Oprah’s Cult Club

While on sabbatical from religious blogging a number of blog-post worthy things happened, mostly on television. One of those events was Oprah Winfrey’s journey into the heart of Fundamental Mormonism for some fresh baked bread.

I had two strong thoughts on Oprah’s visit to the Yearning for Zion Ranch. The first was that she is extraordinarily savvy at disarming people and becoming accepted by them enough for interviews. The second was that she wasn’t prepared enough to probe past the “milk-before-meat” half-truth answers they were giving. She quite often just accepted their answers on face value. Perhaps that was part of her plan though, to limit any and all confrontations (for future visits).

What surprised me the most was that she used the word “cult” several times (the irony of Oprah talking about cults aside). I think Oprah correctly used the term in referring to the FLDS as a cult. Every expert on mind-control and sociological cults classifies them as a cult and they meet every qualification you can think of.

I recognize that LDS are sensitive to the use of the “C” word. But I’m wondering what LDS think of the FLDS. If you’re LDS, do you consider the FLDS a cult? If not, is that because you eschew the word entirely, because you don’t think any group should be called a cult, because you don’t believe there is any such thing as a mind-controlling cult, or for some other reason specific to the FLDS?

Please note: this discussion is NOT about polygamy or government’s misuse of power in protecting children. It IS about mind-control and the FLDS use of such tactics.

Please ALSO note:
To be absolutely clear. I’m not asking if you think the words “cult” and “brain washed” are good terms for defining groups we don’t like.

I’m asking if you think the FLDS meet the strictest of definitions used by psychological professionals.

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162 thoughts on “Oprah’s Cult Club

  1. Yes, I’m LDS and I consider the FLDS a cult. Not because they fit anyone’s criteria or definition of a cult, but because the word carries with it all the connotations of derision that I feel towards their beliefs and practices. If you want to go off the dictionary definition or other criteria, I submit to you the following list of cults:

    New Testament era Christianity
    Girl Scouts of America
    Green Berets
    my little league baseball team
    Victorian England
    Weight-Watchers

  2. I don’t know if my opinion counts since I’m not LDS, but I think the FLDS are a cult.

    On the evangelical side, I think New Testament Christian Church (which is headquartered in Graham, Washington near where I live) is a cult. They teach that it’s immodest and therefore sinful for women to wear pants. That automatically makes your religion a cult.

  3. Okay Seth, do you think the words “brain-washing” are useful in any way? Perhaps not with the “washed” but concerning the “washed”.

  4. Not really, unless you are willing to go into detail.

    By themselves, words like “cult” or “brainwashed” really amount to nothing more than stinky poo-poo head in today’s religious discourse.

    There are better ways to explain human beings than words that are so emotionally charged that they obscure more than they illuminate.

    I also don’t use the word “monster” to describe any criminal for the simple reason I don’t believe in monsters.

    All of these words are nothing more than verbal comfort food. A way of reassuring ourselves that we are not subject to the same terrifying problems our fellow human beings face because THEY are monsters, or THEY are brainwashed. Whereas WE are none of THOSE things.

    And thus we load our sins onto the community scapegoat and drive it off into the desert.

  5. Welcome back, Tim. I don’t know enough about the FLDS to categorize them in any way, but I like what Seth says about labels.

  6. I think I’d say the FLDS are most likely a cult, but I agree that tossing that label around doesn’t do much to help them for the reasons Seth mentioned.

    I think there may be some level of usefulness for the term if you use it not as a derogatory slur, but as a way to identify patterns of control, behavior, and psychological damage to members (especially in an attempt to reach them).

    I would also be quick to point out that not all Mormon offshoot polygamous groups are cults.

  7. I basically avoid use of the word “cult” because, like Seth R. says, it’s not all that useful of a term. If I’m going to have to define what I mean every time I use the word, then I might as well refer to the definitions in the first place.

    But, yeah, I’d consider the FLDS (or at least major parts of it) is a psychologically abusive religious organization, just to use a still-somewhat-vague definition off the top of my head.

    And, FWIW, the most “cultlike” organization I’ve seen fairly close up (a friend quite a few years ago tried to proselytize me and took me to several meetings) … wasn’t a religion at all. It was an Amway organization — but many of the psychological control methods often used to define “cult” were there. It was downright spooky.

  8. I have to disagree with Seth on this one.

    What’s wrong with comfort food? Isn’t it only a problem if you over-indulge it? I like to think I’m a fairly rational person most of the time, but even I get emotional about some things, and I recognize the catharsis in a good round of emotionally charged name-calling.

    The FLDS? Yeah, I think they’re a cult. NTCC? Cult. That polygamous not-quite-LDS splinter-group I told you about on Facebook, Katie? Cult. (Yes, I’m going to be esoteric about that reference and make you all wonder what the hell me and Katie are talking about.)

    And if labeling the people who killed their loved ones “monsters” helps the families of the victims of violent crimes work through what’s happened to them, I’m okay with that.

    Admittedly I don’t believe in brainwashing.

    If we’re actually looking for polite civil discourse on these subjects, then no, those terms generally aren’t useful. But they do have their place, especially for the parties who got involved with these people or organizations.

  9. By themselves, words like “cult” or “brainwashed” really amount to nothing more than stinky poo-poo head in today’s religious discourse.

    You only think that because you are kind of in one.

  10. BJM said:

    What’s wrong with comfort food? Isn’t it only a problem if you over-indulge it? … The FLDS? Yeah, I think they’re a cult. NTCC? Cult. That polygamous not-quite-LDS splinter-group I told you about on Facebook, Katie? … If we’re actually looking for polite civil discourse on these subjects, then no, those terms generally aren’t useful. But they do have their place, especially for the parties who got involved with these people or organizations.

    Well, yes, if we agree on a definition, then “cult” is a word like any other. And since in this context I believe you are talking about religious groups that exert excessive control over their members in certain ways, we might find it useful to use the term “cult” in those cases.

    One area where I especially find difficulty is in using the pejorative (rather than descriptive) “cult” to refer to belief. I certainly believe it’s possible to believe in and practice polygamy without being a cult as I’m using using the term. The same goes for religious groups that object to women wearing pants. A group could have all sorts of strange practices, even be downright weird, without being a “cult.” To be a “cult” as I’m using the term, it must exercise something analogous to what D&C calls unrighteous dominion.

    But once I have to go to all the effort of defining what I mean, I might as well have avoided the term in the first place.

    Kullervo said:

    You only think that because you are kind of in one.

    Kind of proves my point.

  11. Tim asked:

    I’m asking if you think the FLDS meet the strictest of definitions used by psychological professionals.

    I don’t know a lot about how the FLDS operates, but based on their extreme isolation from outside influences I would have to say yes.

    And strictly applying the definition given in that link, the U.S. Army would fit in the same category.

  12. The LDS Church meets a lot of these criteria, though.

    Behavior
    * Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals
    * Need to report thoughts, feelings, and activities to superiors
    * Rigid rules and regulations
    * Need for obedience and dependency

    Information Control
    * Use of deception
    * Access to non cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
    * Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
    * Spying on other members is encouraged
    * Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
    * Unethical use of confession

    Thought Control
    * Need to internalize the group’s doctrine as “Truth”
    * Use of “loaded” language (for example, “thought terminating clichés”). Words are the tools we use to think with. These “special” words constrict rather than expand understanding, and can even stop thoughts altogether. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous “buzz words.”
    * Only “good” and “proper” thoughts are encouraged.
    * Use of thought stopping techniques, which shut down “reality testing” by stopping “negative” thoughts and allowing only “good” thoughts
    * Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate.

    Emotional Control
    * Make the person feel that if there are ever any problems, it is always their fault, never the leader’s or the group’s
    * Excessive use of guilt
    * Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader’s authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.

    The ones in italics are the ones I think are particularly apt.

  13. And strictly applying the definition given in that link, the U.S. Army would fit in the same category.

    No way. At most you get some of the behavior control stuff, but that’s actually necessary for a disciplined soldiery. And nobody thinks it’s going to be any different going in.

  14. I have to get to work. All I’ll say for now is that my experience in the Church (which I acknowledge is far from perfect) hasn’t been the same as Kullervo’s was.

  15. Yikes, I’m a little creeped out to note that my experiences seem to line up more closely to Kullervo’s.

    Don’t all religions do this sort of thing to a certain extent?

  16. Tim, yes, the FLDS fit the criteria you linked to, but as I tried to point out in the first comment on this thread, that turns out to be not particularly damning since other groups which we consider to be wholly innocuous fit the same criteria. One of my favorite chapters of Robinson’s “Are Mormons Christian?” is when he takes Ed Decker’s criteria for a cult, which is very similar to the criteria on your Wikipedia link, and then quotes NT passages that fit them exactly.

  17. Yo momma’s completely ridiculous. See, I can make completely insubstantial comments too.

  18. Let me try to restate Kullervo’s comment. Most certainly any organization will fit some of the criteria. The question is if they fit most of the criteria in all of the categories.

