Episode 168: Hell House

Glenn is joined by Mike Tannehill, Randy Snyder, and Bob Caswell to talk about Christian “Hell Houses,” the concept of Hell in Mormonism, and common scare tactics used for obedience.


Episode 168

108 comments on “Episode 168: Hell House”

  1. Kevin Reply

    Very fun podcast. Thanks to Glenn and all.

    I especially love the idea of a Mormon hell house. I would have a roomful of people watching someone dressed up like Glenn Beck as he weeps uncontrollably while scrawling incomprehensible diagrams on a blackboard. (Shudder!) 

    Or, as one of the panelists suggested, a portrayal of the telestial kingdom. People could be relaxing and having a generally good time. But occasionally they would glance down at their crotches and look pensive.

    • Bob Caswell Reply

      You know, it only came up in the after discussion… as we thought, “wait, how did we not talk about that?!” But then again, Spooky Mormon Hell Dream has already gotten plenty of coverage.

  2. Megan Reply

    Hate to say it but Mike’s degrees of responsibility make heaven sound like a real pain! An eternity of endless responsibility – apparently while bound by ineffable and inviolable laws that mean you HAVE to have a fall and you HAVE to have an atonement and you HAVE to have pain and suffering – all the while I, as one of the Heavenly Mothers – would have no contact with my children at all while they’re going through all that? Doesn’t really appeal, to be honest.

    Also, sadly, I hear ‘responsibility’ and immediately think ‘visiting/home teaching.’ FOREVER. Shudder…

    • mono Reply

      I loved John Larsen’s comment on an earlier podcast talking about the same thing, if that is all there is to do, churning out kids and taking directions from above and reporting back: it has been done. I would want to commit Celestial suicide.

      Is Mormism really the first MLM scheme? 

      • Megan Reply

        I’ve always thought so. In fact, I’ve explained the Mormon glory system to non-mormons as a kind of heavenly pyramid scheme. Add in the idea (that I heard over and over when I was growing up) that those you convert will forever give you honor and praise (and possibly service) in the after life and the image is complete!

        The whole run-your-own-planet thing reminds me of Sims. I tried it once and realized, as I watched those tiny, digitized little ingrates throw their tantrums and make messes on the floor, that it was basically like being a parent only it never, never ended. That was pretty much it for Sims for me, and honestly if I expand that out to an entire planet of whiny, privileged little gits fussing at me and demanding I clean their messes? Nah.

        • Elder Vader Reply

          Megan, in an effort to tie this back to actual statements by church leaders, I want to point you in the direction of “The False Gods We Worship” by Spencer Kimball.  It features some great pyramid style gems. 

          Why be concerned with riches during this life?  Stay faithful and you’ll get your own planet, maybe even worlds without number.  Imagine all the gold within the earth’s crust, then multiply that by infinity.  Boo yah.

          Kimball tells the story of a young man who decides not to go on a mission.  His car is more important to him.  The young man enjoys the feeling of power he gets from driving around in his car.  You like power?  Think of all the power you could have if you exercise your priesthood properly!  Don’t have priesthood-jedi-mind powers yet?  You’re doing it wrong.  (or you are a female)  But how are you ever going to learn if you don’t serve a mission? 

          Thinking of enjoying retirement?   No, you need to push your future orientation farther out, past the time you die.  Between now and then you need to serve in the church some more.  Just think of all the blessings! 

          • Megan


            Oooh! Thank you, I had no idea this existed!


            I swear there’s a lit dissertation going begging if someone
            just analyzed ‘General Authority Prose.’ 


            ‘I used to run like the
            wind with my brothers and sisters’

            ‘Stopping by a tired old fence post, I would
            sometimes just stand silently in the mellow light and the fragrance of
            sunflowers and ask myself, “If you were going to create a world, what
            would it be like?” Now with a little thought the answer seems so natural:
            “Just like this one.”‘

            Among other gems. I do have to ding him a bit
            for over-use of the word ‘dark.’ We have ‘dark and massive,’ ‘dark and
            threatening,’ and ‘dark and miserable.’ 

            Good lord – he says we’re ‘surfeited with flocks
            and herds and acres and barns.’ Maybe my folks weren’t as righteous as I
            thought, because we didn’t have ANY of those things. 

          • Megan

            Grrrr… sorry – was too lazy to paste and strip away the codes. I didn’t think it would be THAT bad. 

            Can I just say, I HATE Microsoft sometimes??

  3. cam Reply

    Can’t wait to hear this episode–maybe by the end of the week. I live in CT and have been without power since Saturday. (Unapolegetic play for sympathy. Worst Halloween ever!)I used to be terrified of all things “of Satan”. It’s been so liberating to leave these beliefs behind.

    • Chuck Borough Reply

      It’s very nice to be free of the requirement to pretend to believe things. Even after the belief is gone, the pretending can go on for years. Once free of that – wow.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Hope they get the lights on soon.  Up here in Boston we didn’t get hit very hard, but western Mass wasn’t as lucky. 

  4. Megan Reply

    My ward did one of those ‘tours of heaven’ things when I was small. I remember my mum warning me ahead of time that it might be really scary – and after going through the whole thing I was baffled and asked what she meant and she replied that she thought it would be ‘more realistic.’ Not sure if she though we were going to go through outer darkness or if she was afraid the plane crash would freak me out?

    Anyway, from what I remember we were all told we had made it to the Telestial and the men and women were separated and shuffled into two different rooms. I think there we were served water and saltines too while they described the kingdom and told us how bummed we were not to be with our families. 

    Then another angel came and said there had been an administrative error and REALLY we had made it to the terrestrial so we filed out of the classroom and were fed into the cultural hall where there was some lighting effect that divided the room into two dim areas with a big stream of light across it and were told how terribly, terribly sad it was that we could almost see our families. I can’t remember what the snacks were here but I think it was something like a very dry cookie.

    Finally we were told that there had been another administrative error and really, truly we had made it to the Celestial (yay us!) and they turned on all the lights and we had cake and 7-up and were told how fab it was to be together with our families. 

    The message I went home with was try for the CK because the food is way better. Also I had a vague feeling the the Telestial Kingdom had tacky brown carpet and folding chairs which fit pretty well with my previous idea about it.

