Episode 80: Leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses

In this episode John talks to “Joe” an ex-Jehovah’s Witness.

Episode 80

86 comments on “Episode 80: Leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses”

  1. Listener in Spain Reply

    As a member of the Mormon Church in Britain, the issue of Halloween always troubled me,and felt it had no place in Christianity.
    It was an unwelcome import from the “American” church.

    Excellent interview, as always. My mother’s family in the USA were all JW’s, so I found this interview particularly interesting.

    Many thanks!

    • Joe Reply

      Is your mothers family still JW’s? If they are tell them to read Joseph Smith no man knows my history. It might help get them out of the JW cult.

      ~Joe

  2. Listener in Spain Reply

    As a member of the Mormon Church in Britain, the issue of Halloween always troubled me,and felt it had no place in Christianity.
    It was an unwelcome import from the “American” church.

    Excellent interview, as always. My mother’s family in the USA were all JW’s, so I found this interview particularly interesting.

    Many thanks!

    • Joe Reply

      Is your mothers family still JW’s? If they are tell them to read Joseph Smith no man knows my history. It might help get them out of the JW cult.

      ~Joe

  3. badseed Reply

    I relate to many of he things Joe said about his journey out of the faith of childhood. There are a lot of similarities in the religious experiences. That said I have to admit that the JW experience sounds far more difficult and isolating.

    As a Mormon youth and child I was never told not to have non-LDS friends. Sure, I was encouraged to choose ‘good’ friends, meaning LDS but it was not required. I’d say that the LDS level of involvement and commitment while still higher than many religions is lower that what Joe experienced. The shunning that occurs when people leave the Mormon church is a not required but instead happens as a by product of the teachings.

    I also found it interesting that it was No Man Knows My History (love that book) that set the wheels in motion for Joe and his wife. I think looking into other religions is a great way for people to see that their own belief system may not be what they thought. It comes out of the same place as Mark Twain’s quote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness….”

  4. badseed Reply

    I relate to many of he things Joe said about his journey out of the faith of childhood. There are a lot of similarities in the religious experiences. That said I have to admit that the JW experience sounds far more difficult and isolating.

    As a Mormon youth and child I was never told not to have non-LDS friends. Sure, I was encouraged to choose ‘good’ friends, meaning LDS but it was not required. I’d say that the LDS level of involvement and commitment while still higher than many religions is lower that what Joe experienced. The shunning that occurs when people leave the Mormon church is a not required but instead happens as a by product of the teachings.

    I also found it interesting that it was No Man Knows My History (love that book) that set the wheels in motion for Joe and his wife. I think looking into other religions is a great way for people to see that their own belief system may not be what they thought. It comes out of the same place as Mark Twain’s quote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness….”

  5. Tierza Reply

    Really interesting interview — Joe’s desire not to be formally disfellowshipped made me think of my own journey out of Mormonism, though his is many degrees more horrible. I have chosen not to tender my resignation because of the relationships with my husband and parents that they feel are bound up in the covenants I made while a member. In other words, although I don’t feel any obligation to the church, I’m not going to let the church dissolve any of the promises I made to my (still believing) family — like my wedding vows. This makes me more sensitive about doing anything that could lead to formal church discipline — for instance, although I regularly attend an UU congregation I don’t dare become an official member because that is an excommunicate-able offense. I, of course, know that my wedding vows are still in force, but there is something painful about having the church symbolically tell me, and my husband, that they are not longer sanctioned or sanctified.

    Thank (somebody) that the LDS Church does not formally encourage/force members to shun their apostates.

  6. Tierza Reply

    Really interesting interview — Joe’s desire not to be formally disfellowshipped made me think of my own journey out of Mormonism, though his is many degrees more horrible. I have chosen not to tender my resignation because of the relationships with my husband and parents that they feel are bound up in the covenants I made while a member. In other words, although I don’t feel any obligation to the church, I’m not going to let the church dissolve any of the promises I made to my (still believing) family — like my wedding vows. This makes me more sensitive about doing anything that could lead to formal church discipline — for instance, although I regularly attend an UU congregation I don’t dare become an official member because that is an excommunicate-able offense. I, of course, know that my wedding vows are still in force, but there is something painful about having the church symbolically tell me, and my husband, that they are not longer sanctioned or sanctified.

