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Re: A long post about deception...

Posted: 05 May 2009, 18:31
by asha
hawkgrrrl wrote:I don't believe the church deliberately deceives anyone. They are selling what they themselves buy.
I'm not sure about this anymore. Part of what makes me uncomfortable about my son serving a mission one day is that I DO think omitting information that could make a huge difference to a person's judgement on something IS deceptive.

I really don't want to end up being the cynic here, but I can't help but feel that the leaders of the church have quite a vested interest in maintaining the church's image, from a even temporal standpoint... they need to "buy" what they are themselves selling since their jobs are on the line, right? Sorry if that is somewhat crass, but really, the leaders of the church more than anyone have their entire lives tied up in the church, many of them having served full-time for many decades. I suppose it is natural to want to be protective of the church, even to the point of deception, when you are that far embroiled in it, but I don't think it makes it right. I understand why they do it, but I don't think it is right.

Finally, if the church isn't deliberately deceiving people, than why are hordes of angry/disillusioned members and ex-members flocking to online forums with feelings of shock and betrayal? I certainly feel as though I have been deceived about a number of issues.

Sorry... it's been a long day.

Re: A long post about deception...

Posted: 05 May 2009, 19:19
by Buscador
hawkgrrrl wrote:I don't believe the church deliberately deceives anyone. They are selling what they themselves buy.
I'd like to jump in here on this point.

When a salesman takes a job, he gets trained in how to sell the company's product. He tries out the product himself. He likes the product. He can believe in it, and he can sell it in good conscience. He adopts the company selling points as his own and goes about selling.

After several years with the company, the salesman finds out that the company left out some important information about the product that would make it difficult to sell if the customer knew about these things.

What should the salesman do? Should he leave the company? Should he go back to all his customers and give them the information he has just discovered? Should he continue to sell the product including the difficult information? This could hurt sales.

Of course this is a very transparent analogy, but if we are to accept Hawk's conclusion that the church does not deliberately deceive anyone because they are themselves a customer, you have to ignore the systematic, deliberate pattern of withholding information from church members, missionaries, proselytes, and everyone else.

Is withholding information deceptive. I definitely think so. Maybe the missionaries are not deliberately deceiving, but the institutionalized, accepted missionary approach withholds information, and is therefore deceptive.

Now should the church give the whole story?
I don't know. Perhaps it is necessary to withhold the difficult information at first so that the church can continue to exist, but information is so easy to get nowadays that I believe the church will have to adjust in order to continue to exist.

Re: A long post about deception...

Posted: 05 May 2009, 19:49
by Tom Haws
asha wrote:I really don't want to end up being the cynic here....
Quite the opposite! You are the one being idealistic. Cynicism, in the context of Fowler's warning, is the state of becoming so comfortable with the paradoxes that we fall asleep to the deception. There are little ones being offended here. This isn't academic. It matters for us to figure this out and approach our "burden" with wisdom and love.

Re: A long post about deception...

Posted: 05 May 2009, 20:42
by asha
Buscador wrote:information is so easy to get nowadays that I believe the church will have to adjust in order to continue to exist.
Yes. I don't see it ever happening though.

Re: A long post about deception...

Posted: 05 May 2009, 21:27
by jmb275
I'm afraid I tend to agree with you on this. I firmly believe that if investigators had the full picture of the facts, or even a faithful spin of the facts, it would strongly influence their decision. And the same goes for many members. There is a lot of truth in the idea that a single fact will not, and should not prove the church false. And no one should leave on a single fact alone. This goes back to the Black Swan idea (inductive reasoning where the premises don't support the conclusion). BUT, and this is a big but, when many Black Swans are found, and many disturbing things are encountered, one starts to get a different picture.

