Out in the big wide world expressing our opinions isn't considered
sinful, it's called criticism.
Just like there are movie critics and literary critics and political
critics, there are religion critics. Just like a teacher might
critique your term paper, we critique your church. (And who
better to critique Mormonism than those of us who have actually
experienced it?) When confronted with theological and social
absurdities, we are not obliged to let it pass without comment.
In fact, we would be doing a disservice to others by not pointing
out the pitfalls of belief systems like Mormonism -- sort of
the same way Mormons feel obliged to condemn the world for its
It's a wonderful free market of ideas and beliefs out here.
We can all believe whatever we want. If your faith -- your certainty
-- of the LDS church is strong, then it shouldn't matter what
we have to say. But if your faith is weak, perhaps you should
ask yourself why. The church would have you believe the problem
is you, but what if the problem is really the church?
The church also establishes the definition of happiness. The
Mormon way, the iron rod, the cookie cutter life leads to true
happiness, nothing else is valid.
But what if the standardized Mormon life fails to fill your
life with joy, or, more fundamentally, what if the promised
reward at the end of the trail doesn't really appeal to you?
Well, then it's your own fault, you must be doing something
wrong, you must not be trying hard enough, you must be listening
to deceiving spirits, your heart must not be in the right place.
I spent half my life trying to win approval from earthly and
heavenly fathers who were incapable of giving it. It drove me
to self-loathing and depression. Before I could get my sanity
back, I had to learn to accept I'd never get what I wanted from
Even more dehumanizing is the foundation of the theology. Sure,
it claims to be about the exaltation of the individual, but
in practice it's about suppression the individual and the elevation
of the organization. The natural man (the self) is the enemy
of God. Man is sinful and must be whipped into shape. Individual
wants and needs take a back seat to the will of God -- well,
actually, the will of the church leaders who claim it's the
will of God. And, as in any organization, individual worth is
measured by how well one fulfills the demands of the organization.
On Church structure...
Corporate culture and structure of the mid 20th century were
emulations of the military culture and structure the people
of the day learned in WWII. They admired it because it had pulled
the nation through a tough time. Centralized command, layers
of authority, uniform behavior, strict protocol, unquestioning
obedience to superiors, serving the group and its cause before
one's self... The good soldier became the corporate man, filling
his niche in the great machine... The current Mormon organization
was fashioned after the same model. (So, ironically, was communism.)
Since then, thanks to some hard lessons, businesses have learned
the benefits of distributing more decision-making power down
the chain of command, of creating semi-autonomous units, and
of encouraging individual initiative and entrepreneurial passion.
Businesses have learned how to be nimble and fluid, how to adapt
quickly to the demands of an ever-changing market and customer
Meanwhile, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has
become even more ossified. It clings stubbornly, blindly, uninspiredly,
to the old business model while its market goes elsewhere. Naturally,
they blame their customers for failing the company rather than
admitting the company is failing the customers. The Corporation
of Jesus Christ is stuck in the old brand loyalty model, but
the new consumers of religious products are unwilling to be
loyal to a brand that doesn't fulfill their spiritual needs
and desires. They can get something more fulfilling at a lower
price elsewhere, but the church just keeps raising the price
without updating the product. In fact, it has been quietly deleting
features while shifting more service and support onto the customer.
The corporate leaders prepare glowing reports bragging of wonderful
sales growth but fail to mention that the vast majority of sales
don't translate into lifelong customers, that most new customers,
fooled by new packaging, buy the product once, try it, and never
buy it again.
Well, I could go on and on about the flawed Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints business model, but you get the
Sometimes you have to allow people to make their own mistakes.
Once a convert sees Mormonism from the inside, once everyone
stops love-bombing her, once they start pushing her toward the
temple and making more demands of her time and money, once she
sits through a few mind-numbing Sunday school and Relief Society
classes, once the missionaries move on to new victims, she'll
realize she was bamboozled. Fewer and fewer converts stay active.
I think the most useful thing you can do is keep reminding her
that she can change her mind, that the church doesn't own her,
and if they were deceptive in any way, they're unworthy of her
About His Issues...
I consider myself completely recovered in the sense that I don't
wonder whether I've done the right thing, I don't worry about
my eternal fate, I have no fear of the claimed powers and authority
of Mormon leaders, I don't define my life vis-a-vis Mormonism,
I'm more likely to laugh about my past life than be upset about
it, and I can walk among Mormons without getting upset. If,
in real life, I were to find myself wandering into a temple
and being chased off, I'd probably act the same as in my dream.
But some things will always be there. Like Richard Packham has
written, my heritage is in Mormonism, it's my history. My family
goes back to the very beginnings of the church, I'm descended
from polygamists, and I spent the first half of my life trying
to be a good Mormon. I have devout LDS siblings, nieces and
nephews. I can't simply flush all that without losing a large
chunk of who I am.
Some might ask why I hang out here if I'm recovered. Two reasons,
basically. I'm here to help (a latent Mormon trait) and I'm
here for the community of those who share the same legacy. Who
else would laugh at my Mormon jokes? Or understand the significance
of my dreams?
On Belief in Magical Symbols...
I was just reading some of Quinn's "Early Mormonism and the
Magical Worldview." It's the section about the Smith family's
magical parchments, or "lamen." Regardless what the symbols
on it mean, behind it all is a belief that lines and circles
and words on paper have the power -- directly or indirectly
-- to control the real and imagined world around you. Evildoers
and bad spirits will leave you alone and good spirits will visit
you because you have MARKS ON PAPER!
"You can't hurt me, I have these squiggles and circles and phrases
from old books! Now God will protect me better than if I didn't
People who really believed this silliness started Mormonism.
So no wonder there are special marks on temple garments. The
odd underwear alone wouldn't be sufficient to remind you of
your covenants and help keep you chaste, oh no, you have to
have symbols or else the magic won't work.
And you have to perform the spells...er...ordinances just so
or the magic won't work. "I'm sorry," says God, "I'd love to
bless you but you said some of the words out of order."
And you have to know the secret handshake and magical words
or they won't know you at the gates of heaven. "Yes, we know
you, but we don't really 'know' you unless you can do the voodoo
How did we ever believe this idiotic stuff?
On why People Leave...
I don't think most of the people who leave the church aren't
doing so because they've decided it's false. I think they've
decided it's just not worth it, that there's not enough, if
any, spiritual sustenence in return for all the demands, that
the church is hollow and it just doesn't work.
I think it's that dissatisfaction with the church - whether
it's conscious or not - that opens members' minds to considering
the possibility the church might not be exactly what it claims.
A person won't receive the damning evidence unless they're ready.
On the Percentage of Polygamy...
Whatever the actual percentage there weren't ENOUGH men practicing
polygamy if you read the sermons of Brigham Young. He castigated
those who believed monogamy was sufficient to get into the highest
reaches of the CK. He preached that monogamy was an abomination.
Of course, statistically, it would have been impossible for
ALL Mormon men to practice polygamy, since there were roughly
equal numbers of men and women. At least half the men would
be left without wives at all. In fact, that was a problem --
polygamy created a shortage of eligible women, which led to
the popularity of brothels.
Polygamists weren't just marrying widows and old maids. Looking
at the seven polygamists in my family tree (none of whom were
more than bishops), for the most part they married women between
18 and 25 years old (while they themselves were in their forties
or so). There were only three widows among 26 wives. Besides,
the point of polygamy was to create lots of heirs to the kingdom,
it's a head start on eternal increase, so you avoid marrying
women out of their prime child bearing years.
