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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Why Don’t They Like Us?

Some surprising news as reported by Mark Brown at the Mormon blog By Common Consent:

"At the recent FAIR conference in Utah, some interesting data were shared. Guess what? People don’t like us. No, let me rephrase that: people really don’t like us. According to the polling firm which gathered the data, LDS people have an unfavorable to favorable rating of 5 – 1. For every person who thinks well of us there are five who do not. To compare, notice that Jewish people have a favorable rating of 7 – 2 (seven likes for every two dislikes) and Catholics have a favorable rating of 2 – 1. Where are we going and how did we get in this handbasket?"

Mark's entire article is well worth reading, as is the report of the FAIR conference in the Deseret News. Certainly, some of the animosity against Mormons derives from plain old ignorance. According to the poll, 55 percent of Americans have never met or come in contact with a Mormon. In this group I suppose are those who still associate us with polygamy, or mistake us for the Amish. But that leaves nearly half the population who actually have met Mormons; those who work with us, go to school with us, and live next door to us. The fact that sometimes these people wish we would just shut up and go away is an uncomfortable revelation.

Gary Lawrence, who presented this data at the annual conference of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research reported, "We tend to think people are not beating a path to our door, but they respect what we Mormons are trying to do. Baloney. They don't."

That's disconcerting.

Hiding My Religion

Several years ago I had one of those rare opportunities of being a fly on the wall. I got the chance to find out what people really think of Mormons when they think no Mormons are listening.

I was in Phoenix, Arizona attending a sales training seminar. Those of us in attendance, all strangers to one another, had been flown in from various western states as representatives of the companies we worked for. That evening after the day-long meeting was over, a group of us elected to leave the hotel for dinner at a nearby restaurant.

During dinner, one of the participants asked if the rest of us had noticed anything odd about one of the young women who had been conducting the meeting.  She seemed overly bubbly to the point of near insincerity.  He described her as "kind of a plastic Barbie type."

Someone volunteered, “I think she’s a Mormon,” and almost everyone at the table responded as if to say, “well, that explains it.”  Soon everyone had their own stories of encounters with Mormons, or stories of dealing with Mormon co-workers who were pushy, phony, or overbearing.

I was actually quite surprised at what I was hearing, as I thought we Latter-Day Saints were generally well thought of by the public at large. As the conversation got cattier, one guy caught himself and said, “I hope nobody here is a Mormon, right?” and there was laughter all around at the embarrassment that would have resulted if it turned out one of us was.

Now according to my upbringing, I know what I was supposed to do at that moment. I was supposed to declare myself a devoted member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and then bear a  powerful testimony of the privilege of being a member of the one true church on the face of the earth in these latter days. Perhaps I could have even stood up dramatically in righteous rebuke the way Joseph Smith faced down the mocking guards while imprisoned in Richmond Jail:

“'SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT!'

I didn't do that.

In fact, I didn’t do or say anything.  And it wasn’t because I was timid.  The truth is, I was absolutely fascinated with the conversation going on around me, and I wanted to hear more. I was frankly surprised that none of the stories being told around the table contained a hint of animosity toward Mormonism as a religion, nor did anyone seem to have any real doctrinal disagreements with their Mormon acquaintances regarding their religion. It all came down to the fact that Mormons could be pretty irritating the way they were always trying to convert everybody else, and how completely clueless they were as to how they came off to other people.

Ever since that dinner in Phoenix, I’ve kind of had my ear to the ground about why people don’t particularly get excited when they see us approaching.   I’d be happy to share with you what I’ve learned.

But first, a story.

How Not To Win Friends And Influence People

When Connie and I were young marrieds expecting our first child, we moved into a new ward in Orem where we were instantly befriended by a personable and energetic young couple also expecting their first child, and close to our own ages. We seemed to have lots in common.

Both Connie and I have long since forgotten this couple’s last name, but they were memorable for their first names. Both the husband and wife happened to be named Kim. To keep them straight, we took to referring to them as “Boy Kim” and “Girl Kim.”

For a couple of weeks we and the Kims were practically inseparable. We went out together, spent time at each other’s apartments, and swapped life stories. Both Boy Kim and Girl Kim were heavily involved in Amway, and were constantly encouraging us to become Amway distributors like them.

“You’d be perfect at it, because you’re both so gregarious and likeable,” Boy Kim flattered us.

Well, like virtually every other person in the continental United States, I had already put in my time as an Amway distributor. And in keeping with the majority, I had failed miserably at building a viable downline that would guarantee me a perpetual income for life.  But I knew other people had been successful (I had the tapes!), and I wished the best for Kim and Kim. I told them I hoped they would do better at it than I had.

To show our support for the Kims, we even purchased quite a bit of Amway product from them. But that wasn’t what they wanted from us. They wanted us to go to their Amway meetings with them and they wanted us in their downline.  And they weren’t taking no for an answer.

We finally gave in and went to one of the meetings, but afterward I had to be blunt with Kim and Kim and tell them that we really liked doing stuff with them, but we simply weren’t interested in joining their downline.

Their reaction was even more blunt, but it didn’t come until days later. After Connie made several attempts to get together with Girl Kim, Girl Kim came right out and made it clear what the deal was.

Connie later told me what Kim had said to her. Having once been an Amway distributor myself, I recognized the kiss-off; It was right out of the script.

“We have to concentrate on building our business,” Girl Kim explained. “We want the white Corvette, and you obviously don’t. We want the big house on the hill, and you don’t. We just can’t afford to waste time being around negative people.”

So all along Kim and Kim had just been trying to recruit us. The whole friendship had been a sham.


Every Member A Pain In The Butt

I think you see the analogy here. Throughout the 1970's and 80's the church promoted the slogan “Every Member a Missionary.” The idea was, if you knew someone (better yet, an entire family) who you felt would “make a good member,” you would befriend them and fellowship them and in due time introduce them to the missionaries. After taking the missionary discussions, your new investigators would agree to be baptized, and Voila! You would have new Mormon friends, the church would experience phenomenal growth, and there would be that many more souls headed for the celestial kingdom.  And all thanks to you.

But there was sometimes an unforeseen glitch in that scheme. What happens if, despite all your efforts, this guy or gal you picked to buddy up to just plain wasn’t interested in joining your church? What then? You couldn't stay friends with them forever because, let's face it, you don’t share the same standards and values. They aren't going to be good enough.  So eventually you sort of just dropped them as your friend and found some new candidate to build the kingdom with.

And this abandoned investigator, your former BFF, ended up feeling used. What’s worse, it didn’t take him long to figure out exactly what you had been up to. Eventually this guy ends up in Phoenix, Arizona, telling his story to a group of others who at one time or another had the exact same thing happen to them.

One way or another they all found out it wasn’t friendship. It was Amway.

We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that non-members weren't aware of the program. They know what the word “fellowshipping” means. They define it as “pretending to be someone’s friend.”


Extreme Makeover, Street Edition

Now, I don’t have to tell you that Mormons are exceptional people. You are a Mormon. You know how wonderful you are. You are humble and lovable. So am I.

This is what so annoys our non-member neighbors. What we think of as humility, they see as arrogance.

Go figure.

Another thing they don't like about us: we don't listen.  Why should we, when we have all the truth?  Other people should be listening to us, right?  Who cares about what the other guy believes since the other guy's beliefs are wrong anyway?

You want to know what else they're saying about us behind our backs? They wonder why we dress our missionaries up in such a readily identifiable way that anyone can see them coming from a mile away. Not even Jehovah's Witnesses are that stupid. When the Jay-Dubs come to your door, you don't know it's them until you've already opened it. Mormon missionaries, on the other hand, can be recognized through the peephole.

I’ve long felt our street image was long past due for a makeover. If you knew someone who had an aversion to clowns, would you dress up as a clown and come over?

Hard as this may be for some of you to accept, the public at large has an aversion to religious predicants, no matter how well the pants match the suit coat. Add a nametag, a backpack, and a King Dorko brand bike helmet, and our poor guys start out each day with a clear disadvantage. It is a matter of great curiosity among the gentiles why we would want our key emissaries to telegraph their arrival by wearing such easily recognized costumes. Don't we realize that we would be more successful if we sneaked up on our targets dressed like normal people?

Non-members don't understand, of course, that under normal circumstances our young men wouldn't choose to dress like this on a dare. The missionary uniform is dictated by Church headquarters in Salt Lake, right down to the name tag which, like the tag on your mattress, is not allowed to be removed under penalty of law.

I understand what the brains back at church headquarters are trying to accomplish with this uniformity of dress. They want our representatives to convey a smart, distinctive image, one that is recognizable no matter where they are in the world.

But this is corporate thinking, evidence of a corporate mentality. It’s one thing to require all McDonald’s hamburgers to be the same no matter where in the world you buy one. People still like McDonald's hamburgers.

But people don't particularly like Mormon missionaries. If this mode of dress was so effective, why aren't people knocking on the missionaries' doors, breathlessly asking to hear their message?

Why are we sending our boys out dressed like smart young insurance salesmen when even insurance salesmen know that look hasn't worked since 1959?

Not long ago, a group of punk rockers looking for a name and a gimmick settled on calling themselves "The Mormons" and performing onstage dressed exactly like Mormon missionaries: white shirts, ties, nametags, helmets, and backpacks:



Yes, brothers and sisters, we've been punked.  As if being ironic on stage wasn't enough for these guys, they also delighted in performing on the street.  In this video you'll notice that the people passing by are avoiding contact with "The Mormons".  That's because they think they're real.



(Not really Mormons, just guys dressed up for Halloween)
When punk rockers dress like Mormons and call themselves Mormons, and when frat boys think dressing up like Mormon missionaries for Halloween is the ultimate in jokey hilarity, then it may be time to reassess the effectiveness of the image we're conveying.

Let me make it clear that I'm not ragging on the use of a bike helmet.  I wear one myself when I'm on my bike.  But while I'm on my bike I'm not dressed to the nines like Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, either.  The contrast between business formal and skate-kid sporty is incongruous.  Can't we allow our young representatives some sartorial leeway that doesn't leave them open to ridicule as they ride to their appointments? 

Besides, this dark-suited formality our missionaries present makes them seem aloof and unapproachable to many people. Perhaps tan slacks and a dress shirt would work better. Maybe a nice blazer. But lose the tie, except in situations where a tie is appropriate. The dark, formal suit and tie on a young person says to other young people “I have nothing in common with you."

It's time we allowed our boys some discretion over where and when they wear their nametags, too.  And let them drop the "Elder" from their introductions, so they can be known by their first names when the occasion calls for it. Many people have difficulty understanding why we make a kid just out of his teens introduce himself as their elder.  When most people think of an Elder, they think of someone who resembles Dumbledore.  Placing a nametag with the title of "Elder" on a kid who looks like Archie Andrews doesn't convey maturity, it just seems fusty and pretentious.

