Archive for the ‘Recovery from Mormonism’ Category

A Caution and a Path for Transitioning Ex-Mormons

by Fred W. Anson
Best selling author John Bradshaw is fond of saying, “You are a human being, not a human doing.” For those of us coming from legalistic, high-demand religious groups where personal performance is the yardstick by which value is judged these words sound like nonsensical gibberish. I mean, all after, doesn’t “doing” mean that you have the right to “be”? And if you do more won’t you be more? Isn’t, “The one who does the most and gets the most stuff wins!” the rule of life? Jesus said, “No!”

To the ever-increasing demands of “Do!” that the world screams at us Christ quietly says, “Abide”. Further, He says, paradoxically, that the key to bearing fruit is abiding:

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
— John 15:5-8 (NKJV) 

This is something that those of us coming from high demand, performance-oriented, image-conscious religious settings tend to struggle with. The idea of simply “abiding” rather than constantly “doing” tends to be something uncomfortable – even repulsive – to us, doesn’t it? I mean, after all, didn’t Christ also say that nasty things will happen to those who don’t bear fruit? So the answer must be to go out there, find your new calling,  and get busy with it, right? I mean come on you need to be doing something to bear fruit, right? And doesn’t the more fruit you produce mean that God will love and bless you more? Isn’t that how this religion thing is supposed to work?

A: Yes, that is indeed how the religions of men work;
No, that’s not how the religion of Christ does.

Rather, Jesus calls us to know him, to abide in Him, and thereby bear good fruit through Him organically as our walk with Him unfolds under His divine tutelage. It is His work in us that slowly and naturally bears fruit like grape clusters on a vine ripening in the sun.

The Ex-Mormon Struggle
Not inconsequentially, in Mormonism, so much time is spent in constantly doing things that the member doesn’t have time to think, feel, or enjoy the kind of slow, genuine, quiet, intimate, steadfast, communion with Christ that taught in John 15. This is no accident, Mormon leaders encourage this from the pulpit, don’t they?  And constantly being crazy busy and uber-productive is a point of pride in Mormon Culture, isn’t it? As a result, downshifting from this constant swirl of activity can be challenging for many former members, can’t it?

This PowerPoint presentation, given at the Faith After Mormonism Conference on October 12, 2019, in Murray, Utah, gives the solution from both the words of Jesus in tandem with the practical, hard-won experience of Ex-Mormons who have made this, not always easy and frequently bumpy, transition, into “being not doing”.

Main Presentation (with Bonus Content)
This is the main presentation that was given at the 2019 Faith After Mormonism Conference during the Saturday morning Workshop Sessions.

The Bonus Content section is a map of where the post-Mormon bear traps lie based on the hard-won, real-world experience of successfully transitioned Ex-Mormons.  It also contains a treasure trove of wisdom borne out of their (often painful) Post-Mormon life experiences. The design and intent of this section isn’t to replace the Ex-Mormon’s old Mormon To-Do List with a new Evangelical version, but to invite them to learn from those who have gone before them.  This content also demonstrates clearly how while abiding in Christ may be as natural as eating, drinking, walking and breathing, it’s not always passive.

Click the above image for the PowerPoint Presentation and here for the handout. 

Supplemental Content
This is a grass-catcher collection of content that was compiled, “just in case” for the Q&A portion of the main presentation. This presentation, combined with the Main Presentation, represent a kind of mini-crash course or road map of resources and reference materials to assist in helping the Ex-Mormon successfully make a full transition into mainstream historic Christianity.

Click the above image for the PowerPoint Presentation and here for the handout. 

About the Presenter
Fred W. Anson (Lake Forest, California) is the founder and publishing editor of the Beggar’s Bread website, which features a rich potpourri of articles on Christianity with a recurring emphasis on Mormon studies. Fred is also the administrator of several Internet discussion groups and communities, including several Mormon-centric groups, including two Facebook Support Groups for Ex-Mormons (Ex-Mormon Christians, and Ex-Mormon Christians Manhood Quorum).  

 

About the Conference
Our purpose is to provide hope and wisdom for people leaving Mormonism to explore a new faith home in historic, biblical Christianity. Through speakers, workshops, exhibitors, and individual interactions,
you will receive helpful resources and meet others on a similar journey.

 

The Presenter would like to acknowledge and thank the following people for their assistance in producing this presentation (in no particular order): Michael and Briana Flournoy; Tina Edgar; the Admins of the Ex-Mormon Christians Facebook Group (Jackie Davidson, Amy Fuller, Barb Griffin, and Michael Stevens); Charlotte Pardee and the Ex-Mormons for Jesus, Orange, California chapter; Ross Anderson for making all this possible; and as always, I thank my wonderful wife Sue, who not only keeps me honest and humble but even-keeled to boot!

But above all else: Soli Deo Gloria.
Thank you, Jesus, for saving a wretch like me from my own worst enemy – myself.

 

“A former Mormon who has accepted Christ is a living testimony of the awesome power of God.”

by Michael Flournoy
If you’re a new Ex-Mormon who has accepted Christ, you probably feel anxious, isolated, and confused. You’re likely still in the process of rebuilding your identity and hurting from relationships that fell apart during your transition. You might still feel the pull of the Mormon church, like an addiction that won’t go away. I want you to know, from one Ex-Mormon to another, that things do get better with time.

Leaving can cause a lot of insecurities. It may feel like you’re treading water. No matter the circumstances, I hope you know how courageous you are. Staying in the boat would have been the easy path. You could have remained, and avoided causing waves. Instead, you chose to follow the truth at what must have been a significant cost. A lot of us lose everything upon leaving Mormonism. It’s okay to hurt and mourn the loss of these things. Sometimes as a new Christian I felt guilty for being depressed because I knew Jesus was worth so much more than I had lost.

I want you to know that it’s okay to not be okay, even as a Christian. It’s natural to go through a healing process, so give yourself time to recover. Cast your cares on the Lord. The same God who raises the dead can take our shattered, burnt, and worn out pieces and make our lives an elegant art piece.

It’s common to experience doubt and fear in this stage of transition. We were taught to believe that everything outside of Mormonism was darkness and lies. They threatened that those who left would suffer more than murderers and adulterers because they who had the greater light would receive the greater condemnation. One thing you will come to realize is God has not given us the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), rather He motivates us with perfect love.

If the world has turned against you, take comfort in the fact that the world hated Jesus first (John 15:19-20).  If friends and relatives say hurtful things to you then rejoice! In Matthew 5:11-12 Jesus says, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

In a sense, we Ex-Mormons have “named and claimed” suffering in Christ’s name, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Romans 8:16-17 (ESV) says,

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

God hasn’t brought you to the place you are now just to abandon you.  He has started a work in your life, and He is faithful to finish it (Philippians 1:6). Your identity is no longer in Mormonism, but in Christ alone. That said, there are lessons God wants to teach you from your time in Mormonism and your transition out of it. When all is said and done you will have gained some hard-won wisdom and you’ll be a blessing to those around you.

That’s right, a blessing! It’s so common for us to feel ashamed and want to bury our past. Then we think we have nothing to offer the Christian community. Well, that’s not true at all. A pastor once told me that God can take our greatest mess and turn it into our greatest message. A former Mormon who has accepted Christ is a living testimony of the awesome power of God.