About God's Plan...
It's not about the best plan it's about tradition. "This was
my God's plan so it's good enough for me."
I used to wonder if I'd be able to do things differently if
I got to be a god, or would I have to follow the same blueprints.
They used to (and maybe they still do) teach that God is a god
by virtue of perfectly obeying eternal law, and that if he failed
to obey he would cease to be God. So God is just another drone
in the eternal hive, keeping his omnipotent nose to the grindstone
of the law? No thanks.
On Women Wearing Pants...
When I was a teenager there was a major protest and scandal
at Skyline High (SLC) when a group of girls showed up one day
in pants. HORROR OF HORRORS!!! They were sent home and suspended.
Such was the state of things in 1970. The powers that were insisted
no proper young lady (or not-so-young lady) wore pants to school,
and of course, pants in church were unthinkable. It seemed a
bit weird to us that a culture that would put so much emphasis
on modesty would prefer something less modest than pants. After
all, pants covered the legs and no one ever talked about being
able to see up someone's pants, or having the wind blow their
pants over their heads. But it wasn't about logic, it was about
tradition and behavior control.
Fast forward five years. I go home from college to visit my
parents and, surprise surprise, Mom is wearing pants. I was
amazed and amused. She had become one of those little old ladies
in polyester pant suits and sensible shoes. The winds of change
had blown and she was much happier and more comfortable. She
still wore dresses to church, though.
On Seeing the Truth...
No one wants to believe truths that fail to support their preconceptions.
On D&C Section 129...
Oh, but you must understand the early Saints were all claiming
visions, visitations and revelations. Many of them had their
own peep stones and such. One of Joseph Smith's big struggles
was establishing himself as the sole conduit of "divine inspiration."
It was one of the things that caused friction in the early church.
The church was once rather democratic. Members would exhibit
what they claimed were gifts of the Spirit and Smith would say
sure, yeah, those are signs of the new dispensation that testify
of the truthfulness of my calling blah blah blah. But then that
started to work against his plans for running the show. So he
started clamping down, producing "revelations" that essentially
discounted anything that didn't come from him. We see some of
that ploy in his dealing with Cowdery's desire to translate.
Oops, see, Ollie, you don't really have the gift, sorry amigo.
So I don't think D&C 129 is nonsense, it's one of several carefully
calculated moves on Smith's part. It lets members flatter themselves
that they might be visited by angels, but it sets them up so
they will think any experience they have is of the devil, because
no matter what they see, they're not going to be feeling any
hands -- and Smith knew it. And if they're being visited by
the devil, then it means either they're really special people
involved in a really special work that the devil wants to thwart,
or that their hearts are not in the right place (aligned with
JS) and they've opened themselves to the temptations of the
great deceiver. JS understood human behavior very well and knew
how to exploit it.
On the Magic of Time...
Not only does time heal wounds, it ads a varnish of credibility
For example, we have warm fuzzy thoughts about people like George
Washington and Abraham Lincoln because we are ignorant, for
the most part, of the context of their lives and the unpleasant
details. On the other hand, we know way too much about our current
leaders, we're not going to elevate them to saintly status.
We can see, though, how Reagan and Carter are slipping far enough
into the misty past for us to have faulty or selective memories
As far as religion goes, Joseph Smith is far too contemporary,
and his times too much like our own (compared to biblical times).
It's easier to see him as he probably was, whereas we have a
tough time imagining the life of Paul and how he might have
invented Christianity. And when it comes to imaging Abraham
or Moses, well we're mostly clueless about the reality of their
lives. We just have stories that might be true or might be total
That's the oddity of all this. Often, the less we know the more
we're willing to believe. Gee, we think, these stories have
survived a long time and a lot of people claim they're true,
so they must be. But actually, chances are the longer a story
has been around, the greater the likelihood it has been changed.
Hell, we know how much the official Joseph Smith story has been
changed in just 170 years. Take biblical stories, pass them
through many centuries and several disparate parties with their
own religious/political/social agendas and it's dubious whether
any truth survives.
On Measuring Outward Things...
Since personal relationships with God can't be measured, the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints measures outward
signs. Are the members happy and full of the Spirit of Christ?
Don't know, but the latest numbers are in.
Ultimately, the numbers, and the organization that administers
them, become more important than its mission of nurturing spiritual
relationships. Improving the numbers becomes the mission instead.
It's becoming more and more that way as LDS leadership ranks
become glutted with businessmen.
Where are the church's theologians? Where are the leaders who
can bring spiritual mysteries to life, who can lead the prayerful
to transcendence? You know, the touchy-feely guys? They are
where they are in most business structures, relegated to the
sidelines. And so the church loses its heart and soul and becomes
spiritually hollow. The only real spirituality exists independently
from the organization, in spite of it, not because of it. It
exists in individuals, not in structures.
On Expressing Doubt...
Many saints believe doubt is contagious. It's not surprising,
since they're constantly taught to avoid corrupting influences
and the appearance of evil.
Yes, I think many of them do know their faith is too weak to
deal with another's doubts. But it goes beyond that sometimes.
People are also shunned for reasons that have noting to do with
the state of their testimonies. People get shunned for being
poor or unattractive. They get shunned when there's trouble
in the family -- because most people just don't want to deal
with other people's problems. That's not just a Mormon thing.
If for some odd reason I were to try to go back, I know I'd
be rejected, because I would be unable to keep my questions
and opinions to myself. You want me back? Then let's act like
adults here, let's speak up and wrestle with the questions,
not just give the expected answers like school kids. Let's face
the truth, good or bad, and come out stronger on the other side
because of it. And that would make enemies really quickly.
Peoples' exteriors usually are not reflecting who they are,
but rather expressing who they want to be.
On the Mormon Purpose of Life...
This is only a test. That's the way my father saw it. Your individual
happiness in this life doesn't matter, this is the probationary
state in which we prove ourselves. And if proving our worthiness
means putting up with stupid or degrading crap, or inflicting
it on others, you do it and be glad that you're one step closer
to the throne of God. Okay, so that's a slight exaggeration,
but not by much.
On Blind Obedience...
The difference Mormon Leaders make in blind obedience and unquestioning
- Blind obedience is when it never occurs to you to question
the orders because you don't see the problems with the orders,
either out ignorance or because you agree with the orders in
the first place.
- Unquestioning obedience is when you have doubts about the
orders, or actually disagree, but you go along without saying
The net result is the same either way. You obey, and that's
what the brethren want.
On Life After Mormonism...
I think it's easier to deal with life's setbacks once we realize
the shit that happens isn't part of an eternal battle between
good and evil. You didn't get laid off, for example, because
you missed church, or touched yourself, or didn't complete your
home teaching. You got laid off because of economic circumstances,
or because the boss is a bastard, or because you weren't good
enough at your job.
If we stop looking for the supernatural cause and effect in
everything, if we can drop the idea that everything is a reward,
trial or punishment from a capricious deity, we can get down
and deal with the reality of the situation. We can take control
instead of hoping and praying for magic to rescue us. And we
become better prepared to deal with future problems.
Since I left the church 25 years ago, my life has been incredibly
I was making toast this morning, and because of the way I happened
to grab the bread, I put it in the toaster upside down. As I
let go of the bread a little voice in my head said, "Aak! It's
upside down!" Fortunately, a bigger voice in my head said, "Yeah,
so?" Of course, the toast came out fine.
This reminded me of my early days leaving the church. As I believed
less and less (and eventually none of it) I started violating
small rules. What would happen if I didn't wear a tie to church?