    Thank (somebody) that the LDS Church does not formally encourage/force members to shun their apostates.

  7. Oz Reply

    Nice touch John! Bringing in Joe with his JW background is an enlightning alternative to what we normally hear. I could feel that concern in Joe’s voice about the possibility of being shunned by his family. Its interesting how gripping thought/belief can take over our minds, to the point of refusing to acknowledge or discuss theological problems, or to even turn away from our own friends and family when they or we no longer believe. Fascinating. Thanks John.

  8. Oz Reply

    Nice touch John! Bringing in Joe with his JW background is an enlightning alternative to what we normally hear. I could feel that concern in Joe’s voice about the possibility of being shunned by his family. Its interesting how gripping thought/belief can take over our minds, to the point of refusing to acknowledge or discuss theological problems, or to even turn away from our own friends and family when they or we no longer believe. Fascinating. Thanks John.

  9. AW Reply

    Amazing interview. Welcome to the family Joe! Boy I thought leaving the LDS church was hard until I listened to this. I love Joe’s sense of humor and positive outlook.

  10. AW Reply

    Amazing interview. Welcome to the family Joe! Boy I thought leaving the LDS church was hard until I listened to this. I love Joe’s sense of humor and positive outlook.

  11. Swearing Elder Reply

    I wish you hadn’t posted this — now someone at Church HQ is going to listen and institute a formal Shunning Program. 😉

    Seriously, though, this was an awesome interview. I could relate to Joe quite a bit.

  12. Swearing Elder Reply

    I wish you hadn’t posted this — now someone at Church HQ is going to listen and institute a formal Shunning Program. 😉

    Seriously, though, this was an awesome interview. I could relate to Joe quite a bit.

  13. loveslittletoes Reply

    I know Joe. We left the religion separately. I was an adult friend of his mother. The religion is a cult. I have been shunned by my family (mother, father, brother, etc) for 14 years. I have lost 3 daughters to the cult also. I have two non-JW children and a wonderful non-JW husband. Life outside the cult is challenging and it is heart wrenching every day to choose to stand by what you believe and be shunned. It is truly a test of faith. I compare it to peeking outside a goldfish bowl painted black and seeing an outside world full of color. And to go back into the cult would be like returning to the goldfish bowl and forgetting what you have seen.

  14. loveslittletoes Reply

    I know Joe. We left the religion separately. I was an adult friend of his mother. The religion is a cult. I have been shunned by my family (mother, father, brother, etc) for 14 years. I have lost 3 daughters to the cult also. I have two non-JW children and a wonderful non-JW husband. Life outside the cult is challenging and it is heart wrenching every day to choose to stand by what you believe and be shunned. It is truly a test of faith. I compare it to peeking outside a goldfish bowl painted black and seeing an outside world full of color. And to go back into the cult would be like returning to the goldfish bowl and forgetting what you have seen.

  15. Louis Joseph Reply

    This religion destroys families. That’s why it has been thrown out of a number of European and Eastern European countries but protected under US law. They refuse to salute our flag, fight for our country but they get to spread their poison all over. If they knock on your door ask them about shunning of family and watch them run (or they will openly lie!)

    If you join this cult and decide to leave, you lose your family. I doubt Jesus would agree with this approach.

    Also, they let their own children die when a blood transfusion can save their life. Sick, sick, sick.

  16. Louis Joseph Reply

    This religion destroys families. That’s why it has been thrown out of a number of European and Eastern European countries but protected under US law. They refuse to salute our flag, fight for our country but they get to spread their poison all over. If they knock on your door ask them about shunning of family and watch them run (or they will openly lie!)

    If you join this cult and decide to leave, you lose your family. I doubt Jesus would agree with this approach.

    Also, they let their own children die when a blood transfusion can save their life. Sick, sick, sick.