I want you to know that nothing can separate you from the love of God, not even your own sins.  As a new believer, I sometimes questioned my salvation after sinning.  I would think: well salvation is supposed to produce good fruit and yet here I am sinning again, I guess I’m not a real believer after all.  If these thoughts enter your mind, show them the door.  The God who died for us isn’t about to let us go that easily.  We can pull a Jonah and flee from God, but he will leave the 99 to find His wayward sheep.  In other words, you can run but you can’t hide.

Sin has no more power over you because are no longer under the law, but grace (Romans 6:14).  And Jesus’ grace is more than enough to guarantee our safe arrival into the Kingdom of Heaven.  I want you to know that God loves you.  He is always with you, even in the darkest valleys of life, and He will wipe away your every tear when you enter His holy presence. It will be worth it all someday.

About the Author
Michael Flournoy served a two-year mission for the LDS Church where he helped organize three Mormon/Evangelical dialogues and has participated in debate at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Born into Mormonism, Mr. Flournoy converted to Evangelical Christianity in 2016. He had been out of the LDS Church for 2-years and 5-months when he wrote this article. 

It will be worth it all someday,
It will have been worth it to go
The straight and narrow way,
When we finally see His face
And feel His strong embrace
It will be worth it all that day

These present troubles don’t compare
To all the glory our God, He has prepared
And when we finally see His face
And feel His strong embrace
It will be worth it all that day

I can hear the angels celebrate as He calls
My {your} name
I can hear the Father say well done
My good and faithful servant, well done
And it will be worth it all,
It will be worth it all someday
(words & music by Tommy Walker) 

A Prayer of Release for Former Mormons and their Descendants

by Tracy Tennant
The following is a prayer of release for former Mormons and their descendants. This can be used in conjunction with healing and deliverance ministry sessions or can be used by individuals who have left or are in the process of leaving Mormonism, or those with Mormon ancestry.

As with all forms of inner healing, forgiveness is key to breaking any “legal” rights the Enemy (unclean spirits, etc.) have to harass us or keep us in spiritual bondage. Being able to forgive LDS parents and/or ancestors for their participation in Mormonism is essential to being set free. So is forgiving yourself! Forgiveness can be stated out loud in private or in the presence of other Christians. This prayer should be spoken out loud.

Praise be to You Lord my God, King of the universe! I come to You in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to seek cleansing and deliverance from the spiritual bondage of Mormonism and the curses related to the temple ceremonies.

I renounce every oath and vow made by my ancestors and myself as Mormons and rebuke every spiritual power consequently affecting me and my family.

I renounce my baby dedication into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the status of being “born in the covenant.”

I renounce my baptism and confirmation into the Mormon Church, and all priesthood blessings I received by the laying on of hands from Mormon priesthood holders.

I renounce the temple initiatory “washing and anointing,” and the sealing of the anointing,  done for myself and on behalf of the dead. I renounce the prayers, proclamations, and pronouncements made over me during the initiatory ceremony.

I renounce the New Name given to me in the temple.

I renounce the First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood with its accompanying name, sign, and penalty.

I renounce the Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood with its accompanying name, sign, and penalty.

I renounce the First Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood, or sign of the nail, with its accompanying name, sign, and penalty.

I renounce the Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the Patriarchal grip or sure sign of the nail, with its accompanying name, sign, and penalty.

I renounce all oaths made in the Temple, and all their accompanying signs, blessings, and penalties (curses).

I renounce all vows made at the various altars of the temple.

I renounce the True Order of Prayer spoken around the altar in the temple.

I renounce all covenants made to obey the five Laws given in the temple ceremony.

I renounce all the work done at and through the veil, with all the names, signs, and tokens.

I renounce all vows made over the altar during the sealing ceremony, with all its names, signs, and tokens, and any soul ties that were formed as a result.

I renounce the false marriage covenant of Mormonism, the “New and Everlasting Covenant,” and any unholy soul tie formed.

I renounce all temple work done by me on behalf of the dead.

I renounce all secrecy, work, rituals, vows, pagan symbolism, bondages, and blessings and curses of the Mormon temple ceremonies done for myself or on behalf of my ancestors and for the deceased, both known and unknown to me.

I renounce all sacraments, oaths, vows, covenants, promises, penalties, curses, prophecies, blessings, pronouncements, and laying on of hands done under the authority of the Mormon Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods.

I renounce and reject Mormonism and all false teachings, rites, and ordinances therein.

Father God, I ask for the holy blood of Your Son, Yeshua Messiah (Jesus Christ) to cleanse me from all residue of Mormonism. Cleanse my spirit, soul, and mind, my will, emotions, and every part of my body that has been affected by my participation in Mormonism. I ask You to dissolve all legal rights over me obtained by the Adversary and all unclean spirits; in Jesus’ name, I pray, amen!

(originally published on the “Equipping Christians” website. Republished here with the permission of the author.)

About the Author
Tracy Tennant holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication; Associate of General Studies, with a focus on early childhood education; and Certificate of Achievement in Practical Nursing. Her greatest accomplishment is being the mother of ten children. While an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 26 years, Tracy held many positions, including: Young Married Adult Activities Leader, Primary Teacher, Nursery Assistant, Assistant Ward Librarian, Ward Bulletin Specialist, Cub Scout Den Leader, Ward Music Chairman, Visiting Teaching Supervisor, Relief Society Teacher, and Relief Society President, among others. Tracy was a frequent vocalist and speaker at special youth and adult firesides.  She was serving as Relief Society President when she left Mormonism for a Biblical faith in Jesus Christ in November of 2000. She currently writes, blogs, and speaks on motherhood, family, and health, as well as shares her experience and knowledge of Mormonism.

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Ted Patrick is a controversial figure. That said, regardless of how one feels about his methods, the fact remains that he was instrumental in exposing how being in a “Snapped” psychology state is crucial to the recruitment and retention of cult members. In fact, before Patrick, the term “deprogramming” was virtually unknown. Beggar’s Bread believes that after you read this excerpt from the classic Cult Studies book, “SNAPPING: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change” you’ll agree that while his means may be debatable the ends are enlightening. — Editor 

by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman
IN ALL THE WORLD, there is nothing quite so impenetrable as a human mind snapped shut with bliss. No call to reason, no emotional appeal can get through its armor of self-proclaimed joy.

We talked with dozens of individuals in this state of mind: cult members, group therapy graduates, born-again Christians, some Transcendental Meditators. After a while, it seemed very much like dancing to a broken record. We would ask a question, and the individual would spin round and round in a circle of dogma. If we tried to interrupt, he or she would simply pick right up again or go back to the beginning and start over.

Soon we began to realize that what we were watching went much deeper. These people were not simply incapable of carrying on a genuine conversation, they were completely mired in their unthinking, unfeeling, uncomprehending states. Whether cloistered in cults or passing blindly through the world, they were impervious to the pain of parents, spouses, friends and lovers. How do you reach such people? Can they be made to think and feel again? Is there any way to reunite them with their former personalities and the world around them?

A man named Ted Patrick developed the first remedy. A controversial figure dubbed by the cult world Black Lightning, Patrick was the first to point out publicly what the cults were doing to America’s youth. He investigated the ploys by which many converts were ensnared and delved into the methods many cults used to manipulate the mind.

