Inappropriately Intimate Worthiness Interviews of Children

Due to the international and UK media attention this week on the grossly inappropriate interviews of children by Mormon bishops, I feel I need to share my thoughts and feelings about this based on my own experiences as a bishop for 7 years in Helston, Cornwall.

I have very serious concerns about the interviewing techniques of the Mormon clergy.
This is a very interesting and disturbing subject which is bound to cause a lot of concern with public bodies like social services.

Here in the UK we’ve recently had a major scandal with celebrities committing sexual abuse of minors. They got away with it because of the authority the celebrities commanded and the youths themselves didn’t think anyone would listen to them if they spoke out against these celebrities.

I think there are two major concerns in regards to this problem. One is the abuse of ‘God-given’ authority, the other is regarding the use (or abuse) of undue influence or mind-control measures by the Church.

I think the whole concept of the authority which a bishop commands is a grossly indecent concept. I don’t think it’s right that any person should have any authority over another in God’ s name. I personally don’t think anyone should come between an individual and God. As soon as a man thinks he has authority from God there is inequality and discrimination. Let’s face it, the man who believes he has authority thinks God is inspiring him to act and therefore has God’s permission. What a way to build false confidence! And those who are under the Bishop’s authority regard him as being led by no other than God Himself!

That’s way too much authority for any man to be entrusted with.

When I was a Bishop my Stake President regularly and forcefully reiterated the message that I was called of God in the same way that the Prophet of the Church was called of God. That the mantle of my calling meant I was privileged to receive revelation on behalf of the Ward and therefore my counsel should never be questioned except by him as the Stake President. ONLY the Stake President was allowed to question my thoughts and ideas as the Bishop. He taught the Ward members that I was called to be like the Prophet to them. In fact a member of one of the Quorums of Seventy came to a special Stake Conference Priesthood Leadership Training meeting and told us the same thing, adding that my counselors and other PEC members should organise the work in the Ward in such a way that Bishops have the time to focus on receiving revelation for the Ward.

With that sort of power over the minds of others, who is going to openly question the Bishop’s interview techniques. Not the vulnerable youth, or even the parents for that matter. Not only that, but there is a specific promise which temple-going members make not to ‘speak evil of the Lord’s annointed’. Even if there was a concern, faithful members dare not speak up for fear of being disobedient to that sacred covenant. They are told time and time again that ‘Obedience is the First Law of Heaven’, and even if they disagree with what a priesthood leader says or does, and even if that priesthood leader is actually wrong to ask them to do something, that being obedient will bring the Lord’s blessings in spite of that priesthood leader.

How will the Stake President ever get to hear of any wrong doing by a bishop if no-one feels they can complain?

I know of one case where a sister did make a complaint against a bishop/branch president regarding his inappropriately intrusive and sexually abusive questionning of her teenage children, which she believed amounted to grooming. Her complaints were not believed by most priesthood leaders because she herself was only semi-active. However, her complaint was eventually investigated and believed because other people too, including myself as a Bishop, had major concerns about his leadership style. When confronted by the Stake President he became very angry and moved house out of the Stake boundaries. The Stake President was rightly concerned that his abusive leadership style could eventually hurt someone so wrote to the Area Authorities about his concerns. Unfortunately even the Stake President was considered to be mistaken and his concerns were considered irrelevant & misjudged. So the man was recalled as a Bishop in another part of the country. Basically because the Area Authorities believed their own personal revelation (from God) about this man was superior to the previous Stake President’s advice.

When it comes to my other concern, undue influence or mind control, it is endemic in religion and particularly in a more dangerous and subtle way in Mormonism. Using natural sexual urges and behaviour as a means of causing guilt and shame is a very useful and well-used tool to control the membership. We are right to be shocked and disgusted by the Church leadership’s focus on masturbation etc. in conference talks, Youth Sunday lessons, and interviews, but it is endemic and I believe is going to be very difficult to change.

That doesn’t mean I think we shouldn’t try, in fact quite the opposite, I think we should try to expose this dangerous practise for what it is.

As a bishop and ‘Judge in Israel’ (though only a Common Judge) I felt it my burden of responsibility to ascertain whether the member being interviewed understood the recommend questions, particularly when the member is planning to visit the Temple. So quite often the Law of Chastity had to be explained to teenagers and even adults. I would ask open-ended questions.

I don’t always blame the individual priesthood leader. I personally felt the pressure to ask deeply probing questions in order to ascertain the worthiness or otherwise of the members, in preparation for what I considered very spiritual and sacred ordinances. I believed that my searching questions, designed to illicit feelings of guilt, would provoke the interviewee to confess their sins. I did this with the best of intentions, in order to assist the member in the cleansing process of repentance so that they could feel the spirit.

However, I do realise several teenagers I interviewed were very uncomfortable with the questions I posed. And I’m now sorry about what I put them through.

The problem is that as a bishop you have no way of knowing whether a young person understands what living the law of chastity actually means in a very practical sense, unless you ask them. If they are too embarrassed to say, then as a bishop you feel obliged to probe further with more questions.

I was trained to increase the feelings of guilt by my Stake President.

As a bishop I was trained to ‘help members repent fully by encouraging their sincere contrition & humility using carefully selected scriptures which increased their feeling of guilt & shame. This included verses from the story of Alma the Younger’s repentance story in the Book of Mormon during his visit from an angel.