And that goes for the sister missionaries, who deserve better than to have to introduce themselves to everyone they meet as though they are catholic nuns.

Let's Make It Easier To Serve

We like to say our young men are “serving” a mission, but non-members have a hard time believing that what our boys are doing is any kind of "service" as that term is usually understood.  Missionaries of other faiths are known for going into poverty-stricken countries digging wells and building clinics.  To Americans, Mormon missionaries are young men who spend their days knocking on doors looking for people to join their church.

Besides, the way they dress, our missionaries are in no position to perform any service anyway, if by “service” you mean actually lending someone a helping hand. A nineteen year-old wearing an expensive suit isn’t going to risk ruining it by helping someone dig a post-hole in their backyard. And who would think to ask him to?

It's true that our missionaries want to be helpful.  Almost every time the Elders visit my home, they ask me if there is anything they can do while they're here.  Sure, I could use an occasional hand around the place, but what can I say?  They simply aren't dressed for anything other than to offer a closing prayer.

When I was a missionary it was impressed upon us that our time belonged to the Lord, and therefore it was not to be wasted. All of our time was to be spent in finding, teaching, and baptizing. But is this really what the Lord would have us spending all his time on? Isn’t service to others the greater calling?

Of course, we thought that by finding, teaching, and baptizing, what we were doing was service to the Lord. It might have been more accurate to say that we were serving the Church, as everything that institution demanded of us was calculated to ensure the growth and expansion of the church by adding to its numbers.

When our new friend Cully Cowgill asked if my companion and I could help him prep and paint his shed, we had to put him off until P-day so as not to run afoul of the rules. And then we had to quit by six o’clock so as to get cleaned up and back to knocking on doors.

Cully was one of those people who would have made a good member, but he never did join the church. We just didn’t have enough time for him.

It's interesting to note that whatever it was we've been doing to gain converts just isn't working like it used to. Reports show that growth has been slowing since 1989.  In addition, our retention rate is abysmal.  Converts are now leaving the church in record numbers.

Perhaps we ought to change our approach. Slow down a little, maybe, and allow people to get to know us. Instead of the old three step paradigm of “find, teach, and baptize” Gary Lawrence suggests “a more realistic six-step model: Awareness, Awakening, Curiosity, Interest, Investigation and Conversion.”

I would add "Service".

Wouldn’t it be something if, when people saw our missionaries on the street, they recognized them as nice young people who had devoted two years to helping others, rather than just trying to recruit new members?

First we'll have to get them out of that corporate uniform.

Why Not Try Pure Mormonism?

If we want people to like us, instead of trying to convert everybody to our religion, why don't we simply go back to actually living our religion the way Joseph Smith taught us to.  In my essay What Do I Mean By "  Pure"  Mormonism? I pointed out that our founder defined Mormonism in it's purest state as simply friendship -unconditional friendship extended to all men and women, no matter their beliefs or station.   Our religion is a religion of unconditional love, without judgment, for all mankind. At least it's supposed to be.

I think we've kind of gotten away from that.  I'm inclined to think that we got so excited at how fast the church was growing over the past few decades that we began to think church growth was the goal.

Growth should not be the focus of the Church of Christ.  That's corporate thinking.  Growth is the goal of a corporation that delights in boasting of how each year, the percentage of expansion has increased over the previous year.  Our goal as individual members of The Body of Christ is simply to treat other people as Jesus would.  If we just do that, growth will take care of itself.

I fear our image of late has become one of intolerance for those who don't rise to our standards.  We won't even baptize a person unless he has been interviewed and found worthy. There was a time when the only requirement for baptism was a desire to be baptized.  Now we have introduced all kinds of conditions that must be met before we'll let a newcomer join our little club.  Heaven help us if we don't screen them well enough that we let someone through who is later seen drinking a cup of coffee.  What would such a scandal do to the image of the Church?

I'd like to see us focus less on converting others to our lifestyle, and simply live so that our lifestyle becomes more attractive to others. There is only one character trait you can demonstrate that other people will find irresistible, and that trait is kindness.  "In the end," as the song goes, "Only kindness matters."

Kindness is one thing you can't fake. If you try to fake kindness, it's not kindness.  It's fellowshipping.


(For a follow-up to the above piece, please see "Living The Gospel, or Living In Zombieland?"

100 comments:

Andrew S said...

First response: Let's not get so down on the white shirt...clearly, more missionaries just need to ride fixies.

(actually, if I recall correctly, someone originally responding to such pictures [unfortunately, most pictures have been taken down, but some were reposted at other sites] noted the stark contrast between the trendy fixed gear bikes and the uncool clothes was disappointing).

As for clothes, missionaries just need to learn to wear stuff that fits. Let's ban short-sleeve button-downs (instead, just roll up the sleeves), and then let's raise the bar for fitness so that missionaries can really pull off those back darts.

OK, maybe I'm getting a little too extreme here.

Second response: I am all aboard the idea of incorporate more *service* in missions (instead of kinda sorta supporting "service missions" as an "other" thing that is a compromise.)

I am also all for kindness as the best medicine...BUT I understand that if the church office building is concerned about growth statistics, then that has some trappings.

For example, being kind can, I believe, make "our lifestyle become more attractive to others," but I don't think it necessarily makes the religion more attractive. Someone can see a nice person without saying or thinking or assuming, "Oh, that person must be Mormon." The connection never occurs, and the connection to the Book of Mormon, gold plates, etc., certainly doesn't happen.

Let's ask the Community of Christ what happens to conversion and retention rates when one moves to nebulous, yet nice sounding principles like peace and justice and away from more administrative methods?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Andrew, I haven't heard anything about the Community of Christ since they issued fixed gear bikes to THEIR missionaries. Maybe THAT was where they went wrong.

Tex said...

Your analogy to Amway is spot-on. The reason why you didn't make it in Amway is because Amway has ripped off millions of people for several decades, to the tune of 10s of billions of dollars. Read about it on this website: http://texsquixtarblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/case-against-amway-tool-scam.html and forward the information to everyone you know, so they don't get scammed.

Amway is a scam, and here's why: Amway pays out as little money as they can get away with, so they support the higher level IBOs ripping off their downline via the tool scam.

As a result, about 99% of IBOs operate at a net loss, while the top 1% make several TIMES more from their Amway tool scam than from the Amway products. This was made illegal in the UK in 2008, but our FTC is unable to pull their heads out of their butts to stop it here.

Urban Koda said...

Well said! Several years ago, (Back when I was active) I started to really struggle getting through the lessons in Priesthood every week - Actually it had more to do with the quality of the leaders, than the lesson, but regardless, I didn't want to waste my time there, so... I started hanging around primary asking if they needed subs, and every single week there ended up being a class which needed a teacher.

I had a blast, until the Elders Quorum decided I needed to be reactivated, and set about trying to fellowship me...

Through that experience I have empathy for anyone who has ever been the target of reactivation, or fellowshipping.

We're targets right now as well, but now we're about as cynical toward the ward as all the non-members on our street, and it just isn't working for them... Much like the Primerica reps in our neighborhood as well.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks to the link to your blog, Tex, and for the mention of my blog you put there. I actually think I stumbled onto your fine blog once while I was surfing Amway hater sites. You certainly helped erase any feelings of "failure" I once had for not being able to make it in "the business".

I often wonder who far Kim and Kim actually made it, or did they finally come to terms with reality like the rest of us?

Koda,

I was just over at your fine blog, Buddy, apparently while you were here. I've left a comment there for you. Looking forward to being included in your new home.

Dave P. said...

Rock,

The reasons you listed are also pretty much every reason why I absolutely loathe the Home Teaching program as it is too. Not only does it feel incredibly phony when two guys who I only ever see/speak with once a month wait until the last day come into my house and tell my I'm not being a good enough member, but it feels even worse when I realize I'd taken that same approach for a long time.

I've been in my current ward for over a year now and have yet to hear a peep from any home teachers. At one point I even asked my EQ president to tell me who they were and, once I found out, the first thing that came to mind was, "Who are these guys? I've never met 'em."

Dave P. said...

Oh yeah, don't forget that Joseph Smith exclaimed his famous, "Silence, ye fiends of the infernal pit!" rebuke not because the prison guards were saying bad things about the Mormons, but because they were boasting and bragging about all the crimes and sins they'd just committed against the people, including killing children and raping women. From what I believe about Joseph, he would have said the same if those crimes had been committed against any group of people and prison guards were bragging about it.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Dave, I know some people who would be delighted not to ever get a visit from their home teachers.

That said, it is an odd quirk of Mormonism that the system assigns us "friends". On the other hand, it's nice to know there is someone you can call on when you need help moving.

Andrew S said...

...you can use home teachers for moving?

that has never worked out so well for us.

Typically, when someone in the ward is moving, there is either a mass of ward friends (not typically the home teacher, but could include), or there may be one announcement, but no commitment, and people kinda avoid the moving family until they are gone.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I certainly didn't mean to make light of the incident of Joseph rebuking the guards at Richmond jail, if that's the impression I gave. that is one of my favorite incidents in Mormon history, and one of the all times great examples of a man standing up and being a man.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Yikes, Andrew.

That's unfortunate news for one guy I know who stays in the church only because he thinks he'll have a crew standing by when he's ready to move.

Dave P. said...

Actually that's my fault if it sounded like I thought you were taking it light. I just wanted to make the point clear that Joseph would have stood up for any group of people in the same way because the worth of one's soul is great in the eyes of the Lord.

Tex said...

Alan,

Thanks, but I am not an "Amway hater." In fact, I believe the pure Amway business, much like your view of the pure Mormon religion, is a good business opportunity for many people.

I do hate the PERVERSION the Amway business has become, with the introduction of the ATS (Amway Tool Scam), even though Amway terminated me, then violated their own rules and publicized I was terminated and the reasons for the termination.

Tex said...

Alan,

I'm not sure about Kim and Kim, what LOS were you in? Do you recall any upline Diamond names, or the name of the Tool Scam company?

calimom said...

Don't forget about visiting teaching, guys! Same complaints :) on a lesser level - we only have to visit the sister, not bother the entire family! haha! I actually do enjoy most visits made or received (would do so more if we didn't have to play the monthly numbers game or report to the church about our success/failure at making our visits!) Sure the lessons are as insanely basic and boring to all but the newest members as those we hear in church but some of my favorite people are the people I've been assigned over the years. I get to really know some of my sisters in a way that probably wouldn't happen otherwise. We've only had "good" home teachers once in all our years in the church, but I enjoy getting to know who ever comes to our door and find it fascinating to see a glimps of others' knowledge or spirituality - or lack thereof :)

As far as people not liking us mormons I can kind of get why - there are those who do act like brainwashed Amway promoters (I hadn't made the connection before even though I should have since everyone I've ever met who is w-a-y into Amway is mormon - and annoying). Usually these Amified mormons are those who have the most contact with outsiders, either because they are great member-missionaries or because these types are usually the ones with the big callings. These are those who have annoyed the poll responders, probably. (I'm sure in my hay-day (as both a pro-amway-wannabe-distributor and gungho-member missionary) I annoyed plenty of "gentiles"!!! But most of the members I know don't fall into the "Amway" stereotype.