He was also the first to take action. In the early seventies, Patrick began a one-man campaign against the cults. His fight started in Southern California, on the Pacific beaches where, in the beginning, organizations such as the Hare Krishna and the Children of God recruited among the vacationing students and carefree dropouts who covered the sands in summer and roamed the bustling beach communities year round. The Children of God approached Patrick’s son there one day and nearly made off with him. Patrick investigated, was horrified at what he found, and immediately set out on a course of direct action. His first-hand experiences with cult techniques and their effects led him to develop an antidote he named “deprogramming,” a remarkably simple and-when properly used-nearly foolproof process for helping cult members regain their freedom of thought.

Before long, Ted Patrick was in action all over the country on behalf of desperate parents. Through the seventies, he made front page headlines in the east for his daring daylight kidnappings of Ivy League cult members. He made network news for his interstate car chases in the Pacific Northwest to elude both cult leaders and state troopers. And eventually he made American legal history. In his ultimate defense of the U.S. Constitution, Patrick challenged the confusion of First Amendment rights surrounding the cult controversy and drew an important distinction between Americans’ guaranteed national freedoms of speech and religion and their more fundamental human right to freedom of thought. In precedent-setting cases, U.S. courts confirmed Patrick’s argument that, by “artful and deceiving” means, the new cults were in fact robbing people of their natural capacity to think and choose. To that time, it was never considered possible that a human being could be stripped of this basic endowment.

Ted Patrick in the documentary "Deprogrammed"

Ted Patrick in the documentary “Deprogrammed”

In many courtrooms, however, Ted Patrick lost his case for freedom of thought, gathering a stack of convictions for kidnapping and unlawful detention. In unsuccessful attempts to free cult members from their invisible prisons, Patrick was repeatedly thrown into real ones, in New York, California and Colorado. In July 1976, during a time when Americans were celebrating their two hundredth year of freedom, Patrick was sentenced to serve a year in prison for a cult kidnapping he did not in fact perform.

Patrick confirmed our own perspective when he described the method of control used by many cults, beginning with the moment the recruiter hooks his listener.

“They have the ability to come up to you and talk about anything they feel you’re interested in, anything,” he said. “Their technique is to get your attention, then your trust. The minute they get your trust, just like that they can put you in the cult.”

It was in 1971 that Patrick infiltrated the Children of God, the cult that had tried to recruit his son, Michael, one Fourth of July on Mission Beach in San Diego. His initial concern over the cults was personal but it also had a public side. Worried parents had already appealed to him for help in his official capacity as head of community relations for California’s San Diego and Imperial counties. Patrick had moved to the area years earlier and became active in local politics working against discrimination in employment. During the Watts riots is Los Angeles in 1965, he helped calm racial unrest in San Diego. His public service caught the attention of then California’s Republican governor, Ronald Reagan, who appointed Patrick, an active Democrat, to the community relations post.

“Thinking to a cult member is like being stabbed in the heart with a dagger,” said Patrick. “It’s very painful because they’ve been told that the mind is Satan and thinking is the machinery of the Devil.”

Having gained personal insight into the manner in which that machinery may be brought to a halt, Patrick developed his controversial deprogramming procedure, the essence of which, he explained, was simply to get the individual thinking again.

“When you deprogram people,” he emphasized, “you force them to think. The only thing I do is shoot them challenging questions. I hit them with things that they haven’t been programmed to respond to. I know what the cults do and how they do it, so I shoot them the right questions; and they get frustrated when they can’t answer. They think they have the answer, they’ve been given answers to everything. But I keep them off balance and this forces them to begin questioning, to open their minds. When the mind gets to a certain point, they can see through all the lies that they’ve been programmed to believe. They realize that they’ve been duped and they come out of it. Their minds start working again.”

That, according to Patrick, was all there was to deprogramming. Yet since Patrick began deprogramming cult members, both the man and his procedure had taken on monstrous proportions in the public eye. Patrick’s legendary kidnappings, a tactic he employed only as a last resort, often brought him into physical confrontation with cult members who had been warned that Black Lightning was an agent of Satan who would subject them to unimaginable tortures to get them to renounce their beliefs. Cult members who managed to escape their parents and Patrick before being deprogrammed frequently ran to the media with horror stories about the procedure. One young woman charged on national television that Patrick had ripped her clothes off and chased her nude body across the neighbors’ lawns. Other active cult members claimed to have been brutally beaten by Patrick, yet no parent, ex-cult member or other reliable witness we talked to ever substantiated any of those charges. In truth, Patrick told us, and others later confirmed, many of the distortions that had been disseminated about deprogramming were part of a coordinated campaign by several cults to discredit his methods. In the end, he said, the propaganda only worked to his advantage.

“The cults tell them that I rape the women and beat them. They say I lock them in closets and stuff bones done their throats.” Patrick laughed. “What they don’t know is that they’re making my job easier. They come in here frightened to death of me, and then because of all the stuff they’ve been told, I can just sit there and look at them and I’ll deprogram them just like that. They’ll be thinking, What the hell is he going to do now? They’re waiting for me to slap them or beat them and already their minds are working.”

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In the beginning, Patrick admitted, he developed his method by trial and error, attempting to reason with cult members and learning each cult’s rituals and beliefs until he cracked the code. Refining his procedure with each case, he came to understand exactly what was needed to pierce the cult’s mental shield. Like a diamond cutter, he probed with his questions the rough surface of speech and behavior until he found the key point of contention at the center of each cult member’s encapsulated beliefs. Once he found that point, Patrick hit it head on, until the entire programmed state of mind gave way, revealing the cult member’s original identity and true personality that had become trapped inside.

We asked him to describe a typical deprogramming from the beginning and, then, how he knew when a person had been deprogrammed, that is when he could say for sure that he had done his job.

“The first time I lay eyes on a person,” he said, staring at us intently, “I can tell if his mind is working or not. Then, as I begin to question him, I can determine exactly how he has been programmed. From then on, it’s all a matter of language. It’s talking and knowing what to talk about. I start moving his mind, slowly, pushing it with questions, and I watch every move that mind makes. I know everything it is going to do, and when I hit on that one certain point that strikes home, I push it. I stay with that question whether it’s about God, the Devil or that person’s having rejected his parents. I keep pushing and pushing. I don’t let him get around it with the lies he’s been told. Then there’ll be a minute, a second, when the mind snaps, when the person realizes he’s been lied to by the cult and he just snaps out of it. It’s like turning on the light in a dark room. They’re in an almost unconscious state of mind, and then I switch the mind from unconsciousness to consciousness and it snaps, just like that.”

It was Patrick’s term this time we hadn’t said the word for what happens in deprogramming. And in almost every case, according to Patrick, it came about just that suddenly. When deprogramming has been accomplished, the cult member’s appearance undergoes a sharp, drastic change. He comes out of his trance like state and his ability to think for himself is restored.

“It’s like seeing a person change from a werewolf into a man,” said Patrick. “It’s a beautiful thing. The whole personality changes, the eyes, the voice. Where they had hate and a blank expression, you can see feeling again.”

Snapping, a word Ted Patrick used often, is a phenomenon that appears to have extreme moments at both ends. A moment of sudden, intense change may occur when a person enters a cult, during lectures, rituals and physical ordeals. Another change may take place with equal, or even greater, abruptness when the subject is deprogrammed and made to think again. Once this breakthrough is achieved, however, the person is not just “snapped out” and home free. Deprogramming always requires a period of rehabilitation to counteract an interim condition Patrick called “floating Patrick told us, he recommended that his subjects return him to everyday life and normal social relationships as quickly as possible. In that environment, the individual, must then actively work to rebuild the fundamental capacities of thought and feeling that have been systematically destroyed.

