It was a simple question . . .

Posted: January 8, 2012 in Bullying, Fred Anson, Mormon Studies, Sociology

by Fred W. Anson
It was a simple question that was posted on Yahoo Answers . . .

Q: What’s your experience with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? (good or bad)?
My question is what is your experience with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, its followers (also known as Mormons) and if you could get one message through to Mormons and/or non Mormons, what would it be?

… and, even though most of it got chopped off, here was how I answered in full:

Q: What’s your experience with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? (good or bad)?
A: I’ve never been Mormon but I have a lifetime of Mormon friends and family members and I’ve had direct experience with the LdS Church.

THE GOOD
First, I’ll say that my direct “face-to-face” experience with Mormons has been overwhelmingly positive.

Here’s how I described my face-to-face experience with Mormons in a Facebook article:
“Mormons are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Collectively they represent a rich, colorful, tapestry of personalities, talents, giftings, callings, and, yes, even beliefs. Or put another way, I find MUCH good in the Mormon people and Mormon Culture which I applaud, celebrate, revel in and strive to protect. … Mormons are our family members, our friends, our colleagues and our neighbors I do NOT dislike them – in fact I love Mormons.”[1]

In face-to-face settings Latter-day Saints have always opened their hearts and homes to me and my family even though many of them know that in my role as a Mormon Studies scholar I am generally critical of the of the LdS Church, it’s leaders, Mormon Doctrine, and many aspects of Mormon Culture.

Second, I would also have to say that my direct experience with the LdS Church in Mormon Chapel meetings, Sunday School classes and, sadly, the funeral of a family member, has been equally positive. Their meetings are generally uplifting, inoffensive, include many bits of useful bits of “sage wisdom”. I generally leave feeling better than when you went in – I would liken them to what I experienced in Dale Carnegie classes, Self Help, and/or 12-Step meetings only with Joseph Smith sitting in Dale Carnegie, Zig Ziglar, Denis Waitley, Dr. Bob Smith, or Bill Wilson’s chair respectively.

THE BAD
Without question the worst “face-to-face” experience that I had in a Mormon Chapel meeting was when we attended a 3-hour “Fast & Testimony” meeting.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with these meetings, here’s how they’re described in The Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
“An LDS fast and testimony meeting is normally held on the first Sunday of each month, where faithful members of the Church are invited to bear a verbal witness of their feelings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The meeting usually follows a fast by the members, usually from at least two consecutive meals and from liquids also. The fast is officially broken by partaking of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. In modern scripture, fasting is described as “rejoicing and prayer” (D&C 59:14), which implies that it is more than just abstaining from food. That tone of devotion is also the feeling associated with contributing fast offerings, giving the equivalent cost of the meals, or more, to be used for the poor. The fast and testimony meeting becomes the locus of spiritual sensitivity and contrition, of concentration on the things of God.”[2]

That’s all true but what it fails to mention is that the testimonies tend to be overtly formualiac following this template:
“I TESTIFY TO YOU, I KNOW THE BOOK OF MORMON IS TRUE. I KNOW JOSEPH SMITH WAS A PROPHET OF GOD. I KNOW THE MORMON CHURCH IS TRUE.”[3] And sometimes an, “I love my family/husband/wife/mother/father/etc.”  got thrown as would a “I also testify that (fill in name of current LdS President) is a true prophet of God” and usually ending with an, “In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

However, by the end of the 3-hour session I found that so many of the testimonies were almost word-for-word identical that it was a bit creepy.

But the most unsettling thing of all was when a parent would hold a far-too-young-to-fully-understand child up to the mic and have them parrot the formulaic testimony that they whispered in their ear. This occurred several times, resulting in dabbed eyes from the audience, and tears of joy from family members of the child.

Frankly, it was beyond weird, it was extremely unsettlingly and garnered a, “What the heck is going here? What’s wrong with these people? What’s wrong with this church?” from this author.

In fact, someone captured the audio one of these incidents on YouTube, listen to it for yourself, don’t take my word for it.[4]

THE UGLY
But without question the most worst experience that I’ve had with Mormons has been on the Internet. The Internet brings out the bad side of everyone but Mormons seem to really, really, really go from “Jekyl” to “Hyde” there.

image credit “Flame Warrior” by Mike Reed

It seems that unless one is glowingly positive about the LdS Church and/or Mormon Culture on the Internet one is quickly labeled an “Anti-Mormon” and subjected to a litany of relentless personal and ad-hominem attacks that, frankly, I was shocked and surprised at given how I’d been treated in all my direct face-to-face Mormon experiences.[5]

