Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Are you brainwashed?

Here I am going to outline a summary of the circumstances and techniques commonly used in brainwashing. Since brainwashing is a term that can sometimes have a negative connotation, we could also use the term sometimes utilized by those in the field of hypnosis; conversion. Conversion techniques are another name for brainwashing and involve some form of manipulation that is used to effect, or most often, control behavior. I believe many religious meetings (including those of the LDS church) utilize these techniques in varying degrees to extreme effectiveness which would, in my opinion, explain why many religious people have thought stopping mechanisms put into place to prevent them from being open to alternative explanations for "spiritual" experiences or being resistant to reading things that might cause them to question their faith.

The first thing to recognize about brainwashing or conversion is that people usually do not know it when they have been affected by such techniques. These techniques are very powerful and are very effective at controlling behavior and the most devious method of their use is when people have no idea when they are being used. People in the business of using forms of hypnosis, if they are respectable, will always disclose what they are doing and how they are doing it. Even when disclosed, however, even the most resistant people can still succumb to its control and influence. Needless to say, people that utilize such techniques unknowingly can be the most dangerous. It is also true that the techniques are utilized in many instances without a conscious awareness of what they are doing. Many people have been conditioned by effective conversion techniques and will go on to duplicate or reinforce those techniques in future circumstances.

Conversion and your mind
Conversion is accomplished through getting deeper into a process of progression of the state of suggestibility that your mind is in. The Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov (famous for the dog salivating experiments) identified the 3 general states of the human mind. The most aware and alert state is full beta consciousness. This is also known as the EQUIVALENT phase. This phase is marked by the brain responding equally to both strong and weak stimuli.

The next phase is the PARADOXICAL phase. In this state the brain responds more actively to weak stimuli than to strong stimuli.

The most suggestible state that the mind can be in is the ULTRA-PARADOXICAL state. This state is when our conditioned responses to stimuli, and patterns in behavior, can be flipped from positive to negative or from negative to positive.

As stated by Dick Sutphen on his website entitled 'The Battle for Your Mind: Brainwashing Techniques Being Used On The Public' he says,
"With the progression through each phase, the degree of conversion becomes more effective and complete. The way[s] to achieve conversion are many and varied, but the usual first step in religious or political brainwashing is to work on the emotions of an individual or group until they reach an abnormal level of anger, fear, excitement, or nervous tension.

The progressive result of this mental condition is to impair judgement and increase suggestibility. The more this condition can be maintained or intensified, the more it compounds. Once catharsis, or the first brain phase [ultra paradoxical], is reached, the complete mental takeover becomes easier. Existing mental programming can be replaced with new patterns of thinking and behavior.

Other often-used physiological conditions that are used to modify normal brain functions are; fasting, radical or high sugar diets, physical discomforts, regulation of breathing, mantra chanting in meditation, the disclosure of awesome mysteries, special lighting and sound effects, programmed response to incense, or intoxicating drugs.

The same results can be obtained in contemporary psychiatric treatment by electric shock treatments and even by purposely lowering a person's blood sugar level with insulin injections."

Environments of conversion
Some characteristics of initial meetings that utilize conversion techniques include things that are designed to get the participant into a trance like state. This may include:

    - Music with a beat between 45-72 beats per minute (which most closely mimic a slow resting beat of the heart - Most LDS hymns are played at this rate)

    - Lighting and/or effects that are designed to encourage relaxation (think of the lighting in the temple endowment - when you enter the room the lights are turned down to represent a lower kingdom of glory)

    - Speaking (or a speaker) that speaks in a monotone, repeating fashion. This is also referred to as a "voice roll" and is a patterned, paced style of speaking that is designed to induce a trance in the listeners. Ideally this speaking style resembles a metronome ticking away at a beat of 45 - 60 words per minute. In addition to hypnotists, this is a technique utilized by many attorneys in the courtroom when addressing jurors as well as preachers at charismatic style or revivalist church meetings. You could also identify this as the kind of voice used by speakers in many LDS church meetings or the voice recording used in the LDS temple endowment session.

Any or all of these things may be utilized to bring the participants to what is known as an alpha state. The alpha state is when the participant is ready to be reprogrammed with new information about themselves, their circumstances or how they perceive their surroundings or even what they think about to eventually affect behavior.  When in the alpha state, participants are 25 times as suggestible as compared to a fully beta or "conscious" state.

Other things that will aid in creating an alpha state in the participants includes cutting off the participants from their normal routine or contact with those they would normally communicate or associate with. This could be done in any number of places but, usually, it is done in a group setting where the participants are discouraged from leaving, using the restroom or attending to personal comforts.

The telltale signs that conversion techniques are being used in meetings are:

1. The initial meeting is held in a place that is cutoff from the participants normal surroundings and regular follow up meetings are suggested or encouraged to be attended. At these meetings the participants are asked (or reminded) to follow the rules of the group, encouraged to bring in new members and most participants have some form of trigger or activation button that will remind the participant of their promised loyalty to that group, leader or organization. At some point in the initial meeting participants are reminded of the importance of keeping their "agreements" and are asked to make a vow that they will keep their "agreements". This is what is done in the LDS temple endowment session. Members of the LDS church that have attended the temple are encouraged to return regularly to "renew" the agreements made there.

2. A rigorous schedule is utilized, or encouraged to be followed, to maintain a state of physical and mental fatigue of the participants. Long hours are demanded in order to prevent participants from taking time to relax or reflect on the demands presented by the group. This totally reminds me of all the work that is asked of members of the church. Between regular church services (which are actually long - at 3 hours each Sunday - compared to worship service times of other churches) there is a demand of time and energy placed on members to serve in callings, prepare for that service, attend meetings outside of worship services related to those callings, going on regular visits to members homes for home and visiting teaching assignments, going out and doing work with or for the missionaries, preparing meals for others in the group, participating in seminary or other firesides or instructional meetings, going to the temple regularly and doing genealogy or family history. All this is in addition to all of your regular work around the house, vacation time and job.

However, when you ask devoted members of the church about all this work they do for their religion, they say it is not that much, really, or that sacrifice is what God wants from them. Usually they don't realize how much time they actually spend in these activities which take away so much time from their families or relationships outside of church. I think this may be why many active members of the church don't have that many friends outside of their church circle of friends. This causes me to wonder how much of this is by the design of the LDS church.

3. Techniques are used to increase the tension or anxiety of the participants. I think of the tension created when it is Fast and Testimony meeting Sunday and everyone in the room is wondering if they should get up and speak and bare their testimony to alleviate the awkward silence in the room. Sometimes things that are said are done so in meetings to directly cause a feeling of tension in the participants.

4. Uncertainty. This is similar to number 3 above, but it would be more directly referring to the anxiety or uncertainty related to possibly having to speak in front of the group. A public opinion poll, conducted several years ago, indicated that the number one most-fearful situation an individual could encounter is to speak in front of an audience. It ranked above window washing outside the 85th floor of an office building. There is also the uncertainty that is created when one becomes aware that they may be asked about personal or private practices or behaviors (such as sex or masturbation, for example). Participants in groups where conversion techniques are utilized often feel tempted to reveal their innermost secrets because of the environment created, or are encouraged to be involved in activities that encourage them to "remove their masks". This is par for the course in regular worthiness interviews conducted by leaders in the LDS church.

5. Another tip off that conversion techniques are being used is the use of jargon or terminology that has a special meaning to those in the group or a meaning that is different from traditional understanding. Sometimes this language is vicious in nature. In the LDS church there is most definitely a lingo that insiders are familiar with. This vocabulary includes such terms as atonement, dispensation, "latter-days", Jesus Christ (in the context as framed by LDS, inc.), Plan of salvation, endowment, agency, celestial marriage, etc., etc. Again, when asking members of the church about this jargon, they do not readily admit that these words or phrases (or others like them) mean something different to those inside the church as opposed to those outside, but when asking for definitions of these terms it becomes obvious that this is the case.

