Life as a Mormon
Excerpts of Ex-Mormon newsgroup Part 2

A continuing series of short topics from our discussion groups on Mormon life.

  1. "Hi, I am your home teacher," a.k.a. Invasion of privacy
  2. Mormon Priesthood abuse
  3. Baseball baptisms of the 1960s
  4. Teaching Blacks in South America prior to 1978
  5. Follow the Brethren


"Hi, I am your home teacher," a.k.a. Invasion of Privacy

Being raised in the church, I hardly noticed that my privacy was being invaded because it happened as a matter of course over the years. It wasn't really until I stopped attending church that I could stand back and say, "Wait a minute," and think things through a little.

At 8 years old, I had the usual baptismal interview (alone) with the bishop. At 12, it was an interview to go to the temple, and there were the usual "personal progress" meetings year by year as a teenager. And the interview for admission to BYU. So, growing up in the church, I was "conditioned" to let those in authority into every corner of my life, probably in preparation of doing so throughout adulthood--which is something I didn't twig to while in the church, trying to be an obedient little chicken. I was conditioned, year by year, to think it a *privilege* to be interviewed. Even the interview for getting the patriarchal blessing seemed a privilege, though in hindsight, that bit of Mormon Channeling should have been a service to me and I was made to feel I was privileged that God's Medium was talking to me. In short, it was never about *ME*. It was about living up to someone else's expectations.

I was conditioned from childhood on to take as gospel every suggestion whether it was doctrine or culture...meaning, in the scriptures or just part of Mormon tradition. You don't know it's dysfunctional and unhealthy until you're out of it--at least, I didn't. I *sensed* it at the Y when I was finally out of the "womb" (home ward) and surrounded by strangers. That's when I began having problems. As long as my stake president was also my dentist, and I baby-sat for the bishop, life was comfy. Those invading my life were family, so it didn't feel bad. But BYU...ugh.

Someone asked for BYU experiences. The first thing that struck me was walking around campus and having bright-eyed, hypnotized-looking fellow students say, "Hi!" to me like demented Barbie/Ken automatons. "Why are you talking to me? I've never seen you before in my life and never will again." The second thing that struck me was that, within three months, countless co-eds in Snow Hall (my dorm) had gone through candlepassings. Now, these are supposed to be terribly happy times (sort of like a variation on the intro credits to "My Best Friend's Wedding," honoring The Girl Who's Gotten The Gold Ring At Last), but for me they caused nothing but bewilderment. I was the daughter of converts, I knew next to nothing about the traditions at Temple Tech. I was there to get a degree, not to get engaged.

Anyway, a candlepassing occurs when the girl gets the ring. She tells her head resident about the engagement and a sign is posted on the door into the dorm saying, "Candlepassing tonight at 7:00," or whatever. At that time, all interested parties gathered in the common area upstairs. A candle was lit by the head resident, with the ring tied to the support. The lights were turned out, and the candle was passed from girl to girl until, after the suspense supposedly became too much, the girl blew it all and we all descended on her, squeeling our excitement and congratulations. After witnessing two of these things, I bowed out.

Other experiences. Being asked FIVE TIMES to marry someone I'd known less than a month. Five different guys. Shelving Ken Russell (borderline porn producer) books in the BYU library, and wondering why these weren't locked up as "Must ask to see" books, when the sweet little novel "The Dracula Tapes" were. (What, one's art and one's entertainment with fangs? Dunno.)

The constant bombardment of religious meetings--firesides and ward activities and charity performances (I sang)--in addition to the classes and workload (honors program) nearly did me in. At the same time, I was trying to pass self-taught math classes with little counseling as I hadn't time to go to the labs. It got to the point where just reading the BoM again for the required religion class made me sit in the middle of the bed and cry because I kept thinking, "I've read this on Sundays, I've read this in Seminary, I'm reading this now, I'll read parts of it again this Sunday, and hear parts at endless firesides and meetings until doomsday, but WHERE IS MY TESTIMONY!!!" I cracked under the pressure of everything, I think. Of being Mormon 24-hours a day at 17 years old, when 1) my father was telling me to get a degree in anything I wanted, 2) BYU tradition was telling me that didn't matter; what mattered was getting to the damned candle passing, 3) the church had me all of the time.

It was too much. It felt very wrong, and I can't even tell you all of the reasons why. I fled back home to Flagstaff and finished up at Northern Arizona University--much happier and more relaxed. No one ever asked why I came home: I suppose they assumed the worst. I didn't know to care at the time. With hindsight, perhaps they thought I'd been kicked out for immorality or something. But about the same time I went home, I stopped attending all meetings, and never went back. So...I suppose that going to BYU made me leave Mormonism.

