Episode 94: Mixed feelings for Mormonism

Zilpha, Tom and Glenn join John Larsen to discuss what the love and hate about Mormonism and become tangentially distracted.

Episode 94

54 comments on “Episode 94: Mixed feelings for Mormonism”

  1. Anonymous Reply

    Favorite line so far (from Glenn): Woah! Just back from vacation and Tom says “cult” before Zilpha says “sex”!

    • Anonymous Reply

      Glenn: “I tried to share this in Gospel Doctrine once and everybody was looking at me with vacant stares.”
      Tom: “I have a vacant stare right now.”

      Man, this episode is SO full of great quotes! I’m laughing so hard my work colleagues are wondering what the heck I’m listening to.

      • Tom Reply

        Thanks NA.

        For the record, I consider Glenn a great guy and a really good friend. I do take some undeserved shots at him from time to time, but it is all in fun. I hope most of the audience realizes that.

  2. Joseph Reply

    Great podcast! Here are some of my definitions of key terms.

    A cult (from the Latin cultus) is (1) a group of people who practice rituals, and/or (2) the rituals said group practices. Every group of people that meets regularly fits the definition.

    A myth (from the Greek mythos) is a fictional narrative connecting cause and effect. The characters in it are archetypes (idealized images of people who make idealized decisions between idealized good and bad). Some myths approach reality really, really carefully (think of a well-researched history book); others less so (think of Little Red Riding Hood). Different myths approach different kinds of truth (ethical truths, historical truths, physical truths, etc.).

    Glenn, you might be interested in this introduction to ancient Chinese writing:

    John was probably referring to the mysterious pictograms that date back as far as 4800 BCE (way too early for Adam, by most literalist chronologies since James Ussher, and certainly too early for the Tower of Babel).

    Did I mention that I loved this podcast?

    • Glenn Reply

      Come on Joseph, don’t make me dust off my rusty old folklore degree and get all wikipedia on you (the funny thing is that I didn’t look at wikipedia before I gave this rusty definition and I didn’t update wikipedia after it — it’s just the narrow training I had from my time as a folklorist — but it even drops “colloquially”):

      “The term ‘myth’ is often used colloquially to refer to a false story, but academic use of the term generally does not pass judgment on truth or falsity. In the study of folklore, a myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form. Many scholars in other fields use the term “myth” in somewhat different ways. In a very broad sense, the word can refer to any traditional story.”


      “Too early for Adam and certainly too early for the tower of Babel” is just sort of laughable to me. My issue on the podcast was with John’s use of “proven.” I still have an issue with that word. And you can’t say that 4800 BCE is too early EVEN by most literalist chronologies because they have their ways (valid or not) to discredit and discount the carbon-14 dating or imagine worlds with people living side-by-side with dinosaurs or whatever, where their past and your past still are not the same past — so they would STILL put Adam and the Tower of Babel before your 4800 BCE somehow. But it’s all moot, really, because there is no evidence for Adam or Babel in the first place, so why are we even discussing it and using words like “proven?” It’s just my personal preference, this approach. And who knows — I may come around.

      • Joseph Reply

        Heh, Glenn!

        Nice comeback with the dates: as someone who has been there, been convinced of that (i.e. believed that we have evidence for Babel and that it really happened the way Genesis says), I know what you’re getting at with the unreliability of carbon dates.

        I like your (academically orthodox) definition of myth just fine. Mine is the result of some personal tinkering. As a result of my faith crisis, I have joined you (I think) in being less certain/uncertain of things: as a result, my world has lost a lot of “objective history” (absolute truth) and become proportionately rich in “subjective history” (relative truth) which comes in narrative packages that I like to refer to as myth (stories linking A with B, C, D, and so on). My reason for preferring this definition of myth to the traditional usage is that the traditional usage ignores the fact that we still tell ourselves crazy stories confusing reliable fact with unreliable fiction. Many modern myths masquerade as absolute truth because they come from men in lab coats (dieticians, doctors, climatologists) or suits (economists, journalists, politicians, professors). While I see some modern myths as improvements on ancient ones (we have much better narratives for describing God than our Iron Age ancestors did), some are not: the Iron Age knew it was a bad idea to base your economic system on debt; we have “gotten too smart” and forgotten this lesson. Our idea of what constitutes proper nutrition is similarly wacked. So I am trying to revive myth as the go-to lexeme for “story people tell that may or may not preserve usual information.” This definition applies broadly across all fields of human endeavor (including the humanities, the sciences, and everything in between — your garden variety psycho with a story to tell is also incorporated). What do you think?