6. The final tip off is that no humor is introduced until the participant has been fully indoctrinated. Once members are considered fully active, then expressions of humor and fun are encouraged to demonstrate the joy that the participants have now "found" as part of the group. This reminds me of my mission. Meetings with investigators or non-members were highly subdued until agreements were made to join the church. Then the interaction became much more jovial and upbeat. While I was unaware of this behavior I exhibited while on my mission, the more I think about it the more I realize this was true. Laughter and fun were reserved for when in the company of "believers".

While any of the above techniques may be utilized by organizations that seek to control their members, it is readily apparent that not all of these organizations would automatically be considered bad. Many times members of such organizations accomplish much good under this influence, however, members should be able to understand when and how these techniques may be utilized so they can have a more adequate ability to choose their level of participation or to not participate. Continual involvement may result in behaviors that become detrimental to the participant when they have no idea what has happened to them.

Organizational control
Once the initial conversion of the participant is accomplished, critical thinking or dissent among the ranks cannot be tolerated. In order to prevent cynicism from becoming an issue among the group safeguards are implemented. If these safeguards are not implemented, members become dangerous to the control of the organization. These safeguards are known as the decognition process. This three step system is designed to prevent questioning of the organization.

The first step is ALERTNESS REDUCTION. This essentially means that the participant is kept in a high state of exhaustion, or state of sensory deprivation or confusion, to keep them from being grounded and questioning the intent of the group or looking further into the history of the organization. The other outcome of this state is to cause the participant to be confused between fantasy and reality causing the nervous system to malfunction. More overtly, cults will cause alertness reduction through controlling diet and encouraging the consumption of only fruit or vegetables (or cookies and koolaid) and limiting the consumption of a well balanced diet. Being bombarded with intense or unique experiences can have the same effect. This totally describes the MTC (Missionary Training Center - where missionaries go to prepare for going on their mission) and mission experience. Missionaries are introduced to an entirely new and intense schedule and environment that completely alters their state of alertness to receive the programming of the organization.

The next step is PROGRAMMED CONFUSION. Alertness reduction prepares you for a mental assault on your common sense. Once in this weakened mental state, the participant is bombarded with questions which are designed to confuse the person into not being able to discern between reality and illusion. This is the point when perverted logic is likely to be accepted. This can either be introduced directly or subtly by encouraging the participant to arrive at illogical conclusions on their own. The LDS church, I think, will say that they don't make any fantastical claims directly, but their questions and statements don't leave much alternative when confronted by possible alternative explanations.

The final and most essential step of the decognition process is THOUGHT STOPPING. This is essentially the step that causes the mind to go "flat". These are altered-state-of-consciousness techniques that initially induce calmness by giving the mind something simple to deal with and focusing awareness. The continued use brings on a feeling of elation and eventually hallucination. The result is the reduction of thought and eventually, if used long enough, the cessation of all thought and withdrawal from everyone and everything except that which the controllers direct. The best example of this from LDS teachings is the advice that the spirit will teach the member "all things" that they need. The very phrases repeated by faithful members of the church are designed to enhance this thinking and mindset. Actual knowledge and observations are considered secondary to knowledge supposedly gained from the spirit.

Thought stopping is also programmed into members of the church in regards to reading material that goes against teachings of the leaders of the church or is endorsed by the church. At some point, I believe, members reach that alpha state that promotes suggestibility (probably during each general conference) because they are in a trance like, open eye, state (but essentially asleep on the inside) and it is then that members are "counseled" to not seek out anything that is contrary to church teaching. It is further programmed into members that any such information is likely deceptive, evil or controlling. The irony is that the church is the one that is really controlling its members.

The interesting thing is to observe members when they are confronted with information about the church that comes from the church itself. When something brought to their attention obviously goes against what they have been taught (or created for a belief from what they have been taught), the first reaction is to deny that the information is valid. Once they have been shown the source of the information in the context of the church publication, they immediately move to minimize the impact such information has on them or their testimony. It is amazing to witness the degree to which members will work to defend the church in this effort. Only those that are able to wake up to the conditioning that has been taking place on them (in some cases for a lifetime) through regular church participation can they really see what is going on.

Of course recognizing all of these traits of groups or organizations that utilize conversion techniques does not attempt to answer the philosophical question of whether or not people should be encouraged to participate in such groups. On the one hand, it can be argued that participation leads to doing good things for people, even if it is a result of brainwashing or subtle long term mental conditioning. I'm not sure I can answer that question sufficiently. I just know that for me, participation is unacceptable because of the reluctance of members of the church to acknowledge, or even listen to, my objections with what is being taught and the methods utilized to encourage activity and discourage dissent. I wish that productive discussions could be had about these observations, but unfortunately that just won't happen.

I hope this has helped in recognizing traits of organizations that work diligently to brainwash their members. I also hope that more people wake up to the many ways in which conversion techniques are being utilized on them all the time by many different groups, media or politicians because these techniques are only becoming more common. Be careful out there!

Additional reading:

For more websites like these, just use your favorite search engine and type in "brainwashing techniques".

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Morality and pornography

I've been thinking lately about morality. I've been thinking about the harmful effects of not questioning the basis for your moral standards and judging behavior. Let me explain; I happened across a faithful blog post that was talking about the serious problem of pornography and how people can be healed from addiction to it. It outlined what the author thought were the harmful effects that happening across pornographic images in the media would cause that supposedly should bring despair and shame and guilt on the offender. The author of this piece tells about a shocking encounter with internet pornography that left him with offensive images burned in his mind that popped back up at the most inopportune times. Like when he was trying to read his scriptures, go to the temple or conduct church meetings. This is a very common teaching in the LDS church. Pornography, it is taught, should be avoided because, it is commonly believed, viewing such things taints the soul and makes the offender unworthy to be considered pure and worthy of participating in God's work on earth. But this only causes me to wonder; what if that is not really the case?

Are there regular consumers of pornography who go about their daily lives, contribute to society in meaningful and productive ways, that don't feel shameful, impure or unworthy for engaging in such behavior? Do these people give of themselves to help others or have what most would consider to be healthy and committed marriages or other personal relationships where engaging in this behavior does not create a problem? Could it be that these people were taught that feelings of arousal and wanting to view, or actually viewing, porn is just a normal part of being human and that, as long as no one is harmed or engaging in something against their will that there is really nothing wrong with it?

Subject of Controversy
The real problem is this is an extremely controversial subject. The reason it is so controversial is because it is something that is considered extremely private for one, but it is generally lauded against by most religious people. And the laudibles are extremely charged and passionate in their delivery. Expressions of the consequences of porn viewing are so somber that they literally bring fear into someone for even daring to broach the subject in any outside forum. This behavior is something that is regarded as very serious and extremely consequential to your eternal salvation. I think that's also why we have such a hard time actually talking about it in ways that could actually be helpful or productive. Many people are so busy trying to figure out how to scare this behavior out of people that they don't stop to think what effect this may be having on the ability to be open about and discuss such things in ways that don't immediately cause fear and consternation in the mind of the human who wonders about such things.

However, the entire anti-pornography movement is based on the assumption that porn, like cigarettes and alcohol it is believed, are gateways to progressively worse and more socially deviant and completely self destructive behaviors. These behaviors lead to a loss of self control and complete abandonment to the "chains" of addictive behaviors. I always liked the analogy of addiction being like a chain that would drag you down to some untold darkness and keep you there. This served me well in helping me to avoid any of these vices throughout my life. I think I'll keep the analogy. I do know that people all over the place choose to engage in behaviors that either bring physical pleasure, emotional comfort, stimulus, danger or a dulling of the senses. And many times these behaviors can become addictive.

