“The Church Is True, But The Members Aren’t!” – Why We Fear & Hate The Truth

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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I actually don’t blame the individual leaders for their apparent indifference to our ‘Spiritual Blindness’.

I blame the undue influence inherent in Mormonism which uses fear to maintain the belief system. Institutionalised Fear!
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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.

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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.

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Playing The Role Of Leader In The Church

Unrighteous Dominion or Spiritual Abuse by Priesthood Leaders

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13 Responses to “The Church Is True, But The Members Aren’t!” – Why We Fear & Hate The Truth

  1. Kemari says:

    Great points. The Mormon church is in everyway a cult. The levels of fear and information and mind control are insane. It’s been refreshing to be free of it all. I was shocked that I was so brain washed that I didn’t see it. I would fight so hard to prove that I wasn’t in a cult and free to make up my own mind. I see now how troubling it all was. I think taking my family out of the church has been the best thing I’ve ever done. Thanks Steve!

    • Birdie says:

      Thank you… for putting into words what I would like to if I could keep from fizzling upon every attempt. Even though I’ve left the building and been open about my doubt for 3 years now, my mind is still not free. The thought roads have been worn so deep that I fear the ground will never heal.

  2. hup234 says:

    Excellent post Steve. One thing that always bothered me is that I felt that the church members were ‘true’ and the institution was, well …..not so much. Most of the LDS membership are good and honorable people who strive to do what is right and become better in all facets of their lives. The problem is, once you step back and look at the institution, warts and all, one often finds their passion dissolved. A truly Christ centered church would treat its floundering members differently. The fact that LDS leadership becomes so confrontational upon learning of our concerns, and the efforts they go to marginalize someone, are a huge testament to the ‘man-made’ organization. The wonderful talks in General Conference about forgiveness, love and going out in search of the lost sheep seem lost upon the General Authorities, and all the way down to our Stake Presidents. The attitude is, do not look behind the curtain, shut up, and bow your head and say yes.

  3. Xena says:

    I have given up trying to change an institution whose goals are clearly incompatible to the emotional/physical well being of a human being. I mourn for those still in, but from my experience…only exposure through court litigation and massive media exposure changes anything. Thank you.

  4. Cathy says:

    I was told over and over, “The church is PERFECT but the members are not.” I never heard anything to the contrary. As an exmormon I’ve heard from members many times that the church never claimed to be perfect.

  5. Reese says:

    I am currently a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I wish to offend nobody. So, if anyone might feel that could happen, they can stop reading now. I have read many of Steve’s blogs. I shall never condemn him for his decision to vacate the office of bishop, and later to leave the church. His thoughts and his choices are his own. As he has chosen to share his thoughts and make them public, I would ask if he would share with all who would ever read his blogs an answer. Has there ever been a moment in your life, from your earliest of life’s recollections to those days as a bishop; have you ever had the experience separate from the influence of any person on this earth, when you KNEW that the gospel of Jesus Christ was true, and that the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith? And did you testify many times without shame or deceit that you knew these things of yourself through the influence of the Holy Spirit of God? And because all of us will have experiences in life that will enrich us as well as harm us or hurt our feelings, is it not a better path to take that one should “doubt your doubts, not your faith?” On the Title Page of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith was unashamed to record for anyone who might be confused; —- “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ.” It is not for me to condemn or judge any human being. I too, have been scorned by those in my own neighborhood, members of my own ward. But I cannot deny what I know to be true. Because of the imperfections in each of us, I believe the three most important words spoken by Jesus Christ, Himself are: “Come Unto Me.”

  6. SteveBloor says:

    The Ex-Mormon experience is summed up well by my friend Robbie Bridgstock:

    “One of the fundamental complaints by all Ex Mormons toward the Church as an Institution, is that it has deliberately withheld pertinent historical information, which, at the point of our conversion, would have seriously altered our whole perception of its claims – to the negative. Not only has this information been withheld at our conversion stage, but ever after. For many of us, that amounts to a lifetime of committed belief and the sacrifice of our time, energy and money. Only as honest Mormon historians have spoken out and have written about these secrets (and were excommunicated for doing so) have we experienced an avalanche of Internet data on REAL Church history. What the active, believing LDS (Latter Day Saints) see in us, is anger and emotional bitterness. We are seen as spiritually flawed and disabled from the influence of the Holy Ghost. We are consequently possessed of some other spirit alienated from God. Therefore, all books, words, debates or law suits, are motivated from darkened minds, bent on mischief or on the destruction of Gods True Church.

