Episode 89b: The 14 Fundamentals of Following a Prophet for Dummies Part 2

105 comments on “Episode 89b: The 14 Fundamentals of Following a Prophet for Dummies Part 2”

  1. Rich Rasmussen Reply

    Glenn, you’re quickly becoming one of my favorite panelists. I enjoy your views and I think you listen well and interject when appropriate. I may have to remove my “Team Zilpha” shirt and squeeze into your medium sized cotton tee.

  2. Swearing Elder Reply

    I don’t mean to pile on Mike any more than is necessary, but is there any other Mormon more devoted to Abraham than Mike? I’ve never heard any Mormon talk about that guy as much as Mike. He finds a way to get Abraham or the Abrahamic Covenant into practically every podcast.

    Mike – Not trying to pick on you. I’m genuinely curious: Why the Abrahamic Fascination?

    • Mike Tannehill Reply

      Abraham is the gospel. We refer to it as the Abrahamic covenant out of tradition, but it is really the same covenant that Adam and Eve made. (See D&C 107:53-57) It binds and ties us all together, it is the oath and covenant of our Father to his children, and when we grasp it we begin to see the gospel in its fullness.

        • Mike Tannehill Reply

          Abraham made covennats in the name of Christ, and we are expected to do the same.

          • Fred

            Mike wrote, “Abraham made covennats in the name of Christ”

            Really? Where?

            Please show us that in the Bible Mike.

      • glowstickgorilla Reply

        I’ll see you saved Mike Tannehill! If it requires me thrusting a javelin through your heart so be it!

      • Fred Reply

        Mike you wrote: “Abraham is the gospel”

        I see.

        And all those words in the Bible about the Christ being the gospel . . . ?

  3. Hallra7 Reply

    I hate when they say we have no official stance on evolution, and the next week I have teach out of their manual that Adam was the first man and there was no death before the fall. To me that is the official stance of the church and that is totally contradictory to evolution even if they don’t come out and say it.

  4. Kessee Reply

    2. “The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works…”

    In my opinion Joseph Smith’s letter to Nancy Rigdon set the stage for the theological relativity the church is bound by, hence there is no solid foundation. You can make up anything you want, set any agenda you want, disregard scripture all you want, and you as a believing member don’t even get the common courtesy of “Thus sayeth the Lord”… the double bind is complete.

    Theological Relativity in the hands of a group of authoritarians.

    • Kessee Reply

      3. “The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.”

      Mental pretzel logic at it’s finest. “The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet….*takes breath and basically in same sentence*…Brigham Young (dead prophet) taught…”

      Huh!? Wha?! It’s now a pick and choose buffet of theology, pick and chosen by the leadership, to steer the membership along the maze of theology without thinking for themselves.

    • Sionpiensa Reply

      True story:
      a professional Basketball player in Europe was a mormon and was invited to our institute class to talk about his life as a professional athlete and being LDS
      He faced the question of the mission and playing the game on sundays, the usual day for sport in Europe. He was prepared and showed us (I saw it with my temporal eyes) a letter signed by Thomas S Monson excusing him from full time mission and telling him that his example as an athlete was his way to serve
      so Yes, for an apostle too (becuase Monson was just a counsellor then) what he says is beyond current doctrine. This makes me think how much power Packer could have felt saying what he said, one day they will institutionalize an ordinance to forgive all sins in exchange of $$$ or other resources…wait, is already there, the second anointing!!!!!!!!!

  5. Chino_Blanco Reply

    By all means, please keep Mike. Authoritarianism is the gospel. When we grasp that, we begin to see the gospel in its fullness. It’s all about producing the same chuckle and sneer – whether over those silly gay activists who dare to thwart the will of God’s servants in the public square, or in response to a question about how one views one’s apostate co-panelists – it’s all the same disdain for those who refuse to submit.

    I’m with Damon Linker on this one. ‘When Catholics and Mormons bring into the political realm the authoritarian elements of their faith, it threatens to circumvent norms of democratic deliberation.’ http://bit.ly/dn47no

    If it hasn’t been done, would love to hear a discussion of the 1850s ‘Mormon Reformation’ or Polly Aird’s ‘Mormon Convert, Mormon Defector’ that included Mike.

  6. Stone Reply

    Quotes of the night!
    something like this……MIKE: “I see a lot of wiggle room there.”
    JOHN: “I see a lot of wiggle room everywhere.”

    So true! All I could do was chuckle!

  7. Nate Reply

    Ok, so, according to the points made in the podcast,

    1. Prophets can be wrong.
    2. Apostles are only “prophets in training”.
    3. ETB was only an apostle when he gave the talk.
    4. ETB was incapacitated once he became the prophet, thus prevented from “leading the church astray”

    Isn’t the simplest solution here that it’s the 14 fundamentals that are wrong?

    • John Larsen Reply

      I thought this talk was just a novelty of Mormonism past until it was read into conference this October.

      • Sionpiensa Reply

        15.- Prophets are presidents of the corporation and all things are attached to such

      • Nate Reply

        Yeah but not by The Prophet! Don’t remember if it was an apostle but didn’t you guys conclude that apostles were only prophets in training?

  8. Derrick Clements Reply

    I think the Church members were portrayed unfairly this time, though I always love listening to Mormon Expression (I’m a TBM). It is possible that I was overly sensitive, but I feel like all the remarks about the Church not supposed to think and the cult accusations were out of line. Anybody reading that talk could come to the crazy conclusions you did, and I thought it was a bit peculiar that a few leaders mentioned this talk during Conference, but it is a rather obscure BYU lecture.

    I am a questioner and a doubter in large part BECAUSE of what I learn at Church (pray to know, ponder, etc.). I know there are a lot of members who don’t think for themselves on all the issues, but that’s not what Church leaders want.

    I do not even believe that Elder Benson was trying to manipulate the members. Like Mike said, this talk is just saying follow the prophet. And it says so in the ETB crazy language style. I don’t think we can complain about correlation while also reacting badly to talks like this, which are probably one of the reason for correlation.

    One last point: I don’t expect him to answer all the questions about life (such as evolution, when life enters the body, etc.). He is not God, and God doesn’t spell out the answers that easily usually.

    Again, I love the show–I rarely miss an episode. I believe in the prophet. I’m not a nut job.

    • Glenn Reply

      Thanks Derrick. That’s pretty much what I was aiming for when I told Wes that I don’t think that the church encourages members “not to think.” But you can you deny that the church teaches us to think in a way where we start with the conclusions and then work backwards to find the support? To me, that’s where we run into a lot of the problems we do — not being open to other possibilities besides the ones that we hear from the brethren.

      • Wes Cauthers Reply

        I hear what you’re saying Glenn and it may be a matter of semantics. However, there have been very specific things said and written regarding the independent thought of church members. Consider the following:

        “Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the prophets, seers, revelators’ of the church, is cultivating the spirit of apostasy. One cannot speak evil of the lord’s anointed… and retain the holy spirit in his heart. This sort of game is Satan’s favorite pastime, and he has practiced it to believing souls since Adam. He wins a great victory when he can get members of the church to speak against their leaders and to do their own thinking.”