If we were doing things correctly - not trying to PR and PC ourselves into popularity - the world woud really despise us for the right reasons, wouldn't they? Isn't that how it has always been? The worldly against God's people.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Calimom, your last paragraph was spot on. We may be disliked these days, but not for the right reasons. Ah, for the days when persecution meant we were on the right track!

Tex, I couldn't tell you who the upline was, don't think I was paying attention at the time. But I'll bet dollars to donuts the Kims were out in a year just like everybody else.

Eliza R. Snitch said...

Another excellent post, Rock.

I too always thought that everybody else loved and respected us Mormons. Yeah, about that... not so much. Also, now that I'm out of the church, I realize how annoying my proselytizing attempts must have been. Non-Mormons tend to look upon Mormons as strange at best.

I would loooove to see less proselytizing missions and more humanitarian missions, if only so that missionaries who get 1 or 2 baptisms don't feel like abject failures. All those thousands of missionaries out digging wells and building schools? Can you imagine how much good they'd do? I just don't think that the missionary program as it stands is of much use to the church as a tool for growth, though I think it serves to indoctrinate the missionaries pretty well, which I think helps the church retain them.

The church has a image problem, and they're not going to fix it with their shiny "I'm a Mormon" campaign. They're going to have to actually fix the church itself.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rock, Loved this blog entry because it really is one of the criticisms of Mormonism that is universal to members, former members and your average guy. It's the perception that Mormons want to be your friend only because they want to sell their religion to you. As soon as they realize you aren't interested anymore they will leave.

I think it is a trained behavior though and one that is conditioned on a mission. Many times you would have contacts who didn't want to convert but enjoyed your company all the same.

Technically you were meant to jump ship if they weren't progressing towards baptism or you were wasting the Lord's time. There are only so many times you can go through the discussions. In the end what it came down to is the point was to "build a relationship of trust" not a friendship. It is the same conditioned response that creates the disconnect to people who leave Mormonism even though you may have known them for 10 years or more.

It is a criticism that didn't require a focus group to discover, but it seems the leadership will only listen to those outside their faith and so miss out on truly serving those they "lead".

As for the missionary outfit let's not be misguided or fooled into thinking that the uniform is designed to make them presentable to the world. The suit, name tag, use of elder or sister is actually designed to place them in such a foreign environment that they don't feel like 19yr olds anymore and can't relate to people. They are meant to get an antagonistic response to reinforce their identity as Mormons. It is pure indoctrination and information control. Even if Mormonism isn't a cult the 2yr missionary program is in every way.

Your idea about humanitarian aid and spreading the message through actually helping people is one that Richard L. Bushman shared at a conference where Gary Lawrence the guy who did the polling was also speaking over a year ago. He said exactly the same thing and it is so true. If you want to spread a christian message there are better ways.

Of course if you want to indoctrinate young people into an authoritarian priesthood structure then I'm not sure whether any better way exists.

Anonymous said...

(Continued from above)
You can see the full Gary Lawrence talk (which from the article includes identical phrases to the point where it seems it is the same presentation) here:

http://www.uvu.edu/religiousstudies/mormonstudies/conferences/publicmind/videos/index.html

It's the one titled
"How Americans View Mormonism" - Gary Lawrence
and you have to scroll through the video pictures below the player to find it and it's the video with two names "Gary Lawrence/Claudia Bushman".

The poll was conducted before the fall out of the Romney campaign and before Prop 8 fall out. It is possible it could be worse now than it was then.

Gaybob Spongebath said...

I could watch that first video of
"The Mormons" all day long. I can't get enough of seeing the lead singer spazzing out up there onstage. He reminds me of one of my companions who had epilepsy.

I sure do miss that companion. But at least now I have the video.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post. A very similar thing happened to me at a party. Some people started talking about the Christmas lights at the DC Temple and how beautiful they were. It soon became, “Yes, but be careful if you go there because they try to RECRUIT you!” It was just about to take an ugly turn when I coughed and confessed to being a Mormon. I did it mainly because I was trying to spare them further embarrassment. They then began to tap dance away from the comments, but I laughed and assured them I understood. I admitted Mormon missionary efforts are often heavy handed.

Now, years later, I am a complete unbeliever. I believe the best anyone can hope for is that JS was a fallen prophet, though I myself believe he was always a fraud. Nevertheless, I am not bitter. I attend church with my wife because she is a believer. I admit I miss the comfort of “knowing” so many things.

Your thesis though, is right on. I wish the church would move away from the pursuit of numbers when it comes to missionary work.

If missionaries went out into communities and worked and helped the poor, ministered to their temporal as well as spiritual needs, then there would be no shortage of people wanting to know what these boys were doing and why and what motivated them. Would we have larger numbers? I doubt it. Still, I think the converts would be people who stuck around instead of being pressured into baptism and then committing without knowing what they were agreeing to.

I often wonder if the church’s corporate structure prevents any revolutionary change. Let’s look at the three-hour block. I’m guessing Monson and others at the top of the 12 were involved in its institution. They can’t see why it should change. They are utterly unfamiliar with the time constraints on a regular member. They have no clue what it’s like to be a real member in a real ward, particularly outside of the corridor.

Anyway, ¡Viva la revolución!

Equality said...

The missionaries do not wear the uniform to be identifiable to the "world." They wear it to be identifiable from a distance to other members, particularly priesthood leaders. The purpose is to keep tabs on them. Two Mormon elders in white shits and name tags stick out like a sore thumb at the movie theater or ballpark. The uniform is there as a way to reinforce what they are supposed to be doing. It's designed to help them "remember who they are" and keep them in their proper place. If they wore regular clothes and could blend in with society, it would be much harder to make sure they were following all the rules, which are designed to thoroughly condition them into "proper" behavior for a lifetime of submission to church authority. Missions are not about serving or converting the world; they are about creating obedient Mormon members who will pay tithing to the church for the next fifty years and raise a new generation to do likewise.

Suspicious Minds said...

Typical friendships made at Church are based nothing more than on the common ground of religion. Try leaving the church and find out how many of the friendships were genuine and continue on. Even immediate family members shut the door and shun.

What I am about to share is the actual exchange between our 17 year old son and a 16 year old TBM boy at the ward we used to attend. They messaged each other on facebook. It shows how a TBM will try to make someone who is less active a project to get back into activity.

Friend: yah i aint trying to pressure u into it but i just see a friend in trouble and i want to help you....u know we werent really that good of friends b4 but now i see that you are a good kid and i wanna help you, thanx for the good times

Son: Yeah I know you do man.... yeah we werent really good friends before but maybe that will change

Friend: what do u mean will?? it already has [name removed]...if i didnt think we were good friends i wouldnt care about ur spiritual welfare....so i believe we are.

Son: lol I meant like more like become better friends than we already are even though we have come along way

Friend: [name removed] i met you thru church and i think the only way we can progress is thru church

Friend: we will always be friends but the truth is that my "best friends" are and always will be members because they believe what i believe

Son: yeah you are probbaly rihgt with that one

Friend: yah i really cant wait til i see the day when you bless the sacrament next to me and get to see you come home from a mission and marry a worthy woman of god, i would love that for you

Son: yeah I know but I dont really know about going on a mission I have alot of reasons but one big one is that the church just cut back on the money the missonaries get every month and yet the church is building a two billion dollar mall in utah

Friend: [name removed] u cant expect the church to pay for u....a good thought but a selfish one, we are expected to pay for most of it anyways and i promise you that if you go on your mission that everything (school, work, wife, kids, money, etc.) will work out for you.

Son: But yeah i'm going to work now ttyl


I don't think it's uncommon for most members to have these same sentiments when it comes to less-actives, those who have left the church, or those who do not join the church. It's sad. No ad campaigns that promote mormons as diverse and normal can eliminate the deep seeded indoctrination as demonstrated in the exchange with our son. Many TBM's have ulterior motives for being your friend or wanting to be your friend. They do so out of a sense of duty. I know I did. Thankfully I have put all of that behind me and my children now have healthy relationships with real normal people in the real world.

The snake oil of mormonism is a bitter after taste. But it's slowly been replaced by the sweetness of the present, the pleasures of sincere friendships and the kindness of people who aren't motivated by fear or guilt induced mind control.

Anonymous said...

"Try leaving the church and find out how many of the friendships were genuine and continue on."

Hell... just try growing you hair and stop wearing ties=)

Tom said...

re: Anon @ 3:07pm

I couldn't help but chuckle at your comment about hair and ties.

I stopped wearing a tie a little over a year ago, and have started to grow my hair out (been going on 6+ months or so). It's not long by any stretch, but it's getting there. I can't tell for sure if I've been ostracized because of the hair, non-tie, beard combo, but I can tell that socialization among quorum members is certainly low. That may be due to my quiet nature in church, but it could also be due to my "appearance"/attire.

I'd love to see the humanitarian missions pick up in scope and appeal, but find that the church would still require a uniform of some sorts ("mormon helping hands" shirts) which would draw attention to the great works the church performs.

Heck, I think we should go back to the missions without purse or script. There's a novel idea. I once heard (from Kevin Kraut) that Ogden (his father) was the last missionary to serve a mission without purse or script, under Oscar McConkie (Bruce's dad).

dan said...

HA! great article Rock, lotta effort here!
and food for thought.

IMO, we WANT the world to hate us...They just need to hate us for the right reasons.:-) The word of God always divides like a two edge sword. But thats the point, if we really spoke with the tongue of angels, the word of god, the hatred would be entirely different, and at the same time missionary work would be far more efficient and effective! We are here to make devils as much as angels (thank you Brigham).

Hate us for living our religion, not for just being annoying.

Insana D said...

Rock, that was a very interesting and revealing essay and one that has a lot of good points. I think the one thing you might have missed that sums up the biggest problem with Mormons and Mormonism is that it's an oppressive cult. Betty Bowers calls it "Scientology Lite". When the doctrine and leadership and culture have evolved beyond the backward, sexist, racist, outrageously silly present day teachings, then maybe people will not see the members as brainwashed naive zealous do-gooders hell bent on interfering in other peoples lives.

