|Subject:||Mormons are micro-managed|
|Date:||Jun 21 00:23 2004|
|Note: Dr. Wright, a Mormon apologist, wrote a
piece in a Calgary newspaper claiming Mormons are not
micro-managed. Here are some responses to that letter.
Dr. Wright said, "The Mormon Church does not micro manage its members." I must confess to almost falling out of my chair when I read this. In fairness to Dr. Wright, I should note that the idea of Mormon micro-management can only be understood relative to something else. And, it is clear to me that Mormonism does not micro-manage the lives of its people more than do the Taliban, or the Old Order Amish, for example. But, when compared to most of North American society, there can be no doubt that Mormonism micro-manages its people.
Let me provide just a few examples. Mormons who have been through a Mormon temple and made the covenants required there are told what kind of underwear they must wear. Because of its leg and arm length, that underwear restricts the kind of clothes they can wear. They are told that this underwear must be worn "night and day", which is often interpreted by those in authority (as it was in the Mormon temple at Cardston, Alberta for my wife and my benefit when we married there) to mean that this underwear must be put back on after spouses make love, and before they go to sleep. Some believe that it must be worn while making love, although the newer versions of this underwear make this unfeasible. I hence suspect that this belief will die out.
Mormons have from time to time been specifically counseled as to what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate sexual conduct between spouses. Oral sex and other "unnatural" sexual practices, for example, have been labeled inappropriate.
Mormons are not supposed to drink even moderate amounts of tea, coffee or alcoholic beverages of any kind. The recent indications from the medical community that things such as green tea and red wine in moderation are good for human health are not considered persuasive to Mormons.
Mormons are supposed to give 10% of their income as a minimum offering, and more if they are able. Mormons are supposed to donate most of their discretionary time to meetings and other "service" within the Mormon Church community.
Mormons are not supposed to watch R rated movies (no account is taken of how that standard varies from country to country, and how it varies in terms of sexual context, violence, etc., or how it varies as time passes).
It is defined as "apostasy" and is an excommunicable offence for a Mormon to criticize the leaders of the Mormon Church or to communicate with other members respecting beliefs that are contrary to those endorsed by the Mormon leaders. As Dr. Wright indicated, that leaves Mormons free to talk about lots of things. But, a clear line is drawn with respect to anything that would cause other members to question the wisdom or authority of the current leadership.
Mormons who wish to attend Mormon temples must pass a two stage worthiness interview with male, local leaders that involves acknowledging the authority of local and general Mormon leaders, and answering personal questions related to matters of belief and behavior. Here are a few of the questions:
• Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?;
• Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?;
• Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators?;
• Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?;
• Do you live the law of chastity?;
• Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?;
• Do you strive to keep the covenants you have made, to attend your sacrament and other meetings, and to keep your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?;
• Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?;
• Are you a full-tithe payer?;
• Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?;
• Do you wear the garment [temple underwear] both night and day as instructed in the endowment and in accordance with the covenant you made in the temple?
A “temple recommend” or permit to enter the temple will only be issued if these questions are answered to the satisfaction of the Mormon leaders who conduct the two separate interviews required in this regard. As I write this, I recall for the first time in many years the “Alice down the rabbit hole” experience it initially was for me to ask these questions of the adult members of the Mormon congregation over which I presided as Bishop. But, it is amazing what we can come to regard as “normal” after we have done it for a while.
To keep a continuous temple recommend this process must be repeated at least ever other year. Similarly invasive interviews are conducted every six months with teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 for the purpose of monitoring their "worthiness". Parents are encouraged to conduct the same kind of interviews with the children. The effect of such regular acknowledgment of the one's personal submission to Mormon authority is in my view a large part of what makes Mormons as uncritically submissive to authority of many types as they are.
Testimony bearing (in most cases, standing before a group of people and telling them that you believe the Mormon Church is God's one and only true church etc.) is an important part of Mormon culture. The things that are to be said as part of a "real" or "true" testimony have been prescribed by Mormon leaders. Members who depart from the approved script as criticized in subtle and not so subtle ways by other members. The effects of this behavior from a cognitive dissonance point of view were described above.