        “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s Plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give directions, it should mark the end of controversy, God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.”

        Ward Teachers Message, Deseret News, Church Section p. 5, May 26, 1945

        Maybe it’s just me, but that seems like a very clear and specific instruction by the church for its members not to think. Do you see something different in those paragraphs?

        • Glenn Reply


          No, I don’t see anything different in those paragraphs. But I do see a big difference between that paragraph and the way many of the church members I interact with actually go about their lives. Of course there are some who take the “don’t question anything” approach. No doubt. But there are a lot of really intelligent, thoughtful people who see the contradictions and really think about what it means — and they struggle and make decisions about what they are going to do about it. And, in my experience at least, that mode of genuine seeking and asking questions is still taught in the church. Although you are right — it is mighty heavily weighted towards the pre-determined conclusions.

          • Wes Cauthers

            Sure, I would absolutely agree that there are some members who go against what the leadership teaches. Maybe I am misremembering, but I thought we were talking about what is taught from the top. It seems highly problematic to me that one would have to go against official teaching in order to maintain their integrity. I have been out of Mormonism for close to 20 years, so perhaps things have changed since I was there. During my experience growing up in it, genuine seeking and asking questions was given lip service, but anyone who did not reach the “correct” conclusions (i.e. the church is true, etc.) was marginalized as faithless, sinful or something of that nature. It was pretty much impossible to be critical of or leave the church for any legimitate reason. Do you think that is still true or have things changed?

          • Glenn

            No Wes, I don’t think it has changed, although I see a lot of “wiggle room” between “going against” the official teachings and coming up with seperate individual interpretations (which may or may not harmonize with the official teachings). But to Derrick’s point that we were being unfair to members of the church — I think he’s right. It is unfair to imagine that members of the church are not trained to think for themselves and encouraged to reach their own conclusions — it’s just assumed with supreme confidence that their own conclusions will be, as you said, the “correct” conclusion — and I agree with you — there is no officially sanctioned valid reason within Mormonism to come to any different conclusion. But in real life, there is a lot of variety among members’ beliefs. I’m pretty sure I’m right, but I’m not willing to risk a javelin through the heart to prove it.

          • Wes Cauthers

            I agree there is variety among members’ beliefs and I think it’s great when people are able to think for themselves, despite being told to blindly follow. I think we see things very differently here because in my mind the church cannot encourage stuff like the 14 fundamentals and also encourage independent thought. The two are completely incompatible from my perspective. I think part of the problem for me is that the people in my life very much adhere to the official teaching and for them there is no wiggle room. Hard to say what the numbers are regarding Mormons like that versus people like yourself and Derrick.

          • Glenn

            Yeah — I just have a fundamental semantics issue whenever ‘the Church’ is used. What is ‘the Church?’ Is it the Prophet? The quorum of the twelve? All of the GAs? Local leaders? Local leaders in Utah — or the US — or Japan — etc etc. Is it all the members themselves that make up “the church?” A certain group in a certain geographic location? Seminary teachers? Correlated manuals of instruction? Podcasters? etc etc

            So whenever anyone says “the Church” teaches or encourages xyz it is always problematic for me. There are contradictory messages all over the place, so I sort of fundamentally reject the reified notion of ‘the church’ as a single monolithic thing with a single monolithic agenda. That’s where I think a lot of the unfairness comes in.

          • Wes Cauthers

            I have always used ‘the Church’ referring to those in leadership including anything officially published. Perhaps I will use ‘LDS leadership’ from now on in order to lessen confusion and be more fair.

      • Derrick Clements Reply

        Yes, and I see it as a frustrating aspect of our culture, inspired by our doctrine.

        You know, this reminds me of a great BYU devotional from a long time ago, I think it was called “Like a Lightning Out of Heaven” or something, I forget who did it, but it was about Joseph Smith. The guy said that the biggest problem with being a member of the “true church” is that you aren’t critical enough to really examine it and “seek.” That hit me when I read that a while back.

        I feel like sharing my own experience here, if for no other reason than to take more space and shamelessly promote my own podcast, which my name links to. 🙂 My experience is this (I’ll be brief.): I’m 23. When I was 18 and preparing to go on a mission I encountered Mormon Stories, and encountered some serious questions. But, I felt that, because I had not yet made the decision to go on a mission, I hadn’t REALLY committed to the Church yet. After hearing John Dehlin’s mission experience, I determined that I really needed to decide if I believed in the Church. So I opened up Preach My Gospel and read what I would be expected to teach. Even though I was raised in the Church I realized that I had been living in a “garden of eden” place where I didn’t have any struggles with my testimony. Now that I had my eyes opened to why others leave the Church, and why they are not villains or even wrong, I was realizing that most of what the missionary lessons taught, I really didn’t know if I believed.

        So I made the decision as an 18-year-old familiar with the “bloggernacle” to REALLY leave the Church and not go on a mission if I determined it wasn’t true. I think it would be much harder to leave the church now, after having preached it for two years. But in those important months, I studied for hours a day and prayed a lot. I did soul-searching and studying and listened to many podcasts. I really truly examined the Church’s teachings that I would need to teach as a missionary and, in the end, I had under my belt what I would call a wealth of spiritually empowering experiences. I knew that I was a believer in the Mormon Church, even though I had come to the conclusion that we were wrong about blacks, and other issues. This was my conclusion, and it was so strong and personal to me. My parents never forced anything, but they never really requested anything either. My mission was so much enhanced by these months of study and honest examination, because when my ridiculous leaders were making it seem like baptismal water was more important than drinking water, I knew that it was ok that they were wrong.

        Long story short: if I had not been open to the possibility that I could discover the Church was a sham and leave, discovering that it is true (I don’t like that phrase, but I can’t think of a better one right now) would have meant nothing. It’s like my gay mormon friend says, he needed to fully accept that living as an actively gay man was as legitimate a possibility as celibacy before he could decide to stay or leave. He hasn’t decided yet. And I guess, really, neither have I, though the few years since I was 18 have been wonderful. I will always (as I see it now) leave the door open for me to leave the Church. But I honestly have not found a reason to walk through that door. I love the Church, I love what it teaches, and I believe that it is uniquely the home of the restoration.

        I know this was long-winded, but it’s my experience. I wish that every active member of the Church would seriously consider leaving it, and then I believe their choice to stay will mean more. That’s why I have taught this to many of the missionaries I teach at the MTC: when you pray to gain a testimony, honestly be ready to pack your bags and go home if you determine that it’s not true. I might be a heretic, but the MTC still keeps me around. 🙂

    • Mike Tannehill Reply

      Derrick Clements,
      I tried to rein it in on a few occasions by restating at the end of each section the simple point made in the talk, but I think we just all had too much “red herring fever” in us this time around, lol

    • John Larsen Reply


      I don’t believe that most members would take the talk fully literally, but I believe it gives them a blind spot when it comes to critically evaluating the brethren. This surfaces all of the time when the brethren do bone head things, and members are just completely unable to see it.

