Problem List my Bishop Requested
Essay first posted on this site 1 June 2022
When I first came out as no longer believing in Mormonism, I met with my bishop (Mormon leader of a local congregation) to let him know where I stood. He asked me to send him a list of the problems or concerns I had with the Church. It’s not exactly a book (like the CES Letter), but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t expecting such a plethora of issues either. Since that time, my beliefs regarding deity have changed quite a bit. The problems I listed with Mormonism have never been addressed in a rational way by believing Mormons, as far as I can tell, except perhaps by some who might have said something to the effect of “I don’t understand that either.” What follows is for the most part what I emailed him in 2010. Most of the web links were not included when I sent it to him and the comments in light blue shaded boxes like this one are new. In addition, I corrected punctuation, grammar, and spelling since the original was sent.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes bold and radical truth claims about its divine authority. These claims are bold and radical, even among other Christians because they contradict many fundamental tenets taught by other religions. Examples of this include the nature of God, origins of man (pre-mortal existence), and the potential of men to become gods. In addition, the LDS Church’s claims are bold and radical because the Church claims exclusive authority to perform saving ordinances and demands strict adherence to covenants made in baptism and in temple ordinances inescapably linked to the Church’s teachings on eternal life. With the stakes so high, and the claims so bold and requiring so much of the Church’s adherents, it behooves a cautious look at the evidence for and against the LDS Church’s claims.
In some places in this document I have asked questions. These questions are rhetorical.
List of problems I see with LDS Church’s claims to truth and divine authority
This is merely a list and it is only partial. To treat each of these issues at length would require more time than I have available. Books have been written on single items listed here. It is not that the individual issues “make” the Church false. Rather I think the overall patterns of deception and illogical or improbable claims reveal the Church is merely another organization of men. This wouldn’t be a problem if the Church made no claim of divine authority. If this were the case, members of the Church could select what helps them serve or what works to make their life better without the guilt associated with not doing it all. However, I think the general leaders of the Church often speak so dogmatically, literally, and legalistically about things they know little about that they tend to harm many of the weakest and most vulnerable. I do not see the hand of God in this. I see men, however well intentioned, often hurting “the least of these” because there is little to no accountability for their actions and words. After all, “When the prophet speaks the debate is over” (N. Eldon Tanner, “The Debate Is Over”, Ensign, Aug 1979, 2).
Book of Abraham
- The text of the Book of Abraham is unrelated to the papyri from which it was translated. The evidence is quite clear here. If you doubt this, I’d be happy to discuss it, but you can easily do your own research on this.
- Mosiah 8:1 says that a seer, “can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date”. It’s pretty clear that the believers in the Book of Mormon would have given such ancient records to a seer for interpretation (see Omni 1:20 and Mosiah 28:11-16 for examples). However, after the papyri were rediscovered in 1967 and then given to the Church, the Church asked Hugh Nibley and some Egyptologists to interpret it. Why? The Church still has Joseph’s seer stone. Members of the Church sustain the President of the Church and the other 14 apostles as seers. (See D&C 107:91-92 for further confirmation of this point.)
- Egyptologists agree that Joseph’s interpretations of the symbols from the three facsimiles have nothing to do with actual translations of these symbols, but I find the following interpretation particularly sadly ironic and demonstrative of Joseph’s inability to translate ancient text. Joseph interpreted Figure 7 of facsimile 2 as God the Father. According to Egyptologists, Figure 7 of facsimile 2 represents the ithyphallic god, Min. (See an apologist’s admission of this in item (7) on pages 15 and 16. Please observe the figure in question and look up the definition of the word ithyphallic.
- The papyri are not from the time period of Abraham, yet the Book of Abraham is described as “The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.”
- Some apologists have resorted to the idea that maybe the papyri did not contain the text of the Book of Abraham, but Joseph just needed the papyri to promote faith or confidence in his translation ability. He had already translated the Book of Mormon, received many revelations, spoke with angels, and conversed with God face-to-face. It does not seem reasonable that he needed a prop to promote faith or confidence. If there was anything Joseph had in abundance, it was confidence. In my opinion, all the apologists accomplish with this attempted defense is to strengthen the idea that the Book of Abraham had nothing to do with the papyri from which it was “translated.”
