Archive for November, 2012

by Fred W. Anson

“Even when you lose you’re still the winner
At least you’ve got the makin’s of a song”
Waylon Jennings & Willy Nelson

Luther posting the 95-Theses onto the door of Wittenberg Castle Chapel (circa 1517)

Sit back, relax, and let me tell you a little story . . .
On the last two Reformation Days[2] I have released a list of 95-Theses very loosely based on Martin Luther’s which offers some concerns and grievances that I and a random collection of active Mormons, inactive Mormons, former Mormons, and never Mormons see in the current Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LdS Church). This began as and has always been a group effort, it has never been a solo act. Rather, it’s the result of many, many, many kind and generous collaborators (many whom are, no doubt, reading this article) however, inevitably – and no matter how much I stress this fact – both the praise and the blame for the published piece tends to be directed solely at me.   Please don’t understand me, there’s no harm, no foul here – after all I did willingly, and deliberately sign up for this gig!

The response to this list is always been interesting but this year it was particularly so, leaving me with the fine “makin’s of a song,” or more precisely, a mighty fine Mormon Studies case study.

Generally speaking, this year the feedback was positive and affirming with very little “push back” from faithful Mormons or suggestions for improvement from disaffected and former Mormons – which was the case last year.  So there’s not much to report there except that it was unexpected.

Rather, the big surprise came in the closed “Mormon Stories” Facebook group the day after I posted the standard promotional blurb (“With hope and prayer that we will see true reform by this time next year . . .”) with a link to the article. Again, for the most part the responses there were pretty much in line with what I was seeing elsewhere with the exception of a clarification on why I use the term “LdS Church” rather than “LDS Church”[3] and a lengthy discussion with one group member on how Mormon leaders and members tend to engage in eisegesis[4] when they interpret holy writ, history, science, and life in general. It’s a complex subject, and I think an interesting one, so I was happy to try to satisfy her interest in the subject.

Then, the next day, I received this private Facebook message from Mormon Stories founder and board administrator John Dehlin:[5]
“Fred – I’m getting lots of complaints about your participation on the MS board. I don’t mean to offend, but I feel like it might not be a good fit. It feels to many like your intent really is to lead people out of the church (whether that is your intent or not…that’s how it comes across). And that’s just not what this forum is about. Do you mind if we part ways? There are LOTS of forums out there….I feel like your engagement in this forum is driving away many of the people that I’m trying to include/reach.

Now, before I go any further I should probably explain that I’ve always felt I had a good understanding of the Mormon Stories mission. After all, it’s clearly outlined on their website starting with this summary statement, “Mormon Stories is a nonprofit organization that seeks to create online and in-person environments that allow for authentic self-expression and the open discussion of Mormonism.” It then proceeds to expand and describe in further detail the purpose and intention of the organization in some detail including, “… we endeavor to ensure that the projects we undertake 1) support individuals in Mormon-related faith crises, 2) save marriages, 3) heal families, and 4) celebrate, challenge, and advance Mormon culture in healthy ways.”[6]

Some thoughts immediately occur at this point:
1) Nowhere in their mission statement was I able to find a clause about how a tenet of the Mormon Stories mission is to help people stay in the LdS Church.

2) The declaration read before the August 12th, 2011 Mormon Stories event honoring D. Michael Quinn[7] explicitly affirmed the right to self identify as “Mormon” regardless of one’s state of membership in the LdS Church, again affirming the idea that Mormon Stories isn’t a membership retention organization.

3) I have always been sensitive to the fine line that John Dehlin walks in trying to help Mormons come to grips with true Mormon History and the issues in the LdS Church in a productive way. He takes “hits” from all sides that, frankly, I have frequently thought unjust, unfair, and unduly harsh.

4) Based on the rhetoric that John Dehlin has regularly used publicly, I had always thought that the Mormon Stories agenda included lobbying internally and externally for reform in the LdS Church. Personally, I had always thought of John Dehlin as an ally not an adversary.

4) The article in question was, to my way of thinking, very much presented and aligned with Mormon Stories stated intention to “challenge, and advance Mormon culture in healthy ways.”

So I immediately responded with the following, “Sorry about that is there something I can do to rectify the situation?”

I then attempted to enter the Facebook Mormon Stories discussion board only to find that my membership in the group had been revoked – in the vernacular, I had been banned. I then received notification from a friend who was still a member of the group that the following had been newly posted at the tail end of the aforementioned thread discussing the Reformation Day article:

Ms. D
“By the way, folks, I just want to point out to you that Fred W. Anston (sic) is NOT , and never has been a Mormon-LDS, LdS, or anything like that. You might want to keeep (sic) that in mind when considering his comments, his motives, his empathy and friendship. He does NOT know what it is like to be LDS, just so you know that, in case it makes a difference to you.”

So I contacted John Dehlin and asked him to remove the comment – which he did. My request to John was worded as follows:
“This is, quite simply, an ad-hominem AND a not too subtle attempt at character assassination.

I think that you and I can agree that this is inappropriate. Frankly, whether I’ve ever been LdS or not is irrelevant. Further, Ms. D doesn’t know my full background, my motives, or anything else about me. If she bumped into me at the supermarket tomorrow she might not even know it was me.

This is, quite simply, inappropriate.”

I was then contacted again, by a friend who was still in the group. That person provided me with the following discussion which immediately followed after John Dehlin deleted the aforementioned Ms. D’s comment:
Mr. P
“You can still have a Mormon Story without having been a member.”