  19. Yo momma’s completely ridiculous. See, I can make completely insubstantial comments too.

    My comment was not insubstantial. I said “They most certainly do not fit the same criteria.” You insist that the Girl Scouts fit the criteria? Fine, explain it to me. Give me examples. Or at least list off the criteria that you think apply, like I did re: Mormonism and (in general terms) the Army. You can hardly expect me to look around for “evidence that they don’t.”

  20. Kullervo,

    I don’t think it takes a huge stretch of the imagination to see the similarities between cults and the psychological pressures exerted by any of the groups on my list. The girl scouts have their codes of similar dress and conduct, chant their quasi-religious slogans regularly, and devote a great deal of time, effort, guilt-tripping and group-induced shame towards selling cookies. May as well change their name to Cult of the Thin Mint.

    I think of all of the groups on my list, the military applies the most, but for them you seem to have found “evidence that they don’t.” The first reason I agree with (neccessity for discipline –same root as “disciple” FYI) and the second I don’t, unless you got the last honest recruitment officer alive.

    The point of all of this is that the criteria is very much in the eye of the beholder. Even though the military fits the criteria better than most (and I would be thrilled to list out the similarities for it, just say the word) it would be folly to smear them as a cult for obvious reasons.

  21. I only did Girl Scouts for grades 1 through 4, but I’m really not seeing how the Girl Scouts could fit the bill for most of the things on this list. Maybe for the following:

    ~ Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals — Depends on your definition of “major.” I think 1-2 meetings a week is hardly “major.”

    ~ Use of “loaded” language (for example, “thought terminating clichés”). — I suppose some of the stuff in the Girl Scout Law & Pledge could count as “loaded” language, though I think that’s debatable.

    The rest of them? Not even debatable. Not unless you had some sort of authoritarian Nazi of a troop leader.

    And I don’t remember them ever using fear and guilt trips to make us sell cookies. They simply offered rewards and prizes for more cookies sold, and if you didn’t sell the cookies you didn’t get the rewards. I sold the 3rd-most cookies in Anchorage, Alaska, so I know what I’m talking about. (Oh, and the girls who got 1st and 2nd were rich kids whose parents just bought a crap-ton of cookies and they never actually had to go door to door, so I sold the most cookies on my own. I’m still bitter about this, obviously.)

    So there!

  22. I sold the most cookies on my own. I’m still bitter about this, obviously.

    We’ll add that to your long list.

  23. Like most guys, I don’t watch Oprah. But I know she’s one smart gal having built a business empire branded with her name from scratch. And she sure isn’t going to push a gold mine like invites to the FLDS so hard as to not be invited back. It’s entertainment!

    Who’s running the FLDS nowadays anyhow?

    Personally, it’s consensual polygamy such as depicted on Big Love that I find far more fascinating than these sick arranged marriage mind control groups.

    The natural man is a hunter gatherer social animal. Have you noticed how the women at work get on so much better when there are a few gay guys in the mix? It’s inevitable: Polyg family seeking an expanded marriage to a three gay couples, next on Oprah!

  24. Mephibosheth,

    Psychological pressure generally is not what the cult characteristics are talking about. It has a specific list of characteristic psychological pressures exerted by an organization that add up to a cult. (So “Victorian England” is right out, sorry).

    Chanting slogans is not on the list.
    “Guilt tripping” is not really on the list, either.
    Wearing a uniform is not on the list.
    And codes of conduct are only on the list if they are strict.
    As Jack has pointed out, it’s really debatable that the time commitment involved in Girl Scouting is enough to make the cut. In any case, every endeavor involves some time commitment: by itself that is not enough to make it a cult. And it only becomes worrisome when it starts to be a significant and burdensome time commitment, causing you to cut out other parts of your life. and even then, it only counts if the organization expects or demands the time commitment.

  25. Hey I’m glad you all found “the list” to be so helpful, and so well-defined as to discern what is “debatable” or what’s really on the list, but I think Kullervo let the cat out of the bag with his 10:21a.m.: if the shoe fits both the FLDS and mainstream LDS, you’ll have to forgive me when I think there’s something wrong with it.

  26. I would actually agree that the LDS church can and often does fit a lot of the things on that list. Phrases like “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done,” “The prophet will never lead this people astray,” and “Some things that are true are not very useful” sure don’t make a great case for it not being a cult. Still, I would resist calling the church a “cult” as I just don’t think it’s conducive to mutual discussion, and most of the people who call it a cult have no idea what the hell they’re talking about. Plus they’re dumber than a sack of rocks. If the word ever had a practical, useful application where Mormonism is concerned, they’ve ruined it.

    And fair is fair, a few of the things on that list could apply to evangelical Christianity. It would depend on your denomination and local church.

    One of the things I actually appreciate about the Bloggernacle is that I think the philosophies and goals of a lot of Mormon bloggers help move the church away from these authoritarian “cult” tendencies. I sometimes wonder how effective it is—does grumbling on the Internet about your disagreements with the church actually bring about change if you still pay your tithe and tow the line on Sunday?—but I’m hopeful that a kinder, gentler, more open-minded strain of Mormonism will come to dominate.

  27. I think you guys might want to check out this essay by John Mark Reynolds (Professor of philosophy at Biola University):

    http://www.scriptoriumdaily.com/2009/04/02/on-america-land-of-cults/

    Here’s the money-quote:

    “Overuse of the term “cult” in the public square sometimes substitutes for actual arguments with thoughtful dissenting groups. As a traditional Christian I have serious theological disagreements with my friends in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), but it is wrong to label them a cult.* Any quick search will show LDS are willing to defend their views using arguments accessible to non-LDS. These arguments have changed under pressure from counter-arguments from non-LDS scholars and improved. I am not persuaded, to say the least, by these arguments, but LDS willingness to produce careful and responsive scholarship is a nearly infallible sign that they are no cult.”

    Sounds OK to me.

  28. I think John Mark Reynolds is a mixed bag. Sometimes he is right on the money, and sometimes he is completely in outer space. And I certainly wouldn’t trust him to be authoritative outside his own field.

    I don’t think Mormonism is a clear case of a cult. But I do think it is a borderline case, on the spectrum. I believe some aspects of Mormonism are far more cultlike than others, and I think that a certain degree of heterogeneity means that individual experiences are going to vary. But there are things that are intensely problematic.

  29. Eric Said: “U.S. Army would fit in the same category.”

    As a former West Point cadet, I can say that the US Army could be seat least at its core, at least as much of a cult as the LDS church is.

    The analogy between the Church and the Army is actually pretty good. Certainly not every soldier is a kool-aid drinker but there is a mix of intellectual and anti-intellectual motivations that tie them to the organization and its goals. There are half-truths, self-deception, close-mindedness and anti-intellectual tendencies in both organizations, but there are noble goals that transcend the leadership and organization.

    The FLDS church is a cult by any standard.

    Almost any religion is the breeding ground of cults.

  30. Maybe West Point is cultlike. The National Guard isn’t. Basic Training and Infantry school at Fort Benning wasn’t even.

  31. BJM,
    I recognize two of those cultish quotes as from BKP. Are all three? I’ve long thought it’s fortunate for the future of the LDS church BKP hasn’t built up anything close to a lasting legacy. A limerick is in order:

    The Lord’s church is dearer to me
    than this BKP will ever be,
    and with his passion
    on sex and women’s fashion,
    on his persuasion many would agree.

  32. I thought only one of them was from Packer, “Some things that are true are not very useful.”

    “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done” came from a 1945 Improvement Era Ward Teaching message. I don’t know who the author was.

    “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray” is from Wilford Woodruff.

    BKP has said crazy things about sex and women’s fashion? Do tell.

    He’s sort of next in line to be prophet, so if I were Mormon I would be very afraid. As a non-member though, I kind of hope that he does become prophet because then maybe people will finally get it through their heads that the prophet isn’t infallible and he can lead you astray. A much more open-minded Mormonism could emerge from the train wreck that would be a Packer presidency.

  33. Seth,

    Hope you are well. Coming from a family of attorneys, I know you guys are far better wordsmiths than us scientists. Here’s some raw material for BKP limericks. I’m sure you can add to it and come up with much better poems than I can:

    Liberace fan
    repressed homosexual
    shameful career obsessing about boy’s self pleasure and women’s fashion
    anti-miscegenation
    making a bogey man out of evolution
    no faith promoting legacy

    Did you notice in the last conference it appeared he was muzzled on masturbation, so he touches on it w/o using the word? What a flaming moron! Am I dumping on the poor guy?

  34. “Maybe West Point is cultlike. The National Guard isn’t. Basic Training and Infantry school at Fort Benning wasn’t even.”

    Maybe the MTC was cult-like, the elder’s quorum isn’t even.

    My point is that the Army is as much of a cult as the LDS church. . .

  35. Yes, Steve EM, you’re dumping on him. He’s also give some really good talks over the years, but the only ones people seem to remember are the ones he gave 15 years ago to church insiders and have since been leaked. When he interviewed for the PBS documentary, Helen Whitney asked him about his gays/feminist/intellectuals talk, and he basically backed off and said he was wrong.

