy guilt and confession to God and forgiveness by grace. I am specifically critiquing the Mormon Corporation and its methods of mind controlling it’s members through several methods, including making impossible demands on fallible humans; like the rule that you can't drink coffee, or that women shouldn't have more than one pair of earrings; and how LDS members who have been through the temple are required to wear secret Mormon underwear day and night to be deemed “worthy” of entering the temple in order to learn how to enter the highest heaven.

In the 1995 General Conference, Russell M. Nelson, gave a talk titled Perfection Pending, wherein he begins by stating that basically he'd like to reduce the shame and low self-esteem of many LDS members. But then he continues to burden members with a focus on LDS rules stating that, "One can ... achieve perfection in being punctual, paying tithing, keeping the Word of Wisdom, and so on. The enormous effort required to attain such self-mastery is rewarded with a deep sense of satisfaction. More importantly, spiritual attainments in mortality accompany us into eternity." He goes on to support the problem of LDS members often feeling constantly ashamed and inadequate due to excessive Mormon rules and demands, by stating that "There is a proper place for chastisement in the molding of character ..." Of course, that means to him I think that LDS leaders are too shame imperfect members where needed. He then states, "Mortal perfection can be achieved as we try to perform every duty, keep every law, and strive to be as perfect in our sphere as our Heavenly Father is in his." He goes on to state that "No accountable individual can receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom [the highest heaven] without the ordinances of the [Mormon] temple. ... Our climb up the path to perfection [leads to the promise of us becoming], like Deity." Failure to reach mortal perfection by Mormon standards results in one not achieving the status of a God and being a celibate angel for eternity per D&C 132. In his speech he basically argues that we must be perfect Mormons on earth, before the Mormon judgment, and then we will be further perfected as Gods in the hereafter. Thus he ends by saying, "We need not be dismayed if our earnest efforts toward perfection now seem so arduous and endless. Perfection is pending. It can come in full only after the Resurrection and only through the Lord. It awaits all who love him and keep his commandments. It includes thrones, kingdoms, principalities, powers, and dominions [here he references D&C 132:19]." So basically, we are to strive to be as perfect as the Mormon Gods and should be “chastised” if we don’t live up to that standard as fallible humans; but not to worry because full divine perfection (to be fully like the Gods) is pending. We will not be fully perfect until we reach heaven when we will be transformed into Gods. However, we are to strive to be as perfect as Gods on earth or else we won't be given the privilege of becoming a God in the next life. 

Note that I have capitalized the term God instead of using the modern LDS term "gods," when referring to the belief that Mormons can become Gods. I have done this, because first, in the 1891 D&C 132 we read that Mormons who gain their exaltation will become "Gods" (the word is capitalized). Second, because in many official LDS publications the best LDS members are said to become Gods in the hereafter. I also refer to the Mormon "Gods" (plural) over this earth because that is how Joseph Smith and Brigham Young spoke. It is also the term used in official LDS scripture, see The Book of Abraham chapter 4. It is only in modern times that LDS leaders have tried to sound more Protestant by using the traditional Christian term God or Godhead, which invokes monotheism in most people's minds. This is misleading for Mormons are not monotheists. When they refer to God or the Godhead what Mormons actually mean is a council of Gods, specifically three Gods that preside over this earth.

The Shame & Tame Cycle in a nutshell:

The Mormon method of breaking the LDS member down into a submissive follower of the leadership is through a very simple "shame and tame" process summarized below.

1) Mormons are taught to make zero mistakes which they are taught basically stains their soul "spiritually," whereupon they must repent of their sins to Mormon leaders. The list of what constitutes a serious “sin” and requires confession to an LDS leader, are always vague and ambiguous and conflict with one another, and no official list is available to my knowledge. This ambiguity, as to what is considered a “sin” requiring confession to the leadership, combined with the strictness of the culture and the shaming involved in any and every mistake, causes constant anxiety, paranoia, obsessive compulsive behavior (known as Scrupulosity) and neurosis, among many LDS members. In other words, without a clear list of what exactly needs to be repented of to church leaders, there exists ambiguity which leads to more shame and fear; making the Mormon less secure and more reliant on the leadership to be told they are worthy, accepted, and have earned their “ticket” to get into heaven to be loved by the Mormon Gods. For example, by keeping the full Church Handbook of Instructions out of the eyes of most Mormons (unless they ask to read it in the office of an LDS leader), Mormons have no idea what exactly is church policy on most things. But even the Handbook is vague, thus what exactly is the criteria for entrance to the celestial kingdom is unclear. Mormons are left in the dark. This creates a, below the surface, feeling of anxiety in the membership and I think this adds to the institution’s power over them.