Ms. H

Ms. D
“So, as I was saying, Fred W. Anson is not, nor has he ever been a Mormon or LDS, or LdS or anything like that. You might want to keep that in mind when you read his comments, about how much he empathizes with you, understands you, is your friend, etc. He does NOT understand what it is like to be a member because he never has been one. He takes great care to conceal that fact–have you ever seen him reveal his status here? No, of course not. Not only that, but he avoids answering the direction question put to him in this thread above. Not only that, but he deleted my earlier, briefer comment in which I said that Fred W. Anson is not and never was Mormon. Let’s see if he takes this one down, too.[8]

Fred Ason (sic) is totally agenda driven , and his agenda is to fight against the Mormon Church and to dissuade people from the CHurch (sic). He takes umbridge (sic) at being called anti Mormon, and calls himself a scholar. Yet he does not act like a scholar. An example of a non Mormon scholar on Mormonism is Jan Shipps, a professor, and former president of the Mormon History Association. I don’t recall her tearing down the CHurch.(sic) Scholars STUDY things, they don’t wage war on things.”[9]

Ms. H
“thank you Ms. D…lets see how long before your comment disapears (sic) again.”

Mr. MH
“Another interesting conversation! Wow! I think Ms. D, Fred said NeverMO. I think that means he’s not a Mormon? He talks like a person who studies religion not a person who is religious. I think there is much difference. I read all of these posts and him and Ms. M, and he studies a lot, and posts a lot, but he does not have the spirit of Mormonism. Just sayin’…”

Ms. D
“OK, I went back and read everything more carefully, and I see where he mentions the Never Mo. my bad; missed it the first time. He is very cagey about what he reveals and when he reveals it. He studies a lot, yes, but with only one purpose in mind, to bolster his claims about what is wrong with the Mormon Church. That is not the way a scholar operates; a scholar studies to understand, and is objective and not emotional about the subject.

Fred uses a lot of fawning comments to garner trust. He uses false modesty and flattery. But his writing give me the impression of someone who is not what he says he is, but rather someone who is a narcissistic syncophant (sic).”

So I contacted John Dehlin via private message again and the following conversation ensued:

Fred W. Anson
“John, if you would please deal with the continuing vitriol from Ms. D I would appreciate it. But, of course I only say this because I am apparently a brown nosing, self-absorbed, self-loving Narcissistic Sycophant. Well now I know – my self awareness has chinked [up] a notch!

And, of course, the person who deleted her prior litany of ad-hominems wasn’t I – if you would clear that up I would appreciate that too.”

John Dehlin
“Thanks, Fred. Sorry things didn’t work out.”

Fred W. Anson
“Me too John. I really loved your group. Be well.”

And that was that. In the end , it just left me wonderin’, to paraphrase from one of my Country Western music heroes, “Did ol’ Luther really do it thisa way?”

There’s a lot here isn’t there? In the end, this story makes a fascinating case study – it is, to use a tired cliche, quite revealing.

For a start, could someone explain to me why someone who’s just compiled and published a paper lobbying for internal reform of the LdS Church would being trying to push everyone out of it? If we assume that’s my goal and “hidden agenda” then it’s flawed because in the end there won’t be anyone left in the organization to reform it. I’d like to believe that I’m just not that stupid.

Rather, I would suggest, there seems to be a perception within Mormon Culture that criticism – and it seems ANY criticism – is a cry for an exodus from the organization.  To me, this mindset belies the deeply seeded propensity within Mormon Culture to bifurcate: That is, either you’re good or you’re evil; either you’re faithful or you’re an “Anti”; either you’re all in you’re all out. Though, thankfully there are exceptions, it seems like the typical Latter-day simply can not fathom the concept of a nuanced stance, loyal opposition, a full, free talk, and/or good willed investigation and criticism by outsiders. As journalists Richard J. and Joan Ostling observe:

“Such [scrutiny, analysis, commentary, and criticism by outsiders] is the give-and-take of a free and freewheeling society. The thin-skinned and image-conscious Mormons can still 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 yet untamed, the federal “polyg” police are on the prowl, and the Illinois lynch mob is oiling muskets and preparing to raid Carthage Jail. All too often Saints use the label “anti-Mormon” as a tactic to forestall serious discussion.

Nor are the Mormons alone in facing cultural despisers. Catholics put up with continual insults without complaint (except from the Catholic League). And the Protestant Evangelicals, who are not organized enough to create their own anti-defamation league, have had to endure the Scopes trial and Inherit the Wind, Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry, a recent onslaught of books claiming they seek to destroy American democracy in favor of “theocracy,” and the crude stereotypes in the latest made-for-TV movie.”[11]

And this author found it curious that Ms. D claims to be familiar with my work yet shows such incredible ignorance of it. For example, I have publicly and clearly stated my stance in regard to the Mormon Church on numerous occasions in my work – simply put it’s “Reformation not Destruction”. Or if you prefer the long version:

“I see some good things in the LdS Church and I see even more in Mormon Culture. There’s also much – particularly in the former – that, in my opinion, is really, really bad and needs to change. Never-the-less I’m just crazy enough to believe that there must be a way to keep the good and jettison the bad. After all isn’t that what happened to the Worldwide Church of God?

However, to get there from here the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from my perspective, must reform. And THAT, at least for me, is still a work in progress. That’s to say, it’s a work in progress for me because while I think I have an idea as to what end state might look like, I know that I’m not alone in this vision and I’m find the ideas and thoughts of others often more interesting than my own – hence the need for ongoing dialog.”[12]

Further, another interesting irony is that Ms. D both demonstrated and validated several of the grievances that were made in the offending document in question. Specifically:

#3) It [the LdS Church] villainizes critics – even constructive critics – both within and without its ranks.

#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.

