Helping Hands – “Bringing The Mormon Church Out Of Obscurity” & Corrupting What Is So Pure!

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The primary objective of the LDS Church in running the ‘Helping Hands’ service projects was very clearly stated by the General Authorities when I was a bishop. It is to “bring the Church out of obscurity.”

Or in other words, it is a recruitment drive.

Whilst a TBM bishop I would not let my ward members wear the Church Helping Hands tabards when doing service projects.

I disagreed with the main objective of the Church Helping Hands programme being to “bring the Church out of obscurity”, & I was vociferous about my objections with the ward PEC & even with the Stake Presidency.

(Was I sowing seeds of personal Apostacy even then…?)

I believed that any service we performed should be as the Saviour outlined – anonymous.

I believe service given for the express purpose of advertising one’s good works taints the pure love of those involved.

I think it’s one’s personal motives which matter most when performing acts of kindness & service.

The problem we had in our ward with the Helping Hands programme was we were already doing lots of service projects, mainly with ShelterBox providing emergency shelter & provision for disasters worldwide.

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The prominent local community & civic dignitaries knew & recognised our contributions in these worthwhile service efforts.

Our efforts were not boasted about, but done because we wanted to help those who were destitute. We didn’t do it for recognition or reward.

Yet the Church General Authorities came to the members asking for us to primarily do it to “raise the Church out of obscurity!”

I personally, along with my brother David, felt it would taint our pure service efforts & we would lose the respect of the town civic dignitaries. This was confirmed when one of the town councillors made a remark in that regard.

Contrary to what the Church authorities were telling us, the less public recognition we sought for, the more respect we actually got!

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I understand completely what the motives of the Church are because as a bishop I was trained to implement the programme, but I objected to the suggestion that Mormons need to promote themselves as being kind and caring.

As a Bishop I was very much in favour of my Ward members being involved in service projects outside of the Church. Several of our members were individually occupied in voluntary service on a regular basis already, and had been for many years. But we organised large collective Ward projects on a frequent basis in local community service projects as well so that the whole Ward could be involved together as a unit. I have to admit that other Ward members, like the High Priests Group Leader, were far better at organising these service projects than I was, mainly because I was new to the area & had very few local contacts, & I was kept so busy setting up my new podiatry clinic whilst serving as a bishop with a young family of four young children.

As a Ward we were getting noticed by local community leaders and politicians for our service, and frankly, when they made favourable comments about us I was slightly embarrassed, because being noticed for doing good works felt more pure when we were doing it anonymously.

The Stake public relations officer wanted us to get our names and photograph in the newspapers so we obliged by begrudgingly having our photograph taken, but I felt it detracted from the pure act of doing service for service’s sake.

Then we were asked by the General Church Authorities to wear the ‘cheesy’ Helping Hands tabards with the Church name and logo emblazoned on them and for me and some other members it was just too much. I immediately said “No! Our Ward members will not wear them.” It felt so wrong to be making ourselves stand out from the crowd and be noticed for doing good works.

I even wrote to the Stake President about my concerns and discussed my feelings in personal priesthood interviews with him. He agreed with me that anonymous acts of service carried out by Church members was far superior to shouting about it and trying to get noticed. I firmly believed that Jesus had told us to avoid publicity for acts of kindness:

Matthew 6:1-4
1. 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.

2. 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. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

3. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

4. That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

So it seemed offensive to me to be trying to do the opposite of what Jesus taught. In my mind I believed that God would reward us, as a Church, for following His son’s instructions, if He thought we needed any blessings for our service. But actually, at the time we didn’t look for any recognition or reward. Our motives were purely altruistic in nature.

But the General Authorities specifically said that the primary purpose for the Helping Hands service projects was to “bring the Church out of obscurity.”  Not ‘love others through service’.

Now I sincerely believe my Ward members sole purpose for doing anonymous service was out of a pure altruistic love for others who were worse-off than themselves. Their love was pure!

Making them wear cheesy promotional tabards to tell the world about our service was crass and unnecessary. As was proven when a local political leader said to us, “I really respect you Mormons for doing service without shouting about it for publicity.”

I was so pleased that I had not allowed our Ward members to wear those tabards.