2) LDS leaders define certain acts and mistakes as “evil” (such as drinking coffee) where the member is deemed “unworthy” and made to feel shame.

3) Male leaders offer the only relief from this shame (and the unworthy or impure label) through the member releasing their shame by confessing to the Mormon male leaders who claim to be the only clergy on earth who hold the alleged “authority” to make them "worthy" or “pure” again. The Mormon system is set up to thrive on this set up as one must pass a series of interviews to be approved of by fallible men claiming to act on behalf of the deities (who preside over this earth). These interviews seek to interrogate your loyalty and so-called "worthiness" in order to get the priesthood or get into the Mormon temple, all of which are required to enter the highest heaven according to Mormonism. Since Mormons are always unsure as to what the criteria is to gain their exaltation (again, there’s no official list), and are always unclear on where they stand on meeting that criteria, then a constant fear driven mentality forces them to attend Mormon functions more, obey more, and confess more. Thus they spin their wheels like a hamster on a spin wheel, chasing the illusive carrot and fearing “the stick” of not entering the highest heaven and not being with their families forever.

The only exception is having one's calling and election made sure, or receiving the second anointing, where presumably one has been guaranteed their exaltation. Of course, this is not offered to rank and file Mormons but only a very few select leaders high in the chain of command. Everyone else must deal with the uncertainty of whether or not they have done enough to earn their exaltation.

4) In this way even grown men in the church remain in a perpetual state of dependency on the parental figures who are always standing over them with a “treat” for being good little boys and girls or the "paddle" for being bad. They are constantly feeling self inflicted misery due to their failure to live up to the pristine image of the ideal Mormon as their nature is far from pristine as the member of an evolved species.  


Click on image above to enlarge

All of this of course stunts the Mormon's ability to grow toward full intellectual maturity with a healthy sense of autonomy. The Shame & Tame Cycle strengthens the LDS system's hold over them while diminishing their sense of self as individuals, as they become dependent on the LDS system for their self-esteem and identity.

Selling the Carrot & Stick with Warm Fuzzes, Promised Blessings, & Threats of Excommunication and Never-ending Celibacy
  
The ultimate "carrot and stick" of Mormonism is the use of the LDS temple. This is where you must go to learn the secret passwords and handshakes to pass the angels that stand guard before the entrance of heaven (Journal of Discourses 2: 31). This is the path to salvation/exaltation in Mormonism. Since the temple is the ritual end goal on earth, it makes sense that Mormon leaders control the membership by holding their temple recommend over their heads. If the Mormon fails to meet the Mormon demands put upon them then they are told they cannot attend the temple. LDS leaders claim to be the only true source of forgiveness and access to a temple recommend (basically your ticket to enter the Mormon temple). Thus it is only through submission to them and doing what they say that a Mormon can be "saved" (that is "exalted" in Mormon language). Thus, in Mormonism the only path to heaven is through following ALL the Mormon rules, obeying the Mormon leaders, and performing the temple rituals that demands the Mormon swear total allegiance to building up Mormonism; spending all their time and energy doing so, even at the expense of their own life if necessary.

Failure to marry a fellow Mormon in the temple and obey all the rules of Mormonism will result in eternal celibacy per D&C 132:15-17, and the person not being together with their family in the heavens. Since Mormons put a heavy emphasis on families “can be together forever” (one of the carrots/incentives), this also becomes the ultimate "stick." It is a way to keep them in line as the threat of not being with their families forever weighs heavily on many Mormons. This is a very powerful manipulation tactic that the LDS church is more than wiling to throw at wayward members.

In Mormonism the world is split into the pure and impure, the Mormons and the evil outside world of non-Mormons. This is a world made up of what I like to call Horns versus Halos in my essay here. This constant fear mongering leads most LDS members to feel insecure about outsiders and long to always feel at home around fellow Mormons. This makes it easier for the Mormon leadership to sell “warm fuzzies” and "blessings" in order to induce conformity. These are a favorite "carrot" of Mormonism. Be good and conform and you are promised warm fuzzies (i.e. positive emotional experiences) and blessings (good luck that will befall you caused by the Mormon Gods). If you doubt or question, or seize to conform then you are threatened with negative feelings and the Gods withholding their blessings. They also claim that warm feelings in your chest is proof that Mormonism is true. Mormon leaders claim that no other religion can claim that a spiritual experience proves their religion holds the “saving truths and rituals.” Only they can. They fail to see the error in this. It is as if they claim the copyright on "spiritual experiences." They have bottled up warm fuzzies, spiritual experiences, and labeled it "proof of Mormonism," and marketed it as such.  