    • Anonymous Reply

      The message I went home with was that God needs to hire more competent administrative staff.  Good hell, how many “administrative errors” are these people allowed to make before they get canned. 😉

    • Elder Vader Reply

      When I was in the MTC, they were actually giving little mini-lessons telling us that if we didn’t do the paperwork correctly, and fill out the baptismal slips, and do all the necessary filing that it may have an effect on somebody in the afterlife, and their work will have to be done over again in the temple.  And that could take forever.  Better to get it right the first time. 

      • Anonymous Reply

        Not a problem Elder Vader.  To keep the elderly busy, they baptize everyone 20+ times anyway in the temple.  My first assistant in the HP was a geneology software writer and he told me the church temple work was 80% redundant.

    • Lemniscate Reply

      I too had to endure this little “tour of heaven” thing.  It is also known as the Crash of Flight 409.  Everybody cried at the end and got up to bear their testimony.  And I mean everybody, the meeting was interminable.  Correction: everybody except me; I refused to budge and stared down all those staring at me.

  5. Anonymous Reply

    Sometimes when I listen to episodes with Mike I convince myself that if I just talked to him long enough that I could reach him.  Not that I could change his mind…. but that I could FINALLY get him to say, “OK, I get your point.  I see where you’re coming from.”  Then I have to bring myself back down to reality. 

    • DefyGravity Reply

      That would be a miracle. Listening to Mike pushes me out of the church faster then anyone else on this podcast. If he’s what Mormon’s are like, there doesn’t seem to be much point in working with them. 

      • Cwald Reply

        I love the podcasts with Mike.  I think the guy is nuts, no doubt, but I think ME needs that kind of TBM personality. It makes the program fun and entertaining, and I like to be reminded just how goofy the LDS church is.  Hang in there MIke, and thanks for taking one for the team again.

        • DefyGravity Reply

          I don’t think he’s a good representation of TBMs, because none of the TBMs I know are anywhere close to what’s coming out of his mouth. I live in Utah Valley, and I’ve heard some insanity, on top of the insanity that is basic church doctrine and policy, but very little like Mike. I don’t think he’s representative; I think he’s prejudiced against anyone not white, male, straight, with economic means and uses the church to back that up. Very few of the TBM’s I’m surrounded by would agree with most of what he says, so how is representational? He represents a small fundamentalist percentage of Mormons that most mainstream members wouldn’t recognize. It’s frustrating because there are so many things within mainstream Mormonism to talk about, but then Mike goes off one some tangent from nowhere and I feel like we’re missing out on interesting discussion for the sake of Mike’s insanity.

          • amy

            oooooh he’s spot on but i agree abt him not being particularly fond of anyone not like him. Mike’s hell=a world thriving on welfare.

    • Anonymous Reply

      I thought the same thing Heather and then came the unrecorded after discussion when Mike gave his opinion on transsexuals.  I won’t get into it because I think it’s a cheap shot on Mike to post what I remember him saying but lets just say it was a little more heated than the podcast and I was left baffled at the man Mike.  

    • Elder Vader Reply

      I simply marvel at all the strange and bizarre theories I constructed back in the day.  It takes my breath away how hard I believed in some things. 

    • Greg Rockwell Reply

      But even more precious is that the assessment of Brigham misinterpreting really critical doctrine came on the tail of him scratching his head and pondering aloud how we all just don’t get it.

      I mean, c’mon, it’s really so simple.  We need good firesides that can teach us how to more clearly recognize the spirit, and if we (and Brigham… and Bruce R… and Joseph Smith) can just attend those firesides and finally get it right, then the pieces will fall into place and we’ll all be one big happy family back in the fold again.
      Yeah, what was the angle Lucifer took in the pre-earth life?  I’ve been working on that, too. 

      • Hermes Reply

        Evidence suggests that either God or the human race is really, impossibly dense.  He has been trying to get the message across for a good long while now, and we still can’t figure out what the heck he is saying.  (Marry lots of women?  Don’t marry at all?  Kill men who marry men?  Don’t kill them, but don’t be nice to them either?  Have only one wife?  Never divorce?  Divorce is allowed?)  If God could just make up his mind and give us one message that remained constant, it might be a little easier.  But this game of pretending that he has (when he clearly hasn’t, whether because none of us get it or because no clear message has ever been broadcast) is getting old (and untenable).

        As preached by modern LDS leadership, the Restoration was supposed to put an end to all this doubt and confusion.  Instead, it just added more passionate voices to the war of words and tumult of opinions (which goes on, and on, and on, showing no sign of stopping).

  6. Hermes Reply

    And I think hell houses are generally lame (bad acting, bad theology, terrible psychology, the epitome of everything I like the least about religion in general).

  7. Chuck Borough Reply

    The “penalties” in the temple were a kind of “Hell house” for this guy. Any Earthly father who beats his children should be beaten himself. Any god who would kill you for telling a secret handshake or one who would set up an eternal torture place for all his wayward (or ignorant) children should go and be tortured there.

  8. Patrick Darby Reply

    Hey Mike,

    Could you please write a blog entry on the difference between emotions and the Holy Ghost. You’ve brought it up before and your interpratation needs a lengthier explanation because no one seems to get it.

    • Hermes Reply

      It’s ineffable.  (And here we Mormons sometimes like to make fun of the Christians for their incomprehensible Trinity. Pot and kettle.)

      • Patrick Darby Reply

        Maybe but he can try. It’s a serious request. The issue is fundamental to mormons who actively lived the doctrine and had the “warm and fuzzy” confirmations.

        It seems to me that Mike’s position is that other mormons who fall away don’t know the difference between emotions and the Holy Ghost. That’s some hubris to make that claim. I’d hope that a longer blog piece would be enough to provide the gist of his position and then we could validate the claims in the comments.

    • Chuck Borough Reply

      I don’t believe in ghosts. Not mean ones, not nice ones, none of them. But emotions are real and affect us greatly. Those emotions can have us believing alls kinds of silly things. That’s the difference; emotions are real, ghosts are imaginary.