For me, once I saw many of the facts (even after reading RSR), it was easy to see Joseph Smith as having many similarities with a Sun Myung Moon, or David Keresh, or Warren Jeffs. For an investigator this would raise red warning flags and influence their decision. From a corporation I would expect such dishonesty, but not from an organization like ours.
Buscador wrote:Now should the church give the whole story? I don't know. Perhaps it is necessary to withhold the difficult information at first so that the church can continue to exist
I have asked this question a million times. If it's not the church's job, whose job is it? The church discourages things like Dialogue and Sunstone, and they won't address the issues themselves, so who do we turn to? I know that I would much rather get the "truth" from the church as I implicitly trusted them. At least I can read RSR now and get a faithful spin. But it is still not taught in the mainstream as it ought.

As for the organization, I actually have a very free-market view of this. This will probably sound harsh, but here goes. If religion were considered to be a free-market, the things going on right now in the church are the free-market way of trying to stamp out the church, or force it to evolve. It grew, and served an important purpose, but just like corporations who don't learn how to evolve, the church is very slow to reinvent itself. The church will either need to change, or it should cease to exist. It a religion ceases to be useful, or proves to be otherwise damaging, or uses dubious recruiting tactics it should go away. I'm not saying that the church is in that boat, but I think we are seeing things coming to the point where it will need to evolve.

I'm sorry about your predicament asha. I really feel for you. I have a lot of years before I will have to address this issue, but I definitely have no idea how I will handle it. Ultimately, I believe in personal freedom, so I will allow my kids to choose what they think is best. If I have raised them properly they will have a good understanding for how to make good rational decisions that will benefit them, and their fellows. As long as they have all the information, and tools necessary to make an informed decision, I will allow them to choose according to their conscience.

It may be that this is something I just have to learn to live with and accept if I am to remain a member. I will have to just agree to disagree.

Re: A long post about deception...

Posted: 05 May 2009, 22:13
by Curt Sunshine
I have little time tonight, but I just want to make one point that Hawk mentioned:

I just don't see intentional deception from "the Brethren" that can't be explained accurately, at its worst, as "believing protection". In other words, right or wrong, I think the "milk before meat" concept is believed, truly and sincerely, by most, if not all, of the leadership - that they really believe a "basic testimony" is foundational to deeper understanding later. I think they view their role as preaching to the masses, with the responsibility to figure out the details left to individual members who are ready.

I also believe that most leaders don't feel cognitive dissonance in quite the same way as most of us here. I think they really do know most, if not all, of the issues we know and simply don't place the same importance on them as the "disaffected" do. I know much of my own peace has come from a conscious decision to do nothing more than "devalue" some things and just accept the messiness of life in all its manifestations - and I believe some people never have to make that a conscious decision. They simply do it naturally. Since it's not how we process information, it's so easy to impute nefarious motives - when, in reality, it often is nothing more than differing natures.

(I don't mean that as a "free pass" on issues of disagreement. I simply have found great peace and liberation in meekness, mercy and charity.)

One more thing to consider:

We need to find creative ways to discuss our own concerns with members who don't see things the same way we do. Are we (should we engage in) "white-washing" or "deceiving" or "manipulating" by trying to find non-traditional, creative ways to explain our beliefs in these situations? I don't think so, as long as we aren't intentionally being deceitful. It's a difficult line to walk without crossing in practice, but I think FAR more people are sincere than deceptive and cynically manipulative - and that includes LDS leaders, imo.

As to the overall issue of deception and manipulation, I wrote the following a while ago:

"Not Everything is Manipulation" ( ... ation.html)

Re: A long post about deception...

Posted: 06 May 2009, 13:09
by hawkgrrrl
Ray has done a good job of expressing my view on this, and I want to echo this sentiment:
I don't mean that as a "free pass" on issues of disagreement.
While I don't see what the church leaders do as deliberate deceit (mostly because they don't have the cog dis of the disaffected), there are clearly consequences for the approach that the church takes to these issues, and those consequences are not all positive. For example, if you believe in milk before meat and that you really only provide the milk and people have to get the meat on their own, they may get meat from a bad source (undiscriminating antis). They may decide that meat is actually sinful (the ultra-conservative zealots). They may become lactose intolerant (the disaffected). So there are negative consequences. There's no free pass.