    I don’t think it’s very difficult to convince people that prophets are fallible, since there certain times when Joseph Smith hot-dogged it and we canonized them in the D&C. Heck, given this you could argue that when Prez. Woodruff says no prophet will lead the people astray this was such an occasion. However, it would be difficult to come to any final conclusion about this, since you would have to prove that someone ended up in hell because they did something the prophet told them, right?

  36. BJM said:

    “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done” came from a 1945 Improvement Era Ward Teaching message. I don’t know who the author was.

    I’ve always known you to be fair. By not including President George Albert Smith’s comments on that article, you were not being fair (in my opinion, of course). I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and hope you weren’t aware of it.

    Here’s what he said:

    The leaflet to which you refer, and from which you quote in your letter, was not “prepared” by “one of our leaders.” However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.

    I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts. The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings. This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow.

    The original Improvement Era article and Smith’s letter can be found in context here.

  37. BKP has said crazy things about sex and women’s fashion? Do tell.

    BKP has this whole talk called “For Boys Only” about a boy’s “little factory” and how sometimes you dream things and your factory…ummmm…”manufactures?”–but you should never be proactive about getting your factory running yourself because then you won’t be able to stop and the very next thing you know is you will wind up in HELL.

    I added that last part.

    I would go find a copy of it online to link to, but I don’t feel like it right now because that talk stresses me out.

  38. BJM,
    BKP has repeated the “thinking is done” crap. I thought he was the originator. Thanks for the citation.

    On a possible pres. Packer, we LDS would survive. We’ve been in survival mode a long time now. I wish we’d switch to thrive mode, but that’s off topic. I’ll add the office has a long history of mellowing out hardliners or doing them in. BKP would also remember unyielding Pres Lee, a relatively young church Pres, who we learn in the McKay bio said the blacks would only get the preisthhod over his dead body when Pres McKay was considering reversing the policy. Pres Lee wasn’t church Pres very long, replaced by Pres Kimball.

  39. Eric ~ My apologies. I actually considered including the link to that very article from FAIR in my comment, but I’d already entered the link to Wilford Woodruff’s quote (which didn’t come out right for some reason) into my post and I didn’t want to have to wait for Tim to approve a comment with 2 links. And I was in a hurry and too lazy to do a second comment.

    Honestly, wasn’t trying to be unfair, you just caught me being lazy.

  40. Regarding the topic, I’ve long thought temple garments are cultish, as the same symbolism could be accomplished in far simplier ways. It’s not that I’m saying my faith is a cult, but ceratinly has cultish baggage I don’t pretend to understand in 2009.

  41. Seth, that’s probably true. He always freaked me out from the time I was a kid, and so every time he speaks I brace myself–but I will confess that for the past 7 years or so I almost always think, “Well, that was pretty normal” after he gets done.

  42. BTW, I took a minute to read the 1986 Dialogue article in which the Improvement Era lesson, Raymond Cope and George Albert Smith articles were originally reproduced (as cited by FAIR). Dialogue lists as it source the private archives collections for J. Raymond Cope and George Albert Smith. (It’s pages 35-39 of this PDF if anyone wants to see it.)

    Am I to understand correctly that this great retraction by George Albert Smith sat in the dusty archives of someone’s personal papers for 41 years (!)? If the church was so concerned about misconceptions and distress among the membership pertaining to said lesson, if it was all just an embarrassing mistake, why didn’t the church publish a retraction in the Improvement Era itself?

    Even Dialogue hardly has the readership Improvement Era does. I’d bet money that this George Albert Smith retraction didn’t see widespread exposure until the onset of FAIR and the Internet.

    I’m glad that’s not the church’s position, but issuing a denial in private correspondence which took decades to see the light of day really isn’t much of a retraction.

  43. Seth,
    The guy goes out of his way to be a lightning rod and has done so for decades. He obviously enjoys the role. BTW, I’m dating myself, but I heard both the “little factory” talk and “To the One” first hand at BYU. I thought he was speaking for himself then, still think so now.

  44. Steve EM,

    “Little Factory” – October 2, 1976
    “To the One” – March 5, 1978

    If he backs off the gay/feminist/intellectual talk that he gave 17 years ago, I can only imagine what he thinks about his remarks from 30+ years ago.

  45. After thinking about this thread today, I would say that while I don’t know that the church is a cult, it certainly appears more effective than your average organization at getting compliance from its believing members.

    And I won’t lie, it kind of stresses me out how many of the items on that “mind control” list I have experienced as a lifelong Mormon.

    Ugh, this thread is inducing higher-than-normal levels of cognitive dissonance for me. Can someone tell a joke or something?

  46. When he interviewed for the PBS documentary, Helen Whitney asked him about his gays/feminist/intellectuals talk, and he basically backed off and said he was wrong.

    Which documentary were you watching?

  47. I can trace most of the things on the list directly to the teachings of Jesus. He is the one that tells us to control our thoughts, observe covenants by sacrifice, come out of the world, etc.

    Do it. Trace them. Cite scriptures.

    Of course, even if Jesus said “control your thoughts,” there’s a whole lot of difference between that and “establish an authoritarian organization that will exert constant pressure re: your thoughts, and monitor you with probing interviews to see how you are doing.”

  48. Also think of where these kind of principles lead. Rather than finding a seething hotbed of violence and fundamentalism, most visitors to Utah are of the sentiment, “Oh yeah, Mormonism– Cuckoo! Cult! Kuh-razy! Nice people though, great neighbors, good place to raise a family that SLC.” See the disconnect? As much as some people would have you think the Mormon missionaries you see on the street are a hair away from strapping bombs to their chest and blowing themselves up, half the guys on my mission wouldn’t get up on time.

    The concern with cults isn’t about violence. Plenty of cults are non-violent.

    It’s about the psychological damage that cults inflict on members, and then they get the members to say “thank you, may I have another?” Whether or not cult members are nice neighbors is irrelevant.

  49. Kullervo,

    Whoever pissed in your cornflakes this morning, I promise it wasn’t me.

  50. BKM said:

    Honestly, wasn’t trying to be unfair, you just caught me being lazy.

    Fair enough.

  51. Kullervo said to me:

    I think you’re not looking at your experiences objectively enough.

    You have no idea whether that’s true or not beyond the fact that none of us look at everything fully objectively.

    The facts are, first, that I joined the Church with my eyes wide open and, second, that I am often quite critical of things I see in the Church and am aware of dysfunction (for lack of a better word) when I see it. I am fully aware that there are segments in the Church (as, indeed, there are in evangelical Christianity) that distort the Gospel of Christ in various ways. I have been critical here and elsewhere of some things I’ve seen in the Church (the sort of things that are being discussed here), but I also see much that is worthy of devotion. I could say the same of evangelicalism, by the way.

    For what it’s worth, I experienced a lot my dysfunction in evangelical churches than I ever have in the LDS church. But I’m also sure there are other who would have the opposite experience.

    Kullervo also said:

    I believe some aspects of Mormonism are far more cultlike than others, and I think that a certain degree of heterogeneity means that individual experiences are going to vary. But there are things that are intensely problematic.

    I don’t disagree with you.

    I truly believe that the LDS church is the church of Jesus Christ. But I also believe there are times that he shudders (or worse) at some things that are said or done in his name.

  52. BJM (sorry about getting your initials wrong last time; I was thinking of Boyd K. Packer, who has said lot of very good things lately):

    I’m hopeful that a kinder, gentler, more open-minded strain of Mormonism will come to dominate.

    You would have probably appreciated the stake conference I went to this past weekend.

    I just can’t say enough positive about it. The focus was on the Atonement, forgiveness, grace, mercy and all those good things that the Atonement brings — I went away feeling optimistic about and grateful for the Gospel. Despite my complaints, there is so much in this Church that I love, and I had the opportunity to experience them this past weekend.

  53. You have no idea whether that’s true or not beyond the fact that none of us look at everything fully objectively.

    Of course I do. I know what I think. I think you are not being sufficiently objective. As far as I know, you might be a robot, incapable of subjectivity. But it doesn’t look that way from my perspective.

  54. Kullervo,

    Are you saying that if we look at the LDS church objectively we will find it to be MORE of a cult than some organization like the US Army?

  55. It’s better than “Lock Your Heart.” But of course, “Lock Your Heart” was a lot funnier the way Elder Dunbar and I read it out loud to each other than it was the way President Kimball delivered it.

  56. “I think if we look at the LDS Church objectively, there are a lot of things that are cultlike about it.”

    I agree, the question do these things make the Church any more a “cult” than the Army or say, the Notre Dame football team?

    If not, then its probably not the best context to analyze these elements since “cult” in the psychological parlance really defines a much more extreme and different than we find in the LDS church.

    As far as an organization goes, Church is to some degree military-like, cult-like, church-like, corporate-like, business-like, movement-like, etc. We can discuss its attributes in all of these contexts, but all things considered I don’t think that the “cult” context simply because the Evangelicals and “counter-cultists” have blown the whole cult thing way out of proportion, generally use half-truth and exaggeration to define the LDS church as a “cult” and generally use the term in a completely derogatory manner.