  17. Listener in Spain Reply

    Dear Joe, Regarding your suggestion regarding “No Man Knows My History”, I myself read the book in the late 1960’s, but despite the fact that Fawn revealed so many truths, I desparately clung on to the church and family, and even to this day, have yet to send in my official resignation letter to SLC, although I have not set foot in an LDS church for over 20 years.
    And as I look back now, Mormonism destroyed my own family relationships, and the remaining members mostly consider me as an outcast. Similarily, my JW family from my mother’s side experienced so much pain and hurt. I believe my maternal grandmother committed suicide in Atlanta, because of the pressures she suffered. Sadly, I was deprived of ever knowing my grandmother because of this.
    Very tragic experiences to go through, but I think you have tremendous resolve and now the opportunity to build a new life for yourself.
    Wishing you all the best for the future. Thanks for sharing your inspiring experiences.

    Louis Joseph!
    Why should we have to “salute your American flag” or fight your wars?? You, Cheyney, Rumsfeld and Bush can all go to hell with your wars.

    With respect to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, many, many of them perished in Hitler’s concentration camps, for honorable principles they upheld and I consider are true today.
    Come to Europe and visit a few of the concentration camps, where their memory and sacrifice is equal to that of the Jews and homosexuals.
    You Americans never learn from history!

    • Randy S Reply

      Whoa there listener in Spain. I’m a huge opponent of the Iraq war. But I think the point remains that if you are in a country that is under attack and in need of defending, every able body that has enjoyed the freedom and protection of their respective country has an obligation to defend. Why should a JW get a get out of military card while enjoying all the benefits of a free society where they are free to spread their toxic cult?

  18. Listener in Spain Reply

    Dear Joe, Regarding your suggestion regarding “No Man Knows My History”, I myself read the book in the late 1960’s, but despite the fact that Fawn revealed so many truths, I desparately clung on to the church and family, and even to this day, have yet to send in my official resignation letter to SLC, although I have not set foot in an LDS church for over 20 years.
    And as I look back now, Mormonism destroyed my own family relationships, and the remaining members mostly consider me as an outcast. Similarily, my JW family from my mother’s side experienced so much pain and hurt. I believe my maternal grandmother committed suicide in Atlanta, because of the pressures she suffered. Sadly, I was deprived of ever knowing my grandmother because of this.
    Very tragic experiences to go through, but I think you have tremendous resolve and now the opportunity to build a new life for yourself.
    Wishing you all the best for the future. Thanks for sharing your inspiring experiences.

    Louis Joseph!
    Why should we have to “salute your American flag” or fight your wars?? You, Cheyney, Rumsfeld and Bush can all go to hell with your wars.

    With respect to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, many, many of them perished in Hitler’s concentration camps, for honorable principles they upheld and I consider are true today.
    Come to Europe and visit a few of the concentration camps, where their memory and sacrifice is equal to that of the Jews and homosexuals.
    You Americans never learn from history!

    • Randy S Reply

      Whoa there listener in Spain. I’m a huge opponent of the Iraq war. But I think the point remains that if you are in a country that is under attack and in need of defending, every able body that has enjoyed the freedom and protection of their respective country has an obligation to defend. Why should a JW get a get out of military card while enjoying all the benefits of a free society where they are free to spread their toxic cult?

  19. Gunnar R. Reply

    I can easily relate to what Joe said about seeing the faults and absurdities in other religions so much more easily than those in one’s own, even when some of the very same or similar absurdities are found in one’s own religion.

    For example: I now feel highly embarrassed that I once took seriously the Book of Ether’s account of the Jaredites submersible barges, with only two holes (one on top and one on the bottom[how was that supposed to help?])for ventilation, and which took 349 days to cross the ocean, despite being propelled continually and steadily towards their destination by gale force winds! If I had read a similar account in any secular history, I would have immediately dismissed it as the purest nonsense!

    At least Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t claim the obligation or right to murder apostates as too many Muslims do. I strongly suspect that some of them would, though, if they had enough political power to enact laws making it legal to do so.

    • loveslittletoes Reply

      “Being limited by the laws of the worldly nation in which we live and also by the laws of God through Jesus Christ, we can take action against apostates only to a certain extent, that is, consistent with both sets of laws. The law of the land and God’s law through Christ forbid us to kill apostates, even though they be members of our own flesh-and-blood family relationship.” WT 1952
      So they WOULD kill us if they COULD. But they are LIMITED>
      Also, before you defend their political stance, please research your stand. WHile countless JW’s died at the hands of militants in Malawi and we were told horendous stories of death and torture they suffered due to not buying “party cards” for 25 cents, JW’s in Mexico were holding party cards so that the leadership in the country could hold properties, and JW’s in America have Social Security cards….the equivalent of the party cards. LIES and DECEPTION.