This interview recap with Marlin K. Jensen, church historian, sheds some interesting light on this topic: ... urchs.html A couple things I found particularly interesting:
- Marlin Jensen, although he is the church historian, did not know as much about the pet issue of the poster as that person did (the possible polygamous offspring of JS). He knew more about MMM because it was his own pet issue. And he was open in sharing the negative information he knew about MMM, and open to what the poster had to say about Sylvia Sessions.
- While Marlin Jensen was interested in research and disclosure, he shared a story of an earlier issue in which he was discouraged (by either Monson or Maxwell) from sharing his drafted response because of their preference for feelings and testimony over proof and research. [To the credit of this notion, no one ever got fired up to go be a better person because of research. Research, conversely, only seems to have potential to sap spiritual energy, especially if pursued with obsession. This viewpoint has some merit to it even though it's not my approach, nor that of Marlin Jensen as described in this interview.]
- The poster writes: "He found the tale rather amusing and made a comment about the irony of how the church would send members to the church history center to strengthen their testimonies only to have those same testimonies degraded by work." I'm sure some would not find it amusing, but it certainly is ironic.
- "He stated that there was just quite a bit that he, and the church in general didn't know about Mr. Smith." Again, that's part of the basis for my statement about leadership not deliberately deceiving anyone about sticky points of history.

It's an interesting interview anyway and gives some insight into another perspective.

Re: A long post about deception...

Posted: 06 May 2009, 17:04
by Buscador
Hawk, I appreciate the clarification, and I agree with you that church leaders in general do not deliberately deceive, but the institutionalized, media savvy, sales approach to winning converts does not give all the information that would prevent a TBM from becoming disaffected upon encountering the troubling aspects of LDS history. The evidence of deception does not come from the intent of the deceiver, but in the betrayal of the deceived. On a personal level, church leaders, I do not believe, should be harshly judged for "selling what they themselves have bought," but that does not mean they are not as members of a large institution liable for that deception. When declaring that something is true, such as the Pearl of Great Price (including its provenance), the idea that JS translated the BOM from gold plates by the power of God, those leaders are responsible to do research, no matter if it does not help them become a better Christian (BTW, I think research, carefully performed with discipline can make one a better person), to make sure the details bear out their claims. Relying on the spiritual testimony alone is perilous.

On another point, I am not certain that historical conundrums constitute gospel 'meat.' I think they are just history. When I think of meat, I usually think of difficult doctrines like 'where does god come from?' or 'how does one entity's suffering benefit me?' I concede that difficult, meaty doctrines like polygamy and polyandry cannot be separated from the historical difficulties associated with them. It is one of the fuzzy gray areas I like to embrace.

Thanks for the link to the Jensen interview.

Re: A long post about deception...

Posted: 06 May 2009, 17:41
by Heber13
jmb275 wrote:Also, missionary work, for me, is really the ultimate in, what I feel, is deception. We send out 19 year old guys who almost certainly know nothing about real church history.

Now, I recognize that this is the old way. They have Preach my Gospel now (which I haven't read), but from what I understand there is still no in depth discussion of church history. And the basics are the same, if just a bit less structured.
Great post, jmb - got me thinking about a lot .... made me realize in many respects, I can share your feelings - but I don't believe necessarily the church or missionaries are trying to be deceitful.

PMG is a little different, but like you said, just allows flexibility for teaching the same primary-level gospel doctrine.

My take is that I believe the church and the missionaries are being honest in their heart. Faith is the first principle of the gospel. Taking things on faith is not to cover up things, is just the way religion is. Pure religion moves you to be a better person. You can "feel" the teachings are good and move you to be better than if you stay where you are without it. It is more about the feelings and how it motivates you to change your life than it is about being proven with facts and details.

I'm not suggesting your post or anyone else's responses are lacking in faith, in any way, it is just how I'm thinking through this, so these are just my thoughts.