Mormons are assigned to visit each others homes on a monthly basis. The women visit the women, and the men are responsible for entire families. This is kind of an "assigned friend" idea that has merit in some ways. The "gospel messages" are written and assigned by Mormon leaders and appear in the monthly edition of a magazine read by most Mormons. The frequent repetition of the words of particular Mormon leaders engrains those within both the Mormon culture, and the mentality of the individuals Mormons who each month hear, and repeat, these messages. A Mormon man, for example, might visit four families and repeat some variation of the monthly message at each visit, and then hear the same message repeated when his assigned friend comes to visit. The same process works for the Mormon women who visit each other.
Mormonism does not involved a paid clergy at the local level, and so sermons, lesson etc. each week are prepared by congregation members and taught to each other in the various youth and adult classes that occur during the three hour main block of meetings that Mormons attend each Sunday. However, Mormons are strongly discouraged from using any materials to prepare their lessons other than the scriptures (Bible, Book of Mormon etc.) and very thin lesson materials that the Mormon Church provides. The emphasis is to be on bearing testimony and expressing feelings, along with quoting from the scriptures and the statements of Mormon leaders that dominate the lesson materials. In particular, Mormons are discouraged from getting commentaries or going onto the Internet to do research in order to understand the background with respect to what they are teaching. The reason for this is clear – the more Mormons dig into any of the scriptures and particularly, Mormon history, the more disturbing questions they tend to ask. Hence, it is best to minimize those questions by focusing lessons on the bearing of testimony and a superficial presentation of the materials in question.
Mormon teenagers and youth leaders are provided with a booklet called "For the Strength of Youth", in two formats. The first is purse size, and the second is wallet size. They are encouraged in a variety of ways to master its contents. It describes in summary form the "standards" by which the young people are supposed to live, including things like abstaining from sexually related activities, reading the scriptures daily, dressing in certain ways, the number of earrings women can wear; the importance of avoiding body piercing, tattoos and other “extreme” forms of dress or personal style, etc.
Mormon teenagers and other unmarried Mormons are strongly discouraged from dating non-Mormons, and a significant effort is made to keep their plates so full of Mormon related activities that they simply do not have the time required to foster non-Mormon friendships of a significant sort. They are encouraged, however, to bring non-Mormon friends to Mormon activities and to help to convert them to Mormonism.
Mormons are supposed to engage in numerous daily, weekly and monthly rituals that are designed to remind them of their beliefs and engrain those beliefs in them. These rituals include various daily personal, family and spousal prayers; daily personal, family and spousal scripture study; weekly meetings of many kinds; five day per week early morning group scripture study for students in grades 9 – 12, usually taught at or near the school the kids attend; weekly "family home evenings"; monthly visits received by, and paid to, other assigned families within the congregation; and miscellaneous meetings with missionaries, to prepare for lessons that are taught each week, and to perform a host of other teaching or learning functions with respect to the Mormon cultural milieu.
I could keep going, but am running out of both time and patience for this task. It would be very difficult to chronicle the length and breadth of Mormon ritual. So, I suggest to Dr. Wright that when the demands that Mormonism makes on its members are compared to most other mainstream North American religions, it is in my view not possible to reasonably conclude that the Mormon Church is doing anything other than micro managing its members.
|Subject:||Re: Mormons are not micromanaged - More for Dr. Wright|
|Date:||Jun 21 00:46|
That was a great summary. I felt exhausted at the end of it remembering that I used to do all those things. I thought it was a really good point about Mormon youth being kept so busy with Mormon activities that they really have no time to foster relationships with non-Members; besides, if they do get to know non-members they are expected to share "the gospel" with them and bring them to activities in the hopes that they will join Mormonism.
I remember, back in the University ward in Edmonton, being so busy with activities that I was quite exhausted at times (Friday night activity, Saturday night dance, and fireside Sunday night), especially when exams were on. I remember people skipping activities (which they were expected to attend; people noticed who was not there) so they could study.
The one thing you could add about the micro-management of church members' lives is with respect to procreation. Church leaders even want control of your reproductive parts as well. And they have a significant "policy" statement in the Bishop's handbook about the topic of surgical sterilization (you are probably familiar with that, having been a Bishop). It's not very understanding of members' individual situations (physical health, mental health, financial situation, etc.). Personally I was outraged that a bunch of men in Salt Lake City were trying to control me in such a way.