When I began questioning the logical problems within Mormonism, I was told that I needed to just act like I believed relying on the conviction of others, as if "credulity were a virtue." The devout Mormons I encountered, would deflect my important and reasonable questions with an appeal to emotion saying to me, basically that, “I don’t know the answer to why that is, but I know our dogma is the truest dogma because I had a good feeling praying one day about it, so therefore I now conclude that only Mormonism is true.” The appeal to emotion is easily debunked when the believer is challenged to discredit the emotional convictions of the Muslim, Hindu, Protestant, or Catholic. If an appeal to emotion makes your religion true, then all religions are true because they all appeal to emotion. The appeal to personal (subjective) revelation as truth is challenged as well when we ask for objective evidence and then ask if that person can discredit the same or similar subjective claims from other believers of rival religions.

Mormons are often heavily manipulated by the promise of “blessings.” I can recall several occasions when a Mormon would blame their lack of being the best Mormon possible to their perceived misfortune in life. The attitude was, “the Mormon Gods must be punishing me for my failures. If I am a better Mormon blessings will come, and if not blessing will be withheld and me and my loved ones will suffer.” With this ideology in place it is easy to see how the LDS leaders can gain such tight control over the membership by promising good fortune will come their way when they’re obedient and misfortune when they’re disobedient to the Mormon system.

This of course can also, in many cases, create a classism, “keeping up with the Jones,” the “love of money,” and financial status as a sign of one’s righteousness. Ironically, the Book of Mormon (being a retelling of the Protestantism in Smith’s day) criticizes this mentality in 2 Nephi 9: 30 (also see 1 Timothy 6:5). Despite this, just like the Book of Mormon teaching that Jesus is literally the embodiment of God the Father and the fullness of the Godhead, many Mormons ignore these teachings and instead ascribe to Smith’s later teachings on progressing toward Godhood; and by extension many Mormons hold the belief that financial prosperity is tied to spiritual status and righteousness. In a BYU study titled, The Symbolic Universe of Latter-day Saints: Do We Believe The Wealthy Are More Righteous? By John M. Rector, PhD, Brigham Young UniversityIdaho (2004), the results of the study “indicated that [LDS] Church members are more likely to attribute righteousness to a wealthy church member than a poor one” (introduction). On page 106 the article states that according to the study, in Mormonism “the wealthy [LDS] church member was seen as being a better person, both secularly and spiritually, than the poorer counterpart.” The same article goes on to argue that over the years Mormon leaders have disputed this idea and Jesus himself rejected it. Nevertheless, I think that the overarching theology of Mormonism perpetuates this mentality in Mormon culture. The problem with this mentality is that it makes the less financially fortunate feel inferior and unfavored by the Mormon Gods, and can lead to the financially prosperous Mormons feeling more favored by the Gods; leading them to become excessively proud, arrogant, and elitist. Now, of course not all Mormons are this way but I think it is a problem among many LDS members. It is ironic that this would occur anyway when the New Testament has a continuous theme of criticizing the "love of money" and those who look down on the poor, as we read in James 2: 1-8 (CEV):

2 My friends, if you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, you won’t treat some people better than others. 2 Suppose a rich person wearing fancy clothes and a gold ring comes to one of your meetings. And suppose a poor person dressed in worn-out clothes also comes. 3 You must not give the best seat to the one in fancy clothes and tell the one who is poor to stand at the side or sit on the floor. 4 That is the same as saying that some people are better than others, and you would be acting like a crooked judge. 5 My dear friends, pay attention. God has given a lot of faith to the poor people in this world. He has also promised them a share in his kingdom that he will give to everyone who loves him. 6 You mistreat the poor. But isn’t it the rich who boss you around and drag you off to court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who make fun of your Lord? 8 You will do all right, if you obey the most important law[a] in the Scriptures. It is the law that commands us to love others as much as we love ourselves. 

