Happiness and Freedom Despite the LDS Church’s Uses of Fear and Social Pressure

July 9, 2013

The first time I stayed home, telling the bishop I was sick (I was the Exec. Sec.), I just had this big grin on my face that wouldn’t go away. I was experiencing sweet freedom. I was so happy to be away from that burdensome church and those generally sweet but tedious people. I had my whole Sunday morning and afternoon to myself! I look back now and think of how the LDS church kept me in this subservient, servile, fearful, anxious, dreadfully pathetic state. You can’t be yourself. You can’t explore and find your own voice, your own interests. You barely know how to. Your individuality is suffocated; every thought has to be church approved or you feel terrible and guilty.

Being in the LDS church is a nightmare of being controlled. You don’t know who your real friends are until you get out of the church, because a lot of your LDS friends will be uncomfortable around you if and when you dare to not follow the script. They’ll begin to quietly avoid you, i.e., shun you.

Of course LDS friends and family think that when you become disaffected with the One True Church you are in “a dark place.” They are fearful, because the LDS church falsely teaches them that anyone who dares to leave the LDS church will suffer and bring only shame and terrible things upon him or herself and family.

My god, what a farce, what a sick, sad, terrible thing the LDS church and its culture of shame, intolerance, and fearfulness are, especially when you consider how the “darkness” they fear is partly their own creation: 1) an exiting person’s LDS social circle starts to variously pressure, shame, and abandon them, so no wonder some people go a little crazy, 2) their family will often be freaking out and even the person’s marriage can be destroyed, 3) they’ve been on a church created hamster wheel of obligation pressure and moral and sensual repression for so long that when they do actually first experience being free of it they might well use poor judgment in trying out new things–like socially awkward teens–and 4) the church makes its people so dependent and afraid of thinking and evaluating for themselves, that when the spark of real freedom, liberty, and agency does arise in them, they will often first try to gropingly get away from the church–hanging out in the bathroom, skipping third hour to go get coffee or a donut, making excuses–in ways that, looking back, seem awfully timid but that may just confuse the people around them who care at all.


What Will Probably be an Ongoing Series Reporting on the (Premature, Exagerated, and Just Wrong) Reports About the Death of the Humanities and the End of Literature as We Know It With Links

July 7, 2013

The Hyperarchival Parallax

David Brooks’s 20 June 2013 op-ed piece for The New York Times, “The Humanist Vocation,” in which he declares that the humanities are in decline, has sparked a flurry of debate and response. One of these reasons for the flurry of commentary is that the issue is more complicated than Brooks allows for in his quite brief piece (and he’s simply wrong on a few points, see Michael Bérubé below). Another reason for the considerable response is that his discussion of the humanities cuts to the bone for those of us who actually work in the humanities. (Certainly for me, as will be apparent below.)

Brooks’s article accompanied a report released by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences titled The Heart of the Matter, which takes the familiar line of: the humanities have to “retool” to fit the changes presented by our networked, scary world, with its…

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Live this One Life to the Full

July 7, 2013

Live this One Life to the Full..

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Washington Park Ward

June 19, 2013

Doubting Mark

This morning was one of those typical Seattle mornings.  It was kind of dark and very overcast and cool. 0609131011 Not cold, but not really warm either.  The clouds overhead looked like they could rain, but probably wouldn’t be bothered to put in the effort.

For all that people complain about Seattle weather, I kind of like it.  This kind of weather is perfect for long walks because you don’t get overheated.

My walk to the Mormon church was around two and a half miles, a little less than an hour’s walk at my pace.

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Online exchange showing evasiveness of TBM mentality

September 3, 2012
So I re-tweet (RT or quote) this guy’s post where he is GRIPING about being called up in the EARLY MORNING by someone from CHURCH, telling him to teach the next day.

