There are many that say the LDS church is a cult, personally I don’t think so, well not exactly anyways. It’s not nearly to the level of Jonestown or Heavens Gate. There are no group suicides and they at least pay lip service to independent thought. ‘You can have your own ideas, just don’t rally support to change ours’. Is what you hear when you want to know if it is ok to question the leaders or not. When I compare it to the BITE model of cultish-ness there are quite a few maybes on the list from my perspective, so personally I can’t quite call it a full on cult. Even with the cheesy jello and the funeral potatoes showing up everywhere instead of kook-aid. 🙂 So for this essay lets call it a mild cult.
It is filled with mildness too if you think about it. The general conference sessions are mildly hypnotic, not out rightly so for sure but take a look at the patterns and cadence of the talks. They could have come right out of a neural linguistic programming handbook. I honestly don’t think most of them realize the way they are talking is a form of hypnotic suggestion, they just copy what the other leaders have done since the beginning of the religion. Is it any surprise that it is so easy into a mild nap during these sessions?
Testimonies are mildly and meekly shared, enhancing the mild little voice inside telling you it is all true. It is rare that a leader gets strongly outspoken, that is why cases like Holland getting animated during a sermon get so widely talked about.
Members are warned to steer clear of confrontation, they are reminded of the need to be meek and mild-like. Both male and female leaders seem to develop a singsong voice and an almost sticky sweet way of mildly communicating and suppressing their passion. Kind of reminds me of this:
Now one of the first principles in the gospel of the Fridge is a good pun is a good thing. So far mild cult in the title is punny for two reasons, it is a mild cult that teaches members to be mild! But I’d like to reveal a third meaning in this essay. 1 While there are those in the mild trance that are willing seek out the light and truth on their own there are many more that do not. You personally may wish to expose your friend or loved one to a little more open thinking. Well I suggest it takes a mild approach. Outright denunciation of their faith will likely never work. It will instead trigger a backfire effect and reinforce the belief you are trying to get them to see a little more critically.
Instead of strong declarations against the religion, ask mildly though provoking questions. Engage in open dialog, discover the emotional connections that have created that persons bond to the church. Make sure your friends and family understand some of the emotional reasons you couldn’t pretend to believe anymore. Your approach to questioning the mild programming (that now probably frustrates you immensely when you see it regurgitated) needs to be mild if you want to effect positive change in your relationships going forward.
A direct approach due to the realities of cognitive dissonance is simply not that effective. A mild approach to sharing your reasons for leaving the church that can generate actual questions by the believers themselves when they regurgitate the pat answer is a better way. Putting a person in a situation where they have to question their own rationalization is a far more productive to help others to think critically and question the things they have been taught to think. If it is a mildly difficult question, it is easier for the person to face and less likely to simply be shelved and ignored.
On the plus side this mild approach will lessen the angst between you and friends or family that still believe something you see as false. To take it means accepting the fact they may never ever see it your way. Such is life. Accept that and then you will have the opportunity to encourage independent thought and develop an atmosphere of open dialog and questions that can lead to understanding. It is key that you respect others feelings for their belief no matter how much you might think they have been fooled. Everyone has a right to how they feel.
Then one day, one of those that you have talked to might give you a call, or send you a message and say “You know I have been thinking about that point you made the other day…I think I see where you are coming from now.” And in that day your joy will be great as you have exposed another soul to the freedom of thought that comes from belief in the Fridge. It will be worth the wait, I promise.
- If you like the the fact that the profet can get three puns out of one title, then you will notice the chill of the Fridge is prodding you to share the coolness of this post with others 🙂 ↩
Although I agree with much of what you’ve said here, there is one part of which I disagree. While the church has not been part of a group suicide, the sheer numbers of Mormons who have committed suicide over the years far exceeds either Heavens Gate or Jonestown. The per-capita rate of suicide is fairly low yes, but given the total numbers of people who have committed suicide over the years, I feel that the church is better described as a moderate cult.
That is a very valid point that I had not considered before.
I’ve found this mild approach works well with some people, but it doesn’t work with everyone. And to be clear, I’m coming from a mainly Utah Mormon perspective. I’ve found that some people will still be offended by the mild approach. But, I’ll agree that the mild approach seems to offend fewer people than a more direct and “in your face” approach does.
Also, with some people, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been one of the nicest people they’ve ever met the entire time they’ve known you. Once they find out you’re not actually active LDS, it’s like you suddenly have the plague. I’ve had people tell me that they were shocked to find out our family isn’t LDS and that the realization that someone could live in Utah for many years, be good decent people, and never join the LDS church/or leave the LDS church for any reason and not “go off the deep end” is threatening to them instead of helping them to be more open minded.
I’ve also had people get angry at me for not announcing up front that our family isn’t LDS when we first met so they could’ve avoided “wasting their time” with us. And even after 20+ years of being mostly inactive, it’s still really hard to ferret out who is going to have that reaction when we first meet.
I don’t think I should have to make an up front announcement that I’m not LDS to people upon first meeting. That just seems way too weird to me. It’s been very hard for my 8 yo, who is a very friendly social butterfly. She loves everyone and just can’t understand why kids are told they can’t have playdates with her because she doesn’t go to their church when she’s a really nice, kind, well behaved kid.
The problem has come from bible bashing mainstream Protestants over the years that are vociferous in calling the lds church a cult. In a way, the word cult or even derivations like cultish, cult-like, or even (your admittedly cool triple play pun) mild cult elicits an immediate backfire effect because of the negative connotation associated with how it has been used by other churches. I see now, having left, how mildly cultish it really is, but I wonder if I could even broach that subject with family. As you say, mild, thought provoking questions will be a better long term strategy to help them see. To that end, do you have any specific questions you have used that have been effective at planting seeds?
They really have to be opportunistic questions or statements. One example, a friend of mine went through a divorce. Her parents are true believers, her ex had just gotten remarried in the temple and her and her mom were talking about it. She pointed out that she is now technically a polygamist as far at the church was concerned because females aren’t allowed to break the temple sealing unless they are marrying another person. Her mom had obviously never considered it that way before.
To put it in churchy terms, look for a teaching moment 🙂
In the church’s history there have been plenty of times where leaders have said that it is better to die than it is to have something else happen such as committing a sexual “sin” or leaving the faith. There’s evidence that at least some early members took part in murder for those that had apostatized. Let’s not forget the early ritualistic rape under the guise of plural marriage! Just a short while ago church leaders were preaching that it was better to die than to “lose your virtue”. You want to know how that makes rape victims feel if they believe that garbage? They feel that God wants them dead and that they’re horrible for surviving such an experience. As such, I’d classify it as a moderate cult that tends to get less extreme as time goes on.
I think you have a good case with the “it’s better to die” teachings. We are taught that death should be preferred to divergence from the organization.
I’ve often thought “Is the church a cult? Debatable. Is the church cult-like? Absolutely.”
Yet again you’ve said what I’ve thought only much clearer, better, and cool. 😉