Today is October 31st, “Reformation Day”, 2012.
It was on this day 495 years ago that Martin Luther nailed the “Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” (commonly known as “The Ninety-Five Theses”) unto the door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. “The Ninety-Five Theses” is widely regarded as the primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.
And while readily acknowledging that I’m no Martin Luther, it is with a hopeful spirit for reformation in our lifetime that I offer these Ninety-Five Theses to a modern church that, in my opinion (as well as in the opinion of many others) is badly in need of it.
And while I offer these theses to the public in general for discussion, debate, and consideration, I offer them even more specifically to the LdS Church and its members in light of Joseph Smith’s challenge …
“… call upon them [Mormon Critics] to meet you both in public and in private; and inasmuch as ye are faithful their shame shall be made manifest. Wherefore, let them bring forth their strong reasons against …”
(Doctrine & Covenants 71:7)
… in accordance with the exhortation of Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt who said…
“… convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds.”
(Orson Pratt, “The Seer”, pp. 15-16)
… and finally in agreement with third LdS Church President John Taylor who said:
“I think a full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret nor underhanded, and I for one want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation.”
(John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, p. 264)
So with no further adieu we present . . .
The Disputation of Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Ninety-Five Theses for consideration, discussion, and action regarding a modern church badly in need of reform
(aka “What’s Wrong With The Mormon Church?”)
What’s Wrong With The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
1) It lies to and attempts to deceive its own members and investigators regarding Mormon History and Theology.
2) It focuses on the needs and interests of the institution over the needs and interests of the members.
3) It villainizes critics – even constructive critics – both within and without its ranks.
4) It engages in Mind Control tactics and techniques in indoctrinating and retaining members.
5) It suppresses its financial records eliminating full accountability in terms of how member contributions are used.
6) It tolerates abuse of ecclesiastical power by LdS Church Leaders.
7) It suppresses loyal dissent from within its ranks via disciplinary action up to and including excommunication.
8) It forces members to choose between the LdS Church and apostate spouses.
9) LdS Church Leaders denounce and shun former members and encourages members to do the same.
9) It keeps members so busy with LdS Church related activities that they don’t have time for personal reflection and self-autonomy. This is especially true of men as the demands of lay leadership tend to deprive them of real, regular, authentic family time.
10) It deceptively claims to be “Christian” when in reality it has taken Christian words, terms and forms and then changed the underlying meaning and content to an extent that they’re no longer congruent with historic, mainstream, Christian orthodoxy.
11) It erroneously asserts that former members didn’t leave the LdS Church for any thoughtful or legitimate reasons but rather that they were thin skinned reactive, malcontents who left the LdS Church because they wanted to sin with impunity, or because of a perceived offense.
12) It drives a wedge between member and non-member family members. Ex-Mormon family members in particular are to be avoided but the LdS Church also encourages members to avoid “Never Mormon” family members who are openly critical of the LdS Church.
13) It encourages arrogance and self-righteousness in members by preaching that they’re more enlightened and morally superior relative to the general population – including other people of faith.
14) It suppresses – and has even destroyed – LdS Church owned documents and artifacts that would expose #1.
15) It restricts distribution of the LdS “Church Handbook of Instruction Book 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops” (aka “Handbook 1”) to only the Bishopric level and higher. This eliminates transparent “bottom up” accountability enabling ecclesiastical abuse because lay members can’t confront local leaders and/or report policy violations to higher authorities for rectification.
16) It practices graceless, merciless, condemning, legalistic disciplinary extremes – far beyond Biblical standards – in regard to those who have engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage that, as been reported by many, often leads to a “no-win” double-bind spiral into hopeless despair.
17) It uses guilt as a means of controlling members.
18) It puts its untrained clergy in a position where they must give counsel on vital life issues that they are not qualified or equipped to competently address. The result, all too often, is ecclesiastical malpractice. `
19) It preaches doctrine that leads to unhealthy, aberrant, dating and courtship behavior.
20) It uses the LdS Temple system (via the Temple Recommend process) as a means of coercing members into compliance with the will of the extant Mormon leaders.
21) It discourages intellectual self-autonomy and self-responsibility and encourages dependency on LdS Church Leaders.
