About Me

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I'm a Christian, married to a wonderful man, Steven, and mother to a wonderful little son. I have many interests and a few noteworthy journeys in life and I enjoy sharing them.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Prayer

There are some days where it takes everything I have to not just scream at those who look at me and think "She's an apostate...she didn't turn out well enough..." My family...my old friends from church...they all see that I left, and don't see the joy in my life beyond that, not really.

My little brother has probably been one of the most difficult. On Father's Day two days ago, we were joking around with each other, and he playfully said he got scared whenever he turned out like me one way or another. I laughingly denied turning out badly, citing a good marriage and a decent job, among other things, and he gave me a look. And I just knew he was thinking that I'd left the church...and so he never wanted to be like his big sister. Not in that way. Not ever.

So I just pray, for myself and those in my position...God, grant me strength, and understanding, and patience, and love. Help them see through what they've been taught to see what's really there. And help me be the example so that when they finally see it, they will see joy and goodness, rather than just an apostate. Help me have the grace to stay strong, to know when its time to speak up and to know when to leave things alone. Help all of us who have found our way out, to testify with out lives that we have found better--that we didn't leave because we weren't good enough--that our little siblings can grow up to be like us without shame.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The God Problem

As far as I know, the LDS church is the only religion of note to have ever claimed that every can become gods. Not that everyone will, but that everyone can. If they haven't received the necessary ordinances in life, then there's still a chance in death through proxy ordinances.

This belief began with Joseph Smith. Its not taught very openly, and neither me or my brother learned of it until our teenage years despite being born into the church. Its a very important part of "The Plan of Salvation," yet Mormons don't usually tell prospective converts about that part. It's too...strange.

It came up between Steven and I within a few months of his conversion, though. I loved that part of Mormon doctrine, and thought it made so much sense. God made us in his image; he wants us to become like him. The son follows the footsteps of the father, the daughter of the mother.

Steven and I had many discussions about this, some of them tearful. Remember what I said about him being practical and having dedicated his faith to Biblical Christianity a while back? Well, this is where it came in.

The conversation I remember most vividly took place at my college. Steven was there with me for the school day, and we spent my free hours on a couch debating the issue, watching people go by.

Using the topical guide in the LDS scriptures, I had found a Bible verse where Jesus said "ye are gods." (I later found out that the way the LDS church portrays this scripture is way out of context.) Using that and the logic of growing up to become a parent like your parents, I debated with him endlessly.

Steven simplified it into something you'd see as a kid on Saturday morning. "Just imagine this," he said. "We're going to make this into a cartoon, okay? Imagine God in a lab, and he's got a petri dish that has our world in it, and he watches us through a magnifying glass. Then you die, and poof, you pop out of the petri dish. He goes, 'here you go!' and hands you a lab coat and a petri dish and tells you to make your own world. Did I get that about right?"

"In a simplified and ridiculous way, yes," I said in exasperation.

"Well, it is ridiculous!" he exclaimed, both amused and equally exasperated.

"No, its not. It makes sense," I returned to my argument. And off we went in circles about lab coats and divine inheritance.

When I left the church, I of course had to question this belief. A false prophet having taught it, I wasn't too optimistic that it would hold up.

Sure enough, upon a closer look, the Mormon "solution" to a non-human God and the question of where we come from and where we're going created more conundrums than it solved, and it completed contradicts the Bible. The Word is very clear about there being no other gods, besides ours. Not that ours is just "the only one we have anything to do with." He is the only true God.

"You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "...Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me" (Isaiah 43:10).
"This is what the LORD says -- ...I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God...Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one" (Isaiah 44:6,8).
"I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God" (Isaiah 45:5).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Lightened Burden

The Mormon church claims that all of their ordinances are necessary and all of their rules and "guidelines" are supposed to give a person freedom. Freedom from Satan, they say.

To an extent, their many rules are good. Obedient Mormons tend to be clean, modest, giving, kind, industrious, and virtuous. They tend to have longer life spans because of the Word of Wisdom. I'm sure the STD rate is also lower because of their Law of Chastity, which states that fornication and other sexual sins are next to murder and denying the Holy Ghost (or denying Christ when one knows of Him for a surety, such as from personal witness).

In general, its common for LDS people to be musically inclined and generally talented, boys often achieve their Eagle Scout award, women are good homemakers, and men good providers. It all seems very ideal.

But there are problems with this idealistic encouragement of being a model of high standards and accomplishments.

