What’s Wrong With The Mormon Church?

Martin Luther hanging the Ninety-Five Theses

Martin Luther hanging the Ninety-Five Theses

Today is October 31st, “Reformation Day”.  It was on this day 494 years ago that Martin Luther nailed “The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” (commonly known as “The Ninety-Five Theses”) unto the door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. “The Ninety-Five Theses” is widely regarded as the primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.

And while readily acknowledging that I’m no Martin Luther, it is with a hopeful spirit for reformation in our lifetime that I offer these Ninety-Five Theses to a modern church that, in my opinion (as well as in the opinion of many others) is badly in need of it. More

Can A Mind Control Cult Reform Itself?

Q: Can a Mind Control Cult reform itself?
It seems that just below the surface of every discussion of Mind Control Cults this question burns, simmers, and smokes like the proverbial ember seeking to spark into flame.

But can they?
Will they?

Thankfully, the answer (at least occasionally) is yes. Here are two case studies for your consideration.

The Shepherding Movement (the mind control cult that I was in) is one such group. Ron Enroth described how this happened in his classic book, “Churches that Abuse”:

"Churches That Abuse" by Ronald M. Enroth

"Churches That Abuse" by Ronald M. Enroth

“It is possible for authoritarian churches to change direction? There several fairly recent examples of leaders who have announced changes and confessed to error. One of the leaders of the discipleship/shepherding movement officially known as Christian Growth Ministries, Bob Mumford, made a dramatic about-face after issuing a public statement of repentance in November of 1989. Mumford, one of the “Ft. Lauderdale Five” (so named because of the five founders of Christian Growth Ministries of Ft. Lauderdale Don Basham, Ern Baxter, Bob Mumford, and Charles Simpson), acknowledged abuses that had occurred because of his teaching on submission. This emphasis resulted in ‘perverse and unbiblical odedience’ to leaders. He publicly repented with ‘with sorrow’ and asked for forgiveness. He also admitted that families had been severely disrupted and lives turned upside down. More

The Problem of The Mormon Tank (Revisited)

A funny thing happened on the way to this blog. I was actually planning to publish – and was working on – brand new, original material when several of the Mormon Expression Podcast and Blog discussion boards “lit up” with interesting dialog. I feel that that the content of this previously published article is relevant to several of them. So with no further adieu – and with a nod, a wink, and a grin to Eric’s last blog – I offer for your consideration, “The Problem of The Mormon Tank (Revisited)”.

Artist's depiction of the crew in a Sherman Tank.

Artist's depiction of the crew in a Sherman Tank.

Here’s the problem
If you’re in an Army Tank and pull out a compass the needle will point toward magnetic north. However, the compass is only validated if when you get outside that Tank and it’s still pointing in the exact same direction.Then, it’s only truly validated if it’s compared to yet another “known good” compass while outside the tank and they both point in the same direction. That is, the one point of internal reference and two points of external reference are all calibrated. The reason for this is simple: The magnetic field created by the iron armor of the Tank interferes with the compass’s operating integrity. You could consult a thousand compasses inside the Tank, and still get the same compromised and errant result every time. More

I’m Leaving the Church (Glenn Beck Said To…)

Every once in awhile, I come across a link in a totally pro-LDS publication that really blows my mind.  This morning, the stunning article came from none other than Meridian Magazine.  Usually, I get links from people I know from said magazine that talk about supporting traditional marriage, or about Joseph Smith’s great-granddaughter joining the LDS Church.  I read most of whatever comes my way, but I am well aware that Meridian Magazine is probably just as conservative as Sean Hannity or the Ensign on pretty much any matter you can think of.

However, today’s article was by Grant Hardy, and it was about The Book of Mormon and Social Justice.  Other than the fact that it came packaged with various scriptural reference from The Book of Mormon, this thing read like it came from the commentary section of the New York Times, or The Huffington Post. More

Do You Feel You Don’t Fit In?