        • Glenn Reply

          Is “traditional usage” and “connectivity” your only defining criteria? Because that could also be said of legends and folktales, but those usually have deferent criteria than myth in the more academically orthodox definitions (in relation to time, location, belief, characters, realism, etc).

          I think I understand what you are saying about myth, although myth is also traditionally defined as a narrative — a story — not just a belief (like not basing an economy on debt). It’s hard for me personally to de-program “myth.” I came to cringe at the pejorative usage of myth, as if “other people” have myths but “we” do not. That’s why I came to embrace the academic definition, that all cultures have these sacred cow stories that explain the origin of things. Unfortunately, the colloqial pejorative “false other” version of myth is more catchy and useful for the masses, so it wins. But that doesn’t make it any easier for me to accept.

          • Joseph

            My definition comes from the old (Greek) mythos, which is just “word” or “story” — legends and folktales are certainly included, but any statement is eligible (provided it identify objects and provide a narrative relating them to one another causally, i.e. tell a story, including stories like, “if you make a bunch of bad mortgages, repackage them as secure investments, and sell them to someone else, you will be rich”). I know this represents a departure from normal usage (whether academic or colloquial), but it seems useful to me because for me (as for you) it seems silly to pretend that my best guess at how things relate to one another causally (no matter how good) should be absolutely true while all other guesses are less true or false. Truth and falseness exist as asymptotes that all myths approach but never attain.

  3. Joseph Reply

    John, I agree with your assessment of conference: it is basically a business meeting (“sell the product! keep your nose clean! sell the product!”).

  4. Joseph Reply

    “The people are true, but the church is slick and corrupt” (paraphrased). John, we are on the same wavelength. For some time since my faith crisis, I have noticed that people are genuine (honest, open, helpful) and organizations are not.

  5. Joseph Reply

    Crazy people sometimes do good things. I’m sure Brian David Mitchell has done some good in his life (just as I am sure he really believes that he is a prophet of God).

  6. Jason Reply

    This was a fantastic podcast. I really liked the group’s unstructured banter. I could listen to you guys going back and forth like this for hours.

    John – I have go with Glen on the knowing something is false issue. And I think you even admit this yourself when you said that you’re playing the odds. If you know that the Tower of Babel never existed, then you’re not playing the odds. Perhaps you mean that, as a matter of practice, you just operate under the assumption that the Tower of Babel never existed – as though it were a certainty. But theoretically, I agree with Glen that there is still some possibility, however minuscule, that the Tower of Babel actually existed as the Old Testament claims. What do they say? You can never prove a negative. It’s possible there are unicorns on the dark side of the moon, but playing the odds tells me that I should make no life decisions based on that possibility because it is so highly unlikely.

    Taking this principle further, I intend to teach my child (when he gets older) that there is some possibility that JS actually saw God and was a prophet, but I wouldn’t play the odds on that. The likelihood is so remote that it probably doesn’t warrant a lifetime of tithing and obedience to authority. If my child still wants to roll the dice with JS, then I’ve given my “buyer beware” warning that the odds are not in his favor (like buying a lotto ticket not in his favor).

  7. Pingback: Philosophies of Glenn, Mingled with Scripture | Mormon Expression Blogs

  8. Eric Reply

    John and Zilpha why do you want to move back to Utah? I’m sure its not to be closer to this religion. I currently live here but we want to move as soon as we can manage it. Even though there are things that I appreciate about this religion I want (hope) my kids to marry outside of the religion. And I think their chances are better outside of Utah. I also want my kids to see the world from a different perspective.

  9. Eric Reply

    fun podcast by the way. A lot of great quotes from you guys. I laughed out loud several times.

  10. Ziricotefan Reply

    Tom wake up! Joseph was a fraud from the beginning! Everything he did was for himself!