      As far as concentration camps, they did die but in their own literature they cannot hold to one set of numbers of victims and they wrote letters in support of Hitler prior to WWII. http://www.bible.ca/jw-hitler.htm

      Every religion has martyrs. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim martyrdom and yet enforce total shunning of former members while standing behind the constitution of the United States and defending their stand in it’s courts while refusing service or respect for this country.

      They claim martrydom while murdering more children every year with their ever-changing blood policies than Jim Jones killed in Guyana; just not in one room, at one time.

      Do your homework.

  20. Gunnar R. Reply

    I can easily relate to what Joe said about seeing the faults and absurdities in other religions so much more easily than those in one’s own, even when some of the very same or similar absurdities are found in one’s own religion.

    For example: I now feel highly embarrassed that I once took seriously the Book of Ether’s account of the Jaredites submersible barges, with only two holes (one on top and one on the bottom[how was that supposed to help?])for ventilation, and which took 349 days to cross the ocean, despite being propelled continually and steadily towards their destination by gale force winds! If I had read a similar account in any secular history, I would have immediately dismissed it as the purest nonsense!

    At least Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t claim the obligation or right to murder apostates as too many Muslims do. I strongly suspect that some of them would, though, if they had enough political power to enact laws making it legal to do so.

    • loveslittletoes Reply

      “Being limited by the laws of the worldly nation in which we live and also by the laws of God through Jesus Christ, we can take action against apostates only to a certain extent, that is, consistent with both sets of laws. The law of the land and God’s law through Christ forbid us to kill apostates, even though they be members of our own flesh-and-blood family relationship.” WT 1952
      So they WOULD kill us if they COULD. But they are LIMITED>
      Also, before you defend their political stance, please research your stand. WHile countless JW’s died at the hands of militants in Malawi and we were told horendous stories of death and torture they suffered due to not buying “party cards” for 25 cents, JW’s in Mexico were holding party cards so that the leadership in the country could hold properties, and JW’s in America have Social Security cards….the equivalent of the party cards. LIES and DECEPTION.

      As far as concentration camps, they did die but in their own literature they cannot hold to one set of numbers of victims and they wrote letters in support of Hitler prior to WWII. http://www.bible.ca/jw-hitler.htm

      Every religion has martyrs. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim martyrdom and yet enforce total shunning of former members while standing behind the constitution of the United States and defending their stand in it’s courts while refusing service or respect for this country.

      They claim martrydom while murdering more children every year with their ever-changing blood policies than Jim Jones killed in Guyana; just not in one room, at one time.

      Do your homework.

  21. OzPoof Reply

    Very interesting interview.

    I wonder what “stick” the JW church has if the 144000 spots are all taken and the Earth is going to be made awesome anyway. Mormonism has Outer Darkness and the potential that you will be in a different kingdom from your family to make people afraid enough to pay and obey.

    Mormonism has a lot of demon obsession too. I remember being taught how to identify a demon with a handshake – you won’t feel the demon since it has no body. As a kid I was terrified that one day I would shake someone’s hand and not feel it. I worried about what the demon would then do, once it knew it had been discovered.

    I was told that no masks are allowed in the chapel because that would allow demons or Satan himself to move amongst us unnoticed. We were taught in Primary that dead smokers would be trying to grab the cigarette from our hand if we smoked. Then there’s the whole ordinances for the dead, and stories of spirits being seen in the temples. Mormonism is a very evil obsessed, necromancing religion.

    As a kid I used to think the shapes you see when you first close your eyes was Satan’s face forming. I was terrified of noises or even closing my eyes. I wet the bed until I was about 13.

    In retrospect I would have been far happier and less anxious if I was born out of the covenant into a family that focussed on reality and the living.

  22. OzPoof Reply

    Very interesting interview.