There is absolute micromanagement of members, to the point that people will follow a rule blindly just because it is given by the church. Here's a quick list off the top of my head of many of the things the church has rules and guidelines on for individuals:

Diet; apparel; tithing; piercing; dating; marriage (where and who sees it, etc); gender roles; recommended education; family life; birth control and reproductive responsibilities; appropriate music; appropriate movies; appropriate literature; sex (in and out of marriage); language; church involvement and responsibilities; emergency preparedness; church education; appropriate research on church matters; how to pray; missions for young men; tattoos; and general behavior. That's 23, with many things further regulated within an item.

Sure, all this creates the idyllic picture-perfect families and virtuous teenagers, modest and clean and well-behaved, helpful and prepared and a bit traditional. But why is it bad to have a second modest ear piercing for a woman? Why would God disapprove of that when its the heart he judges? Someone can be a virtuous, loving, good person and have three piercings, a tattoo, no kids despite being married, wear a bikini on the beach, and so on. I've known too many good, God-loving people who don't follow many of these to think that God requires all of that for a person to please him--to be worthy.

I know a mother and daughter, the daughter being a friend of mine, that have been absolutely inspiring to me as an example of abandoning religious legalism and focusing instead on personal responsibility, acceptance, understanding of consequences.

For instance, the mother made the daughter promise from a young age to tell her when she started having sex. My friend of course learned about STDs. She watched other peers go through sexual relationships as she grew up. The responsibility of when she engaged in the same thing was completely hers. My friend ended up waiting and making the decision with long thought and commitment, and she and her boyfriend--although the depth of their relationship makes that too light a term--have been together for a long time in a mature and dedicated relationship. They aren't married, so it is not the Christian standard, but its better than many do in this day and age.

While the daughter doesn't adhere to Mormon modesty standards, she also never flaunts herself in a promiscuous manner, instead purporting herself with dignity that shows an inner modesty and beauty at once. I once saw her and another friend wear the same outfit to an event once, it being only a little less revealing than a bikini. But while the other friend seemed flaunting and immodest, my friend was simply beautiful. Modesty and self-assurance are more important from the inside.

Personal responsibility makes one more understanding of why something is good or bad to do or be. For young people, having that level of personal responsibility accompanied by the understanding of why creates less need to rebel. There's a reason that teenagers with particularly strict parents tend to rebel or else who try to please their parents even if they don't understand why they're following some of the rules, and people with parents who don't give them personal responsibility often go off the good path. The church fits into the first category, in terms of how it treats its members and the reactions of the members.

In terms of sin, the burden of follow these rules well enough is immense. Not following one rule well enough can be the cause of not receiving a temple marriage, not being able to take the sacrament, or even one's membership being put on the line, which puts their ability to reach the Celestial Kingdom on the line. In fact, all these rules and the human inability to perfectly follow all of them perfectly leaves most members unsure of making it to the Celestial Kingdom.

This being unsure--especially in times of being in the midst of or repenting from more grievous sins--is something I experienced often (no, I didn't engage in grievous sin often, but I felt the lack of surety often), and watched other people experience. "I hope I make it," I'd hear people say. They would profess their sincere faith in Christ, would fulfill their callings, would be great mothers or good children, would work hard and try hard, but because there's no way of knowing if perhaps something is going to go wrong later in life, if perhaps some mess-up or list of sins will be too much to overcome, they almost never say, "I know I'll see you in the Celestial Kingdom." "I hope," they say. "But I won't know until I get there." And I thought that was beautiful, that as long as they hoped that and kept trying--that as long as I kept hoping and trying--we all probably would. Because if we stopped hoping, stopped trying, that's when we wouldn't.

This is so different from what I found after leaving in Christianity, and different from many world faiths and religions. The only other one notable for requiring things to achieve salvation--and I'm not even completely sure the works are as much of a requirement as the most important of commandments--is Islam, which requires prayer and other such things of its members.

Its not hard to understand the Biblical standpoint, which is the one we'll look at as the LDS believe the Bible and I have become Christian.

The Bible makes it clear that salvation comes from faith, and faith leads to a desire to follow the commandments. Good works don't save someone, lest they boast. (Ephesians 2:9) Good works doesn't necessitate faith, but true faith does necessitate good works, and also the following of the more Christian-exclusive commandments.