For me, the upshot is that some people don't mind being told what to do every moment of their lives. Others do. The total invasion of my life finished things for me. In the end, getting married in the temple to someone I didn't love just wasn't worth it.


Mormon priesthood and abuse

As I see it, the Church has a number of problems dealing with these kinds of issues which are *inherent* the Mormon culture. The leaders and members are engaged in "magical thinking." They believe if they preach against abuse they have actually *done* something, when in fact all they have done is talk. But it allows everyone to feel better, which is exactly what should *not* happen.

 Mormons generally don't deal well with "difficult" emotions like anger and sexual arousal. They are taught to suppress them and pretend they are not there or are not there in the intensity that they are. At best you get the member who smiles while expressing anger in all kinds of indirect ways. (I wonder how many of the Church's policies and programs, such as Strengthening the Members, are also based on anger in the guise of "helping"? Check out how many of J.S.'s "revelations" are essentially "venting" and verbally abusing the membership in general if not someone in particular.) At worst you get the member who is "righteous" in public and beats the hell out of his wife or sexually abuses his kids in private.

Because the leaders suppress feelings and free discussion of troubles, they lack empathy and encourage a church culture that lacks empathy as well. This means that victims do not get a hearing and do not get protection. To think you could be threatened with excommunication for pursuing justice in the Church is outrageous. It means that abuse is more likely to occur. It is difficult to abuse someone you empathize with. It is also difficult to head off potential abuse by being able to talk in depth about anger and frustration.

These things cannot be discussed in secret. The culture of secrecy in the Church *encourages* abuse. The issues must be discussed and acknowledged publically and anyone who has been abused in the Church or by the Church *deserves* to be heard in public by the Church. For me, that might mean every once in awhile everyone sits through a very uncomfortable fast Sunday while a victim of abuse gets heard. It means that abusive members get help and are monitored by the entire congregation and the congregation shares responsibility for helping him change or for kicking him out. It means the congregation protects victims and helps rehabilitate (if possible) abusers.


Baseball Baptisms of the 1960's

... I would recommend as an absolute must read, the article by D. Michael Quinn: "I-THOU VS. I-IT CONVERSIONS: THE MORMON BASEBALL BAPTISM ERA," Sunstone, Dec 1993, Volume 16:7. We both served in the same London area mission, he from about late '63 to late '65 and me from Feb'65 to Mar '67. Basically what happened was the church in England and other areas of Europe, began a church sponsored baseball program to involve local youth. What began as an admirable way to involve youth and hopefully their parents, in intercity baseball leagues, deteriorated into a shameful quest for convert acquisition. Parents were being asked to sign permission slips to have their kids baptized and being told it was really nothing more than parental permission to play ball. This all took place primarily from the late 1950's to the early 1960's.

First pres counselor Henry D. Moyle, who was in charge of church construction and the missionary program, is generally credited with the program. Also it was, at least for a time, wholeheartedly embraced by the GA's. N. Eldon Tanner, then as ass. to the 12, presided over the French East Mission and all of the British missions at the height of the program. In Oct 1961 general conference, he stated: "We are baptizing enough new members every two months to create a stake of more than 2,500 people."

 The pressure on missionaries to achieve quotas, was enormous. Missionaries who had been hailed as an "Alma" of one month, were derided and publicly chastised for not being able continue with the same statistics. Young missionaries who had left home dreaming of being the source of a spiritual intimacy between God and some foreign convert, were being compelled to view converts as more of a commodity acquisition. The pleas of disenchanted young missionaries to their leaders that "...this isn't right," fell mostly on deaf ears.

 About 1963, the negative effects of the baseball program were becoming apparent and Moyle was relieved of his duties in the first presidency. He died "...of a broken heart as a result of it," according to his fellow counselor, Hugh B. Brown.

 When I arrived in England in early 1963, the baseball program had pretty much been dropped. We referred to the missionaries who participated in it as "'nipper floggers." Some though, such as Quinn, were left with what was for them a depressing and gut-wrenching task; ex-communicating hundreds of people while trying to undue a mess created by misled young missionaries who were only trying to be obedient the instructions of their leaders. For the genuinely idealistic, those who truely thought of themselves as an "instrument" in God's hands to bring some sort of eternal light to another's life, being cast as an executioner of eternal life, was a painful paradox of purpose.