      • Derrick Clements Reply

        Yeah I think you have a point John. And from the perspective that the leaders are not “God’s anointed” (a perspective I totally understand though it is not my own), it becomes extremely scary, because anything the leaders say is true. I think Prop 8 was an example of this, and my friend at BYU just had his 15-20 minutes of Internet fame for writing the Daily Universe about how members just followed the prophet without rational reasons to the detriment of gays and lesbians.

        The only thing I think I can say to alleviate the concern that rational people have about the brethren doing crazy things and the members following blindly is to indicate what I see as true: the official Church is so boring that the leaders don’t usually ask the members to do anything crazy at all (Prop 8 aside). And even with Prop 8, it was specified that no member would be considered apostate for disagreeing with the Church’s stance.

        My perception as a believer is what was said on the podcast (I think that was this episode, it might have been another come to think of it?): that members don’t go to Church to learn but for the ritual of being reminded what they already know. (And by the way, I think this is a totally valid thing to do. It’s not programming of the mind or manipulation training–it is a spiritual rejuvenation to a lot of people, just going to recharge the batteries). But so really, this means that people aren’t paying attention to the, what I would call, “Craziness” of the wording of this message by Elder Benson. I don’t have a problem with the overall message of his talk, and I don’t think, again, that he recognized very much if at all more than the members that the language is strong and probably contrary to the doctrine of agency and the doctrines about prophets.

        By the way, it wasn’t mentioned that on FAIR’s own website, their rebuttal to the argument that Mormons don’t think for themselves is that President Kimball was uncomfortable with ETB’s talk when it was given at BYU. That’s interesting. Also, I was present at the CES fireside a few years ago by Elder Oaks in Oakland called “The Steady Dedication of a Lifetime” I think. It was a talk that, for those still active or familiar with the single LDS scene, you know has become famous as the “date, don’t hang out” talk. Anyway in that talk Elder Oaks talked about how people shouldn’t hang out, and then he ended the talk by saying something like, “Look, I am a general authority and I teach general principles. It’s up to you to determine if you are an exception.” I think it was 2005ish.

        Anyway, I want to make sure I am clear that I understand your concern. I just think your concern would be scarier if the Church wasn’t so boring and the brethren weren’t so genuinely good-hearted.

    • Iago Reply


      I appreciate your perspective, although I disagree with it.

      You stated, “I don’t think we can complain about correlation while also reacting badly to talks like this, which are probably one of the reason[s] for correlation.” If I understand you correctly, you are saying that correlation is necessary because some of us are unwilling to submit to the brethren.

      In other words, we have brought the scourge of correlation upon ourselves by our disobedience. Correlation is like a modern day law of Moses. Amusing.

      • Derrick Clements Reply

        I would have a problem if that is what I was saying too! No, what I was saying was Correlation was found necessary because of talks like this and also books like Mormon Doctrine, which higher leaders found to be containing things that were untrue, or at least were not founded in canon. I think President Packer’s talk was changed in the printed version to be more “correlated,” in harmony with the official stance of the Church, although I do not feel that President Packer had it changed without him knowing–I imagine he was shown what parts were sketchy doctrinally and he himself was happy to change it. That is what I imagine.

        I don’t fault ETB or Elder McConkie or President Packer for being what I would call wrong in what they say. That is not part of my perspective of what it means to be a prophet (I don’t see them as calculators, for example, though I know some do). Rather I look at Mormon Doctrine (the book) and President Packer’s talk, and I say, generally yes! It’s too bad if people see them as infallible, or at least it’s too bad if negative things happen as a result. My mom probably hasn’t been ruined for following the prophet. But I think I would be because of the questioning way I’ve been wired. I think Correlation gives the illusion of infallibility, though maybe that’s not a bad thing–I can see why the Church would want to implement a system in which doctrine could remain “pure” and leaders wouldn’t have to constantly apologize for what they say. But they are still mouthpieces for God. Human mouthpieces.

        Still…correlation didn’t stop this talk from being mentioned twice in Conference this year, so…I could be wrong.

        • Iago Reply


          Thank you for the clarification, and my apologies for misstating your position. I appreciate the nuanced articulation of your stance on this subject.

          Naturally, John’s calulator analogy might be somewhat simplistic (the brethern are people, not machines), but I do think it perfectly illustrates the core problem with the whole “living prophets” concept: what the brethern say today might be doctrine, or might not be. We have no way of knowing. We must rely on a subsequent prophet to tell us (who might in turn be overruled on the matter by a later prophet). In all this confusion, how am I to glean God’s will (to the extent that such a thing exists) from these oracles? I cannot. Thus, in general, the brethern are no more useful to me than any one else who offers an opinion. I just as well cut out the middle men and form my own opinions. These prophets profit me nothing.

          You state that “it’s too bad if negative things happen as a result” of people actually taking the tripe these guys say seriously. Indeed, people do believe the tripe (because they are raised to) and negative things do happen. Take the example of the gay member who earnestly believes that God does not want him to have a full partnership with another man. He lives in hell, denying himself an authentic existence because he believes that Packer’s doctrine of sexual repression is actually God’s doctrine.

          Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

          • Iago

            Of course I meant calculator not “calulator” and brethren not “brethern.” I need to be correlated. Big time.

          • Derrick Clements

            Yeah, I hear you that it’s a problem. In my experience, though, the profit I get from prophets is that they see the bigger spiritual picture. As I go about my life focusing on work and school and the day-to-day, these men spend their life trying to lose it in the service of God. Regardless of how they act that I may or may not like, I do believe that they are genuinely focused full-time on the gospel and service to others. I have been around them and people like them enough to know that. They aren’t perfect but they are sincerely trying to make the world a better place. So when I hear their perspective, it’s a useful one for me. I don’t put them in the perfect or useless camp, and the words of prophets have meant a lot to me in my life.

            I don’t want to diminish the problem though, I am just saying what works for me. It is a problem if a gay man hates himself. That’s where I feel like we need to watch out for those who feel that way and help them, even if it means helping them out of the Church.

          • Derrick Clements

            To clarify, though, I don’t want my gay brothers and sisters out of the Church. I want them with me in it! I realized that could sound like that. I believe that gay people can find a lot of happiness in the gospel, just as anyone can.

  9. glowstickgorilla Reply

    Twas’ my fav Mormon Expression episode so far! I like that Mike is there and representing his TBMesque position. I know I’d be skeptical if Mike “fell from grace.”.

  10. Joe Geisner Reply

    Thank you , Thank you, Thank you. Thanks you so much for this podcast and allowing Mike to be a part of the discussion. There are times when I wonder if I am correct about the Church and think I am being to harsh by believing the Church is such a destructive organization. Then I hear Mike’s comments and realize I am right and the Church is nothing more than a bunch of nonsense that is very destructive.

    Sterling McMurrin said it so well, “you don’t get books from angels and translate them by miracles; it is just that simple” (Blake Ostler, “7EP interview: Sterling McMurrin,” Seventh East Press, 11 January 1983, p. 1)

    Kimball as President of the Church did denounce Adam God doctrine. It is in the talk “Our Own Liahona” given at the October 1976 General Conference. Here is the important quote for this discussion: “We warn you against the dissemination of doctrines which are not according to the scriptures and which are alleged to have been taught by some of the General Authorities of past generations. Such, for instance, is the Adam-God theory. We denounce that theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine.” (Ensign, November 1976, page 77)

    • Wes Cauthers Reply

      Thanks for that reference regarding the denunication of the Adam God doctrine. Notice how Kimball said it was “alleged to have been taught by some of the General Authorities of past generations.” This is the same thing as denying it was ever taught in the first place which is patently false.