Why would any organisation need recognition for their good works?

Surely any person or organisation which desires recognition for their acts of service has an insecurity complex and needs the attention and adulation of others to compensate for something lacking in their own self-perception.

If the ‘Helping Hands’ programme is not a recruitment drive then is it evidence of something worse?

Does the victim mentality or persecution complex still exist amongst Mormon leaders? Is there a need to feel recognised and praised to overcome a self-perception problem?

In my mind and many others, including community leaders, any effort to gain publicity for acts of service goes against the concept of altruistic love and kindness.

Unfortunately for the Church there is no other way to spin this.

On another point, as a bishop I found that the Church members who were doing the most community service were those on the fringe of activity in the Church who also had the weakest testimonies of the Church. Not because they loved others any less than those who had stronger testimonies or who were more committed members, but because they had more personal time to give to others.

In a twisted weird way the most committed Mormons had the least time to give to others outside of the Church. I myself as Bishop was busy 3-4 nights a week plus many Saturdays and every Sunday and had very little extra time to do other service projects. I didn’t even have much time for spending with my own family.

Tragically the whole Mormon Church lifestyle is very focused on serving the Church. Yes, people put lots of time and effort into service projects, but the vast majority are serving the Church itself as opposed to non-Church related projects.

It seems that the Mormon Church tries to replicate society in such a way that members do almost all their socialisation in Church. The Mormon lifestyle is very isolated from the rest of society. Set apart from, and, in its own words, “peculiar” to the rest of society. Introverted and very self-serving.

Having left Mormonism I now find I have so much more time on my hands to spend with family and friends, as well as serving the community at large in service projects. I’ve enjoyed becoming a part of the bigger community of people where I live. Where I’ve actually found people have more time for others, are often more authentic and natural in their social interactions, and have no ulterior motives like trying to get me to join their Church.

I’ve been amazed at the number of truly altruistic people there are outside of the Mormon Church, who have so much more understanding and empathy for others than I ever imagined as a True Believing Mormon.

The world outside of the Mormon Bubble is actually more bright,  cheerful and caring than I was ever led to believe by the Church.

And all those wonderful people I now meet are not seen by me as prospective Mormons!

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Previous blog post on this subject:
How the Church hijacks the normal human tendency for compassion

This entry was posted in Mormon Issues, Religious Epiphany, TRUTH. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Helping Hands – “Bringing The Mormon Church Out Of Obscurity” & Corrupting What Is So Pure!

  1. robert bridgstock says:

    Ditto, absolutely — I felt the same way about service projects and always had that sneaky feeling that so many aspects of ‘reaching out’ were to ‘promote’ the church… so much more about PR than caring.

  2. Good Will says:

    Dear Steve,

    Your criticism of the LDS Church using public service opportunities to “show case” who Mormons are — rather than what Mormons do — is somewhat cynical, but not entirely misplaced. Those who participate in these programs wearing tabards are hardly patting themselves on the back. These service opportunities are very limited in scope and duration. Not much to be proud of! The LDS leadership is not using them to say: “Hey, look at us, the Mormons, and all the good work we’re doing!” rather it’s to say “Look at us! We’re Mormons! We don’t have horns or three wives in tow! We’re just like you!” The Church, indeed, is endeavoring to come out of obscurity.

    That being said, the Church is in danger of becoming the proud, trumpet-blowing hypocrites you condemn, doing works not for love of others but to be seen of men. Your admonition is well taken.

    Steve, I know you are a happy non-Mormon / secular humanist / atheist now and that you attribute your former faith in all things LDS to personal delusion, peer pressure, a fixation on feelings, self-reinforcing rationalizations…any number of things! (And if I forgot to mention several more, please forgive me! That’s not the focus of my comment here.)

    I have discovered a truth you may have overlooked: the Book of Mormon and the LDS Church (as originated) were true, but the Church today has fallen under condemnation and disbelief. The present religion is largely apostate, all but a shadow of its former self. The gifts of the Spirit, including revelation, are all but non-existent in the Mormon faith today, both among its membership and its leadership. Marriott and Wal-Mart are virtually as “inspired” as most things “Mormon” nowadays, operating under the same “corporate” structure and “business plan”.

