Category: My Thoughts on Mormonism

Why do we as humans seek first external verification of our self-worth before we can learn to love ourselves? Is is because we come into the world as helpless infants, completely dependent upon our parents? Why is it that this external love must come first before we are able to love and accept ourselves unconditionally? This is my general impression of humanity, one which, I’m sure, does not include all individuals. There may be those who escape or are immune to outside forces on their own self esteem, but I believe they are rare indeed.

Religion is such a big part of the external verification by which so many govern their own self worth. As created by man, God’s will can be twisted into a standard by which we measure our own worthiness for love and acceptance. In my experience, religion does far more damage than good in this regard. At an early age, many of us humans are taught strict guidelines for earning not only our parents approval but also the thing that matters most, God’s love. Unfortunately, sometimes these criteria reach far beyond simple behavior into what makes up the fiber of our souls. When this happens, we learn to push down our true selves. The longer we do this, the more distant we become from not only knowing ourselves but also being true to ourselves and living in peace. Guilt, rebellion, and self-harm are all by-products of the self-loathing religion can instill.

Now that I’m out of a legalistic church, I can clearly see that man-made religion is at the root of much of what is wrong in the world today. Much violence and hatred is perpetrated with the belief that one is doing God’s will. Likewise, there is much less visible suffering that is woven into the daily life of many who are striving for perfection in God’s eyes. In Mormonism it may look like a housewife juggling 6 kids, 2 church callings, being the perfect wife, and shouldering guilt for falling short with her temple attendance and visiting teaching. It may be a young gay teenager living with self-loathing and fear that he’ll be rejected by his family if they know the truth, or a middle-aged, single woman or man living with the feeling of ostracization from his church community simply for enjoying being single.

What would the world be without religion? I think it would be a better place. I find it ironic that Jesus went about his work, taking every opportunity to criticize organized religion. He left behind a simple concept: all we need is love. He taught that God loves us unconditionally and that salvation is a free gift for all. Again and again, he shot down the Judaic concept that salvation comes only after strict obedience to multiple laws. Although Mormons claim to follow Christ, the LDS religion is even more legalistic than Old Testament Judaism. Not only do you have the multiple laws to obey, but you have ritual upon ritual to complete as well. So many rituals and works, in fact, that the work does not end at death. I wonder what Christ would have to say about the frantic efforts of church members today.

Is religion really a good thing? Is it of God’s idea or man’s? I believe that God and religion are independent concepts, and that many will be surprised that Heaven may actually be a place devoid of religion.


Fear, Obligation, and Guilt

Shortly after my exit from the church, I came across a book, Emotional Blackmail, by Susan Forward. The book discusses manipulation which is based in fear, obligation and guilt (FOG). As I read, I recognized a parallel with Mormonism. In fact, although Christianity (and religion in general) is based on the principles of love and forgiveness, man has repeatedly twisted it into something that inspires fear, obligation and guilt rather than love and forgiveness. Why is that? Why do the people in our own families attempt to instill fear or use guilt or obligation to motivate our actions? It is to get us to do their will. It is because, when we allow them to, they gain power through manipulation.

Mormonism is a religion founded on shaky ground. Church History involves touchy subjects such as polygamy, false scripture, false prophecy, and contradicting doctrine. What better way to keep members of the church in line than by instilling fear of “anti-Mormon” material, and the obligation to only expose oneself to “church-sanctioned” materials? Mormons are told to avoid associating with “known apostates” and are guilted into believing it is a sin to do so so or to question doctrine. The Mormon church has it’s people tightly reined in by fear, obligation and guilt, and as a result, the church has a following of non-questioning, nearly non-thinking people, who follow church dictates on everything from diet, dress, and daily routine.

It is all about control. The same could be said for other legalistic churches, but I believe that the Mormon church is by far the most controlling, legalistic church in existence, outside of what most would consider cultism. In fact, some would argue that the Mormon church is a cult. Why? Think about it. What kind of organization controls a group of people to the degree that they will follow “God’s chosen” leader without question, conform to every aspect of the organization (dress, diet, finances, rituals, etc), dedicate time, money, and their very lives to the organization, faithfully avoid any writing, publication, even scientific evidence that is not “church sanctioned”?

