Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Short List of the Positive Aspects of Mormonism & The Goodness It Creates


In my last post I discussed the harm caused by the LDS institution, so in the spirit of fairness I will now list some of the positive aspects of Mormonism and the good things done by the Mormon Church. For a more lengthy treatment of this subject, see my article The Positive Side of Mormonism. Note: this is not a comprehensive list.

"Man is, that he may have Joy" ~ The Book of Mormon
  • The Mormon Church advocates living a “Christ-like” life. Regardless of what one thinks about Mormon theology, rituals, and history, the teachings are often grounded in the teachings of Jesus.
  • The Mormon Church encourages a strict health code called The Word of Wisdom. As I write in my article linked above, “LDS members are healthy and sober like the Seventh day Adventists and Muslims. Things like alcohol is a major problem in American society."
  • The LDS church fosters a culture that seeks to be ethical, live with noble character, and practice virtue. As a result LDS culture fosters an atmosphere that generates Mormons who are generally kind, trustworthy, and giving. As the 13th LDS Article of Faith states: "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."As I say in my article linked above, "It’s an organization that promotes ethics and family values in a world that often suffers from crime and violence. … Mormons are cordial and trustworthy like the Amish.”
  • The Mormon Church promotes family values such as being good parents, and teaching kids to have high character, etc. As the late LDS leader David O. McKay once said, “The home is the first and most effective place to learn the lessons of life: truth, honor, virtue, self control, the value of education, honest work, and the purpose and privilege of life. Nothing can take the place of home in rearing and teaching children, and no other success can compensate for failure in the home.”  The Mormon practice of family home evening brings many LDS families closer together by doing activities together and bonding more.
  • The Mormon Church teaches self-reliance and hard work resulting in most members being active and industrious.
  • Many people find the LDS church to be a great place to serve where LDS members take care of their own members and engage in community service; such as feeding and clothing the poor and needy. They also operate Deseret Industries.
  • The LDS church offers a person the belief in a higher purpose, direction for their life, and hope for a better future; and belief in an afterlife, which many people find helpful. 
  • The LDS church functions as an extended family and support group. As I write in my article: “It offers communal support and social interdependence ... If you need help moving your LDS ward will come help. If you are looking for a job your LDS ward can help. You can rely on many of your fellow LDS members to come to your aid.”
  • LDS missions provide young men and women skills for later in life. As I write in my article: “[On my mission] I learned invaluable public relations skills, a foreign language, [and] how to be selfless and work well with others."
  • The LDS church is currently experiencing a massive number of members leaving (the most since before the days of Brigham Young) according to LDS General Authority Marlin K. Jensen. It appears that the church is reacting to this by making several positive changes I will list below. The LDS concept of "Continuous Revelation" allows the church to change doctrines and policy as newer ideas, public opinion, the internet, and internal pressure from within encourages the changes. We see many positive and progressive examples of this, including: the removal of the penalty signs in 1990 and the washing and anointing were changed in 2005; which was obviously due to the LDS members discomfort during these rituals. This shows a level of compassion on the part of the leadership, not wanting to make the membership uncomfortable; which of course benefits them by increasing temple attendance which creates further devotion and tithes. Recent DNA evidence showing that the American Indians cannot be Jews has lead to the LDS church no longer teaching the "hemispheric model" (which teaches that all the Lamanites are American Indians) as of 2006. Instead the LDS church now teaches the limited geography model and the 2006 introduction to the Book of Mormon has been changed from the Lamanites "are the principal ancestors of the American Indians," to the Lamanites "are among the ancestors of the American Indians." The LDS church has recently changed the subheadings in the Book of Mormon that now de-emphasizes that the Lamanites were cursed with dark skin; the footnotes were also updated to perhaps remove racist interpretations. There are also a couple of African Americans (who are part of the Genesis Group) going around giving talks at LDS meetings who teach that the Book of Mormon doesn't teach that the Lamanites were cursed with dark skin but that is was a metaphorical "spiritual" cursing. They also argue that the seed of Cain doctrine is false. Their presentation is offered as a DVD: Blacks In The Scriptures, which rejects the traditional LDS dogma on skin color. In the past such teachings would have been silenced by the Mormon leadership. Today, the Genesis Group are being allowed to promote their interpretation of LDS scripture and history in church meetings without any ecclesiastical interference. When Mitt Romney ran for president in 2012 a BYU professor Randy Bott spoke openly about the seed of Cain doctrine and the attitude toward blacks among some of the older LDS members. This resulted in the LDS church coming as close as they ever have before at repudiating the seed of Cain dogma and past racism by condemning the BYU professor's remarks in a