“Deprogramming is like taking a car out of the garage that hasn’t been driven for a year,” he said. “The battery has gone down, and in order to start it up you’ve got to put jumper cables on it. It will go dead again. So you keep the motor running until it builds up its own power. This is what rehabilitation is. Once we get the mind working, we keep it working long enough so that the person gets in the habit of thinking and making decisions again.”

Deprogramming added a whole new dimension to the already complex mystery of snapping. In one sense, deprogramming confirms that some drastic change takes place in the workings of the mind in the course of a cult member’s experience, for only through deprogramming does it become apparent to everyone, including the cult member, that his actions, expressions and even his physical appearance have not been under his own control. In another sense, deprogramming is itself a form of sudden personality change. Because it appears to be a genuinely broadening, expanding personal change, it would seem to bear closer resemblance to a true moment of enlightenment, to the natural process of personal growth and new found awareness and understanding, than to the narrowing changes brought about by cult rituals and artificially induced group ordeals.

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What is it like to experience the sudden snap of a deprogramming? As a result of Ted Patrick’s efforts, and others, there are now thousands of answers to the question. Patrick claims to have personally deprogrammed more than two thousand cult members; thousands more have been deprogrammed by other deprogrammers and professional “exit counselors” who have since entered this fledgling field. In our first round of cross-country travels, we spoke with dozens of ex-cult members, many of whom had been deprogrammed by Patrick. As far as we could see, his clients showed no scars, either physical of mental, from their deprogramming experience. Most seemed to be healthy, happy, fully rehabilitated and completely free of the effects of cult life.

In contrast to the many tales of cult conversion that we heard, which after a while began to sound virtually identical, each story of a Patrick deprogramming was its own spellbinding adventure, rich with intrigue and planned in minute detail. The first step in the process was almost always to remove the member from the cult, which might be accomplished by abduction, legal custodianship or, as Patrick seemed to prefer, simply a clever subterfuge.

One puzzle of snapping that the deprogramming process illuminates is the enormous amount of mental activity that takes place in the unthinking, unfeeling state many cult members are drawn into. Ironically, most people we spoke with fought desperately to preserve their blissed-out states, although they often were saturated with fear, guilt, hatred and exhaustion. In the beginning this seemed to present a disturbing contradiction: How could an individual whose mind has apparently been shut off, who has been robbed of his freedom of thought, display such cunning and initiative? What the deprogramming process demonstrated is that cult members do not simply snap from a normal conscious state into one of complete unconsciousness (and vice versa during deprogramming). Rather, most pass from one frame of waking awareness into a second, entirely separate, frame of awareness in which they may be equally active and perceptive.

We talked with an ex-member of the Church of Scientology, one the oldest and cagiest of America’s cults, who took steps to preserve his cult frame of mind during his deprogramming, until Patrick’s adept conversational skills caught his attention and he snapped out.

“I tried to pretend that I was listening,” this former Scientologist told us, “but I also tried to stay spaced out and not really pay attention. Occasionally, something would go pop and I would suddenly be listening to him. From his continuously talking like that, he just snapped me out of the spaced-out state I was in. All of a sudden I felt a little flushed. I could feel the blood rushing through my face.”

Through two decades of legal battles and repeated periods of imprisonment and probation, few people spoke up in defense of Ted Patrick or the pioneering work he was doing, ultimately, at his own great personal and financial expense. No mainstream mental health organization or established social institution has yet taken a stand on behalf of his concept of freedom of thought. Part of the problem, especially in those years, was attributed to Patrick’s manner of action. In his single-minded focus on rescuing cult members, he minced no words and wasted little time on social niceties. As a result, he often irked and alienated those parents, clinicians and law enforcement officials who might otherwise be his natural allies.

Yet, regardless of his style, the grave questions Patrick first flamboyantly brought to public attention are not the ones we can choose to like or dislike nor will they simply go away if we ignore them. Is an individual free to give up his freedom of thought? May a religion, popular therapy, political movement or any other enterprise systematically attack human thought and feeling in the name of God, the pursuit of happiness, personal growth or spiritual fulfillment? These are questions that Americans, perhaps more than others, are not prepared to deal with, because they challenge long-standing constitutional principles and cultural assumptions about the nature of the mind, personality and human freedom itself.

In the months after out trip to the Orange county Jail we spoke with many people about Ted Patrick: parents, ex-cult members, attorneys, mental health professionals and others who, at the time, were only dimly aware of the building controversy over some alleged forms of religion in America. Some denounced him as a villain and a fascist, others hailed him as a folk hero and dark prophet of what lay ahead for America. Yet Patrick himself showed little concern for titles or media images.

Through the eighties, Black Lightning remained a lightning rod, a target for aggressive counterattacks and disinformation campaigns waged against deprogramming by major cults and more mainstream fundamentalist Christian sects. By the mid-nineties, he was widely presumed to be out of commission, but Patrick was still active, working mostly on voluntary deprogrammings and rehabilitation counseling. In the interim, swayed by a changing religious, political and social climate, courts across the country grew cold to deprogramming. Another pioneering deprogrammer, New York cult counselor and private detective Galen Kelly, was prosecuted on criminal charges in two separate cases but was convicted and spent more than a year in prison on the second before an appeals court overturned his conviction.

Those cases and others brought a global chill. In the new climate, judges were deaf to the pleas of the parents and families of cult members, and the precarious deprogramming profession was largely eclipsed by the efforts of the new generation of cult “exit counselors.” Exit counselors we talked with, many of them one-time sect members themselves who had gone on to acquire clinical training and credentials, were testing a wide range of eclectic approaches, some more successful, some less so. Many were generalists, counseling cultists and families across America and, increasingly, in other countries. Some specialized in counseling ex-Moonies, members of Eastern cults, of controlling charismatic groups and extreme fundamentalist sects.

Most confirmed a pattern we, too, had noted: the new methods of voluntary deprogramming and exit counseling, while far less controversial and much safer from a legal standpoint, prompted fewer cult members to experience a sudden “snapping out” of their controlled states of mind. Instead, most experienced a slower process of emergence, or as Rick Ross, an exit counselor from Arizona, called it, a gradual “unfolding” from the cults’ ingrained altered states. Afterwards, many required additional counseling, specialized rehabilitation and, for some, ongoing psychotherapy to recover their personalities and regain full control over their impaired powers of mind.

But, two decades later, public understanding and professional support were still in short supply.

Snapping BookExcerpt from, “SNAPPING: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change, 2nd Edition” by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Chapter 6: “Black Lightning”

Copyright © 1995 by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman. All rights reserved. The authors give their limited permission to readers of the “Rick Ross” World Wide Web site to copy and distribute this excerpt from SNAPPING, provided that the material is copied or redistributed solely for the purposes of public information and education without any charge to recipients, and that any copied or distributed materials carry this copyright notice exactly as printed here.

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Scientology v. Scientology Lite

By Fred W. Anson
The A&E show “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” has been nothing short of a phenomenon. For those unfamiliar with the show, here’s the description from the show’s website:

Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath gives a voice to victims of the Church of Scientology despite public attempts to discredit them.

