|Subject:||Even in death, funeral reminders of the Cult of Mormon Obedience|
|Date:||Aug 06 01:03 2003|
|This month marks the 11th anniversary of the death
of my grandmother and wife of Ezra Taft Benson, Flora Amussen Benson.
I remember attending her funeral in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. Her family paid sincere tribute to her as dedicated Church member, wife and mother--with emphasis on dedicated Church member.
They praised her the best they knew how: within the permeating, controlling culture of obedience, judgment and devotion to Mormonism that defined their lives, set their standards and established the guidelines for judging the "worthiness" of themselves and others.
During the funeral, I was struck by how my grandmother was ultimately presented, identified and praised within the context of her dedication to Mormonism. It seemed as if her core identity and ultimate worth were defined not in terms of her uniqueness as an individual human being but, rather, in terms of her unquestioning commitment to the Mormon Church and to the life that she was told was her pre-determined destiny.
In death, she was held up, more than anything else, for being an obedient cog in the wheel of Mormonism.
To get a sense of how the Mormon Cult served to judge the final value of my grandmother (as well as everyone else in the Church), I would like to share some of the prepared remarks given that day by her son (and my father) Mark Benson.
No doubt, my father sincerely loved his mother. That was apparent in his words and deeds in her behalf throughout her life.
But, sadly, as is typical of so many Mormon eulogies, the humanity of the deceased was dulled by, and ultimately submersed within, the overwhelming theme of devotion to Mormon duty--and to Mormon leaders.
In essence, this eulogy for Flora Amussen Benson became a call to arms. A reminder to the faithful to pray, pay and obey. A familiar and repeated command to follow the Brethren at all costs.
Sadly, it was evidence of Mormon Cult emphasis on the authoritarian, not the humanitarian.
It was also a not-too-subtle self-promotion of the Benson family, earnestly presented to a Mormon audience who themselves had been indoctrinated throughout their lives to judge the worthiness of others in the fold, based on demonstrated obedience to Mormon leadership.
Below are some of the remarks from the prepared transcript:
"Remarks Given at the Funeral of
Flora Amussen Benson
By Her Son
Mark A. Benson
August 19, 1992
"My dear Brothers and Sisters, we are so grateful to have all of you here today to pay respect[s] to our dear Mother, Flora Amussen Benson, and companion to our living Prophet. We express deep appreciation for President Hinckley and President Monson and other General Authorities who are in attendance.
"It may seem a little unusual at a funeral service to hear the hymn sung, 'Do What Is Right,' which has so beautifully been rendered today by the Tabernacle Choir. And the reason for the selection is because this is one of Mother's favorite hymns and personifies her in so many way,s and has been the heart of her teachings to her children.
"Mother has so often counseled us: 'When faced with a decision, ask first, is it right, and let this be your guide.' How we loved Mother sining and living the hymn, 'Do What Is Right.' Do what is right, let the consequences follow. Do what is right, be faithful and fearless. God will protect you, do what is right.
"And as our Sister, Beverly, said, 'One of Mother's greatest qualities is her devotion to principle. She has a great desire to always do what the Lord would have her do.' And to Mother, doing what was right meant to put the Kingdom of God first in your life and to have absolute faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ.
"From her lips we have heard often the scriptural injunction. 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all things (all things for your good) shall be added unto you.' And Mother had implicit faith that that was true.
"To her children she would say:
--Just keep the commandments and all will work out right.
--Keep the standards of the Church. That's the important thing.
--Keep yourself morally clean. Don't be cheap.
--Follow the Brethren. They'll never lead you astray. (And so General Conference became so important to know what the Brethren sould have us do).
--Support your Bishop and Stake President. They have the mantle of their callings.
--Put your Church work first and magnify your Church assignments. Yes, Mother would say, seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all will be well--and all was well.
"And so, much because of our dear Mother, the Benson household became a gospel-centered home, each of us striving, how imperfectly that my be, to measure our actions by the scriptures and the counsel of the Brethren.
"For Mother, 'Doing What Is right' meant living and teaching the power of prayer. Mother was constantly asking her Father in Heaven for help, with complete faith and deep humility that her prayers would be answered.