    The FLDS church is a different story, it is how the LDS church would look IF it was REALLY a cult. The contrast shows how far from a cult the LDS Church is.

  57. Also, by all time favorite talk by a general authority came from Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi.

    It was a small event, He spoke at a mission conference in my mission in California, but I would guess that it is one of the only times that anyone has ever heard the phrase “finger penetration” SHOUTED by a GA in a church meeting.

    It became instant legend in my mission, repeated by missionaries for years, many of whom never were lucky enough to be there.

  58. Eric ~ I just can’t say enough positive about it. The focus was on the Atonement, forgiveness, grace, mercy and all those good things that the Atonement brings — I went away feeling optimistic about and grateful for the Gospel. Despite my complaints, there is so much in this Church that I love, and I had the opportunity to experience them this past weekend.

    That’s really awesome. I’m glad it was a good weekend at church for you.

    I was in the nursery at my church this Sunday, so my weekend sucked.

    Regarding hilarious talks by LDS GAs, the Ebonics version of “Overcoming Masturbation” by Mark E. Petersen was greater than all.

    Tie your hand to the bedpost? ORLY?

  59. The best part of Peterson’s steps:

    “3. If you are associated with other persons having this same problem, YOU MUST BREAK OFF THEIR FRIENDSHIP. Never associate with other people having the same weakness.”

    One reason I never had any friends. (not the only one)

    Other suggestions were simply not helpful.

    Every time I tied my hand to the bedpost it never seemed to take my mind OFF of sex.

  60. Kullervo said:

    I think if we look at the LDS Church objectively, there are a lot of things that are cultlike about it.

    To which Jared C. so aptly responded in part:

    The FLDS church is a different story, it is how the LDS church would look IF it was REALLY a cult. The contrast shows how far from a cult the LDS Church is.

    True, true.

    Actually, I agree with Kullervo to a point. There are certainly aspects of the church that are not as they should be. There are certainly areas where leaders are unwilling to let people govern themselves, as Joseph Smith himself counseled. And there is certainly plenty of personal opinion among leaders that is presented as and/or accepted as coming from God himself when that may not necessarily be the case. And it certainly isn’t unheard of for people in leadership to say that people should listen to the Spirit when they’re really unwilling to let people do just that. And basically, overall, there are plenty of imperfect people in the church and its leadership.

    You’ll find that same sort of thing in other churches and organizations. Many churches are healthy places emotionally for people to be, and many of them (including some that have become big and powerful) are not. My experience with the LDS church has largely been the former for me and the other members of my family (and in one case where it wasn’t we took a child out of a core church program); I fully recognize that for many people it has been the latter, and I find that very sad.

    But that’s still a far cry from the truly destructive and oppressive religious organizations among us. It’s not even a close call.

  61. “Well, maybe if you hadn’t been using your pink fuzzy handcuffs.”

    hey, don’t knock it til you try it. they are much more comfortable than bailing twine.

  62. You’re imagining that “cult” is an on-off switch and not a spectrum. It’s convenient for you, because it lets you confine “cult” to the most destructive Jim-Jones-kool-aid-suicide organizations, and be like “well, we’re not like that, so we’re not a cult!”

    You’re also obfuscating with garbage like “not as it should be” and “imperfect people and leadership.” Those kinds of appeals are only relevant if you 1) assume that the Church really is God’s One True Church but 2) have to figure out a way to reconcile that with all of the Church’s destructive, abusive characteristics. Since we’re not in PEC or General Conference, it’s basically meaningless except as an interesting illustration of how a believing member reconciles the cultlike aspects of the Church with his beliefs.

    But if we’re actually talking about the Church as an organization from a neutral, descriptive, outsider’s perspective, it is sufficient to simply point out what is destructive and abusive about it, and perhaps try to figure out why. But there’s no need to try to justify or reconcile.

  63. Jared said:
    The FLDS church is a different story, it is how the LDS church would look IF it was REALLY a cult. The contrast shows how far from a cult the LDS Church is.

    What about the Brigham Young Era of the LDS church? How do you think it compares to the FLDS?

  64. So now y’all made me go Google Peterson’s masturbation talk.

    My favorite parts were the injunction against spicy foods and the council not to look at oneself after a shower.

    Because nothing turns me on faster than eating a tamale in the buff.

    Where do we get these people?

  65. “You’re imagining that “cult” is an on-off switch and not a spectrum.”

    Which is why I agree with Seth’s first comment that the label “cult” isn’t helpful. The label itself is an on-off switch; either you are labeled as such or you are not. If there’s something about a group that is “destructive and abusive” then say what that is an discuss it.

    (To be clear: I think for the most part that’s kinda what Kullervo has been doing here: insisting that there are cultish aspects to the LDS Church and not insisting that Mormons wear the cult label.)

  66. “What about the Brigham Young Era of the LDS church? How do you think it compares to the FLDS?”

    There are more similarities than the current church, but in some ways the Brigham Young Era could be seen as somewhat more “liberal” in conduct, doctrine and behavior. (thinking of the word of wisdom for example)

    I imagine some of those living the New Order or in insular Mormon communities would look very similar to the FLDS.

    However, Brigham Young did not, as a rule, pick wives for everyone of the followers of the church, for example.

    The diversity and size of the Brigham Young church did not lend itself to the insularity and control of a cult like the FLDS.

    While similar, they are really a different animal.

  67. The FLDS religion really jumped the rails as recently as the 1950s. They are not even close to a “time capsule” of 1800s Mormonism.

    Back in the 1950s, a small faction of men in the FLDS community decided that they no longer needed to ask parental permission before marrying a gal younger than age 18. Before this, the FLDS community had strict rules about courting and proposing.

    For instance, marriages were not imposed on people (though elders might suggest a marriage). A marriage had to be the idea of both the man and woman involved. They would then approach the parents and ask for permission (which had to be forthcoming) and then would approach the Priesthood elders and ask for permission (which also had to be forthcoming).

    It was patriarchal, it was authoritarian, it probably looks pretty antiquated to us today (although it’s important to remember it WAS the 1950s – so it wasn’t all THAT far off from the societal norm). But it was, for all that, a very disciplined and controlled system. It had checks and balances.

    The new faction changed all that by trying to basically go under the parents’ noses on a particular instance and pressure the girl into marriage by theological threats (the usual salvation stuff).

    There was a big fight in the FLDS community over this instance. Ultimately, the parents of the girl in question left the community in anger over the fight. Many others followed and it basically turned into a major schism within the FLDS faith. The upstart faction won the day on the compound and the dissidents ended up leaving and usually continuing polygamy in some other context – some starting up their own communities.

    Once the dissidents left, the upstarts took over and radicalized the remaining FLDS community severely. All marriages were doled out at the sole pleasure of the community elites. Parental consent was done away with. A new practice of taking away the wife and children of a man in disfavor popped up. Women were doled out as basically political favors. And excess boys were excommunicated for trumped up charges (masturbation was probably an easy mark) and dumped in remote gas stations penniless and confused.

    That, Tim, is NOT Brigham Young’s polygamy. Not even close.

    The modern FLDS church is solely the result of a extremist coup in the 1950s that radicalized the existing community and introduced a whole gaggle of abuses that didn’t exist in even half the degree before that they do today.

  68. I have to agree that the Brigham Young era LDS church is nothing like the current FLDS church. I don’t doubt that abuses happened under that system; D&C 132:64-65 is abuse waiting to happen. But women in Utah in the 1800s had a lot more freedom than the FLDS women do now. Being a plural wife often gave a woman more autonomy than being a monogamous wife, since her husband had to divide his attention between wives and had less time to exert patriarchal authority on her directly. Then there’s women in Utah being some of the first in the nation to have the right to vote, women in Utah being some of the first to serve as state senators (I ❤ Martha Hughes Cannon). Honestly, Mormons were doing pretty well as far as women’s rights were concerned at the time, and they didn’t do too bad on their ecclesiastical freedom for the era either.

    I really don’t think the FLDS women have anything like that level of freedom, especially not for our day and age.

    Sorry to go off on this, but it’s a topic I know very well and a strong mark of a cult is poor treatment of women. I can’t think of any cults off the top of my head who aren’t extremely oppressive towards women. Plus I’ve been annoying people at fMh all day…

  69. Seth, thanks for providing that back story.

    I think you will find that I never suggested that the FLDS were a cult because they practice polygamy. I agree with you that the practice of polygamy does not make a group a cult. I could easily name a dozen cults that do not practice polygamy.

    Polygamy isn’t even on the list of reasons I think the FLDS is a cult. Polygamy just happens to be part of how their cultic practices are expressed.

    It’s not Brigham Young’s practice of polygamy that prompted me to ask if a comparison could be made between the FLDS and 1860s LDS. I think there are a number of other parrallels that could be made.

    The isolationism, xenophobia, relentless “busy-as-a-bee” work standards, authoritarianism, superiority, my-word-as-good-as-scripture claims, live-where-I-tell-you power, etc. etc. I don’t think it’s a stretch by any means to say that the experiences of the FLDS are all that different from those under Brigham Young. (not to even mention their theological agreements)

    Now any self-respecting Mormon apologist is going to start telling me all the great reasons Young had to act that way. All of that same grace can be applied to the FLDS for the same exact reasons.