You might find some interesting things in this article. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/holly-welker/mormon-pr-campaign-good-m_b_690383.html

quote"Finally, the ads simply won't fix a primary problem they're designed to address: the church's dreadful image.

People think badly of the Mormon church not because they don't like its members, but because they don't like its policies, practices and teachings. Demonstrating to the world that individual Mormons are interesting, thoughtful, likable people won't compensate for the corporate church's vendetta against the queer community, its assault on women's rights, its history of racism, its polygamous past (or the fact that polygamy remains a central tenet of Mormon doctrine, even today), its odd doctrines (such as the belief that God is a resurrected man who lives near the planet Kolob) and its most arrogant practices (such as baptizing everyone's ancestors into the Mormon faith after they die, and trying to convert everyone else while they're still alive). In that list, there's something to offend just about everyone who isn't already Mormon -- and even many Mormons are outraged and hurt by the church's aggressive opposition to civil rights."

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Insana D,

Thanks for the link to Holly Welker's piece. That was one of the best and most concise descriptions of correlation and why it was doomed from the beginning to create the problems it has. Also an excellent analysis of the senselessness of continuing to throw money at PR campaigns. I kind of like the current campaign, but what the hell does the corporation think it is going to accomplish by it?

Like any corporation, they seem to be overly image-conscious. Holly's analogy to BP was spot on.

Insana D said...

Rock, in a recent conversation with my sweet very TBM mother a very complicated conversation came up. She was making a christmas present for everyone in the family from the old journals and letters of our dead ancestors. She had taken it upon herself to edit these writings because "some of their perceptions were not accurate or verifiable". I mentioned that it was possibly wrong to edit out their own words to sanitize the journals but would be good to put a little disclaimer after the statements to help the reader find other details that might balance the story. She mentioned that it was important for the "Truth" to be told.

Then I said, "If that's so important then perhaps the same efforts should be given to the history of the church and the writings of it's leaders. You may find inconsistancies in their experiences that don't correlate with reality or factual accounts of the events".

She sighed and then in her very typical LDS passive agressive way dismissed me by saying, "Just because YOU don't believe it doesn't mean it isn't true". Now the focus is on my morality and mental capacity, not on the facts or information ittself. It's a common game the LDS play and reveals an intellectually immature and manipulative game that they often use to avoid the real issues. I've heard it from the pulpit from General Authorities as well as the members and see that too often they have no ligitimate answers for the inconsistancies in the doctrine and history, so try to diffuse with very lame and inappropriate diversions.

Because she's my mother and she's very naive, sweet, and completely deluded I decided to approach the complex issue another way. I brought up my old pioneer home that I've been rennovating and working on for 15 years. I mentioned that everyone thought I was crazy for buying it, fixing, it, and living in it but that in spite of it's money sucking hole status, it's crooked walls, it's sagging foundation, leaky roof, drafty windows, bug infested adobe, remote but gorgeous location, etc. that I loved that house and was emotionally invested, even though it made no financial sense.

I then said, "I guess we love what we serve, even when it doesn't love us back".

That ended the conversation. We only talk about family news, a little about the economy, health issues, the garden and other safe topics now.

Theres a line in "A Few Good Men" that applies to most LDS folks, "You can't handle the truth". Diffusing with ads like the recent propoganda they're playing with do little to work on the real problems with Mormonism and the culture that inhibits so many people.

These ads are like a bandaid over a severed head. It still won't stop the bleeding or exodus from the church and it doesn't really fool intelligent people into thinking being Mormon is a great experience. Ten minutes on the internet and even a third grader can debunk the Mormon claims.

Dave P. said...

To quote Lionel Hutz, "There's the truth. And then there's 'The Truth!'" I tell people that I'm a truth seeker because it's the full truth, not the corporate Mormonism, that makes people free.

I thought of a sad but true quip earlier. "Missionaries do great things by teaching people the gospel. Then they drag those people into being Mormons."

Recall that several people Joseph Smith baptized early on were initially baptized solely for the remission of sins. They had to be baptized again later on after the church was restored as part of their entry process. Makes me wonder if the former alone is still possible.

Anonymous said...

I believe that missionaries dress in suits & dresses to show respect for the message & mantle they carry. The Church is not out to win a popularity contest, just to find the few who are ready for the truth.

If someone does have the Spirit & is ready for more, than suits & recruiting will not offend them. But most people are not ready for the truth, & thus it mattereth not what they think about us.

Also, it is not just 'non-members' who may dislike Mormons. Most all members of the Church quickly come to dislike & try to avoid or persecute the few rare members who really live the Gospel, for they make them uncomfortable & cause them to feel guilty.

Dave P. said...

Of course that depends on what kind of truth the missionaries are teaching to people. Are they teaching the gospel as originally presented by Jesus Christ and restored through Joseph Smith? Or, as Rock and many readers of his blog believe, are they teaching the "truth" that's been twisted and perverted by corporate church thinking and by unaccountable "never lead the church astray" leaders?

Insana D said...

Thankyou Anonymous for this precious gem, "Also, it is not just 'non-members' who may dislike Mormons. Most all members of the Church quickly come to dislike & try to avoid or persecute the few rare members who really live the Gospel, for they make them uncomfortable & cause them to feel guilty."

You couldn't have been more accurate in describing the passive agressive game many LDS like to play to try to diffuse the conversation away from the real issues that plague the church and onto the one bringing up those issues. For the record, I do not feel guilty for wanting to discover information and reason in my life, nor do I feel guilty for daring to look beyond the tight tiny box offered by the approved LDS sources to try to balance that information. I don't feel guilty for daring to say to a devout Mormon, "Have you dared to read or learn anything that wasn't fed to you by your leaders on this topic?". I don't feel guilty noting that the goody goodness facade presented by the LDS missionaries is a ploy that belies the dark twisted messages that come after one is tricked into joining the church.

I do not believe the regular lay members such as yourself are completely culpable in this great deception, but they are often gullable pawns and soldiers used to manipulate and decieve others.

People inside and outside the LDS church instinctually sense the trickery going on, and they don't like the immature passive agressive ploys like you just tried to play in directing the topic from the issues and onto the questioners "Guilt". You give me and many others validation to why we don't like Mormons.

Perhaps if you perfect your skills a little more you can be deemed "anti-mormon" by your talent for helping others loathe the Mormon culture even more. You are indeed a devoted missionary.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, with respect:
You mentioned "the truth" a couple of times in your post. That is what we all want. Unfortunately, the watered-down information that is presented to the general membership of the church is...well...watered-down.
Let's look at, and discuss, the history of the restoration without fear....

Bruce in Montana

Frederick said...

Rock,

Another great article. I just gave someone who had some serious questions and misconceptions of the LDS church the link to your blog. I'm nit sure what that says about how I do missionary work, but I am sure they'll like what they read here. As for coming up with specifics on how to improve missionary work, my advice is simply to follow Christ, teach correct principles, and let people govern themselves. I heard that once and it seemed like good advice to me.

Heather said...

I can't express how much I love your blog! I completely agree with what you've said here. I've always thought the fellowship tactics of the church were phony and unproductive. Not to mention that they can sometimes be hurtful.

JSDefender said...

Rock—

I found your blog very interesting. Of course, coming from an RLDS background, I have no view of the Mormon Church from the inside–only from the outside. My view of Mormons overall is a positive one. Maybe that is because we share a common heritage which gives us something to talk about or maybe it is because I live in the Midwest where the Mormon Church influence is not very intense, I don’t know. I’ve had several Mormon Elders and Sisters visit my home and I’ve visited with many at historical sites. Some have been good experiences, a few have not. But I think that would be the case with missionaries from any large church. I do find, though, that their scriptural and historical knowledge tends to be rehearsed (most likely due to the young age of most) and if you try to reason with them or they get off their presentation, they are lost. However, I admire them for their dedication. It is not easy to do what they do. I don’t know if I could have done such at age 20. And it is not easy to give up two years of your life at that age for what you believe.

My son’s best friend from grade school through high school is presently a Mormon Elder and is now serving a mission outside of the U.S. Over the years, he has been in our home many times and is a fine young man and has a great family to match. Our association with his family has always been about the kids, never about religion. And while they’ve always tried to put their best foot forward, I’ve felt it was a sincere attempt to live their religion, not to convert us. We recently bumped into them at a local store and while at our request we were getting updated on their son’s mission, we began to discuss the Book of Mormon and prophecies about the end times in which we live. This was the first we had ever discussed religion. We felt a wonderful kindred spirit with them as we discussed our common beliefs. In fact, they were more on fire about the truth of the restored gospel than some of our faith with whom we associate. I know that if we ever needed help, we could call upon them and they would respond, as we would, with no strings attached. They obviously understand that the true witness of one’s faith is how you live, not what you say.

While I do not agree with many of the doctrines taught by Mormon leadership after 1844 to present, I appreciate certain things about the Mormon Church and its people. First, the Mormon Church teaches and its people strongly believe that Joseph Smith, Jr. was a true prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is true. These principles are no longer the foundation of belief for the liberal majority—the Community of Christ—of my church. I am thankful that this testimony is still being borne to the world by someone. Second, the Mormon Church and its people promote good family upbringing and moral character. If this nation— Joseph’s land—is to survive and Zion is to be built, good family values and moral character must be instilled within our youth. I’m thankful that the Mormon Church does this. Third, had it not been for the Mormon Church, many of our historical properties would have been lost. While the visitor centers sometimes greatly overshadow the historical site itself (i.e., the Whitmer home in Fayette), the fact remains that these sites are still available to all who wish to explore them.

My point in all of this is to say that while the daily workings of the Mormon Church may need the reform you’ve indicated, which is for you to say and not me, in my opinion as an outsider there is still good being done by the church and its people. While I’m sure you and your readers believe this, I just wanted to give credit where credit was due.

Clint said...

Thank you for your blog! I really enjoyed it. And it is so true. It`s time we rethink many policies in the Church. I personally think that Mormonism should be a way of life rather than a structured robotic like machine. Thanks again!

Jonas said...

I agree about the service concept. I’ve been inactive for several years and maybe I’m missing something, but today isn’t there a big push for missionaries to provide service?

With that said . . . when I was a missionary in Canton, Illinois a tornado ripped through our little town causing serious and widespread damage. I called the mission president and asked if we could spend the next few days or weeks helping clean up the town. I suggested wearing our nametags, jeans and t-shirts. The answer was unequivocally, “NO!” I was instructed to tract and teach. I cannot tell you how many times I heard this question, “Why aren’t you out there helping clean up the town instead of knocking on doors?” And they spoke with vehemence in their voices – they were angry at us and with good reason. I certainly had no answer to their argument.

Well, here’s to inspiration,
Neil P. Christensen. May you find some one day. You did more damage in Canton than you will ever know – a**hole. (Sorry Rock. Can I use a bad word on here? Please? Just once?)
If that man was ever inspired, then my poop smells good.