"Mother was a diligent worker, but she was also a constant pray-er. She was continually praying for us, her children--whether it was for a test in school, or a talk in Church, or a date on Saturday night, or for our health or to protect us against some danger. She would pray in an instant if she felt a child was in need, and whoever was home with here would unite in prayer with Mom for the welfare of one of us.
"Family prayer became spiritual highlights as each child was prayed for individually by Mom and Dad, for our individual needs for that day. And we remembered those prayers and their deep love for us personally and as a family. And by that example, we in turn prayed for each others when it came our turn.
"And Mother taught us to pray for Dad in every assignment he might have. In Church meetings, we seldom remember Dad sitting with us in the congregation, because he was sitting on the stand speaking or presiding at the meeting. And Mother always reminded us on our row to pray for Dad--pray for Dad.
"Mother's support of Dad in his Church callings has become a model to all of us. I never heard Mother complain about the time Dad had to spend away from home on Church assignments. On the other hand, it was always, 'Aren't we grateful that Dad is worthy and has been chosen by the Lord to serve Him.' And it was our constant desire as children to do nothing in our own personal lives that would detract from Dad's ministry. I never felt any pressure to do this--just a loving desire to enhance Dad's callings by living as he and Mother taught.
"Mother's love for hom and family and Dad and her children is legendary. But, undergirding it was her testimony of the Restored Gospel. She was absolutely faithful to the Church and to its teachings and to following the Brethren. That spirit permeated our home. It was the heart of the home--the Gospel of Jesus Christ and being faithful members.
"And how Mother loved home. She dedicated her entire life to that which she considered to be the greatest of all callings--homemaker. Each of the children have been affected so profoundly by her commitment to this divine role.
"Beverly observed, 'Mother has always had an absolute understanding of what God meant her to be. The only success she was wanted in this life is the success of a wife, mother and homemaker. Because of the important positions that have come to Father, Mother could have diluted her efforts in the home with social activities, but she never did. Her first priority was always to her husband, to her children and to the Church.'
"Bonnie remembers when Mother turned down a White House invitation so she could attend her high school choir program. Bonnie later said, 'Do you know what kind of security and confidence it gives to a child to know she is that important to her parents? That she is love that much?'
"Barbara said of Mother, 'She taught us to love the Lord and that serving Him was a great privilege. She encouraged me to lave the role of homemaker.'
"And our youngest sister, Beth, reflected, 'First of all, I always felt that Mother was happy in her role as a homemaker. To be a wife and mother was always held in the highest regard in our home. There was never any complaint of being tied down or imprisoned by homemaking chores. To us a good wife and mother was the epitome of womanhood. Mother radiated a spirit of fulfillment and contentment--a feeling that there was nothing she would rather be doing than giving us a bath--or mending and patching our clothes--or scrubbing the kitchen till it would sparkle.'
"And Dad once said, 'Flora was always there for the children and for me. I can't remember a time when I came home and didn't find her there. She would meet me at the door with a smile and an embrace. It was that love and support that sustained me.' ". . .
[At this point, the eulogy took a short break from the theme of the commandment-obeying image of Flora to note her human side--how she was "one of the happiest persons I have ever known," a fun-loving individual who enjoyed playing games with her children, including basketball, badminton and hula hoop. Fond mention was made of how she and Ezra Taft were "such sweethearts--each so completely devoted to each other," who enjoyed sitting on the backporch "holding hands and talking," as well as singing favorite songs together. Then it was back with a wrap-up re-emphasizing how she was, first and foremost, a devout Mormon wife and committed Church member].
"Mother was always saying, 'I am so thankful for my wonderful husband. He is so kind and thoughtful of me.'
"And Dad would respond by saying, 'As I hear her say this, I have the prayer in my heart that I can always live to be worthy of this choice daughter of our Heavenly Father, whom he has given to me as my eternal companion. . . .
"In behalf of our family, we thank literally the millions who have prayed for Mother during trying times. We thank her personal attendants, her nurses and her doctors who have so solicitous of her welfare. We thank the Brethren who have been so kind to her.
"Yes, God bless the memory of our mother, for her teachings, for her example, for her testimony, for her love of the Kingdom, and love of children and love of Dad.