  9. Chuck Borough Reply

    The metaphor for me works this way: Eternal progression really is eternal and completely unlimited. Repentance is an eternal principle, not about only this tiny Earthly part of eternity. Our Father’s plan is one that wants the most happiness possible for each child, and no end to when that child may make changes. It is for sure metaphoric for me, but I don’t want an unkind Santa Claus either. It doesn’t matter that there is no real god, our made up one still needs to be a good one who never quits caring. Joseph Fielding Smith said that he believed we could not repent or improve from one kingdon to another, but also clearly said this was only his private opinion. For him, it was not a metaphor. I have far more freedom to have mine as I would like it to be, so I’ll choose a nice god who never wuits caring. Even the third of the hosts who “serve” as the tempters will get it all right eventually. (That’s just another one of the “secrets.”)

    • Anonymous Reply

      According to Bruce R. McKonkie, the idea that it could be possible to progress to progress from one kingdom to another was one of the “deadly heresies.”  But then, a significant amount of what he said in “Mormon Doctrine” has since been discredited.

      • Hermes Reply

        Man, Bruce would say that.  But who’s offering him the other cheek and letting him into heaven anyway, huh?  Who is saying that even crazy morons shouldn’t be condemned to hell for eternity?

        • Anonymous Reply

          I, for one, would agree that “even crazy morons shouldn’t be condemned to hell for eternity.”  And, I strongly suspect that even if there is some kind of life after death, Bruce R. Quckly learned that it bears very little resemblance to anything he thought it would be like during his own mortality.

  10. Kyle Harris Reply

    I did one of those fake plane crash activities that was talked about. I was just off my mission and was a young men’s leader. I am actually ashamed that I exposed those young people to such manipulative tactics. 

    • Troy Morrell Reply

      I did one as well during a stint in Stake YM leadership.  I am going to repent right now.

  11. mono Reply

    Sounded like “Refer Madness” to me, yeah I’m showing my age, but I CLEARLY remember being hauled down the AV room and watching this black & white 16 mm film on the evils of Marijuana (which I had never heard of prior to the movie). The point was one toke and you were hooked. EVIL!!!!

    As far as the Dad watching porn with his daughter sitting on the bed, maybe it was a teaching moment…. Like the Bishop in an old ward that had been sexually abusing his daughter, for years. A real piece of work, he would take his girl friend (who he also knew, in the Biblical sense) on a “date” to the temple. 

  12. Greg Rockwell Reply

    There was a Mormon mini-hell house that no one touched on… ADDICTION.  Addiction is one of Mormonism’s favorite scare tactics.  

    Despite the fact that almost everyone in the world partakes in xxxxxxxx, if you touch it, you will become enslaved.

    Slavery is a big deal to Mormons.  Never mind that we are supposed to completely subordinate our will to (admittedly imperfect) mortal leaders, who frequently can’t get the doctrines right… that absolute necessity to be obedient, that doesn’t sound like slavery at all. 

    • Elder Vader Reply

      Yeah, I used to say stuff like that.  “I’m glad I never tried alcohol, because I think I’m one of those personalities that just wouldn’t be able to keep it under control.”  As it turns out, that phobia had not the slightest connection to reality. 

      • mono Reply

        I’ll drink to that!
        I don’t think very much in Mormonism has any connection to reality. I have been reading Blood of the Prophets, by Will Bagley, after reading Juanita Brooks MMM, I was really struck by how NOT one person in any of the first person written accounts ever mentioned ANYTHING about: What would Jesus do? Is this really what Christ teaches? Maybe they believed in Rambo Jesus instead of the Corporate Jesus we now have.

  13. Jack Rodwell Reply

    sooooo do mormons believe in hell or not.one of the differances between christians and mormons is hell. i heard mckonckie is a son   of perdition

  14. Greg Rockwell Reply

    What a fantastic discussion!

    The comparison of the temple ceremony to the hell house was so spot on in a way that I would have never pulled together, but once you see it, it’s so clear!

    It dawned on me in that portion that both the hell house and the temple are simply riffs on Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Admittedly focusing on different parts, but the motif is definitely there.  

    I also was struck that our evolved responses to Type I and Type II errors is endemic of this conversation.  Hell house (and religious belief in general) demonstrates the strength of our preference for Type I errors (false positives) over Type II errors (false negatives).  Our ancestors that learned to be jumpy about the potential tiger in the bush passed on more genes than those that thought the rustling in the bushes was just the wind (when it was, in fact, the tiger).  

    So we evolved to prefer caution as a survival method.  Isn’t that also what hell house is all about?  Isn’t that what fear mongering as religion teaches?  

    I realized that this all becomes the root of Pascal’s Wager and everyone’s favorite Mormon meme, “Well, even if it isn’t true, it’s a good place to raise your kids.”

    • Chuck Borough Reply

      Hadn’t thought about it as a “meme,” but I have raised five kids in the Church, all while I was an atheist. Three served missions, all five married in the temple, all “believers,” but any of them who may later become atheists will not suffer long and hard as I did; they will just see it as a natural progression, like when they gave up Santa Claus. Also, if they remain believers, they will still have respect and understanding for others who do not believe.

      • Greg Rockwell Reply

        From what I can tell, the only healthy way to raise kids in the Church is in a liberal/sunstone type tradition.  I propose that they need some diversity of example.

        So, if your kids don’t suffer from that, is it BECAUSE of the Church teachings or IN SPITE of them?

        Let me do a broad disclaimer and say that I believe most TBMs are good people, just like most non-believers are good people.  

        So, is the contribution of the Church to the raising of children a net benefit, or are we working against ourselves?  If it is a net benefit, does that come in alignment with the orthodox chapel teachings of Mormonism, or does the benefit come from things like Gene Englund taught? Where else can you be forced to interact with people that wouldn’t be your choice?

        (It seems that most people find the assumption of “it’s a good place to raise your kids” to be self-evident, right in line with the assumption that religion is a net benefit.  I’m not here to say they are not, Hitchens does that well enough without my input.  I want to suggest it’s a question worth pondering for a long time.)