- A recent apologetic approach seems to dismiss the Book of Abraham as inconsequential, “The Book of Abraham is not central to the restored gospel of Christ”. (See quote from John Gee in “The Book of Abraham: The larger issue” by R. Scott Lloyd, August 11, 2009). This apologetic attempt is a red herring. Whether the Book of Abraham is central to the restored gospel or not is irrelevant. It is one of the “fruits” of Joseph Smith who is absolutely central to the restored gospel. The Book of Abraham is taught to be revelation from God through his prophet and is canonized scripture. If the Book of Abraham is not true, no truth claim based on revelation from Joseph Smith can be trusted. This attempted defense accomplishes little except to point out that even the apologists find it hard to defend the Book of Abraham as the word of God.
Blacks and the priesthood
- Some blacks received the priesthood during the days of Joseph. The most famous of these was Elijah Abel.
- It wasn’t until Brigham Young that the priesthood ban on blacks was created.
- The ban was not the result of any revelation.
- Finally, in 1978, the ban was lifted after much internal and external pressure, not the least of which was the dedication of the first temple in Brazil where most persons have some black ancestry.
- As taught by the Church, priesthood is fundamentally important to individual and family progression and blessings. I think this should already be clear, but if not, consider my wife’s distress over her husband not believing in the authority of or need for the priesthood. If I’m wrong on this point, I would appreciate leadership explaining this to my wife so she doesn’t need to suffer unnecessarily.
- God’s mouthpieces, his prophets, seers, and revelators stood uncorrected on this issue for about 131 years. Think of the black members denied the priesthood as a result of this, in the context of the importance of the priesthood as taught by the Church. Think of the blacks that did not join, do not join, and will not join the Church because of this blatant racism.
- There appears to be no apology from the Church or its leaders for this mistake—not even with the revelation of 1978 lifting the ban. More than 13 decades of dogmatic preaching about the curse of Cain and the lack of pre-mortal valor of blacks is left to stand. If a person got up in sacrament meeting and taught that blacks (at least in generations past) had been less valiant in the pre-mortal existence, a bishop could not refute the doctrine based on any official teaching or apology from the Church. I believe and hope the entire congregation would go along with the bishop putting an end to this, but the bishop could not do this on a doctrinal basis as taught by the Church.
I wrote this list of problems in 2010. In 2013 or 2014 the Church published its essay, “Race and the Priesthood.” In it they say, “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.” What their essay fails to tell you is that these so-called theories were taught from the pulpit by LDS prophets and apostles as the word of God. There is even an official letters from the first presidency of the Church declaring that those of African descent were cursed and had been less valiant in the pre-mortal existence.
- In the Church’s defense, this racism was common when Brigham Young created the ban. Many (most?) churches made the same type of mistake during that time period. (Other churches allowed blacks to have their version of priesthood, but did not let them preach in “white” congregations for example.) I do not condemn Brigham for this. But what then is the point of having a prophet who claims a unique connection or relationship to God? Understanding the importance of the priesthood and its associated blessings, why didn’t God let Brigham know he had made a mistake? Why did it take God 131 years to get his prophets to correct the mistake? Why were some contemporaries of Brigham (who claimed no prophetic or revelatory ability) so enlightened or inspired in this regard? A few examples of the enlightened are Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Beacher Stowe, Mark Twain, and my own ancestor who fought in the Civil War for he called “the cause of liberty.”
- If this is not the prophets of the Church leading the people astray, I cannot fathom what would be.
Book of Mormon – Anachronisms
- Cattle and cows
- Glass (God’s window shattering reference concerning the Jaredite ships)
- Chariots (wheels)
- Seven-day calendar
- A common apologetic approach to some of these anachronisms is to reason that the words that seem like anachronisms really refer to something other than the actual meanings of the words. This negates the Book of Mormon’s claim that the Lord works after the manner of plainness (2 Ne. 31:3). Also, given the method of translation (by the power of God through a seer stone; see my annotations to the Book of Mormon Title Page) why would God provide words to Joseph that did not refer to the actual things referred to in the golden plates? Some have said that for some of these apparent anachronisms there was no good translation. For example, maybe “horse” is a reference to an animal that Joseph didn’t know, like a tapir. The problem with this is that in the Book of Ether we have a great example of animals presumably unknown in Joseph’s or our time that are given names in the translation. These are the cureloms and cumoms found in Ether 9:19. If God would give Joseph words in the translation for animals that Joseph didn’t know (cureloms and cumoms), why did God not do this accurately for other animals Joseph didn’t know?
