Cult accusations

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Gail
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Gail » 25 Feb 2010, 17:48

For many years I have been able to see why anyone non-lds would see the Mormons as a cult. I get questions all the time about Word of Wisdom, Garments, penalties, why would some one go to their Bishop about so many trivial things, any and all of these from an outside perspective seem cultish to me.

Lately, what really seems cultish is the fear to think, that seems so pervasive. I have spoken to so many people that say my difficulties with the church policies are just a matter of misunderstandings they would be happy to clear up. As we talk they apparently think these issues can be cleared up by Sunday School answers, and when they are not people completely blank out and don’t hear anything I have to say. At some point I have found most of my fellow mormons are not willing to even walk through my questions. On many occasions when I am calm they suddenly start yell that I am unreasonable and can not let me finish a single sentence, akin to the grad school nah, nah, nah I can’t hear you, only frightened and angry. This response always scares me to death. These are often intelligent, seemingly open minded individuals that turn psyco really fast. I really don’t get it. This is what really seems cultish to me.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Curt Sunshine » 25 Feb 2010, 20:58

Gail, not once in my 40+ years in the LDS Church have I ever had anyone yell at me as you describe - or heard anyone else literally yell at someone else over differences in beliefs or questions. I'm sure it happens here and there, but I simply can't fathom it happening on a regular basis with a large group of members. I have served in many different positions in the Church in many different locations, and I don't know anyone who has had that type of experience regularly from numerous sources. Otoh, I have had that happen to me and others I know from sources outside the LDS Church when they learn we are Mormon.

I am sorry you are in a place where you have experienced that. It ought not be - and it certianly isn't "normal" or representative of the Church.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

LaLaLove
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by LaLaLove » 25 Feb 2010, 22:57

Gail I've had people yell at me also. Not "people" but "person", my husband. It was in the begining stages of my disaffection and he was very upset and "strict" about what he knew to be "right" or "true". It was definately a horrible eye opening experience. So I understand you.

All I know is I am the only member on my side of the family who is Mormon and at least ten family members, of all different ages, have warned me about the "cult". So naturally I have to wonder why this is such common thought ... and my common sense brings me to believe that it is because the church/ members have caused people to wonder or observe some type of pattern in regards to being "culty" wheather through past history or personal experience, gossip etc. I love members and I know there are tons of great people in the church. People aren't perfect and the word cult can fit into almost anything. It's a human thing I guess. Some people like having all of the answers (even if they didn't do critical thinking about every answer), routine, and a guideline through life. Outsiders might think they are being unhealthy, dependent or "cluty". Some people might dislike having any answers, don't trust a soul when it comes to "truths", and fly through life by the seat of their pants. Outsiders might think they are dammed or selfish etc. We fear the unknown. I guess it is kind of telling though when someone who is not an outsider thinks, their group or previous group is in a way dangerous. Which I think would be reason to rethink being a part of it .. or to at least become more honest or independent in that regard.

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Brian Johnston
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Brian Johnston » 26 Feb 2010, 08:19

I haven't had anyone yell or be disrespectful to me either, but I could see that happening sometimes. A lot of active members, including leaders, just don't know how to deal with the problems we have when doubting. Not only can it be threatening to their faith to try and understand, but they don't always have the people skills (training) to either.

Does that make them cultists? I don't think so. The majority of members in most churches aren't interested in the gritty history and controversies of their founding. According to Dr. James Fowler, more than 60% of adults find permanent equilibrium in what he labels "Stage 3" faith (a typically literal and external group/leader-authority belief structure). These people, who are happy with how their faith works, by definition, can't examine their faith from an outside perspective as a system of ideas and practices. It is hard for them to question their own group's faith. Questions that threaten or challenge their faith structure and their religious mythology automatically drop out of the sorting process in their heads into the "other/outsider" bin. That is the "story of stories" as Dr. Fowler calls it -- falling into place in the grand unifying story of why people don't believe in their group's story.