    How is this possible? How could the Church “fall away” as it has? Weren’t we told the prophet would never lead us astray? That the priesthood would never be taken again from the earth?

    For starters, we started baptizing children at eight years old — to get and “keep” them in “the faith”. (How “Catholic” of us!) But many of those same children — like the children at the time of King Benjamin — never fully repented of their sins or called upon God in mighty prayer. Consequently they didn’t receive the gift of the Holy Ghost nor the baptism of fire (because they didn’t follow the necessary steps — see 2 Nephi 31-32). Consequently, they never fully embraced the “true” gospel nor had divine evidence of its truthfulness. (I imagine you were in the same boat. You were “too busy” serving in the Church!)

    The rolls of the Church today are filled with such people. The pews are filled, mostly, with cultural Mormons who keep coming largely because they sense the “good” associated with Mormonism and haven’t been exposed to enough “bad” (yet) to get them to stop coming. (When the government starts killing Mormons for endeavoring to meet together on Sundays, then we’ll see who truly has a testimony!) Consequently, the body of the Church, by and large, operates under a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.

    You left the Church because it wasn’t true…and you were right! The true gospel of Jesus Christ wasn’t being taught or practiced in your local congregation, despite your best efforts to find and live it. We LDS have embraced the philosophies and traditions of men, mingled with scripture. I can’t fault you for vomiting that up. It is powerless to save.

    But you were wrong in concluding that the priesthood isn’t true, that the ordinances aren’t true, that the Book of Mormon isn’t true. (Let’s not argue anomalies, historical evidence or “scientific facts” today, okay? We can do that another day.)

    But you ought to consider (if you haven’t already) Denver Snuffer’s blog. I’ve linked to the first post here. Click on newer posts (at the bottom left of each post) to advance. There is a wealth of inspiration to be found there.

    The truth is, Steve, you are right about many things. You were right even about the deficiencies of the “gospel” you were practicing and the leadership you were following. But you ought not throw out the baby with the foul bathwater! The gospel comes with its own tools to save — to reveal to you Christ, personally — independent of the organization set up to conduct the Lord’s “business” affairs.

    Like I said, Denver Snuffer’s blog is a treat, a real eye-opener and a mind-expander — for those who aren’t “too far gone” or “too far over the edge”, I imagine. In fact, I wonder how influential any blog would be upon one such as yourself, even from a man who claims to have had an audience with the Savior Himself. You really ought to look into it. I would appreciate reading your response, after you’ve done so.

    Just to let you know, I’ve been reading DS’s blog for more than a month now…and I’ve only reached August 2010! You would not be doing yourself any service by skimming through the posts. They are worthy of your — I would say prayerful — consideration (if I thought you believed in prayer). However, without prayer — without humbling yourself to the dust in order to receive the promised blessings — I doubt that you can benefit. Consequently, I doubt these words will persuade you.

    • SteveBloor says:

      Dear Good Will,

      thanks for your well considered comments. I appreciate your generous kindly intentions.

      I have considered the prospect you profer.

      I am, as you rightly suggest, disinclined to believe in any God at the moment.

      However, here is a thought for you, which you may have already considered too.

      If there is a God. And also a Lucifer who opposes Him. If Lucifer is the Great Deceiver we’ve been told about, is it possible that he is deceiving the Mormon Hierarchy & membership into believing that the Mormon Church is God’s Church, but actually Lucifer is in control?

      When Mormons talk about freedom to choose & agency on the one hand, yet contradictorily also enforce Obedience as the First Law of Heaven, is it possible they are just falling into Lucifer’s plan to take away agency?

      The Church uses mind control on the members by inculcating fear, guilt & shame by promoting phobias, biases & prejudices. This is possibly what Lucifer would do to limit people’s freedom to choose freely.

      Undue Influence is a tool of con-men & manipulative men, & has been for thousands of years.

      Could Lucifer possibly be in control of the Church in such a way that people just wouldn’t realise?

      Best wishes,
      Steve

      • Light says:

        Lucifer is a Great Deceiver. He’s certainly deceiving you.

      • SteveBloor says:

        That’s kind of you to say so!