One can also say that God instilled in us a natural understand of ethics, such as in killing, stealing, adultery, etc., and a natural desire to find love. So, to embrace God's goodness in oneself is to embrace the goodness that is God. It is that embracing, that choice to take God into one's life, that is salvation.

This burden of embracing goodness because of salvation, knowing that no amount of goodness will save but all amount of sincere faith will, is much lighter and far less judgmental than the Mormon way. Its more...Christlike.

One of the most un-Christlike rules of the church is the requirement to give 10% of income to the church in order to be worthy to attend the temple. Giving service, following all ten commandments completely (such as keeping the Sabbath day holy or honoring father and mother) are not absolute requirements, though the bishop isn't about to let you get away with murder, adultery, lawlessness, or open discord. But paying the church a part of your income is an absolute requirement to get into the temple to receive "saving ordinances."

If you type in "Saving Ordinances" in the search engine on LDS.org, it will come up with 1,886 results. The very first link includes this statement: "Speaking to his people on April 8, 1844, the Prophet Joseph said that the temple ordinances as he was giving them were so important that “without (them) we cannot obtain celestial thrones. But there must be a holy place prepared for that purpose.” (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6:318–20.)" (Why We Build Temples, By Elder Mark E. Petersen, October 1980 Liahona)

So yes, the temple ordinances are required for salvation on a Celestial level in the Mormon Church, and you do have to pay the church to receive them if you want them while still alive. Otherwise, you have to wait until after death, and hope someone living does them for you, assuming your children or other immediate family or your will or some human oversight doesn't prevent this being done for you and therefore ending all possibility for achieving Celestial Glory.

No, the LDS requirements are a great burden, and very exclusive and controlling. The true Christ of the Bible doesn't say to us that all these things are required for salvation and surety. Instead, the message of the requirements for salvation are joyful, simple, and sure. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest...For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28, 30

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An Apostate in a Member Home

"Satan has his claws in you and Steven," Mom lamented.

I remained silent. Its my favorite tactic when my parents are "discussing" something with me that I don't agree with them on. I'm pretty quiet when I know I'm in the wrong, too, but its a different sort of quiet. This is the blank-faced, let them talk because it won't change my mind, staring sort of silent.

"You know that we'll lose you for eternity if you leave?" she pressed.

I nodded. "Yes," I said quietly. I didn't believe that anymore, but I didn't feel like arguing about it. Like I said, let them talk because it won't change my mind.

The conversation with my parents wasn't fun. I mostly spoke when I absolutely had to. My father was the first Mormon I ever heard justify false prophecies with personal failing on the prophet's part. He clung to his testimony, saying that things against the church didn't matter because his testimony was too strong. He didn't--couldn't--acknowledge the Bible reference I had given about one false prophecy being enough to make a prophet false.

"You should go to Utah to live with Donny and Molly," Mom suggested, speaking of my aunt and uncle in Utah. He's a seminary teacher, she's a Molly-Mormon. They have five adorable, well-behaved children. I love that family, and they're very, very faithful. "If anyone can answer your questions, Donny can."

"That is such a good idea," Dad agreed. "You know, Lee, I think Mom was inspired to say that."

I had my doubts, but of course didn't say so.

"You could leave at the end of your quarter," Mom said, "And live there for a few months."

Since college had now been mentioned, Dad went further. "We could pay for you to go to Utah State for a semester," Dad offered. Donny and Molly live close to Logan, where the University is located. No housing costs.

This surprised me. Dad had been complaining about paying for community college, and was now offering to pay out of state tuition. I said as much.

"We've always said that we'll take care of whatever you need us to for college, wherever you want to go," he placated. I didn't bother to point out the inaccuracy of the statement.

"Then," Mom continued, hopeful, "You can have a summer wedding, when you get back, if you and Steven still want to get married at that point."

The "if" actually made them hopeful. They felt Steven's doubts had been a bad influence on me--that I hadn't been strong enough. They liked him otherwise, but I knew they would have preferred me to go to Utah, come back to the church, and find a good Mormon boy instead, to take me to the temple.

They asked me to think and pray about it. I said okay. I did what they asked...and didn't go to Utah. Bribery, no matter how "inspired," isn't my thing, and I was sure about my choice, so dealing with family trying to reconvert me for half a year wasn't appealing.

Things were tense at home after that. My brother acted like I'd lost all my values. I have friends that drink and such, and my own husband has his share of stories from high school. Many of these stories are amusing, and once upon a time my brother and I would laugh together about them, but suddenly I get "why are all your stories about drinking now?" as if I was suddenly a slutty party-er. The next day he put up a quote about temple marriage by Brigham Young right smack on the kitchen window. Everyone got upset when I tried moving it to his bedroom door, even though he'd "put it up for himself."