- Not anachronisms per se, but it is interesting to note the lack of mention of animals and plants that were in the Americas and common at the time—Alpacas, Llamas, beans, squash.
Book of Mormon – Scientific Problems
(ignoring certain miracles for which one would not expect evidence to be found)
- No Book of Mormon archeology
- No linguistic evidence, oral or written
- Jaredites – logistical problems of 344 days on barges: supplies, animals, waste from people and animals, food, water for all, and only one hole for ventilation (two holes, but only one could be used at a time because one would be under the water.
- DNA evidence
- Size of populations would have required astronomical population growth for extended periods of time unparalleled in the world to that point
Other Book of Mormon Problems
- Changes – some very substantive (i.e., Nature of God)
- The Church teaches that the book contains the fullness of the gospel, yet has very little by way of unique Mormon doctrine.
- Dark skin a curse.
Other Book of Mormon references to this are very clear, but this may be the clearest because it is comparing the marks the Amlicites literally placed on the skin of their bodies to the mark God had put on the skin of the Lamanites. To me, an interpretation of the dark skin curse as something only spiritual indicates dishonesty or incompetence. Again, I refer to the Book of Mormon claim that the Lord works after the manner of plainness.
- And the Amlicites were distinguished from the Nephites, for they had marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites; nevertheless they had not shorn their heads like unto the Lamanites.
- Now the heads of the Lamanites were shorn; and they were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins, and also their armor, which was girded about them, and their bows, and their arrows, and their stones, and their slings, and so forth.
- And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.
(Alma 3:4-6, emphasis added)
- Some of the biblical passages found in the Book of Mormon share errors with the King James Translation of the Bible (KJT) that were corrected in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (see also my If I Could Ask … Lesson 38 about some of Jesus’ Bible quotes). Why did God have Joseph put biblical translation or transcription errors created by men into the Book of Mormon translation? Some argue that Joseph copied from the KJT at times when he saw the text was essentially the same. If he already knew the translation of the plates was essentially the same as a Bible excerpt, he had already translated the items in question. Since the translation method consisted of Joseph receiving images of the English interpretation directly from God, there would be no time advantage in then going to the Bible and copying the excerpts in question. (See, Russell M. Nelson, “A Treasured Testament”, Ensign, Jul 1993, 61, for an explanation of the translation methodology.) The idea of selectively copying from the KJT is unreasonable in this context.
- Since Joseph didn’t use the plates to translate the Book of Mormon, what was the point of having the plates? Same with the original Urim and Thummim attached to a breastplate. These spectacles were taken by the angel Moroni and not used for any of the translation of the book that we currently have. (As I understand it, Joseph used them for the 116-page lost manuscript but not for the Book of Mormon as published in modern days.) Joseph’s seer stone or peep stone was used for the translation. Some indicate that Joseph may have needed the original Urim and Thummim and the peep stone to promote his faith or give him the confidence to translate. Let me put this into context:
- God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ visit Joseph
- Joseph receives angelic visits and instruction from Moroni
- He sees in vision the location of the plates “so clearly and distinctly that [he] knew the place again when [he] visited it” (JS-H 1: 42).
- And I’m to believe that he needed more confidence or a faith promoter to do the translation.
- Yet I’m supposed to rely on feelings to believe these teachings of the Church (see my If I Could Ask … Lesson 28 about Alma 32 and If I Could Ask … Lesson 49 about the Book of Mormon promise) in spite of the overwhelming evidence against these teachings without the aid of a tangible faith promoter. This god of the apologists seems to me to be a respecter of persons.
Joseph’s Pattern of Deceit and Fraud
- Used peep stone (same one used to “translate” the Book of Mormon) to seek buried treasure for pay at least until 1926. He admitted in court that he never saw any treasure through the stone. That’s what he told Emma’s dad too.