Well, that brought up some old buried anger. Okay, deep breath . . . . . Aummmmmmmmmm. Aummmmmmmmm. Ah, now I feel better. :)

Jonas said...

Hey by the way Rock, I knew a Kim & Kim from San Jose. They are our age too. You think??? Call me and I'll tell you their last name.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

You know how sometimes as a missionary you'll come into an area and try to undo the damage the previous missionaries did in that particular town? I wonder if the same holds true with mission presidents?

I wonder if the president who succeeded yours had to spend all his time trying to undo the awful reputations Mormons got from his predecessor.

I'll call you, Jonas, but it will be a miracle if we recognize the last names of those two. It will certainly be interesting to learn if they stuck with it and made it big. I'll have to eat my hat.

Dave P. said...

Miracles happen all the time, Rock. I went to visit some college buddies of mine the other day and found another one of my friends from a different ward in a different year who I hadn't seen for 5 years living in the same apartment.

WasatchIntercept said...

That Des News article deals with present day perceptions. I think a study comparing what people say of Mormons now, to what has been said of us in the past, would be a lot more telling.

Since my conversion in 1986, I have seen attitudes in my own family soften, and I would like to think that we are making positive progress in society, toward one day being fully accepted into the mainstream. We are clearly not there now, and I don't think this fact comes as a surprise to any Mormon, no matter where they live.

Some things cannot be changed. A lot more Christians would be more accepting of us if we were to abandon our beliefs in apostasy and restoration, though to do so would be throwing away the only reason our church has for even existing. Many liberals would have no objections if we were to adopt their social values, or at least kept ours to ourselves. But what is the point to a religion if there is no real difference between they way it's people think, and speak in the public square, compared to the way people who have no religion believe and speak out?

But when I look at perceptions in the greater society, and find that Evangelicals have much more acceptance than we do, I see this as an indication that there are a lot of people whose attitudes towards us can be improved.

Evangelicals are more extreme in their theology, restrictive in their lifestyle, and the sentiment pervasive in our culture, "Contention is of the Devil", does not seem to be found in theirs. We only have a problem with Halloween if it falls on a Sunday, they preach that trick-or-treating is akin to satan worship. We question the authority of their clergy, they dispute the Christianity and the salvation of anyone outside their faction of Christianity. We run away from arguments, they are itching for a fight over ideology.

Within Utah, those who object to Mormons can cite very specific reasons. Not much is going to change here. In California, I got a lot more, "I've heard...", type of responses. The study said only 12 percent of non-Mormon Americans know, unaided, the LDS Church's claim to be a restoration of the church that Christ founded. That leaves 88 %. Any claim that our society has examined and rejected us is wishful thinking on the part of our adversaries.

My parents would declare themselves within the 12 % that is aware and do not believe. That does not stop them from being Mitt Romney supporters, faithfully watching Glenn Beck, and having voted for Prop. 8. Even among those who we will not be gaining as converts, there is some room for us to at least gain some respect.

WasatchIntercept said...

That Des News article deals with present day perceptions. I think a study comparing what people say of Mormons now, to what has been said of us in the past, would be a lot more telling.

Since my conversion in 1986, I have seen attitudes in my own family soften, and I would like to think that we are making positive progress in society, toward one day being fully accepted into the mainstream. We are clearly not there now, and I don't think this fact comes as a surprise to any Mormon, no matter where they live.

Some things cannot be changed. A lot more Christians would be more accepting of us if we were to abandon our beliefs in apostasy and restoration, though to do so would be throwing away the only reason our church has for even existing. Many liberals would have no objections if we were to adopt their social values, or at least kept ours to ourselves. But what is the point to a religion if there is no real difference between they way it's people think, and speak in the public square, compared to the way people who have no religion believe and speak out?

But when I look at perceptions in the greater society, and find that Evangelicals have much more acceptance than we do, I see this as an indication that there are a lot of people whose attitudes towards us can be improved.

Evangelicals are more extreme in their theology, restrictive in their lifestyle, and the sentiment pervasive in our culture, "Contention is of the Devil", does not seem to be found in theirs. We only have a problem with Halloween if it falls on a Sunday, they preach that trick-or-treating is akin to satan worship. We question the authority of their clergy, they dispute the Christianity and the salvation of anyone outside their faction of Christianity. We run away from arguments, they are itching for a fight over ideology.

Within Utah, those who object to Mormons can cite very specific reasons. Not much is going to change here. In California, I got a lot more, "I've heard...", type of responses. The study said only 12 percent of non-Mormon Americans know, unaided, the LDS Church's claim to be a restoration of the church that Christ founded. That leaves 88 %. Any claim that our society has examined and rejected us is wishful thinking on the part of our adversaries.

My parents would declare themselves within the 12 % that is aware and do not believe. That does not stop them from being Mitt Romney supporters, faithfully watching Glenn Beck, and having voted for Prop. 8. Even among those who we will not be gaining as converts, there is some room for us to at least gain some respect.

Pallas Athena said...

Just found your site this morning and have been really enjoying it. You may enjoy the book Law of the Harvest by David Stewart. He does a very good job of compiling statistics on how poor the missionary effort is going

Shawn M said...

WasatchIntercept, your experience with Evangelical Christians must be area specific. Being a former mormon who converted to Evangelism, what you expressed as "our" belief system and puritanical restrictive views does not in any way shape or form represent what I personally believe, nor those of the congregations that I have attended. IMO, mormonism will never be accepted as mainstream as long as they insist on the apostasy and the idea that they are the only true and living church upon the face of the earth that pleases the Lord. A group can't go out of their way to set themselves apart from everyone else and then expect to be accepted as just another one of the guys. Those concepts are polar opposites.

Steve said...

I count myself as one who once wanted to be accepted as a fellow Christian. Thinking about it now, why did I care? If I accept Joseph as a prophet and I do, then I would know that the Lord was not all that happy with other religions, or at least with their creeds. So why my (and others') desire to be accepted by them? Is it not more important to be accepted by the Lord who passed that judgment?

If we really believe that the Church (at least at one time) was the only true and living church upon the face of the earth, why not be more concerned about spreading that news?

Sometimes I just don't understand people, myself included.

JA Benson said...

I hear what you are saying Rock and I agree with you. Last summer we had an experience at Cove Fort. The missionaries at the tourist sites need to take their intensity down several notches. For those of you have not been to Cove Fort, it is a great place to visit and rest on the journey between Southern and Northern Utah.

Cove Fort is interesting and informative. It appears at all the times we have visited it gets a fair amount of visitors. However, when you pull up the missionaries rush at you, coming across as afraid a tour opportunity might be missed.

My advice to the Cove Fort missionaries is: there is nothing else to do out there folks, be patient they will come to you.

My last experience just prior to our visit was listening to my six year old squawking the last few miles in the car that she had to go to the bathroom. She has mild spina bifida, when you have to go, you really have to go! As we pulled up near the sparkling clean bathrooms, my mother called my cell.

I unlocked the door for the kids to run to the bathroom, while I told my mother of my location. A missionary couple met us right as we pulled up; in the seconds it took me to unlock the door and let the door on the van slide open, they grabbed the hands of my older kids and picked the full bladder kid up and began to quickly carry her and escort the others to the fort!

I had to run after them insisting they put my daughter down before she had an accident all over her lovely dress and let them all go to the bathroom.

What I am getting at, in this extremely remote location, the intent is so great to get everyone who stops by, to the fort asap. This attitude comes off as pushy and odd even to me a lifelong active member from pioneer stock. It would be better just to saunter up and address an adult asking if we would like a tour. Grabbing one's children and running off with them is extremely rude and pushy. Another mother would have had a fit, and a tour opportunity would have been missed.

Dave P. said...

Some might even argue that that also counts as attempting kidnapping, JA.

Lynn said...

This blog post had me nodding my head and chuckling. I well remember the days in the early 70's, not long after joining the Church, that my (then)husband and I got sucked into Amway, Shaklee, and Dare to Be Great, by well-meaning, and pushy, members of the ward. As a child of the 60's, idealistic, liberal, and not all that concerned about money, I was shocked, intimidated, and turned off by the "get rich" seminars with the "Money, money, money!" chanting and people running down the aisles like contestants in some "Reality TV" show. I enjoyed the products, but I never was pushy enough to be much of a sales person, and neither was he.

I was never much of a member missionary, either, for the same reasons. I was shy, had very few friends that were non-LDS, and those that were my friends I didn't want to alienate by being pushy. Plus, back in the 70's, I was busy being a SAHM with 6 kids.

Anonymous said...

Great blog, Rock and fellow posters.
I lived in a ward with a husband (blond) and a wife (dark hair) both named Kim in West Jordan, UT.

This "perfect" couple (with kids) no longer pushed Amway, as far as I knew, if this was even the same couple. I didn't know them really well as I never "lockstepped" my way into the clique acceptance since I experienced too many spiritual awakenings to be a totally blindly-obedient "Molly Moron". This is a frequent name for Mormons outside of Utah or as a Wyoming official stated "Utards" due to the perceived mind-control, rudeness, and plastic Ken and Barbie, Barbie, Barbie doll behavior seen in Utah.

When I lived in Utah as an awakening, but former blindly-obedient member, my nonmember neighbors would comment on the rudeness of the LDS people. They relayed to me what they had endured growing up in Utah as nonmembers. The kids in school believed their parent's brain washing of how much better they were than others and demonstrated cruelty to anyone they judged inferior.

My awakening began when I fasted and prayed about polygamy as I have always hated the thought of sharing a husband. I found out undeniably by a spiritual event with second and third witnesses (a key element of the truth) that polygamy was an abomination and was never of God. I found mormonstruth.org and then read Ann Eliza Young's book that she wrote in 1876 about the horrors of polygamy...

Ventured off subject there, but I'm very glad to be out of the mind control of Amway (yep, did that as well) and corrupt money-changers. I'm still a member because I enjoy the truths of the Book of Mormon.

Dave P. said...

Anonymous,

This is exactly the situation that you want to be in. In Nephi's vision, the people who sought after, entered, and lived in the great and spacious building are all TBMs today! Those who reject the corporate church but continue to hold to the foundational truths restored by Joseph Smith during his pure, prophetic years are the ones who leave the GaSB and grasp to the iron rod. Those who throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, by rejecting the Book of Mormon and the pure truths are those who fall by the wayside and into the muddy waters.

Think about TBMs treat truth-seekers or those they judge "inferior," just like the mocking, laughing, and pointing at in scorn by those in the vision. And while this may not be new info for you, I'm also speaking to everyone else who hasn't made that connection yet.

Beth said...