I had one recent example this year. I talked with the Bishop in my last ward a few times. He wanted to help my wife come back to Church. He wanted to know why she didn't believe anymore, what happened. I tried a couple of times to bring up examples, on a very tame surface level, and his response drifted to "I don't know a lot about Church history and all that stuff, but ..." he was sure he could reach her with his feelings and testimony. Don't get me wrong. I love the guy. He is a wonderful and caring person, and a great bishop. But how was he ever going to help my wife when her problems were almost all in the category of "Church history and all that stuff?" He would have been respectful and compassionate. I don't doubt that, but he was also unable to understand. That's OK.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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DevilsAdvocate
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 26 Feb 2010, 12:01

Gail wrote:
Lately, what really seems cultish is the fear to think, that seems so pervasive...At some point I have found most of my fellow mormons are not willing to even walk through my questions. On many occasions when I am calm they suddenly start yell that I am unreasonable and can not let me finish a single sentence, akin to the grad school nah, nah, nah I can’t hear you, only frightened and angry. This response always scares me to death. These are often intelligent, seemingly open minded individuals that turn psyco really fast. I really don’t get it. This is what really seems cultish to me.
The way I see it the Church is a comfortable environment and everything goes fairly smoothly as long as you agree with them but as soon as you openly disagree over some major point of dogma this is to many Mormons quite simply not acceptable. For example, if you stop believing in certain claims of the Church some Mormons will now see you as weak and sinful and start to make assumptions about your character or lack thereof. If you publish contrary opinions you could be excommunicated. It seems like most dissent has always been strongly suppressed from the top down and basically driven out of the Church for the most part.

I don't know where this mindset came from but in my case the result is that I wouldn't dare to openly express any doubts about the Church to most of my family and in-laws. They probably wouldn't yell at me but I know they would be very disappointed with me. So the easiest route is to simply play along with their beliefs essentially out of tribal loyalty more than genuine faith in the Church. To me this situation seems cult-like even if similar social pressures have been fairly common in some of the largest "mainstream" religions as well. I'm not trying to claim that this means the Church is bad or harmful in general, I just wish some of the members would be a little more understanding toward people with different beliefs.
"Truth is what works." - William James

katielangston
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by katielangston » 26 Feb 2010, 12:28

I'm not sure that "cult" is the right word for it, since it's so loaded. I think "institutional control" might be less abrasive and therefore more accurate.

The church certainly engages in institutional behavioral control -- and, to a certain extent, "belief control." The temple recommend interview process is perhaps the most visible example. Consider...

1. The church holds the temple up as the doorway to exaltation
2. In order to get in, a person must answer to institutional authority regarding certain "worthiness requirements"
3. One must continue to answer to institutional authority on a regular, systematic basis throughout their life
4. Deviation from the requirements leads to revocation of status within the community

The doctrinal emphasis on temple worship and receiving / retaining a temple recommend is huge. So the requirements that are established become magnified. Whereas you might believe independently that drinking a cup of coffee in the morning is acceptable to God, if you want to retain a temple recommend, you won't drink coffee anyway. As a result, you are making a decision that is contrary to your personal beliefs in order to remain in compliance with the group. I'm not arguing the rightness or wrongness of either drinking coffee OR subjugating your beliefs to the community's standards, merely pointing out that the church has, in a very literal way, controlled your behavior in this instance. Similarly, there are "belief" questions and requirements that seek to keep people from deviating too far from the institutional norm in terms of orthodoxy.

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Brian Johnston
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Brian Johnston » 26 Feb 2010, 13:04

Based on past experience managing the site, this is one of those topics that generally doesn't attract and generate a discussion about reconciliation strategies and reengaging the Church in a positive way. That's the theme of the site, the purpose it exists.

The problems everyone mentioned are real on some level or another. Whether it is an institutional problem or a personal problem with individual members, it ends up boiling down to the philosophical question of "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" So I want to acknowledge that. It is a good topic and an important one. We've all had experiences, some more and some less. The idea isn't taboo, just the way it gets discussed -- which tends to pile up negative.

This thread seems to be going in that direction as well. We sort of tried to steer it towards the positive and let it roll along a bit, but we're going to lock it down. It just isn't producing content that fits the mission of the site. Sorry everyone.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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