Thursday, January 19, 2017

2016 Has Been Quite Possibly the Worst Year for the LDS Church

One of the things I've hated about blogging is that it is very easy to forget about your blog. For me, this is evidenced by my neglect in the past year with all the shitstorms that the Church has had to confront. I was viewing and came across this page. It occurred to me that most of these issues are 2016 issues, if not all of them. There are a few things that I want to list that will quite possibly dictate the direction in which the  Church is now headed.

First, and perhaps most importantly, the leaks! And I mean LEAK, LEAK, LEAK! The first 3 items are some of the most important that I believe we've learned. The last four are note associated with the leaks.

1. The Church spends a shit ton of money on things like rugs....upwards to say....$17,000 a pop!
2. As of 2014, General Authorities make around $120,000 a year (oh, and we have no paid clergy!). *Okay, so technically this happened in 2017, but I still think it's worth mentioning as it happened very early this year.
3. General Authorities DO meet with politicians and give them direction (just ask former Senator Gordan Smith).
4. Elizabeth Smart takes the Church to task about shaming young women (even if passively so) about virginity and their worth. Does anyone reading this remember chewed gum or licked cupcakes analogies?
5. Jeremy Runnels, author of the CES letter, not only resigns from the Church during his disciplinary hearing, but records it and shares it with the world. This essentially did two things. First, if shows the world just how callous these hearing are and there are strings being pulled from the top. Second, it shows that the little piece of paper that you have to sign (promising that you won't record the meeting) probably isn't worth the paper it's written on.
6. BYU has to revise its honor code to save face.
7. The Church's growth rate is not what it appears to be, as evidenced by the conversation in this interview and this one.

I've been asking myself if the current leadership in Salt-Lake has ever had to deal with this kind of storm before. Part of me thinks they're in denial (at least the older ones) and part of me thinks that they're too old to care because "their time is coming." Perhaps it's a mixture of both. However, they're quiet at the moment. I'm very curious to see what happens this next general conference.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Elder Holland's Laffy-Taffy Loss of Control

It's been a while, and a lot has happened in the world of Mormondom since I last posted. I'll try to make subsequent posts covering these topics, but with hectic as life is you learn not make any promises.

A few days ago, Elder Holland was in Tempe, Arizona and gave a very poignant talk at a fireside. The clip is embedded below. During this talk, he seems to be emoting well beyond what one would even expect from Elder Holland. He usually comes across as belligerent to me (anger management issues, perhaps), and since he believes he always has a captive audience I suppose it's an outlet for him. This time, however, the heat was turned up a notch or two. He says, 

"Don’t you dare bail. I am so furious with people who leave this church. I don’t know whether ‘furious’ is a good apostolic word. But I am. What on earth kind of conviction is that? What kind of patty-cake, taffy-pull experience is that? As if none of this ever mattered, as if nothing in our contemporary life mattered, as if this is all just supposed to be “just exactly the way I want it and answer every one of my questions and pursue this and occupy that and defy this – and then maybe I’ll be a Latter-Day Saint”?! Well, there’s too much Irish in me for that."

Well, let me explain something to you, Elder Holland. People aren't just losing faith. People aren't just really pissed off. People are hurting! And you 15 men in your red chairs are not at all accessible behind your velvet ropes and cloak-and-dagger policies. You see, this is what is currently slitting the church's throat. First, this church (if it can bee called such) is authoritarian in nature and structure. The culture is "trickle-down" revelation, not "trickle-up" revelation. It wasn't always like that. There were some golden eras within church history when things were much more egalitarian. Now, Common Consent isn't even a real vote. It's an opportunity to sustain leaders. Nice spin! Second, since the foundation of the church is appeal to authority, what are members to do when authority has been proven wrong over, and over, and over, and over, and over again? Third, what are members to do when they discover that the leadership has systematically whitewashed its history, knowing full well that they were misleading their constituency? I remember a talk you gave, Elder Holland, where you (very purposefully) misquoted Talmage to support your own view on tithing (paying 1/10 before ANYTHING else). Talmage never said that. What you quoted from him was completely out of context. Fourth, what are members to do when their own church victimizes children of same-sex couples? What did they do to deserve a second-class citizenship and defacto shunning?

Yes, Elder Holland, People's shelves are! There's no turning this boat around. The church can either 1. change, like it has been forced to in the past, or 2. become completely irrelevant. Those are your options, sir. Consider this a little bit of "trickle-up" revelation!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

So What's Going on With Jeremy Runnell's Summons and his Stake President's Cryptic Behavior?

