Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Russ Nelson criticized

Honestly Russell Nelson irks the shit out of me. I know that will come as no surprise, but let me just say (again) that I lost all faith in the man when he took the time to make a really shitty jab at the Big Bang in General Conference a couple of years ago.

The saddest part of watching Russell on that fateful day was hearing the thousands of people in the congregation snickering along with the joke. God save us!

Russ, get a fucking education.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Full trust

One very frustrating aspects of LDS culture is the tendency to fully trust someone based on whether or not he or she is an active, believing member of the LDS Church. At the same time Mormons first impulse is to distrust  non-members. Never mind that there is no clear dividing line keeping only awesome, trustworthy people in the Church. Never mind that the Church has no monopoly on trustworthy individuals. But many members, especially in areas with higher LDS populations, practice this type of judgment despite their better judgment. Why is that? How do you escape it? Is it just a matter of group recognition and solidarity or is it something more?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Henry Eyring criticized

I like Henry. He seems like a pretty nice guy, and not because he's the most teary-eyed of the GAs. I only have one criticism specific to him - I wish he'd shut the hell up about his father the Mormon badass chemist.

Note to Henry B:

Henry, listen, you're dad was quite a guy, but here's your problem: you conflate your father's authority in science with his lack of authority with regards to spiritual realities. In other words, just because you're dad was a good scientist and a devout believer doesn't give his belief the same weight of his scientific research. No more of this "Hey, my dad was smart and still believed, so it must be true" bullshit. Listen, you've got a BS in physics and you're a fucking apostle of the big JC. Put it all together for us. Show us how it works in more than a mere 100 pages that essentially say "Embrace the mystery!"

Thank you.
Be well.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


The last of Irving Janis' symptoms of groupthink is the existence of "self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information". In other words, people either hiding or spinning the information that's out there. 

The LDS Church has both self-appointed mindguards and officially appointed mindguards. On a very low level, consider all of the parents, bishops, and stake presidents who purposefully neglect they youth of a clear understanding of what goes on in the temple. On the opposite end of control, consider the documents hidden in the First Presidency vault. Why are are members kept from these things (and everything in between)? 

In the semi-self-appointed category we have the apologists produced and employed by BYU. In a way they're endorsed by the Church. They're paid by the Church and their work has been crucial for the writing of the recent "difficult issues" topics on the Church website. And yet the Church can turn its back on these people and their work whenever convenient. 

On the side of officially appointed mindguards we have the Church historians and the Public Relations department. 

How can the general membership be expected to have its own thoughts and opinions about Church history, doctrine, and policy when certain information is kept from them?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Direct pressure

When it comes to "direct pressure to conform", Mormons have an arsenal of pressures and a wide range of pressure points to work with. Members who question the Church will certainly feel it from believing family and they might get called in to talk with the bishop, who will likely send out a request that home and visiting teachers make a greater effort. Every word and every action gets evaluated constantly in order to understand one's strength of loyalty to the Work.

Nowadays every minute spend in church, every lesson-oriented visit, every Ensign article, every second of General Conference feels like direct pressure. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Illusions of unanimity

Apparently the Ancient Romans used to say "Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit", which more or less means silence looks like consent, so you should speak up when you have the chance. 

When you're sitting in church listening to someone spout anti-science trash, racist spew, sexist bullshit, or any other nonsense that no one deserves to be subjected to, think about how your silence might be perceived as agreement. When you have a roomful of people who let shit slide it feels very much like a room full of coprophiliacs united heart and soul. Be aware that feeling like everyone but you is into it might contribute some pressure for you to conform. Don't stand for it.

Differences are okay. I think. At least I want them to be. Speak your mind. Let's see what happens.


Sunday, September 14, 2014


The third family of groupthink symptoms covers "Pressures toward uniformity". One of those pressures is the impulse to self-censor. "Ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus" are kept to oneself.

In the Mormon world fear of expressing a dissenting opinion comes from a few places, I'm sure. A few might fear the wrath of God, some might fear Church discipline, most seem to fear confrontation within the ward or branch, and all probably fear disapproval from family members.

Mormons don't want to appear to be out of touch with the Spirit, they don't want to be contentious, and they don't want to take heat for stepping out of line. So what do we do? We keep our iffy thoughts to ourselves and toe the line. At least when people are watching.

Friday, September 12, 2014


The other half of "Closed-mindedness" takes the form of "stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, impotent, or stupid".

This sounds a lot like the top 5 myths that circulate when someone leaves the LDS Church.