Nothing. What would happen if I turned down a calling? Nothing.
What would happen if I stopped going at all? Nothing. What if
I stopped wearing garments? Nothing. Nothing bad, anyway. None
of that stuff we're conditioned to fear ever happened.
It was particularly true the first time I had sex. I had a great
time and afterwards............. nothing happened. No lightening
from heaven, no angels with flaming swords, no visitation from
my dead mother, no priesthood leaders at my door to brand me
a fornicator, no life failure, no diseases... nothing. Life
just went on -- with a bigger grin.
Sometimes it's hard to shake things that have been drilled into
our heads, particularly when they're compounded by superstition.
We can lose all sense of proportion, imagining punishments far
greater than the crime, or creating crimes where there are none.
Thinking that if you take the sacrament with your left hand
you'll lose the companionship of the Holy Ghost is really no
different than thinking you'll break your mother's back if you
step on a crack, or that the toast will turn out wrong if it's
The realization that nothing happens -- at least nothing beyond
the natural consequences -- is one of the surest ways to escape
the quagmire that is Mormonism.
On What Mormon Doctrine Is...
Mormon Doctrine is whatever makes the members feel good about
the church and/or that which maintains order, cash flow and
a conservative culture.
When the brethren answer that some bit of debated doctrine is
unnecessary for your exaltation, what they're really saying
is that they don't want to risk alienating anyone by taking
a position. (If really pushed, they might fall back upon the
claim that a living prophet trumps a dead one.) So if believing
Jesus was a polygamous father makes you more devoted to the
church, fine. If believing he was celibate keeps you devoted,
then that's fine, too. All that matters is that your particular
set of beliefs not lead you away from the church and out of
the brethren's control.
On Solitude and Peace in the Temple...
To me, solitude is being alone, not surrounded by several dozen
others. To me, solitude is being left alone with my thoughts
for as long as I need, not being directed at nearly every moment
what to do as part of a group ritual. To me, peace doesn't involve
oaths and threats and penalties for failure. Peace doesn't involve
worrying about whether you do the gestures right or wear the
clothing right or remember the magic words. If the temples were
such places of peace and solitude, there would be lines out
the door instead of leaders badgering people to attend more
than once or twice in their lifetimes -- if ever.
No, temples aren't places of peace and solitude. They're places
to perform rituals and be hustled about. They're glorified auditoriums.
Functionally they're all the same, except the old temples that
still use live actors for the ceremonies instead of a movie
(how spiritual). They're all decorated differently but still
in the same granny's parlor style Mormons think is elegant.
On the Letter of the Law Versus the Spirit of the Law...
When a Mormon is living the letter of the law, but his leaders
want him to do something more or slightly different, they say
he should rise above the mere letter of the law and follow the
spirit of the law. On the other hand, when a Mormon is following
the spirit of the law, but not in a way the leaders like, they
say he's guilty of not living the letter of the law.
It's all a smokescreen, of course. What they really want is
for the members to do whatever they're told. They trot out either
the letter or spirit of the law to justify their case and extract
compliance. And of course, in Mormonism, "the law" is a somewhat
fluid thing. Strictly living some laws can get you excommunicated.
The only law that always counts is "Obey the prophet."
On Mormonism as an Externalizing Religion...
Yes, yes, yes, spirituality requires internalization. It requires
making beliefs your own, fitting them to your own mind and heart.
But Mormonism (among others) is all about fitting the believer
to the system, adhering to the eternal plan. Your own feelings,
experience or needs are relevant only when they conform to and
serve the plan. The flow of spirituality is reversed. The church
doesn't bestow spirituality, because it has none to give. Instead,
what spirituality there is comes from individual members, and
the church takes credit for it. That's why so many Mormons seem
burned out. The vampire church has sucked the vitality out of
On Smith Having Sex with His Wives...
D&C 132 tells us Joseph Smith was boinking other women. How
so? It goes on and on about what is and isn't adultery. If Smith
had only platonic, spiritual wives, adultery wouldn't be an
issue. In essence, it says having sex with other women is okay
as long as God sanctifies it under the New and Ever-convenient...
er... Everlasting Covenant of Marriage. Verse 56 is the smoking
gun. It commands Emma to forgive Joseph his trespasses. Which
trespasses? Well, the topic of discussion is multiple wives
and concubines and what constitutes adultery, so...
Of course, the cynical view of D&C 132 is that Joseph Smith
was caught with his pants down and came up with a "revelation"
to justify his philandering.
I don't know that I can accurately express what I feel about
all this. Oh well, I'll just plunge in.
- I suspect (only suspect) "Marriage and family are the foundation
to strong culture" is one of the biggest fallacies of our time.
Because there are stable cultures that don't fixate on marriage
and the family like we do, and there are societies on the verge
of extinction that have strong families because that's all they
have left. I suspect stability, predictability, vast shared
knowledge and a decent economy make up the foundation of a strong
society. On top of that we need flexibility and responsive adaptability
to change. Cultures that dig in their heels are the ones that
get run over.
- The way I see it, it's not the gender or number of the persons
you have sex with that's the problem, it's whether you do it
irresponsibly. Spreading diseases and creating unwanted children
is irresponsible. So is withholding information and technology
that could help prevent them. So is creating a culture of shame
where people are afraid to seek information and protection and
are left to rely only upon inner strength or appeals to mystical
- If you want stability and predictability -- if you want people
in family units -- let gay people marry and assume the commitments
and responsibilities of parenthood. Seems to me like that would
validate the principles of marriage and family rather than threaten
- Where do we draw the immovable line of what's sexually acceptable?
At non-consensual sex (which would include children, the mentally
incompetent, animals or any other living thing incapable of
granting informed consent) and irresponsible sex. It's not about
what is or isn't deviant, it's about protecting the rights and
safety of individuals and society. But where there is no harm,
there's no foul. It's the same way that owning and driving a
car is only a problem when you act irresponsibly. Otherwise,
go anywhere you want with anyone you want anytime you want --
just don't hurt anyone or anything. (An imperfect analogy, I
know, but bear with me.)
- Of course there's a right and wrong. The question is what
you base it on. Arbitrary pronouncements? Superstitions? Religious
beliefs? Majority vote? Empirical evidence? Experience? Guesses?
Do you establish universal absolutes to ensure maximum conformity?
Do you go case-by-case for maximum freedom and flexibility?
Or do you try to find a workable balance that achieves the most
good for the most people?
On How Mormonism Started...
It all started with a social reject -- Joseph Smith. The Smith
family were on a lower rung of the social ladder. They were
poorer and less educated. Joe Sr. was a business and farming
failure. They kept moving west, looking for a break. I sincerely
believe it was the craving to be somebody important that drove
Joseph Smith to make up stories. And once the church saw a little
success, he took advantage of it, indulging every desire, setting
himself as the grand poobah, ordering people around... He had
a colossal chip on his shoulder.
I think the church attracted other misfits from the social fringe.
After all, people happily entrenched in the mainstream don't
go running after prophets. I think they were looking for something
to raise themselves to the levels of respected society, and
when JS came along and promised them they could be priests and
kings -- even gods -- well, hell, Marge, that's much better
than being mayor.
The cultish side of Mormonism requires it to have a superior
attitude. You can't maintain a movement by admitting you're
no better than people outside the group. You can't recruit new
members by admitting there's no real difference between belief
systems. You can't extract the kind of devotion necessary to
keep the machine running unless all the cogs believe they're
in the best damned machine ever, the only true machine. That
exclusivity turns to snobbery. And when the church become the
majority culture, like in Utah, the snobbery becomes oppressive.