Addiction is a very real problem for many people. I fully acknowledge this. However, I am also prepared to acknowledge that for every person who finds their self hopelessly addicted to some behavior or substance, I know that there are people who can engage at various times in the exact same behavior and are not addicted to it. They do it for recreation, entertainment or a little escape from the ordinary. So what is the difference between these two groups? I'm not really sure. One could say that it may just be a matter of self control. Those that can engage in the behaviors and maintain balance and avoid addiction are just better at controlling themselves. I believe it may also have something to do with how you are taught to think about the behavior growing up.

I think if you are taught to avoid something at all costs, because you are told that you are weak and will not be able to control yourself while engaging in that behavior or you will not be able to help it becoming an addiction for you, then that will likely be the case. However if children are taught that feelings of arousal, curiosity, physical pleasure and an ability to control oneself while engaging in adult behaviors is not only possible, but a normal part of enjoying life, I think that will be the result as well.

I really think we do children (and especially adults) a disservice by labeling certain behaviors or substances as harmful and by attempting to jolt them into submission by scaring their pants off (or on in this case) to get them to avoid the behavior through any means necessary. If it means telling them they will feel bad or they will be considered impure, unworthy or in any other way inferior to everyone else or that they are making God sad (or more sad, I guess) or are a disappointment to loved ones, I think these teachings are unfortunate and unnecessary.

What should we teach children?
We should not be teaching what we think are the consequences of actions without making absolutely sure those are, in fact, the real consequences for everyone. Don't get me wrong, I think it is absolutely imperative that we teach children the importance of understanding the consequences of their actions. This, in my opinion, is the ultimate judging mechanism. If we always think about the potential consequences of our actions, or at least try to understand what they are as best we can, and work to try to produce the best consequences for ourselves, this is a very good standard to use in teaching and modeling behavior. Asking ourselves if we would like something done to us that we are considering doing to someone else, is a wonderful way to evaluate behavior. The golden rule is a very good one to follow. Unfortunately, opinion tends to creep in where evidence is scant and labeling behaviors as evil, or socially unacceptable, becomes a tool used to manipulate and control others. Shame and guilt are extremely effective tools in teaching behavior, but they are also most widely used to control behavior also.

I can't help but think of the movie "Footloose". Honestly, I haven't seen the latest remake (let alone really watched the original all the way through) but I completely understand the premise. A town is working to follow a set of moral standards that were imposed over time (prohibition of dancing), which become challenged when young people want to have dances. The idea being that dancing, either in itself or the result of what it causes, results in widespread immorality or eventual acceptance of immorality which leads to social decay, destabilization or destruction. Now, I guess I can't really address whether or not this is truly the final result of dancing and that it just might be the first step in a decline of social stability over the long term...I mean, who knows, maybe all this free thinking and following a consequence model of behavior really does lead to a complete lack of control in society and therefore long term annihilation. Obviously, I don't think so, however, to be fair. I don't think we (meaning I) will be around long enough to really find out. I do know that dancing probably has less of an effect on creating a state of anarchy in society than something like, say for example, technology. If anything, I think dancing likely results in a more stable and happy society because it encourages a familiarity with the opposite sex, which can only result in greater respect and concern for each other as one learns how people of a different gender are different from us but also more alike than we may have originally thought.

My experience with alcohol
As I have been on my journey of questioning all of my previously unquestioned beliefs, I have realized that I can make decisions based on my likes and dislikes as well as the commitments I have made in my life. Believe me, this is not an easy process. In some cases, I think it has been prudent to try things that I have always been taught were to be avoided at all costs. Once I was flying on a plane on an airline that offered, in addition to free juice and soft drinks, free beer or champagne. Since I am too cheap to ever pay for alcohol on a plane, I figured I would try it out. I tried beer for the first time that day. Honestly, I didn't like it at all. It tasted nasty. I couldn't help but look across the aisle at a man who had also ordered a beer and had already finished it, and looked like he really wanted some more, and resist the urge to offer him what was left of mine. I decided that it must be an acquired taste. I also tried champagne and didn't really like it either.

My point in saying all of this is that just because something, for some people, leads to addiction and uncontrollable urges, that also happen to be self destructive, doesn't mean it will do that for everyone. Granted, some people may always struggle with certain kinds of things. But I think the struggle is actually different than many want to label it. It is not a struggle of whether or not we should sin and bring the displeasure of our church leaders, families, friends and God, but it is a struggle of maintaining control and understanding the consequences of our behavior. If we recognize, understand and establish the consequences of behavior for ourselves personally before engaging in it, then we will be better equipped to safely and satisfactorily engage in the behavior, following all of the pre-determined precautions to stay safe and out of harms way - as well as prevent any harm from coming to others. As long as we are not harming others, of course, I don't see anything wrong with looking at pornographic images. Just so long as we make sure that we do not cause any harm (or exposure) to come to others, like children for example.

Other reasons porn is bad
I have also heard that viewing porn leads to the objectification and abuse of women. This is always assumed to be a bad thing. My response to this is that I think there are women that enjoy participating in those kinds of things. Sure, someone might be able to find examples of abuse or someone that was not completely willing in their participation. I do not feel that this would ever be acceptable. If abuse is encountered or brought to light, appropriate safeguards should be instituted for that situation. We should not tolerate any activity or behavior that takes away someones ability to choose to participate. But barring a violation of that, I honestly don't see the harm.

Feeling dirty
If we automatically label such behavior, such as viewing pornographic images, as dirty and unacceptable, then those that engage in such behavior (even though it causes absolutely no harm to others), will be thought to be dirty and unacceptable by those who know what is going on. How sad is that? I would hope that people would begin to ask themselves what, specifically, they object to concerning this practice and then engage in discussion that outlines the pro's and con's of it...overall and specifically for the individual.

The spiral of shame
If we choose to automatically label viewing porn as dirty or sinful, this is the start of what we now know to be a "shame spiral". This is especially detrimental to those that believe what they are taught regarding the behavior. The system that teaches that such things are completely unacceptable, without considering a purely consequence based approach, causes people to feel fear towards such things. This fear later turns to curiosity about the behavior. Curiosity turns to experimentation. Experimentation leads to guilt and shame. This guilt and shame leads to a feeling of hopelessness, inferiority and self deprecation. The remedy often presented to those caught in this pattern, among believing LDS members, is to look to their heavenly historical figure (Jesus, in the case of LDS) for deliverance and forgiveness. While I suppose this imaginary figure might be able to offer some relief from the pains of guilt and shame that are self inflicted through an imagined feeling of wrong-doing and eventual forgiveness of some sort, this reliance comes at a price. It further reinforces the authority of the religious leaders that claim to be able to interpret the whims of their imaginary "savior". Unfortunately, you can't express this without being labeled as a detractor of the faith. Well, I'm past that stigma, so I go on.

Obviously, the idea of the effect of belief in God and the impact it can have on behavior is one that definitely deserves further consideration. I can see that it can potentially lead to a somewhat healthy place of reconciliation and peace, but I can also see that it could lead to a very conflicted and dangerous place of self abuse and mental instability. Even though I would love to continue to explore this, there is something that I think deserves more discussion first, the question of infidelity.

Marriage and porn
When in a marriage, there are some spouses that think viewing porn is an act of infidelity. Indeed, some would see it as equal to actually cheating on their spouse and some would further see it as grounds for separation or divorce. This is unfortunate in my opinion. I suppose that there are lots of different ideas about this, including an infinite number of possible scenarios, behaviors and levels of  "addiction", or abuse of porn, but I am not going to go into all of the possible scenarios and relationship dynamics out there. I want to narrow my focus here and outline my understanding of the differences between the sexes.