All of the standard assumptions about why someone would leave Mormonism denigrate the doubter's character. Being easily offended shows weakness of character. Desiring to sin means you're evil, or weak when faced with temptation. Accusing someone of never having a real testimony is like calling him a tenderfoot or a faker. Calling someone lazy is just another way of calling them weak. Pinning everything on anti-Mormon arguments suggests the person who decided to listen to those arguments was being stupid and succumbing to those arguments is evidence of one's powerlessness when it comes to controlling his or her thoughts. The general approach within Mormonism tends towards belittling the doubter.

Thank goodness John Dehlin and people like him have been making extensive efforts to dispel these styrotypes.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rationalizing warnings

The second set of groupthink symptoms fall under "Closed-mindedness". This involves "rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group's assumptions". 

This entire blog is about how I and others rationalized warnings. For a time I rationalized every problem I encountered with LDS doctrine and tried to keep confrontation at bay for as long as possible. The Church just had to be true. Had to. 

The message was, and still is: don't worry about it now! All questions will be answered after death. All problems solved. All doubts resolved. Believe on.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Jeff Holland criticized

I'm no fan of Jeffrey R. Holland. I don't like him at all. When he first became an apostle I thought he was the shit, but I've changed my mind. I think he's a big boob. A big mean boob.

Why would I think such a horrible thing of such a wonderful man? Because I've finally seen his dirty, heartless ways.

A couple of excellent examples of Jeff's misbehavior have actually been caught on tape. Take a look at his horrible (but impassioned and blubberly) defense of The Book of Mormon he gave in General Conference a few years ago. He weaves, dodges, deflects, assumes, accuses, and cries. It just doesn't feel right to me.

What's even more obviously ugly is his behavior in this interview:

My favorite part comes at the end when Jeff gets so flustered and defensive he reverts to the logic of "Hey, hey, hey! I'm smart, I went to Yale, therefore I'm smart, therefore my belief is smart! I win!"

The part where he plays dumb about the Strengthening Church Members Committee is also pretty good.

If it seems like he has a hard time being open and honest, you're probably right. He had the same problem when his good friend Tom Phillips sought him out for help regarding the sticky issues of Mormonism.

Is this the type of man we want teaching us about right and wrong and making decisions for us? I doubt it.

Unquestioned belief

The second part of "overestimations of the group" has to do with "unquestioned belief in [its] morality, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions". I don't think there's any question about Mormons believing that the LDS scriptures and the LDS Church represent the highest possible human morality which means they don't have to question it. Instead they have to live up to the examples set in scripture and by the Church.

That is exactly why Mormons don't worry too much when their scriptural heroes are coercers who needlessly kill, it's why they don't feel too bad about excluding family from weddings, it explains how many members justify racism and sexism, it's how we justify homophobia, and so many other hurtful beliefs, practices, and events.

But how can we see that hurt when the Church is always right? Who are we to trust if not the Church?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Illusions of invulnerability

One problem Mormons face on a regular basis (at least every 6 months) has to do with contemptible instructions handed down from prophets and apostles. What are we to do when our dear leaders screw up or say something awful? Our dear leader Dallin offers this bit of wisdom: 

 But no faithful member should even arrive at the point of criticizing leaders because once the prophet speaks the debate is over. I dare say that most members of the LDS Church never cross the line. Any confusion or frustration caused by the things they hear from our prophets, seers and revelators is put on the back burner, swept under the rug, put on the shelf, etc. In general Mormons readily conform to the thoughts and adopt the talking points laid out to them in General Conference and elsewhere.

This behavior fits nicely into the psycho-social phenomenon known as groupthink. This is where individuals of a given group will defer to leaders to make important decisions regardless of a given leaders competence or of any dissenting opinion an individual might have. Essentially, rational decision-making suffers for the sake of maintaining the status quo.

Irving Janis, the man known for first describing groupthink, created a list of symptoms we can check Mormonism up against. In the category of "Overestimations of the group — its power and morality" we have the first symptom: "illusions of invulnerability create excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking". When I see this I think of the Joseph Smith quote about "no unhallowed hand" being about to stop the Church.

I also think of the LDS Church's quest to dominate the entire world and prepare it for Jesus' millennial rule. How's that for excessive optimism? For a religious tribe that makes up a tiny fraction of the earth's population (about .2% if we're being as generous as we possibly can be) to believe it will save the world and rule it too is nothing short of excessively optimistic.