  15. Jack Rodwell Reply

    whats so bad about the lower kingdoms.anyone who feels the need to become a god is narcassitic ps if you know your soul mate at 22 while being a virgin and wanting to be a god and have your own planet and galaxy and it came to pass kolob

  16. Chuck Borough Reply

    I don’t like the “principle” of obedience. Respect rather than obey. Obedience is unidirectional; respect can be given both ways. If I obey God, I do not expect Him to obey me, but we may respect each other.

    I don’t like the principle of “worship.” Love rather than worship. Worship is unidirectional; love can be given both ways. If I worship God, I do not expect Him to worship me, but we may love each other.

    My perception is that this MormonExpression phenomenom understands both of these. I’ve particularly enjoyed this Articles of Faith discussion.

    • Anonymous Reply

      I agree!  Why would a wise and reasonable God care more about whether or not we worship him than about how we treat each other?  Like you, I find it hard to believe in or respect a narcissistic God who, despite wanting us to believe in him, deliberately allows only the most ambiguous (and, in some cases, even clearly contrary) evidence of his existence and the historicity of his dealings with mankind as told in holy scriptures, because he wants to “test our faith!”

  17. Eric Reply

    The question was asked why 1/3 of all God’s children would follow Satan while in the actual presence of the actual God.  Not sure how many of you made it through all of the Terryl Givens interviews on Mormon Stories.  It pretty much made my head hurt the whole time, but Givens said one thing that I thought was pretty interesting.  I’m trying to remember exactly how he said it, but basically he said he thinks the 1/3 that followed Satan did so, not because they were rebellious and wanted to sin in some way, but because they thought God’s plan was overly cruel.  So, according to Givens, the 1/3 saw the problem of theodicy and rejected the plan because of it.  Obviously that goes against everything taught by Mormon prophets and, I think, it makes us look like douches for accepting the plan afterall.  But this is all metaphysical gibberish anyway.  It’s still an interesting take on Mormon doctrine. 

  18. Eric Reply

    The question was asked why 1/3 of all God’s children would follow Satan while in the actual presence of the actual God.  Not sure how many of you made it through all of the Terryl Givens interviews on Mormon Stories.  It pretty much made my head hurt the whole time, but Givens said one thing that I thought was pretty interesting.  I’m trying to remember exactly how he said it, but basically he said he thinks the 1/3 that followed Satan did so, not because they were rebellious and wanted to sin in some way, but because they thought God’s plan was overly cruel.  So, according to Givens, the 1/3 saw the problem of theodicy and rejected the plan because of it.  Obviously that goes against everything taught by Mormon prophets and, I think, it makes us look like douches for accepting the plan afterall.  But this is all metaphysical gibberish anyway.  It’s still an interesting take on Mormon doctrine. 

    • Greg Rockwell Reply

      Interesting point, Eric. 

      If God did eternally condemn 1/3 of his children because they thought he was being too cruel, doesn’t that just underline the problem of theodicy?

      “Dad, I think your plan is kind of cruel, and so I’m going to exercise my agency as a conscientious objector.”

      “Oh really?  Well, then I’ll really condemn you!  I’ll show you conscientious objection!  Begone child of perdition!”

      One of the most insightful ME moments of all time was in the A of F part 1, comparing God to a 6 year old.

      • Eric Reply

        Yeah, I agree, it just compounds the problem.  It also further supports my position that if the Mormon god really exists, then I will gladly take my place in the Telestial Kingdom or Outer Darkness, where I can hang out with the billions of people who rejected the 6 year-old’s plan.  I clapped in my car when John said that in the AofF podcast. You could hear the excitement in his voice as he put the idea together.

        • Glenn Reply

          I haven’t listened to any of the Givens interview, but I used to use the same justification for the 1/3 (another three pattern?) of the hosts of heaven that fell away.  When I was at BYU, I took a literature class that studied Milton’s Paradise Lost, and I got completely wrapped up in this idea of trying to create some kind of modern-day Mormon version of it.  Impossible (for me, at least).  But I tried for a while, and I really struggled with this same question that Mike said that he is trying to understand — what made Lucifer choose to reject God’s plan when he supposedly was one of the great sons of the morning and an elder brother right up there next to Jesus in his status with God of all the spirit children?  How did this Anakin figure become Darth Vader (this was years before Lucas F’d up Star Wars by bringing back the three prequels, by the way).  And once Lucifer fell, how did he convince the other 1/3 to follow him?   

          I came to a similar conclusion about theodicy.  I constructed this fictional device where spirits in the pre-existence could see different versions of their future, but quantum-like — web-like — branching off in this direction or that direction based on choices and interactions with other people and their choices — and when they would look forward and see all the pain and suffering caused by God’s plan, especially compared to where they lived then and the comfort and peace they enjoyed, some feared and rejected it — because they couldn’t see beyond it — it because too complicated.  And in my fictional recreation of the war, Lucifer also proposed a “better” plan, where people could get their required physical bodies without all the suffering: Send them down with no veil of forgetfulness.  That way they will get the bodies they need, remember who they were (and what they stood for) and not harm each other, and there would be a world without sin.  But what Lucifer didn’t understand was that it is not just about getting the body, and it is not just about avoiding suffering and pain — it is about learning to be loving, and choosing to be good for the sake of being good — learning to recognize goodness just by contrast to the badness, and then choosing the right.  That is more important in the eternal plan of progression than just the physical body, and that can’t be done unless there is a veil.  Besides, the suffering will be temporary in the eternal scheme of things because Christ’s atonement will redeem people (all people ever born into mortality) from their sins and make right what the horrific mortal test made wrong — yada yada yada.  So, basically, I get the Mormon logic of the plan of exaltation and the need for suffering in this life (or at least my fictional reconstruction of the Mormon logic).  It “makes sense” to me and to my mormon-formed mind.  And in some respects, I agree with it even if I can’t accept it as really what is happening out there in the universe — but I agree with some principles of it, that we do have to learn to make decisions for ourselves and choose to be good just because it is the right thing to do.  But whether or not it is TRUE and whether or not it has come down to us from reliable sources with completely trustworthy intentions — well, that is where things unravel for me.  But I don’t see the God in this plan as a six year old, or as using faulty reasoning, according to this Mormon logic, and I don’t see him flip-flopping on what his end goal is — “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” — and if he puts us in contradictory environments and situations to do it, then that is what happens — opposition in all things, even contradictions from God at times.  But to suggest that it makes no sense or is 6 year old logic is far too insulting to the many intelligent people who still believe and accept this as True.  There are some pretty ingenious catch-all’s in Mormonism, and I think this is one of them — if you stick to it and hold on to it, you can use it to make a lot of things make a lot of sense.