[End Quote]

Of course Mormons who ascribe wealth to blessings based on Mormon loyalty and obedience often ignore the cases where those who leave the church or go inactive sometimes actually increase their financial success and wealth. I've found that this data is ignored by these Mormons.

Another "carrot," used to control the members is how they are viewed as part of the in-group and threatened with being kicked out of the in-group for not being an obedient Mormon. Human mammals naturally fear being ostracized from their “tribe”; probably because in our ancestral past that could mean death unless we found another tribe to join. This fear of not being included may contribute to Mormons experiencing an Amygdala Hijack. Thus, reading and engaging in critical thinking about Mormon history and doctrine, and applying the scientific method in investigating Mormonism is considered taboo. Instead, the use of “place holders” for rational thought are used with special pleading fallacies. Words like "testimony" are used as place holders for actual thinking. This returns the devout Mormon to the horns versus halos mentality: the pure and worthy have testimonies while the impure and unworthy do not. Thus to lack a testimony is to lack self-esteem.

Over time the carrot and stick mind tricks make LDS members become fully tamed once the LDS system has fully controlled their nervous systems. As Mormons vacillate between experiencing shame or an amygdala hijack when doubting or not conforming one day and then feeling stress-relief, euphoria, and belonging the next day when they conform to Mormonism.

The Heavy Yoke of Mormonism:

One webpage has documented a list of 613 Mormon rules and regulations documented at www.afterallwecando.com. This site shows the excessive list of LDS demands leading to inevitable failure and continuous shame and feelings of inadequacy among many Mormons.

Some historians think that Smith was a controlling and power-hungry personality type (I believe Smith was a pathological narcissist), and thus the more rules he could enforce the greater control he could gain. This also fed his narcissism because the more control he had the greater his power became and the more adoration he could receive. Traditional Christians have long criticized Mormonism for its focus on men and women becoming Gods just as the head God of this earth was once a man in LDS theology. In fact, not only did Smith reject the traditional Christian doctrine of grace but he even went so far as to state that animal sacrifice would be restored to the LDS temple someday (History of the Church 4:211) and Joseph F. Smith endorsed this doctrine in Doctrines of Salvation 3:94. See: I Didn't Know He Said That! Joseph Smith and the Restoration of Animal Sacrifice by Robert M. Bowman Jr. All these heavy demands might be expected from a guy who said, "I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet" (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 408-409).

Whether the reader is a Christian or not, from a strictly academic perspective, Mormonism does not teach what Paul taught. One of the themes of Paul's letters is the welcoming of Gentiles into the Jewish fold he was a part of by arguing that through Christ (the Messiah) some of the demands of the Jewish law would not apply to Gentiles (non-Jews). One can easily imagine Paul criticizing all the exclusionary Mormon rules like the requirements to wear garments day and night, the same way he opposed the policy that Gentiles are required to be circumcised. One also wonders what Paul would have said to Smith's claim that animal sacrifice would be restored to the temple.

Mormonism rejects the core New Testament theme that the law was replaced by being “in Christ,” as Paul puts it. Instead Mormonism emphasizes progressing toward Godhood which is an ideal that, is not only rejected by traditional Christians, but puts fallible humans in the position of aspiring to be an infallible God. The consequences on the human psyche of such an unrealistic demand should be obvious enough. Thus, instead of accepting themselves and practicing the ideas of Paul in their own New Testament, many Mormons feel constantly insecure, ashamed, and unaccepted by the Mormon Gods unless they meet the excessive heavy demands of the Mormon laws and are "pristine Mormons." Instead of feeling secure "in Christ," again as Paul put it, they feel driven to relieve their feelings of inadequacy by leaping over more and more Mormon hurdles as if they are in a race toward self-earned salvation and purity seeking to gain their own exaltation while they are stuck running in the mud of Mormon minutia. In other words, they are to make themselves perfectly pure but the Mormon demands make it so they inevitably end up muddy. So they are always seeking approval and acceptance from the leaders to relieve their constant insecurity. Only through constant effort and activity in Mormonism do many LDS members feel a returned sense of security from their leaders who are believed to be “judges in Israel.” 