Great post and blog, Alan. I have really enjoyed reading and I like your thinking!

I am curious though, isn't your bishop a little concerned about this blog?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Yes Beth, he is.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I missed/didn't see NameTags on 'The Mormons'.

Alright; (military lingo) As You Were

Anonymous said...

I once asked a missionary that we were emotionally attached to,if he would stop coming with the purpose of trying to coerce us to go back to church - Would he just come to visit us because he wanted to be friends. He said no. I was in tears when I realized my perception of the people who I had grown up was real; very devastating. I'm having that same struggle many years later and am ready to extend the same invitation to this person except this time I will have the intention of providing a path into awareness. How i'll go about that has yet to be thought out. It's coming.

Anonymous said...

Amyway:People
LDS Church:People

about the Same, 'eh?

pollypinks said...

Ug. I was with you until the Amway moment. Then I got sick at my gut as usual. I lost so much money in my 20's to mormon women selling me shit, and the Forever Living Aloe nearly cost me my life. Hospitalized for a week after pooping myself to death and losing 20 pounds, all after following the directions to a tea. Mellaluca? How many of you know EXACTLY what is in that shit, what it counter-acts with, like people's medications, diets etc. Didn't think so. I still cringe every time a mormon woman tries to rip me off by selling me something, getting my name under hers, all so she doesn't have to get a real job and a baby sitter like the rest of us do.

Dave P. said...

pollypinks,

It's no small wonder that Utah is the scam capital of the US. TBMs are conditioned to the point where they think these "opportunities" for quick money are blessings from the Lord as a reward for their obedience and/or their chance to gain the blessings "poured out of heaven" because they pay a full tithe.

That isn't all, because crooks and con artists aren't the only ones scamming members of the church. How often do you hear about young men who tell a woman, "The Lord has said that you're supposed to marry me," or some other supposed revelation given to one person who is seeking to control another? Yes, I say control because the claims of, "The Lord has told me to tell you-" and "Your salvation depends on this," are tools used to trick people into horrible situations or into surrendering their agency.

How were people like Brigham Young able to con several women into becoming plural wives? By telling them that they could not inherit the celestial kingdom unless they became a plural wife to him and him alone. Even Joseph Smith fell into this trap when he began to follow after his own carnal lusts and desires prior to his pre-death repentance. And how often do you hear leaders today instituting greater impositions on the members to extend their control over our lives? The conditions for being "temple worthy" are the greatest example. The comments in Rock's post on "Go Ahead and Skip that Temple Wedding" go into this in great detail.

The reason I bring this up is because it has all always been false doctrine. The leaders and other members of the church cannot determine what affects our salvation because Jesus Christ laid out the guidelines for salvation in 3 Nephi 11:31-41. The only necessary ordinance of salvation is baptism. If temple marriage or even being married at all was necessary, the Lord would have told the Nephites because the Lord has also stated that the Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel. Once I received spiritual confirmation of this, I've never felt happier to be single because I've seen so many of my friends and family end up in ruinous relationships because they "had" to get married and I nearly fell into the same trap as well.

For various reasons I have to continue to put up with the facade of acting like a TBM for a while longer, but at least I was able to express myself by abstaining from voting to sustain the church authorities during ward conference yesterday. But once my livelihood (and recent mission I've received relating to it) is no longer tied to being "temple worthy," I can fully cast of those shackles. Until then, there's still a lot to learn and plenty to prepare for. And in the end I can't ask you or anyone else to believe me because the only one you can fully trust is the Lord, so it's best to study these things out for yourself and then ask Him.

On another blog, someone asked me how I could "really believe" what I've been learning lately, and I felt no inspiration or prompting to reply as he obviously knew of the things I was relating, but hadn't taken the time to prayerfully study them for himself, so anything I said would have been a waste of time. Since we can only save ourselves, we can only learn these things for ourselves. Others may help or hinder us by pointing us in various directions, but it is up to us to exercise our own agency on actually moving our feet and taking steps along the path.

Guy Noir, Private Eye said...

Dave P, pollypink:

See what Wonderous Things obedience does?
(N)ever wonder why they're called "Sheeple"...

btw, I'm aka OSWIT (on FLAK) & Guy Noir, Private Eye

Some things to think about said...

I too feel that there are those members of the LDS church who are less than stellar citizens.I am certainly one of them. We can and must do better at serving others, being kinder, relieving burdens. Frankly, never gave much thought to the missionaries riding bikes in suits, kinda funny really and the spoof on helmet heads very funny. Suppose all these amatuer members could benefit from formal sales training. But dog on it that "the spirit converts the heart" thing keeps getting in the way, not withstanding its members.

whitehusky said...

Genuine kindness is often in short supply. In one ward, when I went around doing my visiting teaching the way my mom did it (treating the people like people), I was asked what my angle was. What was my angle? I thought everyone was supposed to treat the people they visit teach like ... well, people.

Not so. The first visiting teacher I was assigned from that ward started out with, "Have you ever read the Book of Mormon?" Had I ever read the Book of Mormon? Many, many times. What kind of question is that for a visiting teacher to ask a church member? By the way, she often dragged her children along. I was nice to them, even when they got impatient to go. (They weren't nearly as impatient as their mother was, however.)

She wasn't nice to them. She dragged one out to the hall and told her she was only here doing church work and for the kid to stop interfering with it.

Yeah, I would have rather had the kids over than the mom, anyway. They just wanted to play with my Barbies and go home. She wanted to leave before she ever set foot in the door.

Dave P. said...

Yet another something I could post a lengthy rant about but it can be summed up like this: I hate, hate the home/visiting teaching program! Instead of being something to see that the needs of the members are being met, it's become something where the teachers are encouraged to ask personal, invasive questions that are really none of their business. And, like a good number of us, I feel it to be more of a chore than an act of service.

And, to go along with your other recent comment about people not utilizing the Holy Ghost, whitehusky, the H/VT program is yet another instance where people are content with blindly following the "outlined program" of parroting the First Presidency message as the lesson, rather than establishing a friendship with the person and going by the spirit on how they can be helped. With that in mind, it's no wonder so many people view it as a chore because there's no connection, no spirit, no Christlike love.

Thankfully there are exceptions to this situation, but they're becoming more and more rare. For example, as a home teacher one of the families talks about not having enough food as being one of their problems. Do we see more teachers who 1) Find a means to provide some amount of food for the family, ranging from just a meal to helping out with a load of groceries? Or 2) Tell them "Everything will be all right if you just pray, read your scriptures, and pay your tithing."?

whitehusky said...

I must have missed the Visiting Teaching indoctrination lesson, so I simply don't ask any questions except the normal, "How's it going?" kind of stuff. I treat visiting teaching as if it's an opportunity to develop friendships.

On the positive side, I have had visiting teachers bring me chicken soup when I was sick. Now, that's what a visiting teacher is for ... to help, like any friend.

By the way, I pretty much skip the whole canned message thing. I rarely find anything good in it. I just bring a scripture message.

My visiting teaching, partner, however, wanted to use the canned message this month. Guess what? It was an offense to the lady we visited, because it was something about attending Relief Society, and she has a bad hip and can't stay that long.

Besides this, neither I nor my visiting teaching partner even like RS that much. I think I dislike it more than she does, but I was still surprised that she wanted to share the message that way. I would have toned it way, way down into something basic about making friendships with the sisters or something.

Visiting teaching is not about bugging someone or making someone feel guilty about not going to certain church meetings or functions. It's about supporting each other as sisters in Christ.

doyle_megan said...

I can tell you why other Christians don't like us. Many Mormons don't value the Bible. Heck, they don't even care what the Book of Mormon says. They'd rather go by what they think some general authority said than listen to the Holy Ghost.

whitehusky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
whitehusky said...

When I've been online trying to point out to stiff-necked Mormons that Jesus Christ, as Jehovah, is the Most High, that they have been all over me calling me names, saying I'm a troll and a sockpuppet, saying I'm a liar about being Mormon, and insulting me every way they can, including unprintable four-letter names. Meanwhile, the Christians who understandably take a dim view of Mormons have been supportive, saying that I should continue to follow Christ and listen to the Holy Spirit.

Now, just tell me, how did Mormons go so far wrong? What happened? We of all people ought to know the God who gave us life and redeemed us with his own blood ... that God is Jesus Christ and none other. Why do Mormons fight against the workings of the Holy Spirit when other Christians are open to it?

Dave P. said...

Simple, we're making the same mistakes that the Jews did in taking pride that we are the Lord's "chosen." Thus with hard hearts and stiff necks, we're easily manipulated into following the dictates of men ("A prophet will never lead you astray!") rather than repent and follow the Lord's will.

doyle_megan said...

Dave, I think you're right. It's the Pharisee syndrome, and most Mormons suffer from it. I can really appreciate what Paul was going through when he worked so hard to bring people to Christ and all of the sudden they were preaching another gospel. Yes sir, we've got another gospel being preached when Jesus Christ stops being the Almighty God and becomes a spirit child.

whitehusky said...

I'm tired of being on blogs where Joseph Smith is blamed for the idiocy of today's Mormons. Joseph Smith knew the Lord personally. He's not responsible for the fact that so many Mormons today fail to know Jesus Christ. That's a personal failing. One thing I think a lot of Mormons forget is that the Lord gave us prophets to help us communicate with him. Prophets are not a substitute for direct communication with the Lord. They are a crutch for the people who are too lazy to go to the Lord themselves in all humility and follow what he says.

Anonymous said...

Just a comment from a non-mormon... maybe the focus should be on the youth being more accepting of others. I have had zero problems in my 20's with any mormon being condescending, pushy, or rude but my preteens and high school years were horrible growing up in Utah.
I can completely relate to that Kim story...girls in my high school were extremely mean to me because I'm not LDS that I regularly went home crying. The funny thing is that before word got around that I wasn't LDS, I was actually voted "kindest" in those silly yearbook things.
If one of my "friends" had actually just been a friend to me, instead of harassing me or constantly sending missionaries to my home, I might of gave it a chance.

Anonymous said...

Fellow non-mormon commenter here. I grew up with Mormon kids, had many as friends in high school, and even went through the meetings with missionaries because I was in love with my mormon boyfriend at the time.

As soon as I read the Book of Mormon, I absolutely knew it was false. As I read up on Joseph Smith, I discovered that he was simply another whacko who enjoyed power over people. And the mormons were shocked and horrified, insisting that I needed to pray harder. The guilt trip was on, the emphasis that no, I couldn't be right for realizing how much plagarism and fake Elizabethan language (including the translation errors in the KJV) was in that book.

When I asked these insistent members if they'd read it - not a single one had. But they all - verbatim - knew it was true. They "knew that it was true", and that all other faiths had "shards" of the truth. It was downright creepy.

