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.