statement titled, Church Statement Regarding 'Washington Post' Article on Raceand the Church, February 29, 2012 at www.mormonnewsroom.org. This was followed up by a 2013 Ensign article titled Race and the Priesthood, that blamed the priesthood ban on Brigham Young, and finally repudiated the seed of Cain dogma by stating: "Today, the [Mormon] Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form." Today, the LDS Church also allows some believing LDS scholars to publish books disclosing controversial aspects of church history and Joseph Smith, such as the book Rough Stone Rolling by Richard L. Bushman. There is also The Joseph Smith Papers that offers many documents not previously made available by the church officially, which sheds light on church history for all to see. In fact, just recently (in 2013) the church's official website lds.org published an article called First Vision Accounts at http://www.lds.org/topics/first-vision-accounts?lang=eng. There is even more information on the First Vision by The Joseph Smith Papers. According to the church's newsroom, a "new book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, published by Oxford University Press, is not a Church production but was co-authored by Mormon historians Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley Jr. and Glen M. Leonard." The book presents a more honest history of those events offering more full disclosure. There is also a September, 2007, Ensign article by Richard E. Turley Jr., titled, The Mountain Meadows Massacre. Then there is the article, Truth in Church History: Excerpts from the Religious Educator’s Q&A with Elder Steven Snow [Church Historian and Recorder] on November 8th, 2013. In the article Snow calls for a more honest church history because of the internet making the information available anyway, i.e. it can’t be hid anymore. So places like church institute should provide more information about controversial issues and the truth should be told. The New Order Mormon, John Dehlin, is being allowed by the church to discuss controversial topics on his podcast without being excommunicated; although he was called in for questioning by the leadership around 2012 and since that time his tone has become much more "apologetic" than it was before at the start of his podcasts. The Mormon Church has also made a step toward showing more compassion toward gays with their website mormonsandgays.org. Shock therapy and claiming gays choose to be "gay" are no longer practiced by the LDS church. Today the LDS church says they don't know why gays are the way they are but that it is not a choice and what they call "same gender attraction" is real. They also no longer encourage gays to marry (unless they choose to) which has lead to many unhappy and broken families in the past. They are now encouraged to remain celibate or marry if they think they can fully commit to a monogamous heterosexual lifestyle. Yet Mormons like John Dehlin are allowed to campaign for acceptance of homosexuals through media talks like the one he gave called,
    The ally within: John Dehlin at TEDxUSU [Published on Nov 20, 2013]. In this TED talk he uses science to argue that accepting gays and same sex marriage will likely save lives, literally. Dehlin is allowed to present his beliefs and the scientific data without being disciplined by the LDS church. And despite what some Mormons might think, the LDS Church does not oppose the teaching of evolution and allows evolution to be taught at BYU. LDS members are free to believe in it or not as the church is now today, as far as I can tell, officially neutral on the subject.
  • There is also a major change in the attitude of most Mormon apologists today. In the past it was not uncommon for many or most LDS apologists to attack and slander former Mormons with vicious verbal attacks (in fairness this is likely due to the same behavior by some exmormons). Former Mormons were vilified by apologists as lying cowards and intellectually lazy for not learning the controversial issues from day one. There has since been what appears to be a major change in Mormon apologetics. Starting with an article by the apologist Jeff Lindsey called Cutting A Little Slack for Exmormons. To see how questioning Mormons used to be vilified by apologists, just see how a doubting missionary is represented in the film God’s Army (a Richard Dutcher film) as a cynical, powerless, coward, and a villain (on YouTube see minutes 28-30, 42-43, 58-59, 1: 10-1: 13). Today the director of that film (Richard Dutcher) who played the older true believing missionary who aggressively confronts the doubting missionary before he leaves to go home, is ironically no longer a Mormon; here is a clip of Dutcher discussing the vilification of former Mormons. Mormon apologists today are much more respectful toward those with doubts. Compare the film God's Army with a recent short film called Alone by mormonchallenges.org; the description of the film 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." The film portrays a young Mormon, Justin, struggling with the controversial issues, especially the Book of Abraham; and how his search for truth and his healthy skepticism is treated respectfully by his family and church leaders who actually listen to him, even read "both sides" with him, and show patience and compassion. In the end his doubts don’t disappear like magic. Instead he decides to embrace doubt and faith and remain in the church at the end of the film. This to me is evidence that the internet is forcing the LDS church apologists to adapt and they are doing so in a positive direction.
Now, I cannot find anything above that is unique to Mormonism, and which cannot be found in other ideas and philosophies or among non-Mormon friends, or in other groups or organizations, religious or secular; but I believe in giving credit where credit is due. 