These days, most of us who read these postings would welcome such an opportunity - and not without Damn good reason. But back then, when we were so easily convinced of the rightness of _The Church_, and the importance of our cause, we unknowingly allowed ourselves to be abused by those we trusted as being "inspired of the Lord." At least former sec of state McNamara had the backbone to admit his massive mistake in Viet Nam. Such admissions of error on not only this, but so many, many inaccuracies and flaws of the past, seem to be beyond the humbleness of the LDS leaders.

Teaching Blacks in South America prior to 1978

Does anyone have access to the "Lineage Lesson" published by the LDS church (in Portuguese) and used by missionaries in Brazil during 1975-77? I was a missionary in Brazil during this time and feel that this "discussion" will provided valuable insight into the pre-revelation doctrines on Blacks and the priesthood. [Blacks were allowed the priesthood in 1978]

 This lesson was printed by the church; it was not a mission publication. It was the same size (approx. 5X8) as the other discussions and had pre-punched holes and clipped in with the other discussions; I think it was printed on orange stock paper; each discussion was printed on a different color of paper. This lesson was known as the "Lineage Lesson" to those of us who spoke English.

 As I am sure you a aware, Brazil was an interesting place to be a missionary during 1975-77. I was the mission accountant in charge of accounting for the moneys received in the mission (we were a real mission at that time with branches reporting to us). I accounted for the money collect fro tithes and offerings and for money to build the temple. I was personally responsible for a 20,000 cruzerio contribution taken from money made in cashing checks for the mission on the black market. (This is what the prior mission accountant said I was supposed to do with the extra money.)

My mission president was Helio da Rocha Camargo. I loved the way he signed his name. He had a real problem with Blacks and the Priesthood. One day he ran into my office and showed me a picture of a Black man sitting at a desk. The picture was printed on newspaper and he had folded the top of the paper and the caption so I couldn't see anything about the paper or the man pictured. He asked me in an excited but very agitated voice, "Elder Oeste, Would you baptize this man? Would you even approach him to teach him the gospel?" I didn't know what was going on. He was very upset and I at first thought that he was mad at me. I said, "No President, I would only teach him the gospel if he insisted and would only baptize him if he was taught and accepted the discussion on the priesthood". You see, we could not actively seek out those who were Black or even partially Black and we had to teach the lineage lesson to those that insisted on becoming members. President Camargo recognized that I had given him the standard answer. He unfolded the newspaper, revealing a copy of the Church News with a picture of a new Bishop from Tonga. He then asked me, "How can this man be a Bishop when he is Blacker than most Brasilians?" He then told me why he was so upset. He showed me his hand. He showed me how the top of his hand was darker than the palm of his hand. He told me to look at his hair and notice how curly it was. He told me to look at his facial features. (These were the three areas we had been instructed to look for signs of being Black - Injo Africano). He told me that he didn't know his racial background for sure but he suspected he was partially Black.

I taught the lineage lesson once to the nicest elderly lady and her daughter. They accepted it and were baptized. I also taught it once to a young man who also accepted it. It wasn't that hard to teach or accept due to two factors: 1) women couldn't have the priesthood and we didn't teach about the temple so it didn't seem like it affected them, 2) most of our investigators where from a Catholic background where the average member couldn't have the priesthood either.

I am not really sure after 20 years what was in this lesson. This is why I am trying very hard to find a copy of it. I had it until about five years ago when I started to question my life-long faith. I threw it away, along with the other discussions both in English and in Portuguese and the notebook sized flip charts that went with them. I believe it described the condition at the war in heaven and described those of Black descent as neither followers of Christ nor as followers of Satan and as a result they were destined to be born as descents of Cain.

I really feel that this could turn out to be a very important document, especially in for future historians in understanding former LDS teachings.

Follow the Brethren

"Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes whether actively or otherwise, any pan or doctrine advocated by the prophets, seers, revelators of the church, is cultivating the spirit of apostasy. One cannot speak evil of the lord's anointed... and retain the holy spirit in his heart. This sort of game is Satan's favorite pastime, and he has practiced it to believing souls since Adam. He {Satan} wins a great victory when he can get members of the church to speak against their leaders and TO DO THEIR OWN THINKING."

 Ward Teachers Message, Deseret News, church Section, p.5, May 26, 1945

 When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan- it is God's Plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give directions, it should mark the end of controversy, God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost on e his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God."

 Ward Teachers Message, Deseret News, Church Section p. 5, May 26, 1945

 Always Keep your eye on the President of the church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, even if it is wrong, and you do it , the lord will bless you for it but you don't need to worry. the lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray

 LDS President Marion G. Romney, quoting LDS President Heber J. Grant "Conference Report, " Oct. 1960 p. 78


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