    • Tom Reply

      Everything he did was for himself? That is a pretty broad statement, don’t you think? You don’t think that JS did anything for anyone else? Really? I get that you aren’t a fan of Joseph. But you shouldn’t let your negative perception of the guy paint such a negative brush over EVERYTHING he did. I’m even willing to say that he acted as a fraud, but there were times he genuinely cared for others. There is no doubt of that. So what I will say is that he was a very smart and complex dude.

      • Ozpoof Reply

        The guy was a sociopath. He only cared for those who he could use. Any act of altruism was a tool of control. He lied to people to get them to give him their little girls. He was about his own gratification for sex and power. His legacy is misery – prozac, baby graveyards of inbred fundamentalists who live closer to what Smith designed. He created polygamy to excuse his rampant sex addiction for little girls and teens. He lied all the time, to Emma, the membership, the government, the locals, his little girl wives. That’s the mark of a psychopath – no remorse for what he creates. Blame everyone else. Get violent. Absolute nutter. It’s no wonder the LDS cult also lies in order to distance themselves from him.

        • Buffalo Reply

          I agree with some of this, but most of Joseph’s women were what we would consider legal or barely legal. I think he manipulated the hell out of people for sex, but if his aim was little girls there would have been a lot more than two or three of them.

          You lose credibility when you start distorting facts. Mormonism is weird enough. You don’t need to distort it to attack it.

        • Buffalo Reply

          I agree with some of this, but most of Joseph’s women were what we would consider legal or barely legal. I think he manipulated the hell out of people for sex, but if his aim was little girls there would have been a lot more than two or three of them.

          You lose credibility when you start distorting facts. Mormonism is weird enough. You don’t need to distort it to attack it.

          • Glenn

            Of the 34 wives listed on the site below, most of them were mature women — a few in their teens (some very young teens, but I think “rampant sex addiction for little girls” is taking it too far — I agree with Buffalo too you don’t need to pump it up with hyperbole it to make it look any worse than it actually looks)

            I think this is a pretty reliable source (unless someone can demonstrate otherwise): http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/

    • Fanson Reply

      Well . . . maybe, maybe not.

      Joseph Smith, Jr. was an extremely complex figure and even I, someone who is generally critical of the LDS movement/Mormonism in general and LdS Church is particular, am willing to give him some (not a lot, but SOME) benefit of the doubt.

      After all, even a pathological liar, at some point begins to believe his own lies and eventually slips into a psychotic stated where he finds it difficult to distinguish between his lies and reality.

      I think that this summation (the best I’ve found to date) says it all up well:

      “Mormonism is based on the subjective ‘intuition’ of the individual (you’ll ‘feel the truth’ of it, and if you don’t, you’re not open to God…).

      It is a remarkably irrational non-Christian religion born of a remarkable man in 19th-century New York. In fact, Mormonism is built on some of the wildest and most outrageous assumptions I’ve ever come across.”
      — John Knutsen, Catholic Scholar

      And as C. Jesse Groesbeck (the forensic Psychiatrist who was the Dan Lafferty case and a regular presenter at Sunstone) has noted, if nothing else it’s entirely likely that Smith was driven to save his family from crushing poverty.

      So ultimately, I think that the answer to the question of Smith’s motivations and intents is far more complex than even Smith himself realized.

      However, as some of the panelist said well, a crime done with even the best of intentions is still a crime.

  11. Smith Reply


    I really admire your being honest in the testimony meeting. I think the bishoprics of the world would handle a testimony like that in a generally positive way. But I wonder how the members in the congregation would take it; at least the members who weren’t already familiar with someone’s questioning. I would have to think it would change some relationships. Did you experience that after your testimony? Or were people pretty much aware already of your general questioning?

    • AdamF Reply

      I was there, and am aware of quite a few people (including myself) who were quite happy with Glenn and his questioning, even if we aren’t questioning the same things.

  12. Scott Ro Reply

    My favorite quote was when Zilpha said “Are they gone?” after the dead awkward silence. So funny. No, they weren’t gone, just impressed by what you said. Glad Zilpha was more vocal in this one.