- Polygamy – Lied to Emma continually about this; lied to general membership about this; allowed the following published in the 1835 D&C as section 101 and in the 1844 D&C as section 109, “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband.” (This declaration was removed from the D&C in 1876. This is the same year the revelation on polygamy, D&C 132, is published in the D&C. The heading to section 132 states, “it is evident from historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831.”)
- Kirtland bank
- Kinderhook plates
- Greek Psalter
- All the lies from Joseph and other Prophets and Apostles into the early 1900s.
- Joseph’s polyandry—it contradicts D&C 132. Even if it didn’t contradict scripture brought forth by Joseph, it would still be wrong and illegal.
- Continues with blessing of the Prophet after the 1890 manifesto (until about 1904 or so).
- In spite of all the teachings of prophets and apostles that the practice of polygamy would never stop, the practice of polygamy finally stopped in the early 1900s.
- Polygamy was always illegal; consummation of the plural marriages constituted adultery, which was also illegal; even in Canada and Mexico, where it was sometimes performed to avoid U.S. laws, it was illegal.
- President Hinckley said “it’s not doctrinal” to Larry King on national television; he knew better; the doctrine has never been repealed and the practice actually continues with widowers who are sealed to an additional wife without being un-sealed from their deceased wife.
- If a living prophet asked or demanded to marry one of my girls when she was 14, I think even my sweet, believing, faithful wife would leave the Church.
- Ordinances change throughout history of the Mormon temple; one might argue that the essential parts of the ordinances have not changed; can anyone answer the question, “what parts of the temple ordinances are essential?” I’m not asking for speculation; I’d like to see an authoritative statement about what is essential in the ordinance.
- Oath of vengeance.
- Two words—loud laughter! Some of the best, most precious moments of my life have involved loud laughter with those I love.
- Temple ceremony similarities to Freemason ceremony; Masonic Temple ceremonies began in Middle Ages; temple ordinances have nothing to do with ancient Church practices.
- Practice of withholding temple blessings from couples who get married civilly first, is policy, not doctrine, and is harmful to part-member families and to families where some members are judged “unworthy.”
- My experience is that most members find the temple washings and anointings and the endowment strange and unsettling their first time through; the Church teaches that these are among the most holy of ordinances performed, in the most holy places on earth, presumably by and for those who are screened to be the most worthy people on earth; why does the Spirit not prevail and provide a calm and spiritual experience for most? (I personally did not find the temple unsettling the first time through. I don’t remember it being greatly spiritual, but at least I wasn’t disturbed by it. Then again, as a new member, I was accustomed to a lot of things in the Church being “weird,” so the temple was just part of the same to me.)
- Official 1838 account does not jibe with history
- Timing of revivals.
- No record of persecution or trouble for claiming to see God and Jesus (there were newspaper articles critical of Joseph’s claims to have gold plates though).
- In fact, the first vision was basically unknown to even the Church until 1842 when the official version was published.
- Joseph’s 1832 account indicates that he knew before praying that all the existing Churches were wrong, but the official version indicates that this thought had never occurred to him before.
- Why did many of the Smith family join the Presbyterian Church after the first vision if they believed the vision was of God?
- Why did Joseph join with the Methodists for a time? After all, an angel told him that the professors of their faith “were all corrupt” and “He again forbade me to join with any of them” (JS-H 1: 19-20).
- Men on the moon (and the sun too if I remember correctly).
- Blood atonement.
- Adam was God; this was not a theory as it is often called; it was repeatedly taught by Brigham as doctrine.
- “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110.)
- Why the change on the origins of homosexuality?
- Why would God let His Church teach homosexuals to get married to those of the opposite sex?
- Aversion therapy (including electrical shock therapy)
- The Church teaches that same gender marriages threaten the institution of marriage. How?
Church Teachings in conflict with science where one would expect enormous amounts of scientific evidence
- Flood of Noah covered the whole earth. For evidence that this is the literal stand taken by the Church see, Donald W. Parry, “The Flood and the Tower of Babel”, Ensign, Jan 1998, 35. Also the GUIDE TO THE SCRIPTURES, Flood At Noah’s Time, clearly explains this. Or you could rely on the words of modern prophets, such as President Hinckley who said, ‘There was the great Flood, when waters covered the earth and when, as Peter says, only “eight souls were saved”’ (Gordon B. Hinckley, “If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear”, Ensign, Nov 2005, 60). This one story, the worldwide flood, is so problematic that I’ve only listed a few of the items that clearly demonstrate it is not a literal historical event.