While porn viewing can be found among both men and women, men tend to be thought of as the common culprits. The reason for this is simple. Men enjoy visual stimulation. You ask men what arouses them sexually, and most will answer with some body part of (or the body of) an attractive woman. When you ask women what arouses them sexually, the answer has more to do with how they feel or being able to look into the eyes of a man who cares for them. With women the bond is centered more around the person their mate is, and how they have been treated, and not as much about the physical characteristics they possess. Men are very centered around the physical characteristics of their partners and, while personality is certainly a factor that can lead to attraction and physical intimacy, it is much easier for men to remain emotionally detached from a sexual partner.

Emotion is just not as big a factor for men in intimacy and sexual arousal. While women feel that their husband viewing another naked woman is akin to an emotional affair, that is not the case at all for a man. For men, emotional attachment to the picture of the naked woman simply does not exist. I guess some men may be somewhat attached to women they see in porn, but it is very limited in my opinion because most men realize they are not going to be able to have intimate relations with that particular woman. It seems to me that women equate their feelings of emotional intimacy and project that onto their partner and assume that it is the same for them. When viewed in this context, it is no wonder a women can feel that a man looking at pictures of other naked women is akin to having an affair.

I feel like what I have written here has only begun to scratch the surface of my feelings surrounding morality, beliefs, pornography, addiction and differences between the sexes. I could say a lot more about each of these things but this post has gotten pretty long. I think I have provided many launching points for further discussion and exploration. However, the point I really wanted to make is that there are a differing ways that morality is constructed and when I consider the different ways to construct beliefs about right and wrong, I can see that there are various pathways to arrive at similar conclusions. While these conclusions may appear equal on the surface, the ways in which they are arrived at are very different and can actually have a large impact in the eventual outcome, mental stability or emotional health of the constructors of the morality. Unfortunately, some people are content to adopt a morality they are taught without questioning the efficacy of it or the big picture about what it will do for them in the long run. When morality is not questioned, or scrutinized for validity, I think it causes harm because it may serve to ostracize or alienate those we are close to. I hope that discussions of what frames our beliefs about right and wrong can be had among thinking people everywhere. I know I enjoy talking and thinking about it...much to the dismay of my wife and children. I hope they can forgive me. It is just me and what I enjoy. May you find people to talk to about these things if you are so inclined. Good luck and good talks!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Personal Apostasy Research from

Below I have compiled a list of references, along with samples (some very lengthy...OK, this entire post is VERY long - that's why I have highlighted the good stuff) from those references, of talks and lessons that refer to personal apostasy from the website. My primary purpose in collecting this information was to try to determine the most prominent teachings to members of the church as it relates to those who decide to leave the church.

While I cannot emphasize enough my complete disagreement with what the church teaches in this regard, I can understand why members of the church may be so judgmental when it comes to characterizing those who decide to leave the church for whatever reason. It seems that in the eyes of many members of the church, no reason could ever be good enough for leaving the church...and when you understand what members of the church are taught about this, it is easy to see why.

While my research only represents a small sample of the amount of information contained throughout the church website, I would challenge anyone to come up with sources, prevalent in the church, that do not seek to characterize those who leave the church as evil, wanting to sin, being offended or being ignorant in some way.

I have highlighted the main points in the information below that seek to characterize in some way those that leave the church. My comments will be sprinkled throughout in white bold italics. Enjoy!

“Avoiding Personal Apostasy” Ensign June 2009 By Elder Claudio D. Zivic, Of the Seventy

"...However, we need to be concerned and watchful that we do not fall into personal apostasy, which can result from several causes. I will mention only a few.

Apostasy frequently results when a person commits serious sin but does not repent. To silence his conscience or justify his sinful actions, the individual moves away from the truth, looking for imperfections in others or questioning Church doctrine with which he no longer agrees.

Conflicts between Church members can also lead to apostasy. Some individuals begin to think the Church is not true when they feel that a leader did not treat them well. They become offended and, without considering what they are losing, they stray from the Church.

Faultfinding can be another source of personal apostasy. When we look for faults in others or begin to think we could make better decisions than our leaders, we should remember the experience of Oliver Cowdery, the second elder of the Church...

... I testify that we can avoid the mists of darkness that lead to personal apostasy by repenting of our sins, overcoming offense, eliminating faultfinding, and following our Church leaders. We can also avoid those mists by humbling ourselves, forgiving others, keeping our covenants, partaking of the sacrament worthily each week, and strengthening our testimonies through prayer, daily scripture study, temple attendance where possible, magnifying our Church callings, and serving our fellowmen.

We need to be concerned and watchful in order to avoid the mists of darkness that can lead to personal apostasy."

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young Chapter 12: Preventing Personal Apostasy

"Teachings of Brigham Young

Apostasy is turning away from the Church and ultimately denying the faith.

What is that which turns people away from this Church? Very trifling affairs are generally the commencement of their divergence from the right path. If we follow a compass, the needle of which does not point correctly, a very slight deviation in the beginning will lead us, when we have traveled some distance, far to one side of the true point for which we are aiming (DBY, 83).

If the Saints neglect to pray, and violate the day that is set apart for the worship of God, they will lose his Spirit. If a man shall suffer himself to be overcome with anger, and curse and swear, taking the name of the Deity in vain, he cannot retain the Holy Spirit. In short, if a man shall do anything which he knows to be wrong, and repenteth not, he cannot enjoy the Holy Spirit, but will walk in darkness and ultimately deny the faith (DBY, 85).

It is most astonishing to every principle of intelligence that any man or woman will close their eyes upon eternal things after they have been made acquainted with them, and let the (gay) things of this world, the lusts of the eye, and the lusts of the flesh, entangle their minds and draw them one hair’s breadth from the principles of life (DBY, 82).

It was said here this morning that no person ever apostatized, without actual transgression. Omission of duty leads to commission (DBY, 82).

You hear many say, "I am a Latter-day Saint, and I never will apostatize;" "I am a Latter-day Saint, and shall be to the day of my death." I never make such declarations, and never shall. I think I have learned that of myself I have no power, but my system is organized to increase in wisdom, knowledge, and power, getting a little here and a little there. But when I am left to myself, I have no power, and my wisdom is foolishness; then I cling close to the Lord, and I have power in his name. I think I have learned the Gospel so as to know, that in and of myself I am nothing [see Alma 26:12] (DBY, 84).

Let a man or woman who has received much of the power of God, visions and revelations, turn away from the holy commandments of the Lord, and it seems that their senses are taken from them, their understanding and judgment in righteousness are taken away, they go into darkness, and become like a blind person who gropes by the wall [see Isaiah 59:9–10; Deuteronomy 28:29] (DBY, 82–83).

Many receive the Gospel because they know it is true; they are convinced in their judgment that it is true; strong argument overpowers them, and they are rationally compelled to admit the Gospel to be true upon fair reasoning. They yield to it, and obey its first principles, but never seek to be enlightened by the power of the Holy Ghost; such ones frequently step out of the way (DBY, 86).

When we find fault with Church leaders, we begin to separate ourselves from the Church.

Whenever there is a disposition manifested in any of the members of this Church to question the right of the President of the whole Church to direct in all things, you see manifested evidences of apostasy—of a spirit which, if encouraged, will lead to a separation from the Church and to final destruction; wherever there is a disposition to operate against any legally appointed officer of this Kingdom, no matter in what capacity he is called to act, if persisted in, it will be followed by the same results; they will "walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities” [see 2 Peter 2:10] (DBY, 83).

When a man begins to find fault, inquiring in regard to this, that, and the other, saying, "Does this or that look as though the Lord dictated it?” you may know that that person has more or less of the spirit of apostasy. Every man in this Kingdom, or upon the face of the earth, who is seeking with all his heart to save himself, has as much to do as he can conveniently attend to, without calling in question that which does not belong to him. If he succeeds in saving himself, it has well occupied his time and attention. See to it that you are right yourselves; see that sins and folly do not manifest themselves with the rising sun (DBY, 83).