    Glenn defending his Santa mythology was classic, and hilarious. Mormon Expression edition of “Wife Swap” could include Zilpha and Glenn preparing for the holidays and teaching the kids about flying reindeer.

    We might need another episode interviewing Tom, he seems like he’s a little more conservative these days, or was it just Mike’s absence? The world just doesn’t seem right when you don’t have Mike as a litmus test of crazy. A whole hour without learning when it is OK to kill someone for sinning, I feel so secular.

    Tom, I don’t think you quite fleshed out what you were getting at about the intentions or motivations of Joseph Smith. Without getting too lawyerly, let’s separate the mental state he mislead people with from his desired result of that misleading. IOW, do you think he knowingly or purposely (or maybe even just recklessly or negligently) mislead people with a good goal? Was his goal selfish/bad or do you see that as being his redeeming quality even if he was misleading people to do it. I’m interested to hear what you have to say Tom.

    John, the line about the members being true and the church being slick and corrupt is a keeper.

    Great episode!

    • Tom Reply

      I do believe that Joseph’s intentions weren’t all bad. Yes, It is possible that he mislead people with a good goal in mind. I just don’t think that focusing on his negative actions is always helpful. He has shown genuine kindness many times to many people. So I just don’t think that you can say that he was evil, a fraud, or completely selfish from start to finish.

      I don’t think it is a redeeming quality if he was misleading people even if his intentions were good. I think that a persons actions usually outweigh their intentions, but understanding a persons intentions can help us understand that person. I see Joseph as a very intelligent, charismatic and often times a genuine person. I also see when he was incredibly selfish and made some really poor decisions that hurt himself and others. I don’t disagree with the terrible decisions he made, like polygamy for example. That was a terrible move. The Kirtland Bank was another terrible decision. But don’t forget that he clearly showed some kind and thoughtful actions as well.

      Often times I get defensive towards Joseph, because when I compare him to Brigham, he looks like a freaking saint to me. That’s all. I hope I answered your question Scott.

  13. Jay Reply

    Wow. I listen to the podcast on the first day and there are already 18 comments. What the…?

    Seriously. I liked the unstructured banter too. I liked the comments about the church as a corporation. The phrase ‘tithe maximization’ comes to mind for me consistently when that comes up. And with a very few exceptions, the people in the church have been true for me. Especially my family and extended family. They’re awesome, and they’re not faking it.

    I also can relate to the conversation brought up again about leaving the church but not leaving it alone. This is part of me, and post faith-crisis freak-out, a lot of these issues are so much more interesting than they were before. Partly because I hadn’t really given myself permission to think certain thoughts.

  14. Chris Reply

    I don’t see why people find it so interesting that Joseph Smith seemed to have a split personality switching between the chrasmatic, generous, open person, and the exploitative juggernaut who you couldn’t tell if he believed his own delusions of grandeur or not. Being dynamic and convincing is a basic tort amongst the negative onesfor dignosing a typical Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It ALL fits the M.O.
    If anyone knows personally a person with NPD, they find out pretty quickly that people are perfectly capable of being exploitative and believing they are jesus at the same time. They usually leave a wake of people that they had befriended, flattered, and then used as a means to their own ends. People like this are all over the place. Its not a major phenomenon. Living in the MLM capitol of the world, I have come in to contact with hundreds of people that could have had the wit and charm and sneakiness to pull off something as grandiose if they had the luxury of living in the early 19th century. It really isn’t that amazing or wildly improbable in the end of it all.

  15. Brian Reply

    I keep my i pod handy on those nights I can’t sleep. Shame on you guys for keeping me up even longer the other night. I have a hard time sleeping and laughing at the same time.

    I like Zilpha’s “magical thinking” comment. I have a son on a mission who thinks like that. He didn’t get that from either his mom or me. He’s in mission hell (Germany) and wonders where all the miracles are.

    Wes-thanks for the cult characteristics.

  16. Gail Reply

    Great podcast.

    Tom when you ask how would it change how I feel about Packers talk if I believed it came straight from Christ. I thought about that. If the church policies about homosexual members that promote suicide really came from God. I would gladly go to hell fighting a God like that.