It is an interesting paradox: Seek Truth that will set you free of things that can't be explained. Miracles are a part of religion, not to dupe people, but just because we move ahead with faith before we can explain away what happened, because we become better by moving than by standing still trying to understand something.

Because of that, I can read Abraham 3:24-26 and have it touch me and change my life, even if verse 16 makes no sense to me. My questions around verse 16 or the facsimiles on nearby pages don't take away the value found in verses 24-26.

Likewise, Joseph Smith's account of Zelph does nothing to motivate me to love others or love God. But most of the Book of Mormon does. I can't believe he just made all the Book of Mormon up. But I don't care if he made up Zelph or not, it is of no value to me.

Elder Eyring's talk in conference about Adversity (was that written to me specifically?) confirms to me that the Lord's work is being done, because I feel it. Likewise, I feel good when my mason friend tells me the service he is doing in his Masonic Temple - he is a great guy and will be rewarded by a Just God who can resolve the issue of authority and baptism, so I don't have to worry about that.

I guess I am trying to learn that although many things in the church do nothing for my spiritual welfare, those don't negate the other things that do. I don't think I'll ever leave the church, I will just find ways to accept the godly parts and focus on those, and not worry about the historical details that do nothing to raise my spirits whether true or not. That isn't to say I want to live in ignorance or put blinders on or be deceitful or duplicitous. Only that I accept I can only process so much... so I choose to spend my time reading and processing the things that make me better, and not spend time on other things. That being said, I am more enlightened now to a lot of things about Joseph Smith and church history that I never knew before, and I frankly can see some merit in the arguments against Joseph Smith as a prophet. But I go back to my feeling that being in the church is making me better than giving up on it, so I will have faith in it until I feel otherwise. I hope I can be open-minded, be honest, and accept my shortcomings in being able to know all things so I can move forward in trying to make a difference in this world and for those I love.

I don't feel I'm appropriately expressing my thoughts, it almost sounds like I'm just saying some church inconsistencies don't matter...just accept it on faith...when I don't really mean that. I just think the church is better than any alternative, and I will keep moving forward looking for the godly parts while I striving to learn more.

Again, thanks for your was good for me to think this through.

Re: A long post about deception...

Posted: 06 May 2009, 17:42
by jmb275
Going along with what Buscador said, if deception were only judged on the intent of the leader we can reasonably infer that Jim Jones was a decent individual who is not at fault since he believed (and even drank) what he sold. I believe Buscador said it very well "relying on the spiritual testimony alone is perilous." And this is where I believe the deception is. No one encourages investigators or members to do the normally wise things when making important decisions (especially a financial one, which Mormonism is) like doing research on the topic, seeking other opinions, using skepticism, etc. We promote faith over scholarship and skepticism, and even deride scholarship when it doesn't jive with our faith. Every new scholarly discovery must be put through the Mormon lens. That is the culture that is portrayed and why I believe the leaders share responsibility whether they fully believe what they sell or not. History has taught us that relying on emotional experiences is a poor indicator of truth.

I do not want to condemn the leaders, and I'm not trying to. I have never blamed an individual leader for deception in this regard. It is institutionalized deception brought about through a culture. I believe we have a duty to ourselves to be honest and teach people the truth, and let the chips fall where they may. And surely the Brethren know that Joseph didn't sit at a table with the plates open, translating the words while Oliver sat there looking at them. If they know that, then it begs the question why not disclose the real method in an honest, faithful way that conveys belief. If we could be more honest then why aren't we?

One question I have for both Ray and hawkgrrrl. I have heard these kinds of sentiments before. That is, it's not the leaders fault, they really believe it, etc. etc. and then the follow up "I don't mean that as a "free pass" on issues of disagreement." I'm curious as to what this means? My pragmatist mind doesn't get what this means. It sort of feels like it's an attempt to justify some behavior, while leaving plenty of potential wiggle room. What, in your view, would constitute something you wouldn't let a leader get away with in this regard?