        If he’s such a great deceiver it could possibly be that the leaders of the Mormon Church have been deceived and are leading the members astray.

      • Good Will says:

        Dear Steve,

        I’ve recently finished reading Passing the Heavenly Gift. If Latter-day Saints would recognize the truthfulness of the claims made in that book they would be well on their way to understanding why you now believe as you do. I have nothing but compassion.

        I recommend the book for your consideration.

  3. Brad says:

    Matthew 5:14-16: 14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

    • SteveBloor says:

      Brad,

      You’ve got to be kidding right??

      You wouldn’t be trying to assert that that verse justifies Helping Hands, would you?

      Please say you’re either joking or taking the piss!

  4. Good Will says:

    Steve wrote: “It there is a God. And also a Lucifer who opposes Him. If Lucifer is the Great Deceiver we’ve been told about, is it possible that he is deceiving the Mormon Hierarchy & membership into believing that the Mormon Church is God’s Church, but actually Lucifer is in control?”

    You are making my point. Read DS’s blog in regard to your statement about the devil being in charge. (In fact, read all the posts regarding 2 Nephi 28 to get the gist of what Nephi prophesied regarding the modern LDS Church).

    • SteveBloor says:

      Good Will,

      I agree it’s an interesting premise. Especially for believing Mormons to contemplate.

      But it presupposes a belief in God in the first instance.

      When one considers Joseph Smith’s interest in the occult and folk magic, and the fact that he was convicted of fraud, as a Believer in God, one could perhaps imagine Joseph to have been totally deceived by Satan. With Mormonism the resulting outcome, with a false priesthood and false scripture too boot.

      In fact when one considers the association with Free Masonry and the superstitious rituals in the Temple it all sounds like a possibility to a believer in God.

      Which I’m not.

      • Good Will says:

        Apostasy of the modern LDS Church is a premise virtually no TBM would contemplate…and, yet, that is precisely the warning and judgment Nephi delivers to this people who are identified with the gentiles (D&C 109:60).

        Your pains and doubts and criticisms of the Church are justified precisely because the Church has fallen into apostasy, as Nephi warned it would. (See 2 Ne. 28.) Virtually all of those condemnations speak of the LDS Church — both now and in a coming day — not some gentile, pagan, Catholic or Protestant organization (as Mormons self-flatteringly suppose). Nephi condemns us who speak of Zion and say that “all is well”, when clearly all is not.

        And why? Because we have not taken seriously the Book of Mormon. We have not treated it as the sacred, truthful, exacting document that it is. Rather we have doubted or neglected it. Some have found it wanting for its supposed “preposterous contradictions” of “known” scientific facts. (You and I have both lived long enough to observe that man’s wisdom is often turned on its head and “facts” are often in error.) Only a few have read the book and put its promise to the test, discovering it to be a truthful work. Others, like yourself, who thought they put the promise of the book to the test, have misinterpreted “warm feelings” or “happy thoughts” as the promised “baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost” (which it’s not). Consequently, these people never “enter in at the gate” and do not have “what it takes” to endure.

        The audacity of Denver Snuffer’s blog (and his many books) is that he reiterates (what Joseph Smith revealed) that the blessings promised by the Book of Mormon and the gospel of Christ, in general, are received by obedience to the laws upon which those blessings and promises are predicated. Snuffer claims, as did many in the Book of Mormon, that repentance of all sin and calling upon God in mighty prayer allows one to pierce the heavens by faith and receive knowledge from On High, even an audience with our Savior.

        As I explained earlier, most Latter-day Saints have not done (and do not do) that. They have not “entered in by the gate…by the way ye should receive” (2 Nephi 31:18), probably because their leaders have not taught them to…probably because their leaders, by and large, did not teach them to, either, because they were cultural Mormons who “grew up in the faith” and did not receive the gift…because their fathers did not receive it. Consequently, the bulk of modern Latter-day Saints have not received either the word of Christ directly at His hand (by revelation, through the ministrations of the Holy Ghost) nor have they received the purging, purifying witness of the Holy Spirit as by fire, nor have they received the Savior Himself — because this ordinance has been “explained away” and ignored by the traditions of men. No one even expects anymore to receive the actual gift of the Holy Ghost at the water’s edge, by which the converted speaks with a new tongue and prophesies, shouting praises to the Most High.

