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 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 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 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 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."

This is also corroborated in The Jewish Annotated New Testament that contains a footnote to Mathew 5: 48 that reads:

Be perfect (Gk “teleios”), the word in this sense appears in the NT only in Mat hew’s Gospel (19.21) and the Le er of James (1.4; 3.2); it implies
maturity or wisdom (19.21; cf. Lev 19.2; Deut 18.13 [and Targumic commentaries]; 1QS 1.8–9,13; 2.1–2; 8.9–10; Midr. Tehillim 119:3; Lk 6.36 demands disciples be merciful). In Jewish tradition, Heb “tamim” (“complete, sound”; see Gen 6.9, where Noah is “blameless”) could indicate “completeness” with God, though not necessarily in a moral sense (e. g. Deut 18.13; 32.4).

[End quote].

Thus, it seems to me as if the Christian and Jewish 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 (and the Jesus' community) 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 accordingly. 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.
  • 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.


Antti Ateisti said...

Thank you for writing this down.

William Kempton said...

You're welcome.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article. I do believe this "shame and tame" method applies to the Catholicism as well, although in a lesser strength, and to all religions and governments that wish to have strong control over their members.

Jax White said...

This is an awesome blog post! I tried showing it to my dad who is very very LDS. All he had to say back was that it was interesting. He completely ignored all of your great information because he was afraid to believe this is true.

William Kempton said...


Well at least he found it "interesting."

Thanks for the comment.

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