Monday, May 28, 2007
One of the more interesting emails we got recently was written by a teacher in a part of the country where LDS families make up a large percentile of her class. She outlines a situation that came up in her class when the pursuit of education was too dangerous for the LDS to tolerate: the following is the essential text of their email and my reply. Since their email address bounced, this is my way of trying to hopefully deliver it to them. It is a cautionary tale ..
I just wanted to comment that I thought your piece on Mormonism was very interesting. I am a middle school social studies teacher who just recently taught the Utah history portion of Manifest Destiny. (Ed. note - I can only assume she means this article we wrote summarizing the LDS Church's dedication to sanitizing its' history) I only have a few Mormon students but their parents were furious for me mentioning polygamy and for me giving an assignment that required students to bring in research on Utah history, One parent vehemently denied that Joseph Smith was ever a polygamist and another denied that Brigham Young was a polygamist. These parents called the principal and later the district office, trying to get me fired. It was unbelievable. Fortunately after much investigation the principal's final report said that I didn't do anything wrong. But I was stunned at how these Mormon parents reacted to my history lesson, and more stunned at how ignorant they are of their own religon.
I am not surprised at the reaction of these parents. They are products of the Mormon culture, which handles inconvenient truth claims about their religion with either denial, deception and demonizing. This paradigm is generally how Mormons will escalate their responses to outsiders who challenge their piously elitist worldview with objective fact based on science, history or orthodox theology and no two Mormons will act the same way. After years of talking with them about their religion, I know this to be true.
Some take the gentle, weepy-eyed and wounded approach ("Oh, how can anyone say anything like that about MY church, it's just not true") to a harder line ("Now that is a lie, let me tell you how it really happened, and stop listening to the Anti side of things'" - "antis" being anyone who has solid documentation about their claims) to the one in which personal attacks, slander and threats of legal action and even physical violence are fair game ("You intolerant blankety blank atheistic reprobate, we're going to sue you!"). Undoubtedly you got someone in the demonizing end of the spectrum whose personality and zeal embraced that degree of reactionary hysteria.
These people, being the upcoming and latest generation of LDS parents seeking to carry the Mormon torch, react the way they are because they were told that such "lies" are old myths circulated by "the Antis" who are on a campaign to smear the LDS Church for ulterior motives. These young parents were told by their spiritual leaders and elders, whom they sometimes call "The Brethren", that Smith and Young were straight arrow spiritual heroes and these terrible things spoken of them and about their pioneer history are all lies.
The LDS Church, as you know, has been engaged in spin doctoring of its historical and sociological reality for generations and they have it down to a fine art, so much so that you can now hear talk of Evangelicals embracing Mitt Romney as a legitimate Presidential contender on that basis. If bishop Humptyscrunch said it never happened, well, we can trust him. If apostle Dingleboulder said so, then that's the way it is./*He'd never lie to us, they would walk away believing.*/ So what you did, without any intent I am sure, by exposing your students to documentable historical fact and requesting that they look for it, was to in essence undermine that careful facade of deceptive propagandizing that these parents have built in their own heads and which they are replicating in their children's minds.
By doing your job, you directly challenged the LDS's most powerful grip on the hearts and minds of its followers - that being the free usage of deception. Objectivity is a dangerous thing to the power and authority of a cult seeking to recruit and retain members with beautiful stories and experiential faith.
What boggles my mind the most though, is how does a religion that has such shameful history and doctrines continue to grow so fast? I know the Mormon church has a very hard working public relations department and they very actively convert people, but ever since the invention of the internet, everything about the Mormon church has been exposed. And it's not just the history and the doctrines.
I offered further response:
It grows because of three basic trends in society today: 1) the postmodern trend in Western society to simply and uncritically accept what we are told by what looks positive, plausible and practical, 2) the unquestionably high external moral and spiritual absolutes by the religion in light of an increasingly amoral and secularizing world filled with cynicism, skepticism and relativism and 3) the unwillingness of those who can uphold legitimate objections to misguided and questionable faith claims to avoid being seen as "intolerant."
Humans however have a troublesome tendency to keep thinking about questions they get answers for (not a bad thing, I think) and will go looking for them if no one will provide them. That's why the Internet is such a dangerous weapon to groups like the Mormons who cannot abide questions that rock their foundations for which they have no answers that can possibly be spun to their advantage and thus reinforce their pretense of spiritual authority. Many Mormons still think about the loose ends of their religion, as do others, and will go looking for answers.
At the same time, plenty of people who feel they want a restoration or two of faith in their life see the pretty pictures of a Mormon world order, get to see the fresh faced zeal of young LDS missionaries, and wonder at what its like to know that God really loves them and answers their prayers .. and voila, within days, uncritically, unquestioningly, they become baptized Mormons - after a lifetime of being Catholic or Protestant or irreligious. The LDS missions effort, like all cultic proselytizers, targets the existing Christian church for its existence and could not grow with out it. Hence, this is one reason why I, a Christian minister, now pursue the path I do.
Our own encounters and outreach to the Remnant Fellowship cult are also proof of how the Internet is being used to find information. Our website is probably the only resource in the world with the most extensive amount of information on this group and so much more needs to be told about it, since it is undeniably a dangerous cult that deceptively recruits on the grounds that is a "faith based" weight loss program that only wants to help people. It is snaring new attention for its seductions by sending out onto the soundstages of national media venues (like the "Today Show," "Tyra Banks Show" and "Fox & Friends" just in the last year) many beautiful skinny people fashionably dressed and who have these marvelous testimonies to personal renewal. It used email and webcasting in conjunction with frequent visits to the cult's HQ in ultrahip Franklin, TN to ensnare, indoctrinate and then control members - so much so that hundreds of them have moved to Nashville.
What isn't as well known, however, is how many marriages have been destroyed, children starved and families divided painfully because of this cult, which teaches that purity and righteousness are directly tied to an arbitrary standard of personal weight loss and how well one jumps through the hoops of their moral standards and the cult leader's personal mores. We have done all we can and know for a fact that our documentation of their egregious and abusive manipulations has been a serious detriment to their recruitment and recently just saw them lose an attempted lawsuit to litigate us out of existence with claims of damages of 3.3 million dollars.
But the continued growth of this movement highlights my point - if people don't ask questions and just accept what they are told and never seek alternative perspectives of what they're being told to believe, they are prime candidates for any smooth talking proponent of some new and cutting edge restoration of divine truth or higher wisdom.
There are so many things that the Mormon church is trying to cover up, including the Mason like cultish ceremonies that occur in their temples (i.e. secret handshakes that are required to get into heaven?!). Do you thing there will ever be a time that the Mormon church is completely accepted for being a fraud?
No, unfortunately. I do not see a trend in society leading me to believe that the side of human nature I have just discussed is going to change. That includes Mormonism. Many Mormons know that their church's foundational beliefs about man becoming gods, about the Book of Mormon being a "divine record", and about the historical reality of LDS social presence are based upon out and out lies and fabrications and don't care. They've got good jobs, are raising good kids, have had a wonderful life of meaningful personal vocation in the church, have relatives who trekked in the Mormon migrations to Utah .. they're not going to rock the boat. I do see that Christ prophesied that false prophets would arise in a period of time He called the "end times" and deceive many.
This is purely a spiritual truth claim, I know, but I personally feel that the emergence of groups like Mormonism are stark, sobering fulfillment of this. True, man has been shot through with sectarianism of every stripe for all of its history, but these new groups follow a program of deception that I think is unmatched in history and that their prevalence and almost innumerable presence are proof of this also.