Mormonism, or more specifically, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a home-grown American church. There were other attempts at organizing a religion in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century, and some, like Mormonism, tampered with the institution of marriage and the sex drive, but Mormonism was the only Nineteenth-century North American experimental religion to survive and eventually receive worldwide acceptance – but only after some modifications.
Mormonism purports to be the “restored gospel” revealed to Joseph Smith by a revelation from Jesus Christ. One man is central and indispensable to Mormonism and that man is Joseph Smith. Out of all the people in the world God selected Joseph as His vehicle in restoring to the world the “actual” gospel introduced by Jesus Christ. In doing so God, or more specifically, Jesus Christ, made Joseph His spokesman, agent and ambassador on Earth. The power and authority that Jesus gave Joseph was so great and absolute that he became a virtual surrogate god. It was Joseph’s mission, as it was with Moses, to stand between God, or Jesus Christ and the people. He did this by controlling the priesthood rituals that Jesus, allegedly, requires as a prerequisite to exaltation – the most important of which, according to Mormon fundamentalists, is plural marriage.
God the Father and Jesus Christ didn’t make themselves visible or talk to anyone other than Joseph so we only have Joseph’s word. But Joseph’s word, or reputation as a prophet, is supported by the Book of Mormon, an alleged translation from golden plates given to him by an angel. Of course Joseph was the only one who ever saw the angel and the illusive gold plates and inasmuch as he was the translator, we only have his word. The adherents who believed did so on the premise no mortal man could make up and write such compelling scripture.
The Book of Mormon purports to be a history of a group of Hebrews who first inhabited North and South America. These Hebrews divided into two warring tribes called Nephites and Lamanites. The Lamanites destroyed the Nephites and according to Mormonism, the Native Americans are the remnants of the Lamanites.
Joseph augmented the Book of Mormon with alleged revelations he compiled in a volume called The Book of Commandments, latter changed to the Doctrine & Covenants. The whole idea of a “restored gospel” hinged on believing Joseph. Yet, it was enough for a handful of men and women to surrender to Joseph’s self-proclaimed authority. Even today, all of Mormonism, both the orthodox and fundamentalists, hang on the belief that Joseph Smith was a genuine prophet.
I am not convinced that when Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon he had in mind a flourishing American religion. The idea more than likely came from his acolytes, and so did many of his revelations. His followers were a curious, trusting bunch, hungry for religious answers – answers Joseph was more than happy to provide. So in a sense, Mormonism is a combination of Joseph and his trusting followers – a symbiotic relationship. They wanted a religion and a prophet to guide them. Joseph obliged. “If that’s what they want,” he more than likely thought, “than that’s what I’ll give them.”
Joseph is the foundation upon which Mormonism is built. In many ways he was brilliant, although cocky, bold, intuitive, ruthless and of course charismatic. But he didn’t do it alone. The organizing and oratory skills of the stalwart, Sidney Rigdon, was a major contributor. So was the keen mind of Orson Pratt.
It takes a special talent to start up and then perpetuate a social movement. Although Mormonism is a movement predicated upon faith, it had a way of attracting some really bright men. In all probability Mormonism would have broken apart after Joseph’s murder if it hadn’t been for Brigham Young. Brigham did not try to outdo Joseph in the prophecy department. In that department Joseph had contributed enough for a lifetime. Brigham was more pragmatic, cunning and proved to be a skilled colonizer. In essence, Joseph handed Brigham the ball and Brigham ran for a touchdown. By 1877 when Brigham died, the foundation of Mormonism was as solid as granite. Except for polygamy, which eventually outgrew its usefulness, there was only one place for the LDS Church to go, and that was up.
In this chapter, with the wisdom and insight of three authors, I’m going to explain why Mormonism has evolved into one of the fastest growing world religions, and Mormon fundamentalism, like a remora, is hoping to capitalize on Church success. But the theme will focus on sociological reasons, not the spiritual. Mormonism purports to be a religion with an exalted afterlife, the driving force of which is touted as spiritual, but I will demonstrate that Mormon fundamentalism’s actual appeal is here and now – secular, not spiritual. As Eric Hoffer proclaimed, all successful mass movements, political, cultural, religious, have the same characteristics, Mormonism is no exception.