Leah Remini, along with high level former Scientology executives and Church members, explores individual accounts from ex-Church members and their families through meetings and interviews with Leah. Each episode features stories from former members whose lives have been affected by the Church’s harmful practices, even well after they left the organization. Along with a team of former high-ranking Scientology insiders who understand the inner workings and policies of the organization, Leah gives the victims a chance to be heard.
(A&E website; “About Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath”)

And anyone who’s watched the show will testify that it’s riveting stuff to watch. There’s intrigue, enlightenment, and horror all at once and usually in the same show. More than one box of Kleenex has undoubtedly been emptied over the heart-wrenching stuff that these people have had to endure both as members of the cult of Scientology and as former members – and often it’s hard to tell which is worse! And, of course, to the surprise of no one, current members and the Church of Scientology deny that any of it is true. Rather, they would have us believe, everyone involved in the show is either an enemy of the Church and/or an angry, bitter apostate – a “Suppressive Person” to use Scientology’s lingo.

Scientology Lite
Does any of this sound familiar Mormon Critics and Ex-Mormons? If so, you’re not the first to recognize the parallels between Scientology and Mormonism. Back in February 2011 (two-years before Leah Remini left Scientology) an article entitled, “Scientology Lite” on the Mormon Expression Blogsite listed the following parallels between Mormonism and Scientology:

  • The church refuses to account for member behavior even when they are quoting or following leaders
  • There are a lot of “unwritten laws”
  • Members default to defending the church, even to lying or turning back on family members
  • It’s all subjective…so how do you “know”?
  • Coverts are often “loners looking for a club to join”
  • Testimonies are overly effusive.
  • There’s “some good” in it, so “what harm can there be?”
  • The crazy S#!$ is introduced later … there’s a long process until you are fully entrenched.
  • Fascinating, enigmatic founder
  • Church underpays its employees
  • Requires sincerity for it all to work
  • Doesn’t “look” like a cult initially
  • Proof is in the lives of its members
  • Testimonies often include, “I don’t know where I’d be without….”
  • Levels of membership. Focus changes over time
  • Perverse pride in membership
  • Charitable but not egalitarian
  • Lack of curiosity keeps members in – they are uninterested and afraid of information
  • Willed myopia of membership
  • Hard to get through “scriptures”
  • At upper levels of membership they are deprived of adequate food and sleep
  • Members tell themselves they are wonderful examples to the world of good living
  • Inability of membership to laugh at themselves
  • Certain processes are confusing and unsatisfying
  • Members project unambiguous, non-ambivalent view of world
  • “If it changes me for the better, who cares if it’s true?”
  • Arrogance of membership with lots of superlatives used in sales pitch
  • Church avoids “overt political stands” but membership is almost entirely homogeneous politically
  • Apostasy is all the apostates’ fault. All disconnection to family  and friends is blamed on that decision
  • Wives tend to stay and denounce husbands who leave
  • Church discipline (kicking people out) is seen as “for their own good”
  • Members consider membership “safe” and a “protection”
  • Members maintain positive exterior, but a very reproachful interaction with former members
  • Public image of religion is MOST IMPORTANT
  • There’s a difference between public tenets and private interaction
  • Greatest fear is expulsion from religion
  • Church holds power the of eternal life
  • Members are taught to handle internal conflict within church’s own justice system
  • Big Brother type files kept of high level apostates
  • Members attack apostates’ character rather than address the issues
  • Church doesn’t live up to its own standards for its members
  • Special service is supposedly to “help people” but most of the time and energy is really just spent on serving the purposes of the organization
  • Sells itself as “fastest growing religion”
  • Members think it “does more good”
  • Critics are vilified and suspected of “anti” sentiment
  • Members sacrifice a lot with little to show for it
  • Original books are changed and church denies the changes are significant
  • All or nothing claims, “base stories are true or else it’s ALL a lie”
  • Shame in leaving, “Everyone else could see it was a sham, why couldn’t I?”
  • Apostates who leave claim they feel “alive” and can think clearly for the first time in a long time (or ever)
    (Dad Primal, “Scientology Lite”, Mormon Expression website, February 19, 2011)

Lt. General Joseph Smith, commander of the Nauvoo Legion, and Commodore L. Ron Hubbard of the Sea Org.

That article was based on this Ex-Mormon author’s dinner with an Ex-Scientologist co-worker during which they compared notes and were floored by the similarities between their two religions.  As he states in the article, “She’s a very successful businesswoman, but I had to scrape my jaw off the floor as she related her experience…some good, some bad…just like my experience with Mormonism.” That dinner was later augmented by the February 14, 2011, New Yorker article about infamous Scientology Apostate, Paul Haggis (Lawrence Wright, “The Apostate: Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology”). That’s where the bullet points related to apostates were drawn from in his analysis.

So when it’s all said and done, Dad Primal’s article was new, fresh, eye-opening, enlightening – even shocking. Thus the article resonated strongly with Ex-Mormons and was soon being discussed extensively across the Mormon Bloggernacle.

Things had settled down a bit when the 2015 award-winning HBO documentary, “Going Clear” (which was based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief”) aired resulting in a fresh new crop of comparisons between the two groups. Then, once again, the Bloggernacle erupted with new articles and discussion based on the revelations of that excellent documentary.

But if that weren’t enough, later that year, Leah Remini’s book, “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology” hit the bookstores with the aforementioned “Scientology and the Aftermath” hitting cable TV a year later to the month. It was around that time that the influential MormonThink website published a full analysis and explanation of the issues focusing on the following points of comparison:

10 Things common to both Scientology and Mormonism
1) Keeping secrets about the religion from its members.
2) You’ll be lost without the Church.
3) Excessive financial conditions for Church membership.
4) Believers often defend the religion with the comment that “it’s a good organization”, whether or not it is literally true.
5) Read only faith-promoting materials produced by us.
6) Churches use Internet filters to block some websites that frankly discuss some of the problems of their organization.
7) Detractors of the faith are labeled as liars and “anti.”
8) The founders and top leaders are hero-worshiped.
9) Tears families apart.
10) Have been labeled as a cult and the members as brainwashed.
(“Scientology and Mormonism”, MormonThink website)

So what started as a spark in 2011 has erupted into the full-on wildfire that we see burning today. Go to just about any Mormon-centric website and within a few minutes, you’ll find someone making a Mormon/Scientology comparison. It’s almost become a cliché.1

But if the parallels are so obvious to outsiders then why are active, believing Mormons so oblivious to them?

Mormon “Plan of Salvation” (circa the 1950’s) v. Scientology “Bridge” (circa the 1970s) [click to zoom]

Why They Stay (and Other Unsolved Mysteries)
One of the most common questions asked of those of us who have left Mind Control Cults is, “Why did you stay so long?” And very often, candidly, we don’t know ourselves! I have spent decades trying to unravel why I couldn’t see what outsiders could see so clearly about my cult. And I’m not alone, in my work with recovering Ex-Mormons I very often see them struggling to untie that knot too.

One explanation is that we were all in a “Snapped” psychological state. This isn’t a concept and term that I came up, nor is it a term that journalists, Flo Conway, and Jim Siegelman invented when they wrote the watershed book “SNAPPING America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change” in 1978. Rather, it’s the term that ex-cultists often use to describe the shift in thinking that lead them into, and kept them in their group. Here’s how Conway and Siegelman describe it:

In all the world, there is nothing quite so impenetrable as a human mind snapped shut with bliss. No call to reason, no emotional appeal can get through its armor of self-proclaimed joy.
(Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, “Snapping: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change”Kindle Location 1302, Stillpoint Press. Kindle Edition.)