Sunday, July 08, 2012

A Short List of Harm Caused by Mormonism

This blog post should be read in conjunction with my blog post here and my essay titled The Positive Side of Mormonism, where I mention all of the good in the Mormon Church. In this post I will point out several reasons why I think Mormonism can often be harmful. I need to be clear though that I separate the individual Mormon from the LDS Institution. When I speak of Mormonism being harmful I am not talking about average Mormons themselves as individuals. In fact, after reading the essay linked above it will become clear to the reader that I am aware of not just the goodness in the LDS church, but that there are many ethical Mormons of high character doing good in the world. 

I believe most Mormons are not themselves harmful but are unknowing victims of MormonISM. So to be clear, this list is not an attack in any way on individual Mormons but is a list of the harm caused by the LDS Corporation.

My intent is to both explain why, I personally am not a Cultural Mormon (New Order Mormon) and also to explain the importance of informing the public about all the facts about Mormonism on my blog and webpage. This way, investigators can make an informed decision and avoid any unnecessary emotional harm from joining Mormonism without all the information they deserve.

Note: Even though I am not one, I respect Cultural Mormons (New Order Mormons) and do not wish to disparage their position; for many of them stay active in order to be a voice of reason as an informed insider, and/or for the sake of family, career, and social stability. I commend them for their courage and discipline while carrying this out.

The following list is by no means comprehensive. This is a short list of the harm caused by the Mormon Church:

  • The Mormon Church is an insulated group with strict loyalty demands and secret oaths of total obedience and loyalty, combined with voluntary insider policing by members themselves; who socially look down on dissenters from the established rules and dogma. The insulation is so intense, and the unquestioning loyalty and obedience to the Mormon institution is so extreme, that leaving the religion will often cost one their friendships with LDS members, could cost them their marriage or other romantic relationship with a Mormon, and could even cost them their job or cause their career to suffer. This is especially true if they decide to voice their concerns about LDS doctrine and history with members, and publicly share the information they found with LDS members who often interpret this is an attack on their "testimony;" and will then often retaliate by shunning the person or ignoring them. Leaving will likely cause some Mormons to slander the dissenter's character; as Mormons are trained to only view those who leave their church as angry, sinful, or spiritual weaklings who couldn’t handle the demands of the LDS church. The attitude is always, the dogma can never be wrong and the dissenter can never be right or justified intellectually for their doubts.
  • The Mormon Church in many cases has divided friends and torn apart families with its divisive Horns vs. Halos mentality. This mentality fosters an us against them and or in-group against the out-group attitude, turning loved one's (who deny Mormonism and voice their doubts) as now on the side of "the enemy," resulting in members trying to guilt and shame those who leave into coming back, conforming again, and remaining loyal.
  • The Mormon Church brainwashes (or if you prefer indoctrinates) children labeling them a Mormon as early as one years old. Mormon parents are encouraged to bring their children to the pulpit in sacrament meeting and persuade them to say they know Mormonism is true. In LDS Sunday school classes the kids are pressured to sing songs like “follow the prophet” and “I hope they call me on a mission,” when they are just little kids before they can truly think for themselves. 
  • The Mormon Church damages and seeks to control a person’s psyche by manipulating their need for love and acceptance; and affecting the member’s self-esteem and their degree of loyalty through manipulation and fear using what I call the Shame & Tame Cycle, and subtle indirect threats of being shunned by the community, officially dis-fellowship and/or excommunicated.  The Mormon Church harms young men and women by denying them true freedom and their full potential to grow into independent and unique persons and instead programs them with the “stick” of fear and intimidation and the “carrot” of acceptance and love. The constant barrage of indoctrination from childhood to adulthood and private interview sessions -- where Mormon males, for example, rise up the Mormon ladder of approval and authority by being obedient, submissive, and loyal -- programs the Mormon to depend on the Mormon leaders for their self-esteem. This translates into Mormon youth seeking guidance from the church on their life path as if they were still little children seeking parental direction, thus impeding them from their own true feelings and preferences as they instead put on the Mormon mask and do what they have been told is the path to take in life: which is a mission at 19 (age 21 for the girls I think), marriage as soon as possible, after your mission is best; and having children right away and starting a family regardless of your own needs, personal dreams, and ambitions. Later on many Mormons realize they have lived an inauthentic life but have put in too much time, money, and commitments to turn back. 
  • The Mormon Church is sexist in nature presenting women as the means to the Mormon man’s end of exaltation (see D&C 132); as she must be submissive as a future plural wife in the heavens, which in many cases damages the woman's self-esteem as she struggles to accept the eternal principle of polygamy while being in love with one man.
  • The Mormon Church taught a false and racist history of American Indians for over a hundred years and continues till this day until they edit out the racist passages in the Book of Mormon.
  • The LDS church taught that blacks are born with dark skin because they are born into the lineage of Cain (Cain was cursed with a black skin) because of something they did in the preexistence. The LDS church denied blacks full fellowship until 1978 and as of this writing, still refuses to truly repent and apologize for this racist policy and doctrine. The LDS church also continues to harm unsuspecting African American converts by hiding the former official LDS doctrine that they are the seed of Cain.  In 2013 an Ensign article titled Race and the Priesthood, was published on lds.org that basically blames the priesthood ban on Brigham Young, and finally repudiated the seed of Cain dogma by stating: "Today, the [Mormon] Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form."
  • In case the above didn't sink in, the LDS religion effectively taught that two entire ethnic groups have dark skin because of a cursing from God; and while it has stopped its racist teachings about blacks the Book of Mormon is till doctrine that teaches that God punished the wicked Native Americans with a curse of dark skin so that they wouldn't be enticing to the good and white Native Americans. The Mormon Church also relegates an entire gender (females) to second class status in the church; if that is not extremely hurtful and harmful I don’t know what would be.
  • The Mormon Church is a branch from the same tree that produced the branch called FLDS. In other words, “the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.”
  • The Mormon Church is responsible for all the modern Mormon polygamy which is the true legacy and byproduct of Joseph Smith’s adulterous lifestyle.
  • The Mormon Church harms people by rejecting the scientific method and critical thinking when it conflicts with Mormon dogma. Since Mormons are trained to rely more on feelings than facts when it comes to deciphering the truths of reality (such as seeking a special feeling about the Book of Mormon instead of studying it's historical veracity) this sets them up to be conned by others who appeal to emotions.