      • Glenn Reply

        I need to make a correction to something I said on the podcast. I went back and re-read what McConkie said about Adam-God. I was thinking of Mormon Doctrine, not the 7 Deadly Falacies, but either way I was mistaken when I said that McConkie denied Adam God had been taught. Here is the quote from MD:

        “Cultists and other enemies of the restored truth… sometimes try to make it appear that Latter-day saints worship Adam as their father in heaven. In support of thier false assumptions, they quote such statements as that of Brigham Young to the effect that Adam is our father and our god and the only god with whom we have to do. This statement, and others of a similar nature, is perfectly consistent and rational when viewed in full gospel perspective and understood in the light of revelations… (yada yada yada)’

        So the bottom line — I was wrong. McConkie did not say that it was never taught. And I was mistaken about who he was calling cultists as well — it was not the people who claimed that it had been taught in the past, but the people who claim that it is a current feature of LDS belief today. And he’s right. It’s not. But back in the day it sure went a long way to justify the polygamist agenda, no?

  11. G Reiersen Reply

    Great podcast! I can’t help but agree that the talk about the 14 Fundamentals of Following a Prophet is one of if not the most offensive of the talks given during the last General Conference. There is simply no way that one can honestly or reasonably deny that it is basically an appeal for blind obedience.

    Many, if not all religions, make similar appeals to its followers. Most, if not all religions have devout believers who sincerely claim to have received confirmation of the truth of their beliefs in answer to prayer. This is far from unique to Mormonism. Many people have tried the Moroni, 10:4 test, but the only ones you usually hear about are those who succeeded in acquiring a testimony of the Book of Mormon when they tried it. You hardly ever hear about those who did not feel they ever received an affirmative answer when they tried it. I am one of the latter, and I suspect that they far outnumber those who did. I wanted very much to receive an affirmative answer. After trying numerous times without ever receiving any answer I could unequivocally attribute to anything other than my imagination and/or intense desire to believe, and meeting and talking to devout people of other faiths who (as far as I could tell) testify just as fervently as any Mormon of having received confirmation of their own religious beliefs (sometimes including the belief that Mormonism is of the devil) in answer to prayer, I finally was no longer to escape the conclusion that whatever answer one receives from God (or thinks one does) depends far more on what one is predisposed to believe than it does on what the actual truth is.

    As I have said before, the undeniable fact that there are so many mutually incompatible religious belief systems whose most devout advocates sincerely believe that God has affirmed for them the correctness of their convictions is the strongest evidence I can possibly imagine of the inherent unreliability of that means of discerning truth. It bewilders me that there are so many otherwise seemingly intelligent people who seem incapable of figuring that out!

  12. Brian Johnston Reply

    I loved Mike’s commitment to murdering adulterers with a javelin 🙂 This comes from D&C 89, but from the original talk before they edited it for printing:

    “Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, spears for the boars and wild predators, and javelins for the hearts of adulterers caught in the act, stakes for the vampires and silver bullets for werewolves and all the beasts of the fields which are afflicted with lycanthropy.”

    So we are justified so long as it is a javelin. If we kill our spouse with a spear or a gun, we have sinned.

    It’s important to make sure it

  13. Lifelongguy Reply

    Great podcast. When you connect with the ball, John, you hit it out of the park.

    I listen to these as I drive to/from work so I have the relative privacy of my car in which to react with laughter or tears. I only wish I had kept a tally of the number of times the word “Mike! What the f$*K!” came out of my mouth.

    Listen, I sympathize with the world in which Mike lives, I was once in that same place (but thank God not quite so delusional) but at this point I think he is doing TBM’s no favors with his participation. 9 times out of ten his only response was that silly chuckle of his.

  14. glowstickgorilla Reply

    Who are these Mike Tannehills coming down, coming down? Like gentle rain from John, Glen, George, and Wes darkened skies?

  15. Anonymous Reply

    My favorite part of this episode was when John asked Mike what he would do if his bishop asked him to kill his child. Mike hesitated. Would a person with true morality hesitate when asked such a question? That is why it can well be argued that Atheists can be just as moral as (and in cases like this, more moral than) religious people. If religious people are willing to do whatever God (A.K.A their leaders) tells them to do, then THAT becomes their ultimate morality. Adultery, Bigotry, and even Murder become not only justified, but actually MORAL “whenever the leaders move their lips” and say it is so.

    • Mike Tannehill Reply

      It would be silly to think that atheists are immoral merely for their lack of faith.
      I think the difference in our views comes from the fact that the faithful understand that death is not the end, and that this life is a speck of dust in the grand scheme of things. Are important choices that affect eternity made here? Yes, but death is in reality just a door into the next room.

      • Anonymous Reply

        OH, O.K., so you’re arguing that it’s not a big deal to take someone’s life, since death is “just a door to the next room”?

        • G Reiersen Reply

          Sadly, that has been precisely the attitude of many authoritarian religious heirarchies. During the middle ages, for example, religious authorities justified executing the accused (especially those accused of witchcraft or heresy) with little or no evidentiary justification, and sometimes even without a trial by arguing that God would be able to sort out the falsely accused from the truly innocent and send the innocent directly to heaven, where they would be better off than they were during their mortal existence anyway.

          I think that modern day Islamic terrorists have much the same attitude about the innocent victims of their terrorist acts.

          • G Reiersen

            Whoops! I meant say “. . .the falsely accused from the truly guilty. . .” in the above post.

          • Lina

            The leaders of the LDS church have built into their own system a nice “get out of jail free” clause. A moral/ethical relativist idea that can allow their followers the assurance that they don’t need to worry about their own moral feelings if they are different from the “church’s”, but to be obedient at all costs will be rewarded. Example:

            “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, even if it is wrong, and you do it, the lord will bless you for it…(but) you don’t need to worry. The lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.”
            –Marion G. Romney, Ensign, July 1972, page 98, quoting LDS President Heber J. Grant

            This attitude held by the relatively benign authorities of the church seems pretty harmless these days, perhaps not so benign in the days of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Today however, this same attitude held by the leaders of radical Islam because of their beliefs is disseminated to their followers and is a tool for terror in the world in which we live.
            I’m not saying that the LDS church is harmful in anyway along the lines of terrorism, of course not! But, there does seem to be a parallel of thought which I find troubling.

        • Rich Rasmussen Reply

          The Blood Atonement is still kicking strong in some members’ beliefs I guess.

      • G Reiersen Reply

        I greatly appreciate your acknowledgement that “It would be silly to think that atheists are immoral merely for their lack of faith.” I certainly agree with that! Unfortunately, there are too many religious faithful of many persuastions who vehemently disagree with that sentiment. I am glad to see that you are not one of them! 🙂

        • Sionpiensa Reply

          atheist can develope morality as laws are created, to protect life and the survival of the specie.
          Intelect is evolutionary, there are other animals that have developed communication, though have not developed yet to a full use of the enviroment as we do.
          i ofthen think that was at the begining, but many didn’t get in every civilization, so a smart person explained a tale that became religion.