And to their point is there any greater cultist defense mechanism than that of thought-terminating clichés? As cult researcher Luna Lindsey explains:

A thought-terminating cliché is a phrase that halts argument or prevents clear thought. It can be a short “bumper sticker slogan”, seeming to deliver a profound message without really meaning much. Or it can represent a larger concept that can’t be expressed in words. In either case, it is a shortcut to prevent deeper exploration or discussion.
(Luna Lindsey, “Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control”p. 194. Kindle Edition.) 

Anyone who has attempted to reason with cultists has encountered these. They’re pat responses that get thrown up when the cultist is presented with discomforting evidence that challenges their group’s claims. Each group has there their own unique set but often there’s crossover between groups. Leah Remini talks about them throughout her book ( the aforementioned “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology”) and Lindsey, a former Mormon, has an entire chapter of Mormon thought-terminating clichés in her book, things like:

  • The church is perfect, man is not.
  • The hardhearted hate the truth.
  • Satan is raging in the hearts of men.
  • Choose the right.
  • These are plain and precious things.
  • Cast not your pearls before swine.
  • It will be sorted out in the next life.
  • Wickedness never was happiness.
  • All will be revealed in due time.
  • You will not be tempted more than you are able to bear.
  • Are those feelings/thoughts/teachings in line with the gospel?
  • Leaving the Church is the easy way out.

But really, we’re still just describing symptoms rather than answering the question, aren’t we? Perhaps Christian Apologist, J. Warner Wallace, in a July 2018 radio interview, cut straight to the chase when he proposed that there are really only three reasons why we believe anything:

  • Rational Reasons.
  • Emotional Reasons.
  • Volitional Reasons.

And Mr. Wallace makes the point that typically Emotional and Volitional Reasons trump Rational Reasons. This is true even for non-cultists, it’s just not as extreme. Thus the issue when it comes to cults is really degree. For example, in healthy religious settings, you can leave the group pretty much without consequence. As the saying goes, “Cults have many entrances but few exits.” And, in fact, many experts claim that this is the key criteria in determining if a group is a cult or not.

Some Ex-Mormons have suggested this re-branding of their former religion.

Now consider that in light of Scientology and Mormonism, where leaving may result in loss of family, vocation, and social standing. As a result, many members simply choose to stay in the group even though they no longer believe in it. Leah Remini explains in her book that she stayed in Scientology even though she no longer believed in it because she knew that to do so would get her labeled a “Suppressive Person” which would result in her family “disconnecting” (Scientology’s policy-mandated form of extreme shunning) from her. Thus she stayed for volitional reasons.

We see a similar phenomenon in Mormonism with “Shadow Mormons” – Mormons who no longer believe the Church is true but remain members and play the game rather than risk losing their marriage, families, jobs, or social standing in the community. The cult has them trapped and they know it, as the words of one Shadow Mormon demonstrate so well:

REMEMBER US! To those of you on the outside reading this, I beg you, please do not forget us. Please remember the hundreds of thousands of unique, special, beautiful individuals that are currently serving life sentences in the prison of Mormonism. Please do not cease to pray; to whatever God you serve, for our deliverance. Some of us have no hope for redemption or liberation. For the greater good, we willingly sacrifice our souls upon the altar of conformity and orthodoxy. Our pain is real. Our sentence is absolute.
(‘Enigma’, “The Death of Reason and Freedom”, Beggar’s Bread website, October 18, 2013, caps in original)

And speaking from my own personal experience, and factoring in the many conversations that I’ve had with recovering cultists over the years as well, I will tell you that probably the #1 reason why we all stayed in our cults even when confronted with a mountain of discrediting evidence was that we wanted to. The reasons were emotional.

When I was a cultist I could rationalize and justify anything that didn’t conform to my preferred narrative. Thus I could bury any logic, reason, or evidence underneath feelings and will. In the aforementioned radio interview, J. Warner Wallace refers to this as “remediating the evidence”. And chillingly, he says that it’s the same mental process that criminals use to justify their crimes. It is, simply stated, a form of self-delusion – as former Branch, Ward, Stake and Regional Mormon leader Jim Whitefield explains:

I have become convinced that each individual Mormon must have his or her own personal epiphany which comes from uncertainty and questioning that arises along the way. Until something triggers the desire to ‘seek’, a member will never ‘find’ the ultimate truth.

If you try to face a believer with the truth, that person invariably rejects the messenger and the message. Something may get through sometimes, but generally members will not thank you for trying to ‘destroy’ their testimony. The messenger is under the influence of Satan, the message is fraught with lies, and members already ‘know’ and cling to the truth – just as they were taught to. That is called faith.

As long as people want the Mormon Church to be true, more than they are willing to face the possibility that it is not, they will not entertain evidence or reason. Delusion becomes a choice.”
(Jim Whitefield, “The Mormon Delusion: Volume 4: The Mormon Missionary Lessons – A Conspiracy to Deceive”, Kindle Locations 10297-10305)

So in summary and conclusion, the bottom line for to why cultists don’t leave is simply this: They choose to stay.

And whether we’re talking about Scientology, “Scientology Lite”, or any other cult, therein lies the problem. As funny as it sounds some folks actually prefer a cage to freedom. Yet, ironically, they’re utterly blindly convinced that outsiders are the ones who are caged. This is as writer and university instructor, David Foster Wallace famously said so well,

Blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.”
(David Foster Wallace, Kenyon College Commencement Address, May 21, 2005)

And it is that blind certainty, my friends, that keeps Scientologists; Mormons; people in the abusive Shepherding Movement that I was in; and everyone else who’s ever been a cult from leaving it. Take away that certainty and suddenly everything changes.

NOTES
1 And to add my own contribution to the growing body of observed parallels, here’s another one: The book that is held up to investigators as the best introduction to and/or the foundational text for the religion is not only largely tangential to the current doctrine of said religion but may at points even contradict it. This just as true of “Dianetics” as it is “The Book of Mormon”. As Sociologist of Religion, Bryan R. Wilson noted:

In 1952, Hubbard launched Scientology, and this new, expanded, and more encompassing belief-system subsumed Dianetics, providing it with a more fully articulated metaphysical rationale…

In a collection of scholarly papers edited by the Jesuit sociologist, Professor Joseph H. Fichter, S.J., of Loyola University, New Orleans, (Alternatives to American Mainline Churches, New York: Rose of Sharon Press, 1983), Frank K. Flinn, now Adjunct Professor in Religious Studies at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, addresses directly the question of the religious status of Scientology in great detail. He considers first the religious status of Dianetics…

‘While Dianetics had religious and spiritual tendencies, it was not yet a religion in the full sense of the term… Dianetics did not promise what may be called ‘transcendental’ rewards as the normal outcome of its therapy. It did, however, promise ‘trans-normal’ reward… Secondly, in the Dianetics stage of the movement, engrams were traced back to the fetal stage at the earliest… Thirdly, Dianetics had only four ‘dynamics’ or ‘urges for survival’—self, sex, group and Mankind… Fourthly, the auditing techniques in the Dianetics phase [did not use] the ‘E-Meter’’
(Bryan R. Wilson, Ph.D., “Scientology: An Analysis and Comparison of its Religious Systems and Doctrines”, University of Oxford England, February 1995 pp.32,48) 

And I documented the many conflicts and contradictions between the Book of Mormon and modern Latter-day Saint doctrine in my article “The Book of Mormon v. Mormon Doctrine” which I concluded like this:

The reader may be scratching their head wondering how the work that is held up as the “keystone of our religion” by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not only contains very little of that religion … but discredits much of it. The answer to that question is pretty simple: The Book of Mormon doesn’t teach modern Mormonism, rather it teaches 19th Century American Restorationism.