The final straw was when my mom got upset about me staying overnight at a friend's house with Steven one night. We'd stayed late and were tired, so I called and left a message for my mom letting her know i wasn't coming home and why. It was a half hour drive back. Steven and I stayed at our friend's. Being an adult and in college, notifying was all I was required to do by house rules.

I went to college the next morning, and had only fifteen minutes at home to change between classes and work. I came into my bedroom to find the dirty dishes on the floor, just because I hadn't been home to do them the night before. If I had been home and hadn't done the dishes, that wouldn't have happened. In all the years of my brother always "forgetting" to do the dishes and me sometimes spacing them, that had never happened.

Mom and i never discussed those dishes, but she did make it clear that she felt like I'd waited until after she was asleep to call about staying at our friend's house one purpose, so that she couldn't say no. Not that she could have said no, considering that I was no longer in high school or a minor. She said she felt I'd done it just to stay the night with Steven, and said I couldn't do that while living there.

She compared it to a smoker. She couldn't stop them from smoking, but they weren't allowed to do so in the house. But if they wanted to go to the end of the driveway or the field behind the backyard, they were more than welcome to. And the same applied to me and staying the night with Steven. I didn't quite get that, as it seemed to me I had gone to the figurative end of the driveway, and I had followed the house rules, but I didn't argue it with her. She told me I couldn't do it again while living there, no matter why I'd done it (because being very tired late at night on a school night wasn't a valid reason not to drive home, apparently).

I had been trying to avoid moving in with Steven before marriage--not that we'd been sinless, but I was taking the first steps to becoming a Christian and certainly didn't want to give the Mormons I knew ammo against me. I was done, though, I couldn't deal with anymore. I left my parents' house, Steven and I found an apartment, and we moved our wedding date up since we no longer had to wait for a temple wedding. (He'd been baptized in late March '09, so we had put the original date for mid-April of '10, we moved it to the beginning of January '10). I was out of there, and could start my own life.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What False Prophecies?

For the curious and those who seek with an open mind, I'll talk about the false prophecy that I find most striking, mostly because it can be proven using only the standard works in the LDS canon.

Doctrine and Covenants 84:1-5
1: Establishes that this is a revelation to Joseph Smith and six other elders.
2: Establishes that this is the word of the Lord concerning the last days, the gathering of the saints, and the city of New Jerusalem.
3: Establishes that the "city shall be built" at the temple lot in Far West.

4: Establishes that "the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place."
5: Establishes that the temple will be built there within that generation.

Does the prophecy refer to a different generation than the one living then? No. Doctrine and Covenents 115:7-12 makes it clear that the Lord wanted it built by the people alive at that time, as it specifies Far West as a holy and consecrated land, commands them (the people alive) to build a house (temple) for him, and says to "let the beginning be made on the fourth day of July next," and "from that time forth labor diligently until it shall be finished." This is directed towards the people alive then, even specifying a date.

Could the persecution that the early Mormons experienced thwart/change God's plans? No. A Mo
rmon should remember 1 Nephi 3:7. All people should consider the long history of God's peoples triumphing through persecution, not leaving a prophecy unfulfilled, often despite great odds.

And the kicker? Revelations 21 renders the prophecy false in comparison to Biblical prophecy. The first verse establishes that there is a new heaven and new earth, for the old ones had passed away, and there will be no more sea--e.g., no continents. Its rather difficult for something to exist in a place that no longer exists, such as Missouri, or even America.
And then verse two says that New Jerusalem will descend from heaven, already prepared, rather than be built here on earth.

Verse twenty-two is probably the most telling. "And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." So why would the Lord ask for a temple to be built for the New Jerusalem, when there will be no temple? He wouldn't. He doesn't need to.

No temple exists in Far West as of today, long after the generation of the 1830s passed away.

I've heard many Mormons try to justify this by saying that Joseph Smith was just a fallibl
e man and made mistakes. God doesn't make mistakes, however, and won't let people be misguided in his name. A thorough search of the references about false prophets in the topical guide will show a member that God has made that clear.

Joseph Smith, based on all this, was a false prophet.