"In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."
|Subject:||Re: Even in death, funeral reminders of the Cult of Mormon Obedience|
|Date:||Aug 06 01:24|
|Considering your grandmother's devotion to the
church, wouldn't she have been honored by the remarks?
I read in the biography of Ezra Taft Benson that while he was on assignment in post-war Europe, their baby daughter was critically ill with pneumonia, and Flora was exhausted due to caring for her and getting so little sleep. When Pres. J. Reuben Clark called her bishop to ask what compassionate service the Relief Society could render to her, he learned that she was a member of the R.S. pres herself. He then said, "How much do you think one woman can take? Release her."
For some reason that particular story stands out in my mind.
Do you recollect her making any comment about that situation? Maybe I remember the story so well because I was amazed that the powers that be actually recognized the limitations of one woman.
|Subject:||Sure, she'd be honored. That was her identity, as defined for her, and the only context in which she would be able to judge her personal "worth."|
|Date:||Aug 06 01:26|
|I don't recall her ever personally referring to the
episode you mention from the book. She was viewed almost as a superwoman
in our family and so the tendency was not to emphasize Benson
|Subject:||My grandmother McConkie's recent Mormon funeral...|
|Date:||Aug 06 02:22|
|Great topic Steve. My grandmother McConkie died
recently and her Mormon funeral was outrageous. The last speaker was the
Stake Patriarch, an old-time Mormon who didn't hold anything back.
During his hour-long talk, he said among other things:
- Those in Davis County, UT that who don't vote to re-elect my Uncle McConkie (who is also in his stake) for County Commissioner "don't have the spirit." That would be funny if it were a joke, but this guy was dead serious.
- Mormons all have the same blood and "that's what makes us special"
- Prophet Heber J. Grant had a vision of heaven and there are only faithful Mormons there! That's right brothers and sisters, those who do not accept the gospel and adhere faithfully to the commandments go to SPIRIT PRISON where they "must suffer and pay for their own sins!" That line in the New Testament where Jesus tells the criminal on the cross they will meet in paradise is false doctrine. "Thanks to Joseph Smith, we know that was wrong."
- Nobody gets into heaven without Joseph Smith's permission. In addition to a testimony of Jesus, you have to have a testimony in Joseph Smith or you don't make it to heaven.
- Nobody at the funeral better be a "funeral mormon." You know, those Mormons who only go to church for a funeral. Mormons who only enter a church for a funeral "are not worthy of the Lord and will burn in his presence." Just imagine that brothers and sisters.
- The church is true because his horse helped him find his pocketknife when he was a kid. Imagine the power of the spirit, brothers and sisters.
This guy was in his eighties, the Stake Patriarch and a current temple worker. He would have droned on for over an hour but he said he had to end so he could make it to the temple on time. Thank God for that.
It took everything I had to sit and listen to that guy. Several of my cousins walked out. And after the funeral my TBM brother, who was sitting next to me, actually apologized to me for that guy's talk. "We don't all think like that," he said.
In my opinion, Mormon funerals are a total insult to the deceased.
|Subject:||Nothing like the great and abominable funerals of the "plugged-in"|
|Date:||Aug 06 08:26|
|My first cousin, by the way, married a McConkie.
What a combo. When their time comes, I'm sure the send-off will be
|Subject:||This was a ghastly "eulogy" -- but I must grudgingly admit....|
|Date:||Aug 06 10:14|
|To being moved by this small excerpt:
"Bonnie remembers when Mother turned down a White House invitation so she could attend her high school choir program. Bonnie later said, 'Do you know what kind of security and confidence it gives to a child to know she is that important to her parents? That she is loved that much?'"
Granted, there's the obligatory "Hooray for the Royal Benson Clan!" subtext embedded in that anecdote, but it's still a pretty sweet story. The central message of this "eulogy" was the need to be a dutiful Morg drone, of course, but the story recounted above shows that Grandma Benson's priorities weren't entirely skewed.
|Subject:||She loved her kids and it showed through the heavy fog of Mormon control. Too bad it couldn't have been a bright light of unconditional joy and acceptance. . . .|
|Date:||Aug 06 13:11|
|But in the Morg everyone, including your closest
family members, is measured against the word from the Mormon hierarchy.
