Breaking Down Personal Boundaries in the Mormon Church
Subject: Breaking Down Personal Boundaries
Date: Aug 22 10:52 2004
Author: bob mccue

Steven Hassan ("Releasing the Bonds - Empowering People To Think for Themselves") and others have pointed out that one of the hallmarks of a cult is that it breaks down personal boundaries, thus making the cult member easier to control.

The Mormon Church is not as bad as many cults in this regard. Some force all assets to be turned over to the cult, facilitate the rape of cult members, control who they have sex with, etc. Note that at times, the Mormon Church has done some of these things, and others that would put it high on a cultish scale of 1 to 10. I would say that at times during JS and BY's days it was a 9. But now, it is more like a 6 or 7, in my view. Still serious, but it is easy to find many that are much worse. The big difference now is that a high degree of cult behavior is not required to be Mormon. That is what the Church tries for, but if it fails you are not kicked out. There is a lot of pressure, however, to either conform or lie about it. I am not sure which is worse.

The idea behind breaking down personal boundaries is that a person can be trained to believe that their scope of human autonomy is relatively small, and that they should hence do what an authority figure tells them to do. This works well for the authority figure because it enables him to appropriate the time, energy and assets (to one degree or another) of the believer. This is why cults break down personal boundaries.

From the individual’s point of view, the breaking down of personal boundaries creates all kinds of confusion. For example, as noted in the easier thread just noted and one titled “This is the last message from me you will ever see here!”, people who have been trained to submit to authority are more chameleon than others. They tend to define themselves by what the group, or authority, under whose influence they fall requires. They are “obedient servants”. This is part of what Nietzsche called the “slave mentality”.

In terms of the concept of freedom, the leadership justification for this idea can be traced to Plato and his philosopher kings (the wise few who had the duty to guide the masses by misleading them if necessary because the masses could not guide themselves). In more modern times, Rousseau came up with the idea of a “higher self” that exists within all people, and that wise leaders who "understand" the nature of the higher self are justified when they mislead, coerce etc. the masses in order to help them find and bring forth their higher selves, which coincidentally always occurs when the masses obey the will of the leaders. It has been pointed out that these two ideas – that of wise leaders who have the right to mislead on the basis of their understanding (and the masses misunderstanding) of the nature of the “higher self” and the behaviour required to bring it forth, has been the hallmark of ever despot and authoritarian religious leader throughout history. And so it is with those who lead the Mormon Church.

With that intro, here is what I would like to do on this thread. I think it would be helpful to make a list of the ways in which the LDS Church breaks down the personal boundaries of its members. Those of us who have loved ones on the “inside” can use this information to help them (as opportunity permits) to understand where they are losing their autonomy, and to make more conscious choices as to what they will surrender and what they will not.

Here is my favorite – the rule that after making love a couple was required to put their garments on before falling asleep. I understand that there was a time when many Mormons understood that garments were required to remain on while making love. I still shake my head when thinking about the extent to which LDS Inc. controlled my behavior.

All the best,


Subject: This is a vast and elusive topic.
Date: Aug 22 11:35
Author: Cheryl

It makes my head spin to think about it.

One basic way the Mormon Church wormed it's way into my head was inserting the idea of the ever present HG being on my shoulder day and night. I always found that a spooky thought to contemplate. There was an imaginary someone monitoring every minute of my life, every decision, every action, and every idea that popped into my head.

It's empowering to build a sense of knowing my ideas are mine and my decisions are just that, mine. I can take responsibility for them and not worry about everything I do being a black mark to be used against me for eternity.

Subject: Re: Breaking Down Personal Boundaries
Date: Aug 22 11:36
Author: Peter Doubt

Getting a phone call for a "PPI" (personal Priesthood interview) appointment.

There is no escape from the checking up. (As long as you are a member).

Subject: "Never say no to a calling, etc." You have no right...
Date: Aug 22 12:05
Author: Yup. Yup

to your own needs, use of time, personal desires. They know best, not you.

Subject: Word of Wisdom; No Rated R Movies; No Playing on Sundays; >10% of Income
Date: Aug 22 12:20
Author: Namaste

And No Missing Church on Sundays. .

I was in a bishopric mtg not very long ago at all and the bishop was talking about a newly baptized member who had not attended the week prior. He said, in a rare moment of honesty and revelation: "I know we don't like to see ourselves as a cult, but in some ways we really are like a cult." I laughed out loud. The bishop, smiling himself, encouraged the EQ pres (or Mission Ldr) to be sure that the new member makes it to church the next week.

Subject: Various negative behaviors I had to get rid of after leaving:
Date: Aug 22 12:18
Author: Doug

1. If you meet a good non mormon person, you think, wow, they'd be a great member of the church. I need to figure out how to get them in the water. But if they're not interested, they're not really as great as you first thought. All non members are in a lower category. They're not pre-ordained and special like us.