    I wonder what “stick” the JW church has if the 144000 spots are all taken and the Earth is going to be made awesome anyway. Mormonism has Outer Darkness and the potential that you will be in a different kingdom from your family to make people afraid enough to pay and obey.

    Mormonism has a lot of demon obsession too. I remember being taught how to identify a demon with a handshake – you won’t feel the demon since it has no body. As a kid I was terrified that one day I would shake someone’s hand and not feel it. I worried about what the demon would then do, once it knew it had been discovered.

    I was told that no masks are allowed in the chapel because that would allow demons or Satan himself to move amongst us unnoticed. We were taught in Primary that dead smokers would be trying to grab the cigarette from our hand if we smoked. Then there’s the whole ordinances for the dead, and stories of spirits being seen in the temples. Mormonism is a very evil obsessed, necromancing religion.

    As a kid I used to think the shapes you see when you first close your eyes was Satan’s face forming. I was terrified of noises or even closing my eyes. I wet the bed until I was about 13.

    In retrospect I would have been far happier and less anxious if I was born out of the covenant into a family that focussed on reality and the living.

  23. Nathan R Kennard Reply

    Just wanted to also make reference to Carolyn Tavris’ book about dissonance theory, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. Understanding how our brains process information sometimes helps as we puzzle over why somebody would believe such weird stuff. How did I change belief? How have others?

    Hearing you two John and Joe laugh about some of the topics you discussed, humanizes the issues. Still, it can be a precarious balancing to navigate between integrity and preserving family relations. Hopefully those things are usually aligned.

  24. Nathan R Kennard Reply

    Just wanted to also make reference to Carolyn Tavris’ book about dissonance theory, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. Understanding how our brains process information sometimes helps as we puzzle over why somebody would believe such weird stuff. How did I change belief? How have others?

    Hearing you two John and Joe laugh about some of the topics you discussed, humanizes the issues. Still, it can be a precarious balancing to navigate between integrity and preserving family relations. Hopefully those things are usually aligned.

  25. loveslittletoes Reply

    Freedom of religion is viewed as a basic human right. In light of cults who destroy families, murder children, teach subversion to government and print literature on how to lie in courts to defend themselves,…it is time to reexamine what constitutes a religion.

  26. loveslittletoes Reply

    Freedom of religion is viewed as a basic human right. In light of cults who destroy families, murder children, teach subversion to government and print literature on how to lie in courts to defend themselves,…it is time to reexamine what constitutes a religion.

  27. Jay95 Reply

    Joe, I would love to hear much more detail about your story growing up as a JW.
    I wonder if we can get John to do another intereview where you can go into more of the day to day life as a JW. As an adult and kid.

    Anyway, very interesting podcast.

      • AW Reply

        I think it’s a good idea. It’s really interesting to have Mormon Expression expanding its subject matter to include other faiths.

        Lets get some evangelicals or something on here too. Bonus points if you can get a Scientologist 🙂

        • JB Reply

          I agree with you, AW. This was an especially fascinating episode of Mormon Expression for me, and I’d love to hear more from Joe on the podcast in the future. (I’m really glad that he was brought on for a portion of the April 2011 General Conference review podcast recently.) I’m an Evangelical myself, but before I became interested in learning more about Mormonism, I spent a few years studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and to say that it was a fascinating string of experiences would be quite the understatement.

  28. Jay95 Reply

    Joe, I would love to hear much more detail about your story growing up as a JW.
    I wonder if we can get John to do another intereview where you can go into more of the day to day life as a JW. As an adult and kid.

    Anyway, very interesting podcast.

      • AW Reply

        I think it’s a good idea. It’s really interesting to have Mormon Expression expanding its subject matter to include other faiths.

        Lets get some evangelicals or something on here too. Bonus points if you can get a Scientologist 🙂

  29. Richard of Norway Reply

    I just want to say I really enjoyed this episode. It made me want to read No Man Knows My History again. Thanks for sharing Joe! It’s nice to hear we Mormons aren’t the only ones with very strange and bizarre teachings and experiences with our faith.

  30. Richard of Norway Reply

    I just want to say I really enjoyed this episode. It made me want to read No Man Knows My History again. Thanks for sharing Joe! It’s nice to hear we Mormons aren’t the only ones with very strange and bizarre teachings and experiences with our faith.