As well as using lots of pregnant pauses where I would just sit with the repenting member in silence to help their self-introspection & encourage confession of sins. We were taught to stay silent for long periods of time, as long as 15 minutes if necessary, to increase the emotional pressure on the member to confess.

Of course, after confession I would show forth an increase in understanding & compassion towards the individual on behalf of God & the Church. The members were nearly always so grateful for my expressions of support & empathy.

I regret my involvement in this totally manipulative process now & see out as a massive form of mind-control.

This is partly what drives me as I try to undo the harm I did as a bishop in this process.

Of course now I understand things very differently and do not consider the Church should be prying into our teenagers, or adults, intimate personal affairs at all.

Asking young women (as young as 12 years of age) what they understand about the Law of Chastity is not appropriate in my mind. Asking them whether they stimulated themselves sexually is completely wrong too, but that is what I did. I believed I needed to help the teenagers be pure and clean and worthy to enter the Temple.

Asking young men whether they looked at pornography and if they did getting them to text me every day to report is again very wrong. But this is what we did.

The power of discernment’ played a very big role in my thoughts. At that time I thought I knew (I knew I knew) the innermost thoughts and intentions of those I interviewed.

I wasn’t taught to ‘pretend’. But I was taught in very strong terms to ‘know’ by the power of God the honesty and intentions of those I interviewed.

There really isn’t a whole lot of training for Bishops in interviewing techniques. Lots of strong reinforcement of the belief that Bishops are powerfully directed by God Himself. No-one can, nor should, question or criticize the Bishop except the Stake President. Bishops really do believe they are infallibly guided by God!

I had the audacity as a newly called bishop to ask if we were going to be trained in interview and counseling techniques during a bi-monthly Bishops training meeting. I received stern rebuke by my fellow Bishops who quickly asserted they had the power of God and the Power of Discernment to guide them and I was showing a complete lack of faith to even suggest we needed any training.

The Stake President did organise an hour of training by a counsellor from LDS Family Services which frankly was very underwhelming.

I did receive one-on-one training by the Stake President in how to humble members in interview situations to get them to confess to sins.

After a few years as Bishop we were told in a priesthood leadership meeting that no bishop should ask any deeply intimate questions involving sexual activity. The Stake President implied that if anyone had been involved in such questioning they were in gross error and it was the sole responsibility of the Bishop and not the responsibility or fault of the Church.

But we only heard this around 2009. At the time I wondered if someone had tried suing the Church for such behaviour. And obviously the Church was trying to place the blame solely with the individual Bishops.

Of course the poor Bishops are really left to their devices and with all the kooky authority they think they have it’s a dangerous situation.

In reality they are untrained and in the vast majority of cases completely out of their depth!

Most Bishops mean well, but feel obliged to push the members with probing questions in order to help the member purge their souls. We are taught we are Judges in Israel and as such are the gamekeepers to eternal blessings. We are taught that no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of God or the Temple of the Lord. So see our roles as catalysts for repentance, and assistants to the members in their path toward forgiveness.

Church disciplinary procedures are seen as assisting members in their repentance process by humbling the members, if necessary by removing privileges which have publicly visible consequences, like stopping members from saying prayers in meetings and stopping them partaking of the sacrament.

Helping members repent by public humiliation is seen as more important than respect of the individuals right to privacy.

After all we should all have “a contrite heart and a broken spirit!!!

” Shouldn’t we????!

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The Futility and Brutality of Mormon Excommunication


Only last week did I discover, through my parents, that I was secretly excommunicated in October for challenging the accepted dogma of Mormonism. The reason for being cast out of the Church is what they call Apostacy. Or “open, public opposition to the Church.” Basicly because I dared to challenge their authority and speak the truth.

Here’s a link to The Independent newspaper article about my Secret Excommunication.

I’m often asked, “why would anyone want to stay in an organisation they neither believe in, nor where they are welcome?”

Let me be clear, once I realised the Mormon Church was founded on the lies told by the convicted con-man, charlatan, adulterous paedophile Joseph Smith, I resigned as bishop and wanted to immediately resign my membership of this fraudulent Corporation masquerading as a religion.

I pleaded to stay as a ‘member of record’ initially for the sake of my extended family, many of whom are still believing members, but also to campaign to shine a spotlight on the hateful, regressive and medieval practice of excommunication.


I never stayed a Mormon for my own sake.

It was to shine a light on the unkind and deceptive tactics of the Church.

Their arrogance blinds them to their own deceipt and brutality.

When John Dehlin was excommunicated for standing up for the LGBTQ community my friend Ty Lundell very eloquently criticised the Church for what it did to him:

Stake presidents consider excommunication as a way of protecting the Church. Is it good for the church to excommunicate its thinkers, doers, and people brave enough to ask difficult questions and point out obvious deficiencies?

Putting the fear of eternal separation from God and family into its members isn’t right, and it reveals just how much fear and shame the Church is harboring. Putting this fear, the fear of having no love in the afterlife, into its members is not the solution for people who shine a spotlight on the Church’s dirty parts and ask, “what is this?”

Any institution that expells people who shine a light into the dark places of that institution and ask uncomfortable questions has a dangerous problem.

The Church is not coming from a place of love, but of fear and shame.

The Church has no love, because they have no faith in open dialogue. Only faith in controlling the message.

~ Ty Lundell

I believe in the ideas put forward by free-speech advocate Maajid Nawaz:

The right to heresy, to blasphemy, and to speak against prevalent dogma is as sacred and divine as any act of prayer.