In the Introduction of The True Believer, Sydney Hook paraphrases Hoffer’s most important ideas. He says that there is a “little true believer in all of us held in check by common sense and the discipline of experience.” What makes Hoffer so great is that when he makes a brilliant statement you’re inner self immediately lets you know it is truth.
In paraphrasing Hoffer, Hook said that frustration is the “unendurable fate of most of us and we [can] only break away from that fate by losing ourselves in “causes, ends and movements greater than [our]selves.”
But the following statement by Hoffer is absolutely brilliant and not only helps explain why women defend a male dominated religion but why people lose themselves in causes like fighting AIDS, saving the environment, etc. “For the majority of people cannot endure the barrenness and futility of their lives unless they have some ardent dedication, or some passionate pursuit in which they can lose themselves.”
I don’t know whether it is fortune or misfortune, but after spending twenty years as a practicing polygamist and now exposing the perversion, crime and corruption endemic to Mormon fundamentalism, when I read insights like the sentence quoted above, I can see the faces of the people Hoffer describes, because I have rubbed shoulders with them. Mormon fundamentalism is saturated with such fervent, passionate people.
According to Hoffer’s biography he worked on The True Believer four years before it was published in 1951. Because World War II was still on his mind, he would refer to fanatics like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, and often used Communism as an example of a mass movement. Nevertheless, he made it aptly clear that all mass movement, “irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance … all of them demand blind faith and singlehearted allegiance.”
It may seem an exaggeration to lump Hitler and Stalin with religious movements but it is not. For example, in the Introduction Hoffer submits the idea that “The fanatic who dies for a cause is willing to sacrifice others as well as himself for his truth.” The phrase, “willingness to sacrifice .. others for [the] truth,” very much applies to Mormon fundamentalism, but it is done so subtly that it is seldom detected. Nevertheless, it has been my observation that true believers in Mormon plural marriage have no more compassion for the lives of those who stand in their way than the lives sacrificed for Communism.
Principle Voices is composed of four ladies who are dedicated to decriminalizing Mormon polygamy. They work in tandem with equally talented ladies from Centennial Park. All of these pro polygamy ladies are as well aware as I am of the women and children who are victimized by unscrupulous polygamist men, yet they will not utter a word in condemnation of the abusers, or a word in defense of these women and children.
The women in Centennial Park were once part of the FLDS. They have family and friends still loyal to the FLDS and are probably more aware of the atrocities committed by Warren Jeffs than the prosecutors who put him in prison. Yet, they will not speak out against Warren or the abuses suffered by their sisters still trapped in the FLDS.
The ladies of Principle Voices are just as aware as I am of the atrocities committed by men like James D. Harmston, Ervil LeBaron, and many others in the fundamentalist subculture; but they won’t speak out in defense of women who are victimized.* Why? Because what they perceive as truth, Mormon plural marriage, is more important than the abuses suffered by their sisters. The abused women and children are expendable. Every great cause has its casualties.
Hoffer tells us that it is often the “undesirables” that are the “raw material of a [movements] future.” He uses the words “disaffected” and “frustrated “synonymously with “undesirables” and that they can be found in “all walks of life.” He then lists the categories in which they are frequently found: “the poor, misfits, outcasts, minorities, adolescent youth, the ambitious, those with vices or obsessions, the impotent, the selfish, the bored and the sinners.”
With the exception of adolescent youth you will find all of the above among converts to Mormon fundamentalism. The poor, misfits, impotent and outcasts don’t present much of a problem as they are tithe donors and parents of daughters who will be future plural wives. It is the ambitious who attempt to buy themselves into leadership positions, those obsessed with power and authority, and the sinners who bring with them sexual perversions that dominate the subculture and are the potential problems. But even the underlings, the frustrated, undesirables and disaffected are inflicted with the illusion of being part of a great cause that in their minds gives “meaning and purpose to their lives.”
One of the favorite arguments of pro polygamists is that they are exercising their free will, implying that Mormon polygamy is all about free choice. It is true that they are exercising choice, but that choice does not necessarily mean liberty in the real sense. How much liberty is there in the notion that one is free to conform and obey to capricious priesthood edicts?