  31. Joseph Reply

    This podcast reminds me that a lot of the best early “therapy” I had during my faith crisis came from former fanatics: I remember one in particular who converted from evangelical Christianity to Catholicism. It was great to talk to people who could empathize with all the emotions that well up as you confront the end of one world (the world of the “cult”) and the coming of another. (By the way, I do not use the term “cult” with the intent to disparage or demean anybody: it just describes well the nexus defined by ritual, dogma, and the select community that shares these.)

  32. Joseph Reply

    This podcast reminds me that a lot of the best early “therapy” I had during my faith crisis came from former fanatics: I remember one in particular who converted from evangelical Christianity to Catholicism. It was great to talk to people who could empathize with all the emotions that well up as you confront the end of one world (the world of the “cult”) and the coming of another. (By the way, I do not use the term “cult” with the intent to disparage or demean anybody: it just describes well the nexus defined by ritual, dogma, and the select community that shares these.)

  33. Zilpha Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story, Joe. I really related to it, even though my experiences with family has been much less severe than yours has been. But it does make me think about how I’ll be “shunned” when my youngest sister gets married in the temple and I’m not allowed to go in. That’s probably the most formal “shunning” that the LDS church does. Keeping family members from attending loved ones marriages is pretty severe, in my opinion.

  34. Zilpha Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story, Joe. I really related to it, even though my experiences with family has been much less severe than yours has been. But it does make me think about how I’ll be “shunned” when my youngest sister gets married in the temple and I’m not allowed to go in. That’s probably the most formal “shunning” that the LDS church does. Keeping family members from attending loved ones marriages is pretty severe, in my opinion.

  35. Chino Blanco Reply

    Thanks for this one, guys. John’s an excellent interviewer and Joe’s an excellent guest. My first real girlfriend, the love of my young life, was a JW. She was far and away the brightest light at our small school in the Ozarks, but dropped out her junior year, even though she was a shoo-in for valedictorian and scholarships to the college of her choice. She was so brave, but so young, and did not leave gracefully. I’ve always regretted that my own Mormonness at the time took me away to a foreign mission and left her nearly all alone to work out her response to life as an apostate. Thankfully, twenty years on, we’ve both found and made good lives for ourselves despite our respective religious upbringings and departures. Listening to this podcast, I’m reminded of a quote that I ran across last week – Rome wasn’t burned in a day. And I recall hearing “burn it down” in a previous podcast here. That’s what I was hearing in my head as I listened to Joe and thought back to the years Malissa wasted getting over the JW mindfnck and the years it’s taken both of us to get back into the good graces of our parents and families. Damn it all to hell. What a waste of human potential. It needs to go away.

  36. Chino Blanco Reply

    Thanks for this one, guys. John’s an excellent interviewer and Joe’s an excellent guest. My first real girlfriend, the love of my young life, was a JW. She was far and away the brightest light at our small school in the Ozarks, but dropped out her junior year, even though she was a shoo-in for valedictorian and scholarships to the college of her choice. She was so brave, but so young, and did not leave gracefully. I’ve always regretted that my own Mormonness at the time took me away to a foreign mission and left her nearly all alone to work out her response to life as an apostate. Thankfully, twenty years on, we’ve both found and made good lives for ourselves despite our respective religious upbringings and departures. Listening to this podcast, I’m reminded of a quote that I ran across last week – Rome wasn’t burned in a day. And I recall hearing “burn it down” in a previous podcast here. That’s what I was hearing in my head as I listened to Joe and thought back to the years Malissa wasted getting over the JW mindfnck and the years it’s taken both of us to get back into the good graces of our parents and families. Damn it all to hell. What a waste of human potential. It needs to go away.

  37. Scottie Reply

    Wow. Incredible podcast! One of my favorites. I could really hear your pain, Joe, when you talked about how much you miss your family. It disgusts me to no end when religions punish others like this. I don’t care how much “good” the religion does, there is no way to make up for this kind of atrocity. To quote Nyal, burn it down.