If our hard earned liberty, our desire to be irreverent of the old and to question the new, can be reduced to one, basic and indispensable right: it must be the right to free speech.

Our freedom to speak represents our freedom to think, our freedom to think our ability to create, innovate and progress.

~ Maajid Nawaz

My reasons for standing up against excommunication are:

1. It is wrong in principle to try to expunge a person’s culture

2. It is wrong to try to silence free-speech

3. It is wrong to use fear to keep members under control

4. It is wrong to publicly shame someone for speaking openly about their different beliefs, or challenging the accepted dogma

5. It’s wrong for a wealthy Corporation to masquerade as a Church, getting charitable status & tax benefits and not be accountable under the law

6. It’s wrong to seek revenge against me for being named as a witness in a criminal case of alleged corporate fraud.

I believe that as caring secular societies we should fight against any organisation which enforces cultural and religious shaming.

We should stand up in defence of the most vulnerable in society including those who may question the prevailing dogma within their group identity.

As Maajid Nawaz says,

we should unhesitatingly support the dissenting individual over the group, the heretic over the orthodox, innovation over stagnation and free speech over offence.

Or, as John Maynard Keynes would say, to “appear unorthodox, troublesome, dangerous, disobedient to them that begat us”.

No idea is above scrutiny. No people are beneath dignity.

Taking the easy route by condemning the radical for causing unnecessary trouble is overwhelmingly tempting, and incredibly lazy.

~ Maajid Nawaz


I’m hoping my actions give people hope and courage as they deal with the feelings of isolation when their religious beliefs change and they are shunned by their own culture or religious community.

We must always oppose the tendency of religions to assume they have an entitlement to control and order and organise our lives according to their peculiar norms and traditions.

The LDS Church should be ashamed of the way it discriminates against those who think differently, of those who are unafraid to ask important questions and those who shine a light on its inadequacies and failings.

If we behave similarly we are colluding.

As Daniel Goleman says in his book ‘Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception’ –

The dynamic of information flow within and among us points to a particularly human malady: to avoid anxiety, we close
off crucial portions of awareness, creating blind spots (lacunas). That diagnosis applies both to self-deceptions and shared illusions.

Questions that can’t – or won’t – be asked are a sure sign of a ‘lacuna’. The creation of blind spots is a key tool of repressive regimes, allowing them to obliterate information that threatens their official line. In doing so they define one frame for events as valid, any others as subversive and still other events are beyond the permissible bounds for attention.

Frames create social reality by directing attention toward the business at hand and away from the irrelevant; what is out of frame does not exist, for the moment. For the most part, this selective attention is useful, but the capacity to keep information out of frame can fall prey to a collusion that buys social coziness at the expense of important truths. These collusions create lacunas, warping social reality to suppress unpleasant information.

The truth is replaced by silence, and the silence is a lie!

Chris Ralph Explains More Details About the Church Lies Leading Upto the Secret Excommunication of Steve Bloor

Posted in Free Speech, Humanism, Mormon Issues, Psychology, Religious Epiphany, TRUTH | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Appeal Following Excommunication or Secret Name Removal

President Paul Martin,

8th November 2015

Dear Paul,

Re: Excommunication, or Name Removal without express permission

There seems to have been some lies told in your behalf.

I’ve just heard this week via my parents that I’ve had my name removed from the records of the Church. Bishop Nelson Oliver visited my parents specifically to tell them the news of my ‘Name Removal.’

Now, either this is a big clerical error, or multiple lies are being told about me and my membership status in the Church.

I know from my time serving as bishop that clear policy rules are set in place to protect a member’s membership status.   A member’s name is only removed from the records of the Church by adhering to a strict set of rules, following a clear and unequivocal request for name removal originated by the member themselves. Never is it allowed for the Church leader to initiate that process independently. I recall the General Handbook of Instructions stating categorically that Bishops and Stake Presidents were not allowed to ask members to resign, nor to use name removal as a way to avoid Disciplinary Procedures where serious transgressions are involved.

I have clearly stated on multiple occasions, verbally and in writing, that I did not want my name removed from Church records following your requests for me to do so.

Yet I now hear from my parents that it has happened despite my desires to the contrary. And when checking the online membership records for confirmation the Church website says “You have stated that you are not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” This is a blatant lie!

The other possibility is that this so-called Name Removal is in fact excommunication. Having received a hand-delivered written letter from you inviting me to meet to consider “whether you should remain a member of the Church.” I asked Bishop Nelson Oliver, who delivered the letter, specifically if this was a Disciplinary Council. To which he replied very clearly with, “No. It is a meeting to discuss your membership in the Church.”

From the Bishop’s reply I was reassured that this meeting was not a Disciplinary Council. The Church’s own General Handbook of Instructions specifically states those words should be used when inviting a member to such an important meeting and as they were not used I was satisfied it was only a discussion.

Nevertheless I went to the trouble of writing to you to acknowledge receipt, stating that I consider your continued behaviour to be harassment, and if it continued I would report you to the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary for Religious Hate Crime. Which I did.

In that letter dated 14th October 2015 I reiterated very clearly my intention to remain as a member of the Church.

I have not received written confirmation of any decision taken with regards to my membership, which, if a decision was made, is very irregular and does not follow Church policy. 