The Perfectionistic Hamster Wheel and The Shame & Tame Cycle:

I've noticed that many Mormons often feel like nothing they do is ever good enough and they don't measure up to the LDS demands. With the constant relief seeking from the shame they feel from not living up to the perfect ideal and constant chasing the carrot of "blessings," many Mormons become obsessed with the shame-relief-seeking and become addicted to the shame and tame cycle. They are so busy chasing the "carrot" and running from self-imposed shame they fail to realize they are on, what is the equivalent of, a hamster wheel and are chasing a "carrot" that is is always beyond their grasp:



This leads to a "yo yo effect" of emotional highs and lows, feelings of inadequacy and then acceptance: up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down; which leads some Mormons to not want to attend Mormon activities as they start to get burned out by all of it. They start to realize that the pristine image they are seeking isn't possible as fallible humans. They start to realize that those who display that pristine image of purity logically can't be really all that pristine by Mormon standards, because the Mormon standards are just too extreme. There are too many heavy demands for anyone to live up to. However, many Mormons fail to realize this and compare themselves to their perceived pristine Mormon neighbors. Thus the cycle of shame from not living up to the extreme expectations, inevitably turns to self-loathing and low self-esteem and the relief from these lows through pathological perfectionism

What is the result of this pathological perfectionism resulting from the shame and tame cycle? In 2013 the news channel at abc4.com did a show on Mormon Utah called The Perfect Problem and how perfectionism in that state impacts people's mental health. 


In this one hour episode linked above we learn about how the perfectionism of Mormonism in Utah leads to extremely high rates of depression. For an article on this, see the February, 2002, article: Study Finds Utah Leads Nation in Antidepressant Use. For a more recent, 2013 article see: Study: 'Toxic perfectionism' major part of LDS women's depression by ksl.com. For a more detailed article on this subject see:  
Nobody’s Perfect: A Look at Toxic Perfectionism and Depression (March 21, 2013) by By Joanna Benson and Lara Jackson.


In the ABC4 news segment linked above we learn that Utah has higher than normal rates of plastic surgery, eating disorders, and porn use. While watching this news episode I kept thinking about how all of this is obviously tied to the Mormon concept of striving to literally become a God someday, the ultimate goal of Mormonism. Thus it makes sense why pathological perfectionism in all facets of life weighs heavily on many Mormons. I understand how Mormon women feel pressure to have the perfect family and how the pressure on women to have children is tied to the Mormon dogma that the Gods, which Mormons dream of becoming someday, are male and female units that produce spirit children to populate the planets they create. 

Just as I write in my blog about the The Amygdala Hijack, when the person falls short of Mormon perfection they also experience an amygdala hijack and seek relief from the anxiety by compulsively confessing to church leaders or practicing Mormonism ever more diligently. Thus the obsession to be a perfect Mormon leads to compulsive activity which drives them further into the system through the shame and tame cycle as they keep spinning their wheels.

Part of the shame and tame cycle is the belief that happiness is offered most thoroughly through the Mormon institution. The Mormon attitude is that the reason you are unhappy as a Mormon is because you are not being a good enough Mormon because Mormonism only produces happy people. Mormons are told they will be happy if they are prefect Mormons, and when they fail to be perfect they are trained to blame themselves rather than the dogma. Thus they run and sweat on the perfectionistic hamster wheel never reaching the carrot of infallibility and are afraid of the stick of shame. Many Mormons then turn to putting themselves down, which ironically makes them rely more on the Mormon leaders for relief of their shame turned inward. This makes them more and more dependent on the LDS leaders for their self-esteem. In turn, they strive to conform to Mormonism to make themselves feel better. It is a vicious cycle. So the Mormon attitude is that if you feel miserable it is because you are ashamed, all because you must have transgressed Mormon rules. You need to pray, pay, and obey and submit yourself at the feet of your male leaders for absolution. You must get approval from the ecclesiastical parental figures in order to feel “worthy” again. Then you'll be happy. This is ironically a recipe for perpetual unhappiness as we see in the ABC4 news program above.

This chronic approval seeking and the promise of happiness only through loyalty, perfection, and submission to the LDS system keeps the Mormon in a dependent mental state. They often become addicted to the relief seeking (from shame) they get within the institution. In some cases, in my opinion, this results in a form of Stockholm syndrome, wherein as they remain psychologically hostage to Mormonism they begin to show signs of loyalty to the dogma that is acting as the hostage-taker. The LDS religion causes them constant, on and off again, shame and fear and they relieve their anxiety by submitting to the all-powerful group of "mini gods" played by fallible Mormon men who are themselves slaves to the shame and tame cycle and the heavy demands of the Mormon institution.

