Friday, July 23, 2010

Going to visit family in Northern Arkansas tomorrow.

I'll be gone for two weeks, and therefore won't be able to blog anything...unless I get sick of something and log in with my cell phone:)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cults 101: Checklist of Cult Characteristics

I was referred to this very interesting link a few weeks ago. It represents a general snapshot of some of the pyshological manipulation techniques used to support the structure of a cult. The checklist can be found at

I'm going to go down the list, examining each item and then testing whether it applies to mormonism.

1) The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law. - CHECK. The mormon church teaches that the living prophets--and Joseph Smith in particular--are the foremost authority and often literally speak to the members on God's behalf.

Relevant quote: "My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he tells you to do something wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it." - Heber J. Grant

2) Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. - CHECK. Difficult questions are openly discouraged by the mormons, especially when posed to high level authorities. Those with doubts are encouraged to meet with the Bishop or Stake President, who will often attempt to ascertain what "sin" led to these doubts. It is an oft-repeated mantra in the mormon church that anyone who is seriously doubting has done something contrary to God's will, and this action has "weakened their faith." Actual dissent is not tolerated at all: teaching anything contrary to established doctrine will get one removed from church callings, and can lead to formal church discipline.

Relevant quote: "Criticism is particularly objectionable when it is directed toward Church authorities, general or local.... Evil-speaking of the Lord’s anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true." - 1985 CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium, pp. 24-25

3) Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s). - MAYBE. This is the only point on the checklist that doesn't earn a concrete checkmark, though many individuals can attest to local activities that fit this description. The mormon practice of "Fasting" arguably counts, but this one is not so clear-cut as the others. The practice of "Speaking in Tongues" was rather prevalent in early mormon history, but is no longer seen in meetings.

Relevant quote: "When Joseph asked Brigham Young to pray, Brigham spoke in tongues, using strange sounds and unfamiliar words. The others looked at Joseph in some perplexity, for this type of spiritual phenomenon was not common to them. It was Joseph’s first experience with the puzzling speech and he called it ‘pure Adamic’ and stated that it was ‘of God.’ Speaking in tongues spread through the Pennsylvania branches of the church first, then occurred in Mendon, New York. Brigham Young brought it to Kirtland. The practice became a part of the Saints’ worship – particularly among women – until well into the next century." - King and Newell, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, p. 46

4) The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth). - CHECK. Dress codes are provided, and often strictly enforced. ("Modest" clothing should covers the knees and shoulders, only one pair of earrings for women, etc...) In addition, mormon leaders openly set dating policy for younger members; for example, I once had a Stake President inform us that if we weren't going on at least 2 dates every month, then we were "not fulfilling your priesthood responsibilities." Other, higher, leaders have expressly urged young couples to have children early and often.

Relevant quote: "It is an act of extreme selfishness for a married couple to refuse to have children when they are able to do so." - Spencer W. Kimball

5) The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity). - CHECK. If I had a nickel for every time I heard the mormon church referred to as "the only true church" I would be able to retire on a private island in the Bahamas. They believe that only those baptized as mormons, and accepting the mormon gospel, will achieve salvation in the next life. Toward this end, they perform proxy baptisms on behalf of deceased individuals, even if the individual objected in life, and often over the express objections of surviving family members.

Relevant quote: "[There is] no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith. If Joseph Smith was verily a prophet, and if he told the man can reject that testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God" - Joseph Fielding Smith

6) The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society. - CHECK. The mormon church heavily relies on this, and my childhood was peppered with phrases such as "be in the world, but not of the world." The mormons members refer to themselves as "Saints", and at one time usually referred to non-members as "Gentiles", though this had fallen out of everyday speech before I was born. This distrust and disdain for the rest of the world is most prevalent in Utah, where all non-mormons are regarded either with deep suspicion or as possible converts.

Relevant quote: "There are two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations." - 1 Nephi, 14:10

7) The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations). - CHECK. As noted above, the prophet is considered God's mouthpiece on earth. Criminal actions--even abuse--of local leaders are not turned over to the police, but instead are quietly handled within the internal structure. (This usually means nothing more than releasing the individual.)

Relevant quote: "I live above the law, and so do this people." - Brigham Young

8) The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities). - CHECK. "Lying for the Lord" is universally accepted and often encouraged if it produces the desired results. Full-time missionaries call this principle "Milk Before Meat", meaning that investigators should be shielded from issues and doctrines that will hinder their conversion. The relevant quote following point number 1 reflects this as well.