    I do find it fascinating how many members assume different things about the doctrine like that apostles or even the prophet have seen Christ or God even though no one has even claimed to since Joseph. With the exception of President Joseph Feilding’s dream.

    Some thoughts on Magic and Santa. I like the fun of Santa and on some level I would say I believe in Santa. No I don’t believe in a guy that lives at the North pole that gives gifts to everyone, but I do believe their is something magical about the giving at Christmas. There is something fun about trying to surprise people. Even some thing fun about the the suite and the story of Santa. Not that I teach my kids about Santa I don’t have to they talk about it. All of them when they are 4 or 5 have asked me do I believe in Santa and I say what do you mean? I explain I believe in the spirit of Santa that there is something magical at Christmas time. I also explain I do not believe that there is one guy the flies around the world in one night, but lots of people are Santa. I even had one of my boy tell me well I believe that there is one guy that travel around the world in one night. By the time he was 7 he did not.

    I believe Santa is a one opportunity to not be a black and white thinker. One of our problems in our society is we believe that questions like do you believe in the bible are yes or no questions. Even among “true believers” the truth is they can not and don’t believe everything in the bible it is not intellectually possible. The same is true about the question is the church true? Is there any two members that believe the same things about the church? Is there any ex members that disbeleive the same things about the church?

    As far as not believing in a magical world. Is not magic anything I don’t understand. Is not life magical. Or the Big bang? Science does not have a good explanation of why or how either happened. We don’t even have a good explanation of how Language came to be. What is not magic about these things. Is it a problem if kids develop in their beliefs about what is magical?

    • John Reply

      I liked the comment where Elder Packer was pitied for being old and out of touch. When he asked the question “Why would our heavenly father do that to someone?” – I pitied him as well. It seemed like he may have a heart after all, but was just blinded by his faith. Then he changed the transcript and came off again as arrogant and ignorant.

      It is sad that most members believe the brethren are in actual communication with angels and deity like Joseph Smith claimed to be. I always thought they were because of what is taught at church and because they are always giving their “special witness” of the Savior. The “sacred experience” argument worked when I was a youth, but as an adult I realized that if Joseph Smith had kept his experiences sacred as well, there wouldn’t be anything to differentiate our church from any other church, which is what we have today if Joseph Smith was the fraud that the church agrees he was if the Book of Mormon is not “true.” Now if the church would just agree to an objective test of the “truth” of the Book of Mormon aside from the subjective “feeling”.

  17. Ozpoof Reply

    I can honestly say I miss nothing from the church. I attended a Church College in New Zealand that is not being closed and demolished. I was ecstatic when I found out. I have nothing but bad memories of the people and place. I wish the entire cult would fold. That’s how much I hate it.

    I estimate growing up in the cult set me back 15-20 years socially. It’s not surprising really when you are conditioned to think of yourself as human garbage and evil.

    I’ve tried to get past my contempt, but there is so much inside that still has to come out. Decades of boldfaced lies, the time and money wasted, the feelings of hopelessness drilled into me, the fear of a terrible God, the utter lack of understanding, the demonization of human frailties, the fear of simple pleasures, the GUILT, the boredom, the mind numbing nonsense, the lack of honesty, the isolation, the insulation, feeling guilty when not working, seeing everyone in the world as bad or lost. ARRGH! I want my life back!

    • Jay Bryner Reply

      Ozpoof – If your childhood was like you describe, you’re doing the right thing to get far far away. You’ve got to get to a place that is good for you.

      I can honestly say that my experience with the church (with a few very obnoxious exceptions) has been a good thing for me. It’s really hard for me to muster up feelings like you’ve expressed here.

      By all means necessary, take your life back!

    • Davidicus21 Reply

      I hate to sound unsympathetic here, but if you think the church set you back 15-20 years socially, you are just naturally socially inept and want someone to blame it on.
      The other things you describe are obviously caused by a total misunderstanding (or radicalization) of what the church teaches. True or not, the church didn’t cause that. I’m sorry you have such issues, but you you would blame your problems on whatever enviornment you grew up in.

  18. Walt Reply

    This was another classic ME. I too love hearing you guys toss around the Mormon belief and disbelief. Very entertaining.