Some are saying, "Well what took them so damn long?" Others are saying, "Whoa, all Jeremy did was reprint what the church's essays said. It may have had a little bit of "raw Runnells" on the slice, but it's still the same information anyway. So what's the big deal."

I have my own theories, and that's all they are. I'll start with why I think it took them so long to act. First, all Runnells really did was publish and disseminate a letter that he sent to a CES director. It wasn't meant to be an anti-Mormon critique of any sort. They were genuinely asked and the church (in classic fashion) handed it off to FAIR. FAIR then did what amounts to a shitty critique of a small percentage of the document, and either being neutral or agreeing with the rest. And FAIR's dismissive attitude towards the rest of the document translates to FAIR thinking it's nothing really to be concerned about. Go figure.

What has been happening recently, however, is Runnells now has new goals stated on his website (such as translating the CES letter into different languages) and he also asked for donations to aid in disseminating the documents into multiple formats for Kindle and perhaps even developing an app. In Runnells' interview with Dehlin this weekend, I noticed the banner in the background that said "CES Letter Foundation." At a cursory glance, it appears that the CES letter phenomenon is now much more than an 83-page document. The "monster" is growing. It's possible that this, coupled with the fact that bishops and stake presidents are really tired of seeing this damn document slide across their desks, that the church has finally decided to swing its proverbial dick around. Now they feel they HAVE to respond. Additionally,  the church is a huge bureaucracy, and like all bureaucracies they creep rather than move along. I'm assuming this is why it's taken this long to pull the trigger on anything.

Next issue: so why did the stake president decide to first have the "Court of Love" as soon as possible?

This is almost certainly a top-down directive from one of our geriatric anointed, so it's apparent that they thought that if they did it fast enough, they would not have as much fallout with the press and the almost certain criticism to follow. As usual, they underestimated the power of the net and its netizens, and I'm sure they're both surprised and pissed. 

Next issue: why is Runnells' "Court of Love" being postponed until March?

The simple answer is damage control. Now that the cat is out of the bag and their tactic of "slitting the throat" as opposed to "dropping the bomb" just got pissed on, they are now resorting the Plan B, which is basically give it enough time to cool down so we don't get our asses roasted when we oust him. Also, I'm fairly sure they're wanting him to say something more damning so they have a better case against him.

Theory number 2 is that Runnells' stake president really doesn't want to go through with this directive from Salt-Lake, and he's stalling. That may just be wishful thinking though. 

And of course our TBMs are crying foul on this  because all disciplinary proceedings are done at the local level. Yeah, well, not so much! The church handbook of instructions clearly states that all disciplinary outcomes are subject to the First Presidency, which basically means that they can order an excommunication and just tell the stake president to go through the motions.

In the end, this is going to just be another shit storm for the church to manage, and I wouldn't envy anyone employed by its PR department. They're given shit sandwiches to deal with way too often.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Review of Grant Palmer's "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins"

I recently read Grant Palmer's An Insider's View on Mormon Origins, and I believe that there are a few things worth saying about it. First, it appears to be good scholarship. Palmer makes a very compelling case for the Book of Mormon being taken from The Late WarView of the Hebrews, and from other elements right in Joseph's backyard (figuratively speaking). Probably his most compelling comparison, at least in my view, was the textual style of the Book of Mormon with 19th century protestant revivalism, especially in the flavor of the Methodist sect, one which Joseph himself admitted he was partial to. His comparison of King Benjamin's discourse with one that happened in Joseph's own area (Palmyra) and the pastor's name was, you guessed it, Benjamin. Another comparison that Palmer makes, and I have to admit that this is shocking to most people, is the similarity between Joseph's account of Moroni's visit and a story entitled "The Golden Pot." Although the similarities are obvious, some of the analysis seems a bit forced at times. To Palmer's credit, however, I will say that in order to spot such similarities it takes a very critical eye because not many would have probably picked up on it. The most compelling detail in this comparison is when the protagonist of "The Golden Pot", a young man named Anselmus, receives instructions regarding the Equinox (September 22nd). This mirrors Joseph Smith's instructions from the angel to return on the Equinox. To me, this stood out like a sore thumb! A more comprehensive analysis can be found at Mormon Think's page dedicated to The Golden Pot here. Stylistically, the writing itself didn't feel as engaging as No Man Knows My History. The text is mainly informative. It's purpose doesn't seem to be to persuade. It's obvious that the author takes the information as fact, not speculation. In a way, it's a refreshing approach. Although the text itself doesn't necessarily hook me in like a good thriller novel, the depth of the information itself makes up for that. For anyone wishing to discover more about Mormon history, I think this book is a must-read. It answers a lot of textual questions about the Book of Mormon that many of your TMB's may have had for years but didn't think it was really worth asking.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Walking Your Own Path, Being Your Own Prophet