What we have here is a very manipulative system that seeks total control over the individual. While reading the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions I kept thinking how the whole LDS system is about power and control as if the members were cattle that needed to be prodded into their cages. In fact, by analogy it is the equivalent of imagining that there were a Mormon Rancher’s Handbook of Instructions where the Ranchers were the judge, jury, and owner of the cattle.  If one animal got out of its pin, instructions would be given as to how to keep it in its cage, through rewards and punishments.
  
Is Mormon Perfectionism in the Bible?

Mormon leaders use Mathew 5: 48 in the King James Version of the Bible, as justification for their demanding "perfect" behavior and obedience to Mormon dogma. So I did some research on what Christian scholars had to say about this verse. In the book Reasoning from the Scripture, on page 313, the author Ron Rhodes argues that basically Jesus wasn't preaching absolute perfectionism but a complete love for all; and since we all fall short of perfection Jesus taught elsewhere that we must be born again. Thus Matthew 5: 48 is really talking about perfect love for everyone both inside and outside your in-group.

I then looked over The Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament and on pages 213-215, the author confirms what Rhodes had to say, basically arguing that the word perfect in Mathew 5:48 means to have perfect love toward everyone regardless of their religion or status, to have perfect allegiance to God, and to be whole as in wholeness or completeness. The author states that “it is impossible to know what Jesus originally said (in Aramaic) …” But the author basically says that we can form an opinion based on the context. He brought up the parallel passage in Luke 6:36 where the word perfect is instead rendered “merciful.” Page 214 ends with “we are to become like the Father, follow all that Jesus has said, and relate to all around us (believer and unbeliever) with mercy and love.”

I then picked up the book The Macarthur Topical Bible (2010) and under the word perfection is listed several scriptures showing biblical perfection to basically mean maturity and completion; which is impossible to attain by fallible humans, but "in Christ" the Christian can exemplify perfect love, in other words complete mercy and compassion for all.

In his Believers Bible Commentary, on page 1223, MacDonald says of Mathew 5: 48 that the word perfect there, “does not mean sinless or flawless. The previous verses explain that to be perfect means to love those who hate us, to pray for those who persecute us, and to show kindness to both friend and foe. Perfection here is that spiritual maturity which enables a Christian to imitate God in dispensing blessing to everybody without partiality.”

This makes sense to me, for it fits the parallel passage in Luke on mercy, and does fit the context of the whole chapter. It also reminds me of the Book of James chapter 2, which I quoted above on not showing partiality toward certain people based on financial status, but being equally loving to everyone just as you love yourself. All this is summarized in the article "NIV 2011 and Perfection" (March 21, 2011) by Barry Applewhite. 

There is also the Common English Bible (CEB) that renders Matthew 5:48, "Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete."

Thus, it seems to me as if the Christian scholarly community is generally in agreement on this topic. Mormonism then takes the verse out of context and uses it to shame and tame the LDS membership into submission as a way to control them; as the Mormon’s self-esteem becomes low by not measuring up to the heavy yoke of Mormonism; while their self-esteem is raised only by conforming to Mormonism which results in pathological perfectionism.

In fact, many scholars point out that Jesus was opposed to the heavy demands of the "tradition of the elders" in his day, which added to the Torah and burdened people with excessive religious legalism. In my view, Mormonism is very similar to the "tradition of the elders" that Jesus dealt with in his day.

Controlling Intrusiveness, Emotional Manipulation, & Complete Lack of Respect for Privacy:

The shame and tame cycle allows leaders of the LDS system to intrude into member's personal lives and manipulate them. A few examples of the controlling intrusiveness and lack of respect for privacy are demonstrated through just a few examples:

> Boys as young as twelve years old are asked by male leaders if they masturbate, which often damages their psychology.

> Bishops sometimes pry into the sexual lives of Mormon couples.

> Church leaders often shame young married couples for wanting to wait to have children until they think they are more ready.

> LDS leaders used to tell married couples that oral sex within marriage was "sinful."

> Church leaders often manipulate members to take “callings” they dislike if they want "blessings."

