I recently read a post explaining 10 Mormon myths. Being a member for 44 years, I understand exactly why she relates these as myths and how it appeals to good people in the church. Before some very deep introspection and research, I think I would have answered these exactly the same way as she did.
More recently in life I have gained a new perspective; extensive study brought me to the realization that the answers to these myths that I thought were legitimate were, well actually myths themselves. Generally speaking, Mormons are good people, as I have mentioned before here. On the inside there is commonly talk of how we as a people seem misunderstood. I say we because technically I am still a Mormon. While I no longer believe in the truth claims I have yet to resign my membership. I fear if I did so my mom’s heart would completely break; declaring openly my disbelief was hard enough for her as it is, but I digress.
The fact is on the inside there is a culture of these-are-the-things-people-don’t-understand-about-us-and-we-need-to-correct-that-missunderstanding. One reason that this culture exists is at various times church leaders have made statements along these lines on both sides of the myth and it has caused internal Mormon meme generation to deal with it. Ultimately though, if you dig deep enough, there is more to the controversy that even the members trying to dispel the myths realize. Turns out their effort to dispel the myth, is in reality a myth itself. So in an effort to bring further light and knowledge to those on the inside as well as those on the outside, here are some comments from the Fridge on Mormon myths.
Mormons can’t have any type of caffeine.
This bit of myth has its roots in the word of wisdom. Read it here. This is a revelation given to Joseph Smith, the original prophet of the church. It wasn’t originally a commandment to follow, says so right there in the revelation. Brigham Young was the prophet that declared members should follow this as a commandment. That’s fine and dandy because prophets tell the members what god wants even though they get it wrong some times as we learned in last week’s post. Even though Brigham declared it a good idea to follow the word of wisdom as a commandment, it wasn’t really official, it just sorta became something we all do and started being reinforced by later church leaders as you can see here. The whole coffee, tea, and even tobacco constraints came along later as well. Here is the myth of the myth, the reason that we don’t specifically drink tea and coffee is because in the past those are what were considered ‘hot drinks’ culturally speaking. This leads to things like burning hot, hot chocolate and Postum as being A-Okay to consume. Here’s the thing though if you look at one aspect of the WoW through the lenses of the past to figure it out shouldn’t you be willing to look at all of those phrases similarly?
The WoW declares, “All agrain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life…barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.” Did you catch that mild drinks from grain and barely are just fine, if hot drinks were tea and coffee back then, just what were mild drinks made from grain? That is actually very easy to answer, beer.
Of course Mormons don’t drink beer, in fact on the inside it is considered even worse than coffee and tea. Why no beer? That probably has to do with prohibition, alcohol consumption became a big deal in the US during the prohibition years, and with last week’s announcement we now know that sometimes prophets and leaders just get caught up in the times and make mistakes declaring things as doctrine that are just things of culture. So you have a reasoning of an interpretation of the WoW that really isn’t very consistent. Other odd things pop out when you read it from an outsider’s perspective, like wine being ok for sacrament so long as the church provided it and the encouragement of lots of carbs that these days are blamed for all of the obesity in the world. Don’t blame your Mormon friends for not knowing these details, for the most part they just do what they are told and don’t dig this deep.
But where did the whole caffeine myth come from? As you can see none of this history so far actually touches on caffeine. Well you need to fast forward a few more decades to find that. In the 70’s and 80’s caffeine was all the talk, it was condemned as a bad thing in nutritionist circles. They even invented decaffeinated coffee in response to the market change this buzz created. Church leaders saw this as a prophetic vision of the WoW, there is a belief that science will eventually confirm all the prophetic announcements of past prophets and this seemed to surely be the case. This led to leaders not outright banning caffeine but much like Brigham Young said back in his day they said they would avoid it.