Many imbibe [conceive] the idea that they are capable of leading out in teaching principles that never have been taught. They are not aware that the moment they give way to this hallucination the Devil has power over them to lead them onto unholy ground; though this is a lesson which they ought to have learned long ago, yet it is one that was learned by but few in the days of Joseph (DBY, 77–78).

[Such a person] will make false prophecies, yet he will do it by the spirit of prophecy; he will feel that he is a prophet and can prophesy, but he does it by another spirit and power than that which was given him of the Lord. He uses the gift as much as you and I use ours (DBY, 82).

One of the first steps to apostasy is to find fault with your Bishop; and when that is done, unless repented of a second step is soon taken, and by and by the person is cut off from the Church, and that is the end of it. Will you allow yourselves to find fault with your Bishop? (DBY, 86).

No man gets power from God to raise disturbance in any Branch of the Church. Such power is obtained from an evil source (DBY, 72).

People do, however, leave this Church, but they leave it because they get into darkness, and the very day they conclude that there should be a democratic vote, or in other words, that we should have two candidates for the presiding Priesthood in the midst of the Latter-day Saints, they conclude to be apostates. There is no such thing as confusion, division, strife, animosity, hatred, malice, or two sides to the question in the house of God; there is but one side to the question there (DBY, 85).

Those who lose the Spirit are filled with darkness and confusion.

When men lose the spirit of the work in which we are engaged, they become infidel in their feelings. They say that they do not know whether the Bible is true, whether the Book of Mormon is true, nor about new revelations, nor whether there is a God or not. When they lose the spirit of this work, they lose the knowledge of the things of God in time and in eternity; all is lost to them (DBY, 83–84).

Men begin to apostatize by taking to themselves strength, by hearkening to the whisperings of the enemy who leads them astray little by little, until they gather to themselves that which they call the wisdom of man; then they begin to depart from God, and their minds become confused (DBY, 84).

What have the Latter-day Saints got to apostatize from? Everything that there is good, pure, holy, God-like, exalting, ennobling, extending the ideas, the capacities of the intelligent beings that our Heavenly Father has brought forth upon this earth. What will they receive in exchange? I can comprehend it in a very few words. These would be the words that I should use: death, hell and the grave. That is what they will get in exchange. We may go into the particulars of that which they experience. They experience darkness, ignorance, doubt, pain, sorrow, grief, mourning, unhappiness; no person to condole [lament] within the hour of trouble, no arm to lean upon in the day of calamity, no eye to pity when they are forlorn and cast down; and I comprehend it by saying death, hell and the grave. This is what they will get in exchange for their apostasy from the Gospel of the Son of God (DBY, 85).

You have known men who, while in the Church, were active, quick and full of intelligence; but after they have left the Church, they have become contracted in their understandings, they have become darkened in their minds and everything has become a mystery to them, and in regard to the things of God, they have become like the rest of the world, who think, hope and pray that such and such things may be so, but they do not know the least about it. This is precisely the position of those who leave this Church; they go into the dark, they are not able to judge, conceive or comprehend things as they are. They are like the drunken man—he thinks that everybody is the worse for liquor but himself, and he is the only sober man in the neighborhood. The apostates think that everybody is wrong but themselves (DBY, 84).

Those who leave the Church are like a feather blown to and fro in the air. They know not whither they are going; they do not understand anything about their own existence; their faith, judgment and the operation of their minds are as unstable as the movements of the feather floating in the air. We have not anything to cling to, only faith in the Gospel (DBY, 84).

We can stand firm by living our religion and seeking the Holy Spirit.

Will there still be apostasy? Yes, brethren and sisters, you may expect that people will come into the Church and then apostatize. You may expect that some people will run well for a season, and then fall out by the way (DBY, 85–86).

Why do people apostatize? You know we are on the “Old Ship Zion.” We are in the midst of the ocean. A storm comes on, and, as sailors say, she labors very hard. “I am not going to stay here,” says one; “I don’t believe this is the ‘Ship Zion.’” “But we are in the midst of the ocean.” “I don’t care, I am not going to stay here.” Off goes the coat, and he jumps overboard. Will he not be drowned? Yes. So with those who leave this Church. It is the “Old Ship Zion,” let us stay in it (DBY, 85).

God is at the helm of this great ship, and that makes me feel good. … Let those apostatize who wish to, but God will save all who are determined to be saved (DBY, 86).

If the people would live their religion, there would be no apostasy and we would hear no complaining or fault-finding. If the people were hungry for the words of eternal life, and their whole souls even centered on the building up of the Kingdom of God, every heart and hand would be ready and willing and the work would move forward mightily and we would advance as we should do (DBY, 84).

We want to live so as to have the Spirit every day, every hour of the day, every minute of the day, and every Latter-day Saint is entitled to the Spirit of God, to the power of the Holy Ghost, to lead him in his individual duties (DBY, 82).”

Gotta love Brigham Young!

Book of Mormon Teacher Manual

Chapter 29

This scripture block will help students fortify (Because we have to have a strong defense mechanism against all those Korihor's in the world.) their testimonies. As they study the tactics of the anti-Christ Korihor, they will learn to recognize the tactics and philosophies of modern anti-Christs. As they study Alma’s response to Korihor, they will be prepared to defend themselves and others against those who seek to destroy their faith.

Some Doctrines and Principles
Anti-Christs try to lead people away from God and His prophets (see Alma 30:12–18, 23–28).

• A firm testimony of Jesus Christ and His prophets helps safeguard us from personal apostasy (see Alma 30:19–22, 29–44).

Disobedience leads to error and apostasy (see Alma 31:8–25).

• Disciples of Jesus Christ love and serve others (see Alma 31:12–38).

Suggestions for Teaching
Alma 30:12–18, 23–28. Anti-Christs Try to Lead People Away from God and His Prophets

Ask students to share some typical arguments people use to challenge faith in Jesus Christ. (Do not go into too much detail. Class members will discuss this further when you ask them to look at Korihor’s specific teachings.) As students share their thoughts, tell them that some people in Alma’s day tried to challenge those who believed in Jesus Christ. To help students understand that the Book of Mormon is a powerful resource to strengthen them against these challenges, ask them to read the statement by President Ezra Taft Benson on page 213 in the student manual.

• How can studying the Book of Mormon protect us “against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day”?

During the lesson, encourage students to look for reasons why some of Alma’s people stayed faithful while others did not. Ask them to consider how the same principles apply to us today.

Invite students to read the Bible Dictionary’s definition of the word antichrist. You may also want to refer them to the commentary on page 213 in the student manual. Briefly discuss characteristics of a person or idea that could be considered anti-Christ, emphasizing the Bible Dictionary’s broad definition: “anyone or anything that counterfeits the true gospel or plan of salvation and that openly or secretly is set up in opposition to Christ.”

• What affect can counterfeit money have on governments and individuals? (My question here is; What about counterfeit truth?)

• What does it mean to counterfeit the true gospel? (My observation here is that setting up every other "gospel" - or religious teaching or interpretation - as counterfeit is not productive. We should be talking about how to discover counterfeits - and including the possibility that elements of our own teachings may contain counterfeits as well - rather than seeking to label everyone outside of our belief system as being a counterfeit)

What are some modern-day counterfeits that pretend to offer salvation? (As you invite students to respond to this question, do not allow any discussion that is critical of other religions. Rather, ensure that the discussion helps students recognize the dangers of false philosophies and attitudes like Korihor’s.)

Explain that today they will examine a Book of Mormon account of an anti-Christ. Invite them to turn to Alma 30:12–18, 23–28. Use the following chart (either by preparing a handout for the students or drawing the chart on the board) or have students make their own lists to identify Korihor’s false teachings. Help students compare Korihor’s tactics with those used in our day.