The amount of control that the LDS church has over its people is mind boggling. Church members are taught to have complete trust in their leaders, because ‘God will never allow the prophet to lead them astray’. Think about what that kind of control could do. If the prophet said tomorrow that polygamy was to be reinstated, faithful Mormons would obey, without question. If he told the people to gather in a certain place or dress a different way, they would do it. If he told the people to drink a cup of red Cool-aid, they would do it. Sound familiar?

The system is designed to instill complete obedience. Members are obligated to do “God’s will”. Questioners experience overwhelming guilt. If they continue to “sin”, they experience the fear of losing God’s favor, the fear of forever dividing an “eternal family”. I now better understand why depression is so rampant among the LDS and why Utah leads the country in depression and why suicide is the leading cause of death among males 15-44 in Utah. I also understand why apostasy is considered such a horrible sin, and why family members respond with so much anger and venom when one of their own questions and/or leaves the church. It is exactly how a cult would react to one of it’s own leaving.

Experiencing a Christian church with basic Christian doctrines, without the control factors (Fear, Obligation and Guilt) present in Mormonism, has been quite enlightening. I’m finally seeing the roots of Christianity and religion in general without all of the man-imposed control factors. I am experiencing a church where people are actually happy to attend. They actually volunteer to do jobs (rather than facing a calling that “should never be turned down”).There is a tangible atmosphere of joy, love, and peace. Ahhh… so this is what Christianity is all about.

Since my exit from Mormonism, I’ve come to know members of other churches, such as the local Foursquare church, where I attend. I asked one acquaintance how she would react if her daughter left her church to go attend another church. She said that it really would be no real big deal. She was astounded that anyone would “freak out” over a family member changing churches. It may not be a big deal to leave a church, but it is a huge deal to leave a cult.

The Quest for Perfection

In my opinion, the Mormon idea of reaching for perfection through works is one of the biggest differences between Mormonism and the rest of the Christian world! Being saved through grace means being saved DESPITE OUR IMPERFECTIONS. Contrarily, Mormon theology states that in addition to the atonement, we can only be saved by our own actions (temple marriage, obeying all commandments, being active in church, baptism, etc). I’ll admit the concept of salvation through faith alone feels foreign to me after Mormonism, but at the same time, it makes sense and feels right. None of us are perfect and never will be. God knows that and loves us anyway. That is why he provided a way for us to be saved DESPITE OUR IMPERFECTIONS.

We not saved by Jesus + works + rituals. We are saved by Jesus alone.

As a teen, the futility of my own imperfection caused me to fall into a deep depression. Instinctively, I pushed away from the church without fully realizing the doctrine of perfection was at the root of my depression. With my inactivity in the church came condemnation from those closest to me. In fact, throughout my life, I have become very familiar with conditional love based on my religious behavior as opposed to the unconditional love that Christ taught and emulated.

This attitude is not right, nor is it the nature of God. I do believe it is not only central to Mormon theology, but also the root of depression among many Mormons, especially LDS women.

I wrote the above after reading the following post on an Internet blog, FLAK (Further Light and Knowledge):

Mormonism’s stress on perfectionism is one of its most damaging aspects. This emphasis comes from the Sermon on the Mount following the “Beatitudes”, when Christ admonishes his listeners to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” The church interprets Christ’s statement as meaning that we, as fallible human beings, must be perfect in everything we do. Based on this interpretation, church members often feel guilty or unworthy because they fail to do their home/visiting teaching, go to the temple, keep a journal, do their genealogy, can food, pray daily, study the scriptures daily, go to all their meetings, pay their tithing, failed to volunteer to do a service project, etc. They may also feel guilty because they may drink caffeinated drinks, wear their hair over their ears, wear garments improperly or not at all, have impure thoughts, etc.

Unfortunately, this interpretation misses the real intent of what Christ was trying to say. In the Beatitudes, Christ taught about loving others. The admonishment to be perfect like God comes immediately after these teachings. Taken in context, Christ was merely exhorting his followers to love others as God does. In fact, the scriptures often define perfection as being the bond or mantel of charity and/or love.