And I don't care what anyone says in the Benson family (my father's claims notwithstanding), there was intense and relentless pressure to conform and perform. It was a matter of great concern to the Benson clan leaders that we all put our best foot forward, as we marched lockstep toward an eternity together in a family circle with "no empty chairs."
It was absolutely suffocating.
|Subject:||The Morg-ified Family (somewhat long)|
|Date:||Aug 06 16:41|
> And I don't care what anyone says in the Benson family (my father's claims notwithstanding), there was intense and relentless pressure to conform and perform. It was a matter of great concern to the Benson clan leaders that we all put our best foot forward, as we marched lockstep toward an eternity together in a family circle with "no empty chairs."
"Suffocating" is precisely the right word to describe the Morg-ified family, and in the case of "Mormon Royalty" it must be doubly so.
A few years ago I re-read a journal entry my Dad had shared with me. In it he described how he had decided to move our family from eastern Oregon to Rexburg, Idaho (at the time about 97% LDS) because he was concerned that I was "moving away from the Church" (I was 16 at the time).
By immersing our family in a nearly "Gentile"-free environment, Dad hoped (as he candidly explained) that my three brothers and I would be "caught in the flow and go on missions, get married in the temple, and do all the other good works without giving it much thought." Developing our own personalities, skills, opinions, and potentials meant far less than making sure we were firmly assimilated and dutiful Morg drones.
(Our relocation, incidentally, occurred at considerable household expense; we left behind a profitable Real Estate business and Dad wasn't able to build one in Rexburg, and we really struggled for our entire time in S.E. Idaho.)
Dad's a wonderful man whom I love and admire. But his entire mental horizon -- and sense of ethics -- are defined by the organizational demands of that damn church.
Here's an even better example. A few years ago I sat through a SacMtg. talk by our then-Stake President(someone who's pretty clearly on a G.A. track -- he's fortyish, telegenic, and a corporate V.P. with a slender, attractive wife)describing how he had posted a "testimony chart" in their family's kitchen. Each child's name was listed, along with various "testimony" subjects -- the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, "living prophets," etc.
"Each of our children is taught to pray for a testimony about each of these subjects, and as soon as he receives one he or she checks off the appropriate box on the chart," SP explained.
"Good grief," thought I, "this sounds like something out of Communist China or North Korea -- turning the family into a peer pressure-driven engine of conformity." If -- make that "when" -- any of this fellow's children begin to think for himself and have doubts, the SP can pull the "testimony chart" out of a file (oh, there will BE a file) and use it to indict his poor child: "See -- you HAD a testimony. What have YOU done to lose it?"
|Subject:||No empty chairs...|
|Date:||Aug 07 05:12|
|Wow, talk about pressure.
You are one brave soul Steve.
|Subject:||and don't forget the final stamp of the cult...buried in full temple clothes!|
|Date:||Aug 06 10:21|
|they can't keep their hands off even in death. Just
to be sure this never happens to me (if I die early or something) I have
made sure I'll be cremated. No chance of mason-wear for me...
|Subject:||Buried in a bakers hat|
|Date:||Aug 07 05:23|
|I haven't been in the temple since my mission (over
20 years ago), and have not attended church for most of that time.
Currently I want nothing to do with the church and think Joseph Smith
was nothing more than a very sly trickster. But I'm sure if for some
reason I precede my mother in death she will want to dress my dead
embalmed body up in a bakers hat and apron.
No Way! I think cremation is the way to go.
|Subject:||Steve, I am saddened every time I read an Obit.|
|Date:||Aug 06 10:38|
|They list the "callings" of the person, it
seems, from primary forward. Very little mention of what their life was
all about... their ideals, aspirations, goals, hobbies, dreams etc. Just
about the church. Survivors are usually mentioned almost as an
|Subject:||Funerals of the Cult|
|Date:||Aug 06 14:50|
|Here's a weird thing: the whole Packer-funeral thing
was literally the nail in my Mormon coffin. The thought that the church
was dictating what will and won't be said at my funeral was when I
determined that enough was enough. And this just happened this year,
though I've been inactive for 20 years.
|Subject:||I know what you mean|
|Date:||Aug 06 15:27|
|My brother's death was turned into one great big
long church service that lasted for weeks. My family was given tickets
up at the front of conference (I wouldn't go). My TBM sisters took my
brother's never-mo wife to conference. He was mentioned in general
conference by GBH and that's why he gave the talk about the war and
servicemen and all that. My sisters were so thrilled that was all they
could think about. Right after conference my TBM sisters took his widow
to temple square and one of them grabbed a pair of sister missionaries
to talk to her (they've always viewed his death as a way to convert
her). I was soooooo angry when I heard that. They had no right to
interrupt her grief with something so selfish.