    Perhaps I’m completely ignorant of what life under President Young was like, but I felt watching that segment on Oprah gave me a good idea.

  70. I can’t think of any cults off the top of my head who aren’t extremely oppressive towards women.

    Really?!? Scientology. Raelianism. Inglesia Ni Cristo. Heaven’s Gate. Tony Alamo. They’re all equal opportunity oppressors.

  71. I suppose so Tim.

    But on the other hand, the Brighamite Mormons weren’t half so isolated as you seem to be portraying.

    You also don’t know my ancestors either. Some of the most stubborn, stiff-necked, and contrary old cusses you ever met. I have a hard time believing that even Brigham Young could’ve told them what to do if they weren’t already on-board.

    Not to mention that the economic underpinnings of the modern FLDS are utterly artificial and completely divorced from the sort of subsistence farming that the early LDS lived off of. In fact, it is the comforts of modernity that allow the elders of the FLDS compounds to exert the kind of control they do. There was no way to exert that kind of behavioral control over a scattered population of subsistence farmers, shopkeepers and such. The demands of the land required people to spread out and fend for themselves in a way that the FLDS do not imitate at all. Brigham Young had a remarkable degree of leadership acumen and was an impressive territorial governor. Perhaps the most remarkable our nation has ever had. But I think his level of control over the lives of his people has been grossly exaggerated. I’ve heard too many old stories of my ancestors essentially flipping their Priesthood leaders the bird to buy your talk about authoritarian Utah.

    The FLDS compounds are possible BECAUSE of the conveniences of modern life, not in spite of them. It’s an utterly different world from 1800s Utah.

    Moral control in 1800s Utah was probably more strict than it was in other frontier towns. But then again, almost anything would be (those places were often one step removed from total anarchy). The Word of Wisdom wasn’t even enforced until Heber J. Grant took control of the Church a little before World War II. Marriages were not used as coercive bargaining chips to ensure the good behavior of men. There were no “lost boys.” Women had more rights in 1800s Utah than they did just about anywhere else in the nation at the time.

    I should also point out that Utah had probably the most liberal divorce laws in the nation under Brigham Young. Basically, any woman who wanted one, could get one, more or less. Brigham wasn’t much of a fan of making discontent women stick it out.

    And you think you got a pretty good bead on all this from one episode of Oprah?

  72. Oh, and the rate of Sunday service attendance in 1800s Utah was probably closer to the rates of my current ward in Colorado than to the rates of church attendance on an FLDS compound.

    The FLDS play at the pioneer lifestyle the same way that the SCA folks play at Renaissance/Medieval life.

    Nice costumes, but really, who are they fooling?

    I’ve read about real pioneers, and the FLDS don’t even come close to filling those shoes.

  73. Before I start getting pummelled, I better clarify. I DO NOT think the LDS church is a cult. I couldn’t have significant online discussions with Mormons if it were. The JW blogosphere is dead. There is clearly a diverse range of opinions about many things in the LDS church and if it weren’t allowed for Mormon Stories would be first and foremost shut down.

    That being said, I think as Kullervo points out there are more than the average number of similarities between the LDS church and a cult than the average religion. Particularly when you look at the missionary training center and the missionary program. If life looked like that for all LDS I’d have a much stronger opinion. I also think that there are a significant number of LDS members and leaders who wish the church was more controlling on its membership. I think that number is dropping.

    FWIW, there are three areas of concern I have for the general LDS membership.
    1) Everytime I hear “I have a testimony. . .” as a defense to an objection I think “thought blocking device”.
    2) Tithing can NEVER be overlooked in a Temple Recommend and no one seems to really care that the financial books aren’t open. Exaltation being tied to the temple, and the money being tied to the temple seems really sketching to me. Financial transparency is righteous for every one in the world except for “the Lord’s one true church”.
    3) They tell you what type of underwear you have to wear.

    A fourth would have been that you had to promise to kill yourself if you talked about the temple, but that’s been done away with.

  74. Tim said:

    Everytime I hear “I have a testimony. . .” as a defense to an objection I think “thought blocking device”.

    Yeah, there are some who do that, and I do not defend any “thought-blocking device.” On the other hand, I don’t think it’s qualitatively different than what most people do when prized beliefs are challenged. Have you ever tried convincing a young-Earth creationist of the scientific truth?

    And I suspect that if evangelicals had their beliefs challenged as often as Mormons do that they’d respond in much the same way. I’m not rationalizing or saying that’s a good thing, just questioning how such a human response is a mark of being “cultlike.”

    Tim also said:

    Tithing is only thing that can NEVER be overlooked in a Temple Recommend and no one seems to really care that the financial books aren’t open.

    First of all, if it were my decision the books would be open. Period. I expect the Church will at some point face a scandal because of the fact the books are closed, and it will be sad when that happens. I think the current policy is just asking for trouble.

    I don’t know if people care about that or not. I think to a certain extent people (including me) feel that the money isn’t ours in the first place, and that it’s God’s responsibility how his money is used. So if the money I donate is misspent, it isn’t my stewardship that’s at issue.

    I’d also point out that there is no official definition of tithing. I tithe on my gross income, and I assume that most faithful members of the church do. But it isn’t strictly required to hold to that definition. How to define my increase is something between me and God.

    And, actually, there are plenty of things that can never be overlooked in a temple recommend interview. I’m not sure where you get the idea that tithing is unique in that regard.

    Tim also said:

    They tell you what type of underwear you have to wear.

    As far as I’m concerned, what I wear is totally voluntary. But I can see how someone from the outside wouldn’t see it that way.

    Finally, Tim said:

    you had to promise to kill yourself if you talked about the temple, but that’s been done away with

    Have you ever heard of symbolism or allegory?

  75. Tim ~ They tell you what type of underwear you have to wear.

    This one really is the pits. The cut, the color… I’d get my husband to wear anything else if I could. Thankfully he has a sexiness which overpowers it all, but still.

    I’ve read the apologetics for it. I get the reasoning behind it. I don’t have any complaints about that.

    I’d just prefer for my private reminders of my faith to be something less constricting, like a necklace or a “What Would Jesus Batman Do?” bracelet.

    On the plus side, my husband is thankfully is not one of those Mormons who sticks his fingers in his ears and says “BUT I KNOW TEH CHRUCH IS TROOO1!” if I discuss difficult issues with him. He’ll acknowledge that my complaints are serious ones and he does not have answers for me, but he thinks there are answers out there and just does not know the subject well enough. There’s really nothing wrong with that. I think we all do it to some extent.

    At least he doesn’t tell himself lies to feel better about church history. I brought up the fact that JS married women without Emma knowing it to my SIL once and she replied, “Emma Smith knew about every one of those marriages. She just refused to accept it.” Sigh. Whatever you have to tell yourself to be okay with it I guess.

  76. Actually, I’m pretty sure Emma did know about at least a few of them, but refused to accept it. Joseph had extensive conversations (and fights) with her over the issue. I think when she refused to budge he stopped consulting her about some of them.

    Later in life, Emma denied he practiced polygamy at all – which seems like a clear-cut case of spouse denial to me.

  77. I know, Seth. I know that he probably told her about the first few marriages, that there is evidence that occasionally she relented and allowed it. And I guess we agree that after that, he just went ahead and kept marrying women without telling her.

    And sure, she denied it for the rest of her life. She didn’t want to give ammo to Brigham’s pro-polygamy camp, and she certainly isn’t the first woman to go to her grave denying her husband’s alleged indiscretions.

    But then there’s 1 Nephi 3:7. If God commanded JS to practice polygamy, why wasn’t there an easier solution? I can’t accept that proceeding without telling his wife was what God the whole time.

    I know polygamy is part of your heritage, but have you ever considered the possibility that it wasn’t what God commanded? That it really was just Joseph Smith letting power go to his head?

  78. “…there are more than the average number of similarities between the LDS church and a cult than the average religion.”

    But as Kullervo also points out, the average religion is not tied to an organization. You should try for a better comparison.

    “3) They tell you what type of underwear you have to wear.”

    Reminds me of the totally-not-a-cult Assembly of God in Brazil, that tells its male member they must wear long pants and female members they must wear long skirts and never cut their hair. Your first two concerns are valid; your third is just silly.

  79. Eric said:
    And I suspect that if evangelicals had their beliefs challenged as often as Mormons do that they’d respond in much the same way. I’m not rationalizing or saying that’s a good thing, just questioning how such a human response is a mark of being “cultlike.”

    I’m not at all objecting to anyone defending their faith. What I’m pointing out is that LDS consistently use the same, one-line, conversation-stopping response to defend their faith. This seems to indicate it’s a trained response. Similar to the Scientologist “what are your crimes?” phrase. You Tube it.

    First of all, if it were my decision the books would be open. Period. I expect the Church will at some point face a scandal because of the fact the books are closed, and it will be sad when that happens. I think the current policy is just asking for trouble.