      • Ozpoof Reply

        So if someone really loved their children, and wanted to guarantee them an eternal life in the Celestial Kingdom, they could sacrifice their position in the afterlife and kill their child/ren before they turned 8. This type of thing happens in cults. An atheist would value life more, and someone who believes there is no afterlife at all would value the life of their child most of all it seems.

        Mike, when you had to think about whether you would follow a Bishop’s instructions to murder, that said it all. What if he told you your sins are forgiven, and that “death is in reality just a door into the next room” so drink this Kool Aid(TM)? Mike, I’m sure there are plenty of people in the church ready for someone like Packer to hint that the reason their house is worthless and they are unemployed is because Gays are gaining ground and not because of a meltdown of unchecked capitalism that built wealth on nothing of substance. How much of a push would it take for you to gather a posse and start lynching Gays?

        What if someone like Benson started saying America is in decline because Obama wants to give health care (care for the sick) to the poor? Utah is already rabidly conservative. Would the church back a proposition to oppose health care reform in states that pass laws that would assure the sick are cared for whether they can pay or not? Would Benson tell members in that state to vote how they will but to remember that socialism is evil? Plausible deniability. How much money would you donate to fund advertising in that “liberal” state?

        Mike, you claim to be a member of THE Church of Jesus Christ. Can you not see how far removed from anything Christ taught the LDS corporation has shifted, if it was ever near Christ at all? Wealth and outward appearance are paramount concerns with LDS Inc. Conformity, suspension of reason, suppression of intelligence, elimination of individuality are all highly valued outcomes.

        “Prophets” teach freedom from oppression by government, but have oppressed specific groups of people so that they were kept in their place (out of state or in the kitchen), and now oppress and reject Gays to the point of suicide. Doesn’t this behaviour strike you as strange for a church that says it speaks with Christ, the leader of this church?

        Your leaders say that the saints should care for the sick, then claim forcing workers to pay for the health care of those who are in most need – the poor and those unable to work – is evil. Which assertion would Christ agree with?

        John was right. LDS members have no internal moral compass. They follow what others tell them is right. An atheist or agnostic would instantly answer “NO!” when asked if they would kill under a bishop’s instructions. That’s the correct answer Mike. Your thinking is warped and far from correct. Would Jesus, the individual you claim leads your church, have to think about killing his child if a Bishop told him to?

        Mike, I’m sorry, but every time you open your mouth you affirm that you are under cult mind-control. It’s blatant. You are talking about murdering people now. This is the same thinking that prompted those Mormons to kill everyone over the age of 8 at Mountain Meadows. Your reasoning changes depending on the question. Inconsistency points to flaws in the logic, even allowing for the supernatural your reasoning fails to apply to all circumstances raised in this podcast alone. That’s when you change it. Truth is truth always. Liars have to lie more and more to cover their tracks. You might call these things “revelations”. Each time the church is caught out on the wrong side of a moral question, or the heathen, secular world becomes more empathetic and compassionate than Jesus’ church, the “prophets” play catch-up with another revelation. A church led by men who speak to a God does not need to play catch-up to at least equal secular norms that are far more Christlike in their consideration of others than LDS inc is. Christ’s church would teach compassion for all, understanding and celebration of the individual, the UNimportance of wealth and appearance, care for the sick.

        Christ’s church would not spend resources fighting legislation that would expand agency and joy to consenting adults. It would be promoting the need for universal health care and education. It would not spend tithing on wealth creation rather than helping the poor. It would not need to survey members to determine how to change eternal ordinances. It would not lie outright or by omission; would not hide behind front groups; would never need to hide the sordid history of its leaders by creating fictional histories passed off as fact; would not need to warn members to limit their study to approved (censored) works. If LDS inc was the true church of Christ, ALL FACTS WOULD POINT TO THAT!

        Finally, and returning to the topic of this podcast, if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was in fact an organisation headed by a GOD, a talk that contained 14 of many of most ludicrous, cult-think statements would never have been spoken by a man who speaks with this God, and such an affront to human intelligence, reason and logic would never have been allowed to be repeated into the records.

        Any Mormon who accepts this talk as inspired loves ignorance and hates freedom of thought. They WALLOW in the rejection of intellect, mock reason, despise logic and sense, are lazy, indolent and apathetic, child-like in every bad sense of the word – accepting the lies and candy of a man in a car telling them that what he says is true.

        Nothing, NOTHING about this church is Christlike. Mike, I’m sorry but this time you went beyond a sort of innocent acceptance of a church’s dogma. This time you got scary.

        • G Reiersen Reply

          “So if someone really loved their children, and wanted to guarantee them an eternal life in the Celestial Kingdom, they could sacrifice their position in the afterlife and kill their child/ren before they turned 8.”

          Yes. There has been at least one criminal case in recent years of a woman who murdered all her children for precisely that reason (at least so she claimed).

        • Fred Reply

          “Mike, I’m sorry, but every time you open your mouth you affirm that you are under cult mind-control. It’s blatant.”

          Ditto and second on that Ozpoof!

          The other chilling moment was Mike’s condescending “holier, smarter, and more enlightened than thou” comment about enjoying the vain ramblings of apostates (or something to that effect). Even if it was meant to be a humorous comment it was telling – VERY telling!

    • MJL Reply

      Atheists are moral by choice, not by compulsion since there is no evolutionary explanation for morality aside from some “just so” story. Morality is a human construct which has no application anywhere else in the animal kingdom. Ask yourself this: does a dog have morals? Does a dog understand what morality is?

      History tells tales of atheists who banished god from his throne and placed themselves on it only to then lead millions to their slaughter justified by their own reasoning to do so. There is the sorry tale of scientific reasoning run amok manifested in the eugenics movement that deemed many people “unfit” and forcibly sterilized with state approval. This was nothing short of evil hidden by scientific reasoning and morality. Ask yourself this: is it not moral to sterilize a mentally handicapped woman lest she condemn future generations to the same fate through breeding?

      What John describes in his example is the abuse of authority. This is what the bishop and the atheist leader have in common with one key difference: the bishop is still subject to a higher judge whereas the atheist leader is the judge, jury, and executioner. The Church member, if given the unlikely order to kill his or her child, can seek higher guidance by appealing to the stake president, to the area authority, to an apostle, to the first presidency, and ultimately to God which I am sure we all will agree will contravene the bishop’s order simply by referencing the Bible. The atheist, on the other hand, only has him or herself to convince through their sense of morality.

      Let’s take a hypothetical situation. Imagine time travel was possible and you could return in time to assassinate Hitler and prevent the outbreak of WWII. Who will do it: a Christian, an Atheist, or both? How one will act is speculative but in this scenario I argue it is more likely the atheist will kill Hitler than a Christian. A Christian is bound by the divine order “thou shalt not kill” whereas the atheist is bound by his or her reasoning which can conclude it is right to kill to save many. Thus, to the Atheist it is moral to kill given the circumstance whereas to the Christian murder is never moral.