Looking at some of my previous posts, I come to the realization that I need to clarify my position regarding faith in general. The inception of this blog is by no means an attempt to pull people away from Mormonism or the corporate body of the church that people often associate with it. Technically, I'm still in it. Although I do not literally believe some of the core truth claims or narratives that the church promulgates, the church has place for  people. So if the church brings peace and happiness into your life, by all means STAY! Thomas Wirthlin McConkie is a prime example of how people can make their faith heritage work, even in the shadow of disbelief. McConkie was interviewed by Gina Colvin on A Thoughtful Faith, which can be heard here. I highly encourage anyone experiencing a faith crisis to listen to this interview. He puts into words what I've personally been experiencing over the years. With that said, I feel that I need to qualify this blog. It is not meant to be a vitriolic diatribe against the church. It's meant to be a vitriolic diatribe against the culture that tends to be perpetuated by the corporate entity. I believe one can separate the church from what one would call the "Gospel." In some ways, one would have to because let's be honest: the Brethren really don't have a good track record when it comes accuracy in doctrinal issues. In a way, that's okay. If everything were always accurate without any type ambiguity, it was just be.....too easy. Of course, one would wish they would own their mistakes more. Anyway, I digress. The point is this: find your path, make it work for you, and be your own authority. Don't be co-dependent on others for your own confirmations/testimonies. At the end of the day, that is the true meaning of agency. Be your own prophet. You're entitled to it!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

No Man Knows My History: A Superb Work of Writing and Scholarship


Yesterday, I completed reading Fawn Brodie's No Man Knows My History. To be honest, I didn't see any new information that I would consider shocking. However, it did reinforce a lot of thoughts I've had in the past about church history, and it connected historical dots that previously seemed to have just happened in isolation. My biggest accolade to Mrs. Brodie, however, is for her superb research and writing style. I have never read a historical narrative that had such fluid writing and style. The writing, as much as the content, kept me interested. Within less than one week, I completed it. When I was done, I felt a sense of fulfillment as I knew more intricately the details of a faith I have been a part of for so long. The only critique I suppose that I have for this book is that even as it is a psychological biography as much as it is a history, Mrs. Brodie does take some liberties in describing what Joseph Smith was really like and what his motives may have been. In the end, her analyses and suppositions make sense in their context. However, there are still suppositions. Hugh Nibley did respond to this book in an essay entitled No Ma'am, That's Not History. I'll respond fully to this essay later in a more detailed response, but suffice it to say for now that I expect much, much more from someone of his caliber. Character assassination and talking in circles doesn't qualify as circumspect scholarship, as far as I'm concerned.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The BITE Model of Control: Addendum to Mormon Cluster-Fact #1

I posted this today under Mormon Cluster-Fact #1. The videos from Mr. Hassan's presentation are located on that cluster-fact page as well. See the link above.
I recently viewed a presentation by Steven Hassan, a clinical psychologist, on the BITE Model of Cult Mind Control. This presentation was given at an ex-Mormon convention, and to my surprise, he had not really investigated Mormonism as a possible candidate for his model beforehand. However, it did give subtle hints throughout his presentation that he did believe that Mormonism utilized these techniques, and at one point, he stated rather blatantly that Mormonism's implementation of these techniques was "stereotypical." Mr. Hassan receives threats and hate mail from the likes of the Church of Scientology on a regular basis. Not that he as decided to expose the LDS Church as a high control group (a rather euphemistic word for cult) I'm curious as to whether or not he will receive any political backlash. To his credit though, I'm pretty sure he doesn't care.