The church takes Christ’s statement even one step further, by teaching that a person cannot enter the presence of God unless they are perfect. As Rabbi Kushner notes in the quote below, this teaching is even more insidious than merely teaching that we should strive for perfection because it implies that we are not worthy of God’s love unless we are perfect:

“[A]lot of misery [can] be traced to this one mistaken notion: we need to be perfect for people to love us and we forfeit that love if we ever fall short of perfection. There are few emotions more capable of leaving us feeling bad about ourselves than the conviction that we don’t deserve to be loved, and few ways more certain to generate that conviction than the idea that every time we do something wrong, we give God and the people closest to us reasons not to love us … I am embarrassed by the use of religion to induce guilt rather than to cure it… ”

The church’s teachings on perfectionism are even more insidious because they assume that God’s love is conditional. In fact, this not an assumption in Mormonism — IT IS DOCTRINE.

According to Apostle Russell M. Nelson, God’s love is conditional and contingent upon obedience to His commandments. Nelson states that,

“While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional.” Thus, according to Nelson, “Understanding that divine love and blessings are not truly ‘unconditional’ can defend us against common fallacies such as these: ‘Since God’s love is unconditional, He will love me regardless …’” See Russell M. Nelson, “Divine Love,” Ensign, Feb 2003, 20.

Considering this in the context of a parent, the Mormon God is emotionally abusive to an extreme. Can you imagine any good parent telling his or her child that :

“You must always please me. You are to obey with exactness each and every request or commandment that I give you, regardless of how difficult it may be for you or how you feel about it. You are to always carry out my will first no matter what else you may be doing or how you may be feeling. You are to always be cheerful when doing what I tell you to do. You cannot complain or question it, even if it seems wrong to you. You are to believe everything that I tell you even if it does not make sense or contradicts the facts or what you observe. If you fail to do any of these things perfectly, I will not love you anymore. I will also severely punish you and you will no longer be worthy of me or being in my presence.”

I can’t imagine a good parent saying this, let alone God.

I love my each of my children regardless of what they do. They may disappoint me, but I still love them and I would never condition our relationship on such an absurd notion as them being “worthy” of me. It does not make any sense.

One of the freeing aspects of no longer believing in Mormonism is that I can be human without trying to be perfect. I no longer feel unnecessary guilt over my mistakes. I can simply acknowledge them, learn from them and move on without having to worry about whether or not I am still worthy of God’s love. I now feel worthy of God’s love simply because I exist. I am free to accept myself as I am and for what I am. I am also free to accept and love others as they are and for what they are without any qualifiers or judgment. I am now free to love others perfectly as Christ taught.

There is no greater gift that I can give myself or others.

For more on this subject, read a review of LDS author, Anthony Sweat’s, book “I’m not perfect, can I still go to heaven?” 

The more I learn about Mormonism as a whole and the deeper symbolism of temples and what goes on in temples, the more I question just what is at the root of it all.

Members of the LDS church all have the ultimate goal of receiving their temple endowment. What does this entail? Basically it involves watching movies which depict the Earth’s creation, the Fall of Adam and Eve, followed by taking sacred oaths including blood oaths. During the sacred oath and blood oath process, the individual dons an elaborate costume. When I went through the temple to receive my endowment, we pantomimed our death by horrific means (throat slitting, disembowelment, etc) as a penalty for disobedience. We also learned the “true order of prayer”. This involved raising our hands over our heads and lowering them as we chanted, “Pay Lay Ale”. (these elements were removed from the temple ceremony in 1990.) Recently, I discovered that these words, very similar to the Hebrew words, Pele Heylel, mean “wonderful Lucifer” (Strong’s Concordance, Hebrew dictionary, items # 6382 and 1966) Is it any wonder that Lucifer answers this prayer of Adam in the temple film?