Here’s the exchange on Twitter:

RT @Stan_Way: When your #Mormon priesthood leader calls early Saturday AM it can only mean 1 thing: You’re teaching tomorrow #sucker #pwnage

@blakesgarden Well I’ve never looked at it that way, but I suppose everyone is allowed to their own opinions. Just an opportunity to serve.

@Stan_Way Dude, to be told to serve is what? Coercion of service isn’t voluntary service. It’s volnteering to be told what to do by someone

@blakesgarden I don’t think you have a firm grasp of how things work in my church. There is no coercion. I could have easily said no.

@Stan_Way What happens if you always say no? You know, you don’t do what you’re told but, let’s say, you just serve as you see fit?

@blakesgarden If I say no it’s no big deal. I do serve as I see fit & have a great time. Helping a friend by teaching tomorrow is a bonus.

So he’s helping an LDS church “friend.”  We know how deep that friendship likely must be, and he says he serves as he sees fit, but he really didn’t answer my question: What if he said no all the time and just did what he wanted? Seriously, that would not fly too long: He’d get grief from his priesthood “friends,” probably get pressure from his wife, and eventually be asked to talk with the Bishop and likely lose his Temple Recommend if he persisted in not being good and “church broke.”  He’d be castigated as “selfish.” Am I wrong?  Anyone else a bit astonished at the blinders he’s got on (though I’m sure most postmos have witnessed their like before)?

List of text databases

May 17, 2012

Libgen: http://www.libgen.info/ (the main/home page hasn’t worked for me lately but the database seems to work fine)

Library Genesis: http://gen.lib.rus.ec/ (libgen’s database of books can be accessed from here, seems to usually be under the fourth mirror link’)

Radical Ebook Archive: http://radicalebooks.blogspot.ca/

Ebookbrowse.com: http://ebookbrowse.com/

Ebook3000: http://ebook3000.com/

Ebookee: http://ebookee.org/

Avax: http://avaxhome.ws/

Wix: http://www.wix.com/imperialxs/efk-ebooks?_escaped_fragment_=vstc1%3Dpage-4#!vstc1=page-4

Book Finder: http://en.bookfi.org/

Tuebl: http://tuebl.com/search

WWW Virtual Library: http://vlib.org.uk/

Architecture: http://www.offtop.ru/misi/v18_613466_all_.php?of1791=7491151d55d87c08c59…

The Anarchist Library: http://theanarchistlibrary.org/index.html

Zinelibrary: zinelibrary.info

Modernist Journals Project: http://www.modjourn.org/journals.html

Monoskop: http://monoskop.org/log/

Issuu: http://issuu.com/

Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

Hypertexts: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/hypertex.html

ebooks@Adelaide: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/meta/authors.html

Librivox (audio books): http://librivox.org/

Open Library: http://openlibrary.org/

Cultish characteristics of the LDS church

January 26, 2011

Here’s something I posted at a Top Ten Cults list comment thread.  I like the way the post tries to speak to a general audience.  I wish I had said more in the conclusion about the need to do two years as a missionary and achieve other markers of future ability to move up the Mormon hierarchy.  –MD (aka Phyllis Stean, and Phyllis Stein, and derrida at RFM)

(Originally posted at http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-cults.php.)

Phyllis Stean mantisdolphin.wordpress.com says:
July 11, 2009 at 11:28 am

As a converted Mormon (plus eight years now), my opinion is that “the Church”–such is how it is called by its “members,” itself another common appelation among the LDS to refer to those on the rolls of the Church–is cultish at the least.

Note: Jan Shipps, one of the foremost non-LDS historians of the LDS Church, also refers to it in its origins as a “cult” (Shipps, Mormonism, pp. 47-51). Unfortunately, Shipps’ definition of “cult” is entirely academic, sociological, and external: She sees successful cults as those that develop and become dominant or mainstream traditions, a fate she sees as shared by the LDS Church. Thus she refuses to judge her subject and proceeds with her narrative with archival pleasure and ambition.