- Not enough water to do this.
- No geological evidence for it.
- Many (or most) marine animals and plants would have been killed by the dilution of the seas.
- Many diseases can’t survive in hosts other than humans. Many others can only survive in humans and in short-lived arthropod vectors (think “bugs”). The list includes (but is certainly not limited to) typhus, measles, smallpox, polio, gonorrhea, syphilis. For these diseases to have survived the Flood they must all have infected one or more of the eight people aboard the Ark during the flood and subsequent flood recovery (the recovery would have taken decades if not centuries to establish a human population sufficient to maintain these pathogens. Some of these disease germs would have been killed by their host’s immune system and effectively died off at that point, having no other host to infect.
- Logistically impossible to fit all the animals in one ship. Add to this the problem of storing food, water, and other provisions on a single ship. Even if you could do this, it would be logistically impossible for such a small crew to maintain such a large floating zoo. (Think of what it takes to run a zoo in terms of human and other resources, and I don’t think any zoo on earth claims to have all species.)
- Confounding of languages at the Tower of Babel. Linguistics indicate that languages go back much further than a few thousand years. Languages don’t evolve as fast as this would have required.
- Sun gets its light from Kolob.
- No death before the fall of Adam.
- “I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam... Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet” (History of The Church, 6:408).
- He ran for President of the United States. It reminds me how out of touch with reality I thought Senator Hatch was for running for President. One could argue that Joseph didn’t expect to become President, that he only attempted this to somehow alleviate the suffering of the saints or in some other way promote the cause of the Church. He accomplished little but to make the Mormon movement seem even more foolish to the masses.
- The Church instructed that women were not to be invited to offer prayers in sacrament meetings from 1967 to 1978 (“News of the Church,” Ensign, Aug 1975, 94–95 and Marvin K. Gardner, “Report of the Seminar for Regional Representatives,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 100–101).
- Equal Rights Amendment.
- I believe the patriarchal leadership structure of the Church, with the inherent weakness of men, sometimes leaves women without power to correct wrongs done to them or their children.
- Polygamy—it is difficult to maintain a social, spiritual, or romantic intimacy with one spouse. Consider this difficulty multiplied by the number of plural wives many men had.
Focus on the superficial
with all the critical challenges and issues we face, I find it hard to believe that God is really concerned about some things that seem so superficial. Here are some examples that I think are pharisaical.
- No earrings for men and only one per ear lobe for women.
- No tattoos
- White shirts for priesthood holders
- No flip flops at church meetings
Follow the prophet
We have the privilege to seek confirmation on the prophet’s teachings. How is it we can rely on our own ability to determine the truth regarding what prophets teach us, when the prophets get it wrong? If you don’t believe they get it wrong, then you don’t subscribe to the often-used defense that “they are not perfect”.
Legalistic, dogmatic, and conformist approach by general leaders of the Church leads to unnecessary guilt and anxiety of its members. In my opinion, likely associated problems include, drug abuse, addictions of all sorts, high depression rates, high anti-depressant use, high suicide rates.
Characteristics of a destructive, manipulative group
Similarities between the LDS Church and destructive mind-control organization. (Characteristics of destructive mind-control groups as outlined by Steven Hassan in his BITE model)
Steven Hassan developed what he calls the BITE (Behavior, Information, Thoughts, and Emotions) model to describe how destructive cults use mind control to manipulate their members (Read about Hassan’s BITE model at http://www.freedomofmind.com/resourcecenter/books/rtb2.htm).
Even as a believing member, I would have seen some of the similarities. As a non-believer, I probably see more similarities. The similarities are even more striking when considering the LDS missionary experience of young single adults.