2. Sexual repression: woman are not to be looked on as sexual humans. You should have respect for them and hold them in high regard and control your sexual thoughts and actions. Don't be physical until you've dated a long time and then perhaps give them a kiss. Making out and close physical contact are to be avoided. Mormon girls who are too physical are to be avoided. Marry a girl you respect who is spiritual and an achiever.

3. Have a lot of children and have them early if possible.

4. Once you're raising a family, don't spend your time with a lot of hobbies and personal things such as worrying about your appearance, clothing, etc. Focus on raising your children, reading scripture and doing your job in the church, attending the temple, etc.

5. We are the chosen ones. All others need to join our group. In the last days, the Jews will become Mormons.

6. Polygamy is a true, celestial principle, but we aren't worthy to live it at this time. We just don't have the faith that early members had and God will bring it back, but probably not in our lifetimes.

7. No one knows when the second coming will be here, but it's probably fairly soon.

8. Don't study or read anything that gives a negative slant on our religion. It's disrespectful and negative. What good can come of it?

9. The greatest honor (although, of course I certainly wasn't worthy and it wouldn't happen to me.....but, maybe it would) to be chosen as a leader in the church and maybe....eventually....(I would never tell anyone that I thought I had a chance)....general authority.

All of these things really did cause me to lose my autonomy. I was a typical guilty, believing, young parent stuck in a weird, controlling culture that took away my freedom to really do and believe as I wanted to believe. It was very frustrating.

Subject: Where I live now there are 2 "one true Church"s: RC, and Lutheran. . .
Date: Aug 22 12:18
Author: winter

They know very little about Mormons, and they seem uniformly flabbergasted by two aspects of Mormonism - mandated underwear, and being told which ward one must attend. They may think the WoW is a bit goofy, but not being able to choose undies or place of worship is just beyond the pale.

And RC and Missouri Synod Lutherans are not exactly high-liberty organizations either, but not even they can comprehend giving up that much personal autonomy.

Also, LDS Inc NEVER wants to know what you think of something. Either you are simply lectured to (General Conference is a good example, where there is no confering at all) or you are quized to see if you know the right answers. "Wrong" answers are not welcome.

Democratic processes in the wards (votes to accept new leaders, votes on ward budget) have been completely done away with, or perverted into "votes to sustain".

The seizing of independently owned Relief Society property, programs and publication by the Lee administration (I think it was Lee) is a specific example of how LDS Inc squashed boundaries with the Correlation Program.

Then there are the obvious control mechanisms - control of how you look (hair, earrings, tattoos, sleeves, length of shorts, garmie lines to be in-crowd), what you can eat and drink, particularly in public, control of what you can do on Sunday in public.

And control of missionary lives is a whole sub-genre of its own. No email, how, when, and with whom you can eat, being psychologically chained to someone who is instructed to rat you out, and simultaneously being the co-rat. You are also required to testify repeatedly to people who may change their entire lives based on your testimony, making you in a sense responsible for what happens to them.

The way you are ostricized and pressured if you draw outside the Mormon lines is another blurring of boundaries. Insiders feel justified in saying things to those who stray that they would never say or do to anyone else.

Children get the message in spades that you don't love them enough to want to go to the temple and be sealed to them, or baptize them, or attend their wedding, etc. The problem is portrayed as your selfishness. You become a punching bag for trying to live a life of integrity WRT your non-belief.

The grand-daddy of all boundary breakers is the TR interview, though LDS Inc has taken steps to keep it from getting totally out of hand. OTOH, LDS Inc has made sure that temples are conveniently available to all, so they can be pressured to have a TR.

IMO, this general disregard for psychological boundaries is why there is such hyper-regard for physical boundaries (can't be alone with (fill in the blank) under (next blank) circumstances), and why there is so much sexual abuse in Utah families. The underlying message, especially to male leaders, is "you're going to be a god, so boundaries don't apply to you, like they do to lesser beings". People like the Lafferty's just take this message to its logical conclusion.

Enough rambling.

Subject: would this count? being peer-pressured to submit to a total stranger who dabs oil on your groin?
Date: Aug 22 12:32
Author: Langdon

I was just discussing this 'Naked-Touching' (initiatory ordinances) on another thread, so it's on my mind.
See #366 Naked Touching in the Temple?

I'm not sure if this really fits in with the point you are trying to make, but it does smash through a very important wall of personal boundaries that we are normally taught to put up.

I think that "getting naked and letting a total stranger touch you" is a violation of normal personal boundaries far more horrendous than confessing sins to a partial-stranger.

Talk about being pressured/coerced into blindly submitting to authority, the complete surrendering of your common sense just because someone you are supposed to trust tells you to.
This really sets the stage for the entire sheeple mindset of denial, of "It may not seem right to me, in fact my instincts tell me this is totally fucked-up, but God's ways are higher than my ways and I must trust and obey even if it contradicts what the church has taught me about chastity and modesty."