Even the first presidency knows too many Mormons have become
snobs. They had to issue a special message last year on the
subject. But even so, the brethren can't resist any opportunity
to stroke the egos of the saints, to talk up the church, criticize
the outside world, or recount history that reinforces the big
persecution complex. Because they know that for many people
what Karen Armstrong said is true: "What's the point of religion
if you can't disapprove of other people."
On the Secrecy of the Temple...
Must maintain the aura of mystery about the whole thing. If
people who hadn't been sufficiently indoctrinated into the mindset
of Mormonism were to see what a bland, disappointing and creepy
thing a temple ceremony is, word would spread far and wide.
Then the church would have one less carrot to dangle. The temple
is great extortion. If you want inside you have to play the
game and pay the price. The joke is, there's nothing there.
On Allegiance to the Church...
The church is first, foremost and always about allegiance to
the organization -- before the self, before anyone or anything
else. That's its most destructive, cult-like feature. Sacrifice
your happiness, your aspirations, your identity, your self esteem,
even your family and marriage, if necessary, in order to keep
in line with the organization and the bunch of invisible carrots
it dangles before you. Members think they're demonstrating devotion
to God, but they're really just devoted to an idea in their
heads - one they will literally do anything to obtain. The church
just makes itself the personification (real or not) of that
idea. Forsaking the church becomes the same as forsaking the
On Religions Being Anti-Orgasm...
I think many religions fear orgasms because, first of all, most
spiritual experiences can't compete. Like they say, even a bad
orgasm is good. Secondly, once you've found a way to make yourself
feel wonderful, you're less likely to want someone telling you
true happiness comes from self-denial.
Al's Personal Articles of Faith
1 I believe the things we attribute to supernatural powers are,
in reality, our own unrecognized abilities.
2 I believe we will experience the natural consequences of our
actions, unless we discover ways around them.
3 I believe that through our own wits we can save ourselves
a lot of grief.
4 I believe that the first principles of humanity are: take
care of yourself but don't take yourself too seriously; take
care of everyone else; don't dish out what you can't take; don't
shit where you eat; don't believe everything you hear; measure
twice, cut once.
5 I believe we must find our own callings in life.
6 I believe in organizing ourselves in any way we see fit.
7 I believe in the gifts of love, empathy, bravery, truth, beauty
and so forth.
8 I believe in the power of books and the knowledge and truth
they may contain.
9 I believe in the usefulness of all I have learned, all that
I'm currently learning, and I believe that I will yet learn
many great and important things about to life.
10 I believe in gathering together, especially if there's good
11 I claim the right to disbelieve.
12 I believe in obeying the law and trying to change the ones
that are wrong.
13 I believe in being honest, true, benevolent, knowledgeable,
and in doing good to all people; indeed, I may say that I try
to follow the admonition of my old roommate -- Don't be an asshole.
If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or
praiseworthy, I seek after these things and try not to mess
On Finding the Truth Behind the Symbols...
I read some Joseph Campbell over the weekend. Among other things,
he writes about how some religions know their stories are just
myths that help explain bigger, higher, purer ideas. They may
pay homage to gods, but it's not really the gods they're worshiping,
it's the transcendent truths those characters represent. The
gods are just a name and a face, a sort of shorthand for things
that can be experienced better than they can be explained. This
sort of view of gods is more common in Eastern religions.
Meanwhile, we Westerners tend to take the myths too literally.
That's certainly the case in Mormonism. A literal god, a literal
heaven, a literal creation story... Even the temple ritual is
supposed to be a dramatization of literal past and future events.
On top of that, Mormonism becomes a system of checkpoints on
the straight and narrow path. It becomes about adherence to
rules rather than a quest for spiritual enlightenment. It clings
to the iron rod, with eyes fixed on the finish line, instead
of marveling in the beauty of the universe.
Mormons go on and on about their testimonies. But what is it
they're actually testifying about? Mostly, it boils down to
having a good feeling that they're on the right path and about
the reassurances they've received in the form of blessings.
But have you ever heard a supposed prophet of God say anything
like this? "Let me help you see beyond the veil. Let me try
to explain the sublime beauty that awaits beyond the law, beyond
the atonement, beyond our very concept of God. Let me help you
understand the why behind the what."
LDS "prophets" don't really have a clue. They have nothing to
tell because, first of all, they have no special access to whatever
divine light there might be out there, and secondly, because
they're mired in a literalist view of their own mythology. That's
what makes Mormonism so shallow. That's what turns their leaders
into taskmasters rather than spiritual guides. It would never
occur to them to look beyond symbols because they don't believe
they are symbols.
On Sins of Omission...
First off, I agree that the measure of character is the "good"
things you do rather than the "bad" things you avoid doing.
Positive action is more valuable than simply avoiding negative
While a lot of LDS culture is based on not sinning and less
is based on doing positive things (unless sitting in meetings
is a positive thing), there's still that frustrating doctrine
of sins of omission -- the good things left undone. It's a handy
catch-all for guilt. No matter what good you might do, there
are always good things left undone. There isn't enough time
in the day to do all the good that could possibly be done. Each
second you spend on one good thing is a second not spent on
other good things. So when the Mormon voodoo doesn't work as
promised, we can always find ways we fall short of worthiness,
we can always find ways to blame ourselves. No, it can't possible
be the voodoo is bogus, it's that we aren't good enough.
What a neat setup. First you convince people blessings depend
upon worthiness, then you convince them they can never be worthy
enough, so you never have to deliver the promised blessings.
On the Still Small Voice...
Back when I was trying really hard to gain a testimony (which
everyone I knew seemed to have gained without trying) I kept
listening for the "still, small voice." I listened for the voice's
counsel on other important matters, too. I'd get nice, warm
feelings confirming my righteous desires. Occasionally I'd get
a flash of new insight.
Over the years, I understood that the "still, small voice" was
really just me talking with myself. It was thoughts and knowledge
from beneath my conscious level coming to the surface. It was
synapses making new connections.
Because my head was full of Mormon indoctrination, there were
plenty of prefab answers to my questions.
I knew before asking (even if only subconsciously) what the
correct answer was supposed to be. Furthermore, our minds can
only make decision using what's in our heads. The more we know,
the better our answers. Like they say, chance favors the prepared
mind. If there's just Mormon stuff in there, we'll only get
Mormon answers. Like they also say, when a hammer is the only
tool in your box, every job seems to require a hammer.
Since my professional life requires finding unique, creative
solutions on an almost daily basis, I've become even more familiar
with the way my brain works. It's very common (not just with
me, but with others I know) to spend hours concentrating on
the problem without coming up with a suitable solution. But
later, while casually engaged in something else, a solution
will bubble to the surface -- complete with a warm fuzzy feeling
that it's the perfect answer. Often, looking back, I can see
that part of the problem was that I had been asking myself the
Morality Rooted in Love...
That's really it, isn't it? When you love and are loved, you
act in ways that don't harm others, in fact, you act in ways
that benefit them.
So what do you do in a society where people don't/won't can't
love each other? You invent substitute beings to love and to
love you perfectly in return. Then morality becomes a matter
of acting in such a way to express your love and to attract
the love of that being.
On the Motivations of Top Church Leaders...
I don't doubt the church leaders are sincere about what they
do, but I also suspect that their vision of "the church" and
their role in it is very different from what the general membership
believes it is. I think they see themselves mostly as builders
and guardians of the kingdom, the institution, the corporation.
