Friday, August 19, 2016

The C Word

I hired an ex-Mormon.

I can't remember how this came up, but recently one of my newer employees mentioned that he had a lot of Mormons in his family.  I'd harbored suspicions of a Mormon background for a couple of weeks, but for the sake of professionalism, I was not going to be the first one to bring it up. turns out my suspicions were right and my Mormon-dar is in excellent working condition.  This guy's family apparently left when he was pretty young, which is obviously great for him.  The revelation of our LDS connection started a chain reaction of discussions of Mormonism, Utah, and our personal backgrounds in the church.

He asked me if I still get Mormons knocking on my door, because he's still on a list of inactives somewhere and his family periodically gets bothered by members of the church who are trying to reach out.  So I told him that when I first moved out of my parents' house, my family provided the church with my new address.  I specifically instructed my parents not to share my address with the church the next time I moved, but a few years later I got a Christmas card from a man I'd never met who was the Elders' Quorum President of a ward I'd never attended and I had to send a nasty email to a Bishop I'd never even heard of to make sure this wouldn't become a regular thing.

Another coworker, after listening to our exchange about the various ways the church tries to track people down, offered us a sage nod and the simple conclusion:  "Yeah, that's a cult.  You guys were in a cult."

Like it's just that obvious.

It took me a long time, even after I'd stopped believing in the church's doctrine, to classify it as a cult.  Maybe it was processing time or decompression or something, but it's continually astounding to me how clearly evident it is to outsiders (so to speak) that there are some policies, behaviors, and cultural values in Mormonism that are seriously not okay.  Or, as this other coworker termed it, creepy.

And this was without mentioning the creepier aspects like the baptisms for the dead and the so-sacred-it's-secret temple rituals and the crushingly insular mindset and the whispering public testimonies in toddlers' ears and the hero worship and the temple garments and the regular inoculations against apostasy and the frequently disparaging mischaracterization of ex-members.

As much as I don't think that using the word cult is constructive when discussing the church with faithful Mormons, that doesn't change the church's status.  It's still a cult.  Some of us were just lucky enough to get out of it before it locked us in for life.


  1. Not to mention requiring a 10% tithe in order to fully participate; the Word of Wisdom; the Law of Chastity; secret temple words, phrases, clothing, and handshakes; sealings (recognized by the state as marriages) performed in a temple in order to keep out "unworthy" people in the congregation including non-members or non-tithe-paying members, including parents and unendowed siblings of the bride and groom; sealings to more than one wife if a spouse has died believing in plural marriage in the next life; the exclusion of certain groups like the LGBTQ community and even calling some of them apostates, the disciplinary council process, "mandatory" 2 year missionary service by all males as young as 18, the high school seminary (indoctrination) program, college institute programs, BYU, etc...I could go on...

    There us no doubt the church IS a cult, but the indoctrination from birth is so strong it's hard for active members to see it, but even when they do, family dynamics make it nearly impossible or incredibly not worth it to fully leave. i mean, who wants to be shunned and ostracized by their family?

    What a great word, Mormon-dar! I like it much better than ponderize.

    1. Speaking of shunning, some of our other coworkers are starting to ask us questions about our former cult. Someone asked about shunning. Someone else asked about Mormonism's basic beliefs. I was short on time, so I said it was basically Christianity with a few weird twists.

      This experience is apparently giving me a lot of anti-missionary opportunities!

    2. At work the other day, in the break-room, I turned on my phone and a meme popped up. I laughed so hard, I had tears running down my neck, I was gasping for air...

      One of the covenants we make in the temple, believe it or not, is to "avoid loud laughter..."

      When I returned to my department I showed it to my co-workers, who are LDS. They lightly chuckled or responded with an emotionless comment. I said, "I was crying and gasping for air, and all you do is say, 'yeah that would be bad' or 'someone wasn't thinking.' What is wrong with you?" One guy said, "I guess you're more in touch with your emotions, I've been suppressing mine for many years." He is a lot younger than I am.

      I felt so upset. Another thing the cult takes from it's members. Loud laughter and my own emotions are so important to me. Some things, like this, aren't as obvious, until they really show themselves. After going through the temple with the part to "avoid loud laughter" I still did laugh loud. A few times I laughed loud and thought about the promise in the temple, but I continued. It was the only thing keeping me sane at times. We had some highly stressful things happen, and I would just crave going to the comedy club. It was hard to get out, because of our small children. When we went, it for a moment, took the world off my shoulders. It was the best medicine I could have received. Thought and emotion control, definitely culty.

    3. I completely agree that the church manipulates its members' expressions of emotion. I know avoiding loud laughter is part of the temple covenants, but I always assumed it was taken as seriously as the part of the Word of Wisdom about only eating meat in time of famine. My whole family is TBM and very prone to fits of loud laughter during family gatherings.

      Do people really take the no-loud-laughter thing that much to heart?

    4. I think a lot of members are just too uptight to "let go." They worry too much something might be offensive. I think you're right, though, it's not taken seriously. They can certainly laugh loudly when a GA tells a joke in conference. Speaking of GAs, I think the 2nd part of the phrase in the temple can not only get you in trouble but can get you excommunicated. It says you have to "avoid loud laughter and evil speaking of the Lord's anointed."

    5. Well, as Oaks insists, it's wrong to criticize church leaders, even if the criticism is true. Maybe he's just trying to get everyone to keep their temple covenants!

    6. Ha ha! It's funny you mention Elder Oaks, because in my previous comment I debated whether or not to put an example which was going to be it would not be ok to point out that Elder Oaks is an .......! (You can fill in the blank.)

    7. There are so many great things to fill that blank with! I couldn't possibly choose just one!

  2. By the way, since you are a two-time Brodie Award winner, I like how you're now getting mentioned in nearly every weekly post. Good stuff! Your blog and Sunday in Outer Blogness are my two favorite Sunday morning reads.

    1. I wish Blogger had a *like* button, because I don't really have anything to say to this, but I wanted to acknowledge it and show appreciation for it.

      So...consider this *liked*.