  • The Mormon Church engages in distorting and omitting the facts and whitewashing history to create a polished image; while impeding the pursuit of truth; thus betraying the trust of members who later learn the truth through their own study of history books they were told not to read. As well as lying and deceiving the public about its true history and doctrines, starting as early as 1835 when it published as scripture a denial of polygamy being practiced in the church when in fact it was. Mormon apologists make excuses for this blatant public lie but their excuses fall flat. What is the result of being guilty of false advertising, deception, and misrepresentation? People being deceived and making uninformed choices to join Mormonism and later suffering emotional turmoil when they finally learn the truth for themselves. This often makes it very difficult for the former Mormon to learn to trust people or organizations ever again. The sense of betrayal can often harm the person's psyche for years making it difficult for the person to connect with others and join groups for support. It often takes psychological counselling to understand what they went through in order to heal over time by understanding the psychology and sociology of their experience. The healing process often takes years and as a result the person loses out on many opportunities and experiences; as they instead have to deal with the healing process, and deprogramming their mind and body of all the LDS indoctrination and social conditioning. Then they have to discover their true authentic-self, their real preferences, and their chosen mission or direction to take in life. They also have to cope with having their reality ripped from them and have to struggle to form a new worldview. All this suffering and set-backs from one's true "callings" in life, could have been avoided if the Mormon Church were honest in all their dealings. But the LDS institution's primary objective is to spread Mormon ideas into tithe payer's heads, and if full-disclosure would impede profit and growth it will not be honest.
  • The Mormon Church requires that the Mormon garments -- with symbols on them reminding the person wearing them of the strict loyalty oaths they made in the LDS temple -- be worn night and day, which in my opinion are subtle mind control devices.
  • The Mormon Church has temple rituals that use mind control tactics. Just listen to the entire Mormon endowment ceremony online and study the  words and rituals used and decide for yourself.
  • The Mormon Church promotes unhealthy attitudes about human sexuality. A male leader even asks young men as young as twelve years old, behind closed doors with no other adults present, if they masturbate; and then shaming the young man as being "unworthy" if he says he does.
  • The Mormon Church sets up impossible demands (ranging from never drinking coffee to never criticizing church leaders even if the criticism is true) and then shames the member into submission whenever they inevitably fail to meet the impossible demands. This Shame & Tame cycle denies people's innate fallibility, and irrationally equates the person's mistake with their status of "worthiness" in the eyes of judgmental LDS leaders. The term "unworthy" in Mormonism implies a completely "bad person," as if the person's entire character has been stained for failing to obey a Mormon rule. This is believed to render the person unworthy of unconditional love and acceptance by the institution unless they submit to the leaders demands, and never make the mistake again or risk further shaming, punishment, and/or shunning (disfellowship or excommunication). On top of that, since there is no official list of all the moral rules (that I am aware of), Mormons are never assured of what is or isn't an LDS "sin," thus some members get caught in the shame and time cycle endlessly, visiting their leader's office to unburden themselves of things they are not certain must be repented of directly to an LDS male leader. This creates unhealthy stress, low self-esteem, and a kind of childish dependence where even grown men will seek the approval of another grown man as if they are kids again seeking parental approval. Unlike other Christian churches that preach grace, Mormonism teaches that the person must constantly live up to the demands of the LDS institution, resulting in a membership that is never truly assured of their status in the eyes of God; for there are too many LDS rules and they are too fallible to live up to all the expectations; so they continue to be like hamsters on a spin wheel chasing the carrot of acceptance dangling from a string in front of them; while they spin their wheels in a constant cycle of feeling shame and seeking approval. This constant cycle of shaming and taming perpetuates a very self downing and judgmental culture that never feels worthy of self-acceptance; and simultaneously produces some Mormons who start to feel morally superior and holier than other's outside the "only true Mormon Church." Mormons are always seeking approval from the men in charge; and of course that approval only comes from total submission to Mormonism resulting in a kind of stockholm syndrome.
  • The Mormon Church encourages young men to go on missions to areas that are often a risk to their health and safety; and in the MTC they are subjected to mind control tactics where many suffer emotional issues such as anxiety, shame, and low self-esteem, before they fully give themselves over psychologically to Mormonism.
  • The Mormon Church perpetuates an anti-intellectual environment resulting in a large number of members who rely on emotions instead of critical thinking, making them susceptible to scams and con-artists.
  • The Mormon Church has no checks and balances, as it functions as an artificial theocracy claiming to be the ultimate pipeline to deity when in reality it is spreading the limited perspective and prejudices of old white men living in Utah who act like the Wizards of Oz. By claiming to be the only mouthpiece of God the Mormon Church is claiming to act under the authority of God, thus anything it does is claimed to be God's will; which can be very harmful if in fact the particular Mormon claim or action is not God's will.
  • The Mormon Church was responsible for the Mountain Meadows Massacre and Brigham Young was at least influential in the crime, and according to some historians was the one who ordered the mass murder.

Are Former Mormons Mirroring the Black & White mentality of the Mormonism they grew up in?

I recently came across an article where the author writes: "I wish my fellow ex-Mormons (or former Mormons, or disaffected, or wha...