I think that Richard and Joan Ostling described this well in their book on Mormonism when they said:
“The thin-skinned and image-conscious Mormon can display immature, isolationist, and defensive reactions to outsiders, perhaps because there is no substantive debate and no “loyal opposition” within their kingdom. With some, it almost seems that the wilderness is still untamed, the federal ‘polyg’ police are on the prowl, and the Illinois lynch mob is still oiling muskets and preparing to raid Carthage Jail. All too often Saints use the label “anti-Mormon” as a tactic to forestall serious discussion.”
(“Mormon America: The Power and the Promise (2007 Edition)”; Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling; p. 115)[6]

BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY
So in the end my feelings about the LdS Church and the Mormon people goes something like this:

Dislike? Hardly!
Contend with? Gladly!
Expose? Regularly!
Oppose? If necessary.
But through it all, and at the end of the day,
I LOVE Mormons!

Q: If you could get one message through to Mormons and/or non Mormons, what would it be?
A: To Mormons my one message would be two questions:
1) “How important is it to you that the truth claims of the LdS Church are in reality true?”
and
2) “Why do you stay in a group that it’s been documented engages in Mind Control tactics and behaviors?”[7]

And to non-Mormons it would be two statements:
1) “If a Church – any church, including the one that I may be in – claims to have the truth it’s probably a good idea to find out if it’s lying to you first.”
and
2) “The best place to find out about a religious group – any religious group, including the one that I may be in – is from former members.”

I hope that this helps.

NOTES
[1]
Fred Anson, “Through it all, and at the end of the day, I LOVE Mormons!”  
[2] Mary Jolley, “Fast and Testimony Meeting”; The Encyclopedia of Mormonism 
[3] The Mormon Testimony “I Testify to You…”‘
[4] “Mormon Parent Coerces Testimony From Child”
[5] In fact, I wrote a Mormon Expression blog on this subject:  ‘Falsely Accused: My Life As An ‘Anti’’ 
[6] Link to “Mormon America” page on Amazon
[7] The assertion that the leadership of the LdS Church and it’s membership engages in Mind Control tactics and behavior isn’t given lightly and/or without empirical support. It is a long standing and widely held view backed by a growing body of evidence:
“The BITE Model and Mormon Control”
“Is Mormonism a Cult? – A Rebuttal”
“The BITE Model Applied Toward Mormonism’s Two-Year Missionary Program”
“The BITE Model Applied Toward Mormonism”

Comments
  1. fredwanson says:

    POSTSCRIPT
    In regard, to the Internet behavior of some Mormons on the Internet…

    Recently there has been what appears to be an orchestrated attack on Facebook Members and Pages that present the Mormon Church in a less than glowing light. Bill McKeever’s Facebook wall post editorial on the situation was clear, direct, and to the point.

    “Apparently there is a campaign among Mormons to silence any and all discussion they deem unflattering to the LDS Church. Just this morning I received three warnings from Facebook that read: ‘A post you made contains content that violates our Terms of Use. This message serves as a warning. Additional violations will result in the termination of your account. Please read our Terms carefully and refrain from posting abusive material in the future. Thanks in advance for your understanding and cooperation.’ The irony is that most of what is posted on the MRM Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MormonismResearchMinistry) page are quotations from LDS sources. It is also ironic that Mormon leaders have said the Constitution is sacred, which I assume includes the First Amendment. Apparently those involved in this effort think that free speech only applies to the Mormon Church.”

    Sharon Lindbloom (an associate at Mormonism Research Ministry) reported the events in greater in her Mormon Coffee blog concluding:

    “Christians are not supposed to bully those who disagree with them by forcing them into silence. Christians are supposed to answer the objections and persuade opponents by speaking the truth, hoping that the lost and deceived will “come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil.”

    This is what the Christians on Facebook (and here on Mormon Coffee) are endeavoring to do. What, then, is the aim of the crusaders?”

    I commend Sharon for her even toned, and dispassionate blog and encourage the interested to read it via this link: http://blog.mrm.org/2012/01/silencing-christian-critics-of-mormonism/

    I would remind those who would attempt to silence their critics in this matter on the Internet that they are doing so before a public, worldwide audience – literally before the watching world.

    Further, I would ask them, “Do you really think that such behavior speaks well of you and/or your organization?”

    Finally, I would encourage those of you who oppose such tactics to publicly and privately challenge those who engage in it. I would also ask you to express your concern to Facebook that their alerting system is being used as a tool for harassment and limiting the constitutionally guaranteed free speech of others. You can do so via this link: https://www.facebook.com/help/suggestions

    Like

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