If one reads Escape From Freedom by Erich Fromm, he will find Fromm and Hoffer in complete agreement when they discuss human behavior. In Chapter I, Fromm asks the question: “Can freedom become a burden, too heavy for man to bear, something he tries to escape from? Why then is it that freedom is for many a cherished goal and for others a threat?” He does an excellent job in answering that question.
Fromm goes into the phenomenon of “submission” and masochism. He explores the “longing for submission” contrasted with the “lust for power,” which is what we find all too often in Mormon fundamentalism. Fromm hits home as does Hoffer in identifying “basic needs” and “the inability” of some of us “to bear the isolation and weakness of one’s own self.”
Eric Hoffer said in his book, Reflections On The Human Condition, page 54, “The genuine creator creates something that has a life of its own, something that can exist and function without him.” But in contrast, he also said, “With the non creative it is the other way around: in whatever they do they arrange things so that they themselves become indispensable.”
Joseph Smith did both. Verse 7 of Section 132 made Joseph indispensable. In that regard I suspect he knew what he was doing, but I doubt that he had any idea that his highly controversial creation, Section 132, would take on a life of its own.
Fromm approaches the subject of human behavior from a psychological view and makes the distinction between the “natural man” and “civilized man.” Escape From Freedom was published in 1941 and he uses the atrocities of Fascism as an expression of man’s natural impulses – an assertion analogous to the conclusions of Durant and Hoffer.
After learning about the role of the Y-chromosome and the meme, in rereading Escape From Freedom, it gives Fromm’s arguments and conclusions validity and more meaning.
Fromm suggests that the universal battle is between the oppressed and the oppressor – that human behavior can be explained by the innate desire to either be free or escape from freedom. But even among the elite, the powerful or oppressors we see the phenomenon of “conflict and power.” Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler are examples of conflict between oppressors. Alexander the Great and Napoleon are celebrated as great military strategists but how should we view the men that fought the battles, the men who submitted too and did the dirty work for Alexander and Napoleon? What was the inducement?
Freedom is relative – contingent upon the influence of our natural and memetic impulses. Freedom, as well as behavior, is also influenced by situations. In some cases, as in Mormon fundamentalism, freedom is an illusion.
Fromm built much of his thesis around the concept of “submission.” He even suggested that we humans may have a predisposition to submit to something or some person. I think he was right. For example, a worker ant or bee totally submits to its situation. When we humans enter a group such as the army, navy, or a cult, we tend to submit to the established group mores.
The impulse to submit could play havoc with the notion of free agency. As a young deputy sheriff exposed to the capricious influences of politics I concluded that humanity consisted of three types – those who wanted to lead, the vast majority who followed and a few who only wanted to do their own thing – the mavericks who march to their own drumbeat. When election time came around, although the merit system was suppose to free us deputies from politics we were subtly pressured into taking a stand – in other words, submitting to one candidate or the other. Refusing to take sides could put you at odds with both candidates and affect your assignment after the election. Invariably, assignments were made based on loyalty to the Sheriff rather than skill or dedication to the institution of law enforcement. No matter how hard we attempt to implement and celebrate social instincts the selfish instincts seem to find a way to rock the boat.
The vast majority of humanity submits and call it free agency or choice. Many wet their finger and submit in the direction the wind blows. Some tip toe through life hoping to make it safely from birth to death. Submission in many cases means choosing the path of least resistance or going along with whoever is in power at the moment. And even when we make radical changes or become zealot over a great cause we may be submitting, not because it is right or wrong, but because it appeals to our selfish instincts or memetic conditioning.
When I disconnected myself from Mormon fundamentalism and all organized religion, I had never felt more free in my life, even though I knew I had risked losing members of my family. In reflecting upon the phenomenon of freedom, my experience was memetic in that my mind was free to wonder, doubt, scrutinize and rationalize – a risky business because thinking may result in a conflict with tradition and the establishment. But even so, thinking ultimately leads to submission. I saw a need and submitted to the unpopular pursuit of muckraking and iconoclasm.
As Fromm suggested we all submit to someone or something one way or another. It may be submission to a political persuasion, a religious belief, an addiction or sexual perversion. It doesn’t matter if what is submitted too is good or bad, true or false, as long as it gives meaning and purpose The person I feel the most sorry for is the person who works hard to submit to nothing – the person who can say, I neither created or destroyed. I ruffled no feathers, nor did I implement or support change of any kind. I challenged nothing. I blended in with the masses and nobody noticed me. My legacy was that of the consummate conformist.