22) It puts undue financial strain on member families via manipulative doctrine and coercive policy that makes tithing mandatory rather than voluntary.
23) It drives a wedge between member and non-member family members via exclusionary and highly restrictive American LdS Church marriage policies – which, paradoxically, are more flexible and inclusionary outside of the United States.
24) It teaches an irrational and subjective epistemological system while simultaneously belittling epistemology based on reason, objectivity, and empiricism.
25) When it claims, “No tithing dollars were used for this, the funds came from for-profit, church-owned entities” it ignores and/or obfuscates the fact that the seed, start-up, or acquisition funds logically and ultimately came from member tithes – a fact which negates the original claim.
26) It uses LdS Priesthood Authority dogma to devalue women thus subordinating them to “second class” status in the LdS Church.
27) It values and praises “total obedience to leaders” as one of its more important core values even though this is the first symptom that a group is a Mind Control Cult.
28) It imposes discredited and unbiblical 19th Century dietary regulations on members.
29) It contrives man created “revelations” and claims that they are of divine origin.
30) It uses employment in LdS Church and member owned institutions and businesses to coerce obedience to its dogma and leaders.
31) It quells and compromises good scholarship within its rank by shunning, dis-fellowshipping and excommunicating members who produce scholarly works discussing Mormon History, Theology, or culture that have scholastic integrity.
32) It rewards inauthentic compliance and punishes authentic self-autonomy.
33) It punishes doubt and questioning – especially when it’s publicly expressed – and rewards blind compliance.
34) LdS Church Missionary training and policies employ Mind Control techniques and tactics.
35) It wavers on whether its ultimate authority for doctrine is the Bible, Mormon scriptures, statements of former Mormon prophets, statements of living Mormon prophets, and individual “revelation” even though these sources are often mutually contradictory.
36) It requires members to remain in a “snapped” psychological state in order to remain believing members.
37) Its leaders and members use ad-hominems, insults, slurs, derogatories, labeling, and character assassination in their dealings with critics and apostates and then deny that they do so – often going so far as to claim that those who call them on this behavior are persecuting them.
38) It “love bombs” investigators and new converts as a means of drawing them in.
39) It allows members to privately believe whatever they want – even if it’s atheistic or contradicts LdS orthodoxy – as long as they publicly “toe the party line” and continue to contribute their time and money to the LdS Church.
40) It damages member psychology via the use of manipulative fear and unachievable standards of “worthiness”.
41) It refuses to acknowledge and apologize for the role of church leaders in the massacre of 120 innocent people in 1857 at Mountain Meadows.
42) It makes extraordinary – even outrageous – truth claims that are easily discredited by science, history, and the Bible.
43) It requires members to adhere to moral and intellectual relativism in order to create the delusion that its incongruous and inconsistent belief system works, has integrity, and is both moral and ethical.
44) It excuses, rationalizes, justifies, and white washes the crimes of its founder, famous members, and past leaders.
45) It refuses to acknowledge and apologize for the fact that until 1978 as a point of official doctrine and policy the church excluded from the priesthood and from the temple any member who had “Negro” blood.
46) It privately judges and abandons members that have life problems rather than patiently, encouraging, undergirding, supporting, and attempting to restore them to a healthy, productive place. This while publicly declaring that the LdS Church treats all such cases with benevolent kindness.
47) It tends to view any doubt, character flaw, or personal deficiency as “sin” rather than as a normal expression of the human condition and life experience. Thus it has created an implied and unstated expectation that members must always be perfect and/or “all together” or they’re in sin and unworthy of advancement within the organization.
48) It tries to expose, quarantine, isolate, shun – and if necessary expel – those who doubt rather than creating a safe place when they can honestly and openly work through their doubts and questions.
49) It asserts in the strongest language that doctrinal differences, criticisms, or questions about LdS Church policies and/or leaders are sin, for the ‘prophet’ is always right. Those who engage in such behaviors – or refuse to comply with the status quo – are subject to discipline up to and including ex-communication.
50) It has used home teachers and the “Strengthening Church Members Committee” as a means of spying on members.