However, living the faith is another matter: The prospect of living in a “part-member” family really brings the cultish character of the faith into relief. If children are involved, then one parent not being “active,” i.e., going to church regularly, can easily end a marriage and divide a family. (This seems more destructive to me than what one finds in mainstream religions.) The whole emphasis on being “sealed for all time and eternity” to one’s spouse and children, and the heavy indoctrination of youth through all manner of expected activities outside of the three regular Sunday church hours, lends great force to the bind that the Church keeps “weak” members (those in need of “strengthening”) in: to split from the Church creates a serious threat to one’s family and great pain and confusion to one’s children for not having a parent of “integrity” (I’m quoting all the buzz words here.)

Add to this the expected annual “tithing settlement” with the Bishop (he–always he–is like the head preacher of a given “ward” or church community–usually numbering from 300-400 people). One must go with one’s family to answer the Bishop’s question, “Do you pay a full tithe?” As invasive as this may sound to mainstream protestants, this “interview” setting is quite common in the Church, extending to regular “worthiness” or “Temple” interviews with youth and adults. Waywardness is watched for vigilantly, and to me this seems cultish. In fact, now the Church puts barcodes on “Temple recommends” and the Bishop of each ward gets a weekly report of who in the ward has been faithful in going to the Temple (another expected outside-regular-Sunday-Church-meeting activity of “faithful,” “valiant,” “worthy,” “active members”).

Connected to “Temple worthiness” (imagine being a member of a church where you are formally considered a less worthy member than someone else), there also are levels of acceptance and prestige in the Church as well: If one has a genealogy that goes back to the original members of the Church (1830s), that is quite special. If one has ancestors who were part of the 19th century “Pioneers” who traveled across the US to Utah, then one is certainly pedigreed. Being a relative of one of the Church leaders in Salt Lake is certainly a way into the Church aristocracy, and there are various other ways to ascend in this informal Church hierarchy, including perhaps most importantly the attending of BYU or one of its satellite campuses in Idaho or Hawaii.

I don’t have time presently to talk about the importance of “sacrifice” and “service” in the Church. Suffice to say that the emphasis on these can be quite overwhelming in terms of (voluntary) time commitments from the faithful.


Where does the double-bind take us when examining damaging cults?

April 29, 2010

The “double bind” e-book at exmormon.org is a useful application of an idea to Mormonism, but I think a person would do well to learn more about the double bind by reading The Pragmatics of Human Communication or any of this guy’s work on learning and communication, especially any of his stuff on learning to learn. He’s largely responsible for developing the underlying theory. So one goes to the source!

The idea that there are paradoxical injunctions (phobias basically) that keep people in line with the church gets really interesting to me when thinking about family therapy, viewing the family as a system, and the problems of change in individuals and families.

How does one escape predatory organizations? Bob McCue said he views the church as a wolf or bear that one basically stays the he!! away from. Having been a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed convert, who eventually woke up and decided the church didn’t make him happy, and how that opened up a big can of WHAMMY!, I have to agree.

(Problem: Brief therapy recognizes that a therapist has a brief amount of time to make crucial interventions into a person’s behavior or a family to elicit change. Over time the therapist becomes more enmeshed in the same communicational problems that he or she is observing, and as a result is less able to find the best strategies of intervention (see the work of Milton Erickson.) But everyone leaving the church who wants to bring their families along is told to go slow during the detox. Maybe it’s just an insider/outsider vantage: the therapist has to act fast, while the family insider does not have that luxury–he or she is already so enmeshed that the process is more akin to getting honey off of one hand with the other–not too easy without outside aid, without soap, water and towel. How do you get the honey off without outside help? Careful, pressured scraping off. Time. Air. Activity. Sunlight. The elements. Dust and dirt. AND STAYING AWAY FROM THE SOURCE OF THE HONEY!)