I think they see themselves as commanders of an army. Though
the Big 15 are sustained as prophets, seers and revelators,
I think they see it as a job title (like executive vice president)
not a collection of spiritual gifts.
I think being actual spiritual leaders is further down their
list of priorities. That's why their utterances from the podium
are so bland and shallow, or sentimental and cloying.
I don't know if it's intentional, but I can see how it's a natural
byproduct of not separating spiritual and temporal responsibilities.
Dealing with the nuts and bolts of running the church is tangible
and direct. You take action A and you see results B. There's
more gratification when things go well, and more pressing need
for attention when things go awry. But things of a purely spiritual
nature are ethereal, intangible. You can't plot things of the
spirit on a spreadsheet. And it takes special gifts to lead
the flock in spiritual matters, to touch hearts and souls. The
current crop of GAs don't have that gift. I suspect it's because
they were chosen more for their devotion to the institution
than their understanding of the Lord. They're managers, not
spiritual guides. They're administrators, not visionaries, not
On Grown-up Love...
A certain political and social commentator has written about
two kinds of love people have for this country. I think it applies
to ways Mormons love the church.
He says one kind of love is like the way a 4-year-old loves
Mommy. Everything mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes
Mommy is bad.
On the other hand, "Grown-up love means actually understanding
what you love, taking the good with the bad, and helping your
loved one grow. Love takes attention and work and is the best
thing in the world...[W]e see things we're very proud of. And
we also see some things, which might have seemed like good ideas
at the time, but turned out to be mistakes. And some things
we did, well, they were just bad. That doesn't keep us from
loving our country. It's called honesty. What do you think is
more important to a loving relationship; honesty or lies?"
I see the church as more like the 4-year-old. Never say anything
bad, never criticize. Pointing out shortcomings is a sign of
disloyalty, it's a sign of sin. The church doesn't want to sit
down and discuss itself like adults, dealing with weakness and
building on strengths. It wants to maintain the illusion of
Mommy's perfection. That leads to dishonesty. And it leads to
the brethren treating the members like 4-year-olds.
On the Magical World of Joseph Smith...
They believed in spells, charms, ritual magic, necromancy --
even animal sacrifice and blood oaths. They believed inanimate
objects, like boxes, were moved around underground by guardian
ghosts. They believed in doing important things -- like getting
the plates or founding the church -- on dates determined by
astrological charts. They believed words and symbols scribbled
on paper had protective power.
The sanitizing of Joseph Smith's image is one of the church's
fundamental lies. The truth of the Smith family's deep involvement
in ritual magic and superstition is a source of embarrassment
to the brethren who know about it. Mark Hofmann new how to exploit
that shame and fear. The brethren were willing to pay tens of
thousands of dollars to keep the Joseph Smith they'd manufactured
from being tainted by anything resembling the truth. JS needed
to be a pure, wholesome vessel of the Lord, the chosen one,
the hero without spot or blemish. JS's credibility is blown
to hell when it's learned he claimed to see not only Moroni
and the Father and Son, but ghosts of treasure-guarding decapitated
pirates as well. It changes the picture when you learn JS's
doctrines of priesthood power were preceded by beliefs in priestcraft
and ritual magic, that the laying on of hands was preceded by
the drawing of magic circles and the spilling of animal blood
on the ground to appease the spirits.
Joseph Smith wasn't some humble seeker of religious enlightenment,
firmly planted in mainstream American life. He and his family
were way off in the land of nut job superstition and religious
I used to work at a messed up company. As one coworker put it,
"You do a bad job and nothing happens. You do a good job and
That was like my life in Mormonism. No amount of righteousness
on my part ever made things better. And breaking taboos never
made anything worse. Quitting that job and quitting the church
-- getting out of those dysfunctional systems -- made my life
Misplaced loyalty and the wisdom of quitting
I'm in a business where people change companies fairly often
in search of better opportunities, more interesting work and
better pay. Three years at a company is about standard. Some
leave after a few weeks. I was a rarity. I stayed with the came
company for 13 years.
There were many times I was unhappy with the company and the
work I had to do, but I stayed, knowing/believing things would
improve. We were a C level company hoping to become a C+. There
were always interesting, rewarding things on the horizon. Some
came to fruition, most didn't. But I held on, waited it out.
Besides, I was being paid pretty well and management liked me.
Meanwhile, people I worked with went off to other opportunities.
Rather than wait for the next interesting project, rather than
wait for the company to reposition itself and break into the
next level, they went off to companies that were already at
a higher level. Those who left seemed impatient, self-serving
and (gasp) disloyal.
I eventually left that company myself -- not so much because
I decided I deserved something better, but because the company
was in chaos and about to slide into the toilet. Things had
to get bad before I could justify being disloyal.
It was pretty much the same way with me and the LDS church.
I invested 24 years of my life, believing things would get better
soon. On good days I was mildly happy, but most days I was unhappy,
maybe even depressed. But I held on, waiting for things to improve.
I didn't leave because I thought, "Darn it, I deserve better
than this." I left when it finally became unbearable.
I have learned since that there are seldom any points to be
won by sticking with a bad situation to the bitter end -- at
least not for yourself. It's usually others who benefit from,
and exploit, your loyalty.
Mormonism indoctrinates members into the cult of loyalty to
the group -- loyalty even at the expense of yourself. That's
why "The One True Church" becomes a mantra. Leaving the One
True Church would be a horrible mistake, no matter how unhappy
you might be. So you stick it out and stick it out, enduring
to the end, hoping for the "real" happiness that's just over
the horizon in the next life. Meanwhile, the people who have
left the church for happier, more fulfilling lives, well, they're
just selfish and disloyal, right?
On the Magic of Secrecy...
Mormons like to say the temple ordinances are sacred, not secret.
I propose it's the secrecy that makes them "sacred."
It's the difference between, "Hey, did you hear the news?" and
"I'm going to tell you a secret, but you have to promise never
to tell anyone else." Whatever follows automatically becomes
more special. And, if you're an honorable, moral person, your
promise not to tell adds even more gravity, even if the secret
you have sworn to keep is inconsequential.
Another example. I could give you a common pebble and say, "Here,
take this token, keep it with you always, never be without it."
OK, the pebble becomes special where it was once just another
pebble. But then, if I were to add, "Never let anyone else see
it, never tell anyone you have it, never ever let it fall into
the wrong hands," then we cross over into the realm of sacredness.
And yet there are many things in life that can be sacred without
being the least bit secret. Secrecy is a crutch used to prop
up things that can't stand on their own sacredness. Secrecy
is the magic fairy dust that turns the ordinary or laughable
into the holy.
About Sex Rules in Mormon Marriage...
Oral sex is okay? Garments on or off for sex? Sex only for procreation?
Any number of questions. But there's a big difference why these
things are vague: the brethren don't want to talk about sex
at all (except to avoid it). They're from a generation where
no one ever talked about it, not even with their spouses. Oh,
they had sex, but they never talked about it. Most men of that
generation are unbelievably ignorant of the biology of sex,
particularly when it comes to women's bodies. Most of them did
it with the lights out and their eyes closed. Most of them didn't
see their children born, because the delivery room was no place
These are people who are deeply, deeply ashamed of their bodies,
so, naturally, they aren't going to get up in general conference,
or even priesthood session, and say, "OK, here are detailed
rules about what is and isn't acceptable in the marriage bed."
So you end up with sexual policy by rumor, by fifth-hand personal
opinion, by not talking about it. So some temple matron born
during the Hoover administration tells you one thing, a know-it-all
institute teacher tells you another and your bishop, after he
finishes blushing, tells you something completely different.