          • Anonymous

            Wow, Glenn, that is a lot of imagination employed to come up with the humanist conclusion that being good for the sake of good is the way to go.

            But your still stuck with an asshole God who, because Lucifer and his sympathizers didn’t just “get it”, they were cast out to an inevitable eternal doom of suffering, eon after eon after eon in the outer darkness.

          • Glenn

            No Randy — the imagination started with that humanist realization.  The real mock-worthy creativity (I mean, come on…I was 22 years old, and a Mormon — which made me in real sophisticated world years only about 13) came in the way Lucifer pushed against the literal light of truth and turned that light inversely upon on itself to discover darkness, which he explored as this cool amazing new thing and which became like a drug to him, and eventually filled him with fear and arrogance and lies.   And I think you would have really liked the singing flowers.

            But it wasn’t an asshole God who cast them all out because they didn’t “get it.”  I never saw it like that.  It was a loving, heartbroken God (remember Him?) who watched his children turn to the dark side of the force.  Don’t you know he wants us all to return to him?  Duh!

  19. Chuck Borough Reply

    I have another take on this and have had for thirty years or so. We know there are secrets, so I go about guessing what some of the secrets could be. Starting with the assumption that God loves all his children and that He is omnipotent, able to accomplish anything, the other assumptions then become interesting.

    Mormons are among the only ones who recognize Adam as one of the “good guys.” It’s almost like a “secret” to all the other Christians who see Adam as one who will burn in Hell.

    What if there is only one plan of salvation? What if the “tempters” are a part of it, for our growth, like Adam eating the fruit, and what if these were volunteers to be the tempters, like the Holy Ghost, waiting ’til the last to get their bodies? It makes more sense that he was sent out of heaven for telling a secret than for being a stupid little kid who wanted to rebel. The secret he told? That all would be saved – all make it back. He could easily have thwarted the Savior’s plan – just refuse to do the tempting. Just skip tempting Adam. Just skip tempting the crucifiers, and the whole plan falls flat on its face. He’s always there, Johnny on the spot, to do exactly what is required for the “other” plan to work. Maybe it’s because there is only one plan and that The Son of the Morning and his “helpers” are part of that plan, in which God loves all his children and will never take away eternal progression for them, no matter how much they screw up. Being “banned” from heaven for telling a secret fits in with death for telling the little temple secrets. Telling secrets appears to be worse than even murder. But it’s a symbolic wrong, like Adam and the fruit. It’s only a “pretend” wrong to get a job done. Do we love Satan? He’s “The Least of These.” Even Brigham once said that we might be surprized to find out just what the role of the Son of the Morning has been in the great plan of salvation. Still metaphoric for me, but what a lot we learn about people by what they believe. “Love your enemies,” but isn’t that just Satan?

    • Troy Morrell Reply

      That’s interesting, Chuck.  I’ve said before that Satan had to be in on the game from the beginning, because if he truly wanted to thwart the Plan of Salvation he should have counciled Adam and Eve to stay away from the fruit, so they would live forever in the Garden and never have any offspring child bodies in mortality for all us valiant 2/3 to inhabit.  If he had just sat on his hands, and defended the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Plan would never have happened.  So Satan must be getting some kind of kickback from God, right?  Otherwise, why play the patsy?

      • Chuck Borough Reply

        Yeah, the whole story’s kind of dumb without Satan as a player. This does not mean, as some may complain, that Satan is a good guy who should be followed. He is specifically called to tempt us to do what we should not do. If we resist his temptations, as Jesus did that day, he may “obediently” get behind us. It’s interesting that he always obeys the priesthood, and without complaint. (Bit of a Darth Vader, eh?)

      • Chuck Borough Reply

        Maybe when we resist his stuff he even says (secretly) “Hooray!”

        SOmetimes I think Abraham was actually being tested and was supposed to say, “Heck no I won’t kill my boy. You are the all powerful, and I suppose if you want to do such a horrible thing, I can’t stop you, but I will not do it. And then God would have said “hooray,” and the scriptures would have a different story.

        Again my metaphor: I think Abraham and Isaac knew what was going on – a drama. Isaac was not representing Jesus. Isaac was not sacrificed; the lamb was. The lamb represented Jesus. Isaac represented us, who are NOT sacrificed becasue of the lamb. If Abraham knew and Isaac knew, then this becomes a story in which God did not lie. If God actually wanted Abraham to believe this, that he would be killing his son, then God is a liar, and that doesn’t come out very well.

        Mormons do the same thing in the temple when they declare that they are Adam. They know they are not Adam; it’s a drama.

        • Troy Morrell Reply

          One of my favorite Abraham stories is out on the interwebs somewhere.  Abraham is having a Bill Murray type of Groundhog Day, where he wakes up every morning to the same day, the day that he has to take Isaac to the alter to be sacrificed.  Each day he climbs the mountain, binds, Isaac, and puts the knife to his throat, and cuts.  No ram in the thicket, no voice from God or angel to stay his hand.  Day after day it goes on, again in a similar situation that Bill Murray experienced in the movie, but there is no variation.  Every day he cuts his son’s throat.  Until one day, out of the blue, he puts the knife to Isaac’s throat, and says no, and puts the knife down.  Of course, at that moment a ram bleets from the thicket, and the eternal torment is over, and his life can proceed.  I felt a deep connection to that story, because I felt it paralleled my faith journey in the church.  I felt like I was doing everything I could to “endure to the end”, and every day in the faith seemed like a groundhog day, when what I really needed to do was say no more, put down my faith and step into the next day of my life, and all the days that progressed from that day.  If that is what God wanted me to do, then I did it.  If being close to God is being free from the groundhog day of dreary existence, then I am closer to God than ever.  If he is really there, I am exactly where he wants me to be, an apostate drinking a cold one rejected by the LDS church and my former friends.  But it’s OK, the calendar is moving on, finally.