Good for you for refuting Dr. Wight's incredibly misleading argument. He is protecting the illusion the church tries to maintain and is not willing to admit the truth as you are so willing to do.
I know you are tired and have every right to be impatient with the man, but your hard work will help a lot of other people. I am sure of that.
|Subject:||Of course Mormonism micro-manages the member's lives - they just call it something else like:|
|Date:||Jun 21 01:55|
|being "worthy" to have the Holy Ghost as a
constant companion, or they call it being "obedient" in
thought and deed to Heavenly Father's laws , or doing what is necessary
for their salvation --live in the Celestial Kingdom for eternity.
Want more micro-managing? Take a look at the Honor Code for BYU, for instance.
|Subject:||Dont forget the big deal church leaders make over earrings...|
|Date:||Jun 21 10:32|
|This is a very clear example of micro-managing
people's lives. Not only has the President of the church gone out of his
way on several occasions to condemn men for wearing earrings, he's also
told women they can only wear one pair at a time.
Although the Mormon Prophet says God has "no opinion" on stem cell research, apparently God is passionate about earrings.
If this isn't micro-management (with a nice dose of divine threats) then I don't know what is:
"Latter-day prophets strongly discourage the piercing of the body except for medical purposes. If girls or woman desire to have their ears pierced, they are encouraged to wear only one pair of modest earrings. Those who choose to disregard this counsel sow a lack of respect for themselves and for God. They will someday regret their decisions."
- Current LDS Youth Pamphlet, "True to The Faith, a gospel reference."
"We—the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve—have taken the position, and I quote, that “the Church discourages tattoos. It also discourages the piercing of the body for other than medical purposes, although it takes no position on the minimal piercing of the ears by women for one pair of earrings.”"
- Gordon B. Hinckley, “Your Greatest Challenge, Mother,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 97
"Likewise the piercing of the body for multiple rings in the ears, in the nose, even in the tongue. Can they possibly think that is beautiful? It is a passing fancy, but its effects can be permanent. Some have gone to such extremes that the ring had to be removed by surgery. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have declared that we discourage tattoos and also “the piercing of the body for other than medical purposes.” We do not, however, take any position “on the minimal piercing of the ears by women for one pair of earrings”—one pair only."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, “Great Shall Be the Peace of Thy Children,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 50
"As for the young women, you do not need to drape rings up and down your ears. One modest pair of earrings is sufficient."
- Text of a talk given to youth and young single adults on 12 November 2000 at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City and broadcast by satellite throughout the Church.
BYU Dress Code, which is another great example of micro-management:
This again demonstrates that when the church controls the environment, they go for micro-management instead of just teaching broad "correct principles and then letting the people govern themselves."
|Subject:||just reading this made me realize|
|Date:||Jun 21 10:44|
|why I was always so TIRED when I was active! Good grief! Our whole life and time was sucked dry by that organization!|
|Subject:||Some other observations..|
|Date:||Jun 21 10:48|
|Excellent work Bob.
I would also recommend that you mention that the church enforces payment of 10% of each member's income with annual "tithing settlement" interviews. In these end-of-the-year interviews, each member must meet with the Bishop, review their church tithing payment throughout the year and declare themselves full or partial tithe payers.
Those who declare themselves partial tithe payers must work out a payment plan with the bishop to pay a full 10% tithe on their income, or lose their temple recommend. Without a temple recommend, members cannot attend temple weddings of even their closest family members.
Just another example of the church micro-managing the personal (in this case, financial) affairs of its members.
|Subject:||Good summary, some comments|
|Date:||Jun 21 11:42|
|I'd add the bit about earrings and tattoos.
I am not aware that that church regulates sexual behavior between spouses anymore. I've never, ever heard a talk, or been counseled, to avoid oral sex or other sexual practices. These are largely relics of the past. In the past, many church leaders also preached against birth control, but we don't hear that at all anymore.
Some of the things you mention are in theory only. Most members do not home teach or visit teach faithfully, and when they do, it's rarely about indoctrination--it's rote and going through the motions. Home and visiting teaching is more a source of guilt than indoctrination.
You might add the bit about women not working, although broader social changes is making this more and more in word only, as a significant % of female members ignore this and work outside the home, although I suppose many still don't in obedience to prophetic counsel.