This got pretty heady during my Mission in 87, where I met missionaries that felt people shouldn’t get baptized if they drank Coca Cola. For decades this has been an on and off debate in Mormon circles about caffeine as it relates to the WoW. Some see the caffeine as bad enough they should avoid anything in it, others just won’t eat anything with mocha flavoring. In the small circle I run in, the more zealous individuals would avoid caffeine in nearly anything, except for chocolate and Tylenol and other things that they had no idea it was in there in the first place. The more liberal Mormons drink Diet Coke by the gallon and only abide by the temple question of obedience to the WoW, which is just no coffee or tea; herbal teas are your own decision 🙂
So if you are a decaffeinated Mormon, chances are you are stricter and probably a little more judgmental than those caffeinated Mormons. I tend to get along far better with the caffeinated ones myself, but I wonder if they realize that pretty much all the caffeine in the world that is used in candy, medicine, hot chocolate and Diet Coke is extracted from that lowly coffee bean they use to make that sinful hot drink.
I mean you didn’t think they just threw all that stuff out when they made decaffeinated coffee did you?
The Mormon Church is a Patriarchal Church, Women get no say.
Not true! Women in the church do get a say, they just need to run it by their husband or leader first. This is also talked about in the church more than out of it. Just over the last year we have seen women make statements about controlling their own destinies by aghast, wearing pants to church. As far as rebellions of subjugated persons go, wearing pants is as weak as it gets. Granted these feminist thinkers are pushing farther though, they even tried to get in the male only priesthood session and were turned away, blocked by a garbage truck even. So yeah isn’t not really a patriarchal church because even though moms can’t bless the family or conduct a church meeting they are still moms and besides dads are sinning if they exercising dominion in an “unrighteous” manner. Righteous dominion on the other hand is good and fine, that of course is why wives covenant to husbands in the temple and the husband to the lord. If you missed the sarcasm please read it again till you get it.
Mormons vote as a block
The origins of this myth go way, way back, clear back to the time of Joseph Smith, the founder of the church. You see back then they were a lot more active in bringing back the kingdom of God to the earth. Joe saw it as a democratic theocracy where God told the leader what to do, but people still had a vote. He started the council of 50, kinda like the council of the 12 but with members that weren’t LDS on it. The council did a few notable things; they ran the Prophet’s political campaign for president of the United States. They excommunicated William Law because he was against polygamy and some of the other things that were going on, and get this they ordained Joseph king over the council under the King of Kings who is Jesus. You see Joseph Smith very much had intentions of setting up a theo-democracy to run the nation. Later prophets thought eventually the government would collapse and the church would step in to take over. (There are some vestiges of that belief still bouncing around.) Point is, back then they very much did vote as a block. The voted typically liberal as well apparently they were more accepting of the polygamy they were practicing. It is my opinion that this voting as a block was part of what wound up the mob that killed him at Carthage, these people had recently gotten out from under a theocracy just a generation before. They weren’t about ready to return to one.
So Mormons did vote as a block, but not so much anymore, right? Well right so long as you don’t consider the pressure to support prop 8 as desire for members to vote as a block. Yeah, I have met a few politically split Mormon families so you can’t say the block is 100%, but 9 out of 10 Mormons love Glenn Beck, I think that should tell you something.
Mormons blindly follow their leaders
This is interesting; most people you would ask in the church would say they don’t blindly follow their leaders. They would however in the same breath tell you to doubt your doubts, thus asserting the need to at times blindly following their faith. If I had a nickel for every time I was told to ‘follow the brethren‘ retirement would be a cinch. I supposed free thought is completely allowed, so long as it doesn’t lead to speaking evil of the lords anointed, which according to this poll is pretty much any church leader. Saying the leader is wrong is a bad thing; so bad that you make a covenant in the temple to not do it. (some of us older folk made the promise on penalty of death.)
Saying anything about the brethren that isn’t supportive of whatever they say is considered ‘in a class by itself’, from a talk on criticism by Dallin Oaks, one of the prominent brethren:
“Criticism is particularly objectionable when it is directed toward Church authorities, general or local. Jude condemns those who ‘speak evil of dignities.’ (Jude 1:8.) Evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true. As Elder George F. Richards, President of the Council of the Twelve, said in a conference address in April 1947,
“‘When we say anything bad about the leaders of the Church, whether true or false, we tend to impair their influence and their usefulness and are thus working against the Lord and his cause.’ (In Conference Report, Apr. 1947, p. 24.)” (Address to Church Educational System teachers, Aug. 16, 1985.)