Also, Hassan lists other characteristics in his books not listed in the BITE model like this description of religious cults. “What ties these groups together is their focus on religious dogma or spiritual practices. In many Bible-oriented groups (Jewish, Christian, Muslim), leaders claim to be a Messiah, Prophet, or Apostle” (emphasis added). Sound familiar? In other words, the BITE model is not the end of similarities between the LDS Church and destructive cults.
I do not think the LDS Church is a destructive cult as defined by Hassan. However, on a spectrum of destructive v. non-destructive organizations, I do think the Church falls closer to the destructive end than is good for its members.
The following is from Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves by Steven Hassan. .
The Evolution of the BITE model
There are three components to Festinger’s theory—control of behavior, control of thoughts, and control of emotions. Each component can be affected by the other two. It is by manipulating these three elements that cults gain control over a person’s identity. Through my experience working with former cult members, I have identified a fourth component that is equally important -- control of information. When you control the information that a person is allowed to receive, you limit his capacity for independent thought. These four factors, which can be more easily remembered as BITE (Behavior, Information, Thoughts, and Emotions), will serve as the foundation for your understanding of mind control.
It seems that Steven Hassan’s BITE model has grown some since I gave this to my bishop, so the outline below doesn’t reflect perfectly on the BITE model page I’ve linked to. The point remains though. I mean, think about it. How well do the characteristics in the model (past or present) line up with what you would consider a healthy organization?
- Behavior Control
- Regulation of individual’s physical reality
- Where, how and with whom the member lives and associates with
- What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears
- What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects
- How much sleep the person is able to have
- Financial dependence
I would now say the Mormon Church creates financial dependence for many of its followers. Some of the ways the Church promotes financial dependence are pressure to marry before being financially prepared, indoctrination to have many children, insistence to pay 10% of income as tithing as well as other offerings, guilting women for working outside the home, huge demands on time making it more difficult to earn extra income, teaching that most should not work on Sunday making it harder to get extra hours and limiting job opportunities, offering some financial assistance with strings attached.
- Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations
- Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals
- Need to ask permission for major decisions
- Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors
- Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques - positive and negative).
- Individualism discouraged; group think prevails
- Rigid rules and regulations
- Need for obedience and dependency
- Information Control
- Use of deception
- Deliberately holding back information
- Distorting information to make it acceptable
- Outright lying
- Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
- Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio
- Critical information
Stating, “The idea of a bishop’s prohibition on sharing church/gospel concerns with others” was a direct dig at the bishop who asked for this list. In our original meeting to discuss my realization that the Church isn’t what it claims, he told me he “prohibited” me from doing this. God, I wish I had that one to play over again. I basically said, “okay,” because I was so worried about my wife. Now, I might give a deep, but soft, chuckle, and say something like, “Somebody certainly thinks he’s the shit. Doesn’t he?”
- Former members
- Keep members so busy they don’t have time to think
- Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
- Information is not freely accessible
- Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid
- Leadership decides who “needs to know” what
- Spying on other members is encouraged
- Pairing up with “buddy” system to monitor and control
- Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership
- Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
- Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.
- Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources
- Unethical use of confession
- Information about “sins” used to abolish identity boundaries
- Past “sins” used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution
- Thought Control
- Need to internalize the group’s doctrine as “Truth”
- Map = Reality
- Black and White thinking
- Good vs. evil
- Us vs. them (inside vs. outside)
- Adopt “loaded” language (characterized by “thought-terminating clichés”). Words are the tools we use to think with. These “special” words constrict rather than expand understanding. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous “buzz words.”
- Only “good” and “proper” thoughts are encouraged.
- Thought-stopping techniques (to shut down “reality testing” by stopping “negative” thoughts and allowing only “good” thoughts); rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism.
- Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
- Speaking in “tongues”
- Singing or humming
- No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate
I don’t know why I didn’t include reference to Dallin H. Oaks’ “It’s wrong to criticize leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true.”
- No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful
- Emotional Control
- Manipulate and narrow the range of a person’s feelings.
- Make the person feel like if there are ever any problems it is always their fault, never the leader’s or the group’s.
- Excessive use of guilt
- Identity guilt
- Who you are (not living up to your potential)
- Your family
I wasn’t raised in the Church, so maybe that’s why I didn’t see this at the time. I’ve read enough from former Mormons now to realize that many did feel guilt associated with their family because of the Church’s claims about those who do not believe or do not practice Mormonism “appropriately.”