The funeral service was mixed. A couple of nevermo's spoke and it was absolutely wonderful. They celebrated his life with tears and laughter. True friends and it showed. Then some guy from the quorum of the 70's stood up and gave his preachy sermon. It was horrible. All about church and this and that. I got up and walked out till he was done.
The difference between the most of the mo's and the never-mo's that knew my brother was stark. The never mo's you could tell, really felt the experience. Genuine love and caring. The mo's (including my TBM sisters at times) seemed so different. Colder. This experience was the final thing that edged me in to having my name pulled from the records after 18 years of inactivity. I would rather experience life with feelings and genuine love than escape them into a world of unreality, coldness, and escapism.
I've tried to be there to balance out the TBM influence on my sister in law. I'll never tell her what she should do but when my sisters get preachy, I always throw in a comment about how I feel about things. I do it in Japanese so my TBM sibs don't know and start trying to refute it. She laughs when I talk to her. She doesn't laugh when my sisters get all preachy. That tells me something.
|Subject:||Re: I know what you mean|
|Date:||Aug 06 16:17|
|Mike that is so sad about your SIL. Why can't they
leave her beliefs and her culture alone for crying out loud. I have a
friend who is Oriental (I don't want to be more specific) she is also
TBM (I can see her garment lines) but NEVER mentions it and lives her
Oriental culture to the hilt! If it wasn't for her garmie lines I
wouldn't know what, if any, religion she belongs to. She is sweet, funny
and a good friend, I would hate to see them change her to their views.
|Subject:||It's really sad|
|Date:||Aug 06 17:33|
|Even my TBM sisters have gone from being bright,
funny, lively, people growing up and have turned into morgbots. I wish
it hadn't killed their personalities. I'd hate too see it happen to my
SIL. Even my brother never tried to convert her. No pressure whatsoever.
He just let her be who she was. It ought to be that way for everyone...
Death seems to bring out the worst in the Mo's. You see a lot of stories about it on the board...
|Subject:||My sister's funeral|
|Date:||Aug 06 18:16|
|When she died, she wasn't TBM, I wasn't TBM, nor
were my brother or father. But because it was in Utah, and we were
(except me) nominally morgbots, her funeral was held in a ward chapel,
presided over by a bishop or some high council man or something, prayed
over by stepmother's relative who was a high councilman or something, a
real mo production.
We were all devastated at the time. She was only 20 and had been killed in an accident. She had had a real messed up life, real hard knocks, born just as my mother completely broke down into almost total mental illness, taken in by one family, then shipped off to live with my father, then kicked out of the house by my father and stepmother. Not a very stable life, then dead at 20. It was awful, like watching a train wreak, and nothing we could do being just older than she was. (I was 9 years older and a student at the time.)
So then here's this morgbot funeral, like . . . what?
The thing I was going to say was that all the penishood prayers and talks and whatever left me totally cold, just numb, sitting there thinking when is this idiot going to shut the f*ck up.
But when the girls group, her friends sang "The Rose," I just fell apart. They knew her, she was that brassy and out there, like Bette Midler, and her name was Rosemary.
It was her.
Anyway, she would have been 43 tomorrow. Happy Birthday.
Morgbot funerals. Who needs them. At least when my grandmother died, her funeral was in the mortuary and my stepmother gave an eulogy that was totally about her, completely capturing the independent and strong woman she was. No men allowed to speak.
|Subject:||20 is waaay too young to die...|
|Date:||Aug 07 00:52|
|so sad. rosemary. makes me think of that song,
"love grows where my rosemary goes" I LOVE that song. It's
It seems sometimes like the best get taken and also have the hardest time living. I don't know why. It doesn't make sense to me. But I see it happen. My brother was 5 times the man I am. I don't know why. I just struggle...and it all seemed to come so naturally for him.
|Subject:||I'm sorry about the loss of your brother|
|Date:||Aug 07 09:25|
|Mike, I'm sure your brother was a good man. Your
life will be forever marked with his imprint.