It Began With a Prayer

Leaving the church went rather quickly for me. My husband, then fiance, had been having issues with the church. Raised in a Christian (though not devout) home and having embraced Christianity on his own as a teenager, the Bible was the ultimate source of God's authority for him. He's very logical- and practical-minded. After six months of being a member, he was having major issues with things within the church that conflicted with all of that.

It was late September through mid-October of last year, and I was sure that h
e would come to see the truth of the religion, or we'd break up. Feeling so strongly about being sealed for eternity, it was hard to have a middle ground. This wasn't easy, because there was no denying that I was sure that he was supposed to be my husband, that I loved him more than enough to share my whole life with him, so those weeks were hardly pleasant. So, I turned to prayer.

I thought the prayer was going to lead things to end with me in the Mormon church still, no matter where Steven ended up, though I hoped it would lead him to stay with me and stay in the church. But I felt like I was missing something, like God was trying to tell me something. So, I started looking out for what He was trying to tell me.

Within days, everything changed.

Steven and I were discussing religion one late night, the 18th of October or so. He said something about angels. I don't know why it hit me so hard, but it struck me that the LDS teaching of angels is different from the rest of Christianity, and I suddenly wanted to know why. Not necessarily about the angels, though I did give that subject a cursory look-over. No, the reason why the LDS church was different than the rest of Christianity, and what made it more correct, was suddenly very important to me. Soon enough, the validity of Joseph Smith as a prophet became important, and I delved into that subject.

I quickly came across lists of false prophecies online, although the site that decided me listed mostly prophecies from Doctrine and Covenants. (http://www.exmormon.org/prophet.htm) I opened my scriptures, and there they were. False prophecies, with no good explanations for far too many of them.

I'm not one to try to explain away or justify things, especially if things seem pretty obvious. I've never liked the idea of blind faith. One false prophecy renders a prophet false. Logic and organization are some of the Lord's hallmarks, and false prophets don't fit into that. And I was looking at far more than just one false prophecy.

Joseph Smith made false prophecies from very early on. How was I supposed to believe he'd ever been a true prophet? Further research merely confirmed those doubts.

In just a few hours of research, I was ready to leave my faith behind. Within only two days, I was completely sure that I was out.

The Hypocrisy of Sin

One of the most hypocritical parts of the church is their treatment of apostates verses their treatment of unworthy members. On the one hand, some people--men in particular--are protected in their sins. I myself have known to rapists to go through the temple, one of them being my abusive ex boyfriend. When I reported that I knew of him having raped (by coercion rather than force) and sexually assaulted at least two or three young women, the church didn't even put his membership in question. He has not, at this time, answered for his sins, legally or within the church.

While knowledgeably protecting sex offenders and abusers isn't exactly widespread, it happens. And even more often, "unworthy" men and women attend the temple and hold good standing in their ward by lying to their bishops. Sometimes the bishops that are supposed to determine worthiness have an inkling of a member's unworthiness, sometimes they have no clue. But the member lies to the leader, and off they go to the most sacred of places in the LDS religion.

Why is this a problem? We all know that people lie all the time, and most people can't tell they're being lied to 100% of the time. Covering up illegal acts is obvious, but its also more to be put on the shoulders of the individuals, and a small part on the people who allowed the male-dominated authoritarianism of the church to go a step too far. The real problem lies instead in the claims of the leadership in the discerning power of bishops and other leaders.

It is a bishop's sacred duty and ability to determine worthiness, and to protect sacred ordinances and places from unworthiness, subsequently helping an individual under the burden of grievous sin to repent and become worthy. They are supposed to have inspired spiritual guidance and discernment. A search of conference talks on LDS.org shows this quite clearly. Yet hundreds lie on a regular basis and go to temples and missions when not worthy. The leaders were wrong about this apparent spiritual gift to protect the Lord's most sacred and important requirements.

In the cases where a bishop or other leader is aware of "unworthiness" on the part of a member, they are supposed to protect the member's privacy and secrecy, except in cases where they are obliged to report to law enforcement, or share with other local leaders because the person's membership is at stake and a Council is required.

And yet, when someone leaves the church and becomes "apostate," the lines blur and hypocri
sy begins.

When a person comes into the church, people get excited for the new member. Often, people outside the church aren't happy with the new member's choice. During the brief time my husband was a member, his family was scared for him and unhappy with his decision, and it caused tension between all of us. They had done research, and as Christians, could not approve of some of the teachings of the church.

The supportive LDS are of course very much against this behavior. The convert is happy and isn't getting into illegal things or anything. They still believe in Christ, the members say, so what's so wrong about joining a new religion?