#87) It hypocritically defines polemic arguments as “persecution” and then engages in polemics with its critics.[13]

What seems to be lost on most Mormons is that even if you successfully discredit  the messenger it still doesn’t discredit either their message or the evidence presented in support of that message.  Ultimately ad-hominem arguments in any form are logically fallacious because they relate to the opponent’s person and/or character – neither of which have  anything to do with the logical merit of the opponent’s argument.[14] That is, even if 100% of the claims about your debating opponent’s person and/or character are true, in the end logic, reason, and evidence is what produces rational, cogent argument not personality, credentials, or character.

For example, Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger‘s labeling of Daniel Ellsberg, “The most dangerous man in America” as well as President Richard Nixon‘s labeling him a traitor didn’t make the Pentagon Papers any less true. In fact, they still would have been just as true if the Nixon Administration had successfully produced evidence that Ellsberg was mentally unstable – or even completely insane.  In the end such ad-hominem attacks said more about Mr. Nixon and his staff than they did about Mr. Ellsberg didn’t they?

In a similar vein, to assert that someone is a Narcissistic Sycophant and launching into a campaign of character assassination while utterly ignoring their evidence and arguments says far more about the ad-hominemer than the ad-hominee doesn’t it?

Please don’t misunderstand me – I would be the last to deny some narcissistic tendencies, I’m human and some degree of narcissism is normal and healthy. However, I would hope that mine is in the healthy range and not a clinical “disorder” such as Narcissism Personality Disorder (aka “NPD”).[15] But better safe than sorry so I “reality checked” with my accountability partners, (which includes a credentialed Mental Health Professional), and was assured that if narcissism were electricity I might power a light bulb (in the healthy range) but I wouldn’t power a marque (definitely not in the healthy range).

Further, and you can trust me on this one folks, if you want to have your ego kicked around and run over like a can in the street just get into Mormon Studies – it’s guaranteed to keep you humble!  Most of the Mormon Studies Scholars I know are humble, down-to-earth, folks not pathologists with an inner NPD fire underscoring their work.

As for the equally telling assertion that I engage in sycophancy[16] in support of my alleged pathological narcissism.  In response, I would simply point to my body of work: Tell me, does a sycophant compile a body of work that agitates, provokes, and challenges the status quo? Rather, my mentors have consistently encouraged me to use more tact as well as a kinder, gentler approach with those I’m trying to reach.  I am painfully aware that my default style is to shoot first and ask questions later. Therefore, I’m doing my best to listen more, talk less, and when I do talk be kinder and gentler in my demeanor and choice of words. Perhaps it’s this conscious – probably clumsy – effort to be a better man that she mistakenly perceived as sycophancy.

And if more evidence is required for my defense, when I reality checked this with my wife she howled with laughter – nearly fell out of bed in fact – because she’s seen me “in action” both online and in person (it came  at the end of a hard day  for her so she’d like to thank my accuser for the good laugh by the way – it was sorely needed)

Narcissistic Sycophant? Sorry, but my case apparently the answer is, “No.”

And adding to the growing list of comedic ironies is that very behavior she’s accusing me of is the diagnosis that Latter Day Saint forensic health professionals (Robert Anderson, C. Jess Groesbeck, and William Morain, M.D.) and historians (Fawn Brodie topping the long list) have stamped on Joseph Smith, Jr.’s file.[17] Further, there’s a difference between being civil, kind and respectful, as I believe I was on the Mormon Stories discussion board – and manipulating people through, as the ad-hominemer put it so well, “fawning comments to garner trust … false modesty and flattery” which the historical record demonstrates Joseph Smith did so adroitly throughout his life.

So I would suspect that the dynamic that’s really in play here is psychological projection.[18] Indeed, she has the right diagnosis but the wrong patient.

In the end this story really makes me wonder just what is going with Mormon Stories. As previously stated, I’ve always had the utmost respect for John Dehlin’s work. I have always felt that he’s reasonable and has a sense of justice and equity.

However, by first banning me from the group and then leaving a litany of derogatory, inflammatory personal attacks on me, my motives, and my character (after I’d specifically asked for their removal no less) was the cyber-equivalent of handcuffing me and then walking away while I was beat up. This isn’t just “bad form” it’s unjust and unfair.

This is even more telling when you consider that Ms. D didn’t post in the thread before Mr. Dehlin banned me from the Mormon Stories Facebook group – her sole purpose in posting, therefore, was clearly to character assassinate me thereby, in her mind, discrediting my work simply because she disagreed with it.  This is hardly a mature, rational approach to public disagreement but sadly these days it’s common.

Further, I find Mr. Dehlin’s behavior particularly puzzling given what transpired earlier this year in June:
“In 1998, FARMS was brought into BYU under the umbrella of the Maxwell Institute, and the Mormon Studies Review came with it. Review writers responded to critics’ allegations by dissecting their arguments — and motives — sometimes writing scathing and often personal attacks on those who challenged LDS origins. It was, they believed, the essence of apologetics.

The tipping point against that approach may have been a 100-page article about John Dehlin, a church member in Logan who launched Mormon Stories, which welcomes those who question aspects of LDS history, practice and theology. Dehlin’s group has published articles about reasons Mormons leave the fold and research on gay members, among other topics.

After hearing about the piece, Dehlin called an LDS general authority who was a personal friend. Eventually, Maxwell Institute Director Gerald Bradford pulled the article from the journal, leaving a giant hole and putting it behind in its publishing schedule.

‘I have had enough conversations with general authorities to know,” Dehlin said this week, “that they don’t view ad hominem attacks as a constructive way to do apologetics.'”[19]

So is it reasonable to now conclude that while Mr. Dehlin feels that ad-hominem attacks aren’t appropriate or constructive when he’s the target of such attacks, that’s not the case for others?

