One of the most common responses we hear from believing members when we are at all critical of the history or institution of the Church is that “The Church is True, but the members aren’t.”
This is basically an ad hominem attack on the general grassroots membership of the Church.
I am now shocked at the way believing members find it impossible to see or comprehend that their Church could ever be at fault.
Yet I thought and acted the very same way as a faithfully serving Bishop when defending the Church.
What are some of the reasons for this?
I used to think that I had the truth and the Fulness of The Gospel of Jesus Christ, but that changed when I became more doxastically open.
Confirmation bias is a powerful influence over a believers mind.
“He that is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail.” ~ Abraham Maslow
Stepping back to look at the bigger picture reveals more than we can ever imagine.
It seems bizarre to me now as I look back at a Church I used to love, that I see people suffering from a belief system which causes fear, guilt and shame through the inculcation of subconscious biases, phobias and prejudices.
The evidence for this happening is obvious to all those who are neutral. Many non-Mormon friends and strangers I talk to about the Church comment on the irrational fear and bizarre attitudes of Mormons they know. They always add, “but they are lovely people,” after their comments about how deluded and cultish they are. Psychologists and cult-recovery therapists deal with the consequences of the fear-based belief system on a regular basis.
Tragically even the suicide statistics for young people in Utah who are LGBTQ are evidence of a belief system which is not helping human beings thrive.
We should be very wary of any organisation which tries to exert undue influence on its members by fear.
Most people in general, and those in certain organisations which use undue influence in particular, are not aware of the way their minds are being controlled. Most members believe they are free to think for themselves and strongly believe their choices are free-will choices, without ever considering the prior causes of their emotional choices.
There is a principle well understood in psychology called self-deception. It’s a process which our subconscious minds use to protect us from potentially painful knowledge or information. A form of confirmational bias.
The brain’s objective is to maintain a feeling of happiness & security. Our subconscious minds filter information which could threaten our sense of reality, mounting a defence by creating the ‘Vital Lie’.
This happens all the time in situations where it’s just too painful to accept the truth. Where neutral parties are able to clearly see the objective reality, we are blind to the truth because our emotions drive our thinking.
“We fear and hate many of truth’s disclosures because they’re often accompanied by narcissistic insults. What’s a narcissistic insult? It’s a bulletin from reality that, while capable of smartening us up, offends our ego. To avoid such insults, we cling to our illusions and limit our intelligence and inner freedom.” ~ Why We Fear and Hate the Truth
OCTOBER 1, 2012 BY PETER MICHAELSON
Unfortunately, above and beyond the general background level of anxiety and depression, there are many members of the Church who are suffering from the abuse of power by their leaders. I’m in touch with many members worldwide who are desperate for some hope and courage. Often they cannot speak up for themselves, so others like Tom Phillips etc. need to speak up for them.
The recent Mormon Open Letter is evidence that there is a tremendous need for change.
It is unfortunate that when inside the Church it is almost impossible to see the damage it is doing.
Daniel Goleman says it well:
“Self-deception operates both at the level of the individual mind, & in the collective awareness of the group. To belong to a group of any sort, the tacit price of membership is to agree not to notice one’s own feelings of uneasiness & misgiving, & certainly not to question anything that challenges the group’s way of doing things. The price for the group in this arrangement is that dissent, even healthy dissent, is stifled!
“In order to break through the cocoons of silence that keep vital truths from the collective awareness you need courage. It is the courage to seek the truth & to speak it that can save us from the narcotic of self-deception.
“It is a paradox of our time that those with power are too comfortable to notice the pain of those who suffer, & those who suffer have no power.
“To break out of this trap requires the courage to speak truth to power!”
The problems of emotion driven thinking and undue influence are not unique to Mormonism.
Neither Jehovah’s Witnesses nor
Mormons will recognise or acknowledge they are members of an organisation which practices ‘undue influence’ over the minds of it’s members. But each group of people will be able to recognise the other as doing so.
Chris Johnson explains the similarities between Mormons & Jehovah’s Witnesses
I’ve been quite shocked by the attitude of faithful members and leaders to those who change their beliefs. Instead of treating them like Christ supposedly taught, as if they have become ‘spiritually blinded’, and so in need of an increase in love, members and leaders more often than not recoil in fear and push the questioning or disenfranchised member away. I see this as a form of institutionalised in-group/out-group thinking and behaviour associated with a persecution complex. I don’t see this as being at all Christlike. There is an evident fear that the so-called ‘apostate’ had been deceived by Satan and should be avoided in case the evil spirit they possess adversely affects their own spirit & testimony.
All I can see are actions driven by fear!
I thought that Jesus taught we should give aid to the ‘Spiritually Blind’.
According to Mormon beliefs someone who is losing or has lost their testimony is ‘Spiritually Blind’.
As I talked with my ecclesiastical leaders after I resigned as Bishop I did not feel like they perceived me as ‘Spiritually Blind’, nor did I once feel like they wanted to help me regain my testimony. Not once did my Stake President try to stop me resigning as Bishop.
He did however ask me several times why I wasn’t resigning from the Church too, and right in front of my then believing wife, who was in floods of tears for fear she had lost her Eternal Marriage.
I was also told in no uncertain terms to “not speak about any of the issues I had with the Church with any other members, or face disciplinary action.” Which for me meant excommunication, something I wanted to avoid for the sake of my faithfully believing family, at that time.
Effectively I had my lips sealed for about a year, when I decided I needed to speak out.
I actually don’t blame the individual leaders for their apparent indifference to our ‘Spiritual Blindness’.
When the leader’s testimonies are challenged by our questions or disbelief their minds automatically act in self-defence, by virtue of a normal human psychological phenomenon called amygdala hijacking. A form of self-deception.
From what I’ve personally experienced both as a serving bishop and through my own resignation, as well as from the anecdotal evidence of thousands around the world, it is very apparent that a pattern of behaviour is occurring generally, based on leaders feeling the overwhelming need to protect the Church. This is an emotion driven behaviour based on fear without any sort of concern for the individual welfare of those who are suffering.
With the benefit of looking at the Church from a little distance nowadays, it seems that the objective of the Church in running BYU and in sending young people on missions is to promote compliance & conformity, at the same time as denying the individuality of people with particular needs & the individual potentials of its followers.
Just look at what happened to Curtis Penfold when he changed his beliefs whilst studying at BYU.
If just for a moment we consider the Church is indeed a construction of man/men and that the doctrines & policies are based on an irrational superstitious belief system rather than objective reality, it becomes easy to see how this would deny its adherents the authenticity they need to foster wellbeing & promote their individual potentials.
Experienced cult recovery experts & psychological therapists are seeing the very negative emotional trauma of people trying to live in a false reality caused by this religion.
This is especially true of authoritarian, hierarchical religions where conformity, obedience & orthodoxy are emphasised.
If the Church truly valued the Christlike compassion it avows, then Bishops and Stake Presidents around the world would be concerned about the emotional welfare of those who are going through the trauma of the faith crisis.
Hopefully one day this will be the case. For now we continue our campaign.
Rather than blaming the members. I hold the institution itself responsible.
Playing The Role Of Leader In The Church