- Your past
- Your affiliations
- Your thoughts, feelings, actions
- Social guilt
- Historical guilt
- Excessive use of fear
- Fear of thinking independently
I had been a former believer for nearly two years at this point. Still, I didn’t see that the Church encouraged fear of thinking independently. That I didn’t see this at that point is just crazy to me now. This is exactly why I actually shook, after being a former Mormon for a year, when I finally decided to read the language from temple ordinances to study the changes made to the ordinances. Just crazy.
- Fear of the “outside” world
- Fear of enemies
Here’s another one where it seems crazy to me that I didn’t see this as applicable to the Mormon Church. “The world” is the enemy, and that’s pretty much anybody except believers and those coddling believers. I can remember feeling some fear of the idea of living in an area outside of the Mormon belt because most people would be “worldly.” I get that not all Mormons feel that way, but if someone does not see the Church’s encouragement of this kind of fear, I think they’re blind to it or being dishonest about it.
- Fear of losing one’s “salvation”
- Fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group
- Fear of disapproval
- Extremes of emotional highs and lows.
- Ritual and often public confession of “sins.”
Well, not public, but certainly ritual. There is a pattern specified for what one must do to confess “sins” to specified Church authorities.
- Phobia indoctrination: programming of irrational fears of ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader’s authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.
- No happiness or fulfillment “outside” of the group
- Terrible consequences will take place if you leave: “hell;” “demon possession;” “incurable diseases;” “accidents;” “suicide;” “insanity;” “10,000 reincarnations;” etc.
- Shunning of leave takers. Fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family.
- Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the group’s perspective, people who leave are: “weak;” “undisciplined;” “unspiritual;” “worldly;” “brainwashed by family, counselors;” seduced by money, sex, rock and roll.
It is important to understand that destructive mind control can be determined when the overall effect of these four components promotes dependency and obedience to some leader or cause. It is not necessary for every single item on the list to be present. Mind-controlled cult members can live in their own apartments, have nine-to-five jobs, be married with children, and still be unable to think for themselves and act independently.
Evidence for the Church
The influence of the Spirit resulting in the testimonies of millions of individuals, including special witnesses, the apostles and prophets.
- After concluding the Church is not what it claims to be, I have studied, prayed, and fasted to know if I was on the right track regarding the Church. I feel that my conclusion is accurate and that I am morally obligated to take the stand I’ve taken relative to the Church. I am at peace with this conclusion, and it affords me no prospect for selfish gain. The feelings I have regarding my conclusion are the same type of feelings I formerly ascribed to the Spirit.
- Many people throughout the world pray to know if their Church is true. They too declare they know their Church is true. In other words, the only meaning I can ascribe to these declarations or testimonies is that the individuals really believe what they believe. It means nothing as to the veracity of the truth claim.
- “A common technique among religious cults is to instruct people to ask God what He wants them to do. Members are exhorted to study and pray in order to know God’s will for them” (Combatting Cult Mind Control, p. 70, Steven Hassan). As I stated before, I do not think the LDS Church is a destructive mind-control cult as defined by Hassan, but this shows that the results of prayer are anything but reliable in determining the will of God.
Assuming the Book of Mormon is true, the Church must be true.
- Many Churches believe or believed in the Book of Mormon. According to the LDS Church, this does not make these other religions true.
Witnesses to the Book of Mormon (Three or Eight)
- None of the witnesses saw the actual gold plates. They saw them in what they called second sight or their spiritual eyes.
- Joseph later claimed that some of the witnesses to the golden plates were not trustworthy for various reasons. I agree.
- After Joseph Smith was murdered, James Strang was among those who claimed to be the next prophet. Many former leaders of the LDS Church and members of Joseph’s family followed Strang. Strang even claimed to receive metal plates from which he translated the Book of the Law of the Lord. He too had eleven special witnesses of his plates. Most Mormons would now agree that Strang was a fraud. That being the case, such witnesses to metal plates are of no value in determining the truth claim about a book professed to come from said plates.
Joseph, a man with little formal education, could not have created the Book of Mormon. The book is too complex and millions of people have read it and accept it as the word of God.