Cases in point:  In June Daniel C. Peterson was terminated from his position at Maxwell amidst a chorus of ad-hominems from the Mormon Stories community.  Then in November I was terminated from the Mormon Stories Facebook group as ad-hominems flowed. In both cases some hand wringing and regret was expressed by Mr. Dehlin but the end result was the same – as they say, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Further, a consensus is building that the tone, nature, and content of Mormon Stories after the Daniel C. Peterson firing became noticeably less critical and more and more an advocate for the LdS Church. More and more critical voices it seems are being pruned from all things Mormon Stories and being replaced with those who skew toward a conciliatory, occasionally even apologetic stance. Nothing has been said but this trend has been noted by many.  Simply put, Mormon Stories “ain’t what it used to be” and even seems to drifting further and further away from it’s mission statement.

For me, this is disappointing. Like so many others I have trusted, liked, and respected the Mormon Stories founder, and I have supported Mormon Stories to the best of my ability (including financially I might add), and defended both against critics from all sides. Now I find that I must reconsider that stance as I have discovered the hard way that perhaps my trust and support was misguided.

For myself and others who watched this story unfold the final take away seems to be: “Well now we know what we’re really dealing with”

Further, and in a similar vein, the final lesson learned here seems to be just how incredibly elitist and exclusive Mormon Culture can be. Let’s consider a few more of the statements that were made in the thread:

“Fred W. Anston (sic) is NOT , and never has been a Mormon-LDS, LdS, or anything like that. You might want to keeep (sic) that in mind when considering his comments, his motives, his empathy and friendship.”

Depersonalizing that and taking it at face value, I take that to mean that someone who’s never been a Latter-day Saint can’t possibly be knowledgeable about and/or trusted to have a legitimate perspective about Mormon Culture. The contemporary LdS mindset still seems to be, as the Ostlings said so well in Mormon America, “the wilderness is yet untamed, the federal “polyg” police are on the prowl, and the Illinois lynch mob is oiling muskets and preparing to raid Carthage Jail.”  The idea that outsiders could be watching, hoping, praying, and lobbying for positive reform in the LdS Church seems to be lost on some Mormons.

Further, I’ve seen similar but even more vitriolic language used by true believing Mormons to describe both former and active members that publicly express their criticism of the institution – so it seems to be that having a reasonable understanding of the LdS Church and it’s resulting culture isn’t the real issue here.[20] Rather, I think, that what’s being demonstrated here is Anson’s long held view of how many Mormons practically define “Anti-Mormon,” which is: “I’m upset because I don’t like what you’re saying so you MUST be an Anti-Mormon!”[21]

The next assertion is even more telling: “He does NOT know what it is like to be LDS.” Though Mormons don’t like hearing it the former members of other Mind Control Cults who educate themselves on the LdS Church typically react with an, “I can’t believe it – the Mormon Church is just like only with different words, leaders, and sacred books!”[22] In fact, every cultist is utterly and completely convinced that there has never – in the entire history of the world – been a group like theirs, never will be, and only insiders can truly understand and appreciate that fact. However, this type of exclusivist, insular, myopic thinking, we’re told by experts is one of the biggest indicators that a group is cult.

And this was certainly true in my case. I was a member of a Mind Control Cult from 1976-1989[23] and to this day it stuns me how much like the LdS Church we were. And the more Mormon History I read, the more similarities I see in the developmental paths of our group and the LdS Church – it is simply amazing. And yes, I thought that both my group and my experience in that group was utterly and completely unique in world history. So in the end, no, I can’t say that I know EXACTLY what it’s like to be a Latter-day Saint, but yes, I can certainly empathize and relate based on my experience in a group that was so similar that at times it seems like I was really in the LdS Church by another name.

And I’m reminded of how when I was exiting my group in I frequently used the defense mechanism know as “Ugly Sister Syndrome” in which I critiqued, criticized, condemned, even mocked my “ugly sister” but if you – someone who had never been a member – did I would do a “18o” come to her defense, and attack you instead.  Perhaps that was one of the dynamics in play here – after all some of the critical commentary by current and former Latter-day Saints in the closed Mormon Stories Facebook group that I saw while I was still a member was absolutely brutal – far, far, far more extreme than any rhetoric that I’ve ever used.

Perhaps this explains the commonly observed phenomenon of Jack, Ex, New Order, and Atheist LdS Church members who will passionately and bluntly criticize LdS leaders, the organization, policies, culture – even their own families – endlessly but turn around and defend them with the same level of passion if an “outsider” does.

Further, and in support of my case, I would ask those in Mormon Culture to consider what one Ex-Mormon observed: “Mr. IT [my alias on] did something even more remarkable. He is a nevermo with Mo relatives. He went directly from unaffiliated to apostate without experiencing all the pain and surreal experience of being a member.”[24] And since I’m nothing special I would suggest that what’s true for me may be true of other “NeverMo’s” too.

That’s why I find the objection that someone who has never been a member of the Mormon Church couldn’t possibly have a “Mormon Story” closed minded and elitist to the extreme. The final comment in the thread (as of the time of writing that is) said it so well that I will simply echo and endorse it as, in a nutshell, it describes my Mormon Story:

Mr. P
Ms. H, Nevermos have Mormon Stories too. They may have family or close friends that are Mormon and it can affect their lives deeply. Others may have investigated with a close encounter to baptism.

Yes friends it’s true, NeverMo’s have their own Mormon Stories and if you doubt me just start at the top of this article and read to the bottom. And, yep, in the end and yessiree, I reckon ol’ Luther really did do it thisa way!

Martin Luther at The Diet of Worms (circa 1521)

[1] Lyrics from the chorus of “The Makin’s of a Song” by Jennings, Seals, Barnes, Nelson as recorded on the album “Clean Shirt” by Waylon Jennings & Willy Nelson.