Yet when someone leaves the church, even if they leave and become Christian (or stay Christian, as the LDS would put it), there are many within the church who react in the same way they condemned. My family did that--disapproved of the reactions of my husband's family, and then made me feel unwelcome in their home when i left. I lost a friend, my family told me they were losing me for eternity and treated me like I was just off-track and would come back, and on and on. Sometimes people are disowned. Sometimes they're excommunicated.

But perhaps the worst part is that most LDS can't accept that the apostate left for a logical, reasonable, sensible rationale. It has to be a problem with the person, not the church. Its a common thing for people to fight their doubts simply because they're convinced that the church has to be right, and its them that's wrong.

When someone else in my ward began having doubts (before even knowing I'd left), our bishop told her that I'd left because of "morality issues" and that I'd justified it with "alleged false prophecies." Moralities issues were not my reason for leaving, and the bishop certainly hadn't been told by me that there were any. Whether or not it was true, whether or not I told him or someone else did, he would never have had the right to say that to her, for his promises of privacy if nothing else.

But because I moved in with my fiance a few weeks after leaving, the whole ward assumed it was a "morality issue." It didn't matter that I moved the wedding up by more than four months so that we wouldn't live together outside of legal marriage for too long. It didn't matter that the only reason we weren't already married was because we had put out the date for a temple marriage. And it doesn't matter that I'm now five months married and therefore would no longer have the morality issues implied anymore, and yet neither of us have any desire to return now.

No, it has to be the fault of the person, and nobody reacts in the way that they think non-members should react when someone joins the church. Its hypocritical. But if they acknowledged that the person deserved to be treated with complete and unbounded respect for their choice, if they acknowledged that maybe it is for a logical reason and not for a shortcoming on the individual's part, then they would also have to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, the person might be right in leaving the religion.

Logic and facts have little place in LDS teaching for this reason. Its all based on spiritual experience, feelings, and trust that the church is always right.

Monday, June 7, 2010


I have been in two abusive relationships in my life. One was with a man--a controlling, manipulative, lying man. There's no need to go into the details of that. The second was with a religion--a controlling, manipulative, lying religion.

I didn't always see the LDS religion that way. As it stands, many of the leaders at least on the lower levels, and I'm sure many of the higher-ups, are not purposely leading the church to emotionally abuse and deceive people probably far more thoroughly than most abusive people do.

Though I left the church months ago, it was this realization of the abuse--of the betrayal--that caused me to create this blog. I had done a decent amount of research, read a few books, talked with Mormons and non-Mormons alike, had verified sources, and all of that. I had realized that the Mormon church is one of the best brainwashing institutions in America, next to the military and a few other similar organizations (that is nothing against the military, but a certain amount of brainwashing is required to break someone down and build them into a soldier that can kill for their country and follow orders in battle). But it goes much deeper than that, to manipulation and control, founded on far too many lies.

I suppose, for many LDS and former LDS, myself included, the hardest thing to face is the realization that we have undergone this brainwashing, this being fed misinformation. For someone like me, who was born into it, the knowledge that those primary songs and hymns, while perhaps written by devout and sincere members, instill subconscious acceptance in ways that only music can do.

I remember, as a child, attending a birthday party of a Christian friend. All the children there were of Christian families, so it was appropriate to play a game of name as many prophets as you could. I named Nephi, and my friend's father looked at me with something akin to sadness and said, "No, Nephi isn't a prophet," and turned to the next kid for their answer. I couldn't understand why he'd said that. Since when was Nephi not a prophet? That was all I'd ever been taught, after all. He's probably the most talked about figure in the Mormon church, next to Joseph Smith and Christ. How was I to understand at that age that only a relatively small portion of the world accept Nephi as a prophet?

Its no coincidence that the same structured lessons are given over and over through the years, and less controversial topics are rarely touched on, except in the most spiritual moments. We are told what we believe, and then given guidelines on how we are to express our personal convictions, in the form of testimonies. And its no coincidence that testimonies are shared at least once a month--the fellowship and the knowledge that "I can be that sure, too," is a very strong emotion.

Testimonies become so strong, so ingrained, the "truths" taught repeatedly accepted and held to as infallible, and people lose sight of objectivity. People will say "I have a testimony, so I know its true." "Good things have come of my membership, so I know its true." Yet anyone with strong convictions in something will say the same thing, whether the belief is relatively harmless--such as a quiet, virtuous, non-controlling, non-judgmental Christian or Buddhist or something similar--or something dangerous--such as a suicide bomber or K.K.K. member. So testimony is not acceptable claims for truth, yet the LDS cling to it when all else fails them.