In view of these queries I need answers:

1. Were Disciplinary Proceedings carried out on the 18th of October 2015 despite lies to the contrary.


2. Has my name been removed from the Records of The Church despite my stating this should not happen.

3. Further, I need to see minutes of the meeting held on the 18th October 2015 where you considered my membership. I also need the names of everyone in attendance at that meeting, as I will be asking each of them if they were aware of the purpose and type of meeting they were participating in. I do this in accordance with regulations about personal information under the Data Protection Act 1998 

4. And I wish to lodge an official Appeal to The First Presidency about these proceedings and my membership status, as they ultimately hold the Keys of Membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I firmly request that the First Presidency overturn the decision made about my Church membership.

Please forward me with a copy of your correspondence to the First Presidency, including any ‘Report of Church Disciplinary Action’ forms and other relevant documents, by Friday 13th November at the latest.

As you read this the media are being informed and I’ve been assured by them that they wish to follow the outcome.

Yours faithfully, 
Stephen C Bloor

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Former Mormon Bishop of Helston may have been secretly excommunicated for speaking publicly about issues in the Church


I’m in shock at discovering that I’ve either been secretly excommunicated in my absence, or my name has been removed from Church records without my approval in an effort to extinguish my cultural identity because they consider me an apostate.

The Mormons (or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) considers any dissenters in its ranks to be apostates and worthy of the worst punishment, eternal damnation. A fate reserved for murderers, rapists and child molesters.

Mormon leadership does not value free speech, even here in the mainly secular UK.

Once I resigned as bishop due to discovering that I’d been taught lies about the origins & history of the Church (set up in 1830’s Eastern United States of America by convicted fraudster Joseph Smith), I was set on a course which inevitably would lead to a conflict with the Church’s higher authorities, who do not value the members questioning either their authority or the narrative they teach.

The punishment for dissent by apostates is excommunication. There have been some very public examples recently with John Dehlin in Utah, who was excommunicated for publicly supporting the gay and lesbian community. And human rights lawyer Kate Kelly who advocates for equal rights in the Church.

It appears that if they have excommunicated me they have been very careful to try to avoid any media attention or publicity this time round.

I have had my name mysteriously removed from Church Records this month without either my knowledge or approval.

There is also suspicion that local Church leaders are only acting on instruction from the headquarters of the Church in Salt Lake City because another British Mormon man Chris Ralph has received similar messages from his local leaders. Both myself and Chris were named as witnesses by Tom Phillips in 2014 in a ground-breaking case of alleged corporate fraud against the Mormon Church President, Thomas Monson.

There is the possibility that this is a form of revenge attack on both of us. At that time the bishop of Helston Mormon congregation told me that the Church would destroy me for my actions in the fraud case against them. And Nelson Oliver, now the current bishop of Helston, sent me a message stating ominously, “Your days are numbered.”

Though I no longer hold many of the beliefs of the Mormon Church, it was my life for 46 years and the only culture I know. Over 50 of my extended family are Mormons including my parents.

Excommunication is such a terrible punishment for a believing Mormon that it is seen as a fate worse than death itself. In the Mormon belief system excommunication severs marriage ties and all other family relationships in the next life. It is the ultimate tool to sever an individual’s connection to their family, friends and culture.

With this action I believe the Church leaders are trying to extinguish my cultural identity. It is the ultimate form of tribal shaming. And just for being honest and speaking publicly about the historical issues. When I speak the truth they are fearful that believing members will also start to ask questions.

They have a right to feel threatened as the internet is allowing members to discover the truth about what really happened in the Church’s past. The Church is actually legally registered as a multi-billion dollar Corporation in America and is losing hundreds of thousands of members due to realising the truth is different than the Church has taught. And along with the members, the Church is losing millions in tithing receipts each year.

An issue which is of greatest concern to many in the Mormon Church is not whose doctrinal interpretation is correct and whose isn’t, but rather, is dissent tantamount to apostasy? And therefore deserving of excommunication!?

This question is of the utmost importance, because I believe it underpins the most basic of human character traits of integrity and authenticity.

Truth is paramount, and the ability to honestly and openly question without fear of repercussions is the beginning of discovering it.

Fear of the truth is a major impediment to authenticity and freedom to choose. Fear lies behind the actions of many Church leaders in trying to suppress free-speech.

In a time before the ‘age of information’ past Church leaders could value free speech.

“I admire men and women who have developed the questioning spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas and stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent – if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression. This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence nor any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.” (Hugh B. Brown, counselor in First Presidency, Speech at BYU, March 29, 1958)

“If a faith will not bear to be investigated: if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.” (George Albert Smith, Journal Of Discourses, v 14, page 216)

And other famous & respected men have promoted free speech & discussion:

Thomas Jefferson taught that, “However discomfiting a free exchange may be, truth will ultimately emerge the victor.”

English philosopher John Stuart Mill said, “Any attempt to resist another opinion is a ‘peculiar evil’. If the opinion is right, we are robbed of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth. If it is wrong, we are deprived of a deeper understanding of the truth in its collision with error.”

I believe in free speech without threat from those who should know better.

I loved the church because I believed it was true, not just because there was a lot of good in it. The truth was something I felt I possessed and truthfulness was, & increasingly is, something I feel is worth standing up for &, if necessary, sacrificing for!


Here is my letter seeking answers from from the local Church leaders and an appeal to the highest leadership in the Church the First Presidency:

Letter to Stake President Re: Appeal Following Secret Excommunication/Name Removal


UK National newspaper The Independent covers the story


My Reasons for Wanting to Stay on The Records of The Mormon Church

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Why the Mormons Targeted Children


By guest blogger Joseph A. Hollenbaugh

The leaked news of a new LDS Church policy denying church affiliation to the children of same-sex couples brought widespread reactions of shock, disbelief, and consternation.

