If there’s one thing that makes me feel a bit nauseous, it’s the tendency for members of the LDS church to assume that people are too weak to follow the “prophet” because they are too immoral. They speak of declining morality and increased wickedness in a world that is actually moving in the opposite direction, and ignore their own conscience in the name of being submissive to a man who has claimed zero revelation from God.

I saw a meme today that said “If someone left the church because of the recent policy change, they were never truly converted. Awaken.”

This meme, of course, was written with the assumption that being “converted” is noble. If you say something often enough, you start to believe it. I have regularly wondered why people consider belief in something that has no proof (even proof that it’s NOT true and really harmed/harms a lot of people, while taking 10% of their income and most of their decision-making abilities) to be virtuous. As someone who had zero problems keeping the standards and commandments of the church and its “prophet”, I can tell you that leaving was the most moral decision I’ve ever made.

To an outsider, Mormons’ rationalization of ignoring their inner moral compass in the name of following the “prophet” is nothing more than a sign of brainwashing and dependence on authority, as is found in many high-demand religions. This was the same sin of the people of Moses, who would rather Moses find out what God wanted than determine it for themselves. As a result, they wandered in the wilderness without real direction. (I’m not suggesting the Bible is credible, but it does illustrate some hypocrisy here.)

It’s ironic that Mormons tout morality as a fundamental principle of their church when history has proven otherwise. Teachings of blood atonement, polygamy, polyandry, institutional racism, institutional sexism, “lying for the Lord“, building fine sanctuaries before feeding the poor, treating women like property, sealing a black woman to the “prophet” as an eternal slave, and so on are woven throughout the history of the church, and 2015 is not much different. Today, we see dishonesty, the denying of the church’s own scriptures, and policies that go against what Christ himself instructed people to do.

Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110.

If you read the arguments from people who supported the brethren in their priesthood ban for blacks, you’ll notice that they’re almost identical to the ones we hear from people today when talking about LGBT people or those who want to ordain women. There were many who justified and even promoted Brigham’s teachings on blood atonement (and Adam-God, and a dozen other things), while those who stood against them were called apostates. When following a leader is seen as the most moral thing a person can do, people will support incredible immorality. The irony is astounding.

[My life was in danger] if I remained there, because of my protest against the doctrine of Blood Atonement and other new doctrines that were brought into the Church.” – Apostle William Smith, brother of Joseph Smith, Jr., Temple Lot Case, p. 98

The LDS church is full of wonderful, moral people, but it is not a wonderful, moral church. Institutionally, it has always been behind the times on issues of morality — not ahead of it, as many Mormons (bizarrely) seem to believe. The church, for example, didn’t receive the convenient revelation to lift the priesthood ban for blacks until 10 years after the Civil Rights Movement ended (a movement they originally opposed, along with the Equal Rights Amendment), when sports teams were boycotting BYU football games in an attempt to promote racial equality. I guess God is willing to give His One True Church a little bad press before He speaks up and fixes things. 

Though Mormons revere obedience to the prophet above all else, (almost) everyone has a limit. I’ve heard many members say that if the prophet instituted polygamy again, they wouldn’t be able to live it. To them I would ask — then why was it ok before 1904? Why was it ok to support 14-year-olds marrying men 20+ years older than them because the prophet commanded it back then? (When it was still NOT considered “normal”, by the way.) Why do you justify your so-called prophets doing things that disgust you when done by people such as Warren Jeffs? 

It’s easy to look back on history and justify things because of radical and naive reverse presentism, but aren’t some things just fundamentally wrong? My mom was in her 20s when blacks finally got the priesthood. My great-grandmother was alive when polygamy ended. These aren’t events that happened in an entirely different world — they happened in America, long after the rest of society had stopped accepting them.

If you want to proclaim that the LDS church is moral, then I recommend looking to Thomas S. Monson before Joseph Smith. Ideally though, point to the regular folk in the church who are loving and kind. It honestly baffles me that anyone EVER tries to use Joseph as an example of morality, when his entire life was riddled with contradictions to that idea. Thomas S. Monson, while dishonest by omission, unaware of real issues facing our world, and severely lacking in the “legitimately making the world a better place” department, at least talks about charity and not a lot else. He’s not even pretending to be getting revelations, he’s just telling stories about kindness. Which, by the LDS church’s standards, is about the best we can hope for.

Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young would have been a millennial blogger, but she died in 1901. The wife of Brigham Young, and prior to that Joseph Smith, and prior to that Henry Jacobs, who was sent on a mission by Brigham before he married her, Zina loves writing, long walks on the beach, and playing the field.
  • Swagavad Gita

    And the LDS church isn’t doing so well in the kindness department as of late.

  • Brian Kohrman

    I don’t think it’s fair to say the Mormons are “ignoring their inner moral compass”. Different people’s moral compasses point them in different directions. I know Mormons who are pained by the difficult plight of LGBT people, but who deeply feel- through their own moral compasses- that homosexuality is sinful. It’s not hate. It’s a moral emotion. Not everyone experiences the same emotional reaction to these things, and it’s quite likely that they experience a different moral reaction than you or I do. In saying that Mormons ignore their moral compasses, you are assuming that you know exactly what those people are feeling and experiencing.

    • gcooper08

      People very frequently use “morality” as a pretext for homophobia. But even assuming there are people who do believe they are acting morally by believing that homosexuality is somehow “sinful,” such beliefs are perpetuating and producing immense human suffering. Therefore, what some may be inwardly experiencing as “morality” is in fact the definition of immorality.

      • Zelph on the Shelf


    • Arwen Undomiel

      A friend of mine, very active mormon, told me she didn’t agree with the church getting involved in proposition 8 but she stayed in church because she believes she has to raise her kids in the true church. She feels it’s her obligation to do this even thought she sees many things in the church that she doesn’t like. I think this is the kind of feeling the article is trying to address. When you feel something is wrong but you choose to ignore those feelings/ conscience because you believe you have to be obedient, the church is true, etc. we can’t tell everyone feels like this but I personally know many people who feel this way. I was one of them.

      • Zelph on the Shelf


      • schleppenheimer

        Prop 8 was the wakeup call for me. I continued for a few more years, but time didn’t help shake the feeling that as a church we should not have entered that fight. I kept hoping that something would show me that my inner compass was wrong, that the church was right on that one. Five years later, it still felt wrong. Then this policy change came about, and it clinched how wrong the church is about lots of things. People should hold true to their own ethics. If you were raised to know the difference between right and wrong, then you need to be honest with yourself and not wait for a “prophet” to tell you how to feel.

    • Angela

      At least among the Mormons I know, most of them were horrified when they found out about the recent policy change. They may believe that homosexuality is sinful, but they did NOT believe it was right to exclude children because of their parentage. Many expressed that it was a hoax, that their church couldn’t possibly do anything so abhorrent. It wasn’t until it was actually confirmed by the church that they did an about-face and started defending the policy. And I’m sorry, but none of the defenses that have been shared really hold water at all. They only make sense for people who are willing not to look to carefully and perform a few mental gymnastics. I don’t believe for a minute that most of the LDS people I know truly believe in their heart of hearts this is right or would ever have stood behind this policy had their leaders not instructed them to.

    • Zelph on the Shelf

      I agree with you for the most part. But Mormons, out of necessity, must justify things like polygamy (even to young girls) and polyandry, because it was taught at doctrine? You see the problem? They may not be “ok” with it but they also are, to a certain extent.
      Also, I said in the article that Mormons are wonderful and moral people, but the church isn’t.

    • Justin

      Regardless of their moral feelings about LGBT, how many have a morality that dictates their children should suffer for it? Yet the members defend this position for the sake of supporting their leaders. That’s where they begin ignoring their moral compass.

    • Brian Kohrman

      It’s very possible that some are ignoring their feelings. I’d guess, though, a lot of them are just morally conflicted. For many people, being obedient is also a moral imperative, with a moral emotional component. (I personally don’t feel like that now, but I used to.) This may cause a huge conflict for certain types of Mormons. It’s not a matter of ignoring their feelings, so much as figuring out how to reconcile all of their feelings. I know I’ve had times of serious moral conflict over the church.
      It’s also quite possible that some people totally buy in to the idea that the new policy protects children. Maybe they accept the official reasoning (that it protects families), or maybe they just trust that the church leaders know the will of God, and it will all be for the best, in the end. Either way, they may feel sad for affected children, but they would not be ignoring their emotional compasses.
      I just feel very, very uncomfortable claiming to know what another person is feeling or experiencing, especially if they have told me they are experiencing something else. We can’t step into another person’s mind. I’ve certainly had others tell me that I was lying about my feelings, and I don’t want to do that to anybody else.

  • Huntington

    This is very well put. Many people leave the church because their conscience would allow no less.

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