51) It hypocritically claims that polygamy has no place in the contemporary LdS Church even though Joseph Smith’s revelation on polygamy (Doctrine & Covenants 132) is still canonized scripture and “Celestial Polygamy” (being eternally married to at least one more woman after being widowed or divorced) is practiced. Currently, three widowed Mormon Apostles (Dallin H. Oaks, L. Tom Perry, and Russell M. Nelson) are Celestial Polygamists.
52) It uses arbitrary, capricious, and ever changing criteria for Temple Recommend “worthiness”.
53) It preaches extreme, legalistic, and arbitrary sexual standards regarding masturbation that are not Biblically or Scientifically supportable.
54) It has created a clannish and elitist “authority” system via its unbiblical Temple and Priesthood system that results in unhealthy elitist pride in men and their wives.
55) It claims that the LdS Church is patterned after the early church of Jesus’ apostles, but there are major differences.
56) It encourages arrogant, condescending pride in members at all levels by telling them that they “have the whole and restored truth” that “apostates” only have in part and “gentiles” lack entirely.
57) Via the Correlation Program it tries to turn everyone into a Utah Mormon and every Chapel, Ward, and Stake into a Utah Chapel, Ward, and Stake rather than encouraging – even celebrating – each culture’s unique distinctives.
58) It has so exalted things over people that, in the words of a former LdS Bishop, “The Mormon Church would leave you dead by the side of the road if that’s what it took to protect the institution.”
59) It dis-fellowships and excommunicates its true prophets.
60) It mandates that LdS Church History be presented by members to members (even in private) in a manner that’s uplifting and only presents the LdS Church in a favorable light – even if the resulting narrative is no longer factual and/or supported by the body of evidence.
61) It rationalizes and excuses the sin, bad behavior, errors of judgment, and disastrous decisions its prophets. They are buried, ignored, or ‘spun’ as “well-meaning human error with no need for apology or confession”.
62) It rationalizes away the revelations – even those that were fully canonized – of present or past “Living Prophets” that contradict contemporary LdS Church teachings and culture. The no-longer-in-vogue revelations are buried, ignored, or recast as “opinion not divine”. The “He was speaking as a man not a prophet” apologetic is typically used as the rationalization in these cases.
63) It rationalizes the failed prophecies of future events by past “Living Prophets” by burying, ignoring, or spin doctoring them as “just his opinion”, or as requiring more time for fulfillment.
64) It employs circular logic in its core truth claim: “The only true church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it’s the only true church.”
65) It tolerates the chronic practice of eisegesis (injecting words and ideas into the text that the author did not intend, use or mean) by LdS Church Leaders as their standard hermeneutic in interpreting the Biblical, historical, and scientific record.
66) It teaches that a rape victim has “lost her chastity” and that a woman should fight off her attacker or be killed in the attempt. Thus, young Mormon women are taught that their chastity is more valuable than their life. The result is that a Mormon woman who survives a rape is made to feel guilty, and is thus victimized again, this time by her church.
67) It undermines intellectual integrity when, by following the example learned from LdS Church Leaders and Church Educational System (CES) curriculum members engage in eisegesis as a lifestyle in all areas of life.
68) It poisons members who leave the LdS Church against all other Theistic religions.
69) It uses the term “official doctrine” as a means of silencing critics and dissents even though there is no formal, codified definition for constitutes “official doctrine”.
70) It tolerates an untenable situation whereby the canonization process isn’t officially defined or codified yet is used to deny past publications, prophetic revelations, and other utterances from past Mormon Leaders that are no longer in vogue.
71) Its behavior throughout history demonstrates that there are no unchanging, absolute, objective truths in the LdS Church. Rather, “truth” is subjective, relative, in flux, and subject to change.
72) It has allowed Mormon folklore to take on pseudo-scriptural equivalency.
73) It has created a culture whereby fear of their family’s reaction forces disenchanted LdS Missionaries to continue with their missions whether they want to or not.
74) It has created a culture whereby a man or a woman who decides to leave the LdS Church must also be willing to give up his or her family.
75) It so thoroughly indoctrinates members that their highest loyalty is to the LdS Church (not to a husband, wife, son, daughter, or even to the truth) that a member who associates or sympathizes with an “apostate” or a non-Mormon family member who is critical of the LdS Church risks failing his or her temple recommend interview.
76) It preaches a soteriological system that incentivizes converts to Mormonism to divorce their unbelieving spouse and marry a believing Mormon instead.