Obediently submitting to the initiatory ordinance -- like a lamb to the slaughter -- is merely a reenactment of the Abraham sacrificing Isaac myth (which story is another Cult/brainwashing classic). It paves the way for us to surrender reason, trust authority, and submit obediently to what you don't understand or what seems wrong.

All, bow your head and say "Baaahaaahaahaah." That will do.

Bob, sorry if I digressed off from what you are getting at here.

Subject: Not too much that's more personal than your groin
Date: Aug 22 12:36
Author: Nightingale

Heh. I think that's a great example, Langdon, not a digression at all.

I still can't believe I could get to that point as an adult, that I would submit to NAKEDNESS (even though the missionaries promised on their word of honour there was no nakedness in the temple).

Fortunately, there wasn't a lot of touching involved in my case - I like to think THAT would have finally freaked me out enough for me to get the heck out. (But I'm not sure).

Subject: Yes. Naked touching in the temple
Date: Aug 22 12:51
Author: síóg

I never took out my endowments -- lucky me.

But it sounds like there's real boundary violations there: Naked Touching in the Temple?

Subject: It sets up men as absolute authority figures and invades your personal space
Date: Aug 22 12:32
Author: Nightingale

The Mormon church sets up (untrained) men as "judges in Israel" who have leadership positions and authority over members.

It is relatively easy to get religious people to accept a hierarchy of leaders and followers. It makes sense that in most groups there are leaders and followers, to promote order and work toward goals. Biblical imagery likens church members to sheep in need of a shepherd, a man chosen by God to lead them.

In Mormonism, the idea of personal revelation is emphasized and the practical application is that every decision has been handed down by God and made known through personal revelation to leaders (such as who to choose for callings, where to send someone on a mission, etc.).

If you accept the (patriarchal) hierarchy of leader/followers, their God-given authority and their Holy Spirit-driven revelations (on your behalf) you are very likely to submit not only to their leadership but to their will also.

Once people **give up their will to another, thereby becoming submissive, that is a major factor in getting them to conform and obey, I believe, and I have experienced this myself. You get in the position of agreeing to follow, submit and obey and then you are more likely to accept things you may not have otherwise. This could be where people stop thinking things through for themselves and just "blindly" follow and obey (until, hopefully, somehow they awaken).

At this point, even as an adult convert with experiences in life and various other churches, I could find myself obeying the summons to the bishop's office for an interview (something new in my comprehensive church experiences) and could readily accept his "spiritual authority" over me. I was uncomfortable and shy when he began to ask me very personal questions in the temple recommend interview but I didn't question his right to do so nor did I refuse to respond (other than by keeping the discussion general as much as I could).

So, a relative stranger, male, could ask me (single female) about my underwear ("Do you wear the temple garments 24/7") and question my specific sexual practices (e.g., "Do you engage in oral sex?") and I would accept his right to do so. Compound that submission when the SP, even more of a stranger, asked the same types of questions and I still submitted to the interview, even though feeling very shy, but only in exmo retrospect being alarmed and outraged by it.

This is all reinforced by repeating the experience over and over and over, at least once a year, if not more often (for repeat temple recommend interviews, when you are given a calling - or two or three - and if you happen to have a problem or other need).

The Mormon intrusion into one's personal life and psyche reminds me of a boyfriend I had once. I was very fond of him in many ways except that he would frequently ask me, "What are you thinking right now?" and he would get upset if I didn't immediately and completely disclose my own thoughts to him. I didn't know why he did this but found it uncomfortable and intrusive and knew I couldn't live with it. I felt the same discomfort with the Mormon church. They want to know what you're thinking. There's something abhorrent in that.

**Submitting one's will this way, in mainstream Christianity - in my experience - is reserved only for your interaction/relationship with Jesus Christ. In Mormonism, it morphs into handing over one's will to the church and its leaders. This is one reason why Christians (and exmo Christians) see a huge gap between their own faith and Mormonism. The emphasis is different (at least at the church level; it varies by individual). In one, everything is the church, the church, the church and in the other Jesus Christ is all. That's not the same focus at all.

Subject: It's amazing to me...
Date: Aug 22 12:58
Author: Deenie, the dreaded single adult

...that I, who was always (while growing up) such a strong-minded, "do-it-my-own-way" kinda kid, wound up in this church...

I guess the fact that I, essentially, joined as a teenager, wanting to become an 'official' part of the group I was hanging around with, is the key. Teens are much more vulnerable with regards to "join the club" mentality.

It's also amazing to me to realize the amount of things that I simply *did not do,* the entire time I was in the church, because I did not want to have to 'confess' anything to the bishop. I made darn sure that nothing I did would come under the 'having to confess' category, because I knew I would never do it.