    And what are you doing to pressure your leaders to open the books? As long as you’re giving money it IS your decision. Could you righteously start asking your leaders for accountability without facing church discipline? If the answer is “yes”, why are you not doing your part to make sure the church doesn’t head into what you ascertain to be certain trouble? God is not running your ledgers.

    actually, there are plenty of things that can never be overlooked in a temple recommend interview. I’m not sure where you get the idea that tithing is unique in that regard.

    My point wasn’t that tithing is unique. My point was that it’s absolutely required, meanwhile the people requiring it aren’t giving anything back in terms of accountability.

  80. Seth ~ I like having options. Having a polygamy doctrine gives you options.

    Where’s Katie? I need her to make a perverse joke about the potential double entendre in this statement.

  81. Tim said:

    I’m not at all objecting to anyone defending their faith. What I’m pointing out is that LDS consistently use the same, one-line, conversation-stopping response to defend their faith.

    You don’t hear it from me. And you won’t.

    But I honestly don’t see how a typical evangelical might respond to similar attacks any differently. The words may not be the same. But a response like “well, I just really know Jesus is for real because I’ve experienced him in my heart” isn’t substantively all that much different that “I know this church is true.”

    Tim said:

    This seems to indicate it’s a trained response.

    I am not aware of any such training, and I’ve been quite active in the church as an observant adult for a significant period of time.

    Tim said:

    Could you righteously start asking your leaders for accountability without facing church discipline?

    Perhaps, depending on how it was done. And if God calls me to become a reformer of some sort, you can bet that I’ll be doing it, and with gusto. And if God called me to do that, potential discipline wouldn’t matter anyway. So far, however, my call has been to work on some areas of my life that need more attention.

    Tim said:

    My point wasn’t that tithing is unique.

    OK. When you said that “Tithing can NEVER be overlooked in a Temple Recommend” (emphasis in the original) I interpreted that to mean that other things can be overlooked. The misinterpretation was mine.

    Tim said (in reference to tithing):

    meanwhile the people requiring it aren’t giving anything back in terms of accountability.

    They’re accountable to God, who is the one who requires it (from a believer’s perspective, of course). There’s nothing for them to “give back” to me because the money we’re talking about money that was never mine in the first place.

  82. Eric: This might turn into a bit of a tangent, but I very much believe that the money I pay in tithing is my money. Other than that, I pretty much agree with how you view it.

  83. Where’s Katie? I need her to make a perverse joke about the potential double entendre in this statement.

    What, you mean a joke about how polygamy sure as hell gives you great options……every single night?

    Badum CHING!

    That kind of joke?

    (And what’s wrong with that, eh? Who doesn’t want options?)

    P.S. Garments = really not sexy. You think the guys’ are bad…have you ever seen a woman’s?

    P.P.S. I have a funny/somewhat inappropriate story that just came to my mind as a result of this conversation, but I will not be able to share it here. (Too many boys listening in.) Remind me to tell you privately, Jack, because I think you will like it.

  84. A while back, I was looking at garment options for cold weather recreation, like skiing and stuff. LDS Distribution does have a line of ankle and wrist length stuff for that sort of thing. But I found the cut absolutely atrocious.

    One day it hit me.

    Why not just buy a set of nice thermals from REI and then sew the appropriate stuff into THEM?

    It’s brilliant! Brilliant I say!

    Run with that however you want.

  85. Katie ~ I knew it would be better coming from you.

    I have seen women’s garments and read the complaints around the Bloggernacle, although I guess you could say I am intimately acquainted with the men’s garments.

    Badum CHING!

    Brian ~ Damn it, I keep on telling you, if you tell everyone it stops being our little secret. Yeesh.

    Seth ~ You can’t just, like, not wear your garments for skiing? I mean, that counts under the 3 S’s, doesn’t it?

  86. Well, yeah…

    But the idea of just making my own and following God without the help of LDS Distribution services was just so cool, I couldn’t pass it up.

    The possibilities are endless I tell you.

  87. Brian. LOL. To be honest, she could probably do some serious blackmail damage with some of that stuff. 😉

    Too bad I’m the impoverished wife of a theatre student, or you might have just found your way to fund grad school, Jack.

  88. Are you kidding? Go skiing without your Gs? If you want to DIE: it’s only one of the most dangerous sports out there!

    I know people who believe in only one S. For reals.

  89. …sarcasm
    sassing
    synicism

    Tim, you see the result of your Lent absence? There’s no discipline on this site anymore. None!

  90. Seth, I had the same thought a few years ago but then compared the price of Thermax garments to anything comparable at REI. I’m sticking with LDS Distribution for now….

  91. On tithing being overlooked in the interview.

    I know a Mormon- who is admittedly a non-believing cultural Mormon, who gets a temple recommend without paying tithing through this logic.

    He runs his household like a business and at the end of the day they have no increase above and beyond the basic needs of his lifestyle, therefore he still claims a full tithe and has gotten a temple recommend on this basis.

    This shows that some Bishops are far less stringent about this issue than others. I also know that bishops will give recommends if you simply pay tithing for a couple of months and generally don’t take it away if you stop paying. (I have never heard of this happening.)

  92. Tim asked:

    “Could you righteously start asking your leaders for accountability without facing church discipline?”

    to some degree yes, to some degree no.

    The church is run like the Army. You don’t publicly buck the chain of command. However, even in the Army you can bring pressure behind the scenes for accountability. (unless it comes to torturing prisoners)

    As Dallin Oakes stated, you don’t publicly criticize church leaders, even when they are wrong.

  93. “Tim, you see the result of your Lent absence? There’s no discipline on this site anymore. None!”

    I have to admit we are really off the rails. I mean can’t a person compose a post on Extra Terrestrial Christianity without the discussion reverting to purgatory, M. Night Shyamalan, the devil’s water control, and Samurai Champloo?

    On that note, I have never really heard of the three “S”s

    Does S&M count as one?

  94. Jared,
    Didn’t Dallin say that as part of the butt kissing he had to give BKP after getting outed for doing that very thing? It’s absurd to hold lay members to that standard.

  95. Eric said:
    Finally, Tim said:

    you had to promise to kill yourself if you talked about the temple, but that’s been done away with

    Have you ever heard of symbolism or allegory?

    How would your wife would appreciate hearing that the oaths you took in the temple were symbolic and allegorical?

  96. Katie ~ I know people who believe in only one S. … showers

    I just re-read this thread more carefully and realized the full implication of this statement.

    AAAAAAAAHHHHH! AAAAHHHHH! AAAAAHHHHH!

    That sounds like grounds for divorce.

  97. Thank you, Jack, that is much closer to the reaction I was going for when I made the comment of which you speak.

    I was beginning to worry I had lost my touch.

  98. Steve EM said: “Didn’t Dallin say that as part of the butt kissing he had to give BKP after getting outed for doing that very thing? It’s absurd to hold lay members to that standard. It’s absurd to hold lay members to that standard.”

    Steve, you seem to have some big chip on your shoulder regarding Elder Packer and the “conservative” elements of the church.

    I don’t think Oakes stance has anything to do with Elder Packer’s stance. I think it simply corresponds to how the church has been organized in the least 50 years. It is marked by unity in leadership and lack of dissent.

    There are good organizational and institutional reasons for having the lack of dissent culture, the military is a perfect example of the benefits (and negatives) of this sort of culture.

    My theory is that the church is around to perform a particular mission, which does not necessarily involve getting everything right theologically or politically, so political and theological dissent can be distracting and detract from the mission.

    If you believe the bible God has never really had a problem with his chosen people being even obscenely unjust when the mission demanded it. Elder Packer’s anachronistic view of sex, his anti-intellectualism, or any of his other faults are no more extreme than I saw in the military. I don’t agree with his approach, and in some ways I am offended, but I simply expect such people in organizations such as the Church.

  99. Steve, this isn’t really the forum for discussing internal Church problems that are only tenuously connected to the dialogue between Mormons and Evangelicals.

    There are other blogs for Mormons and by Mormons devoted to airing grievances about the LDS Church from the insider perspective.

  100. Tim said:

    you had to promise to kill yourself if you talked about the temple, but that’s been done away with

    To which yours truly said:

    Have you ever heard of symbolism or allegory?

    To which Tim asked:

    How would your wife would appreciate hearing that the oaths you took in the temple were symbolic and allegorical?

    With all due respect, that’s one of the silliest arguments I’ve heard you make. I assume that you believe some parts of the Bible are to be understood literally, other parts allegorically. (If I’m wrong, please correct me.) The principle’s the same.

    And, for what it’s worth, she sees allegory, of which the temple ceremony has plenty, at least as much as I do (it comes with having done graduate work in literature). Just because something is allegorical doesn’t mean it’s untrue.

  101. Okay, this is possibly going to go WAY off topic.

    ————————————————————-

    Eric I agree that there are parts of the Bible that are to be understood allegorically. What I was attempting to point out was that you accept one part of the ceremony as allegorical and another part as literal. Seemingly jumping back and forth when it’s convenient to your sensibilities. And yes, I know you’ll say I do the same with the Bible, but I can easily show that there is a separation between the allegorical sections and the literal sections. They aren’t mashed into one another like Elijah was literal but the sacrificial contest was allegorical.