  38. Scottie Reply

    Wow. Incredible podcast! One of my favorites. I could really hear your pain, Joe, when you talked about how much you miss your family. It disgusts me to no end when religions punish others like this. I don’t care how much “good” the religion does, there is no way to make up for this kind of atrocity. To quote Nyal, burn it down.

  39. Melanny Reply

    Thank you so much, Joe, for doing this. I also identified with your pain, along with a lot of other listeners. You are brave and strong. It really helps to understand that there are other religions doing the same thing as your own religion. They can’t both have exclusive truth, right? I hope your family will be able to move past their rigidity. Blessings to you! And Happy Birthday! 🙂

  40. Melanny Reply

    Thank you so much, Joe, for doing this. I also identified with your pain, along with a lot of other listeners. You are brave and strong. It really helps to understand that there are other religions doing the same thing as your own religion. They can’t both have exclusive truth, right? I hope your family will be able to move past their rigidity. Blessings to you! And Happy Birthday! 🙂

  41. Mike Tannehill Reply

    A terrific interview here John. I gained a new perspective on things with this one.

  42. Mike Tannehill Reply

    A terrific interview here John. I gained a new perspective on things with this one.

  43. NoTrueScott Reply

    “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” is dreadful. Insipid musically, each verse takes longer to get through than the line at the DMV, and most ward music leaders feel compelled to sing all eighty-seven verses. Then the organist or chorister can’t seem to make better than 40 beats per minute. Truly gives you a notion of eternity really looks like.
    I’m also usually embarrassed by on the congregation’s behalf when they sing “O My Father”.  Embarrassment by proxy, because they don’t know to be embarrassed by it themselves.  I remember on my mission having investigators at sacrament meeting, and having that hymn played and wanting to just sink through the floor.  “Ellllderrrr, you got some ‘splaining to do!”

    Not really a hymn, but “Follow the prophet” rankles.  Hearing those kids chanting “follow the prophet” some threescore times to some really awful music makes me angry.  Many of the primary songs strike me that way.

    • Alan Reply

      Your point is well taken, but…

      Listen to the end of the documentary “New York Doll,” which, in spite of its mormo sub-plot, features a version of APWMoG by Dolls’ vocalist David Johansen that is truly moving. Especially fascinating that a never-mo can tear a song up like that while the faithful butcher it.

      • Kris Fielding Reply

         Agree 100%! The song as done in church is usually too many long verses, but it was amazing at the end of that documentary. I always liked the song, but it can be tedious like most hymns I guess.

      • Kris Fielding Reply

         Agree 100%! The song as done in church is usually too many long verses, but it was amazing at the end of that documentary. I always liked the song, but it can be tedious like most hymns I guess.

  44. Fred W. Anson Reply

    Another great article Eric – you’re on a roll! 

    FYI, Joseph Smith III suggested the following lyrical changes to “Praise to the Man” to put the focus on the Lord rather than his father since in his opinion the W.W. Phelp’s original lyrics bordered on man worshipping idolatry: 

    Praise to the Lord for the great restoration

    Brought by the angel to Joseph the Seer

    Pleading with God in behalf of his brethren

    The church to establish, the gospel declare

    (source John Hamer, David Howlett, Barbara Walden, “Community of Christ An Illustrated History”; Herald Publishing House; 2010) 

    And speaking at a musician, I must tell you that the only thing worse that singing insipid church music is playing it! Oy!!!

    Of course, since The Church Handbook of Instructions tells us . . . 

    “Organs and pianos are the standard instruments used in Church meetings. If other instruments are used, their use should be in keeping with the spirit of the meeting. Instruments with a prominent or less worshipful sound, such as most brass and percussion, are not appropriate for sacrament meeting.”[1]

    . . . I need never worship about having to be called on to play in a Mormon Church meeting.  

    However, since it also tells us . . . 

    “The hymns of the Church are the basic music for Latter-day Saint meetings and are standard for all congregational singing. Hymns are also encouraged for prelude and postlude music, choir music, and special selections.

    If other musical selections are used, they should be in keeping with the spirit of the hymns of the Church. Texts should be doctrinally correct.
    (See “Hymns for Congregations,” Hymns, pages 380–81.)