I recall my first experience in the series of Mormon interrogations (oops, I mean priesthood interviews). When I was twelve I had no idea what masturbation was. I was about to find out. There I was alone in a room with my bishop, a man in his forties or fifties, when I was just twelve years old, and being asked if I masturbated. When I didn't know what it was he explained it to me and basically said it was an evil practice. Why does the LDS church allow these questions that even my parents didn't ask me? Turns out this is normal Mormon policy. I consider this reprehensible. What business is it of a grown man to ask a young boy of twelve years old if he masturbates and then tell him he is basically worthless if he ever does it!

Later on in life, I learned that many of my friends were told that they had to stop masturbating before they could go on their Mormon mission. When I was in the MTC (Missionary Training Center) in the 1990s many missionaries were afraid of being sent home because they masturbated. This is all part of the control and power the system seeks. It is the beginning of the manipulation. See the articles at the end of this blog post for more information on Mormonism and masturbation.

Mormonism & Your Sexuality:

Just ask a few former Mormons what kind of impact the shame and tame cycle had on their view of sexuality. You will learn that the LDS system distorts healthy attitudes toward human sexuality and in many cases causes long lasting damage to a person’s sexual health. Ironically, the negative attitudes about sex and one's body in Mormonism, is likely the reason why Utah is number one in porn subscriptions according to the article, Utah No. 1 in online porn subscriptions, report says, By Elaine Jarvik, Deseret News (Published: Tuesday, March 3 2009). I believe this is evidence of the harm of Mormon attitudes about sexuality as the article implies that repression may be the cause. I would argue that when you repress natural drives in extreme and unhealthy ways, as Mormonism does, they boil over and manifest themselves in unhealthy ways. Now I am not advocating premarital sex but I am instead referring to the general attitude about sex in Mormonism; how the LDS church ties sexual “purity” with your worth as a human being. I am referring to the Mormon Elizabeth Smart who criticized Mormon teachings like the one of comparing someone who has had sex to a used piece of gum, which are detrimental to one's self-esteem. 

By focusing on the sexual impulse, a primary energy in the human mammal, second only to the will to survive, the LDS Corporation controls the man and woman by making them believe a biological impulse is in and of itself shameful; thus they remain dependent on the institution to relieve their constant anxiety and conditioned shame for being essentially human. In this way even grown men in the church often remain in a perpetual state of dependency as they are constantly feeling shame and misery due to their basic mammalian essence. When they look in the mirror and see their naked body they don’t marvel at what a work of wonder they are, instead they see something to hide and be ashamed of. Thus, feeling insecure they seek approval from the “shamers” and a returned sense of security from their controlling leaders, like a child before a stern parent, or a slave before its domineering master.

The Price of the “Pristine Mormon” Image:

Underneath the friendly handshake, warm smile, and “proper dress,” is a person struggling to be free under the layers of oppression and indoctrination. That person’s struggle may be dormant, but it is still there as I believe all humanity seeks freedom and Mormonism puts you in bondage.

An environment that demands total unquestioning obedience, submissiveness to parental figures of authority, and absolute perfection is a breeding ground for psychological trauma, low self-esteem, and lack of individuality. How can a person grow up feeling free to question, learn, and grow when they are essentially told that it is sinful to doubt, wrong to think critically, and right to conform? When the person is raised in a dogmatic system that causes them to feel completely unworthy and massive amounts of shame and inadequacy every time they make a mistake while seeking absolution through conformity to the LDS system, they will transform psychologically until over time their true identify is replaced by the Mormon Mask.

When the person is thoroughly “Mormonized” by indoctrination and the Shame & Tame Cycle they begin to look and act like a clone of every other Mormon. Every Mormon puts on the same mask and persona of perfection and happiness but under the disguise is often a sad person struggling for true self acceptance. 

Recommended reading:
  • When I Say No I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith. This book is good for a Mormon that is questioning the LDS “authority structure,” as the book helps one be more assertive and avoid being manipulated by others.
  • The Six Pillars of Self Esteem by Nathaniel Branden. This is a good book about forming a healthy self-esteem.
  • Mormon Chastity Lessons: Elizabeth Smart. In this blog post the author discusses a talk given by Elizabeth Smart who talked about the story that those who lose their virginity are like a used piece of gum and how this is detrimental to a young woman’s self-esteem.

Recommended listening and viewing (audio and video):
  • Podcast 229-230 on Mormon Stories: Understanding Scrupulosity Within the LDS Church. This is a very interesting podcast about a Mormon who has Scrupulosity which was likely caused by, or at least greatly influenced by, the perfection culture of Mormonism and the Shame & Tame cycle.