You might also talk about the incessant drumbeat toward girls that their role is to be a "mother in Zion."
You might also talk about the incessant drum beat about avoiding sex among unmarrieds, and the church's unnatural obsession with the sex lives of unmarrieds.
You may note that much of the pressure to conform is cultural, in which members internalize what they hear, or perceive they hear, and then create a closed system that punishes deviant behaviors.
You might also point out that the degree to which one feels oppressed is directly proportional to the degree one holds dissenting views. Those who willingly agree and go along, don't feel like the church is micromanaging them. Others, like many of us who think independently, feel severely oppressed.
|Subject:||Re: Good summary, some comments|
|Date:||Jun 21 11:54|
|It may not be explicitly condemned, but birth
control, women working outside the home, and sexual practices between
spouses are all areas where subtle pressure is applied. My youngest
daughter has been married for 7 years. They have been through numerous
infertility treatments and much heartache as they tried to conceive. The
comments and remarks she had to put up with have been quite hurtful
because people thought they didn't want kids or that they were selfish
because they built a house and bought a timeshare. It has been very
discouraging to her. And the fact that she has a career hasn't helped
the situation. So, even though it might not be written
"rules", believe me, the discrimination heaped on members if
they are perceived to be "disobeying the unwritten rules" is
(BTW-she is now expecting--finally)
|Subject:||Re: Mormons are not micromanaged - More for Dr. Wright|
|Date:||Jun 21 12:13|
|Author:||Singles ward reject|
|You may want to mention that singles of any age are
hounded, badgered and chastised for being single at all. They are
advised to live with LDS roommates or at the homes of LDS families (even
their own) whether they are 18 or 58 (I am not making this up) They are
also advised about private behavior, and told never to touch their or
anyone else's bodies. Frequent "talk to the bishop chats" are
held (besides TR interviews) where bishops can be (and often are)
pruriently focused on their dating habits and personal lives.
This is sick, and why I left the freaking cult.
|Subject:||How about this one, Bob?|
|Date:||Jun 21 12:42|
|Many years ago the church realized that there was no
discretionary family time among Mormons, so it created a KINGS X on
Monday nights so Mormon families could be together and do their OWN
thing for once.
FAMILY HOME EVENING!...Great Idea!
But no sooner did the church give families this free time, then families were baffled as to how to spend it. So the church had to created an OFFICIAL MANUAL to instruct members how to use their discretionary, Free Time! With this, another CHURCH MEETING was born!
Mormons are like caged birds who don't know what on earth to do when the cage door is opened! To Mormons doors are frightening, not liberating!
P.S. Bob, when are you going to write a book? You've got enough material on your own (and from this board) that it could be a down-to-earth yet scholarly Magnum Opus. Or, at least a "Mormon Oh-Piss"!
|Subject:||A list for "active" members...|
|Date:||Jun 22 00:22|
|I've shamelessly copied this from a current thread
on the newsgroup soc.religion.mormon. Someone over there started a list
of things active members are expected to do. Surely does not seem like
"teach them correct principles and let them govern
Okay, this list is limited to the things that Latter-day Saints are commanded or expected to do as "active" members of the church. I realize that there are many other things that we are _encouraged_ to do, and different tracks one can take off on, in being "anxiously engaged in a good
Seminary for HS students
Family home evening
Sunday church attendance
YM/YW activities for teens
Fast (with a purpose)
Pay tithing, fast offering, other offerings
Home teaching/Visiting teaching
Receive home/visiting teachers
Temple attendance, if near a temple
Enrichment night for RS sisters
Mission (at least one)
Bear (or acquire) and raise children
Hold a calling
Temporal preparedness, food storage, garden
Member missionary work
Keep journal, records of family
Ward social activities
Have I left out anything important? Listed anything that isn't really "expected"?
The way I figure it, we have approximately 500 waking hours every month. Counting up the amount of time taken to actually do most of these activities, I figure it adds up to more than forty hours, and more like fifty for anyone who has to prepare for lessons or attend YM/YW activities.
In short, the church requires not only 10 per cent of our "increase" but also 10 per cent of our time.
Recovery from Mormonism - The Mormon Church www.exmormon.org