Discuss these verses by asking questions such as the following:
• How are Korihor’s teachings like the false teachings in our day?

What are possible sources (such as people, institutions, or philosophies) of such false teachings today? (Hmmm? Could the corporate LDS church be one of those "institutions"?)

Explain that the first step in protecting ourselves against these teachings is to recognize them. By identifying Korihor’s teachings and tactics, we can more readily recognize their modern counterparts. Other portions of this chapter focus on ways to stay true to the restored gospel even when we face situations that try our faith.

Alma 30:19–22, 29–44. A Firm Testimony of Jesus Christ and His Prophets Helps Safeguard Us from Personal Apostasy (In other words, put on blinders to any possible wrongdoing by your own leaders because falling away should be avoided at all costs. And, if you do fall away, you will likely end up like Korihor! Don't end up like Korihor is the message to the members of the church. Very sad.)

Ask the following question:
Why is it difficult to respond to arguments like Korihor’s?

Explain that we can learn from the responses of the people Korihor tried to deceive. Write People of Ammon on the board. Invite students to read Alma 30:19–21 silently.

• From what you know about the Ammonites, why do you think Korihor was unable to lead them astray? (Write students’ answers on the board next to People of Ammon.)

Write Giddonah on the board. Ask students to read Alma 30:21–23, 29.

• How did Giddonah respond to Korihor’s arguments? (Write students’ answers on the board next to Giddonah.)

In connection with Alma 30:29, invite students to read the statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith on page 217 in the student manual.

How can we tell if a person is sincerely seeking truth or just being contentious?

• In what ways can we respond to someone who is asking difficult questions but sincerely seeking the truth? In what ways can we respond to someone who is being contentious?

Write Alma on the board. Invite students to read Alma 30:30–44.

• How did Alma respond to Korihor’s arguments? (Write students’ answers on the board next to Alma.)

Alma bore strong testimony of God the Father and Jesus Christ. To emphasize the power of personal testimony, ask a student to read the statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on page 217 in the student manual.

• In what ways is a personal testimony a “timeless and ultimately undeniable weapon”?

Alma was able to share his testimony so powerfully because he had worked to gain that testimony and strengthen it. To help students understand how Alma gained his testimony, divide them into four groups.

Write the following question on the board: What experiences prepared Alma to deal with Korihor and his teachings? Assign one of the following scripture blocks to each group: Mosiah 27–29; Alma 1–3; Alma 4–7; Alma 8–16. Ask the groups to search the chapter headings in their assigned scripture blocks to help them recall Alma’s experiences.

When students have had enough time to study their assigned passages, ask each group to report their answers.

• What experiences have you had that have strengthened your testimony and prepared you to defend your faith?

• What can we do to prepare as Alma did?

Invite students to read Alma 30:39, 44 silently, marking the evidences Alma gave for the existence of God: (1) the testimonies of others, (2) the scriptures, and (3) God’s creations. Then discuss each of these evidences, using some or all of the following ideas:

Testimonies of Others

Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 46:13–14. Explain that the ability to believe others’ testimonies of the truth is a gift of the Spirit.

You may want to share the following statement by President HaroldB. Lee (1899–1973), the 11th President of the Church:

“Some of you may not have a testimony, and so I have said to other groups like you, if you don’t have a testimony today, why don’t you cling to mine for a little while? Hold on to our testimonies, the testimonies of your bishops, your stake presidents, until you can develop it. If you can say nothing more today than I believe because my president, or my bishop, believes, I trust him, do this until you can get a testimony for yourselves; but I warn you that won’t stay with you unless you continue to cultivate it and live the teachings” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1996], 136).

• How have other people’s testimonies strengthened your testimony?


Have a student read the following statement by Elder Donald L. Staheli of the Seventy:

“Personal, sincere involvement in the scriptures produces faith, hope, and solutions to our daily challenges. Frequently reading, pondering, and applying the lessons of the scriptures, combined with prayer, become an irreplaceable part of gaining and sustaining a strong, vibrant testimony” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2004, 40; or Ensign, Nov. 2004, 39).

• In what ways have the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets strengthened your testimony?

God’s Creations

Ask a student to read the statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley on page 218 in the student manual.

• In what ways do the earth and heavens testify of God?

Alma 30:52–53. “I Always Knew That There Was a God”

Invite a student to read Alma 30:52–53. Then read the following statement by Sister Janette C. Hales, who served as Young Women general president. Ask students to listen carefully to the statement, reflecting on Korihor’s mistakes.

Korihor is described … as an antichrist, but I’m not sure that he started out that way. Have you ever thought that possibly Korihor started out … with lots of questions? Although his questioning may have begun honestly, he made two really bad mistakes. First, he denied his faith. He denied the Light of Christ that had been given to him. Second, he started to preach false doctrine to others. Alma, his leader, bore his testimony to Korihor, and then Korihor made another mistake. Rather than listening to his leader and listening and relying on the Spirit, he defended his position with logic and became more argumentative. He demanded that he be given a sign. Korihor was given a sign. He was struck dumb. He didn’t perhaps intend for the sign to have such an effect on him personally, but often the consequences of our mistakes do affect us personally.

“Verses 52 and 53 of chapter 30 are most important, I believe. Korihor acknowledges, ‘I always knew that there was a God. But behold, the devil hath deceived me’ (Alma 30:52–53). Isn’t that interesting? ‘I always knew.’ He had the Light of Christ in him, but Satan deceived him” (“Lessons That Have Helped Me,” in Brigham Young University 1992–93 Devotional and Fireside Speeches [1993], 89).

• According to Sister Hales, what were Korihor’s mistakes?

Why do you think someone in Korihor’s position might become defensive and argumentative rather than follow a leader’s counsel?

Why is it unwise to become defensive and argumentative when we have questions or doubts?

Alma 31:5. The Word of God Has the Power to Help Us Improve

Have a student read the statement by President Boyd K. Packer on page 219 in the student manual.

• Why is it important to learn the doctrines of the gospel? (See D&C 84:85.)

• Why is it important to study the doctrine on our own and not to simply hear it spoken at church?

Ask a student to read Alma 31:5.

• What gives the word of God power to change our lives? (Make sure students understand that one reason the word is powerful is that it invites the Holy Spirit into our lives.)

Invite a student to read the statement by President Ezra Taft Benson on pages 219–20 in the student manual. Ask students to list the blessings President Benson described that come from studying the scriptures.

Alma 31:8–25. Disobedience Leads to Error and Apostasy

The Zoramites had been members of the Church but had “fallen into great errors” (Alma 31:9). Have the students compare the Nephites described in Alma 30:3 with the Zoramites described in Alma 31:9–10.

In what ways does disobedience influence our testimonies?

Have students cross-reference Alma 31:9 with John 7:17.

How does obedience influence our testimonies?

Invite students to quickly review Alma 31:1–25 and list characteristics of the Zoramites and their worship habits. (Students’ lists could include that the Zoramites said repetitious prayers, had one set place to pray, worshipped only once a week, believed that God had elected only them to be saved, were materialistic, and looked down on the poor.) Invite a few students to share their lists with the class. (You might consider drawing a parallel between the Zoramites’ actions and some of our modern-day tendencies, such as saying repetitious prayers, worshipping only once a week, feeling that we are chosen and better than others, and becoming materialistic.)

Through the following questions and discussion, help students understand that active involvement in the gospel, such as temple work, family home evening, service projects, and activities through our branches and wards, helps us stay close to the Lord. Such activities help us invite the Holy Spirit into our lives throughout the week, not just on the Sabbath. As the Spirit becomes part of our daily life, we are able to withstand the anti-Christs of our day and stay faithful to Jesus Christ.