[2] Reformation Day is October 31st of each year. See

[3] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka, “LDS Church”) is the name of the Strangite Church (see ). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka “LdS Church”) is the official name of the Brighamite church (see ) that was being addressed in the article. To not honor this distinction would have been a incongruent contraction with #93 on the list which says:

“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.”

[4] “Eisegesis (from Greek εἰς “into” as opposed to exegesis from ἐξηγεῖσθαι “to lead out”) is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that it introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, and/or biases into and onto the text. The act is often used to “prove” a pre-held point of concern to the reader and to provide him or her with confirmation bias in accordance with his or her pre-held agenda.” (retrieved 2012-11-05)

[5] Should anyone object to the disclosing of private messages in response to public ad-hominems I would simply point to John Dehlin’s disclosure of private messages in response to the threat of public ad-hominems that were to be published in a The Maxwell Institute publication:

Grindael, “Of Mice And Egos”, Mormon Musings, July 20, 2012 (retrieved 2012-11-05)

MormonStories, “Greg Smith, Dan Peterson, John Dehlin, & Lou”, Mormon Dialogue, thread started May 10, 2012; private emails are disclosed by John Dehlin and others throughout the entire 29 page discussion thread. (retrieved 2012-11-05)

[6] Mormon Stories Podcast About page: (retreived 2012-11-03)

[7] John Dehlin, “285-287: D. Michael Quinn – 21st Century Mormon Enigma”; Mormon Stories Podcast, September 17, 2011 (retreived 2012-11-03)

[8] She is, of course, referring to the post that John Dehlin deleted at my request. Since I wasn’t a Administrator of the group I couldn’t have deleted her post. I find this projection of a  power onto me that I have never possessed – and never will possess – to be telling.

[9] By the way, I addressed this argument in “Falsely Accused: My Life As An ‘Anti’”, Mormon Expression Blogs, July 11, 2011; (retrieved 2012-11-04)

[10] Here’s an example of Ms. D’s continuing character assassination campaign that was posted on November 6th in another discussion thread in the closed Mormon Stories Facebook page:
“Yeah, here in Oklahoma people like to tell us what we believe. It’s the southern Baptist/Evangelical thing–their preacher preaches against Mormons in Church and tell them what Mormons believe, what the Book of Mormon is about, etc. They even have some people who specialize in “Mormonism” who do it like full-tme (sic) (like that Fred Anson guy–I never understood what he gets out of “studying” Mormonism all the time and trying to convince people to get out of the church. I don’t miss him one bit). Anyway, my kids grew up with this all the time in school. But yeah, you can sometimes see where they actually have some stuff “right”, but usually a bit distorted or out of context, so it sounds even wierder. (sic)”

I found this particularly amusing since: a) I’ve never been Baptist – and if I have a choice in the matter I never will be; b) Like most in Mormon Studies, I don’t do it full time – it’s solely an avocation; c) My objective isn’t, and never has been, “to convince people to get out of the [LdS] church.”  I have made very clear in my body of work – more on this later.

And, to this author, it’s amusing that Ms. D starts her argument complaining about those who “shoot first and ask questions later” while she is in fact engaging in the very behavior that she’s so incensed about. I have advised many a ranting Mormon flamer to “ask not tell” but I’ve noticed common sense and practical wisdom tend to fall on deaf ears once someone has been labeled an “Anti” by a Mormon – after all, sociologists tell us that facts, respect, and civility are secondary once the other party is psychologically labeled “enemy”.

[11] Richard and Joan Ostling, “Mormon America, Revised Edition”, position 310.7/1158 Kindle edition

[12] Op Cit, Fred W. Anson, “Falsely Accused: My Life As An ‘Anti’”

[13] “What’s Wrong With The Mormon Church?” (2012 edition)
(retrieved 2012-11-07)

[14] “Abusive ad hominem (also called personal abuse or personal attacks) usually involves insulting or belittling one’s opponents in order to attack their claims or invalidate their arguments, but can also involve pointing out true character flaws or actions that are irrelevant to the opponent’s argument. This is logically fallacious because it relates to the opponent’s personal character, which has nothing to do with the logical merit of the opponent’s argument, whereas mere verbal abuse in the absence of an argument is not ad hominem nor any kind of logical fallacy.” (retrieved 2012-11-16)

[15] For a primer on Narcissist Personality Disorder please see the following U.S. National Library of Medicine  article:  (retrieved 2012-11-07)

[16]  The definition of “sycophant” or “sycophancy” with links to other resources regarding sycophantic behavior can be found here:  (retrieved 2012-11-07)

In this context Ms. D is referring to sycophancy as a psychological supply system for narcissism.  The relationship between the behaviors is discussed here: (retrieved 2012-11-23)

[17] Those interested in a short primer on the case for Joseph Smith’s NPD should consider Appendix A  below.

[18] Psychological projection or projection bias (including Freudian Projection) is the unconscious act of denial of a person’s own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to the weather, a tool, or to other people. Thus, it involves imagining or projecting that others have those feelings.

Projection is considered one of the most profound and subtle of human psychological processes, and extremely difficult to work with, because by its nature it is hidden. It is the fundamental mechanism by which we keep ourselves uninformed about ourselves. Humor has great value in any attempt to work with projection, because humor presents a forgiving posture and thereby removes the threatening nature of any inquiry into the truth.”  (retrieved 2012-11-07)

[19] Peggy Fletcher-Stack, “Shake-up hits BYU’s Mormon studies institute”, The Salt Lake City Tribune, June 26, 2012; (retrieved 2012-11-04)

[20] Op Cit, Fred W. Anson, “Falsely Accused: My Life As An ‘Anti’”; the list of “Anti-Mormons” so described even includes former LdS President, Gordon B. Hinckley – believe it or not!