      How John and Mike will react if given the order to kill your child by a religious authority figure says more about them as individuals and not about atheists and “religious people” in general. It is odd that John should state that it is immoral to kill your child while ascribing to a concept of humanistic morality that has persuasively convinced many women to kill their children while still in their wombs. I know that atheists are not inherently immoral or amoral however they are not inherently moral either.

      • Tramnos Reply

        Actually MJL there is an evolutionary explanation for morality, and many other higher mammals exhibit morality.

    • Tramnos Reply

      That’s a great point Zilpha. A surprising number of true believers have no problem saying that it’s morally okay to kill your child if God asks it. Now I doubt most of them would actually do it, but the fact that this level of fanaticism exists in the church is a real problem for me.

      • Tramnos Reply

        Even if God appeared to me in person, I wouldn’t kill my child. I’m not even talking about a leader asking me, but God himself. I wouldn’t follow a God who wanted me to murder my child.

    • Abraham Reply


      It is more complex that this. Have you ever read Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling? Kierkagaard lays out essential questions such as “Is there a teleiological suspension of the ethical?” and “Is there an absolute duty to do?” In his working through of the Abraham story. These questions are important ones for religious people to address and they are at the heart of the issue. You can’t dismiss the faith of Abraham quite so glibly.

      Another way to frame the issue is to ask- Does God command what is good? Or is something good because God commands it? You have already made up your mind on this point. You can only believe in a God that is bound by the good. This is a very common attitude today, but it has its short comings as well, you really can’t claim the moral high ground until you have worked through and understand the implications of both sides of the equation.

      All that being said I would agree that there is a big difference between a religious authority telling someone to do something unethical and God telling someone to do something unethical. I also think that MIke does himself a diservice in the way he describes his own obedience, essentailly he advocate for a blind obedience because he claims obedience prior to knowing what will be asked, which means he turns his agency and ethical autonomy over to his local leaders. We would probably agree that this is a bad thing, and represents a very distorted understanding of what obedience is and what it means. But this is not to say that we shouldn’t be open to the possibility of our own willingness to do the unethical in service to God.

  16. Jay Reply

    I was horrified when I heard this talk being brought up in conference TWICE!!! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Thank you for discussing it. I think too many members think of a prophet as a person so close to perfection the only thing he has left to do is die to get into heaven (Third degree of the Celestial kingdom). This talk only reinforces that false image. Maybe TM is getting a lot of hate mail over the prop 8 thing or they are seeing people question the prophet more and this is why they decided to dig up this awful talk by Benson. If I never hear it again it will be too soon.

    • G Reiersen Reply

      I think that what is happening is that it is becoming more and more obvious to many people (including the Church’s GAs) that at least some of the Church’s most cherished doctrinal and historical claims simply cannot survive honest, skeptical scrutiny. The more obvious this becomes, the more desperately they try to denounce and discourage honest, independent scrutiny and thinking about any of those issues considered to be most vital to current LDS doctrine and practice.

  17. Walt Reply

    I hope we are collecting audio clips for a “$h!# Mike says” collection. These two episodes were loaded with them!

    I too was shocked to hear this talk brought up again. I thought this was something they had distanced themselves from.

  18. Allen Reply

    I really liked the discussion. It really did pull in some of the issues that TBM really don’t think about. What I think would have really help this discussion tremendously was a little back up for Mike, He really got attacked. I think that Tom had always played a good referee. WHERE IS TOM? Come back to us Tom!

    I am going to call the bishop and sick home teachers on you

  19. Mason Cooper Reply

    I love a surly John Larsen – you voiced 2 years of my frustrations in 2 hours. I really don’t know how you do it though – to me its like living in a world where you are the only one who does not believe Hogwarts School of Witchcratft and Wizardry is real but you still debate the details of its curriculum with those that believe. In the context of a fantasy world the Harry Potter books makes perfect sense but in a world based in reality they are bull$h!t.

    • John Larsen Reply

      Maybe I should quit Mormonism and take up Fantasy League Football and World of Warcraft instead.

    • Fred Reply

      Dan, I didn’t lose respect for Mike as he is staying congruous with his beliefs and world view.

      However, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that he’s got some form of high functioning psychosis that makes sound reasoning, common sense and self-awareness impossible.

      Perhaps Wes can enlighten us further on this.

        • Fred Reply

          Good points John. And do I hope that Mike stays on the Mormon Expression roster despite the shellacking that he’s taken for ill-advised and less than rational comments that he made this particular podcast.

          And Glenn, yep!

          That’s the credo (or variations on the theme) of fanatics of all ilks – Mormon or not – is it not? I think that Lyndon Lamborn said it well:

          • Fred

            ” If history teaches us anything, it shows that fanaticism begets injustice. When teamed with greed, fanaticism, with its many faces, can be found at the root of virtually every large-scale crime against humanity on this planet. (It could also be pointed out that greed is really just fanaticism over money and power.) The 9/11 attack was Islamic fanatics. Hitler was a fanatical racist. The burning of the library in Alexandria and the end of the Greek era was precipitated by religious fanatics. The crusades were perpetrated by Christian fanatics. The characteristics of a fanatic are:

            · Refuses to objectively examine evidence that might contradict a core belief

            · Condemns any that depart from the fanatical group

            · Resorts to ‘declarationism’ (testimony bearing) as a last bastion

            · Believes they will be absolved from responsibility for their actions (Allah will save all who follow Osama!)

            · Willing to give all and/or die for the cause

            · Feels that he/she is persecuted

            · Labels information that contradicts their core belief as “Anti” and believe it is all contrived

            The LDS culture breeds fanatics and fosters fanaticism, yet they are generally oblivious to it. Immersion in the culture brings with it the blindness to its fanatical nature. While the LDS fundamentalist splinter groups have the more obvious fanatical tendencies, all the elements of fanaticism are self-evident in the mainstream LDS culture as well. I have personal friends that have actually banished and disowned family members for turning away from Mormonism. If this is not concrete evidence of fanaticism, I don’t know what is. Choosing forced religious conformity over family ties? VERY SAD. Fanatical LDS simply cannot view apostasy objectively. An apostate is someone that ‘went off the deep end’ or ‘became a tool of Satan’. If this mindset were not so sad, it would be hilariously funny. Real life, in many ways, is stranger than fiction.”
            (source = http://www.mormonthink.com/lamborn.htm)

      • John Larsen Reply

        I should probably say something here. Mike is a really nice guy in real life. He is genuine, honest and caring. I do not believe for a single minute that mike would ever do anything violent towards his wife or anyone else for that matter.

        Mike is in the tough position of defending his faith. In this case, against 3 hardened skeptics. If the tables were turned, I would find it very difficult to do the same.

        Mike honestly believes in his faith and is trying to make it work. Don’t confuse his academic exercises with any real life weirdness.

  20. Gail F. Bartholomew Reply


    Why does a testimony of the Book of Mormon give you a testimony of the church?

    Many RLDS have testimony of the Book of Mormon. Jeff’s has a testimony. The Alreds have a testimony. The Book of Mormon being true does not prove that the Salt Lake Church is true.

  21. Gail F. Bartholomew Reply


    When you say that you can not receive an answer to prayer that is in contradictory to the prophets, how can that be.