• Alma 31:10 says that the Zoramites refused to observe the “performances of the church.” What are some “performances of the church” today? (Answers may include priesthood ordinances, opportunities to serve in the Church, family responsibilities such as family home evening, personal prayer, scripture study, and temple and family history work.)

• How do these performances help us avoid entering into temptation?

• How do these performances invite the Spirit into our lives?

• Why is the word daily in verse 10 important in our efforts to keep the Spirit in our lives? (See 2 Corinthians 4:16; Helaman 3:36. Note that since pride can “grow upon [us] day to day,” we need to be “renewed day by day.”)

Alma 31:12–38. Disciples of Jesus Christ Love and Serve Others

 Alma 31 contains two prayers that are very different from each other. As students compare the Zoramites’ prayer with Alma’s prayer, they can identify the possible thoughts and beliefs that led to the prayers. Have students quickly read Alma 31:15–18 (the Zoramites’ prayer) and Alma 31:26–35 (Alma’s prayer). Ask them to share what they learn about the Zoramites and Alma from the words of these prayers. Invite two students to list these insights on the board, one student listing insights about the Zoramites and the other listing insights about Alma.

• What do you think motivated Alma to serve? (Answers might include his testimony, his love of God, and his love for other people.)

Help students understand that a testimony of Jesus Christ leads us to love and serve others. Read the following statement by Elder MarvinJ. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (1915–1994):

“When we truly become converted to Jesus Christ, committed to Him, an interesting thing happens: our attention turns to the welfare of our fellowmen, and the way we treat others becomes increasingly filled with patience, kindness, a gentle acceptance, and a desire to play a positive role in their lives. This is the beginning of true conversion” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1992, 26; or Ensign, May 1992, 20).

• What did Alma ask because he loved the people? (See Alma 31:34–35.)

• In what ways can we apply Alma’s example in our lives?

New Testament:
1 Timothy 4: 1-3

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

2 Timothy 3: 1-7

Header: Paul describes the apostasy and perilous times of the last days—The scriptures guide man to salvation.

 1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:
from such turn away.

 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,

 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2 Timothy 4: 3-4

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Ensign Feb. 1979

A House Divided: The John Johnson Family

By Keith Perkins

“...Three months later the Twelve Apostles left on missions, departing from John Johnson’s inn in Kirtland. As members of the Twelve, Luke, Lyman, and Orson spent much of their time on missions, bringing many into the Church. But the seed of apostasy was sprouting in Kirtland. The Lord had said that where one’s treasure is, there would his heart be also (Luke 12:34); sadly, many who had once given liberally of their means to build up the kingdom began to seek for personal wealth. Many who had once defended the Prophet now became his accusers. This spirit affected almost all of the Johnson family, including son-in-law Orson Hyde.

Both Luke and Lyman accused Joseph Smith of speaking disrespectfully of and to members of the Church. (See statements of Lyman E. Johnson, Orson Pratt, and Luke Johnson, 29 May 1837, Whitney Collection, Brigham Young University Special Collections Library, box 2, fd. 1.) On one occasion during the passing of the sacrament in the Kirtland Temple, Lyman stood and cursed the Prophet, who was on the stand. When the bread was passed to him “he reached out his hand for a piece of bread and flung it into his mouth like a mad dog.” His face turned black “with rage and with the power of the devil.” (Millennial Star, 57:340) Joseph Smith later pinpointed such faultfinding with the Church leadership as the cause of apostasy.

Affairs in Kirtland continued to worsen. Luke Johnson and other dissidents organized for the overthrow of the Church, claiming they were the “old standard,” and calling themselves the “Church of Christ.” Luke described those dark days: “Having partaken of the spirit of speculation, which at that time was possessed by many of the saints and Elders, my mind became darkened, and I was left to pursue my own course. I lost the spirit of God, and neglected my duty.” (“History of Luke Johnson by Himself,” Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, p. 7)

Father John Johnson was also affected by this apostasy and was dropped from the high council and excommunicated. (See History of the Church, 2:510 and The Historical Record, Andrew Jenson, ed, and pub., vol. 5, Salt Lake City, 1889, p. 32.)

It is both sad and inspiring to follow the lives of Lyman and Luke Johnson and of Orson and Marinda Johnson Hyde and to see the effect that apostasy and, in turn, personal righteousness had on their lives.

Upon being ordained the first apostle in this dispensation, Lyman received a powerful blessing. He was told that his faith would be like Enoch’s and that he would “be called great among all the living; and Satan shall tremble before him.” (History of the Church, 2:188) Yet in only three years his obedience and his faith had failed, and Satan, rather than trembling before him, had conquered him. (Apostates are conquered by Satan)

After apostatizing, Lyman remained friendly to his former associates, making occasional visits to Nauvoo. On one such visit he related his present feelings, as reported by Brigham Young:

“If I could believe ‘Mormonism’ as I did when I traveled with you and preached, if I possessed the world I would give it. I would give anything, I would suffer my right hand to be cut off, if I could believe it again. Then I was full of joy and gladness. My dreams were pleasant. When I awoke in the morning my spirit was cheerful. I was happy by day and by night, full of peace and joy and thanksgiving. But now it is darkness, pain, sorrow, misery in the extreme. I have never since seen a happy moment.” (Journal of Discourses, 19:41) (Also from this reference: “Lyman E. Johnson belonged to the Quorum of the Twelve; he was the first man called when the Twelve were called; his name was first, Brigham Young's second, and Heber C. Kimball's third. The testimony that he gave of his bitter experience is the testimony that every apostate would give if they would tell the truth. But will they acknowledge it? No, because they do not want to tell the truth.”)

It is little wonder his death was tragic. According to Wilford Woodruff, “he did not go and hang himself [like Judas], but he did go and drown himself, and the river went over his body while his spirit was cast into the pit, where he ceased to have the power to curse either God or His Prophet in time or in eternity.” (Millennial Star, 57:340; see also Andrew Jenson, Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, Salt Lake City: The Andrew Jenson History Co., 1901, p. 92.)

As Lyman’s brother Luke was ordained and set apart as a member of the Twelve, he was promised that if he were cast into prison he would be a comfort to the hearts of his comrades. (See History of the Church, 2:190.) In three years, however, he was an apostate. But his blessing still came about: he was a comfort to the hearts of his comrades in prison, but as a constable instead of as a fellow prisoner. Remaining friendly to the Church, he assisted the Prophet to legally escape from those who were pressing him with lawsuits. (See “History of Luke Johnson by Himself,” Church Archives, p. 6.)

Luke was also able to help Joseph Smith, Sr., to escape imprisonment on charges “instigated through malice.” Luke took Father Smith to court for trial, but since the court was not ready to convene, he took him into an adjoining room to wait. While in the room, Luke removed a nail which secured the window, and then left, locking the door behind him. Back in the courtroom, he started telling funny stories so laughter would cover Father Smith’s escape. When the prisoner was called by the court, Luke entered the room where Father Smith had been kept, replaced the nail in the window, and came out reporting the escape of the prisoner. Members of the court rushed in. Upon finding the window fastened, they declared it another Mormon miracle.

Luke met Eliza R. Snow the following day and asked her how his escaped prisoner was faring at the Snow house. He then commented, “Father Smith will bless me for it, all the days of his life.” Upon returning home, Eliza repeated Luke’s words to Patriarch Smith, who affirmed the truth of the statement. (See “History of Luke Johnson by Himself,” Church Archives, pp. 6–7, and Eliza R. Snow Smith, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, Salt Lake City: Deseret News Co., 1884, pp. 22–24.)

But Luke did not die an apostate like his brother Lyman did. Before the Saints left Nauvoo, he rose and spoke to an assembled group, telling of his apostasy, but declaring that his heart was with the Saints and that now he wanted to “go with them into the wilderness, and continue with them to the end.” His brother-in-law, Orson Hyde, rebaptized him. (See Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1846–47. Elden Jay Watson, ed. and pub., Salt Lake City, 1971, p. 72.) Luke then went back to Kirtland to pick tip his family.