    I think the biggest thing I heard though is that John and Zylpha are moving to the UC? Wow, is this some sort of study you are conducting or something?? LOL. Anyway, welcome to the neighborhood, maybe sometime I will get a chance to meet you face to face now!

  19. G. Reiersen Reply

    I finally finished listening to this podcast today (with enjoyment, as usual). “Mixed feelings for Mormonism” is certainly the best way to describe how I feel about it. I strongly tend to agree with John that the membership of the Church (for the most part) are great, honest, sincere and lovable people; it is the organization and the leadership that is corrupt, manipulative and deceptive (too often knowingly and deliberately so IMO). The more I learn about Joseph Smith and early Church history (even from Church approved sources), the more disenchanted I become with the whole thing. Like Glenn, as my education progressed and I learned more about language and its roots (including foreign languages) I realized that “terrestrial” merely meant “of the earth” and “celestial” merely meant “of the heavens” and that Paul was merely comparing earthly things with heavenly things. It began to seem obvious to me that Joseph Smith just made up the word “telestial” from the Greek “telos”, meaning far or far away (from heaven?) and the whole idea of three kingdoms or degrees of glory. As with Glenn, this seemed to me like an awfully strained and unwarranted interpretation of what Paul was actually saying.

    Another blow to my faith (one of the first and biggest) was the realization, as my knowledge of math and science matured, that there was no way that the Biblical story of a world-wide Flood could possibly be literally true, unless God went to a great deal of effort to erase all compelling evidence of it, and then deliberately create bogus but seemingly enormously compelling geophysical, biological, mathematical and historical evidence that made it look like it never happened. Why would he do that? To test our faith? I simply cannot believe that a wise and caring God would play such juenile games as telling us one thing while deliberately making it look like it wasn’t true merely to test our faith in him. If God didn’t want us to use our abilities of reason and observation to deduce what was actually true by carefully examining and evaluating the best available, objective evidence, why did he give us those abilities and then sabotage them by planting false evidence? Whether God lied to his prophets about the The Flood being historically and literally true, or deliberately made it look like it wasn’t true when it really was, God is still guilty of deliberate deception. I cannot believe in or worship a god that would lie to us.

    As for the Tower of Babel, which was also mentioned in this discussion, that story simply does not make sense on any level. I could (and already have, in fact) write a whole essay on that. I would be glad to share it with anyone who is interested. The fact alone that the Book of Ether in the BoM treats that story as historical truth is fatal to the credibility of the Book of Mormon.

  20. MJL Reply

    This podcast started with much potential but tanked at the digression on Santa Clause and never recovered. Too many tangents, too much time spent on off topic issues. However I do have some comments.

    Speaking of Santa Clause how quaint it is to hear born-again Atheists explain their refusal to indulge their children in an innocent belief in a fantasy figure because they don’t want to lie to them. They fear they may set them up for brainwashing schemes in the future.

    However, they lie to them every time they tell them that they love them. They lie to each other when they say they love one another. Love is an illusion created in the brain through chemical reactions to serve one’s “selfish genes”. It is not the romantic notion of selfless surrender of one to another. John does not love Zilpha. Zilpah does not love John. They do not lover their kids. At least if Atheist general authority Sam Harris has anything to say about it. Love, as we like to understand it, does not exist yet it is so much better to pretend it does doesn’t it? And it is so nice to be loved by someone isn’t it? But these feelings and sentiments are false. Explain that to your kids.

    And don’t worry about setting your kids up to become easy prey to a brainwashing scam. The education system will do that to them anyways and I’m sure with your consent.

    It is wise to tread lightly around the word cult. Atheism can be described as a cult. It has it’s own creation story, worship of Charles Darwin as a cult figure (while shunning Alfred Russell Wallace), group think disguised as rational inquiry and reason, discouragement of skeptical thinking towards one’s belief system while applying it to others. (Why do Atheists assume that freethinking and reason equate Atheism when freethinking and reason can lead one to deism or theism? Antony Flew is one good example). Atheists speak the same slogans, read the same books, worship the same figures, talk alike, think alike, yet laughably claim to be freethinkers. It can be described as just another form of group think cult mentality like so many others. And let’s not lose sight of the fact Atheists believe, no, know that they are the one true faith. No wonder ex-mormons make good Atheists. They go from the one true faith to the one true faith.