    Answers to prayers is the bases of our belief in the church. So if I receive an answer that is contrary to what the brethren are saying. What am I to do? If I reject my answer to prayer. Then I am rejecting the whole reason I believe in the prophets in the first place.

      • G Reiersen Reply

        Besides, if one is required to decide beforehand to reject any answer to prayer that contradicts LDS doctrine, what is the point of praying in the first place?

  22. Back Row Reply

    Just wanted to chime in and say that I am faithful in the church (although somewhat unorthodox) and I listened to the whole thing – and enjoyed it a lot. I’m also somewhat horrified by the thought that Mike’s beliefs represent those of the church, and I don’t think he does. My parents are both extremely faithful, mainstream members (my dad was a stake president) and both of them despise this talk. As I recall, Spencer W. Kimball wasn’t a fan of it either, although he never publicly contradicted it.

  23. G Reiersen Reply

    Question: Does anyone (besides Mike) fail to see that talks like that coming from the Church’s foremost leaders and advocates do at least as much and probably more damage to the credibility of the LDS Church and its doctrine than anything that its most outspoken critics could possibly have to say?

    • G Reiersen Reply

      On the other hand, perhaps ETB really didn’t mean it to come out the way it sounded. Still, if was merely a matter of poorly chosen wording, that still belies any claim to being divinely inspired at the time he said it.

  24. Joseph Reply

    John, what “agitates” you about Mormonism is what drove me out of my testimony: I recognized that I was a fanatic fool with no rational inhibitions preventing me from doing awful things (if my leaders asked me to). The only reason I was a decent person was because they were good enough to avoid telling me to do terrible things (which I would have tried hard to do, had they asked it) and because of my own innate morality (a factor which my Mormon upbringing simultaneously encouraged and undercut).

    Personal morality is (and always will be) weakened when the individual is made to subordinate himself wholesale to someone else. The institution of a prophet is death to personal morality.

    • Joseph Reply

      Perhaps I should have said, “the institution of prophet, as imagined by E. T. Benson, is death to personal morality.”

  25. Abraham Reply

    I really enjoyed this discussion. Two structures were at work here that were never really named. The first is the distinction between Athens and Jerusalem. The second is the distinction between the universal and the particular. I see these at work in the debate between John and Mike. John is Athens, he wants his religion to make sense, to have a basis in reason, to be logical. Mike is a new, and particularly Mormon form of Jerusalem that values faith and what lies beyond reason, but it does so in a way that abandons the ethical struggles found in the OT and makes obedience an abosolute value in and of itself, while forgetting that the prophets of the OT were critically engaged with their communities AND ALSO with God.

    This all points to abraham, the thing is, Abraham’s struggle in the sacrifice narrative, is Abraham’s alone, yet ETB wants to do two things. FIrst he wants to make what he thinks Abraham is doing a universal. He thought (incorrectly) that the story of Abraham was about obedience and how good Abraham was to be so perfectly obedient to God’s will. Second, Benson and others want to make this understanding a universal by *requiring* it of church members. But it can’t be a universal, that’s impossible, it only works on the level of the individual; in addition, it can’t be imposed, it is a struggle that has to occur through the individual’s actual making of an ethical decision. Finally, there is no symetry between the relationship between Abraham and God, and the relationship between an individual memeber of the church and the church’s president. The equation changes completely when one human being is told to subjucate his or her ethical and spiritual autonomy to that of another human being, and this is the potential origion for many forms of abuse.

    Mormon doctrine about agency takes a number of forms but what I am struck by in the temple version of the garden narrative is that Eve must make a decision, on her own, without full knowledge, in a context she could not understand. She was at risk of making the “wrong” decision, and the experience is posited as being for her good. ETB’s 14 points are counter to this structure of agency, since it imposes the terms of the relationship between the individual and the leadership from outside and because the 14 points remove the actual decision and thus individual ethical and spiritual autonomy. If the individual is not ultimately responsible for his or her own ethical and spiritual decisions then we are not ethical beings and we do not have agency.

  26. Fred Reply

    I loved the podcast! They just seem to keep getting better, better, and better!

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time these days so without reading everyone else’s posts first I want to address a couple of Mike Tannehill, “Oh my, I can’t believe he just said that!” ‘biffs’:

    1) “Jesus never preached the gospel to the gentiles.”

    RESPONSE: John 4:1-42 The Samaritan were (hello!) Gentiles and Christ spent two days with them. The narrative concludes with this in verses 41&42:

    “And because of his words many more became believers.

    They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

    In addition there are several other accounts of Christ preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. Which leads me to . . .

    2) Gentiles and the Temple.
    Gentiles could participate in Jewish Temple Worship even before Christ via the “Court of the Gentiles” (google on it Mike – you’ll get an education). Further, as John pointed out so well, there was an accommodation for Gentile conversions to Judaism even before Christ.

    So to state – as Mike has time after time, after time, after time, that the Gospel wasn’t presented to the Gentiles before . . . whatever, this strange dogmatic stance he’s trying to push is – I can’t figure it out . . . is simply wrong.

    I wish I could articulate further on this but I’m out of time.

    • Fred Reply

      OK, next point . . .

      Mike said in the podcast, “Christ told the apostles to expect the great apostacy”
      (from memory but pretty close I think)

      Really Mike? Where?

      Rather here’s what I see Christ saying in the gospel narrative:

      Matthew 16:18
      “… I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

      I must be blind because I don’t see any evidence of Christ telling the apostles to expect the great apostasy in that passage or anywhere else in the gospels.

      And other 19th Century Restorationists have largely completely abandoned the “great apostasy” dogma of the Second Great Awakening because (wait for it . . . wait for it . . . ) it’s NOT in the Bible!
      (well imagine that)

      Further, the only other groups who continue to hold onto the dogma and took it to the same extremes that Joseph Smith and Mormonism have are all . . .
      (drum roll puh-lease)

      Mind Control and/or Doctrinal Cults

      If you doubt me I would encourage you to research the “Great Apostasy” dogma of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, the Seventh-day Adventists, etc., etc. etc. Who knows Mike it COULD be that your in the WRONG “only true and restored church”! Maybe Charles Taze Russell, William Miller, Mary Baker Eddy or Ellen G. White was the REAL and actual “Prophet of the Restoration sent by God”.

      If so do the 14-Steps also apply to them?

  27. Kaylanamars Reply

    Mike just gets scarier and scarier every time I hear him. The fact that he’d really be willing to kill his wife with a javelin through her heart if she cheated on him made me literally sick to my stomach. His blatant immorality sickens and frightens me. I do fear for his wife and his children…should he get some kind of mental illness or some head injury…he could very well do some nasty things since he will feel that God is telling him to do these things. Very scary.

  28. Fred Reply

    Personally, I wasn’t at all shocked by Mike’s blood atonement comments. (actually there isn’t much that Mike could say that would shock me anymore – no matter how bizarre, immoral, or psychotic it may be) as LdS Physician and forensic Psychiatrist C. Jess Groesbeck said well in his 1988 Sunstone presentation, ‘Blood Atonement, Capital Crimes and Mormon Murders’:

    “One of the most dangerous traits and trends of any culture that claims, ‘to have the truth,’ is the tendency to not see it’s blind side and it’s capacity to project it’s own shadow onto others. And then identify with only what is light and good and right from God. And assume that all others that are different belong to the Devil.