77) It doesn’t allow young Mormon siblings (usually under 18) to see an older sister or brother get married in an LdS Temple – even if the younger person is a faithful Mormon in good standing.
78) It claims to be “pro-family” while simultaneous creating a culture that breaks up both Mormon and non-Mormon families via the aforementioned.
79) It has failed to officially, publicly, and directly address the ever mounting discrepancies between the claims of The Book of Mormon and the archaeological, historical, theological, and scientific body of evidence.
80) It has failed to explain the incriminating consistency between the claims of The Book of Mormon and the empirical 19th Century, political, literary, cultural and theological record.
81) It has failed to provide an adequate, rational explanation for how Joseph Smith could “translate” the Book of Abraham from a set of Egyptian Book of Breathings papyri.
82) It has failed to reasonably explain how Joseph Smith could, via The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, append the Bible with “translations” of entire new books and chapters that have utterly no manuscripts backing them while simultaneously purging words, verses – even entire books – that are substantially supported by the extant manuscript base.
83) It compensates leaders via employment in LdS Church owned businesses, generous honoraria, stipends, grants, scholarships, gifts, company cars, free travel and lodging, housing and other non-cash contributions then deceptively claims that “The LdS Church has no paid clergy”. This is nothing more than deception via manipulative semantics and a sophisticated financial “shell game”.
84) It bestows the title “Elder” onto adolescent men (typically 18-years old) with little to no real life experience, thus puffing them up with arrogance and deluding them with prideful ignorance.
85) It hypocritically denounces those who claim to bring forth new scripture and revelations using the same methods and means that Joseph Smith did because they fail to conform to established LdS Church orthodoxy. This, while simultaneously criticizing the mainstream Christian Church for rejecting Mormonism because the revelations and scripture of its founder and subsequent “prophets” fail to conform to established Christian orthodoxy.
86) It hypocritically rails against all sound logic and reason as “the hollow and vain philosophies of men, not God” and then hypocritically attempts to (albeit poorly and inconsistently) employ logic and reason in its arguments and rhetoric.
87) It hypocritically defines polemic arguments as “persecution” and then engages in polemics with its critics.
88) It allows LdS Church leaders and the Church Educational System (CES), to distance themselves from the work of LdS Apologists so as – it is believed – to create a “plausible deniability” escape hatch should the work of said Apologists be discredited by more qualified, objective scholarship. Never-the-less, both cite from the work of LdS Apologists (albeit typically not credited) while allowing the LdS Church to quietly fund the work of said apologists through indirect cash flows.
89) It engages in political action via direct and indirect cash flows and privately exhorts members to organize and engage in particular causes and then publicly denies any involvement. California’s Propositions 22 (circa 2000) and 8 (circa 2008) are two cases in point.
90) It publicly (and loudly) trumpets its philanthropic work when compared to other churches its per capita outlay is less than what smaller, less wealthy, less organized religious organizations spend.
91) It sent the wrong message in 2003 by pledging to spend $1-Billion US dollars to redevelop downtown Salt Lake City (via the City Creek Center mall and housing redevelopment project). Due to cost over runs the final project cost is now forecast to be around $8-Billion US dollars.
92) It has a double standard for treating non-members with charitable benevolence (as a means of proselytizing and public relations) while exacting, high, often unattainable standards that members must meet to receive the same levels of attention, aid, and assistance.
93) It fails to recognize the over sixty (60) active Latter Day Saint movement denominations (aka “splinter groups”) while hypocritically condemning the denominationalism of Christianity as a proof of apostasy and lack of divine legitimacy. This hypocrisy is even more pronounced when one considers that over the 180+ year history of the LDS movement there have been over 200 Latter Day Saint denominations in total with new ones forming at a rate will be eventually far exceed and out pace the total number of Christian denominations.
94) Based on its observed behavior its core unifying principle seems to be “Image over truth always and in all things.”
95) It creates undue demands as well as mental, emotional, and spiritual stress and strain on members via all the above.
Compiled by Fred W. Anson, with the generous aid and assistance of current and former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as knowledgeable outsiders, all whom long to see the Mormon Church reform for the sake of all its members – but especially for the sake of their Latter-day Saint friends and family members.