When it comes to encouraging risk taking the LDS Church is a little hit and miss. In the yes category we have Church teachings on tithing. Members are to take serious financial risks for the sake of paying tithing. On the other hand members are supposed to play it safe by avoiding debt and having food storage on hand. Then again avoiding debt and having food storage only feed the Mormon believe of being invulnerable.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Crucible of Doubt

A kind and well-intentioned couple, Terry and Fiona Givens, both scholars and both active, believing members of the LDS Church, has written a book for me. It comes several years too late, but I'm still a little bit interested. Mormonism is so completely shattered, in my opinion, that when I hear a claim that I can once again fit all the pieces together again my morbid curiosity is piqued. Additionally I've heard enough positive things about the Givens that I felt it only polite to listen to their 3 hour and 15 minute sales pitch.

Unfortunately I couldn't buy the Givens' arguments and won't be buying the book, which was the result of a recent fireside tour, which was the result of reasonable success from a previous book they had written.

After having listened to the entire Mormon Stories interview my main questions are:

1. If prophets are just like the rest of us then why should we look to them for answers concerning God's will? (I love how they insist on ignoring John Dehlin's question about whether or not it's okay to criticize our upper management.)

2. How do we have any trust in the Gospel text as being valid Jesus material? If we're going to undermine the spoken and written words of imperfect prophets what are we to do with the teachings of Mr. Perfect? Do we take them with a grain of salt because they were written by a bunch of assholes and corrupted over time? Do we only accept the teachings and events described by at least two of the Gospel writers (you know, that whole "by the mouth of two or three witnesses" thing)?

3. In all Fiona's admonishing against hero worship she fails to mention even once our worship of a heroic character named Jesus. How is she so sure that we haven't overblown the case for Jesus the same way we have for our various prophets, especially in light of the fact that our basis for turning Jesus into a mighty hero worthy of our worship are the less than reliable words of prophets, who are pretty much just like us?

4. Why should anyone take the Givens' approach seriously when it directly contradicts our Mormon canon?

5. Terryl Givens bases his entire argument on some kind of bizarre dichotomy between "the heart" and "the intellect". How is anyone supposed to take that seriously? We are not divided up between this mysterious heart and a non-mysterious, logical brain. "The heart" works for Terry the same way the sky worked for early belief in God. It's the only place to hide (as long as you continue to ignore science).

So the book comes out soon. Maybe it has answers to all of these questions, but admittedly I have my doubts.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Russell's call to arms

Last month our dearly beloved apostle of the THE LORD JESUS CHRIST gave an impassioned commencement speech at Brigham Young University. It was pretty awesome and really hard to improve upon, but that doesn't mean there weren't complaints or that it wasn't improved upon.

Humble yourself before the Lord's anointed and learn at his feet, brothers and sisters.

Highspeed traffic in Heaven

We all knew it would happen sooner or later. All our throwing satellites around has finally gotten someone hurt. I hope he forgives us.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Exclusively for singles

I always hated singles wards. To me they felt as though a couple of grandparents got together for a chat, realized that they all had grandchildren who were single and possibly having a hard time dating, and decided to find a way to coral all these grandchildren together in good faith that all penises would eventually meet a vagina. Seriously, get enough young single adults together in a chapel bumping into each other and sooner or later they'll want to move things to the bedroom. It's a foolproof plan. And naturally (because they're all such wonderful kids) they'll make sure to stop by the temple for a quick sealing before they run off and make babies.

These singles wards are a real hit. The kids are so bonkers about the whole thing that they even organize gigantic summer vacations together so they can have more opportunities to bump into each other, only this time without being dressed for church. It's like EFY only better.

The only problem is that Mormons aren't marrying as early as they used to (but probably not because they don't want to) which means a lot of the penises finding vaginas are doing so out of wedlock. And that's very bad.

In effort to catch people at the new marrying age, the Church has created some very popular singles wards for people over 30. How's it all working out?, you might ask. Not great. The problem: the men. They're not hanging around. Instead they're flocking to their computers to play games and jerk off.

The plus side to all of this is that now those few older men who are hanging around can go back to marrying a handful of lovely young maidens. Polygamy, your time for open practice has returned!

JAA to Dieter

Here's another winner from Just Another Apostate (worth a like and a follow over on Facebook).

"[T]o be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. ... [M]y dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith." -Dieter F. Uchtdorf, in General Conference, October 2013. 

If it's not okay to doubt your doubts in things having to do with mortal life, I don't think we should be expected to doubt our doubts in things having to do with eternal life. But what do I know? I'm just another apostate.