So what is a person to believe, then? On a realistic and unbiased, socially-friendly basis, anything that doesn't harm others tends to go. I also believe its a pretty good idea to avoid believing in lies if the lies have been proven. Proof can be objective, to a point, but some things are just true, or they aren't. If something is translated into a book of scripture written thousands of years ago, and the language is translatable and therefore the source can be read correctly and established to be such, then its a book of scripture. But if its not, well, its just not.

So what does an LDS person have to do to be objective? Well, they have to quiet their testimony, for one. This does not exclude the Spirit: it simply brings objectivity into the picture, by excluding emotions that have no basis in reasonable decision making. Translation: if you find a verifiable, true, sound fact, and your feelings are against it, you're probably the one that's wrong, because feelings are objective, and truth isn't. Only the way we perceive truth is objective.

When I looked objectively at the relationship between church and members, I truly saw things that, in relationships between couples, leave people battered emotionally, and sometimes even physically, every day.

I saw control. An apostle said, on the PBS special "The Mormons," that its wrong to question church leaders. Whether or not they're right or wrong, its just wrong to question them, he said. There are no checks and balances within the church, not on the leaders, except by other leaders on high enough levels, who in general don't disagree with each other publicly. This leaves no room for individuals to have their say, nor even for groups of people who all feel the same way. They are the priesthood at its highest level, and therefore beyond reproach from the masses, for God leads them.

On a home level, the man is the head of the household. Often, this works, as it tends to be the natural role. But the Mormon Church takes it a little farther than natural inborn gender roles would. Instead of the natural bread-winner father and nurturing mother, who together create an equal partnership, the priesthood comes into play. Some households and schisms within the Mormon church(es) go to the point that the man is the absolute and complete authority, and the women are there for childbearing, raising children, and keeping a nice house, and little more, no matter the actual relationship between man and wife. No matter what, men are the leadership, and women are to submit to their judgment in the end, especially in spiritual matters--and Mormons can see just about anything as spiritual.

As such, men tend to exhibit dominating, often unreasonably authoritative personalities. Whether or not one realizes it, it takes very little to step over the edge to becoming like that--a refusal to explain why you made a rule to a teenager who needs reasonable guidance far more than rules that he or she doesn't understand, or to a wife who wants something the husband doesn't. And a man with the priesthood is always the spiritual head, at least figuratively.

This leads the women to be often controlling and manipulative in a very good-wifey, behind-the scenes way. Tasks are taken to hand brusquely and with a great amount of control on part of the woman in charge. Things get done well this way, true, but toes get stepped on. A husband makes a decision that his wife doesn't agree with, so the wife manipulates him into thinking her way, instead, even if her way isn't completely reasonable.

My own home, and unfortunately I myself, are examples of this. My father was the head of the household. Bless her heart, but my mother sometimes would feel one way about something, and when my father took an assertive stand on the other end of the spectrum, she would quietly go with him. When I was older and well into needed to understand why I was doing something, my father would simply say "because I said so," and call it back talking if I asked him to explain why, no matter how politely or calmly I might ask, and there were times that he made my brother and I do things just for control--like when I was eighteen and he made me go to bed at 10:00pm on a friday night Halloween. Some of it was just because I was the oldest child and a daughter--Daddy's little girl--but some of it was the authoritative way he was raised and the way the church makes fathers and priesthood holders think they have the right and responsibility to be.

I myself have found my weakness in emotional outbursts when I don't necessarily get what I want, or sometimes for no reasons at all. Being LDS is largely based on emotions--"I got a good feeling about the Book of Mormon," "I feel strongly about doing this," etc. As such, emotions and reason are hard to separate, and women, naturally emotional already, often exhibit this to manipulate others into giving them what they want, or into making someone else feel bad about something hurtful.

And then of course, there are the lies from high up. Who knows how many of the leaders knowingly perpetuate them, but no matter if one believes or doesn't believe, its hard to deny that the LDS leaders cover up and hide away many facts that would be quite interesting for the membership at large to know. One just has to do a little research.

An emotional abusive relationship? I certainly think so. Emotional manipulation, brainwashing, hiding things, controlling people and making them think its for their own good--its all there.