    Further, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that Joseph Smith regarded the ceremony as allegorical when he revealed it. Please show me the official church teaching that says you don’t actually have to kill yourself. The only thing inside or outside the temple is a very real promise that seems to terrify Mormons to ever speak a word about what happens inside the temple. I can show you story after story of Mormons who decided that the organization wasn’t what they thought it was after going through the temple (pre or post 1990).

    My church did baptism on Easter Sunday. Beforehand, one person was baptized and all of the symbolism was explained. Never are Mormons shown what they are about to do. Never are Mormons asked if they are willing to comply after seeing what will take place. They are just told to repeat and obey.

    Here’s one ex-mormons story: http://tinyurl.com/d89u52
    (no signs or tokens are revealed) I post this story because it does a great job of illustrating my concerns about the temple ceremony. (And clearly there are tons of stories of Mormons who felt lifted up by the experience.)

  102. Tim ~ The only thing inside or outside the temple is a very real promise that seems to terrify Mormons to ever speak a word about what happens inside the temple. … Never are Mormons shown what they are about to do. Never are Mormons asked if they are willing to comply after seeing what will take place. They are just told to repeat and obey.

    I used to think this too, and this is probably still the norm, but since I’ve been spending more time around the LDS Bloggernacle, I have found that is not always the case. Some people are told very specifically what they will be doing in the temple just before they go through it. It really depends on the bishop and stake president and probably the person’s parents.

    There’s some pretty frank discussion of things that go on inside the temple around the Bloggernacle, and I’ve had LDS friends who let me ask them about anything so long as I didn’t want to know actual signs/tokens and didn’t repeat dialogue from the temple verbatim.

    I’m hoping that it’s a trend toward a more open attitude concerning what goes on in temples.

  103. Tim,

    First of all, Biblical symbolism is probably not as easy delineated as you think. All I know is that trying to use Bible passages to teach someone that God has a body is a fruitless endeaver, since they tell you is that those were meant to be symbolic. They can believe that Moses led Israel out of Egypt, but when he spoke to God face to face, we shouldn’t understand that to mean that God has a mouth, face, etc. for whatever reason.

    Second, you should probably start a new thread about the temple. There are so many things wrong with what you have here I barely know where to start. I will say though, that maybe temple-goers could see the lack of bloodstains on the felt-covered altars in every room and put two and two together.

  104. Then again, my husband’s bishop recently stressed to him that he did not want him discussing anything pertaining to what goes on inside the temple with his non-member wife. A few months ago I also mentioned to the bishop that I needed to buy my husband more garments, and he said I as a non-member shouldn’t be buying his garments.

    I don’t really get what his objection was. Does he actually think I haven’t seen my husband’s Gs?

    So the uptight “discuss nothing” types still exist.

  105. I think a lot of LDS are overly cautious about the temple ceremony.

    If you’ve been through the Endowment Ceremony, and you carefully think back through the ceremony, there are only a few specific things you are required to “never reveal.” Signs and tokens are certainly one of them. The new name you receive is another. It also seems generally advisable to me not to reference other temple particulars in detail.

    Outside of that however, I don’t really see there being a prohibition on anything else.

  106. Tim said:

    Never are Mormons shown what they are about to do. Never are Mormons asked if they are willing to comply after seeing what will take place. They are just told to repeat and obey.

    That wasn’t my experience at all. It was made very clear to me what to expect, what covenants were involved. No, I wasn’t “shown,” if by that you mean they showed me a film of the ceremony or anything like that. But I don’t remember any questions in my temple preparation class that weren’t answered, and both my escort and my spouse made very clear what I was getting myself into. I don’t recall being told the exact words of the covenants, but I certainly was told of their nature. (And, actually, they aren’t that much different than what you agree to before baptism in the Church.)

    And I was explicitly told that if I felt uncomfortable about agreeing to the covenants that I was free to leave. I have no reason to believe that wasn’t the case — what would they have done, had me arrested?

    I’m not one who is likely “to repeat and obey,” and, frankly, I find it a bit insulting to be told that’s what I have done. And that certainly isn’t what the church teaches.

    Sometimes I feel like I’m in an alternate universe or something. I realize that many people have had negative experiences in the LDS church (just as I had negative experiences growing up in an evangelical church, where I was told in essence that if I didn’t toe the line I was in danger of burning in hell), but most (not all) of my experiences in the Church have been positive. If people want to blindly accept whatever they’re told and check in their reasoning power at the door … well, I’m not sure the Church is to blame.

    BJM said:

    Then again, my husband’s bishop recently stressed to him that he did not want him discussing anything pertaining to what goes on inside the temple with his non-member wife.

    I have no idea what your husband said, but if my wife’s bishop had told her that before I became a member, I don’t think the response would have been a very gracious one.

  107. You’re right that I’m perhaps too strong with my superlatives. (can superlatives be anything but strong?)

    But these other experiences are real and you need to be aware of how other people are experiencing your faith.

  108. My preparation for the temple was pretty decent. When I took temple prep, they told us in advance about many of the covenants–sacrifice, chastity, consecration, etc. They brought in the ceremonial clothing so we could see it. Of course, both my parents are active LDS, so I had seen garments. My mom gave me excellent advice: she told me just to “be a sponge;” don’t try to analyze it; just soak it in. I read the temple pamphlet and even some peripheral materials. All in all, I feel like I was about as prepared as a person can be.

    And it still freaked me out.

    I remember coming home and crying for at least a couple of hours, asking my mom to please explain to me what I had just done. I’ve always been something of a perfectionist, and tend to be pretty intense about things I commit to, so the weight of having bound myself to these promises for all eternity sat like a ton of bricks on my shoulders.

    I read your comment, Eric, and I desperately wish someone had told me that if I felt uncomfortable with any of the covenants that I was free to leave. I’m sure I wouldn’t have, and I don’t regret having been to the temple or anything, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little bit trapped once I was there. Just knowing that there was a safety valve if I needed it would have been a tremendous relief to me.

    Sometimes I feel like I’m in an alternate universe or something.

    Eric, listening to your perspective, sometimes I feel like you’re in an alternate universe, too. 🙂

    Hahaha. Actually, I don’t mean that in a silly way or anything. It sounds like you’ve had a tremendously open, reasonable and rational experience with the church. I am so happy for that. It is very different from what my experience has been, which has tended to focus on a lot of guilt and fear. I wonder what the difference-maker is.

    Does he actually think I haven’t seen my husband’s Gs?

    Heh. If only you could be so lucky. 😉

  109. Eric ~ I have no idea what your husband said, but if my wife’s bishop had told her that before I became a member, I don’t think the response would have been a very gracious one.

    It’s complicated, Eric, but Paul and I have been playing nice on purpose. This bishop has had other issues with him and we don’t want to aggravate him.

    In the future though, anyone who tells me that I shouldn’t be buying my husband’s underwear is not going to like my response.

    Katie ~ I think I can understand Eric’s perspective though. He spent such a long time living so close to Mormonism while being part of another faith system, it’s pretty natural that he has a different way of looking at things and a different approach to it.

    I don’t see myself ever joining the LDS church, but if I did it’d have to be because I had found other ways of looking at things. The standard approach definitely didn’t work for me.

    Heh. If only you could be so lucky.

    Sigh. He has such nice dark features. White is so not his color.

  110. Jared – As much as I dislike BKP and DO for the damage they have inflicted on us (more so BKP), my comment you refer you wasn’t about BKP. It was a clarification that the Dallin Oaks statement you cited was made in the context of Dallin having been caught criticizing BKP. Repeated outside that content would have lay members held to a higher standard than Dallin holds himself. In context, Dallin is encouraging all to sustain the Brethren as he has so repented of failing to do. In a discussion like this context is critical.

    Seth – If I was concerned about appearance to non-LDS or avoiding honest discussions, there’s no way I’d still be LDS. In other words, wtf?

    Tim – I appreciate your sensitivity regarding LDS temple liturgy, not citing apostate sources for the info, etc. I find many of your criticisms valid, but, again you are respectful about it. Thanks.

    BJM – Your hubby’s bishop sounds like a patronizing freak counseling him so. But as far has the bishop’s rude comment to you regarding your understandable desire to maintain your husband’s wardrobe, our bishops are part time volunteers who get used and abused by many members as if they were full time parish priests. Some Bishop’s moreover bring in on themselves by overextended themselves into things that really aren’t their concern and, reading between the lines, I think that’s the case here. Whatever the cause, I wouldn’t be surprised if the poor guy was utterly exhausted and didn’t realize how flippant he was to you. Being born Catholic, the position of part time LDS Bishops is one I don’t pretend to understand, why we don’t call more retired people to that office, etc. Alternatively, our D&C authorizes salary to Bishops, but I don’t think the church has ever done that as they only want a professional clergy in the high leadership and CES.