As soon as I flatly said no, I wasn't converting - every. single. one. dropped me as a friend. They dismiss anything that doesn't fit their world view as "anti-mormon," even when it comes from the LDS teachings themselves.

I've watched people I cared about who reconnected with me as they tried to leave the church, and the horrifying ordeal of having to formally resign, and then the ongoing harassment from members for them to come back. No other church requires that. None!

When family crises have come to people in my community, there is always support and love - except from the Mormons. They don't want to help anyone, unless it's to help get them into the pews.

Mormons are perceived as fake, arrogant, and simple-minded - because that's what they're trained to be from childhood in the church. Do not question, and remember that every member's a missionary.

It screams cult and screams permanent life-changing danger. And that's why people really don't like Mormons. Mormons don't treat the general public as anything other than potential scam victims. Most intelligent people don't appreciate that treatment.

Anonymous said...

Also, missionaries have to teach to a curriculum that does not include information about polygamy, exaltation = being a god yourself and lording it over your own planet, or the bizarreness of Masonic inspired temple endowments. Word gets around through both active and apostate members, contributing to the impression that Mormons use sleazy, sleight of hand, witholding information to lure people in.

Anonymous said...

Mormons are exceptional. Whats the difference between a Mormon and a member and the KKK. The Mormon wears their secret white garments under their clothes. honestly i have never met more twisted people in my life and i feel sorry for you. Your beliefs are your business and if you want to share them great. But when someone says no that means no. I t does not mean i do not want to talk to you it just means I am not interested in your version of religion. The thing that is most interesting about devout Mormons is the absolute empty look they have in their eyes. They always look absolutely drained. Its sad.

mum22babes said...

Your blog literally had me in tears. 5 years ago I left the church...wasn't right for me anymore. After being sealed to a husband that beat me, cheated on me, and even more horrific things, I watched my family and the church take his side. Then I got told over and over that the church is perfect even if the people aren't. It simply didn't make any sense to me. I still had my mind open though...for about 3 months. Everyday for a year and a half my parents told me I was going to hell as a way to get me "back into the church". The missionaries wouldn't leave us alone. Lots of friends left me by the wayside because I wasn't Mormon anymore. I was so shocked that our friendship was based on what church I went to. Even though, as far as I know, we still worship the same God and the same Jesus. I decided that the people in the church weren't the ones I wanted to praise my Lord with. Things have somewhat settled down. However, recently my mom let me know that she thought once my husband (new one) died I would convert back to the church. Nice...hoping for my husband to die so I can go to the right church. Yeah...pretty done. It's nice to have a member of the church realize the damage that members do by trying to get make sure people go to the "right church".

cludgie said...

Finally, a Mormon who understands what a collective organization of yahoos the LDS church is. My chief complaint about the LDS church is... Well, I have too many chief complaints about the Mormon church, so it's hard to find a starting point. Let's start with how they want to be perceived as Christian, but aren't willing to much act like it. They believe that they will have special privileges based on the grips, handshakes, and tokens they learn in the poorly re-plagiarized Masonic endowment ceremony, and so actually doing Christian works or merely acting like the Christian is of no consequence--the "endowment" has saved them and promises them safe passage at the Pearly Gates.

Another beef is that generally you have to be outside the Mormon church to know anything of consequence about the Mormon church. By that I mean that Latter-day Saints know precious little about the religion they hold so dear. They turn their trust to poorly written and terribly compromised, truncated, obfuscated, and suppressed publications of the LDS church. This perpetuates their ignorance and creates a situation where the more you know about Mormonism, the more difficult it is to practice it. Of course, true knowledge about Mormonism, its actual doctrines and its true history and origins is what led me out, and I joined a queue of thousands of others as I left the chapel for good. But it's no less irritating today to see Mormons I know spouting their ignorance based on shallow church manuals while shunning any real facts, even facts that come from LDS resources.

So long as Mormons continue to make nuisances and public asses of themselves while keeping themselves blissfully separated from facts about their doctrines, history, and origins, their church will continue to be the Incredibly Shrinking Church.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post and agree with most of it. The description of Mormon phoniness is EXACTLY what I encountered in my years as a nonMormon at BYU and now many many years later with Mormon inlaws who make all sorts of proclamations of affection, the insincerity of which are clearly showed by their actions.

However, in the end, it is the actual PRODUCT I am unwilling to buy because I have found it to be defective and not at all what it purports; likewise my former RM husband has also rejected Mormonism for the same reasons.

Furthermore, I disagree that were Mormons to live 'pure Mormonism' that their dispositions and reputations would be any different. Unless of course the Mormon church were to change its exclusionary temple practices and a myriad of other teachings.

In the end, although completely disgusted by Mormon arrogance and phoniness whenever it is encountered, it is Mormonism itself I dislike the most and blame for making its followers so obnoxious.

Shaun said...

Thank you for this post. Thank you for being so completely open and honest. Thank you for having a desire to just be you and live the way you do.

I've just left the church after nearly seven years of being a convert, and part of the reason is what you've highlighted here. If the church was just a church, where people could freely meet and worship without having to be "worthy" or go through so many interviews and ordinances, then there would be a greater chance that I would still be around.

I value the friendships of the people I've come to know through the LDS church, and I'd like to think of them as friendships based on respect and trust rather than just being Mormon. I value some of the Christian teachings that I have been given during my time in the church, and you know what? If more LDS were able to put out these feelings in a free and open forum where everyone could communicate and discuss their concerns, then I think everyone, Mormons and non-Mormons alike, would be so much happier and feel like they have so much more freedom.

As Anonymous has said, it's the product, the organisation, and the various levels of worthiness and exclusionary practices and teachings that really put me off, but I couldn't have nicer things to say about the people I've had those experiences with.

God bless you, I really do admire and respect you for your objective and positive contribution to religion and faith.

Michael Carpenter said...

"Mormonism is the Amway of religions."

Bike Helmets. We had a set of missionaries over for dinner. The senior companion had taken the junior comp's "Specialized" brand bike helmet and scratched off the "iz" so that it said, "Special Ed." I'm sure that helped the work.

Somehow we got from "Love is the first commandment of heaven" to "Obedience is the first law of heaven." Sad.

Anonymous said...

Yup. Just fix the name tags and the dress code for the missionaries and that will solve the whole problem. I'll add my own ideas here. First. Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean that person is "Anti". Second. People should be treated as people not "quality's" of people. Do not group us non members based on some "worthiness scale" you guys have. Black, Non member, Doesn't speak English etc. Humanity is one body.

Think about this. Your doctrine and deity is yours. I respect that. In America you have a right to embrace your faith as you wish. Again I respect that. How ever have you ever looked around you. The Mormons claim to have the only answer and everyone else is wrong. Well everyone else has taken the challenge and found no substantial evidence to support the Mormon claim that they as a group have the only answer. A case in point is the blacks in the priesthood. It was the ACLU that helped the Mormons realize what would happen to their organization if things did not change on that front. And more recently the ACLU helped out again when it informed the Church under no nu-certain terms would it tolerate another prop8 job. The Mormon organization seems to be more focused on revenue and numbers rather than helping and giving back to others. Disagree? Just show us your financials.

The last thing that would help Mormons is if they did not give the blatant impression that they are not allowed to think for themselves. Every conversation and I mean every conversation I have ever had with a Mormon contains the sentence "Our leaders have told us...." I mean really are that empty inside you have to told how to think and act.

Anonymous said...

I love Mormons. They are generally kind and loving people. They mostly have good morals. And if Mormons are deceptive about their friendship/missionizing intentions, it comes out of concern for the welfare of the eternity of others. These things I can recognize and appreciate about the members of the LdS church.

I love Mormons, but I do not like Mormonism. The LdS church claims that as a mainstream Christian I am apostate, my creeds (which are nothing more than my articles of faith) are an abomination, that I am corrupt for professing them, and that I give lip service to God but my heart is far from Him*. That the LdS church calls these beliefs about my faith "glorious"** is disturbing. I am a big girl though, and I know that every faith to some extent paints other faiths with tar in order to "prove" their own rightness. So for the LdS to claim these things about Christianity is disturbing, but not remarkable.

What I truely find wrong and confounding about the LdS church though, is that while claiming these things about mainstream Christianity, they simultaneously claim brotherhood with us. I cannot count the amount of times I have had LdS say to me "we are ALSO Christian". This is deceptive, irrational, and insulting. The LdS church is basically asking mainstream Christians to accept that LdS view them as apostate. Accept that LdS deny the basic tenents of the mainstream Christian faith. And along with all of that, accept LdS as fellow Christians. And if mainstream Christians happen to point out that we cannot in good conscience embrace into our fellowship those who see us and our beliefs this way; we are called bigots and Anti-Mormons.

At least Jehovah's Witnesses have the honesty to say that they believe they are the only Christians, and mainstream Christians are not Christian at all. They do not try to be our brothers while denying our faith and calling us apostate.

Please LdS, be honest and stand up for your beliefs!

You believe that mainstream Christians are apostate, and our beliefs are abominations to God; fine. You go ahead and believe that. But stop trying to force us to accept you as fellow Christians, while believing those things about us. Be honest, and claim you believe you are the only Christians. Be honest and claim we are apostate and you do not believe we are Christian. No more of this "you mainstream Christians have some truth, you just don't have the fullness of truth" deflection and deception. Stop trying to be our brothers in faith, while denying our beliefs.

*
"My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)--and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof."
Joseph Smith Jr. official first vision
http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,104-1-3-4,00.html

**
"Our entire case as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the validity of this glorious First Vision."
President Gordon B. Hinckley
http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&sourceId=7c86605ff590c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____

Kami said...

missionaries are there to teach; the members are there to dress normal and build a true friendship.

Anonymous said...

proselytizing is the only way to for the cult to exist , as they fish with holes in their nets and truth will prevail in the end .

Anonymous said...

I'm not LDS, but I have neighbors who are whom I respect and admire. There's a lot of good things about your church. And I think part of what makes that possible is that you maintain a cohesive, somewhat "weird" identity that is separate from the world around you.

I think your practice of missions is an important part of that. Regardless of the stated purpose, I think the primary function of missions is the formation of young people, strengthening their commitment to the LDS. A cynic might call it "brainwashing," giving young people exposure to other viewpoints in a very controlled environment where they're equipped to respond to opposing views. But even to those who are sincere in their goals of sharing the faith with others would have to see that the actual fruit of missions is as much or more in the effects it has on the missionaries as it is in making new converts.

And I think the "weirdness" - the nerdy uniform, the name tags and titles, etc. - are probably an important part of that. There are other churches that place a high value on witnessing and sharing their faith with others, but in trying to hold their members only to the core essentials of their faith, they tend to get too involved and entangled with the world to the point that they don't really have a distinct identity and a solid community.