    Lastly, regarding the Mormon mall. I think the mall is an acknowledgment that 1) the second coming ain’t happening anytime soon and 2) an implication that the Church is anticipating falling or stagnant membership growth in wealthy nations, possibly all nations, which will negatively affect tithing income. A profit generating venture like the mall is a means to supplement the anticipated loss in tithing revenue due to poor membership growth coupled with membership losses . I think the brethren feel right in building a mall because it will keep the Lord’s true Church financially healthy and secure its future. I expect to see similar profit seeking ventures from the Church in the future.

    • John Doe Reply

      Why does it mean love is false if scientists are able to describe the brain chemistry of people in love? If anything doesn’t that just affirm the existence of love?

      If you really think atheists all think alike you probably haven’t met very many of them. Atheism is simply the rejection of an unsubstantiated claim, no other ideology is required.

    • Carson N Reply

      Fallacy of definition, genius. Two in one comment. You accuse others of defining “love” as a “romantic notion of selfless surrender of one to another”, which is just replacing an abstract concept with another abstract concept, and it proves nothing. Declaring that it is not in fact an abstract concept and instead is just chemicals in the brain is nonsensical. That’s like saying “that’s not a video game, it’s a collection of rapidly oscillating electric currents.” Newsflash: it can be both.

      Next comes your misunderstanding of what atheism means and a bunch of generalizations that are so silly they don’t even need to be debunked on a forum like this.

    • Fanson Reply

      Oh that answer is SO easy . . .

      A: Those who will donate at the telestial level include those who have not yet received the spirit of generosity in this life. It also includes “liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie.”

      The only way to distance yourself from this group is to give at a higher level.

      Thank you for asking.


  21. Buffalo Reply

    I agree that the missionary program is very cult-like. It took me a long time to return to my normal self after my mission. Actually I never really got everything back. It wasn’t a terrible experience but I think it sapped a lot of the joy out of my life and my personality. Spot on observations about being called by a different name, not being allowed to contact old friends or do anything outside the program almost.

  22. Staceyjb Reply

    I enjoyed this podcast. Just listened to it yesterday. It’s good to think critically about how one truly feels. And for me, I just try to see things as they really are. As a “corporation”, I view “the church” as a THING. I try not to assign human characteristics (or like most corporations, it would be a sociopath!)

    One tangent (which I love, btw) that was discussed was how to talk to your kids about all this. Especially kids that are still very much a part of a mormon extended family.

    I am helping raise a 5 year old as a Lesbian partner no less and she occasionally has “questions” about the meaning of life. I can no longer rely on my mormon “KNOWLEDGE”. . .but, I am sometimes at a loss on how to talk about some of these spiritual things.

    Anyway–would love a future podcast dedicated to this!

    Keep up the good work. Glen–I think you are my favorite 😀

    • Glenn Reply

      Thanks Stacey — somewhere I think I just heard a very long sigh from Tom. Mana to my ears. 🙂

  23. John Reply

    Wow – I think the church fits every category listed. Now that the church is so much larger, I think it actually has less control than under JS, BY, or the current fundamentalist sects. Due to the size of the church, the category that “the leader is not accountable to any authorities” is not as applicable because of the increased scrutiny by so many members and press. However, I still believe it is applicable because of our doctrine that the prophet cannot lead us astray while God lets him live, their is no financial accountability, and the prevailing doctrine that obedience is the first law of heaven. While the church gives lip service to the article of faith about being subject to kings and rulers and obeying the law of the land, the historical disregard of such laws, both in our church history and the scriptures, makes that lip service seem deceptive and ripe with exceptions that swallow the rule. Unfortunately, threats of ostracism (including divorce and estrangement from spouses and children) for dissent cause very real real pressure, especially upon those that are raised in the church, as opposed to converts with family outside the church. Fawn Brodie was a good example of somebody who made a clean break even though her uncle was a prophet. However, it would have been much more difficult if she had married in the church prior to her disaffection. The pressures to go on a mission and marry in the temple before most young adults have confidence to think for themselves is particularly troubling. The Internet seems to be the great equalizer where both sides of the issues can be discovered with less and less effort.