On this note, another thought struck me: Why is it that we listen and obey Satan in the temple film. Several times, Satan tells us to do something, the film stops and we do it. For example, he tells us to put on our fig-leaf apron, the film stops, and we do it. (an apron, interestingly, similar to the one Satan is wearing in the film which he says, himself, is a representation of his power). Kinda freaky, if you think about it. In fact, throughout the film, we see far more of Satan depicted than of Jesus Christ. Why do you think that is? In fact, several times during the film, Satan looks directly into the camera and addresses the congregation. That is something to think about.

Origins of the temple endowment

Why are there blood oaths in the temple ceremony?

20 questions from a true-believing Mormon about what goes on in the temple

One Mormon’s first temple experience and responses from others

The temple endowment ceremony with it’s changes

Occult symbolism of temples

Captain Morgan and Masonic Influence

More on Temples:

Participation in what is called the temple “endowment” ceremony is an important facet of the LDS faith since it is in this ritual where Mormons learn secret “key words,” “signs” and “tokens” that they hope will help them return to God’s presence.
Brigham Young, Mormonism’s second president, claimed,

“Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being able to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 416).

Without their temples, Mormons are told that exaltation (or Godhood) in the next world is an impossibility. By completely obeying various laws and ordinances, faithful Latter-day Saints hope that they too can achieve the status of “Gods” and “Goddesses.”
Since its founding in 1830, the LDS Church has caused quite a controversy among Bible-believing Christians. While Mormons have every right to believe as they may, many leaders of the LDS Church have made some serious accusations against what millions of Christians hold dear. These statements must be challenged in light of history and the Bible.
Latter-day Saints are told that their temples restore temple worship as discussed in the Bible. Mormon Apostle Mark E. Petersen claimed the LDS ceremony actually follows the pattern of biblical days when he wrote:

“In Biblical times sacred ordinances were administered in holy edifices for the spiritual salvation of ancient Israel. These buildings thus were not synagogues, nor any other ordinary places of worship… Following the pattern of Biblical days, the Lord again in our day has provided these ordinances for the salvation of all who will believe, and directs that temples be built in which to perform those sacred rites” (Why Mormons Build Temples, p. 2).

To test what Mr. Petersen has said, all one needs to do is examine the temple ceremony as it was practiced during biblical times. If the LDS temple ceremonies had their precedent in the Bible, it would be logical that today’s rites would be similar to what took place in Israel until AD 70 when the Jerusalem temple was destroyed. But there are many difference, including:

  • The Mormon Church has more than 100 other temples scattered across the globe; the Jews recognized only the temple in Jerusalem.
  • The primary activity at the Jerusalem temple was the sacrifice of animals as atonement for the sins of the people. Worshipers in ancient Israel went to the temple with an attitude of unworthiness before an all holy God. They approached His temple with humility as they looked to have their sins covered. In stark contrast, Mormons enter their temples with a positive sense of worthiness. A person cannot enter a Mormon temple (after it is dedicated) unless he or she is considered “worthy.”
  • The priests officiating in the Jerusalem temple had to be from the tribe of Levi. This was commanded in Numbers 3:6-10. The Mormon Church ignores such commands and allows its “temple-worthy” members who have no such background to officiate in its temples.
  • Wedding ceremonies never occurred in the Jerusalem temple, yet this is a common practice in LDS temples.
  • Baptism for the dead is the most common activity in Mormon temples. No such practice was ever performed in the Jerusalem temple.
  • While many Mormon families have been “sealed” for time and eternity in LDS temples, the Jerusalem temple provided no such ordinance.
  • There is no evidence that “endowments” of any kind, especially anything resembling Mormon temple ceremonies, occurred in the Jerusalem temple.

Mormons are told that the temple ceremony came by way of revelation to Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith, Jr. According to Mormon Apostle John Widtsoe, “Joseph Smith received the temple endowment and its ritual, as all else he promulgated, by revelation from God” (Joseph Smith-Seeker After Truth, p. 249). Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie echoed this same thought when he said the temple ordinances were “given in modern times to the Prophet Joseph Smith by revelation, many things connected with them being translated by the Prophet from the papyrus on which the Book of Abraham was recorded” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 779). This is quite a statement since the Book of Abraham (regarded by Latter-day Saints as sacred scripture) has been shown to be an inaccurate translation of an ancient Egyptian funeral text.

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