The news spread quickly after a Church spokesman verified the authenticity of documents posted by activist blogger John Dehlin. The leaked documents instruct LDS Church leaders to generally disallow children of same-sex couples from formal affiliation with the Church.

Social media exploded with outrage and confusion at this policy, which apparently punishes children for the legal (but church-condemned) actions of their parents, in contradiction of basic church doctrine.

The most common question seems to be, “why?”

Why go after the children?

Is it simple hatred or gross prejudice? Is it some kind of legal game? What rationale can there be for targeting children?

I confess, my own first reaction was complete confusion. I have been associated in various ways with the LDS Church for more than fifty years, working in many roles with access to restricted information. I earned degrees in journalism and in law from BYU, and contributed to a text on Utah juvenile law. This new policy initially struck me as utterly out of character for the Church, and as a completely idiotic move. Unfortunately, I finally realized that it is neither; it is, rather, quite characteristic, and deviously clever from the perspective of Church leaders.

From its early days, the Church has never shied away from identifying itself with power. It proclaims itself a kingdom, the Kingdom of God on earth. Church founder Joseph Smith declared himself the mouthpiece of God, and stated that he alone possessed the power to bind the heavens. Church doctrine explicitly considers the Church as the exclusive repository of the authority required to reconcile mankind to God (see Articles of Faith 4 & 5).

The Church itself holds the ultimate power of determining who may, and who may not, obtain the most important of God’s gifts and rewards.

For believers, there can be no greater desire than to maintain “good standing” within the Church, which is tantamount to acceptance by God himself. To lose one’s place in the faith (or never to gain it) is to lose one’s place with God. It is the ultimate rejection, the ultimate failure, and the ultimate loss. Is it any surprise that Church leaders exercise that power fervently and jealously? And this late move against same-sex couples is simply that; a raw exercise of power.

You might say that is obvious, but to what end? Why this? But power needs no motive; it is its own motive. Yet the power to punish innocent children, or withhold “blessings” from them, seems entirely gratuitous on the surface. This policy, however, is not about punishing children. It is about exploiting children. Yes, exploiting. As in, using children as a means to an end. As in, using children as leverage to control the parents, and extended families, and the courts of the Intermountain West of the United States.

The use of Church affiliation as a means of control and coercion by Church leaders is nothing new, but the recent policy is a calculated and ingenious mutation of the practice. The Church has long used political and economic power to control its environment and membership. Yet political and economic power are trivial compared to the power over eternal reward or punishment for individuals and their families. The new policy brings all of these powers to bear and makes children the pawns in a devilishly intricate chess match.

How does that play out?

First, the policy is a pressure tactic.
By separating children of same-sex couples from the Church, the leadership places a burden on gay parents to remain in inauthentic traditional marriages. The social pressure to do so is already a heavy restraint on gay parents. Now, a gay parent who believes in the religion faces a new hellish choice – be controlled by the Church, or make your children suffer.

Keep in mind that for a believing parent, the imperative to have children receive baptism is a matter of eternal life and death. That parent can no longer decide for himself or herself alone; but also risks the eternal welfare of the child.

This is similar to the common criminal tactic of threatening a loved one in order to coerce somebody. The pressure expands outward to straight co-parents and to extended family. Those people can no longer adopt a tolerant stance toward the gay parent. For the sake of the children, co-parents, birth parents, grandparents, and other family members will be induced to exert tremendous pressure on gay parents. The message will be, either comply with the Church’s dictates, or if not, then yield your parental role and rights to the “traditional” parent.

The only way to truly understand such pressure is either by experiencing it firsthand, or by observing the pain and heartache it induces, leading even to suicide.

Second, the policy is a legal tactic.
It exploits the hyper-conservative legal culture in Mormon-dominated communities and states. In matters of divorce, the custodial arrangements for children are governed by the “best interests of the child.” With same-sex marriage now legal and endorsed as such by the US Supreme Court, local courts would be hard-pressed to accept an argument that a same-sex parent’s household, per se, weighs against the best interests of the child.

So the Church has provided a new argument, i.e., the same-sex household will harm the best interests of the child by interfering with the child’s religious affiliation and training. It is even conceivable that an interested party might argue that the child’s (or other parent’s) constitutionally-protected interest in free exercise of religion is being infringed by allowing the child to live with a same-sex parent.

Add in the pressure from extended family and the community, all arguing that the best interests of the child are being harmed by the same-sex parent, and judges will have a handy rationale for defying the legal acceptance of same sex marriage.

Can anyone doubt that a Church with a former state supreme court justice as a senior leader, is capable of such legal maneuvering? And especially when that leader, Dallin Oaks, has been at the forefront of the Church’s ongoing war against same-sex marriage rights?

The new, seemingly bizarre LDS policy targeting children of gay parents, when placed in this perspective, no longer seems gratuitous or simply hateful. Rather, it falls into place within the Church’s never-ending quest to control, coerce, and dominate individuals.

Exploitation of children, families, and the law in order to maintain its hegemony seems to be standard operating procedure for the religion that claims Jesus as its head.