  111. Sorry Steve. I’m not sure what I was getting at either. I guess you just reminded me of a intellectual phase I went through a few years ago in relation to the LDS Church and then subsequently rejected. I don’t think I really had much of a coherent thought to offer on it.

    Jared’s comment right before mine was better stated anyway.

  112. Tim said:

    But these other experiences are real and you need to be aware of how other people are experiencing your faith.

    Actually, I am aware. I also realize that in some ways I have been extremely fortunate to be in wards with understanding bishops and stake presidents.

    It has taken me a long time, far along into my adulthood, to realize what things I’m responsible for in life and how much credence I should give to what others may say, even those in authority. So some of the negative things that go on go right by me. On the other hand, my wife and I have made a conscious effort at times to shield (I don’t know if that’s the word I want) our children from some of the pressures that come from very well-meaning adults in the church. It’s very easy in the LDS subculture to be judgmental in some ways, to encourage conformity for the sake of conformity and to equate conformity with spirituality. It shouldn’t happen, but it does.

    And I have read the “horror stories” in the bloggernacle and have heard some from some missionaries. I have heard more than one missionary say he went on a mission because he felt he would be (my word, not his) disowned if he didn’t. That’s wrong. And there are other examples that I don’t need to dwell on here.

    I certainly have my theological differences with evangelicalism and also concerns about the megachurch movement. But one thing that many of them have done a good job with is accepting people where they are in life, providing good teaching and letting them govern themselves.

    But like I said, I’ve been fortunate to have pretty good bishops and stake presidents. Two stories:

    We had a stake priesthood meeting, and the stake president called the teenage boys he expected to be coming ahead of time and told them to come to the priesthood meeting dressed as if they were going to school. A fair number did (in some cases after their mothers called the stake president to make sure their kids had heard the request correctly).

    Near the end of the meeting, he called them forward and told told those of us present what he had done. He told us how he suspected that many of us had judged those boys for the way they dressed to come to priesthood. And by doing that, he said, we not only did them a disservice, but ourselves, by missing out on what they had to offer. He told us they were fine-looking young men, and we should be pleased to have them among us. And he meant it.

    That’s something not all stake presidents would do.

    Story 2: In Elders Quorum not all that long ago, one of the men said he was disappointed that he didn’t think he’d be able to baptize one of his children because he had been unable to give up a habit related to the Word of Wisdom despite his efforts to do so. At that point, the bishop told him something to the effect of this: “Look, none of us are perfect, and none of us are completely worthy in this lifetime, and there’s no rule that says you have to be perfect to perform an ordinance, or none of us would be able to. When your child’s ready to be baptized, you come see me.”

    These are just two examples of nonjudgmentalism and openness that I’ve experienced from local leadership. I fully recognizes that not all are so fortunate.

  113. KL said:

    It sounds like you’ve had a tremendously open, reasonable and rational experience with the church. I am so happy for that. It is very different from what my experience has been, which has tended to focus on a lot of guilt and fear. I wonder what the difference-maker is.

    As I alluded to above, I’ve had issues of fear and guilt during my evangelical days. It’s taken me some conscious effort (and more than one therapist, to be honest about it) to learn how to deal with them. I don’t claim to have mastered much of anything, but I have reached a point where I believe (most of the time, anyway) that God accepts me how I am even though at the same time he wants me to change. It sounds kind of contradictory, doesn’t it? But that’s what I believe.

    At the stake conference I went to this past weekend, one of the general authorities who spoke said something to the effect that God doesn’t care who we’ve been, he only cares what we’re becoming. There’s a great deal of freedom in that and not a whole lot of room for guilt and fear.

    All easier said than done, of course.

  114. It’s ok Seth, but you owe me a Guinness, OK?

    On second thought, weren’t you supposed to best my admittedly lame BKP limerick?

  115. I only know one limerick Steve.

    The boy
    Stood on
    The burning deck
    His feet
    Were full
    Of blisters

    He could
    Not choose
    Which pants to wear
    And so
    He wore
    His sister’s

  116. Steve EM ~ Yeah, I think the bish was overboard in telling me not to buy my husband’s Gs. I mean, I order them online. Like the computer is going to know whether it’s me or him placing the order.

    Then again, I do know that most bishops have never dealt with a part-member family quite like ours before, so I get how mistakes can be made. I’m willing to grant some leniency for it.

    Oh, and you and Seth are now officially strange.

  117. Seth- sorry, that’s not a limerick.

    Steve EM- I don’t really know what you are talking about with regard to context, I heard Elder Oakes say that on the Mormons PBS documentary, not in the context of anything that had to do with Elder Packer. I have hear similar sentiments repeated by other leaders as well, so I don’t see how it has much to do, at root, with some sort of internal politics within the 12.

    I suppose partly I just don’t really care what goes on amongst the upper leadership of the church enough to really criticize them.

  118. Eric, I swear, you’re telling my story–but I grew up Mormon and you grew up Evangelical. Therapy and all. 🙂

    Jack, wow, that is a SUPERHOT picture. Both of you! Is that an engagement shot or are you guys always that smokin’?

  119. Strange? It’s Irish week here in Houston. The Word of Wisdom doesn’t apply. Seth, what;s your excuse? Did you hear the one about a man from Nantucket?

  120. KL said:

    I swear, you’re telling my story–but I grew up Mormon and you grew up Evangelical

    Well, I don’t think that the dynamics of Mormonism and some types of evangelicalism are all that much different. But there is such a spectrum of evangelicals that it’s hard to generalize. Evangelicals, especially those who tend toward fundamentalism, can get caught in the traps of legalism and judgmentalism just as well as Mormons can, but not all are that way.

    BJM said:

    Paul and I have been playing nice on purpose. This bishop has had other issues with him and we don’t want to aggravate him.

    I’ve known various people who have had issues with their bishops (or the other way around). It has to be the pits. The only bishop I’ve had whom I didn’t care to deal with was our bishop for only three weeks (because he moved out of the ward almost immediately after his appointment), so I’ve been fortunate.

  121. Well, I don’t think that the dynamics of Mormonism and some types of evangelicalism are all that much different. … Evangelicals, especially those who tend toward fundamentalism, can get caught in the traps of legalism and judgmentalism just as well as Mormons can.

    Eric, I’m genuinely curious. Given the struggles you’ve experienced as a result of a legalist/judgmental approach to faith in your formative years, why did you choose Mormonism? Especially because it’s no secret that Mormonism is quite prone to these particular problems?

  122. Katie- I have an answer from my perspective.

    Despite Mormonism legalistic tendencies, the doctrine from my perspective, makes a lot more sense and define God in a way (or refuses to define God in a way) that makes more sense to me than other faiths.

    I put up with the legalism because the doctrine seems true. I chalk up my rebellion against the legalism to a couple of things:

    1. I have a contrarian personality so I think most things are too legalistic- so I expect to have some objection even to the “right” amount of legalism.

    2. People who think they are right generally get overly legalistic about it in their institutions. Mormons are people who think they are right. So I expect it and ignore it. Its the nature and disposition of almost all men.

    3. I generally disregard the legalism I that is not spiritually confirmed to me.

    Admittedly I would probably be considered a very heretical Mormon if the full truth be told, and I have learned to operate within the legalism without being rubbed the wrong way or oppressed. Some people have a hard time doing this by nature, so I can see the potential for damage.

    So because I like the good, I tolerate the bad.

  123. Katie: The short answer is that I married one. As I started looking into the church 10 years or so after we married, I saw a beauty (a fullness, if you will) in its doctrine I hadn’t experienced in evangelicalism. It was a long process, but the more I studied it, the more sense it made to me.

    I had long been troubled by certain evangelical doctrines; probably key among them was the doctrine of hell. Among other things, it never made sense to me that God would send someone to hell because he or she had never heard of Jesus. (I’m aware that not all evangelicals believe that today, but it was very commonly taught when I was growing up.) And was I told time and time again that evangelicals base their beliefs on the Bible, but I could never find some key doctrines (such as that of the Trinity) in the Bible no matter how hard I tried.

    So I spent years of my adult life looking (not necessarily actively) for a different type of Christianity (I’ve always believed in Jesus as the Son of God) that what I had grown up with and was never satisfied with what I saw. But as I studied LDS teachings, everything seemed to fit together. I’m not sure how I can put it other than that. I kept on finding that much of what the church taught was things I already believed. Eventually, I found myself listening to what the Holy Spirit was trying to tell me.

    I do find the culture of the church a mixed bag, however. But I knew that going in.

  124. I just read JarecC’s last post. I pretty much agree with the sentiment — with the exception that I don’t think I believe anything heretical (or at least nothing I would label heretical).

  125. Katie ~ It’s an old engagement picture, I wish we looked that great all the time. My friend who took the pictures was a semi-professional photographer and extremely talented, and the weather was perfect that day, so I had really great engagement pictures. Nothing had to be edited or re-touched.

    I haven’t done quality pictures of him in a long time, maybe I’ll do that this year for his birthday.

  126. OK, Tim, be nice to me. I’m going to Nazarene Church today. (I’m away from home visiting relatives.)

  127. Pingback: Mormonism – Christianity With a Close-Up View » Kim William

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