  20. Elder Vader Reply

    This used to really get to me during my *angry* phase.  The fact that the temple is tied into the abrahamic covenant just sets the tone in this direction even more.  You see, you just obey… ESPECIALLY when the commandment makes no sense at all. 

    I think the irrational obedience comes up most often at church when discussing tithing.  The number one thing you need to know when putting a budget together is to always pay your tithing first.  In fact… [insert anecdotal story].  So if you’re having to make the choice between paying your rent and paying tithing I think you should remember [insert another anecdotal story].  Its funny but it seems to work best the more irrational it is.  You’d think when they’re talking about budgeting they’d talk about increasing your income, or reducing your expenses.  But in reality, what you really need to do is pay your tithing and something magical will happen. 

  21. Elder Vader Reply

    This comment was in reply to Chuck Borough’s comment about the principle of obedience.

  22. Question for Mike! Reply

    Mike, this is a sincere question and I cannot find an answer.  Thought that maybe you could help.  I am in the process of preparing for my Elder’s Quorum lesson #46: “The Last Judgment”.   In the lesson the kingdoms and their requirements are given.  For the Terrestrial it states (quoting from D&C 76:73-75):  “These are they … who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh;  Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.  These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.”
    According to the TEXT of the D&C, those who will go to the Terrestrial kingdom are good people who rejected the gospel in this life due to being blinded by the craftiness of men, who will not be able to receive the Temple Blessings in the next life (baptism for the dead, ect).
    An example, the missionaries knock on someone’s door.  They offer the gospel.  But, because that person may have heard lies about Mormons, such as the Mormon Church being a raciest, polygamist cult (“blinded by the craftiness of men”), that person rejects the message.  Therefore, when that person dies, no temple work will benefit him.  If he was honorable, the highest that he can go is the Terrestrial Kingdom.
    Same person, different scenario:  Missionaries never knocked on his door.  But, after he died he had his temple work done.  He will then go to the Celestial Kingdom.
    My question:  Why do we do missionary work?  Instead, why don’t we just collect death records and do temple work?  Wouldn’t that give more people a greater chance?  Shouldn’t we be yelling to the world, “Do Not Listen To Our Message, It May Only Damn You.  We Will Do Your Temple Work After You Die And Everything Will Be Awesome!
    I really struggled with this as a missionary.  More than saving people, I felt that I was in the business of damning people.

    • Chuck Borough Reply

      If eternal progression and freedom to change is not complete, then the whole deal is abhorent. How could any loving father want to limit improvement opportunity?

    • Chuck Borough Reply

      “who will not be able to receive the Temple Blessings in the next life (baptism for the dead, ect).”

      Where did this part come from?

      • Question for Mike! Reply

        Terrestrial Qualifications (D&C 76:73-75):1. Died without law2. Have the gospel preached unto them in Spirit Prison, that they “might be judged according to men in the flesh”.3. Did not receive the testimony of Jesus in the flesh.4. Afterwards, in Spirit Prison, receive the testimony of Jesus.5. Honorable men.6. Blinded by the craftiness of men.
        As I read D&C 76, it describes people who rejected the gospel message in the flesh, but receive and accept the gospel message in Spirit Prison.  However, since they rejected it in the flesh, they will not be able to progress past the Terrestrial Kingdom.
        If they cannot progress past the Terrestrial Kingdom (since they rejected the gospel in the flesh, even though they accepted it afterwards), Temple Work For The Dead will have no effect on them.Do you see something different?  Especially in verse 74.

        • Chuck Borough Reply

          There are dangling pronouns here. The “theys” in here, as I interpret it, are they who do not hear the gospel here and therefore go to the spirit world bound for the terrestrial, but I don’t see a “they” I interpret to mean they cannot receive the rest in the spirit world. To interpret all the “theys” to refer to the verse before (as they would if the pronouns were not dangling) is to assume what is often not true in the scriptures. The grammar is not trustworthy.

          One of my favorites: Ruth 1:18  “When she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.”

  23. Chuck Borough Reply

    This paying tithing instead of rent or mortgage is just stealing from someone and paying the tithing with that person’s money.

  24. Chuck Borough Reply

    Just think of God as a logical being. Here on this site, one may donate $1.00 per month and be “Telestial,” and if that one decides later to donate $5.00 per month, then he becomes “Celestial.” It would be insane for the institution to say, “Sorry – too late – you have decided to be Telestial – you can’t change it now.”

    This is a trivial example, but God would have to be a real dummy not to allow improvement, EVER. The more important the issue, the more true this is. I don’t want a dummy for my god, metaphor or real.

    • Chuck Borough Reply

      Jt – this is an interesting comment, and I do understand it, but religion is not like cartoons. Religions are extremely powerful forces in the world of humans. They can be applied for good things or horrible things; they are like amplifiers of the feeling and beliefs of people. They put people together in large social groups to achieve many things. If Hitler want to kills the Jews, he can call them the “Christ killers,” and justify his action with his view of God. If someone wants to do good in the world, often his religion amplifies that good motive also. I have met and love so many good Mormon people that it’s hard for me to believe that it isn’t a net good. I say to scientists, “Let’s not get rid of God; let’s treat Him like we do Santa Claus, lovingly.” This does not mean we cannot reject all the horrible, like beliefs in Hell fire or beliefs that we are right and authorized, while you guys are wrong and your baptisms won’t count, and gays should be prevented from making a civil contract of marriage, etc. Use religion; don’t let religion use you.

      • JT Reply

        Yes, I agree.  I was being flippant.

        Indeed, there is so much good research being done to unpack the social psychology of religion and its evolutionary origins. It points to brains that have been naturally and/or culturally selected to conjure up supernatural agents and worlds to explain the unknown, and to validate and elevate in-group values, especially its own perpetuation, and to manage existential fears.