Relevant quote: "I have a hard time with historians... because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting; it destroys. Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting." - Boyd K. Packer

9) The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion. - CHECK. Two words: "Worthy" and "Unworthy". Every member of the mormon church has one of these two labels constantly hanging over his/her head. "Worthiness Interviews" with the local leadership are conducted at frequent intervals, determining which label the member gets to carry for the next several months. The greatest threat to "worthiness" is sexuality, and so chastity (sometimes renamed "virtue" by the mormon church) is rigidly enforced.

Relevant quote: "There is no true Latter-day Saint who would not rather bury a son or a daughter than to have him or her lose his or her chastity – realizing that chastity is of more value than anything else in all the world." - Heber J. Grant

10) Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group. - CHECK. No matter what your hopes or dreams were before joining the mormon church, your new priority is obedience, and your new goal is the Celestial Kingdom. If you were a single convert, your new goal is temple marriage. If your spouse is not a mormon, your new goal is to convert him/her...or to one day aspire to a "worthy" spouse. Your activities are now limited to those approved by the 1st Presidency, and are usually severely curtailed when you receive a calling. In addition, members swear an oath to consecrate all that they have when undergoing the "Endowment" ceremony in the mormon temple.

Relevant quote: "You and each of you covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar, that you do accept the law of consecration as contained in this, the book of Doctrine and Covenants, in that you do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion. Each of you bow your head and say, 'Yes.'" - Mormon "Endowment" Ceremony

11) The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members. - CHECK. The mormon church puts a fantastic amount of effort into converting new members; including TV and internet ads, a full-time missionary corps numbering in the tens of thousands, and as evidenced by the furiously-hammered-home phrase "Every Member a Missionary" all mormons are called on to spread the church's gospel to potential new members. Despite all this effort--as well as the constant claim that they are "the fastest growing church" in America--mormon conversion numbers have been steadily declining over the past ten years.

Relevant quote: "Under the impetus of President Hinckley’s words, including his challenge to double the number of people whom we help enter the covenant of baptism, we have been analyzing the sources of teaching opportunities that lead to baptisms.... President Hinckley has called us to make a concerted effort to double the number of converts who are currently being baptized each year." - Dallin H. Oaks

12) The group is preoccupied with making money. - CHECK. Aside from the millions (perhaps Billions!) of dollars brought in by members paying ten percent of their gross earnings, the mormon church has devoted a great deal of time and effort to business concerns. There are literally dozens of church-owned bookstore chains, not to mention the merchandising (as of CTR rings), and massive ad campaigns. And then there's the fact that the mormon church is currently building a mall in Salt Lake City. A religious institution building a staggers the mind!

Relevant quote: "The $1.2 million condominium at 40 N. State that is home to the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be exempt from property taxes, Salt Lake County commissioners ruled Tuesday." - Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 8, 1988

13) Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities. - CHECK. Many--even most--mormons serve "callings" in the church. These can sometimes eat up a very substantial amount of time, especially in the case of local leaders such as "Bishop" or "Stake President." Between fulfilling their callings, preparing talks, and attending the required meetings at church, mormons can devote well upwards of 40 hours a week on church-related activities.

Relevant quote: "The overwhelming joy of conversion or a new calling is often followed by feelings of being overwhelmed with duties and doctrines." - Neal A. Maxwell

14) Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members. - CHECK. Similar to item 6 above, the mormon church views nonmembers either as potential converts or else "outsiders" to be distrusted. Again, this distinction is most prevalent in Utah, mostly because it is a deeply-engrained tradition there. Outside of Utah, this is difficult to practice because of the relatively small numbers of mormons. But in Utah, a non-mormon who exhibits no interest in converting will almost always eventually be ignored.

Relevant quote: "SAINTS ARE THE BEST PEOPLE....and in many ways superior to any other people. - Joseph Fielding Smith

15) The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group. - DOUBLE CHECK. Mormons are led to believe that nobody ever leaves the mormon church for doctrinal reasons, and that all those who do leave do so for personal offenses or because of "sin." Apostasy is the single greatest fear in the mind of a mormon, and those who have left are deliberately shunned by their friends and family. Occasionally a group of members will band together and shower gifts on the apostate in an attempt to "bring them back to the fold" (We Ex-Mormons refer to this as "Love-Bombing.") but someone who leaves the mormon church can usually look forward to the loss of some/most/all of their friends, followed by severely-increased tensions with their family members--often up to being disowned. But fortunately, all of this is a vast improvement in recent times: in the earlier days of mormon history, apostates were treated a little bit more harshly.