- By this same logic, we should accept the Qur’an as the word of God. It was brought forth by Muhammad, an uneducated man, and upwards of a billion individuals now accept the Qur’an as the word of God. Muslims testify to its veracity in very deed. The LDS Church does not accept any of this as proof of the Qur’an’s veracity.
The Book of Mormon uses Semitic structures like chiasmus.
- If this is proof of authentic Semitic scriptural origin, then maybe Dr. Seuss should be considered a prophet for his use of chiasmus (I don’t mean to be flippant but wish to point out the absurd weakness of this argument). More seriously, James Strang (mentioned earlier) claimed to be a prophet after Joseph Smith’s death and translated the Book of the Law of the Lord. Strang’s book incorporates chiasmus too.
Elder Holland’s impassioned testimony of the Book of Mormon in his talk “Safety for the Soul”, October 2009 General Conference
By their fruits ye shall know them.
- The prophets have provided much doctrine and counsel that has helped many lead more full and meaningful lives. Many of the Church’s teachings such as the current interpretation of the Word of Wisdom, Family values, importance of education, the need for service, etc. have helped many lead joyful lives. The service and charitable offerings of the Church to both its members and others have brought relief to countless individuals who would have suffered more without the Church’s help. As a venue of providing service, the Church has encouraged and helped many grow spiritually, myself included. Generally speaking I think Mormons are accurately seen as a kind, wholesome, trustworthy, service-oriented people. These and other positive aspects of the Church are a wonderful example to the world. They represent the strength of LDS faith in Christ and the determination of the LDS people. I thank God for these beautiful aspects of the Church. I think these aspects of the Church are true. I think these aspects of the Church are part of what this world needs to thrive and have joy. But I don’t think this makes the LDS Church any more true than Methodism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, or a number of other religions. I think the Church is true in as much as it promotes the welfare of others. I will embrace the positive I’ve found in Mormonism as I continue this wonderful journey through life. I hope all who learn of the Church can be encouraged unto righteousness by the Church’s many good examples.
- Acts of service do not make the Church God’s or indicate that it is divinely appointed or authorized. Take for example the following description of some of the service-oriented activities of one church: “In February 1960, the [Church] opened a soup kitchen for the poor, and expanded their social services to include rent assistance, job placement services and free canned goods, clothing and coal for winter heating.” The church in this case was the Peoples Temple (Wikipedia article “Peoples Temple”; Wikipedia isn’t the most reliable source, but then this is common knowledge, and I was borrowing the wording, not the ideas). You may remember that it was the cult led by Jim Jones that ultimately led to the murder/suicide of more than 900 people, including 270 children and Congressman Leo Ryan. This is a horrific and extreme example, but I think the horror and extreme destruction demonstrate quite clearly that a group is not necessarily inspired or authorized by God just because it does or promotes good works.
- I think there are a lot of negative fruits of the LDS Church.
- See the list of incongruities, inconsistencies, dishonesties I listed above for some additional points I failed to list below.
- Blatant racism and the failure to apologize or correct false racist teachings of the past.
- Treatment of homosexuals
- Use of guilt and shame to attempt to control behavior
- Leadership one-on-one interviews of minors, especially interviews in which sexuality is discussed. Among other problems, I believe this results in an abundance of confusion, shame, dishonesty (by said minors hiding their “problems” or real problems), dissemination of incorrect information (ecclesiastical leaders of the Church do not receive sufficient training), encouraged perversions of a very small minority of leaders (I emphasize that this is likely a very small minority, but even one such situation is too much).
- The demand on time of individuals is not healthy for many of these individuals.
- That disbelief in the Church or its claimed authority is such a problem. That families are ripped apart simply because a family member does not believe.
- That people are encouraged to get married and have kids so early regardless of their educational, financial, or emotional preparedness for marriage and kids.
- Utah suicide rates.
- Utah Prozac use.
- The many characteristics the Church shares with destructive mind-control cults.
The magnitude of evidence against the Church is staggering. The evidence for the Church boils down to a desire to believe and feeble attempts to explain glaring contradictions between Church teachings and observations of the world. Sure, the Church has a lot of good in it. So do a lot of other organizations, including other churches.