[21] Ibid. Please note that I expanded on this further in my article, “Can A Mind Control Cult Reform Itself?” ( )

[22] Please consider the following:

Anonymous, “Scientology-Lite”; Mormon Expression, February 19, 2011 (retrieved 2012-11-05)

John Larsen and “Joe”; “Episode 80: Leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses”, September 14, 2010 (retrieved 2012-11-05)

“Teddy”, “My Former Cult (World Wide Church of God)”, Sam Harris Forum, May 25, 2007 (retrieved 2012-11-05)

[23] I’ve written two articles that reference my experiences in the Mind Control Cult known as “The Shepherding Movement” thus far:

Fred W. Anson, “My Life as a Mind Control Cultist Part 1”, Mormon Expression, August 22, 2011 (retrieved 2012-11-05)

Fred W. Anson, “Can A Mind Control Cult Reform Itself?”, October 20, 2011 (retrieved 2012-11-05)

[24] “HikerR” Posting on 2007-11-26; link now dead – this quote was captured at the time. And. yes, I am rather proud of it.


C. Jess Groesbeck, M.D.

The subject of Joseph Smith Narcissistic Sycophancy is one that this author feels is best covered in Robert Anderson’s book, “Inside The Mind of Joseph Smith” and William D. Morain’s book, “The Sword of Laban“. While both of these books, in my opinion are watershed, Jungian Psychiatrist, C. Jess Groesbeck also compiled an impressive supporting body of work on the subject via his Sunstone lectures and articles prior to his death in 2009. Let the reader note that all of these men are Latter Day Saints – two (Anderson and Groesbeck) are Latter-day Saints and the third (Morain) is a member of the Community of Christ. What now follows is a brief, far from comprehensive, overview and primer on the subject that I hope will spur the reader to consider the aforementioned esteemed works in it’s wake.

“[‘Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith’ author Robert] Anderson theorizes that Joseph Smith suffered from the narcissistic personality disorder. He points out that there is a danger in attempting to explain human behavior through psychodynamic theory. Accepting such theory as fact can cause damage. A few decades ago psychiatrists speculated that some serious mental illnesses were caused by the influence of the mother or of the environment. Now we know that chemical treatments such as lithium can effectively treat some of these illnesses. It is possible that in the future narcissistic personalities may respond favorably to specific medications. The fact is that the cause and source of the narcissistic personality are not known. However, the psychodynamic setting provides an unusual laboratory for studying this emotional problem, and some individuals do seem to respond to prolonged intensive psychotherapy.

In his analysis of Joseph Smith, Anderson draws upon the body of literature, especially the Book of Mormon, produced by observation, experiment, theory, and psychiatric experience in his attempt to understand the founder of Mormonism. He says that splitting, a fundamental of personality weakness, is a major psychological defense demonstrated by the prophet. Its most obvious manifestations are:

1) the division of the world into polar opposites and
2) the lack of integration of the various parts of the patient’s psyche.

The individual may oscillate between two opposite positions. This behavior can be seen in the polarized opposites of the Nephite and Lamanite people depicted in the Book of Mormon, as well as in Smith’s ability to present one face in public (such as denying polygamy) while simultaneously converting associates and new plural wives to the principle in private.

The individual may also exhibit psychological reversal of attitudes toward particular persons, by switching instantly from compliments to vilification, or of oscillation in moral positions, yet not be troubled in the contradiction. Examples are the instantaneous conversions of Alma, Jr., Zeezrom and the whole Lamanite population in 30 BCE in the Book of Mormon. Another example was Smith’s strong opposition to Masonry as a young man, followed by his later becoming a Mason himself and drawing on Masonic ritual for temple ceremonies.”
(Robert Layton, “Discussion Group Report: Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith”; retrieved 2012-11-03)

And Smith’s tendencies in this regard are well documented in the historical record. For example, in 1843 Charlotte Haven wrote some letters from Nauvoo which contain some candid observations about Joseph Smith:

“Joseph Smith … is evidently a great egotist and boaster, for he frequently remarked that at every place he stopped going to and from Springfield people crowded around him, and expressed surprise that he was so ‘handsome and good looking'”
(Overland Monthly, December 1890, p.621).

“He talked incessantly about himself, what he had done and could do more than other mortals, and remarked that he was “a giant, physically and mentally.” In fact, he seemed to forget that he was a man…. They say he is very kindhearted, and always ready to give shelter and help to the needy. We may hope so, for a kind heart in this place can always be active.”

I rushed out with the umbrella to shield Mrs. Smith, the others followed…. Mrs. Smith was pleasant and social, more so than we had ever seen her before…. while her husband is the greatest egotist I ever met.”

And for evidence of Joseph Smith’s sycophantic tendencies one need only refer to passages like this in Doctrine & Covenants:

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou [Oliver Cowdery] for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.

Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been benlightened by the Spirit of truth;

Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart.

I tell thee these things as a witness unto thee—that the words or the work which thou hast been writing are true.