        There are some Latter-day Saints (I probably fall into this group) who — because of the distractions and scorn of those inhabiting that “great and spacious building” (there be many Mormons there!) — wander off into forbidden paths and forsake that delicious fruit they once received. (Thank goodness for repentance!)

        Taking all these factors into consideration, the vast majority of Latter-day Saints today (including all those found on the membership rolls) have lost hope and have stopped coming to Church. They are no longer living the tenets of their “religion”. They have lost faith in Christ (just as you have) and they have discontinued receiving any further witness of the truthfulness of the gospel. In fact, they have lost even that which they had received (2 Nephi 28:30; D&C 71:6).

        Steve, let me be frank. Those who continue in “the way” receive receive more light and truth, knowledge and blessings, assurances and witnesses until they come to know, with faith unshakable, the things of God. What begins for many as “a feeling” or “a still small voice” progresses to miraculous manifestations of fire, visions, voices, heavenly gifts and even the witness of Christ Himself, who makes His appearance either in the flesh or by the power of the Holy Ghost. Those who have been bathed in His redeeming love — who have personally looked upon Him and have heard and seen and felt for themselves — will never forget the experience and, if they turn away from Him thereafter, completely, well, I think it’s fair to say that it would be better for them to have never been born.

        I wish you had pressed forward farther, brother (1 Nephi 8:21, 24, 30; 2 Nephi 31:20). You were so close! You could have come to know, by evidence undeniable, that He lives! Then you would have had charity and overlooked the sins, flaws and failings of others, who, likewise, walk in darkness, struggling to find the light.

        You now would be helping others come unto the Tree of Life instead of steering them away.

      • It is entirely possible that JS Jr. had ‘opened himself’ to something evil because of his interest in the occult, and the ease with which he and accrued adherents, cash and sexual partners seems to point to a possible deal with evil. If so you may like to consider that the Church that he described as an abomination might, in fact, be the true one.

  5. Brad says:

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
    Intimidation and mockery? Do you really have such a hard time with a different view?

    You spoke alms (charitable donations: in former times, money or other assistance given to people in need as charity) the sculptures you quoited talked about ALMs, donations, not works.
    Matthew 7: 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Without works being seen how can you tell who is good or corrupt?
    In fact good works is one of the ways you tell who is good. As for helping hands…don’t like the high vis stuff ether, but as for being wrong, I don’t think so.

    • SteveBloor says:

      I’m sorry about my first response Brad, but I tend to reply curtly to short and ambiguous comments.

      I am shocked that anyone would defend self-promotion by the Church, especially with that scripture which talks about letting your light shine before men by letting your works speak for themselves.

      Which is what we were doing as a Ward before the General Authorities asked us to advertise our works with Hi-Vis tabards so everyone could see who we were. The only purpose for which is to get good PR.

      As you say yourself, it made you uncomfortable. Funnily enough almost every faithful member I’ve spoken to is also uncomfortable about wearing the Helping Hands tabards because they don’t want to do the service project to get recognition, yet they defend The Brethren when the Hi-Vis tabards are criticised.

      Doesn’t that show that there are some underlying deeper issues at play here?

      The general membership have concerns which they cannot voice because they’ve made covenants in the Temple not to speak evil of the Lord’s Anointed. They feel they cannot question or criticise anything from the Church Hierarchy for fear of losing their eternal salvation.

      I’m so glad I’m now free to question and act according to my own conscience without fear of reprimand or loss of Church privileges.

      Incidentally I discovered the Hebrew word for Alms is tzedakah – literally meaning righteousness, but commonly used to signify charity – refers to the religious obligation to do what is right and just.

      So the the passage I quoted from Jesus is referring to doing your good works of righteousness in secret, rather than to be seen of men.

      Makes sense to me. And most probably to you too.

      Best wishes,
      Steve

  6. Robert Billings says:

    That is exactly how I felt about it. Thanks for your blog.

  7. Pingback: Are Our ‘Helping Hands’ Clean & Pure? | Steve Bloor's Blog

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