Who really knows? No one. They're all making it up because there
is no official policy. The brethren don't even want to think
about it. And when they do, it's from the perspective of geezers
for whom sex is a dim, dusty memory.
On What A Cemetery Tells Us About Mormon Women In Polygamy...
I was in the Manti cemetery this summer taking photos of relatives'
headstones. There were (and are) a lot of polygamists in Manti.
I'm descended from some of them.
There are several family plots where the husband/patriarch/priesthood
holder has a monument the size of a refrigerator. Arrayed around
him are simple headstones, about 18" square, for each wife.
The woman's first name is engraved along the top, upward-facing,
edge of the stone -- Mary Ann, Elizabeth, Margaret, Harriet...
On the face of each stone, in larger letters, it says "Wife
of (insert big man's full name here)." No other identification.
Clearly, the women were of lower status than their husbands.
They had no identity except as wives. It was almost like they
were property. But then, one of the main purposes of polygamy
was to establish the man's status in this life and the next.
The bigger your harem, the more righteous and blessed you supposedly
were, the bigger your legacy, the bigger your eternal reward.
In that context, women were a means to an end. They were a way
of keeping score.
Another variation on this has the names of the wives engraved
on the man's monument. At least in these instances the women's
full names were given. At least they were slightly more than
"Wife of _____________." But they were still simply an adjunct
to his identity.
This also goes to show the claim LDS women are placed on a pedestal
is total horseshit.
Dissonance is like the Invisible Fencing of the church. "Ooo,
questioning the church makes my head buzz, so I won't go there."
Never mind freedom and the truth are on the other side. Must
avoid the shock...must avoid the shock...must avoid the shock...
On Dumping a Belief System
When people dump a belief system and then, thinking they have
no moral or ethical obligations, go out and engage in destructive
behavior, it's a sign that they had never developed their
own set of values. It's a sign they had been living on borrowed
standards, that the fences of their religion have been the
only things keeping them in bounds.
Common sense should tell us that unless we want to risk our
families and marriages, we don't cheat. Even atheists know
that. We try not to hurt the people we love.
Judging from your brief tale, it seems like you never internalized
all the morals you were taught. You never made them your own.
Maybe you'll do better this time.
Book Of Mormon as Talisman
The BoM has become the magic answer for everything. The act
of reading it has become more important than what the book
might actually say. Read and you will be healed. Read and
your problems will disappear. Read and you will be happy.
Oh, and pray, pay tithing and obey the brethren. In fact,
just carry the BoM with you, or keep it on the nightstand
so that its mystical juju can radiate upon you and your family.
Belief in the premise of the BoM -- its magical origins, the
claimed validity of Joseph Smith's calling, the church's exclusive
franchise on truth, the authority of modern leaders who must
be obeyed -- is more important than believing the doctrines
presented in the book (which are subject to change). The prime
function of the BoM is as a symbol. Belief in the book equals
allegiance to the organization. "I believe the Book of Mormon"
really means "I believe in the church." And quite often, particularly
for those born in the church, it's, "I believe in the Book
of Mormon because I believe in the church."
No one ever talks about having a testimony of the truthfulness
of the Bible. That's assumed. Besides, belief in the Bible
doesn't separate the saints from the rest of christendom.
It's not a sufficient test of loyalty to the LDS church. And,
oddly enough, no one ever bears their testimony of the truthfulness
of the D&C or PoGP, even though they contain the bulk of the
doctrine that makes Mormonism unique. It's not that they don't
believe them to be true, rather, they just don't have the
same symbolic power, the magic, the BoM does.
Believe in the BoM, believe in its power, believe in the organization
it stands for. It's actual contents? Eh, not so important.
But the act of reading it because your leaders told you to,
that's important. It shows your willingness to obey, and obedience
is the first law of Mormonism, even more important than faith.
On Not Believing in Any One Particular God
"It doesn't particularly concern me that no one has proven
Allah doesn't exist. Or Zeus. Or Odin. Or any of the other
countless gods proposed by humanity over the ages."
"Nor do I give all that much thought to worrying that no one
has proved the nonexistence of unicorns, leprechauns, fairies,
or furry purple aliens, with or without green polka dots,
in the next galaxy over."
"So likewise, I'm not especially concerned with proving the
nonexistence of any specific gods. I'm atheist simply because
I don't believe in any gods, and that's simply because no
one has yet demonstrated any good reason to believe any kind
of god exists. I don't care that they don't exist, I only
care to know if any do exist."
This reminds me of a quote by Stephen F. Roberts:
I contend we are both atheists, I just believe
in one fewer god than you do. When you
understand why you dismiss all the other
possible gods, you will understand why I
-Stephen F Roberts
Be Part of the Tribe
Most Christianity says to come as you are, just come. But
Mormonism is always placing restrictions, building walls.
They want everyone to conform because they imagine sameness
is next to godliness. Think alike, act alike, talk alike,
dress alike. But since they can't tell what you really think
or believe, they stress outward appearances. If you're willing
to act and look like a dorky Mormon, then at least you're
obedient to the brethren, and that's 90% of the game.
In a recent conference talk, one of the brethren counseled
members in foreign lands to jettison whatever parts of their
culture and heritage prevent them from being active, program-following
Latter-day Saints. In other words, pound yourself into the
mold of Mormonism, whatever the cost. And the Mormon mold
is conservative, white, geriatric, uncurious, culturally disinterested,
anti-intellectual, suspicious, backward-looking, passive-aggressive,
willfully naive, paranoid and self-righteous. In short, the
Mormon mold is made from life castings of the brethren. Any
deviation from what the brethren would do is suspect. "I would
never wear my hair like that, so it must be unholy."
On How The Church Will End
The church will slowly erode as fewer and fewer members are
willing to put their shoulders to the wheel -- because its
costs outweight its benefits, because the world is changing
faster than the church is willing or able to adjust, and because,
at its heart, the whole empire is built on an illusion and
on promises the church can't really deliver.
As society moves faster than the church, people actually get
ahead of it, and looking back, they gain perspective and see
the church for what it really is -- and more importantly,
for what it isn't. The church isn't the answer to life's important
questions. The best it can do is to limit the questions you
ask and focus your attention on what they want you to see.
The church will erode because the leaders, in spite of their
belief, are spiritually empty and ineffectual. If it were
otherwise, they wouldn't need to brow beat the members about
following the prophet. The faithful would gladly follow if
the prophet was actually leading anywhere. But the core beliefs
of the church are like a leash on the leaders. There's only
so far they can go, so they end up leading the church around
and around in a circle while the rest of the parade moves
That's why we see subtle changes in doctrinal emphasis, as
well as the brethren's refusal to clarify the borders of Mormon
orthodoxy -- because they're trying to lengthen the leash,
or even pull up the spike it's attached to, without anyone
I imagine they know -- or at least sense -- the problem isn't
really that the forces of evil are winning in an ever more
corrupt world. Rather, they're losing out to better, more
relevant and responsive religious options. They're losing
in the marketplace of ideas, because the brethren attained
their leadership positions by being faithful guardians of
the status quo, not for being visionaries. So when the times
call for change, they're out of their element.
Why it's so hard to lead others out of the church
I read this from an article about the continuing growth of
"The main thing you've got to recognize is that success is
really about relationships and not about faith. People form
relationships and only then come to embrace a religion. It
doesn't come the other way around, it's something you can
only learn by going out and watching people convert to new
movements. We would never, ever, have figured that out in
the library. You can never find that sort of thing out after
the fact--because after the fact people do think it's about
faith. And they're not lying, they're just projecting backwards."