With that in mind, I'd say that the church had a LOT of control over me & my actions; my personal barriers were, apparently, smashed to the ground...


Subject: I rate it a 9 or 10
Date: Aug 22 13:04
Author: bnaur

Because I actually do not know of any other cults that are worse, then I rate the Mormons at a 9 or 10 on the cult scale.

The list of controls the church uses to break down personal boundaries is vast (too many to list conclusively) and they have an arsenal of weapons:

1) Conformity to wearing garments is required and checked.
2) Expectation of attending the Temple after (not one but) two interviews to make sure you are "worthy".
3) Guilt trips, like saying "are you sure?" after temple recommend questions.
4) Tithing Settlement Conformity
5) General Activity and an army of "saints" who will check on you if you miss church (conformity required).
6) Control of sexual practices between a husband and wife in the privacy of the bedroom (no porn, no sex ed material, no oral sex, no masturbation, a timer for how long until your garments go back on, etc.)
7) The church keeps a public eye and one must constantly be on the look out for "the appearance of evil" by fellow saints who might turn them in for not conforming to every standard. One person got turned in for using beer boxes when he was moving.
8) PPI interviews and callings where you are measured by strict performance standards and high expectations to conform to the church. This also puts an authority over you and a heirarchial structure of power to which you must comply or be out of standard (or apostate).
9) You may not question or denounce any church teachings. The thinking has already been done, making us the sheep that must follow the leader.
10) You are told to be better than Christ by not drinking wine. You are controlled in what books you can read, music you will hear, thoughts you must remove, scriptures you must study and what times you must pray.
11) Sacrament is used as a control method, do something wrong and you will be denied even if you go and repent, Christ's blood is not sufficient to pay the price for immediate forgiveness... you must suffer the punishments (of "love") the brethern impose.

So much more...

Subject: Scientology; Boston Movement Ch.ofChrist; Jehovah's Witnesses; Christian Scientists; Unification Church.....
Date: Aug 22 13:24
Author: Langdon

Yes, there are other cults that are worse than the Mormon Cult, some far worse.

In fact, I'd rate many of the fundamentalist apocalyptic Pentacostals (e.g., Benny Hinn, etc) as worse than Mormonism.

But that's just my opinion, your actual mileage may vary, taxes and tags extra.

Subject: YOUR wedding? Nah.... we have the detailed rules......
Date: Aug 22 13:31
Author: mad mom

1. We will determine who can attend the ceremony .
2. We don't care if your parents or family members can't attend.
3. We will tell you what your wedding dress will look like.
4. We will alter or cover your wedding dress if we like.
5. We will fit you into our schedule for your special 15 minutes.
6. We will tell you the room and the time.
7 We will tell you what jewelry you can wear.
8. We will tell you what old stranger will marry you.
9. We have the correct wedding vows.

Subject: very little wiggle room
Date: Aug 22 13:38
Author: Helen

bob mccue wrote:
I think it would be helpful to make a list of the ways in which the LDS Church breaks down the personal boundaries of its members. Those of us who have loved ones on the “inside” can use this information to help them (as opportunity permits) to understand where they are losing their autonomy, and to make more conscious choices as to what they will surrender and what they will not.

The polarized us- versus-them mentality, i.e. the Mormon Church is the Only True Church and the Mormon Priesthood is the only authority to act for God on the earth.

I believe it this very polarization that doesn’t permit one to set their own boundaries and still remain a member in good standing. To make conscious choices as to what they want to surrender and what they will not often leads to dis fellowshipping or even excommunication. Very little wiggle room in that Church to set your own boundaries.

It’s a shame based Church. Shame on you if you dare think different. Shame on you if you dare ask questions. Shame on you if you don’t want to go on a mission. Shame on you if you refuse a calling.

Just my MOO

Subject: The belief that if something goes wrong in your life, it's because of sin.
Date: Aug 22 13:42
Author: PhantomShadow

One of the sadder examples of this was a member of my parents' ward. He and his wife had gone on a trip with several LDS couples. The only place they could find to stop for a cold drink was a bar. They all went in and ordered 7 Up. A few months later, the wife was diagnosed with brain cancer. I could not believe how this man beat himself up with guilt. "We're told to avoid the appearance of evil," he would moan to anyone who would listen. It was bad enough that he lost his wife, and sad that he punished himself so.

Even though I've been out of the church for many years, this kind of guilty thought popped into my mind after my son died. The thought came to me that perhaps if we'd stayed in the church--Steve would still be alive. Now I can recognize that this makes no sense, and can banish such thoughts as being a throwback to my early training.

Along similar lines, I would add the emotional punishment that some parents subject themselves to when their adult children leave the church.

Subject: “Funerals are opportunities to preach the gospel – not to reminisce about the deceased…” 

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