Relevant quote: "I say, rather than that apostates should flourish here, I will unsheath [sic] my bowie knife, and conquer or die [Great commotion in the congregation, and a simultaneous burst of feeling, assenting to the declaration.]. Now, you nasty apostates, clear out, or judgment will be put to the line, and righteousness to the plummet [Voices, generally, ‘go it, go it.’]. If you say it is right, raise your hands [All hands up.]. Let us call upon the Lord to assist us in this, and every good work." - Brigham Young

I know this has run long, but I wanted to be thorough. Mormonism clearly meets the standards given by the International Cultic Studies Association--a global group that steadfastly refuses to label any organization as such, preferring to circulate techniques on identification and recovery. So the next time you hear someone calling the mormon church a cult--or claiming that the mormon church is not a cult--you'll know the facts.

Now obviously this is going to catch me some flak from my occasional trolls/defenders of the faith, but they can deal with it. iBear is officially saying that the mormon church is a cult, and I've posted 15 legitimate points and how they apply to support that assertion. If you really want to defend your religion, make sure you do your homework first before coming here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

iBear's favorite quote of the day:

"I have a hard time with historians... because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting; it destroys. Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting."

- Apostle Boyd K. Packer, as related by D. Michael Quinn, “Pillars of My Faith,” talk delivered at Sunstone Symposium, Salt Lake City, August 19, 1994

First Presidency sends letter to Argentina, opposing Same-Sex Marriage

The government of Argentina is hoping to pass a same-sex marriage bill next week. The law would give same-sex couples in Argentina the right to adopt. Just as in California last fall, the mormon church has sent out a letter opposing this giant step toward equality.

A translation of the letter's contents:
Uncertainties have arisen because of the legislation that has been proposed that would change the definition of marriage in Argentina. The doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is absolutely clear: Marriage is between one man and one woman and is ordained of God. We recommend that together with your families you review "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" to understand more completely the doctrine of the Church as it relates to this essential topic.

And a scanned copy of the letter, courtesy of Concerned in Argentina:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

iBear's Ex-Mormon Blog is now the top exmo blog on Google!!!!!!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all my readers, especially my new readers, because those are really the only ones I have:)

I also want to thank my annoying trolls and uninformed defenders of the faith, without whom this might have been possible, but I wouldn't have laughed nearly as much! :P

And finally, an extra shout-out and congratulations to the good folks over at Lively News and Outer Blogness for coming in right behind me! (And also for boosting my readers by linking to me:P) Do you think we get medals? :)

So I learned something interesting last night...

Turns out my mother believes that a "perfect parent" (such as God) is entitled to mass-murder his children if they disobey, provided he warns them first.

I think my birthday celebrations just got a lot more sincere...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I thought I was the only one.

I had a thought occur to me today: for the first 20ish years of my life, I really thought that nobody ever stops believing in the mormon church. I bought their "offended" stories hook, line, and sinker.

So after deciding to reexamine my own beliefs, when the time finally came that I no longer considered myself a mormon, I thought I was the only one.

And that thought made leaving the morg quite a bit harder...though luckily I'm an independent character to begin with, so by that point my mind was made up. But I was thinking today about how many people find themselves unable to make that decision because they think no one else has done it. The mormon church paints those who leave as small, bitter people who still believe the doctrine, but left the church because of their anger and pride. They do not, and cannot allow the members to think that anyone ever studies their way out, or no longer believes in what the church teaches. Because, like any cult, the mormon church actively works to make their members afraid to leave.

And I'm not talking about fear of the made-up punishment waiting in their fanciful afterlife. I'm talking about fear of shunning and the accompanying loneliness. I'm talking about losing contact with friends and family. I'm talking about repeatedly drilling into their members that nobody ever leaves for a legitimate reason, so that when a doubting member runs across a legitimate reason to leave, they think that nobody has ever done this before, and then they're afraid to take that step by themselves. That kind of emotional manipulation inevitably leads to the person second-guessing themselves, and so the morg plays on their fears and tightens its grip around them all over again. And if they did as the mormon church tells them to do and expressed their doubts openly to a bishop or stake president, then they are watched very closely for any further signs of dissent.

The mormon church fights very hard to make its members afraid to leave, and it works. I left anyway, mostly because I just shrugged it off and didn't give a rat's ass. But there's no way of really knowing how many people don't leave, for no other reason than because they're afraid. The best I could do for these people is reassure them that they're not alone, that other people have gone through what you're going through, and understand how you feel.

I thought I was the only one. I wasn't, and neither are you.