        And … historically these caricatured heavenly (or “helly”) extrapolations of better (or worse) real-life circumstances that await our deaths seem to always take the form of the cultures from which they arise – usually out of date.   From the perspective of modern science, the ole’ time heavenly kingdoms with their tightly prescribed admission requirements (not to mention flaming hells) are cartoonish.  But again, I agree that this is not so apt a term – mainly because cartoons imply humor, when in fact, the most ardent believers, particularly of the fundamentalist sort, tend to lack any sense of humor!So I’m looking for another word that expresses the idea of Gods and angels drawn with a crayon over a perfectly fine photographs of people standing on solid ground.  And I’m looking for an answer to the question of why it looks like that to me now, but not to me then.So, what up [with that] Doc?

      • JT Reply

        Yes, I agree.  I was being flippant.

        Indeed, there is so much good research being done to unpack the social psychology of religion and its evolutionary origins. It points to brains that have been naturally and/or culturally selected to conjure up supernatural agents and worlds to explain the unknown, and to validate and elevate in-group values, especially its own perpetuation, and to manage existential fears.

        And … historically these caricatured heavenly (or “helly”) extrapolations of better (or worse) real-life circumstances that await our deaths seem to always take the form of the cultures from which they arise – usually out of date.   From the perspective of modern science, the ole’ time heavenly kingdoms with their tightly prescribed admission requirements (not to mention flaming hells) are cartoonish.  But again, I agree that this is not so apt a term – mainly because cartoons imply humor, when in fact, the most ardent believers, particularly of the fundamentalist sort, tend to lack any sense of humor!So I’m looking for another word that expresses the idea of Gods and angels drawn with a crayon over a perfectly fine photographs of people standing on solid ground.  And I’m looking for an answer to the question of why it looks like that to me now, but not to me then.So, what up [with that] Doc?

  25. Anonymous Reply

    I loved this podcast! I had brushes with 3 dreaded POS plane crash activities when I was a young person. I sure hope those are out of vogue these days. One of the first times I found RfM was when I googled that stupid plane crash and learned that it wasn’t a figment of my frightened childhood imagination. It was so interesting to hear about the parallels with a christian hell house.  Thanks, Glen and all.

  26. Ozpoof Reply

    I take great offence at Mike’s belief that gay people choose to be gay. Really, can anyone really be that ignorant and callous towards other people? Talk about un-Christlike.

    So in Mike’s very little world, male kids like I was who was younger than 8 and who found myself inexplicably attracted to male teachers (not sexually) but who are just in awe of them, make a conscious choice to think that way. Then, when 12 years old, when all the other boys are talking about a certain female teachers “tits”, all I can think about is Mr Rowland (I still remember his name). I made a decision to be attracted to my male teacher right Mike?

    Then at 15, when my mother finds men’s underwear catalogues under my bed and ends up arranging for me to go to a psychiatrist because she can’t even talk to me about it – that was also my choice. I swear even as a Mormon she would have LOVED me to have read Penthouse instead.

    Then when I was bashed on the way home from school by older boys who called me “poofter” and “fag” – words I didn’t know the meaning of – that was my choice too was it?

    Then when I made friends with a guy my age who I could FINALLY talk about guys with like any other kid talks about girls, it was my choice to have his friends find us one day talking and exclaim “why are you talking to that poof?” to which he responded “He’s a poofter?”, then stepped back and king hit me. I was kicked in the face and lost 2 teeth that time. Was that my choice Mike?

    When I tried to cure myself by fasting until I was thin and sick and sent to another psychiatrist for my “eating disorder”, and tried so hard to abstain from masturbation that I cut myself when I faltered as punishment. When I finally did not masturbate long enough to have my body do it for me when I slept, you know what I dreamed of Mike? Men. How do you choose your dreams Mike?

    Then after years of praying and fasting and hope and loneliness when I realize I can’t change, and I then know that I will never get to the Celestial Kingdom no matter what I do, and I fully expect to never see my family after I die, I should have just made the choice to turn heterosexual right Mike? What an idiot I was. Instead I sank into deep depression, cutting myself as a routine chore. Scraping freckles off my body with a scalpel because I believed this needed to be done. Wearing long sleeves in summer to cover the scabs and cuts. Thinking “should I get a drink, or take all of my medication at once?” as the most natural thought in the world. 

    Mike, your cult and people like you have made my life a misery. You spew lies about people choosing to be gay until they believe it, and when they find they can’t un-choose it, they are destroyed. You have blood on your hands. You, your lying cult and your ilk.

    When are you going to think for yourself Mike? Do you need one of the old white men to say people don’t choose to be gay before you will understand? I don’t think you will. You will just take it as gospel without thinking at all.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Oz, this brought tears to my eyes.  I’m so sorry for what you’ve been forced to endure.  I hope you have recovered from your self harm and depression and that you’ve found happiness and peace in your life.

      • Ozpoof Reply

        Thanks Heather.

        I’m really good now. One of the ways I got better was to start to think of God as a real father – a loving one who knows me. I realized then that the people who tell me I chose to be gay don’t know what they are talking about. I knew the truth. That meant the LDS leadership was wrong. That was my first step out.

        When I looked back at LDS dogma, I could see that the God they worshiped was not a loving, understanding, and compassionate one. Their God loves uniformity and conformity. People who don’t fit the Mormon mold are collateral damage – human wreckage left to rot along the way. No church that claims to communicate directly with Christ would be like this.

        I’m sorry if my post sounded personal. Mike was just the latest person to say I chose all of this. I just feel sorry for him.

        • Glenn Reply


          It was touching to read your personal experience and anguish.  It won’t reach Mike, but it reaches other people — it reached me.  It puts reality into an important focus and gives an important voice to others who suffer similar anguish but don’t speak up.  A real Jesus wouldn’t act like Mike does.

          • Ozpoof

            Thanks Glenn.

            I really think works like ME are helping to drive trickle-up “revelations” within the church. Even if the old farts can’t be moved, it would be nice to think the membership lived more like their church’s namesake.

            I went back and listened to the podcast again. I really loved this podcast. The dynamic is great. 

