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Mormon Awakenings: Episode 027: Mailbag

Jack Naneek responds to three emails received this past week.  The emails represent interesting and common issues raised with Jack over the past six months of podcasting.  Jack does his best to answer these emails.  But at the end of the day, everyone needs to answer their own questions for themselves.


9 thoughts on “Mormon Awakenings: Episode 027: Mailbag”

  1. Jack, loved the cast.

    I think its difficult for many to make the leap from being controlled to seeing themselves in a voluntary organization. I’ve read some of Hassan’s BITE model for mind control and cults, and I honestly see some parallels inside of church culture and teachings. I don’t know what it’s like in different areas of the world (or different states), but I do know here in SLC Utah, the LDS control culture is pretty thick. If you are a young person for example, dependent on others, then moving toward self differentiation and owning your own choices (and beliefs) does have consequences. Many can’t do it. And, if you happen to be in the LGBTQ community, the pressure can be so great that suicide becomes a viable option.

    I think the church hides behind the position that those in a religion do so voluntarily. By doing that, they leave the door open to NOT take any ownership or responsibility for helping create an environment that can, IMHO, kill kids.

    I don’t feel comfortable with this. I think if I were to say: “Well, I’m sorry those kids decided that the only way to deal with their choice of homosexual feelings was to kill themselves”…well, I think that is rather heartless and cruel. And the position of the church WAS that homosexuality was a choice. That idea lives on culturally, and the church is responsible for creating that. In so many ways, I see the LDS church doing damage control by distancing themselves FROM the problem of teen suicide which they helped to create for LGBTQ youth.

    The pressure to STAY IN can be applied to the point of violence. There is more than one story of a missionary running, just to be chased down and forced into the mission office forcibly for “some therapy”. It happens, and not just on missions.

    Anyway, my point is the line between having a choice and when choices are oppressed is pretty fluid. The LDS church, IMHO, pushes that line in various ways that are just wrong.

    Thoughts on the idea of the LDS following a cult model?

  2. Excellent points. I’d only add that what the church should do and should take responsibility for is one thing. How we conduct ourselves, or how we view ourselves in light of a third party doing or not doing what is right, is quite another. Life on this earth is full of people and institutions not doing things right. For me, the question always is, given that people I expect more from don’t live up to expectations, what should I do? Blaming those people or that institution brings no peace to the individual. Owning one’s life, in spite of what others do or don’t do, is the only sane way I feel we can take control of what we can control.

    This in no way is meant to say that it’s easy to take responsibility for one’s life, even what one has been wronged. It isn’t. But, it’s better than being a victim and blaming others (even when they deserve some blame!)

    1. Jack, I don’t think we are at odds at all. (And just so you know, I hope when this web-site gets a face lift, it allows for EDITING posts!…hint hint Bill…)

      When you’re in a group (and the LDS church is just one), there can be a fine line between being “a victim” (as in not owning your own life and changing what you CAN change), and being “victimized”. Im of the opinion that culturally, LDS people are taught to be non-critical thinkers about their faith. They are taught helplessness with regards to making certain choices, and are also taught to IGNORE boundaries that are, IMHO, necessary and reasonable (like not having a teeanger sitting in a room, alone with a man with no training, who is asking personal masterbation questions).

      The LDS church teaches some of this helplessness. It teaches that we should share our sexual history with men who are not trained, who are supposed to act in place of God in giving counsel, etc. It has taught there is no such thing as a Gay child–they don’t exist in the church. They are just people with a challenge, which can be overcome with enough faith, or endured if needed, for life, because after this life all those problems magically disappear. BUT, that same organization teaches that if you cross a line in this area, you have done something worse than ANYTHING else possible, with the exception of MURDER.

      Jack, I don’t know your history. Are you a convert? I ask just because of the cultural differences that may exist between the entrenched LDS in SLC and outside of the state, and I think you mentioned you are in the North East?

      Most of the people I know are pioneer stock and haven’t had a single day of their life where they haven’t been surrounded by tens of thousands of Mormons, all “enforcing” the culture. To break out of such an environment isn’t just a choice: it often involves losing your family, being cast out of your community, losing your job, losing all your friends, etc. That is the type of cultural shift involved.

      When a LGBTQ child is faced with the dilima (and not just kids,…adults to in this area), suicide begins to look like a good choice. You don’t just walk out of this type of situation.

      So, the point is, that line between a person MAKING a choice and even HAVING a choice gets fuzzy.

      I think that line is getting more clear however–let me say that. I think podcasts like yours and others, as well as the fact many LDS people are exiting the ranks, is a sign that change is afoot…

      I’m grateful for that. I was one of those trapped.

  3. Final comment: it’s easy to get hung up on cult like language, and compare the church to a cult. I’m not saying doing so is inaccurate. It’s probably a fair comparison. But life in groups is culty. Life at the corporation, life at Burning Man, life at Haight Ashbury, life at my high school, it had all these cultish aspect to it. The group, the mob, the clique, these are all aspects of cultish behavior. One of life’s purposes, I think, is to teach us to rise above the cult (See Jesus, circa 33 C.E.) Breaking out of the egg shell is tough, but the process is strengthening and ultimately a good exercise.

  4. My father was a convert and I’ve spent all of life outside of Utah, except the years I was at BYU. I agree that cultural weight is heavy and ingrained in all aspects of life in the Utah Corridor, for sure. Having said that, I think part of owning one’s life is more than merely standing up in the middle of the group or the middle of sacrament mtg and yelling out all the things that one doesn’t agree with. We have to find ways to get along with people who aren’t developed enough to be flexible and accepting. It’s not easy. But there are cultural oppressions of differing sort wherever one lives. In Utah, it’s mormonism. In other parts of the world, it’s other things. In a generic sense, the mormon experience is not that much different from any other experience where culture and mobs and groupthink exist, which is, by the way, everywhere. So, while the specifics may be different for others, the fundamental challenge of life in regards to ones independence on the one hand, one’s sense of identity, and one’s duties to the group on the other, are the same for just about everyone. It’s why we love coming of age stories no matter the cultural backdrop. It’s universal. I’m not saying that suicide isn’t an issue in our community. But it’s an issue in Korea, but for differing specifics. It’s an issue in Northeast, for differing specifics. Transitioning from one living the script given by others to being one who takes responsibility for one’s life, and still cares for others isn’t easy, no matter where one lives or what culture one has been born into. Which makes sense if we think God created all of mankind, not just Mormons.

    1. “Transitioning from one living the script given by others to being one who takes responsibility for one’s life, and still cares for others isn’t easy, no matter where one lives or what culture one has been born into. ”


  5. I am coming to really enjoy your podcasts. Thanks so much

    I also like your participation in “What’s Not Pissing Off Miguel This Week?” A bit more light-hearted and fun, but with interesting topics.

  6. Thanks for listening Happy. I’m gonna get in touch with Miguel about doing more of the “What’s Not Pissing Off Miguel This Week?” casts. We’ve been a little busy.

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