    “In all humility, what believing members CANNOT UNDERSTAND, because THEY HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED IT, is the collapse of their own faith. Exmormons – when they have seen the truth, have reluctantly made a decision (at often terrible cost to themselves) to leave the faith. If they had been a member for only a short time and had not devoted many years or decades to the faith, then leaving would not matter a jot, but when your whole soul, your whole life and your whole sense of meaning is wrapped-up in the claim of one man’s story (Joseph Smith) and then… after a thorough examination of ALL the facts – the discovery that Smith was simply a con artist, causes a pretty profound level of legitimate anger. People’s lives (under that sub-culture) have been ruined and require a complete new start. For some, it will take years for the sense of betrayal to subside. Abused people – whether child or adult, take many years to come to terms with what has happened to them. When Ex-Mormons claim they have been used and abused (deliberately sold a false religion) they are totally sincere, honest and serious about it! They would be ‘abnormal’ not to be bitter! The only disabled, naive and uninformed people to condemn us, are the believing LDS. We are thoroughly outside their experience and cannot be acknowledged as having full integrity, nobility or balance. That is their flaw and their blindness. I hasten to add, that believing and practising LDS are great and decent people, who also happen to be devout and thoroughly sincere; I am only asserting that they do not understand the mind or heart of Ex-Mormons.” ~ Robbie Bridgstock, author of ‘The Youngest Bishop in England’

    • anonymous says:

      “The only disabled, naive and uninformed people to condemn us, are the believing LDS.”

      A more honest version of this grossly sweeping statement would have been: ….some of the believing LDS.

      I feel sure that many believing LDS have great sympathy with your plight and can understand it – I do for one.

    • dbundy says:

      You don’t always post my comments, Steve, but let me say this, for what it is worth: ExMormons apostatize for one reason: They trust in the arm of flesh to reveal the truth to them. When converts are baptized, or when BICs are converted, it is compared to a rebirth, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus. The experience is traumatic, just as physical birth is. Spiritual knowledge is imparted by God himself, who enters the body of the convert to commune spirit to spirit. The recipient is changed ever after, becoming a new creature, the elect of God.
      So, how, then, can the elect be deceived? They can’t. It isn’t possible. Their experience makes that impossible. When they learn the so-called historical “secrets” it causes them to wonder and to pause, and to ask, “How could this be?” But they pay them no heed, because they have a more sure word, a spiritual assurance that is not of this world.
      Of course, the world laughs and heaps scorn on the elect, eventually regarding them as mentally ill and evil, because they can’t see and do not know, what the elect can see and do know: That God lives and answers prayers, and when they ask him for wisdom, he gives it to them liberally and does not upbraid them for asking.
      According to those who have sought it, in faith, nothing doubting, the wisdom from God, regarding the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham and the testimony of Joseph Smith, is that it is not deception, but it is the truth that he has sent forth out of the earth, bearing testimony of his Only Begotten Son, his resurrection from the dead and the resurrection of all men.
      This is why they repent. This is why they humble themselves as little children. This is why they are baptized. This is why they tithe. The Church and its message and the missionaries it sends into the world to bear the message, encourage people to take the matter to God, to ask him for the wisdom to make the decision, to not rely on the opinion of the world, which denies the Word of God, and hates him.
      When those, who, with them, once tasted of the fruit that is most joyous to the soul, become ashamed, because they give heed unto the scorn, deceit and ridicule of the world, fall away and are lead unto forbidden paths and are lost forever, the faithful mourn and suffer tremendously and are sorely grieved, weeping for the loss of them, as loved ones overcome by the cunning of the devil.
      The mourning, the grief, the prayers, the yearning never stops, until all hope is lost and the fate of those who could have been clapsed in the arms of Jesus, but were overcome, is left in the hands of a just God.
      May he be merciful to us all, at that great and last day, when we shall be lifted up to stand before him.

      • SteveBloor says:

        Good luck with that.

        I’d rather trust in evidence than make believe fantasy.

        I’ve stopped pretending to know things I don’t know.

        It may be scary at first, but reality is far more reliable than delusion.

        I’ve been there.

      • dbundy says:

        Q.E.D.

    • Norine says:

      Elegantly stated!

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