Therefore be diligent; astand by my servant Joseph, faithfully, in whatsoever difficult circumstances he may be for the word’s sake.”
(Doctrine & Covenants 6:14-18 ; )

Now if this revelation wasn’t divinely inspired then it’s about as fine an example of narcissistic sycophancy as one could hope for. Further, this is just one of many such examples of Smith’s use of sycophantic language (albeit using the voice of God) in Doctrine & Covenants.  If this thesis is correct then the following resources can be used to read through other examples of how Smith used sycophancy to manipulate his followers:

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Student Study Guide
“People and Terms in the Doctrine and Covenant”

Susan Easton Black, “Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants” [Kindle Edition]

Again, this appendix is intended to be a short primer and overview.  If the reader is interested in further study of this complex and nuanced issue, the books, articles, and lectures mentioned at the start of this short primer are recommended.

by Fred W. Anson
Eight years ago today on November 14, 2004 for the first time in 105 years, non-Latter-day Saint “gentiles” stood at the pulpit of the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah. The focus of the event was to be an address by Christian Apologist and Philosopher Ravi Zacharias entitled, “The Exclusivity and Sufficiency of Jesus Christ”. However, Mr. Zacharias’ superb address was eclipsed by a short, slightly less than seven-minute address by Fuller Theological Seminary president Richard J. Mouw.

Richard J. Mouw Apologizing in the MormonTabernacle

Dr. Mouw, in what the Deseret News referred to as “stunningly candid” comments, apologized to Mormons on behalf of evangelicals for what he sees as less than Christian treatment of Latter-day Saints and the LdS Church throughout Mormon History. His language, in this writer’s opinion, was overly broad, general, universal, and lacking nuance. The royal “we” was used extensively and qualifying terms like “some”, “a few”, or their equivalent were conspicuous in their absence.

Essentially all evangelicals (with the exception of Dr. Mouw and his associates, who were praised directly or indirectly) were thrown under the bus creating the impression among Mormons that their worst fears about Evangelicals that challenge and confront Mormonism are true after all: Specifically, that they are bigoted liars who are driven by deeply seeded animosity toward Mormons. This, in most cases, is not only unfair but untrue.

In reality, regardless his thoughts and intentions, Dr. Mouw has made relations between Mormons and Evangelicals worse not better. In this author’s opinion he has done both sides a disservice and created a volatile and confused environment that didn’t exist prior to his apology. Dr. Mouw’s poor choice of words and bad judgment created this unfortunate situation and I, for one, think it high time that someone did something about it.

Now since Dr. Mouw seems to think it perfectly acceptable and appropriate to apologize for others without their permission, consent, or foreknowledge, I’ll simply borrow a page from his play book and, using the template that he created and precedent that he established, set the record straight:

The Apology
It is difficult for me to find adequate words to express how thrilled I am to be in Mormon Studies in this ‘Mormon Moment’! Here we are, evangelical Protestants and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gathered together on the Internet and elsewhere dialoguing, discussing, debating – it’s an exciting time to be alive!

So I am not being melodramatic when I say that this is surely an historic period. To be sure, there have long been friendships between evangelicals and Latter-day Saints but they generally haven’t appeared on the public radar screen. Often the public relations between our two communities have been, to put it mildly, decidedly strained. This is hardly surprising given the mutually contradictory belief systems and theological world views that we hold to.

From the very beginning, when Joseph Smith organized his church in 1830, my evangelical forebearers very correctly and rightly confronted he and his followers with the incongruity between their beliefs and practices relative to the absolute standard of the Bible. This is a practice that continues from most quarters of mainstream Christianity even into this present day. And I think it is fair to say that most Mormons haven’t always “appreciated” these efforts no matter how well intended. As a result, friendship with each other has not always come easily for our two communities – but, never-the-less and thankfully, it has come.

In recent times things have begun to change both for the better and for the worse. The good news is that evangelicals and Mormons have continued to work together on important matters of public morality and policy. However, the bad news that some evangelicals have mistakenly believed that such interaction requires compromise with and pandering to Mormonism. For example in Utah, the Standing Together ministry seems to have chosen a path of appeasement and accommodation with the LdS Church. Further it has embraced Mormons who seem to make manipulation and deception their stock-in-trade. That has only not been inappropriate it has created needless confusion on both sides of the divide and with the public.

Thankfully like the town squares of old we can all gather via the gracious hospitality of the internet and hold these errant, counter-productive groups and people accountable for their folly. When appropriate there’s been a loud evangelical outcry on those occasions when groups like Standing Together accommodate LdS Church error.  And I’ve noticed that a ground swell of Mormon voices is slowly building regarding how the LdS Church (as well as some of it’s members) present itself, its history and its teachings to both it’s membership and the public. This is encouraging!

On a personal level, over the past half-dozen years I have been a member of a group of evangelical scholars who have been engaged in lengthy public discussions about spiritual and theological matters with Latter-day Saints. We have not been afraid to argue strenuously with each other, but our arguments have been conducted in a sincere desire genuinely to understand each other-and in the process some deep bonds of friendship have been formed in the midst our disagreements.

I know that I have learned much in this continuing dialogue, and I am a far better person today as a result of it. And I am now convinced that despite the fact that some evangelicals have often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of the Mormon community the majority have not. And, personally, whenever I’ve encountered that small minority I have been as direct and to the point as I have been with those Mormons who misrepresent the beliefs and practices of the evangelical community.

On that note, and to get specific regarding observed behavior on our side of the divide  I’ve watched in stunned disbelief as the President of Fuller Theological Seminary, Richard J. Mouw has seriously, publicly, and repeatedly misrepresented the beliefs and practices of both the evangelical and Mormon communities. Indeed, let me state it bluntly to the evangelicals and Mormons reading this: Richard J. Mouw has sinned against you. The God of the Scriptures makes it clear that it is a terrible thing to bear false witness against our neighbors, and he has been guilty of that sort of transgression in things he has said about all of us – evangelical and Mormon alike.

The body of evidence indicates that He has accepted the personal opinions, spin doctored and “milk before meat” version about what the Lds Church believes from honesty challenged Mormons without making a sincere effort to fact check what he’s been told against official, correlated LdS Church sources.