    Music in Church meetings should help members worship, feel the sacred spirit of the Sabbath, and feel the spirit of revelation. This music should not draw attention to itself or be for demonstration. Some religiously oriented music in a popular style is not appropriate for sacrament meetings.”[1]

    . . . the Brethren need never worry about me joining their boring, backward, culturally irrelevant, insular, and out-of-touch church! 

    So I guess, in the end, all is as it should be! 

    😉 

    [1] source http://lds.org/cm/display/0,17631,4987-1,00.html#3 ; retrieved date of post

  45. Tierza Reply

    I know I may be in the minority here, but I am an unrepentant lover of traditional, 4-part, congregational hymn singing.  

    I think the church’s rules about instruments are stupid. I have certainly sat through many a horribly slow, tuneless dirge in many a sacrament meeting.  I have been a missionary praying under my breath that investigators not pay attention to the lyrics of this or that hymn.  And I despise the current MoTab.  DESPISE!  But, with all that, I think one of the hardest things for me to give up in giving up church is the time spent singing in harmony with my fellow ‘saints’.  I actually collect hymnbooks (from different faiths) and I believe that some of our uniquely Mormon hymns are among the best out there — Though Deepening Trials; Come Thou Glorious Day of Promise; Come, Come Ye Saints (which, by the way, I found in the hymnbook of my friend’s Baptist congregation, much to my delight) — I realize that this kind of music doesn’t stir everyone’s soul, but at its best — simple, in harmony, congregational — hymn singing is a great folk musical genre and I, for one, am glad that the LDS church hasn’t abandoned it (as many, many other churches have).  

    • Fred W. Anson Reply

      No, you’re not in the minority I agree with you to some degree. 

      Speaking as a musician I want the piece to be performed in the best way possible – meaning the way that best serves the audience.  

      If that means that the piece communicates best with just piano, or organ, or piano and organ then so be it.  For example, “A Mighty Fortress” by Martin Luther can’t be beat when done with only voice and organ. 
      (by the way did you know that the tune was originally a pub song? After all, Luther was German – and a darn fine musician according to the historical record) 

      And, to me, “Amazing Grace” is best and purest done only acapella.
      (However I do like some of newer contemporary arrangements that have been done for rock era instruments)

      However, if a song is best done with guitars, brass, strings, or whatever, if should be done that way. 

      So, yes, the LdS Church’s instrument policy was clearly written by non-musicians who don’t know a thing about music let alone the various cultures that surround Mormon Chapels the world over. 

      And another musician once told me something that’s really stuck: Music is like language.  And what communicates to one groups may not communicate to another – which is WHY musicians have to be flexible, which is WHY I play BOTH upright bass AND bass guitar. 

      Can you dig it? 

      Finally, in terms of music policy there IS a third way: Blended Worship. 

      My Church does both hymns and contemporary music and that works for us.  

      Other Churches have both a traditional service with just hymns and then a contemporary service with just modern music and that works for them. 

      However, to mandate that worship remain statically fixed in the 19th Century and never budge?  
      Does that REALLY serve the congregation or bespeak reflecting an infinite, creative God of wonder? The God of whom one worshiper described as: 

      “….God my maker, who giveth songs in the night.” — Job 35:10 (KJV) 

      To me, the answer is no.  

  46. Anonymous Reply

    My vote for worst hymn would have to be for “If You Could Hie to Kolob”

  47. Anonymous Reply

    My vote for worst hymn would have to be for “If You Could Hie to Kolob”

  48. True Order of Hair Reply

    I always think of “Follow the Prophet” when I hear apologists say that just because the prophets are often wrong doesn’t mean they’re not speaking for God.

    Follow the Prophet. He knows the way. Unless he doesn’t.

    When I hear “Families Can Be Together Forever,” I keep waiting for the singers to go for the sales close.

    Families can be together forever, but only if you take advantage of this fabulous offer! Give us most of your time and disposable income! Call now! Missionaries are standing by!

    Actually, most people who have some faith in God already believe that they will be with beloved family members in heaven. The first time that I heard the Church breathlessly announce that families can be together forever, I thought “Well, of course. Duh.”

  49. Pingback: My Mormon Stories Story: A Case Study « Beggar's Bread

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