Do you ever look around yourself and feel like no matter what you do, you are not a part of “the group?”  For me sometimes it feels like pretty much the only group I feel like I have ever been a part of is the LDS church.  There are really no other groups that have been a part of my entire life.  While I have maintained my tentative relationship with the church, it seems like I have been symbolically/psychologically jumping ship on a lot of smaller matters.

Naturally, this breaking away from what I consider the core orthodoxy of the church has left me uncomfortable and feeling like I don’t belong in the only real social group I’ve ever really known.  Yet when I look around me, I have trouble finding a direction in which to travel where I will feel more accepted or comfortable. More

Nothing to Challenge and a Great Deal to Abet

I heard this phrase the other day while listening to a discussion on NPR. The author, who used the phrase, was discussing the current state of affairs inside the Republican party. Currently, the extreme right via the Tea Party is driving much of the Republican agenda. However, the majority of members of the party are more centrist and find many of the views of the right wing of the party to be alien. But their centrist position has been co-opted and their influence lessened.

The author was arguing that the complacency of the main stream of the Republican party was enabling the ultra-conservative agenda. He held that the majority centrists of the party did “nothing to challenge” the extremist views and did “a great deal to abet” the views by allowing for them to take the stage and otherwise use the already established vessels of Republican communication. Thus the whole party becomes complicit in its implied support of the right wing.

My mind immediately turned to the LDS Church and how this describes the current state of affairs within the Church. Some would suggest that the Church is a big tent organization accepting a wide range of thought concerning politics and doctrine. But what the Church actually does not “challenge” and what it seems to “abet” portrays a different picture. The Church chooses to emphasize its political neutrality and at times insists it is not tied to one political party or agenda, but the truth of the matter is that it supports implicit acceptance or promotion of an extremist view. These actions are transparent and only convincing to insiders.

Operationally, the Church vigorously patrols all organizations it controls. Multiple instances of the Church’s tight control over publishing avenues such as Deseret Book or BYU have been documented. It is clear that every work published under the Church’s label or sold in its bookstore is carefully scrutinized. Thus every work that appears in Deseret Book has a tacit seal of approval given the rigor with which some works have been rooted out and censored. The case of God’s Army is illustrative.

Richard Dutcher’s film God’s Army, a completely positive take on Mormonism and missionary work was pulled from Deseret Book upon Dutcher’s disaffection with the Church. Although this film was entirely supportive of LDS leadership and doctrine, had been heavily promoted by the Church, and is still loved by the membership, it and all of Dutcher’s other works were pulled from Deseret Book’s shelves after Dutcher became dissatisfied with his personal religious involvement.

Dutcher’s purging from Deseret Book can stand in stark contrast to other offerings at the store. Of course, Glenn Becks books are available. Somewhat jarring for me was to see Glenn’s Work “Arguing with Idiots” which, in addition to the inflammatory title, appears with with Glenn wearing a Nazi-esque uniform. This ironically juxtaposed with all of the images of smiling Jesuses looking on from the walls. Lest one think it is just Beck’s Mormon roots, works by Sean Hannity are also sold at the religious bookstore. Likewise, Church owned radio stations in the Salt Lake market have long run right wing radio pundits almost exclusively.

So when one looks at the actual messages that are endorsed, sanctioned and tolerated, a clear picture of right wing political and cultural promotion emerges. Likewise, works in Mormon studies stocked and promoted by the Deseret Book present a view of Mormon beliefs even more conservative than that pushed in conference.

The Church will never be a “big tent” operation as along as it systematically purges, ignores or undermines the more liberal views of the left–even if those views are as compatible with the “gospel” as views from the right. Principles of the left, such as social responsibility, aid to the poor, state funded education and the like are routinely mocked and ridiculed among some LDS thinkers, but there is nothing inherit in these ideas that puts them at odds with traditional Christian ethics or modern Mormon morals. Nevertheless, a clear view of the Church’s political outlook can be had by any