As Latter-day Saint scholar Thomas G. Alexander explains, “Much of the doctrine that early investigators found in Mormonism was similar to contemporary Protestant churches.” So if you strip away the baggage of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon origin story you’re left with a piece of Christian literature that’s more akin to “Pilgrim’s Progress” or “The Screwtape Letters” than “Dianetics”. In the end, it’s very much as Shawn McCraney described it when he said, “[We] recognize the Book of Mormon as a piece of 19th-century literary fiction aimed at teaching Jesus Christ…”

… For the uninformed, the Book of Mormon can be a powerful recruiting tool.  But for the informed that power is quickly lost.
(Fred W. Anson, “The Book of Mormon v. Mormon Doctrine”, Beggar’s Bread website, June 26. 2014) 

Thus, rather than being an accurate encapsulation of the religion, both “introductory” texts are really just a vehicle to get the investigators to talk to the full-time evangelists for these organizations: Auditors for Scientology, Missionaries for Mormonism.  Those evangelists use the book (even if it ultimately ends up going unread) as a means to begin the process of indoctrination into the religion and groom the investigator for the more esoteric and less comfortable “truths”, which will be only be revealed after so much of the investigator’s time, money, emotional energy, and personal effort have been invested into the organization that it’s hard for them to leave. Different organizations, different books; same tactic, same result.

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“There is a common phenomenon in religious activity, where some converts coming from one extreme tend to overcorrect to the other extreme.”

by Joshua Valentine
Many who consider the issue of Mormons becoming atheists wonder why they go from Mormonism straight to atheism instead of Christianity, which is assumed to be the next closest religion. At wheatandtares.com there is an article that claims that Mormonism is not reversible into Christianity 1. Indeed, when considering all the issues here, it seems obvious that the two, despite their supposed relation, are completely at odds. To a significant degree, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints downplays sin, its seriousness, and its power over humans. The LDS Church does effectively help its members out of certain very visible sins and assists its members in avoiding them in the first place.  While the LDS Church officially recognizes small sins as undesirable and even something Christ died for, the consistent message received in talks, teachings, and perhaps more importantly Mormon culture, is that small, concealable sins are not important, certainly not in comparison to the big visible sins that are constantly emphasized — sexual impurity, adultery, consumption of harmful or illicit substances, theft, lying, and murder. Thus, when a member leaves the LDS Church, he or she may be convinced that they don’t have any real problem that requires real attention. If there is no problem, then no solution is sought. Christianity and all other religions are unneeded.

But it goes further than just that. There is a common phenomenon in religious activity, where some converts coming from one extreme tend to overcorrect to the other extreme: from licentiousness to strictness, or asceticism to hedonism, or from mysticism to rationalism, or religious knowledge to spiritual experience. This is not about the LDS self-serving belief that apostates will become alcoholics, adulterers, or otherwise destroyed and unhappy. Rather, since the LDS Church imposes such an intense and involved program of obedience and dependence on the church for its members to overcome sin and imperfection, ex-Mormons may over correct or overreact by outright refusing their need for anything from any religion.  This is not about simply rebelling against human institutions and authority or preserving one’s power of self-determination as discussed earlier. It is something more than just burnout.  When ex-members are approached by another religion, institution, or simply the Christian Gospel, they may not only reject it out of distrust but also out of this overcorrection to not need any program, authority or truth to give their assent to or conform their life to. In this way, ex-members have been trained by their church to not take their small sins too seriously and, in overreaction to its intensity, may have a subconscious motivation to continue believing that their sins are not important enough to need any help. So they already believe their little sins are ok, and now they deny a need for religious answers, which irrationally motivates them to continue to think their sins are just harmless mistakes. Again, if you are convinced you do not have a problem, then you do not seek a remedy. And if you do not want any more “help,” you may convince yourself you do not have any need for it.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches self-reliance, both in temporal and spiritual concerns. Members may not agree with that statement, but the LDS Church does teach a significant place for human effort in obtaining the approval and blessings of God in this life and in the next. Our actions and our strength have a necessary place in our worthiness for salvation and eternal blessings. This “picking your self up by your bootstraps” cosmology was described by an online participant as “trusting in the arm of the flesh.”2 The optimistic humanism of Mormonism, its insistence that humans can and must contribute to their worthiness of salvation and exaltation, can easily fit into the humanistic optimism of atheism that humans can and must solve their own problems and continue as a species and progress on this planet and in this universe.3 Along the lines of trusting in the flesh, Latter-day Saints are taught to trust their leaders. When they leave, they have determined that their LDS leaders have betrayed them and are untrustworthy. This may lead the ex-Latter-day Saint to seek the objectivism of science in order to avoid being fooled or dependent on particular humans or institutions. Interestingly, however, if this confidence in humans, in the flesh of man, is not reevaluated, then it may lead them to put their trust in the men of science and the institutions of human reason. In any case, the LDS-taught optimism about mankind’s ability to progress by its own effort is offended by the Christian Gospel’s diametrically opposite assessment.

Lastly, as regards compatibility with Christianity, the LDS Church teaches consistently, and in many ways, that human happiness is the ultimate goal. It is the goal of the Mormon God. Heavenly Father’s own happiness is found in his children’s happiness. Happiness and good feelings are indicative of truth. Unhappiness or bad feelings indicate that something is wrong or false. Our happiness is generally the purpose of life — overcoming life’s challenges, learning, and progressing being sources of happiness now and in the future. In light of all of this, Christianity’s view of sin is impractical and even morbid; its gospel is still too “easy,” and its truths are disturbing and repugnant to the mind that has been cultivated by Mormonism.  Atheism, however, embraces the significance of personal happiness, the pragmatism of actions called “sin” by Christianity, and puts forth human progress and happiness as the only purpose worthy of our short lives. In these many ways, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taught its members how to flourish as atheists.

“Will they reconsider all the Mormon assertions against the reliability of the Bible?  Will they reconsider what their Ford dealer taught them about Chevrolet?”

Because Mormonism claims to be a correction of Christianity, members are incessantly, and often only implicitly, taught to disbelieve Christianity.  It is one thing to be fooled into believing lies, but what if Christianity is actually true? It is quite another to realize that you were fooled to disbelieve the truth.  So there is yet another motivation to not fully reconsider what the LDS Church has taught. Particularly in regards to Christianity, there is strong motivation to not even entertain the idea that what the church convinced you was false and corrupt (and that you may even have mocked and scorned) might actually have been true all along. Thus, there is one less option besides atheism.  With their research Mormons may learn that the restoration was false, but do they reconsider the prerequisite belief of the Great Apostasy?  They may realize that the LDS Church’s claims of unity and consistency are false, but do they question the church’s logic that the existence of many Christian denominations means Christianity is false? They realize that the LDS Church is not the one true Christian church, but do they consider that there may not even be such a church in the traditional institutional sense?  Can they conceive that a religion or gospel may be true even if there is not “one true church” of it? They realize that the LDS Church is not as ordered as it claims, but do they question whether God is really a God of order in the simplistic way they were taught?  Will they reconsider all the Mormon assertions against the reliability of the Bible?  Will they reconsider what their Ford dealer taught them about Chevrolet?