            This time I saw Mike as a child. He sat in the middle of a discussion where people were talking at a level so much broader than he seems capable of, even if he allowed himself to. I really did feel sorry for him. I remember listening to a recording of an open mic session at an exMormon convention – I think it was 2005. There was a speaker there from Australia who bore a kind of testimony about his travels through Mormonism. He said Mormonism is like looking through a keyhole with both eyes open. People know very little about a lot of things and a lot about a bunch of dogma that I really don’t think a God would be bothered with at all.

            My parents (the only active members in my family) seem more and more like scared children too. They are terrified of facts that threaten their faith, but faith was never supposed to replace facts. They actively avoid truth. They refuse to learn. They are unteachable and hard hearted. They are everything their religion tells them they should not be. It’s the same with Mike.

            When he said, in relation to the KKK scene, that those who judge others and compare them negatively will go to a lower kingdom, I believe he had genuinely not thought through what his religion believes and how they act. It’s as if some Mormons are utterly incapable of conceiving that their religion could possibly be wrong on some fronts, even when history shows doctrine is changed to suit evolving social norms. It’s not healthy at all.

            Sometimes I wish someone would go for the jugular – push Mike through his awkward laugh when he hits one of his inexplicable “shelf” subjects – and force him to answer. Although he would probably be reduced to a whimpering mess, rocking on the floor.

            Again, great podcast. I really enjoyed the discussion.


    • Anonymous Reply

      It also saddens me that people can be so intolerant and devoid of understanding and compassion.

    • Anonymous Reply

      I’m puzzled by Mike’s concept of being “tempted” to be Gay.  Temptation, it seems, arises out of self-conflict; part of a person wants to do something, and part doesn’t. 

      There are things I can be tempted to do.  I can be tempted to eat too much
      because my stomach wants food, but my brain wants to keep my weight within
      tolerable limits.  I can be tempted to sleep too long because my body loves to rest, but my brain wants to get up and get things done.  

      But I can’t be tempted to cut off my fingers and fry them up for breakfast.  No part of me wants to do that, so there’s no temptation.  Similarly, I can’t be tempted to smash my fingers with a hammer.  Again … no part of me wants to do that.

      No need to use negative examples, either.  I hate the Opera.  I cannot be tempted to skip my bike ride on Saturday and go to the Opera, instead.  It just isn’t possible.  No part of my being would rather site in an Opera that ride a bike.  

      Similarly, I can’t be “tempted” to be Gay.  No part of my being wants to do that.  It’s not a matter of Gay being right, wrong, good, or bad.  Like the Opera, it’s just not what *I* want to do.  I can understand why a *Gay* person might be tempted by another man, but I don’t understand how a heterosexual man can be tempted by another man.  It’s just incomprehensible.

      So when I see guys talking about “Gay” temptation I’m inclined to think that they have an internal conflict because their body would like to be with another man, but their brain wants to remain “straight” in a “straight” world.

      This leads me to a pet theory of mine.  Let me explain it by listing the three
      postulates on which this theory rests:

      1) Homosexuality has a basis in biology (nothing new there – most scientists would agree).

      2) Homosexual traits can genetically inherited (passed from parent to offspring).  Again, no surprise – that’s what happens when traits have a biological basis.

      3)  Modern society is antagonistic toward Gays, at best, and violent against Gays, at worst. So there are extraordinary social pressures against being Gay.

      Given those postulate, I predict that groups that loathe homosexuality (like the Mormon Church) will have *more* Gay members than the average population.  The reason is that Gay men will (because of societal bias) develop an internal strife between their natural biological desires and the anti-Gay social pressure of society.  This conflict will drive some of these people to migrate into anti-Gay religions like Mormonism, on the false hope of finding a “cure.” 

      Thus (in a non-intuitive way) anti-gay religions act as “magnets” for people who are born Gay.  This is an example of population isolation and it’s the stuff of which evolution is made; ergo, we expect to find an unavoidable increase in “gay” genes within anti-Gay cultures.

      Duwayne Anderson

      • Ozpoof Reply

        If there is a gay gene it is probably (ironically) passed on due to pressure from heterosexual society. A gay gene is an evolutionary dead end. Pressure to reproduce in societies such as Mormonism where gays have openly been encouraged to marry the opposite sex means that gay genes – if there are such things – will be more present in the population.

        I’ve also heard of theories about families with gay members being able to invest more into caring for the children of their siblings who are straight. This means those families with some gay genes have more adults per child to ensure their genes are carried forth. You can have many people having many children in some families with all heterosexual members, or you can have more people in families with homosexual members ensuring the lower overall number of children are more certain live to reproductive age. 

        I think your theory of anti-gay religions attracting those who are self loathing also works for the Republican Party. The most venomous anti-gays are often found to be engaged in a double life.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Just came back to this thread to see what I missed.  Holy shit Oz, reading your story brought a tear to my eye.  It’s stories like this that make me so passionate about gay rights activism especially when it comes to the church.  So many Mormons that are otherwise really good people are so callous to the suffering a gay person in the church goes through.  They can so easily dismiss and judge homosexuals because they are utterly clueless to the suffering their beloved institution causes.  If more of them could see, read, or listen to stories like yours, I think more of these people will realize the church’s position is wrong.  But my fear is that many will still remain callous due to indoctrination and the deference to authority that is so emphasized and praised.  This is where my anger towards the church is fired up.  

  27. Amy Reply

    fabulous podcast…i loved the panel. i’m gonna have to listen to the last part again  (theological discussion) because its a gem. Interesting to hear Mike again…even my never-mo fiance finds him remarkable. its episodes like this that made me fall in love with ME in the first place. well played!

  28. Seeking Goodness Reply

    Ha, I’m in the exact same boat: I just moved to Georgia, where no one cares that I’m wearing shorts. We’ve been “church shopping” (ie, making use of local christian churches free preschooler events) and it feels so weird to say we’re unaffiliated, like a lie of some sorts. I have to bite my tongue to not say “we just left mormonism”.

    • Eric Z Reply

      Yeah, it’s actually very difficult to describe. Especially when your identity (or at least mine) was so tied to the church. I catch myself biting my tongue as well.

  29. Blorg Jorgensson Reply

    Very good. It’s always great to see deeper reflection on a subject that a lot of people are bound to have knee-jerk reactions to.

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