Luke’s newly-restored faith was tried by fire as he started West with his family. His wife, Susan Poteet, died as they traveled to Council Bluffs. After burying her in St. Joseph, Missouri, Luke continued on with his six motherless children. The Church leaders seemed to feel concern that this trial might be too much for the newly rebaptized Luke; however, it was recorded that he was “yet apparently feeling well and enjoying himself.” (Watson, p. 494)

On his arrival in Council Bluffs, Luke was comforted by a poem written for him by Eliza R. Snow, his neighbor for many years in Ohio, which in part read:

Mourn not o’er your long-beloved Susan,

Love her still—she’s gone above,

To fulfil a heavenly mission,

To perform a work of love.

(A History of Clover, Centennial Year, 1856–1956, rev. ed., Tooele, Utah: Transcript-Bulletin, 1960, p. 41)

At Council Bluffs, Luke married America M. Clark, by whom he had eight children. Selected as captain of ten men in the original pioneer company, he had to leave his family at Council Bluffs while he found a home for them in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. When his first trek was over, he returned to Council Bluffs to get his family, and together they reached Utah in 1853, settling in Rush Valley, near Tooele, Utah, in 1856.

He was appointed by Wilford Woodruff to be the first presiding elder over the little Utah settlement which later was called Clover, Utah. Luke also served as the first and only probate judge of Shambip [Rush] County, now a part of Tooele County, and he became a friend of the Indians. He was the first doctor in the area, and his wife, America, served as midwife. He served faithfully both his Church and community until his death at the home of his brother-in-law Orson Hyde in Salt Lake City in 1861.

Luke’s family has continued to serve the little town of Clover. His son, Orson A. Johnson, served as a counselor to three bishops. A grandson, Edwin H. Johnson, served as a ward clerk to two bishops, and three great-grandsons, Merlin M. Johnson, Joseph William Russell, Jr., and Orson Albert Johnson, have all served as bishops of the Clover Ward. Merlin M. Johnson also served as a county commissioner for Tooele County.

Records aren’t complete concerning the fate of all the members of the Johnson family, but much mention is made of Marinda Johnson and her husband, Orson Hyde. During the Kirtland days, Orson became temporarily sympathetic with the apostate faction, but within a very short time, he had repented and returned to the Church. He walked into a meeting where Heber C. Kimball was being set apart to open England to the preaching of the gospel and to preside over the mission. Overwhelmed by the words of the blessing, Orson asked for forgiveness and for permission to accompany Heber to England as a missionary. His repentance was accepted, and he too was set apart. (See History of the Church, 2:489–90.)

When Orson left for England, Marinda was left with a three-week-old baby. Many years later, it was said of her that she experienced “what so many ‘Mormon’ women have since felt, the cares and anxieties of the wife and mother when the husband is on a mission in a foreign land, and the sustaining influence of the Holy Spirit that enabled her to bear cheerfully—even happily—the many scenes of hardship and persecution that all the old members of the Church have endured.” (Journal History, 24 Mar. 1886, p. 3) This was one of many times Marinda was asked to wait for her husband as he traveled the globe in Church service.

Marinda was the only one of the Johnson family known to have moved to Nauvoo. There she experienced joy in living the gospel and sorrow as she bade farewell to her husband on his frequent missions for the Church. Undoubtedly one of her greatest trials came when Orson fulfilled a mission to Palestine, traveling approximately twenty thousand miles. In his dedicatory prayer on the Mount of Olives he particularly remembered his family at home:

“Though Thy servant is now far from his home … yet he remembers, O Lord, his … family, whom for Thy sake he has left … The hands that have fed, clothed, or shown favor unto the family of Thy servant in his absence, or that shall hereafter do so, let them not lose their reward, but let a special blessing rest upon them, and in Thy kingdom let them have an inheritance when Thou shalt come to be glorified in this society.” (History of the Church, 4:458)

This prayer was heard, and the answer given only nine days later in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph. The Lord instructed Joseph Smith that Marinda should have a better place to live, “in order that her life may be spared.” Joseph was further directed to importune the Ebenezer Robinson family to provide for her and her children until Orson returned from his mission. The Robinsons were promised that as they provided for Marinda ungrudgingly, she would be a blessing to them. Finally, Marinda was charged to follow the living prophet “in all things whatsoever he shall teach unto her,” and promised that this would prove to be a blessing to her. (History of the Church, 4:467.) (Not mentioned in this article is that Marinda was married to Joseph Smith in April 1842. This is what Joseph meant when he charged Marinda to “follow the prophet”.)

Marinda experienced the anguish of being driven from her home again as the Saints left Nauvoo. Her sorrow was offset somewhat by the joy of being one of the first to receive her endowment in the Nauvoo Temple. Another cause for great rejoicing before leaving Nauvoo was the return of her prodigal brother, Luke, to the Church.

Orson and Marinda Hyde lived at Council Bluffs until 1852, with Orson presiding over the Church there. During that time, Marinda received a letter from Sarah M. Kimball, a dear friend in Nauvoo:

“Nothing affords me more pleasure than to be assured that I am not forgotten by one whom I so dearly love as yourself. I was sorry to hear that yr [your] family have been sick dear Sister H. You must have had yr heart & hands full but you say, you had strength given according to yr day, inasmuch as you have not been overcome it is all right for your husband said when here that we must overcome all things in order to become pillars in the Temple of God. (Sarah M. Kimball to Marinda Hyde, dated 2 Jan. 1848, Church Archives.)

Much of Marinda is revealed in this letter: her suffering, her patience in affliction, and her faithfulness to the kingdom.

Like her brother Luke, Marinda Johnson Hyde made a lasting contribution in the establishment of Utah. After coming to Utah in 1852, she and her husband settled in the Seventeenth Ward. In 1868 she became the ward’s Relief Society president, serving in that position until her death. She also was a member of the board of directors of the Deseret Hospital in Salt Lake. She sought the rights of Mormon women at a time when much of the nation was attempting to destroy the rights of all Latter-day Saints and was selected as a member of a committee which drafted a resolution against some of the vicious antipolygamy legislation being considered in Congress. (See Millennial Star, vol. 32, p. 113.) She also was one of fourteen women who drafted a resolution thanking the acting governor of Utah, S. A. Mann, for signing the act that gave the women in Utah the right to vote, the second such act in the United States.

(See Journal History, 19 Feb. 1870, p. 4; also see Russell R. Rich, Ensign to the Nations, Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Publications, 1972, pp. 372–73. Utah women were, the first to vote but the second to get the franchise.)

The year before her death, Marinda was honored on her seventieth birthday as being one of the oldest living members of the Church, having been baptized in 1831. She died 23 March 1886 in Salt Lake City. Her husband, Orson, had died previously on 28 November 1878.

Marinda’s death ended the earthly career of the original John Johnson family, a family who left a lasting impression on the Church and all those who knew them. Like Lehi’s family, their disobedience resulted in unhappiness and tragedy, and their faithfulness resulted in the blessings and happiness of the gospel.”

Just to sum up. If you leave the church, not only have you lost the faith and the spirit, you are; unhappy, ignorant, lost, contentious, fallen, sorrowful, overcome by evil, counterfeit, sad, unsuccessful in life, vicious, disobedient and your life will end in tragedy. Those poor souls. They don't realize what they are doing to their loved one's by labeling them so and insisting they know, better than others do, what their lives are like. Thanks for reading this entire post (if you made it)! I know it is a long one, but I wanted to have a pretty comprehensive summary from sources of how members of the church are taught to feel about those that leave. Good luck out there in the world of personal apostasy...if that is your place...apparently you will need it!