Bio of Joseph Hollenbaugh:

Joseph has been involved with the LDS church for more than fifty years, having followed the church-prescribed path of baptism at age eight, priesthood ordination at age twelve, seminary graduation, mission at age 19, temple marriage, and a large, church-active family. His church service included serving in most ward and stake positions. He earned his degree in Journalism (B.A.) and Doctorate in Law (J.D.) at BYU. Joseph resigned from the church in 2005 when he felt unable to accept the doctrine of exclusivity and also church attitudes toward gender, race, and gay rights issues. He now works as a self-employed consultant and enjoys his quest to free himself and others from the burden of false beliefs.


Posted in Mormon Issues, Psychology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 163 Comments

How To Find The Real God!

Some people claim that science cannot demonstrate either that god does or does not exist.

Though this is probably true, what science can do is study the brain and its functioning – the mind.

In effect, the more we know about the human mind, the more we know about human beliefs. And that includes the neurological & psychological basis for human beliefs in gods.

As my brother says, “There are many different Gods — and the one which you believe is real, lives inside your head. That’s the truth!” ~ David Bloor

Just take a look at the way many different religions claim to find the truth about their version of God:

We know an awful lot about how the mind creates biases and emotions. We know that ‘belief in belief’ is a powerful motivator/demotivator for human beings. That includes ‘belief in anything.’ It doesn’t have to be God in particular, it could be shamanism. Or actually any god. Belief has an effect on the mind. And is itself a product of our minds.

There is plenty of evidence that belief in god or gods is hardwired into our brains.

Human minds are programmed for patternicity. In effect our minds are ‘belief engines’, evolved to recognise patterns that connect the dots and create meaning out of those patterns that we think we see in nature.

Humans also have an innate tendency to bestow the characteristic of agency onto the forces of nature and inanimate objects. To imagine other objects and beings are intentional agents and, using our inborn “theory of mind,” to bestow upon them the capacity to have their own desires and intentions.

This is called agenticity. It is the practice of imparting the patterns we find in nature with agency and intention.

This propensity to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless noise, combined with our patternicity and agenticity, means we form cognitive biases to believe in shamanism, paganism, animism, polytheism, monotheism, and all modes of spiritualisms.

God is the ultimate intentional agent who gives the universe meaning and our lives purpose.

The evidence which comes from evolutionary theory, behavioural genetics, and comparitive studies of world religions, all support the thesis that belief comes first and the reasons for the belief follow.

– (Paraphrased from Michael Shermer’s book ‘The Believing Brain’)

Beliefs can be categorised in levels of realism. Lower level beliefs – just believing that something exists as an idea. Or higher level beliefs – believing that the subjects of one’s beliefs are actual personalities or personages which exist in reality.

Personally, for me now, believing in any god is as useful as believing in Eru Illúvatar from Tolkien’s Silmarillion. He is the ‘One God’ of Tolkien’s fictional universe.

Discussing the relative benefits and problems inherently associated within that fantastical theological belief system can be interesting on an intellectual, probably nerdy, level.

To me, discussing the God of Christianity or Allah of Islam, or the relevance of Satan in our lives is of comparative usefulness as discussing the reasons the Dwarven race in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy worship Aulë, whom they themselves call Mahal, meaning “maker.”

In other words as useful as a fictional narrative.

To me all the religious gods of this world and fictional fantasy rate as lower level beliefs. I believe they exist as fictional characters, but cannot any longer believe they are real, as in a higher level belief.

Most people who believe in god/gods and Satan believe at the higher level of belief.

They have a firm ‘belief in belief.’

This ‘belief in belief’ is indistinguishable from ‘belief in god/gods.’

I think fear plays a massive role in people’s beliefs. Fear of the unknown drives people to believe in false positives. Fear of a fantastical character called Satan and supernatural forces like gods.

Instead of accepting reality based on the evidence, instead of believing that our lot in life is caused by choice, chance and circumstance, there is a natural tendency to blame a mythical third person, Satan, and plead for help from an equally fictitious superpowered being, God.

When really it would make more sense to focus on life right now, for ourselves and the rest of humanity.

One of the most powerful motivators to believe in supernatural forces, including gods, is that often people’s lives can be horribly tragic & painful. Life just doesn’t seem fair, and it is only natural to seek for answers to some of the most poignant questions like, why is there so much suffering in the world.

I guess for many people this one life does not have the opportunities we have, or the relative ease & peace of living in modern industrialised countries. Our life experiences may be vastly different from many born into poverty, or born into a criminal lifestyle. Some people just don’t seem to have much of a chance in life, right from the start.

My heart wrenches in pain when I see photos like this:


I find it nearly impossible to be happy thinking that God answers any of my own personal prayers about finding my lost car keys, or doing well in a college exam or business deal, whilst simultaneously knowing that the most important prayers being asked at that moment are being offered by millions of starving kids which go unanswered every day!!!

If God’s help is really this limited and discriminatory, then I prefer that He give it to people who need him about a billion times more than I do.

When I replace the word ‘God’ in every context where I previously used it, for example when reading the scriptures & saying a prayer, with the phrase, ‘my invisible friend in my head’, it all makes so much more sense.

Because everyone else has their own personal ‘invisible friend in their heads’ too, we are all answered according to our own needs, wants & desires. Except tragically these poor little children in Africa who are starving don’t have very powerful ‘invisible friends’.

It really sickens me that some people consider God to be all loving & all powerful, yet are not bothered by the massive amount of suffering God allows to occur to His children who are desperately clinging to life & pleading with their Maker to ease their plight. Whilst at the same time praising their God that he helped them find their keys or blessed them to find a parking space etc.