If social ties to the church are the main thing, then problems
with history or docrine can be dismissed. "I don't care what
evidence you give, the church it true!" Being in the church
(the social group) seems right; being out of it seems wrong.
I think that's true even when one's relationship with the
group is dysfunctional or abusive.
I know leaving the church was a relatively easy decision for
me because I never felt like I fit with the group -- or even
my own family. Many of who leave the church might have been
the same way. The ones who seem most tortured are those with
strong emotional and social ties to the church, not doctrinal
ties. And we've seen over and over how members can value the
group over their own children and spouses.
On How Mormon Apologetics Works
In one form or another, Mormon apologetics boils down to the
claim that critics have failed to absolutely, 100% prove Mormonism
is false. They try to wiggle out by saying there's always
the possibility (no matter how unlikely or impossible) that
X might be proved. For example, just because evidence of Jews
in the ancient New World hasn't been found yet, that doesn't
mean it doesn't exist somewhere; and even if we were to excavate
and sift every cubic millimeter of both continents and come
up with nothing, lack of evidence doesn't mean it didn't actually
Okay. Two can play that game. Defenders of the faith have
failed to absolutely, 100% prove Joseph Smith was not a fraud.
Until they do, I'm correct in thinking he was a lying sack
On Why Prophetic Edicts Don't Make Sense
Remember, it's not about making sense, it's about obedience.
The Word of Wisdom isn't really about better health. That's
a smokescreen. The Word of Wisdom was elevated from a bit
of non-binding advice to a commandment to act as a yardstick
for obedience and conformity. In fact, if a rule is supposed
to test obedience, then it's good if the rule doesn't make
total sense. Rational rules are easier to obey. Irrational
rules really test one's devotion and willingness to submit
to the leaders, submit to the group, surrender your individuality.
The same with tattoos, piercings and all that. Decorating
your body isn't really about defiling the temple of your soul,
it's about rejecting the group norm and defying the leaders.
It's about establishing independent self identity. Conform
I think magical beliefs persist because people crave them.
They want to believe there's something better than reality.
Penn & Teller once said that people don't really want to know
how the trick works, because then it's no longer entertaining.
So even though Penn & Teller occasionally reveal how a trick
is done, they throw in a new, unexpected trick in the process
to keep the entertainment value.
On Craving Magic and Religion
Of course, religion is based on magical thinking. There's
someone out there who can make impossible things happen for
us, like saving us from permanent death or from the natural
consequences of our actions. Someone who can give us something
for nothing. Someone who can alter the laws of time and space
just for us. Someone to make sure the bad guys are ultimately
punished and the good guys are rewarded. Someone who can pull
happiness out of a hat.
It's fun to think such things could actually happen, but it
really stinks when the magic we depended on doesn't actually
work. That's what drove me crazy in the church. I tried and
tried and tried and tried to get the magic to work, but...
Once I realized there was no magic I was able to find the
peace of mind and happiness magic was supposed to provide.
On thinking Different
I was mentally incompatible with the Mormon Church. I was
always the kind to think, "Yeah, but why? Why can't it be
another way? Why does everyone need to do the same thing the
same way? Why can't we make it different?" I ended up in a
profession that encourages that kind of thinking, and I left
the church because it can't tolerate that kind of thinking.
Church Leaders Want it both Ways
They want members to be honest, but they want gay members
to lie by pretending they're straight.
They believe homosexuality can be transmitted to straight
people and impressionable children, yet they encourage gay
people to marry straight people and have children. (But, of
course, you wouldn't want them marrying into your family.)
The church condemns pornography, yet it was willing to use
both gay and straight porn in "reparative therapy."
The church claims to have the ultimate, divine word on homosexuality,
but it acts like it doesn't have the first idea what to do.
In reality, they just want homosexuality to go away. Hell,
they don't even know what to do with single straight people
except shove them into marriage. That's the church's answer
to everything. Don't tailor the church to meet the members'
needs; reshape the members to fit the program.
What if it's true -- and what if something different is
Faith is for things we don't know or can't know. It's a substitute
for evidence and first-hand knowledge.
I might have faith there's gas in my car, but when the needle
points to empty and the car won't start, well, I need to adjust
Mormons are conditioned to think all evidence must be false
if it doesn't conform to the official story. If not false,
then there must be some magical explanation.
That reminds me of a bit of history. Once upon a time people
believed the earth was the immoveable center of the universe
and everything revolved around it. They believed it because
their religion said that's the way it was. But some curious
people watched how things worked, they followed the movements
of the stars and planets. They tried to reconcile the official
story with what they observed -- which was that with the exception
of the moon, nothing revolved around the earth.
In trying to make the observed facts fit the belief system,
some scientists concocted outlandish explanations that required,
among other things, for certain heavenly bodies to stop and
reverse direction, then stop and reverse direction again.
(Which is very much what FARMS and FAIR do).
Meanwhile, other scientists said, no, the explanation is very
simple once you stop trying to make the data fit your preconceptions.
They were excommunicated and discredited, but, of course,
they were right. Eventually the rest of humanity came around.
They adjusted their faith to fit the facts instead of the
other way around.
So when you study about the origins of the LDS church, keep
in mind everything you know about human nature and the way
the world works. The ask yourself, "What's the simplest explanation
for all this?" Or, to quote Thomas Paine, "Which is more likely;
that a miracle should happen or that a man should tell a lie?"
On Obedience as the First Law of Heaven or Failure
The way I see it, when an organization plays the obedience
card, it's a sign they're in trouble. It's like a parent who
tells a questioning child, "Just shut up and do what I say,
or else!" They've lost it.
When Jesus said, "Follow me," it was an invitation, not an
order or threat. People followed him because the message and
the promise was compelling. They followed because they wanted
what he was offering, not because they were afraid to do otherwise.
But the modern Mormon church has lost its allure, even among
many of the faithful. If the message and promise of Mormonism
was sufficiently compelling, then the brethren wouldn't need
to browbeat the members. They would attend meetings, fulfill
callings and give money joyfully. But they don't because the
tired, uninspired old farts running the show don't have the
first clue how to illuminate the gospel and spread life, beauty
and love. So they beat the drum of obedience. "Just shut up
and do what we say, or else."
Why Believing in Mormonism Isn't Such a Big Leap
We often comment here that Mormonism holds some outlandish
beliefs. But if you're already the religious type who believes
in a supernatural world, in invisible gods and visiting angels,
in devils, parting seas, miraculous rescues from lions and
furnaces, magical powers, or food from heaven, then what's
so odd about the stories Mormonism tells? We're quick to point
out the fallacies of the BoM, that there's no evidence for
any of it. Well, is there evidence for most of the things
in the Bible? No. But millions of people take it on faith.
They go with their feelings.
So we shouldn't be too stunned when faithful Mormons say they're
not bothered by a lack of proof, that they simply believe
it to be true. That's the way religion works -- belief in
unknown and unknowable things, even things that make no sense
at all or contradict the facts.