Please don't beat yourself up, though, thinking he was better than you, that he should have lived instead of you.
I've been there, thinking not that my sister was better than me, but that she should have lived because I was older and had more chances and should have saved her and on and on. I'm told it's called survivor guilt. I honestly believed she should have lived and I should have died.
It's very, very difficult, losing a sibling. No one can understand that until it happens to you. And when the sibling is younger, I suspect it's particularly hard.
No easy answers, I know. I'm just sorry your brother died.
We had a little break in the pain when my niece, who was three when her Aunt Rosemary died, named her first child Rosemary last September. It took away some of the flinch -- much of the flinch, in fact -- when we heard the name. Replaced some of the pain with joy. But even that takes time.
|Subject:||Funeral of my mission president's wife|
|Date:||Aug 06 17:45|
|I attended the funeral of my mission president's
wife two years ago and had many of the same feelings after the funeral.
All that was really spoken about her was her devotion to her husband and
to the church. It was as if she didn't have a personality or an
identity of her own. While some TBM women my lose their own identities
to the church, this lady really didn't.
I knew her better than that, having worked with her in their family business for three years before my mission, and for about six months in the mission office in Toulouse France where she took a complete hands-on participation in the business end of mission dealings. She was a brilliant woman who was the brains behind her husband's business. She finished high school and entered college at age 14. She could multiply two three-digit numbers together in her head. She did NOT really like being stuck in France for three years on that mission. She wanted to be back home with her friends, children and grandchildren. I had a number of conversations with her in France where she opened up about things like this with me, but they could have never been discussed in front of her husband.
At her funeral, virtually nothing was spoken of her own unique accomplishments that were unrelated to the church. It was nothing but exhorting here and preaching there...being nothing much other than a support to her priesthood bearing husband and rearing her children stalwartly in the church. Her oldest son at the time was in Europe himself a mission president and did not come home for the funeral. None of the other five children, who were in attendance, spoke. The mission president son was designated to be the spokesman for all the children wrote a speech which was read by a grandson. It contained no personal experiences about his mother...only more church bullshit and preaching. It was sickening.
|Subject:||Morgbots aren't allowed to talk about the deceased in funerals anymore...|
|Date:||Aug 06 17:56|
|The First Presidency of Divine Dictatorship sent a
memo to the wards saying that funerals are to "teach the plan of
salvation" not to talk about the dead person.
They've decided to own every aspects of their lives even beyond death.
I'm sure the was a lot more to your grandma than sitting on the porch. Too bad they don't allow people to celebrate the life of the individual person.
|Subject:||What?? All the church wants to do is erase the individual. n/t|
|Subject:||Re: Even in death, funeral reminders of the Cult of Mormon Obedience (edited)|
|Date:||Aug 07 01:50|
|First of all, I want to give my condolences to
everyone who has had such an experience as this one. Second, I'd like to
share my own. My mother, a TBM, died when a couple weeks shy of my 13th
birthday. Her funeral was turned into a three-ring circus. Over a
thousand people showed because she was heavily involved in the church,
PTA, and because she had tons of friends in general. (My TBM grandmother
actually insisted that my nonbelieving father delay the funeral for
several days so that random people we didn't even know could make it.)
However, it really did turn into an attempt at converting people. She
was buried in an open casket, despite the fact that cancer had ravaged
her face and body. She was almost unrecognizable. But she was wearing
her temple garb, which created a great opportunity for us to explain to
people what the hell it was she was wearing. The eulogy, while heartfelt
in some places, focused entirely too much on her church involvement as
though that defined her. Sadly though, it probably did. (As most of you
know, one of the most cultish aspects of the church is that it
necessitates that true believers make it their life.)
It was also extremely insulting the way everyone said to me, my three siblings and my father that God needed her more than we did. So much for Mormon family values. They must not mean much if an omnipotent God suddenly needs a housewife and mother more than her rather large family does.