  24. Katie L. Reply

    Okay, so this one got under my skin.

    Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it, but I was totally shouting at my iPod the entire time because you guys are SO DANG LITERAL! Loosen up a little! 😉

    There is an important space in the human experience for myth and magic, for narratives that may or may not be historically accurate but that convey profound truths and create culture and context. Who cares if it really happened, if Moses parted the Red Sea or God flooded the entire earth or Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the flesh? That’s not an interesting question. The interesting question is what does it mean? How do these stories shape our perception of the world? How do they influence the way we perceive ourselves as individuals, families, communities? How do they change the way we interact with the divine?

    (And yes, I find it equally uninteresting when people talk about how important it is to “know” that these things really happened in church, too.)

    I believe there is a beautiful depth of experience that can never be fully accessed until we are willing to move beyond questions of historical accuracy and begin interacting with sacred myth with the heart of a believer — understanding that myth, like art, is never meant to represent mundane physical reality, but exists instead to lead us into deeper levels of empathy, compassion, and wisdom.

    I know the church doesn’t bill its own narrative as such, and that makes it difficult to take this approach with Mormonism. (That’s one thing I love about Jesus: he always spoke in parables, and was upfront about that fact.) But we’re a young religion, born and raised in an era obsessed with “scientific accuracy,” and I believe (hope) that eventually we’ll move past it.

    Anyway, like I say, I really did enjoy the podcast — but this was one thing that stood out to me as I listened.

  25. Pingback: Who Cares if it Really Happened? | Burning At The Stake

  26. Fanson Reply

    I have to respectfully disagree with the assertion that no one can define what constitutes a cult – or more precisely, a Mind Control Cult – as well as the assertion that the modern LdS Church doesn’t qualify as a Mind Control Cult.

    Personally, I find it helpful to get the discussion out of the arena of doctrine and theology. After all as one panelist poignantly noted in one of the early podcasts, arguing doctrine with religionists ultimately always seems to come down to a “my opinion v. your opinion”.

    So let’s see if we can put the question on a more objective, dispassionate plane.

    Instead why don’t we choose to label “cults” based not on doctrine, but whether or not the group exercises the mental and sociological control elements common in cults and recognized by secular counter-cult experts.

    There are many sociological aspects we can examine to determine if a group fits the criteria of a “cult,” but one of the easiest models to use in evaluating cult mind-control is given by Steven Hassan in his book Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, published in 2000 by Freedom of Mind Press, Somerville MA.

    In chapter two, he gives four basic components of mind control, which form the acronym BITE. You can read more about the BITE Model here:

    This model was based primarily on Robert Lifton’s work but also draws from research from Margaret Singer and many others. It doesn’t target any group in particular and can be applied to ANY group be they religious, political, secular, etc. It just doesn’t matter.

    Steven Hassan recommends that the BITE Model analysis be done by former members as they have the greatest insight into the group’s formal and informal behavior. So with that in mind, here are links to the BITE analysis’s that have been completed by former Mormons.

    I would politely suggest that these analysis’s answer this nagging question rather nicely – and I will leave it to the reader to decide the answer for them self what that answer is:

    The BITE Model and Mormon Control
    by Luna Flesher
    (an ExMormon and now a credentialed Cult Exit Counselor)

    The BITE model applied toward Momonisms’s two-year missionary program as submitted by an ex-Mormon

    The BITE model applied toward Mormonism as submitted by an ex-Mormon


  27. gmotct Reply

    So when comes the podcast about differences between the Book of Commandments and the Doctrine & Covenants? (I’m always way behind on listening, but I think it was this one that John mentioned that idea in.)

    Please, go ahead and get that topic going. I’d love to hear that podcast (and obviously, my personal preference should heavily influence ME decisions.)

  28. Kyle Elser Reply

    My Favorite so far!!!!
    Try!  Just Try to come up with anything as boring and full of palpum as these Guys?!!?

    Holy crap I laughed so Hard!!
    John, The Spirit was so strong with you!!!

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