So blindly following leaders is just a myth… really?
Crazy stuff happens in Mormon temples
What is done in there isn’t crazy at all, I mean chanting isn’t crazy, watching the same video over and over isn’t crazy, learning secret handshakes to get into heaven isn’t crazy…promising to die if you don’t keep the covenants and the blessing you get where they touch you while naked under a poncho affair that isn’t crazy either. Ok so the last two things aren’t done anymore, they only happened to us pre 1990 attendees. But to say the things in the temple don’t seem crazy to outsiders… that is a real stretch, even for a person on the inside. I remember my dad’s words to me after I went through the first time. ‘Kinda makes you wonder about the church you joined doesn’t it?’
Mormons still practice polygamy
Absolutely not true, except if you are already dead, then its ok. Oh and except for those apostate mormons that never went mainstream like the rest of us. It’s not a good thing anymore for living people. Now Polyandry that is definitely something we don’t practice anymore. Remember though God commanded polygamy, its right there in D&C 132. Later prophets stopped it because God couldn’t keep his church going in the face of all that opposition. Since it was part of the restoration of all things, some of the older dogs in the church figure it will return someday. But right here right now it is not ‘still’ practiced so long as the word ‘still’ only applies to living people. To make all that make sense you have to forget for a moment that Mormons don’t believe in eternal marriage, too. Because those eternal marriages are still good to be polygamous in nature.
Mormons aren’t Christian
Most believers will be offended to be called non-Christian, after all the church is named after Christ except for the 4 years it wasn’t. If name continuity is important you ought to consider the Strangites. Naming aside, even though from the inside this seems so obvious while on the outside there are fundamental doctrine differences pointed out by Christians, such as the nature of the God head and things like the doctrine of grace. Maybe both Mormons and Christians should study the history a little more. Way back in the 1830 edition of the book of Mormon as well as in the Lectures on Faith that Joseph Smith Taught, the nature of the God head was far closer to the Trinity doctrine of Christians today. So give the Mormons a break they had it right at the beginning!
Grace on the other hand is a bit stickier. Grace is really the proof that God loves us unconditionally, but in Mormon’s view that just isn’t true. Ok well 99% of Mormons will not agree with that statement, but they would be wrong when considering the actual doctrine, that is in the scriptures and preached by leaders in modern times.
So, myth or not? Well that really depends on your perspective.
Mormons don’t believe in the Bible
This is an old favorite myth on the inside to talk about because it is so obviously untrue. Mormons got a Bible, plus more! Thing is on the inside though you are taught the Bible is full of errors, it lost some plain and precious things in translation. Not near as perfect a book as the Book of Mormon that only had about 4000 known errors. Mormons believe in the Bible, they just take it with a grain of salt and if the most recent church articles are any indication the same will soon happen to the Book of Mormon.
Also you better not forget the Book of Abraham, the best not-really-translated translation ever! Mormons love scripture, you not only get the Bible and all that old stuff, you get new stuff too in the D&C and plus every general conference you hear the prophets declare things that are scripture until decades later when they become philosophies of men.
The Mormon Church is rich
Ummmmm, there is no way to call this a myth. They are definitely cheap though, members scrub the toilets in the meeting houses to learn service; all but the highest few in the clergy work for free, that way the billions in tithing can go to better things like shopping malls and 2% of the state of Florida.
Mormons can really network
I agree this isn’t a myth at all, there is a connection between believers that is strong, how else do you think those contractors win the bids to build, temples, churches and malls? Mutual backscratching is definitely Mormon theology, you can see it every sacrament meeting.
Back at the beginning of this post I said I haven’t yet resigned because of my mom. That’s only part of the reason due to this networking that I personally feel my job is at risk if I decided to bail all the way. Networking is a good thing; right up until it’s a bad thing.
What is Myth
If you follow the Fridge at all you know that myth isn’t all bad, that includes the Mormon myth as well. Myth helps us strive for more; it gives us a goal and direction. Generally speaking so long as we don’t take it too seriously it will help make the world a better place too. Ironically myth busting is a fun pastime as well. So what about the myth that most LDS members don’t actually know their own history… I think it’s plausible.