Posts Tagged ‘Exmormonism’

When Critical Thought is Applied to Fanatical Belief

December 16, 2013

A friend asked about Lynn K. Wilder’s Unveiling Grace: The Story of How We Found Our Way Out of the Mormon Church. This was my reply:

Mormons seem a bit unique, at least to me, in how many there are of those who leave the church that leave faith altogether. One convincing explanation I’ve heard is that the LDS church “spiritually burns people out.” Yes, Mormons rank high in surveys of devotion, but if the shelf ever breaks, the critical thought applied to the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon slide over very easily to the Bible, its stories, miracles, and historical compilation.

The LDS church plays a very dangerous game: Heavily indoctrinate people into “every member a missionary” zeal, bind them emotionally through their “forever families” and “celestial marriages,” tie them culturally and hierarchically into an invasive interview, confessional, home visiting culture, a “ward family” culture and even a social network, employment culture, and then through fear keep them in line, believing and wanting to believe so much that the most active members can be said to be “church broke,” willing to “sacrifice all” that they possess, even their “lives if necessary, in sustaining and defending the Kingdom of God.”

I mean, once a person is into something that deep, especially without full agency–i.e., you were essentially stepped or phased into it, groomed–then, you know, you are kind of fucked spiritually in terms of ever being able to know your own true light. And if you ever release the bonds, your trust in anyone selling spiritual goods will likely not be very easy to gain.


“God never changes, except when He does”

August 31, 2013

I don’t get how all the changes aren’t more testimony busting than they appear to be, or at least shelf bending. When you are in the magic bubble, you explain all the changes away; they even become validations–when the Brethren make changes, that must mean that God saw fit for those changes now; that’s part of His plan. The post hoc reasoning is just mind numbing. Yeah, weren’t we told that God is unchanging, God’s law is unchanging, the Gospel is unchanging, it’s a rock, its principles are eternal, Smith got the Temple ordinances from God, pure from the time of Solomon…but the Brethren keep changing shit over time. Why? Or apologists will play the “Be flexible” card or the “Don’t fall into the fundamentalist trap” card. I hate the playing both sides against the middle, but no one will acknowledge, except someone like Armand Mauss and his fans, that the LDS church is a sociological creature bent on accommodating itself over time to the wider culture. That’s the truth the orthodox Mormons say they love so much, but they treat that particular sociological truth like it’s Satanic or “anti.” I can’t grow spiritually with people who won’t acknowledge basic truths and who insist instead on living in a fairy land.

Mormonism, the Priesthood of Believers, and Maxine Hanks

July 28, 2013

Interesting, from the article linked below, that at least part of her going back to the LDS church had to do with the idea of lay priesthood. It sounds like, as she says, she “pulled back” in her studies or from being ordained (?) or couldn’t go through with that, perhaps because the idea of a priesthood separate from the laity didn’t fit well with her Mormon background. That would make some sense. And so she re-discovers to her relief the point of a completely lay priesthood, and goes back to the LDS church.

I’m not sure how that works with any feminism, given that the LDS church’s priesthood is decidedly patriarchal, in focus and largely in practice. But yeah, one of the things that attracted me to Mormonism as a convert was the LDS church being led by laity at the local level. My DW thinks that men performing priesthood blessings of healing and comfort is one of the most beautiful things about Mormonism.

Of course, what’s really pulling at me these days, in the wake of the NYT piece on Mattsson, is how empty Mormonism was for me spiritually and intellectually as a practicing Mormon. Couple that with the rigid authoritarianism, the paleo-conservatism, and the intense, cognitively paralyzing and emotionally crippling indoctrination techniques used in the LDS church (members who question LDS church dogma are essentially coerced into staying in the LDS church, sacrificing sacred matters of individual conscience because they don’t want to lose marriages or family ties), and the LDS church seems an odious place.

For me now, considering my experience in the LDS church and considering the Mattson affair, I think about the obvious virtues of a theologically and historically educated class of pastors, ministers, priests, etc., who can REALLY perform actual pastoral work and discussion in the wards. (The experience of sitting in a LDS chapel on Sunday morning is mind-numbing, so one starts to wonder if there are any seriously wise and well educated ministers out there worth listening to each week.) The pastor is paid for pursuing his vocation, rather than a ward or stake having a necessarily puffed up full-time accountant or podiatrist or business executive doing part-time pastoral and ministering work (as though these were after-thoughts!). And he or she is not part of a special priestly class (a la Catholicism) that is understood to specially mediate sacred teachings for the members. For example, I can see where a born and raised Mormon would pull back from Catholicism, or maybe ordination in a church in the Anglican or Lutheran line of Protestantism, but a Calvinist, Baptist, or Presbyterian church doesn’t doctrinally separate off the laity from the priesthood (“of believers)” like that.

In practice, Mormon priesthood is largely symbolic and empty. A pro forma affair where men run around doing Important things; they lay hands of blessing on people; they perform ordinances. But actual pastoral work is often reduced to checklist interviews for “worthiness,” or “pray about it, read your scriptures.” Gee, thanks. I mean, when one is going through a faith crisis in the Mormon church, one is a bit naive to go to one’s Bishop, although that’s exactly who the LDS church hierarchy wants you to go to. And why? Because he’s their man in your ward. He’s there primarily, in the last analysis, as the Handbook of Instruction says, to “protect the good name of the Church.” He is not there first and foremost to counsel, to heal, to offer real advice helpful to that individual. If he does any of those things, that’s just a matter of luck. There’s no design in Church hierarchy and administration for real pastoral work, for an honest grappling with doubts or trials of faith, to actually happen. That’s partly why the LDS church is in such a mess now: Faithful people with serious doubts or questions go in to the Bishop’s office, struggling, and they more likely to be berated, chastised, mocked, looked down upon, than they are to be treated with consideration, compassion, understanding, and true ministering.


[Relevant quotes from the SLTrib article:

Hanks rejoined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February.

On Friday , during a popular evening session of next week’s Sunstone Symposium, an annual meeting for Mormon intellectuals and observers, Hanks will detail her 20-year spiritual sojourn as a feminist theologian and chaplain, which brought her full circle back into Mormonism.

“Given who I was, there was no place to go but out,” Hanks said in 2003, on the 10th anniversary of the excommunications. “Mormonism was limiting to me, so I needed to test the limits — to see who I and the church really might be. … Excommunication opened the door to a larger cosmos, inside and outside myself.”

From that point on, she explored various Christian teachings and practices, assisted clergy with religious services and served as volunteer chaplain at Holy Cross Chapel for 13 years. In 1999, she joined the Interfaith Roundtable for the 2002 Winter Olympics, where she enjoyed the association of representatives from various faiths and led the annual Interfaith Week.

She studied “traditional, sacramental Christianity and priesthood,” Hanks said this week. “But when I got to the point of priestly ordination, I pulled back. I moved into recognizing the value and power of a lay priesthood in the body of Christ and Christian community. My searching was complete. I had my answers.”

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

Phyllis Stean 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.


Doubting Mark

An atheist's adventures in a land of faith

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