Further, while he has recognized that we evangelicals have made much of the need to provide Mormons with a strong defense of traditional Christian convictions, regularly quoting the Apostle Peter’s mandate that we present them a reasoned account of the hope that lies with in us, Dr. Mouw hasn’t been careful to also recognize how most evangelicals throughout the ages have always endeavored to follow the Apostolic counsel that immediately follows that mandate, when Peter tells us that we must always make our case with “gentleness and reverence” toward those with whom we are speaking.[1]

Further, and most distressingly, he has demonized those evangelicals who have confronted the Mormon teachings that the Bible condemns as false. He has even woven bizarre conspiracy theories that suggest that those in the Christian Counter Cult community are “really” motivated by and trafficking in covert bigotry, exaggeration and lies. This also is simply not true, therefore and in my opinion, Mr. Mouw needs to repent of bearing false witness against his brothers and sisters in Christ.

In fact, most in the Counter Cult community are committed to speaking the truth in love. By doing so over the years they have formed some wonderful friendships with both Mormons and ExMormons. These friendships have helped us to see the ways in which Mr. Mouw has misinterpreted and misrepresented the true perception and impact of these evangelicals in Mormon Culture. To be sure, as a result of those conversations we also remained convinced that there are very real issues of disagreement between us-and that some of these issues are matters of eternal significance. But we can continue to discuss these topics as friends and fellow seekers of the truth – and the Internet has been a Godsend in this regard. God be praised!

Next month will mark the 207th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith. We know and understand that Mormon culture typically uses the month as an occasion to pay special attention to Joseph’s life and teachings. However, please hear my heart when I tell you that we evangelicals are praying and long for the day when the month will be far, far, far less about Joseph Smith for our Mormon friends, but all about the One whose incarnation Christians celebrate each year instead. This is the One about whose birth we sing and whom we exalt above all. I should add, that there is nothing more that we long for more than our Mormon friends to join us with swelled hearts and spiritual eyes solely fixed on that One when we sing -“the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

What a wonderful thing it is that we can meet together to talk about the Lord Jesus and about who he is and what he has done on behalf of all who have accepted His free gift of salvation through faith by grace plus nothing and can thus now know with complete certainty that they will spend eternity securely and completely in the presence of God. There is much here to talk about for we pray for the day when our Latter-day friends and family members will receive this free gift without believing that it must be paid for with good works.

I personally take great encouragement for hope of a Great Restoration in the LdS Church – for in the words of LdS Scholar Thomas G. Alexander, “…before about 1835 the LDS doctrines on God and man were quite close to those of contemporary Protestant denominations.”[2] And I’m reminded of the words that Joseph Smith uttered on the occasion of the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April of 1830 when he said: “…we know,that all men must repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and worship the Father in his name, and endure in faith on his name to the end, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.”[3] He then added: “And we know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, and we know also that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength.”[4] Thus, it is my prayer that Mormonism will be restored to true, historic Christian, Biblical orthodoxy within my lifetime.

Thus I greet you in that spirit-as one who wants more than anything else to love and serve God with all my might, mind and strength, in the power made available by the amazing grace that sent the Lord Jesus first to Bethlehem’s manger and then ultimately to the Cross of Calvary, where he shed his blood and sacrificed himself to fully pay the debt of my sin and yours -a debt that we can never, never pay on our own.

This is the spirit in which the Holy Spirit speaks to us all -the spirit of devotion to the One whose name is above every name, the One who alone is mighty to save, and before whom someday every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that he is Lord to the glory of the Father. May our continuing dialog and conversations point us all to that great day.

Thank you and God bless you.

“… sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”
1 Peter 3:15&16; New American Standard Bible (NASB)
[2] Thomas G. Alexander, “The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine: From Joseph Smith to Progressive Theology”; Sunstone Magazine, July-August 1980,  p.24
[3] Joseph Smith, Jr., “Doctrine & Covenants”, Section 20, verse 29; April 1830
[4] Joseph Smith, Jr., “Doctrine & Covenants”, Section 20, verse 30&31: April 1830

Further Reading
– A transcript of Dr. Muow’s original November 14, 2004 Mormon Tabernacle apology can be read here.  
– The Beggar’s Bread review of Richard J. Mouw’s book, “Talking With Mormons” can be read here.
– A critical analysis and editorial on Dr. Muow’s methods and mean cans can be read here.

(all links retrieved 2012-11-12) 

O Lord God,

The first act of calling is by thy command
in thy Word,
‘Come unto me, return unto me’;

The second is to let in light,
so that I see that I am called particularly,
and perceive the sweetness of the command
as well as its truth,
in regard to thy great love of the sinner,
by inviting him to come, though vile,
in regard to the end of the command,
which is fellowship with thee,
in regard to thy promise in the gospel,
which is all of grace.

Therefore, Lord,
I need not search to see if I am elect, or loved,
for if I turn thou wilt come to me;

Christ has promised me fellowship if I take him,
and the Spirit will pour himself out on me,
abolishing sin and punishment,
assuring me of strength to persevere.

It is thy pleasure to help all that pray for grace,
and come to thee for it.

When my heart is unsavoury with sin, sorrow,
darkness, hell,
only thy free grace can help me act
with deep abasement under a sense
of unworthiness.

Let me lament for forgetting daily to come to thee,
and cleanse me from the deceit of bringing
my heart to a duty
because the act pleased me or appealed to reason.

Grant that I may be salted with suffering,
with every exactement tempered to my soul,
every rod excellently fitted to my back,
to chastise, humble, break me.

Let me not overlook the hand that holds the rod,
as thou didst not let me forget the rod that fell
on Christ,
and drew me to him.

(from “The Valley of Vision” devotional)