It seems the ultimate in self-centred narcissistic thinking!

Saying that “God’s ways are not Man’s ways”, and that “we just don’t understand God’s over-all plan for His children,” is a massive cop-out & allows so many atrocities around the world to occur & go on recurring without our active intercession & practical help.

It may be a way of coming to terms with our not being able to help, but let’s be honest about it, rather than blaming God.

In my experience it seems all to easy to accept dreadful human suffering & atrocities when we believe that this life is temporary & only a preparation for the next, more important ‘life after death.’

Belief in ‘life after death’ can also become an excuse for inaction, whilst real human beings are suffering in this ‘one life’ we know we have.

If everyone believed that this life is our one & only chance at conscious existence, maybe the world would be a safer, happier place to live? Certainly Islamist Jihadist extremists wouldn’t be able to die as martyrs whilst preparing for paradise if they believed this life is all there was.

I believe there is no overarching plan and purpose for life. We all have a life based on choice, chance & circumstances. Often not even as a result of our own choices. Most people’s lives are deeply affected by other people’s choices which affect them. For instance which parents we’re born to, and what type of upbringing we have, often set the stage for the rest of our lives.

In considering a purpose of life I just don’t accept there is any compelling evidence for there being any other existence for us besides this one. It may not be fair, or just. It just is!

It is up to us to make the best of what opportunities are available to us, & that includes education and opportunities to develop our minds, as well as what we do to ease the suffering of others.

As a secular humanist I believe very strongly it is our duty to help improve the lives of every single human being on this planet. To do our best to enhance the human condition so that everyone has the optimum conditions to thrive as a person. So everyone gets to choose their own life experience with the best opportunities for developing their talents and skills.

I think it is beholden to us to work towards this goal.

Belief in an afterlife is at best a distraction, at worst an excuse to squander it on preparing for a fantasy which might never happen.

So much time, thought, effort & money is spent on preparing for something which is just a hope.

I have no concern about receiving eternal blessings from a god, or avoiding his eternal punishments either. I think that if there is a god he would prefer we concentrate on this one life we’re living right now and on improving the life experience of all the inhabitants of this planet.

Any time we focus on an afterlife at the expense of this one we’re living right now we’re reducing our effectiveness in mortality.

Any belief system which idolises the afterlife is distorting our priorities. Some people would rather they or their loved ones died rather than change their beliefs. It is sickly tragic when religious beliefs are held in higher esteem than human life, but it happens far too often. It happens in many religions.

Woody Allen had an excellent point to make on this “IF GOD EXISTS, I HOPE HE HAS A GOOD EXCUSE.”

David Nicholls, president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, had this to say:

Woody Allen’s words encapsulate the thoughts of the freethinking community and the sneaking suspicions of a growing number of religious people as well. Considering the immensity of the unnecessary death, pain and suffering on the planet, an alleged all-powerful and all-loving god certainly has a lot to answer for.

Nicholls went on to say,

As far as all evidence to date suggests, the universe runs on natural laws with planet Earth just an insignificant speck in an unimaginably enormous cosmos. A god certainly needs to explain why, with such a mind-blowingly complicated system that can be understood using reason, reason should be dismissed in human affairs in favour of accepting answers based in delusion.

I’ve just discovered Ingersoll. My thanks to my friend Jean Bodie for introducing him to me.

I’ve never heard my own feelings expressed so beautifully.

How wonderful is this!?

“When I became convinced that the Universe is natural–that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light, and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world–not even in infinite space.

“I was free–free to think, to express my thoughts–free to live to my own ideal–free to live for myself and those I loved–free to use all my faculties, all my senses–free to spread imagination’s wings–free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope–free to judge and determine for myself–free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the “inspired” books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past–free from popes and priests–free from all the “called” and “set apart”–free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies–free from the fear of eternal pain–free from the winged monsters of the night–free from devils, ghosts, and gods.

“For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought–no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings–no chains for my limbs–no lashes for my back–no fires for my flesh–no master’s frown or threat–no following another’s steps- -no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.

“And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain–for the freedom of labor and thought–to those who fell in the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound with chains–to those who proudly mounted scaffold’s stairs–to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn–to those by fire consumed–to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still.” ~ Robert G. Ingersoll. (1833-1899)

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Parable of The Fake Doctor (or a reason Ex-Mormons reach out to Mormon friends)

This parable by Henry Lions explains the motivations of ex-Mormons, in spite of the Mormon Church leaders trying to disparage their actions by oft repeated phrases like “you have left the church, but you can’t leave the church alone.”

The Fake Doctor:
“A man goes to a private doctor who tells him he has a terminal illness. The doctor further tells the man that though the illness is incurable, he, the doctor, can treat the symptoms and keep the patient alive indefinitely, but it will cost. The price is to pay the doctor a monthly fee amounting to 10% of the patients’ income and to have a strict adherence to a diet and lifestyle plan prescribed by the doctor.

“Time goes by and the man marries and has children, the doctor then tells the man he has infected his family and that they too must now submit to the same course of treatment for life at the same cost.

“On his 40th birthday the man is in a car accident and while in hospital the staff demand to see his medication. A doctor in the hospital tells him the medication he’s been taking is actually only sugar tablets, and that he is perfectly healthy. The man will not believe the hospital doctor and demands that his private GP be sent for. The hospital staff then tell him no such doctor exists and that the man he is asking for is a convicted fraudster.