The double-bind was put together when an anthropologist looked at the behaviors of schizophrenics and then saw the same behaviors in the context of a given schizo’s family. Tell me that the church doesn’t create a variety of socially induced schizophrenia in individuals–the idea of splitting from oneself, of splitting off from the wider culture, of trained ignorance or trained perceptual blindspots. (Cf. experiment of mothers and children with cameras in room: schizo moms pretend camera isn’t there; child left to doubt their own perceptions; healthy moms note to child the existence of the camera, why it is there, and then get on with assigned task.)

One of the keys to shifting out of double-binding communication is to stay focused on the context. What is the wider context of the communication? E.g., when the mishies come to the door or when the initial courtship of a promising investigator occurs, what’s the context? Each party wants something. There’s an exchange. To me the wider context looks like making a recruit. There’s a large organization attempting to mentally fondle someone into submitting to its view of reality. Why replicate the recruiters? What do the recruiters need? Hands, money, and more recruiters to add to the total of hands, money, and recruiters. And so on ad infinitum.

On Wikipedia and Book of Mormon Anachronisms

April 25, 2010

If anything, the Wikipedia page on Book of Mormon (BOM) anachronisms needs more work. Links to the BOM in the notes need to be fixed, e.g., note 62, note 50. The sections on the “compass” and “satyr” are ambiguous and need editing. The section on languages and the “Anachronisms perpetuated from the King James Bible” could be filled out much better. Richard Packham’s recent Exmormon conference talk (“A Linguist Looks at Mormonism” (Exmormon foundation conference 2009)) could helpfully be interpolated here. For my taste, there is too little dust-up in the “discussion” section of the Wikipedia entry page; it’s anemic. The more issues are explored there, the more it goes in the favor of the critics. So I would urge people to go there and find things to LEGITIMATELY discuss.

The apologists are CONSTANTLY on flimsy ground with these entries. Nevermos would find the whole “debate” ludicrous and hardly credible. Only true believing Mormons would catch at the strands of gossamer offered by the apologists as reasons to stay.

Among the problems with the various entries:

The “goats” in the BOM are actually, apologists tell us, deer, even including the possibility of domesticated deer–natives even making cheese from their milk?! Or steel doesn’t mean “steel”; it means something more like brass or copper alloy. So why didn’t JS say that or say “golden steel” or some other easily had approximation rather than supply outright misinformation? “Steel” isn’t brass or copper alloy.

The apologists are always having to come up with approximations that COULD have been meant–well then, why didn’t GOD explain things better to JS? Why didn’t JS clarify? It would have been easy for JS, who, along with his mid-19th century audience, knew what deer were, to distinguish between “wild deer” and “deer” used for milking and ready meat. The whole thing is just an exercise in insulting human intelligence.

If the BOM is BETTER presented linguistically than the KJV, as the Articles of Faith would have it (“insofar as it [the KJV] is translated correctly”), then why do apologists keep referring to the KJV to get the BOM non-translation (direct word of God, right?) out of hock?

The “barley and wheat” section is a hoot. Either the “little barley” variety was used instead of actual barley, or the English generic term “corn” means any possible grain BOM peoples used. But “little barley” was unknown in Mesoamerica and wasn’t cultivated in North America or by the Norse until long after the time period of BOM peoples.

On lack of wheeled vehicles in pre-Columbian America? Wheeled toys is the answer?

On Scimitars, JS couldn’t have just written “curved wooden knives”? “Curved”? Why would BOM people “curve” and warp wooden swords or knives?? Would they waste wood by carving curved templates from existing wood? Would they go through the time consuming process of using water to help bend and warp wood? (That’s all assuming the scimitars weren’t made with steel, which is probably going to be most readers’ likely inference. So why would God deceive people when it’s so easy to clarify the actual meaning?