Even LDS apologetics betrays members and, upon leaving, they can discard all apologetics as game-playing, as obfuscation, and as seemingly able to make any falsehood appear to be true.  If they are not careful to understand the techniques of LDS apologists and how they differ from other apologists, then they may write off all apologetics as illegitimate. Members are already trained to use any appearance of evil or inaccuracy as an excuse to stop listening to critics. Although the ex-member had to overcome this conditioning long enough to exit the LDS Church, this developed skill may come back into play as a post-Mormon.  So when they hear certain arguments or even just phrases used by apologists of Christianity (which they recognize as having been used by LDS apologists), they may instinctively disregard that argument or point or the apologist altogether, despite the situation for Christianity being completely different than that of Mormonism.  Even if ex-members do try to understand Christianity for themselves, this conditioning may keep them from going into the depth, and possibly truth, of Christianity — just as it kept them from going too deep into and finding the truth about Mormonism for years.

Finally, people entered into the Mormon faith based on the assumptions that such good people would not lie and “must have the truth,” and that God would surely answer a sincere prayer about the Book of Mormon.  They became members believing that the God that exists answered them.  When they learn that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is false, they may still believe that if God existed then He would have answered their prayer revealing that the church was false.  Since they got an affirmation of its truth, it must have been from manipulation; and since God did not intervene, there must not be a God.  None of this may be consciously thought out in the ex-members’ minds.  But where did they get the idea that God would answer a prayer about the Book of Mormon?  Who or what so convinced them that God must answer sincere prayer?

There are so many things taught in the LDS Church — so much about the nature of the universe, and of the nature of God and man, about what faith is, what spiritual experience and personal revelation are, about what is credible and how we determine truth, and about our mistakes and wrong-doing — that lean toward naturalism, agnosticism, and atheism, so many prejudices instilled by the LDS Church that disallow unbiased consideration of other religions, that insofar as ex-members do not search out all of the lingering Mormonism in their beliefs, thinking, feelings and perspective, conscious and subconscious, they may find themselves just as manipulated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints outside of it as they were in it.

Mormonism teaches that its members are “gods in embryo.”  At the very least, the doctrines, teachings, and culture originated and proliferated by Mormonism and the LDS Church give us many reasons to consider Latter-day Saints “atheists in embryo.”4

“The doctrines, teachings, and culture originated and proliferated by Mormonism and the LDS Church give us many reasons to consider Latter-day Saints “atheists in embryo.”

NOTES
1 This article by S. Andrew was one of only a few places I could find expanded discussion of this Mormon atheism topic.  The discussion in the comments is also worth reading.

2 by BigMikeSRT.

3 There is a Mormon Expression podcast, toward the end of John Larsen’s time hosting it, in which John speaks of how ex-Mormon atheists must move on boldly into the world. His guest makes the observation that John’s view seems to be a return to Mormonism in its optimism about mankind’s self-determination. I could not find it again, but it is worth the search and listening. It is admittedly moving, certainly connected to Mormonism’s optimism and faith in man (or “the flesh”), and explicitly shows Mormonism’s compatibility with atheism.

4 I first read this apt turn of phrase from Aaron Shafovaloff.

(This article was originally published on the Mormon Coffee website on

Link to Part 1
Link to Part 2
Link to Part 3
Link to Part 4
Link to Part 5

“The ex-member is motivated to stay away from religion for fatigue, for fear of being duped, and for fear of relinquishing control.”

by Joshua Valentine
Members who learn the truth about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Mormonism most often feel betrayed and duped by their church, friends, and family.  If they leave the church, they often go through a burn out period, not wanting to deal with religion at all.  They are understandably resistant to even considering any other religion any time soon for fear of being taken in again.  Many go through a period of anger.  The realization of being manipulated, being put through so much, and losing so much of their lives for a lie, is understandably infuriating.  The necessary and reasonable thing to do, when ready and rested, is to reevaluate one’s beliefs.  Often this includes a period of studying the LDS Church even more.  Whether before leaving or after, many Mormons feel embarrassed by all the things they did and believed, which they now see as so obviously untrue or even silly.  They understandably never want to be manipulated or to allow their lives to be controlled by anyone else again.

This last, control, is a strong motivation toward atheism.  While in many ways the atheistic worldview can be bleak, in that there is no longer someone watching out for you, there is also a strong sense of self-determination, of your decisions being wholly your own, under your own control.  Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have relinquished leadership and control of so much of their lives for so long, and upon learning the truth, realized that so much of it was a waste and harmful, that any sense of letting go of their new found control, of submitting themselves to anything — an organization or even a belief — is simply unacceptable.  Ex-Mormon atheists speak of the difficulty of getting atheists to come together and embrace a long-term vision and goal (there is a Mormon Expression podcast, toward the end of his time hosting it, in which John Larsen mentions this issue).  While there may be something about an atheist worldview that inhibits this activity, the victim of Joseph Smith and the LDS Church has all the motivation to keep all control and not relinquish it to anyone or anything, a group, a movement, an ideal, or even the actual God.

The ex-member is motivated to stay away from religion for fatigue, for fear of being duped, and for fear of relinquishing control.  And these can lead to a life of practical, if not consciously chosen, atheism.  But, as we have seen, the very teachings of Mormonism and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may set up its members to turn away from faith and even provide the content of an atheistic worldview.  If these teachings are not re-evaluated, then the ex-member may embrace atheism not solely based on rational and accurate arguments and evidence, but also from false biases, skewed perceptions, and feelings trained into them by the LDS Church.  The man or woman who leaves must be resolute and steadfast in rooting out and reconsidering all that they have received from Mormonism; not just doctrines and history, but all of the assumptions and implications of the teachings that they were not even aware of, but that are still determining the way they think about and see the world.  Unfortunately, there are several possible motivations for not re-evaluating everything learned from their church.

No one wants to believe that they believed something false.  No one wants to believe that they believed something obviously false.  No one wants to believe they dedicated their lives to something untrue, let alone a lie.  No one wants to admit that they have been fooled.  No one wants to believe they have perpetuated a lie or been involved in the manipulation and duping of others to believe the same lie.  This self-preservation is one reason why people of all groups hesitate, if not refuse, to really consider the possibility that their beliefs are false, and risk having to leave their church, discard their philosophy, or relinquish their life vision.  Many members of the LDS Church resist the arguments of critics and respond to the evidence against their church often so irrationally, not just because of the way their church has taught them to respond, but for fears like these.  But what about those who leave?

Just as members do not wish to consider that they are wrong and will deny the facts out of self-preservation, those who leave may continue to do the same.  When a member exits the church, they have a subconscious motivation not to discover all of the false beliefs they have embraced.  So, they continue to believe them.  They come to the conclusion that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not true, that its scriptures, prophets, and gods are not real.  But they may not want to know just how much they were duped into believing, just how much they took for granted, just how many false beliefs they have taught their children and friends.  Most do a lot of research about the church’s history and unique teachings, but they may not reconsider the less explicit teachings and their implications.  This includes what faith is, how it relates to reason, what spiritual experience really is, and when mystery and complexity are acceptable.

“Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NKJV)

(This article was originally published on the Mormon Coffee website on

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