Don't take me wrong, though. I'm not defending religion. I'm
just saying the rules and the reality are different in all
religion. To one degree or another, it's all about believing
That's why I ditched Christianity along with Mormonism. My
initial problem with Mormonism was my skepticism regarding
the supernatural. I would probably have had the same problem
if I had been raised in a diffferent religion. I didn't fall
back on Christianity when I rejected Mormonism because Christianity
makes no more sense than Mormonism. It's all make believe
On Why Women Must Wear Bras Over Their Garments
Garments are supposed to be a constant reminder of the temple
covenants. Those covenants, if taken seriously and literally,
essentially make you property of the church. You agree to
give anything and everything the church might require, which,
in the case of garments, includes your dignity, privacy, comfort
It's really significant that this symbolic clothing is underwear
rather than some outward sign. It's very personal, very intimate.
It's right there next to your skin, even wedging it's way
into your nether regions. It's almost as personal as circumcision.
It's right there, all the time, whispering, "We own your ass...
We own your ass..." So wearing anything under the garment
says, "No you don't, not completely." The church doesn't like
On Belief and Disbelief
It's not about whether the church is true, it's about whether
you can believe it or not. You don't need to justify your
disbelief. Mormons need to justify their belief. I tell Mormons
now that I don't believe Mormonism any more than they believe
Hinduism. Belief isn't about proof. We believe because it's
all we can do when there is no proof.
So when asked you're no longer a Mormon, you can say something
"I don't believe in Mormonism. I don't believe God is one
of many gods. I don't believe God is an exalted human. I don't
believe Joseph Smith was a prophet. I've tried for years to
believe that, but I can't. If I don't believe that, then all
the rest is irrelevant. But I know I love my family and I
believe we can have a wonderful life together even though
I don't believe in the Mormon version of things."
On Having Past Repented Sins Come Back if You Sin Again
It's a good thing the financial world doesn't work this way.
Miss a payment and you start over owing the whole amount.
I think Mormonism doesn't really like repentence -- the real
kind of repentence -- where each sin is totally forgotten.
No, they like keeping your past sins handy on a shelf where
they can grab them when they need to beat you up a little.
They like having the threat of your old sins returning. It's
an ingenious little control mechanism.
On the Mormon Concept of Freedom
The church believes true freedom comes from willingly surrendering
your freedom to follow the one true path. That's much easier
to do if you have low self-esteem. "What do I know? I'm a
loser without someone helping me along. The prophet knows
best, so I'll do whatever he says." People with healthy self-esteem
are less likely to surrender, or to surrender so completely.
I know my fragile self-esteem took a tremendous beating in
the church. I was never good enough, even though I willingly
did everything that was expected. I was a golden boy, slated
for extra special exaltation, but I was severely fucked up.
I was always at war with myself, trying to crush my authentic
self so I could fit into the tiny church-approved role. Don't
be yourself, be this other thing. The more I tried, the sicker
Walking away from the church was the healthiest thing I ever
On the Limits of Obedience
I got thinking about the spiritual emptiness of LDS leadership.
As I’ve said before, they aren’t really spiritual guides leading
the faithful to transcendence and oneness with the divine.
They’re taskmasters whose answer to everything is to obey
So imagine if you had a coach who acted like a church leader.
He’d gather the team and say, “OK, here are the rules of the
game, now go win!”
A player raises his hand and asks, “What’s our game plan?”
“Our plan is to obey each and every rule of the game. Because
you can’t win if you don’t follow the rules. All the great
teams before us obeyed the rules, and we will walk in their
“Well, yes, that’s true, but do we have a strategy?”
“Our strategy is to obey each and every rule better than the
other teams do.”
Another player pipes up. “But last season we couldn’t generate
any offense and our defense was useless.”
“Yes, so we’ll just have to follow the rules even more diligently
this year. We’ll have to meet more often to review the rules.”
“Um, but, you know, a lot of things aren’t addressed by the
rules, like basic skills and what to do in any given situation.”
“The most important skills are the willingness and determination
to obey the rules, which is always the correct thing to do
in any situation.”
“Coach, please, I don’t mean to criticize the rules, but it
seems there’s much more to the game than that. When we play
we don’t break any rules, but we’re running around out there
like headless chickens. Meanwhile, the other teams are organized,
they know what they’re supposed to do, and they’re handing
us our asses.”
“Well, with language like that, it’s no wonder. Right now
I’m adding a rule against dirty talk.”
And so on.
The brethren have nothing to offer beyond the rules. In fact,
all that stuff out beyond the rules (if they ever look up
from the rule book long enough to notice) seems to scare them,
and they dismiss it as unnecessary for our salvation, as the
meat we’re not ready to taste. But is it really that we're
not ready to taste it, or that the leaders aren't ready to
Pray, pay, obey – that’s the way. Don’t stray from the straight
and narrow path, don’t let go of the iron rod, follow the
prophet. OK, but then what? A spiritual life is far more than
not committing any fouls.
On the Brethren Contradicting Themselves
My first impulse is that the brethren are just making it up
as they go along, reacting to the question or problem of the
moment rather than formulating cohesive doctrine and policy.
But with Monson's Fall 2004 statement to the Relief Society
that women should develop marketable skills, I've changed
my mind. I think they intentionally give contradicting counsel
so they can pull out of their asses whatever "official" statement
serves their purposes. I think they want to be able to argue
for either side of a question, depending on the circumstance.
For example, you can find statements from the brethren that
say you should have as many children as possible and others
that say the number of children you have is no one else's
business. You can find statements that you should rid yourself
of a disbelieving spouse and others that say you shouldn't.
And now, women in the church should forsake education and
careers in order to have children and run the home, or seek
education and marketable skills so they can be self sufficient
in case life doesn't go as planned.
Contradictory doctrine and policy not only serves the command
and control structure of the church, it can also serve the
members. The brethren are far more concerned about loyalty
to leadership and the institution than loyalty to any particular
doctrine. Members can pretty much pick and choose beliefs
as long as those beliefs keep them attached to the church
and willing to obey leadership. So if a member needs to believe
childbearing comes before education, they can find what they
need to support that decision. Or if they believe career comes
before marriage and kids, they can find justification for
that, too. Either way, they get to consider themselves good
Mormons and they don't have to feel alienated from the church.
On Making Uninformed Choices
Elder Oak's July 2005
Ensign article "Believe All Things" is another
discourse on blind obedience. What the brethren want is for
members to stop asking, "WHY?" They want the members to choose
to follow even if they have no idea where they're being led
or whether the leaders are qualified to direct them. That's
making uninformed choices. That's acting in ignorance.
to D&C 131:6 -- It is impossible for a man to be saved in
So it's every member's
sacred responsibility to ask questions, to know why they're
doing what they're doing. "Because the prophet said so," isn't
a good enough answer. And one should be especially curious
when the leaders say, as this Ensign article essentially does,
"Just shut up and do what you're told." Does that sound like
Jesus talking? Or does it sound more like something Lucifer
would say as he tries to lead people astray?
On Mormon Pornography Addiction Being a Symptom
The church doesn't want to admit porn addiction is a symptom
of something larger. The church can't admit that sexually
repressive cultures like Mormonism breed porn addiction. Mormonism
starts out by twisting, distorting and tainting everything
about sexuality and intimate relationships and then wonders
why people go off the deep end with porn.
The Mormon Church makes people feel dead, sex makes them feel
alive. So guess which is going to win?
On What to Tell
Mormon Loved Ones about You Joining Another Church
The simple explanation
might be that you weren't happy in the LDS church, that it
didn't work for you, but now you've found a church that meets
your spiritual needs. Never mind about the LDS church being
a pile of lies. As others have learned, it won't change their
minds -- because they're happy. Happy people don't change,
even if their happiness is based on a lie. But by emphasizing
that you weren't happy but now you are they might -- MIGHT
-- start to evaluate their own happiness.