Compass: The section is ambiguous. Did the apologists’ argue that the compass was a term used in the BOM as a linguistic equivalent? That the Liahona was made by God removes the argument from any naturalism (a terrain the apologists typically try to defend with other BOM anachronisms). What about the Liahona? There’s an example of JS using a word not in the English language in his time to describe something that acts like a compass. So why use the word compass? Or why not use the word “compass” in a clear simile? JS could have given the WORD OF GOD much more clearly, if indeed he was inspired, a true prophet, etc.

Windows–a word, the apologists say, that simply parallels KJV translation. Again, why would JS and the church rely on the KJV translation when they see the BOM as a direct transcription from JS’s prophetic inspiration–why are we continually brought back to the KJV when 1) later biblical scholarship has surpassed it and 2) JS himself distanced the church from it because its translations were imperfect? And leather or wood for the “window” covering wouldn’t be anymore likely to be “dashed to pieces” than any other part of the boat. When people of Smith’s time read of a “window” being “dashed to pieces,” we (as well as would the mid-19th c. Americans) have a clear idea of what was meant–a fragile, brittle glass covering a hole in the boat.

Likewise with “church” and “synagogue” apologists refer (defer) to the KJV.

The use of the name “Isabel” in the BOM is indefensible unless one resorts yet again to the KJV (which doesn’t contain it). (Oh wait, apologists will say “Isabel” was actually derived, corrupted from “Jezebel”–but why would JS, a prophet of God, corrupt anything?)

The problem with “Satyr” as something “not known to have ever existed” 1) needs to be clarified (existed to whom?) and 2) if resort is made to the KJV, then the knowledge of Elizabethans can basically supplement any supposed anachronism in the BOM and that is just too convenient and seems to empty out the apologists’ points when they defer yet again to the KJV.

The whole defense based on the KJV translation is maddening 1) because JS rightfully had doubts about the KJV translation and 2) the language of the KJV can be excused as the means of communication at the time that JS would need to use when all other resources failed him–and yet, why would God (and JS) not do a better job than the KJV translators? Or not do a job as well as the recent New Revised Standard Edition translators, led by NT scholar Bruce Metzger, or of the NIV? Why is the BOM language locked into the language of the KJV? Because it is a fraud and JS wasn’t a true prophet of God.

In the shadow of the temple

April 10, 2010

Unless church members are willing to admit that 1) the church is often responsible for destroying the families of people who question it, and until the basic point is accepted that 2) there is a love of church that goes beyond bonds of friendship and beyond father and son or mother and daughter or husband and wife–and then square those two anti-family things with the stated and supposed family values of the church–then there is neither hope nor real love of Christ in the hearts of church members who cannot fathom or acknowledge these two facts.

For the LDS faithful, if you are really about “integrity,” “honesty,” and courage, and “character,” something ironically drummed away at in countless ward, stake, and conference talks, then please, for the love of Jesus Christ, see the DVD from this site: In the Shadow of the Temple.

People are hurt by the church and by its usually well meaning members for the simple fact that they have, for whatever reason, decided they can no longer follow or believe the doctrines of the church.  The love-bombing, the carrying-on, the pressure tactics, the unannounced visits, the phone calls, the letters calling for repentance–these are all hurtful things.

If you are a friend of the person who has left the church, then be a friend.  Be a friend first of all.  If the church isn’t a cult, then you should be able to be a helpful and supportive friend of someone who is leaving the church without pressuring them to go to church and without being threatened or struck with terror and fear when that person expresses his feelings about the church.  If the criticism is too much for you, just say so without judging the person.  Simply say that you still have a testimony and a love of the church and you’d rather your friend not put it down.  It’s tough, but leaving the church is tough, and being a friend in a time of real need is tough.  And isn’t that what courage, integrity, character, and all the other church espoused virtues (charity, the love of Christ perhaps?) are all about?

(Shout out to Suspicious Minds at the Postmormon.org forum.  See also the thread this post is a response to at Arza Evans’s “Families Held Hostage.” )

Doubting Mark

An atheist's adventures in a land of faith

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