“Now, knowing that he has been the victim of a con, the man ceases paying the fraudulent GP and stops taking the medicine, as does his family. None of them die.

“When they confront the phoney Doctor, he tells them “it is a miracle and only goes to prove how effective his medicine has been.”

“The man and his wife decide to spend the rest of their lives discrediting the thieving doctor and freeing other people from his clutches. However, many fellow patients claim he has no right to do this as they insist they are happy to keep paying, and say they feel better for the pointless and expensive treatment. Plus they enjoy the company of each other and their fake doctor.

“So is it right to bring down the liar, or is it better to let people live in a happy dream?”

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As The Pendulum Swings: When Doubts and Questions Arise: A Response

I’m reposting an amazing response by a wonderful blogger Sheldon Kent to the Mormon Corporation’s latest attempt to stifle real rational thought & questioning.

Sheldon analyses the Mormon article from the latest March 2015 Ensign magazine & exposes the clever mental tricks intended to keep Mormons ‘just believing’, instead of discovering the truth.

Here’s an example from Sheldon’s blog:

Doubts do not destroy faith, hope, or the family. Lying does. Lying about the history of the church destroys faith and hope. A repugnant culture of being dubious of anyone who even attempts to question the the church, its doctrines, or its leaders destroys faith and hope. Doubting hurts no one, unless the things that the person is doubting are truth claims that have been revealed to not be truths at all.

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2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 82,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Are Our ‘Helping Hands’ Clean & Pure?


Having read this blog post recently (No Poor Among “Them”) from a former Mormon Bishop about how the Church treats the poor, I thought I would share this:

Letter written by myself as Bishop of Helston Ward to the Stake President expressing my ethical & doctrinal concerns about the introduction of the Helping Hands programme in 2007

Dear President,

My concerns: Are our motives pure?

Bruce C Hafen made the excellent point that:

“It is possible to do good works without love, but impossible to love without doing good works.”

I believe charitable works need to be done in the spirit of real love, not of wanting to gain acceptance or recognition. If carried out with the express purpose “to be seen of men,” then the goodness involved in the good works is tainted by these desires.

If charitable endeavors are done for the wrong reasons, then it is counterfeit love we are showing. In truth it cannot qualify as real charity at all, it’s a different sort of act altogether and worst of all, other people will identify it as such and our efforts to win acceptance and recognition will backfire, and at the least be in vain, or at worst give us a reputation for trying to gain favour and doing good things for the wrong reason i.e. “To be seen of men”.

By doing charitable works “to be seen or men” we will warp our perception of the world. When our actions are counterfeit, when we think we are doing our best, we are not. It is a form of self deception.

Not only will the public perception of the Church be that we only do humanitarian service for Public Relations reasons, but our own members will also realise that service for its own sake is not good enough unless it’s publicised.

I believe other people will not be taken in by our self-deceived, counterfeit actions. Sadly, I think we will gain acceptance and recognition for all the wrong reasons, and other people will rightly be suspicious of us. I believe they will interpret our actions in the wrong light and will say “The Mormons do charitable work for publicity!” And we can’t deny it, because it is the truth.

There is also a very real risk here of teaching our members, especially our very impressionable youth and Primary children the wrong message. Of teaching them that “to appear to be doing good is more important than actually doing good”. That, recognition for our actions is more valued than the actions themselves. We have always been taught by our Church leaders to carry out acts of charity in secret. We have continually been taught to do anonymous acts of kindness and “let not our left hand know what our right hand doeth.” This would seem to be right and good because firstly, the saviour himself taught this principle, and secondly it keeps our motives pure by not giving us recognition for the act from others.

(“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verity I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shalt reward thee openly.” ~ Matt 6: 1-4).

There is risk of devaluing the words ‘good’ and ‘kind’ by making them describe behaviour that merely appears to be good.

Shoud we not rather be encouraging genuine acts of kindness from our members!? Where, with hearts filled
with love, they receive promptings of the spirit to treat others considerately and to show their love by numerous acts of generosity, following the saviour’s example and not wanting, in fact even trying to avoid, recognition or praise for the good acts carried out on another’s behalf.

I have friends and relatives who are not members of the Church who would be appalled to think that the main reason we are organising ‘Helping Hands’ is to “Bring the church out of obscurity!” rather than to do good works out of pure love.

It is no use anyone now trying to say difrerently. I tried to rationalize away my bad feelings about this programme by saying to myself “maybe they have got the emphasis wrong and actually the main purpose is to do good works,” but I couldn’t get away from the fact that it is being led and organised by the Public Afrairs Councils in the Wards and Stake, and the main objective to “Bring the Church out of obscurity” was stressed again and again.

The other thing I am concerned about is the fact that we are not supporting ‘Make A Difference Day’ when we were the main single contributors of the event in the UK. What sort of publicity does this give us? Have the  implications of this programme been fully thought through?

Yours faithfully

Stephen Bloor

Outcome: As a result of my thoughts expressed in this letter I got agreement from my Stake President that members of my Ward could be exempt from wearing the Hi-Visibility Helping Hands tabards. We continued to offer service in the local community in the discreet way we had done for many years. In fact, a short while after this discussion with my Stake President, a local civic leader, who was totally oblivious to my concerns about the high profile Helping Hands programme of the Church, commented to our High Priest Group Leader that he respected our Church members for the way they gave service without thinking of recognition or reward.


I wrote another blog post on this in more detail 18 months ago:

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