I suspect you probably can't hold onto your identity without going a little too far, separating yourselves a little more than is strictly necessary, erring somewhat on the side of "weird." The important part is that there has to be genuine love and faith behind that weird. People are pretty good at telling the difference between someone who sees them as a "project" or a "target" and someone who offers genuine friendship and compassion. And where there is real love, people will accept and get used to all sorts of weirdness.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this article very much and will pass it on to my family who are still active LDS.

I learned a lot of valuable lessons while growing up in the church: How to be kind, not judge others, and live a wholesome life.

Since then I've also learned that religion doesn't really make much sense so I've stripped out all the good, left the garbage and now I'm truly happy.

I can actually love everyone and never feel like I'm trying to sell them anything. I just treat them with respect and they do the same to me. No ulterior motives. Just love.

Love one another baby!

Anonymous said...

Here's a crazy idea. Do away with the missionary program. Have young men spend 2 years of their life building houses while allowing them to date. At the end of the two years they recieve a small house. With that and a perpetual mortgage fund. I think people would be beating down our doors to join our church. I think our church tries to convert people to "our doctrine" instead of creating a forum where people that have a love of treating eachother nice want to congregate. Doctrine comes as biproduct of treating people kindly. I think the missionary program is a screwed up paridigm. I think I spent two years of my life in a vortex that sucked all my creative energy.

I am not fully conviced President Monson is revelations are free of industry and banking influences. So don't expect a perpetual mortgage fund anytime soon.

Jonathan Horton

Anonymous said...

Why don't you allow the individual the agency to choose for himself. After two years of not being able to choose for oneself hardly anything. I think it creates a weird mental illness in men(cannotchooseonesdestinyosis). It may be a cotributing factor why so many mormon bachelors are afraid to commit to a marriage after they come home.
Jonathan Horton

Anonymous said...

There is another way to regard the Restoration Movement. Not to look so much to the past to guide us, there is much to despise in the excesses of the original movement, but to take the essence of a prophetic people and understand that while God is eternal, humans evolve,and God isn't finished with us.

Obviously, I belong to another Restoration faith. I'm dismayed at the inordinant amount of reverence for Joseph Smith on this post. To say he was a flawed prophet us understating the fact. But there aren't any religions out there that can point to a blameless past, and the trick is to learn from the past and move forward.

Because of encounters with Mormons early in my life, I've pretty much learned to avoid them. I didn't have much opinion one way or another, I just didn't want to deal with it. I'm afraid you lost me when the Mormon church spent so much money and so much time getting Prop 8 passed in California. Believe what you want to believe. I know that the Mormon church operates pretty much as it wants to in Utah, but this is California, and you lost a lot of respect over that issue. And Prop 8 will be overturned.

cascadepeaks said...

I am quite sure you meant white "shirts" not shits...LoL

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Let's hope so...

Anonymous said...

I wish I had known of this site many, many months ago. But I have to say this: during my mission some of the Sister missionaries were trained to be "Welfare" missionaries, this was during Pres. Kimball. I was trained to be a welfare missionary. My mission president did not like the welfare sisters and forbid any welfare work. I was very angry, and how could a mission pres. go against the Prophet. I only had two companions who were also welfare trained and we did welfare/service unknown to the mission pres. We had so much success and planted many seeds and made many friends. It breaks my heart that the welfare missionary program was done away with.
I agree with everything said in the article. The church needs to focus on service/helping with no strings attached, and I would bet the success rate of retaining converts and gaining converts would go up. More importantly maybe respect would increase. I hated being called sister and still do and I hated the way I had to dress, Plus missionaries are not properly prepared to do what they are sent out to do. There needs to be a major overhaul concerning many things in the missionary world, starting in the MTC and attitudes of leaders, including mission presidents. My mission was not that great, and thankfully it wasn't as bad as others I heard about. I was very unhappy and had to put up with awful companions. Plus because I would not complain I got the raw end of many happenings. Thank you for giving this subject attention.

MTgunfighter said...

"A nineteen year-old wearing an expensive suit isn’t going to risk ruining it by helping someone dig a post-hole in their backyard."

I am a 're-activation' project of the local branch. The mishies were instructed to come and rake my yard. One day, they show up and work for about half an hour in regular clothes (with name tags, of course). Then they leave. About an hour later, I look up and see them out there raking my yard in their suits!

They get ordered by the Branch Pres to do a lot of stuff for me. Thing is, they never finish, anything. Which sure gets them respect from me...

MTgunfighter said...

My experience at Cove Ft. (Identical to yours, I had to swerve to avoid the mishie as I was pulling into the parking lot.) seemed pointed towards information control. He stopped any conversation and talked over us. It was clear he was making up things as he went along, some of the things he said were absurdly wrong, just to fill space.

I find this type of 'control the information' behavior consistent with the mishies I encountered at Temple Sq.

Which isn't true with most mishies I've encountered...

Ken Taylor said...

I know this is an older post, but I'm new here, and I just read it for the first time. Well, I skimmed it - it's very hard to read every word with that blurry picture behind it. Is there a fix for that? or do I just have to suffer?
Anway, my thoughts as I read were what Paul Dunn said when he visited our mission. I'm not sure if anyone would agree officially with what he said. But he did in fact say that missions were not to convert people. They were (are) to convert missionaries. So yes, the world doesn't like them. But at the end of the day, who cares? The church has a converted young man/woman who will likely stay obedient, continue to wear white shirts, stay active, marry in the temple, produce children & pay tithing for the rest of his/her life. That's a better return than a hundred wishy-washy converts.

kearns_hippy said...

The fake Mormons are what gets a lot of people. When I was in high school, I was working 30+ hours a week and had early morning church. I have to admit to not feeling dedicated to getting up early and being at church every week, but still made an effort. I didn't go to weekday activities because of work. Anyway, I ran into the young women's president at school who said "We missed you on Sunday" to which I responded, "That's funny because I was there." It was that moment that I found out two things. First, I was considered "a project". Second, they didn't really care. I went atheist for a few years shortly thereafter.
This same ward that had such high percentages of home and visiting teaching (90%+) contributed to several of my husbands siblings leaving. They went to a girls camp where there family was made fun of for having so many children in a skit and none of the adults did anything to stop it. While this particular girl was thought to be sleeping, the other girls in her tent made fun of her and her family for several hours, saw the sun rising, then said how they hoped the sunrise in the worlds they made would be so pretty. Yeah, needless to say, that had a negative effect.

Holly said...

Amen to stopping the proselytizing and to assigning humanitarian missions. Besides, ironically the mission itself is not necessarily retaining the missionaries anyway. According to Grant Palmer, after 5 years of being home from a mission, 45% no longer have a temple recommend.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHsvZooc4Bc (about minute 14)

Anonymous said...

These are some fantastic observations. If you really want to see how "real" your friendships are in your ward, tell people that you no longer believe and see how you and your family are treated. My experience is that you'll be treated like you have the plague. If you think the Amway kiss-off is bad, it's nothing compared to the Mormon reaction to a former member.

The most shocking reaction will come from your family. My wife of 15 years was told to leave me by her parents and an uncle. Thanks for holding up the mirror.


I don't think many are conscious of how they build walls. It's just part of the culture. I was guilty of the same thing as a member. I only dated Mormon girls. I only hung out with the Mormon kids. That's just the way it was.

mtman318 said...

I've read some of your blog entries; some I mostly disagree with, while others I think are pretty spot on, this being one of them. I've always hated when people compare missionary work to sales (though I know some here would argue that they are one and the same--not if I have any say in the matter, though I recognize that many Church leaders have essentially viewed it as such).

This is especially true after I tried being a salesman twice now (Cutco knives and Living Scriptures--never again!), and even though I think the products I tried to sell were at least halfway decent, both companies were plagued (especially Living Scriptures, interestingly enough) by underhanded policies, techniques, and/or contracts. In Cutco's case, they were also too heavily dependent on getting referrals from customers (much like the Church, in my opinion), and I wasn't going to pressure people into giving me them.

I cringe (at least on the inside) whenever the missionaries ask the ward to "pick a person," etc. I want to add on such occasions, "while you're at it, actually become friends with these people." (Same with home/visiting teaching as well.) I understand, though, that the missionaries in turn are pressured to reach "their" goals (even though none of the current official "key indicators" are directly under the missionaries' control, unless that's changed in the past 5 years). I fought this pressure as a missionary (and succeeded, usually) by ignoring it, and I continue to do so now.

Here's my approach to missionary work: I'm going to live the Gospel as well as I can, hopefully improving each day (and being honest with myself when I'm not), and when the opportunity for sharing the Gospel arrives, I'll use it. I'm not going to force any opportunities to show up, just like I can't force the Spirit to do anything.

I recommend reading "Law of the Harvest" by David G. Stewart as well. It's a good, honest read (though pretty redundant, if I remember correctly--and "dry," to be polite). The only major issue I took with it is the idea that "a missionary who obeys 90% of the mission rules is just as disobedient/lacking in the Spirit as one who only obeys 50%" Of course that isn't true, since the one who is obeying 90% is probably trying his or her best, and that does, in fact, count for something--no matter what Yoda said! Also, there's no index; I couldn't even find the idea mentioned above, so it might be a little different than how I put it. Anyway, those were my main problems with an otherwise exceptional book. It's free at Cumorah.com, or the printed version is available as well.

I want to comment on some of the other entries as well, though I'm kind of a lazy writer/typist, so probably not tonight.

Anonymous said...

The whole missionary image thing is of no consequence when it's is remembered that "ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts." In fact, the only people I know that are still active since my mission are the one's who immediately opened the door when we knocked and ended up getting baptized... in spite of my terrifically dumb companion and his complete inability to teach the Gospel. The intellectualized convert and the social member who comes to Church for a good lesson or meat filled ward activity is typically just a telestial or at most, terrestrial summer camper coming up for a visit while they still can. There are very few elect people in or out of the Church and for the rest, though they may be smart enough to not be swayed into an Amway scam, they're still just sheep wandering in around who don't really know the Shepherd.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This article left me speechless. It is the most *sane* thing I have read about Mormonism from any source pro or con. I like the last paragraph the most, and it is what I try to live by myself. I was telling a Mormon friend at work that I enjoy going to church (my wife and I are Catholic) because it's a "random issue generator". The weekly homily covers a single topic that reminds me how I can be a better, kinder, more loving person. And it stays with me through the week. I'd never dream of trying to "convert" somebody, but I sure hope people around me are thinking "I wanna be like *that* guy." We did experience the "fake friend" business when we first moved to our neighborhood. Ironically, that family is the one we aren't close to, because they seemed phony. All our other mormon neighbors are very kind, friendly, and helpful and we are good friends with them.