Here is the basic BITE model for control:

I. Behavior Control
II. Information Control
III. Thought Control
IV. Emotional Control

Behavior Control

1. Regulate individual’s physical reality
2. Dictate where, how, and with whom the member lives and associates or isolates
3. When, how and with whom the member has sex
4. Control types of clothing and hairstyles
5. Regulate diet - food and drink, hunger and/or fasting
6. Manipulation and deprivation of sleep
7. Financial exploitation, manipulation or dependence
8. Restrict leisure, entertainment, vacation time
9. Major time spent with group indoctrination and rituals and/or self indoctrination including the Internet
10. Permission required for major decisions
11. Thoughts, feelings, and activities (of self and others) reported to superiors
12. Rewards and punishments used to modify behaviors, both positive and negative
13. Discourage individualism, encourage group-think
14. Impose rigid rules and regulations
15. Instill dependency and obedience

Information Control

1. Deception:
a. Deliberately withhold information
b. Distort information to make it more acceptable
c. Systematically lie to the cult member
2. Minimize or discourage access to non-cult sources of information, including:
a. Internet, TV, radio, books, articles, newspapers, magazines, other media
b.Critical information
c. Former members
d. Keep members busy so they don’t have time to think and investigate
e. Control through cell phone with texting, calls, internet tracking
3. Compartmentalize information into Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
a. Ensure that information is not freely accessible
b.Control information at different levels and missions within group
c. Allow only leadership to decide who needs to know what and when
4. Encourage spying on other members
a. Impose a buddy system to monitor and control member
b.Report deviant thoughts, feelings and actions to leadership
c. Ensure that individual behavior is monitored by group
5. Extensive use of cult-generated information and propaganda, including:
a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audiotapes, videotapes, YouTube, movies and other media
b.Misquoting statements or using them out of context from non-cult sources
6. Unethical use of confession
a. Information about sins used to disrupt and/or dissolve identity boundaries
b. Withholding forgiveness or absolution
c. Manipulation of memory, possible false memories

Thought Control

1. Require members to internalize the group’s doctrine as truth
a. Adopting the group's ‘map of reality’ as reality
b. Instill black and white thinking
c. Decide between good vs. evil
d. Organize people into us vs. them (insiders vs. outsiders)
2.Change person’s name and identity
3. Use of loaded language and clich├ęs which constrict knowledge, stop critical thoughts and reduce complexities into platitudinous buzz words
4. Encourage only ‘good and proper’ thoughts
5. Hypnotic techniques are used to alter mental states, undermine critical thinking and even to age regress the member
6. Memories are manipulated and false memories are created
7. Teaching thought-stopping techniques which shut down reality testing by stopping negative thoughts and allowing only positive thoughts, including:
a. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
b. Chanting
c. Meditating
d. Praying
e. Speaking in tongues
f. Singing or humming
8. Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism
9. Forbid critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy allowed
10. Labeling alternative belief systems as illegitimate, evil, or not useful

Emotional Control

1. Manipulate and narrow the range of feelings – some emotions and/or needs are deemed as evil, wrong or selfish
2. Teach emotion-stopping techniques to block feelings of homesickness, anger, doubt
3. Make the person feel that problems are always their own fault, never the leader’s or the group’s fault
4. Promote feelings of guilt or unworthiness, such as
a. Identity guilt
b. You are not living up to your potential
c. Your family is deficient
d. Your past is suspect
e. Your affiliations are unwise
f. Your thoughts, feelings, actions are irrelevant or selfish
g. Social guilt
h. Historical guilt
5. Instill fear, such as fear of:
a. Thinking independently
b. The outside world
c. Enemies
d. Losing one’s salvation
e. Leaving or being shunned by the group
f. Other’s disapproval
6. Extremes of emotional highs and lows – love bombing and praise one moment and then declaring you are horrible sinner
7. Ritualistic and sometimes public confession of sins
8. Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about leaving the group or questioning the leader’s authority
a. No happiness or fulfillment possible outside of the group
b. Terrible consequences if you leave: hell, demon possession, incurable diseases, accidents, suicide, insanity, 10,000 reincarnations, etc.
c. Shunning of those who leave; fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family
d. Never a legitimate reason to leave; those who leave are weak, undisciplined, unspiritual, worldly, brainwashed by family or counselor, or seduced by money, sex, or rock and roll
e. Threats of harm to ex-member and family

Granted, the church doesn't employ every single method, but the vast majority of them are utilized. A few of them are either absent from the church's practices, or they are very subtle. One thing that Mr. Hassan says happens is that they can be very subtle, and they are deliberately so. Mr. Hassan's application of the BITE model to Mormonism can be be found here.

On a positive note, I can say that the structure and discipline of a Mormon lifestyle did serve its purpose for me at one point. I was on a very dubious path after some familial events that were catastrophic, and it did lead me to my marriage and my children today. However, there comes a time when one outgrows things, and furthermore it does not excuse the church and the culture for the damage and trauma they cause. Despite being family oriented, many families are traumatized and split apart because of the church.