    This is, in my estimation, one of the most serious – if not THE most serious problem we face in collective Mormonism today. Our inability to acknowledge or see our own shadowy side.

    How desperately do we need to hear, ‘. . . why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?’ (Matthew 7:3)”
    [37:05 into the presentation]

    “But when no one looks behind the scenes at the collective elements that fomented and set the stage for these kinds of individuals, then painful realities need to be acknowledged in this culture.

    As Richard Howard, Historian for the Reorganized Church said to me, ‘When individuals are isolated and their own religious outlooks are not honored or given at least legitimate discussion, does this not produce the kind of isolation that breeds idiosyncrasy, anger, frustration, alienation and hence aggression toward others?’

    The answer to that question would have to be a painful, ‘Yes!'”
    [36:00 into the presentation]

    By the way, Dr. Groesbeck was one of the Forensic Psychiatrists who examined Ron Lafferty after his arrest for the murder of his sister-in-law Brenda Wright Lafferty and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica.

    And here’s a link to the portal page I created for this classic presentation for those who are interested in hearing Dr. Groesbeck’s insight first hand: http://www.concernedchristians.com/index.php?option=com_fireboard&Itemid=42&func=view&id=78591&catid=526

  29. Christy Reply

    I just imagine he was shown what parts were sketchy doctrinally and he himself was happy to change it. Anyways, nice post!

  30. Dr. Dave Reply

    Oh, ye Wayward Saints. Ezra Benson, and you are simply retreading ground that Brigham has already thoroughly trpd, with his views on the Infallibility of the Priesthood. From Ronald Walker’s Wayward Saints, p. 164, http://bit.ly/cpchsH

    “The only thing that can sustain and uphold us in the Eternities that are to come and that will preserve our Identity is perfect submission to the will of God [and priesthood]. Those that go down to perdition, those that have had the privilege that our brethren [Godbe and Harrison] have & turn away and break off by degrees from these pure and Holy principles, will go back to their native element… They will taste the second death and lose their identity. Now is this liberty or does it take away our liberty?”

    Give me Identity or give me Liberty? Wait, did he just say that? Take a look at Fanny Stenhouse’s biography too. She and her husband eventually left over Brigham’s so-called Infallibility and patriarchy/polygamy. Her biography still resonates today.

  31. JS Reply

    These 14 points are just one more feature of a cultural super-organism feeding itself.

    The Church has no head – it has evolved a single mind that subjugates the interests of individuals. This is the core of its AMORALITY with respect to persons. Persons are cells whose value is defined in terms of the super-organism.

    This image of church as a super-organism is the closest I’ve come to a revelation. It’s not perfect – it may be overstated. But hear me out if this idea is new to you – perhaps there is a kernel of truth in it however imperfectly developed or supported by the totality of evidence.

    This idea popped in my head 25 years ago. I think it had something to do with the strange inward-looking formulaic pattern of thinking represented in church publications and Conference talks. Everything was about “likening the scriptures unto ourselves,” but it felt like conforming ourselves unto this huge super-organism. The scriptures (and history) were being snipped out of context to support this Borg-like (remember Star Trek?) mind.

    As cells of this super-organism individuals’ autonomous minds, including those of the General Authorities, are trapped by a closed loop that sustains itself by creating (1) the delusion of a separate supernatural “mind” that inserts objective truth from the outside and (2) the delusion that it exists to serve the cells individually.

    There are important parallels here with natural selection – the organism is self-serving on the proximate level, but it is the “selfish” gene that is being served ultimately.

    It is this logical closed loop that produces an individual’s immunity from the absurdity of their perceived of exceptionalism. It is how they can have no qualms about saying, “Yes, I see that there is no difference between LDS rhetoric and any cult but I’ve got the truth.”)

    This psychological immunity is PHYSICALLY instantiated in the brain – it is the result of neuronal “ruts” that (1) link strong emotions to chronically accessible thoughts and (2) physically disable the brain from processing (or even perceiving) information that does slide along these ruts. We saw this at work in one of the panelists. This comes from being coached to say “I know this Church is true” from the age of three. Isn’t there a bit of absurdity to a true believer believing in their immunity from immunity to new information?

    The LDS super-organism evolves by adapting ideas and cultural practices that exploit nearly every feature of human psychology. This evolution lacks self-consciousness at the individual level. It accomplishes mind control in part by making it so easily dismissed by true believers because they don’t feel like the fictional zombie-like characters. It does not need zombies to work.

    If you want a good clue to this at work look for examples of the Church’s “cells” saying their own versions of “black is white” and “dark is light.” Here’s one: Their incessant harping on “free agency” and “choice” all the while making blind obedience the highest expression of it and generating practices that operationally subvert it.

    The list of the evolved self-feeding mechanisms is nearly endless. Pick any Church practice and doctrine you can see this function at its heart. Correlation – bogeymen (“Satan and his minions”) – inexhaustible ordinances – obedience as the highest virtue – pre-mortal existence . . .

    And the Temple . . . my goodness . . . the Temple! This entire enterprise should be counted as immoral based on one single point. Billions of dollars and billions of person-hours spent doing what? Making the slightest scratch in the 50 billion deceased humans? Aren’t there suffering and dying living people who deserve a share of these resources?

    And here is one of the most powerful mechanisms. MAKING THE FAMILY THE PRIMARY UNIT OF THE super-organism. Can you see how much more effective that is than the individual? Notice how this leads to the willingness to marginalize gay and lesbians – no, it COMPELS the super-organism to direct its “orthodox” cells to reject those that don’t fit into its mechanisms, AT LEAST UNTIL DOING SO MAKES IT VULNERABLE TO ENVIRONMENTAL THREATS (like the evolving moral zeitgeist of modernity).

    The “cells” are fed only to the degree that they serve the super-organism. If some cells don’t – they are cut off. This equates morality with what serves the super-organism (or in-group). There is a long history of this – most institutional religions do this.

    This list of “14-points” is a small, but perhaps most obvious, mechanism. We should note that it is about obedience to AN OFFICE and not a person. Indeed, the Prophet has for a long time been a subsumed human proxy for the super-organism. Indeed, the entire system of “General Authorities” is but a powerful means of broadcasting its mind (along with manuals). Becoming a General Authority amounts to the final step in a melding of the individual mind with the super-organism? How blissful.

    We ALL too often assume that individuals are in control – that there is reflective intention at the individual level. True believers and the disaffected base their defenses and attacks on that presupposition. BUT IT DOES NOT FIT THE FACTS.

    For the disaffected, there is no one to get angry at – there is only this tragedy of delusion and loss of self.

    Take this as a theory in need of testing.


    Once you start seeing this way so much makes sense. Of course, this the hallmark of all organized religions. The LDS Church has just taken it further than most.

  32. Eileen Reply

    I am sorry but it is people like Mike that I find Mormonism so repulsive. When does Mike drink the cool-aide?

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