Hoffer said, “unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden.” And he said, “we join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility … to be free from freedom.” All through The True Believer Hoffer emphasizes the choking and debilitating effects, as well as the aggressive effects of frustration.
The pro polygamists clamor for freedom and equality. For fifty years they have had the freedom to practice their lifestyle without government intervention. And even now the Utah Attorney General has agreed not to prosecute consenting adults. What they clamor for now is political correctness, in other words, respect. In that regard the Attorney General’s Safety Net program and Town Meetings are geared towards “breaking down barriers and building bridges” between Mormon polygamy, government and society in general. It all boils down to respect.
The pro polygamy crowd want us to respect the individuals practicing polygamy and to also respect the lifestyle, and the doctrine. If we respect the lifestyle then it stands to reason we must respect those who practice the lifestyle.
I know polygamous mothers whom I respect and as well, many men who try to live the lifestyle to the best of their ability – men who make up rules for themselves that are consistent with Christian principles. But why should we respect a doctrine or lifestyle that leaves the door wide open for abuse of all kinds.
Mormon polygamy is an uncompromising institution. Therefore any “breaking down of barriers” will have to be on the part of government and society which is what is happening. Equality for the Mormon polygamist means respecting their “right” to conduct plural marriage by their rules. To decriminalize polygamy is to allow polygamists to practice as they wish without accountability. In essence, the Utah Attorney General has said, “alright, you can play by your own rules as long as it doesn’t involve girls under age eighteen.” But what about the indoctrination young girls are subjected too from birth to age 18? In some polygamist families and communities they are carefully indoctrinated to become plural wives by the time they reach age 18.
Most polygamists avoid marriages with girls under age eighteen because they don’t want law enforcement breathing down their necks, but there is always going to be a Warren Jeffs who is not going to let government tell him what to do.
Political correctness I suppose has its place, but in Mormon fundamentalism it has come to mean “unearned equality and respect upon demand.” How can you respect a belief system that is accountable to no civil authority?
Hoffer states that, “members of a compact group [be they poor or otherwise] – a tribe, a closely knit family, a compact racial or religious group – are relatively free of frustration and hence almost immune to the appeal of a proselytizing mass movement.
This observation coincides with Rodney Stark who observed that “new religious movements” primarily draw converts from the discontented and the religious inactive.
In The Rise of Mormonism Stark discusses “religious capital” meaning the investment one has in his religion. On page 65 Stark defines religious capital as “the degree of mastery of and attachment to a particular religious culture.” That means to me the degree of investment one has in a religion. Stark goes on to say that people tend to conserve their religious capital and the greater the capital the less likely they are to convert to something new or change religions.
Where Hoffer uses the word “frustrated,” Stark uses the word, “discontented” in describing the potential convert. Most converts to Mormon fundamentalism come from the frustrated, or discontented ranks of the LDS Church. Assimilation is made easy because the doctrines are essentially the same.
But the point to be made is that a person with a high degree of religious capital in the LDS Church is not apt to convert to Mormon fundamentalism regardless of the alleged truthfulness of the doctrine. In other words, doctrine isn’t really the deciding factor. It doesn’t matter if Section 132 states “polygamy must be lived,” and Brigham Young is on record saying, “polygamy is the only way to the celestial kingdom and there is no alternative,” religious capital, or the investment one has in his current religion will keep him from conversion. We can carry that thought one step further. A man who has a high degree of capital, or love for his monogamous wife will not become a polygamist.
The concept of “religious capital” is extremely important in understanding Mormon fundamentalism. A man who will lose more than he gains will not convert to Mormon fundamentalism. A man who truly loves and respects his monogamous wife will not become a polygamist. In other words, no matter how strong a man believes in Joseph Smith, if he has a great investment in his monogamous marriage, he will not become a polygamist.
Apostolic United Brethren and The True & Living Church draw most of their converts either from other groups or the LDS Church. As I mentioned earlier, I have interviewed and rubbed shoulders with dozens of converts and without exception what Hoffer and Stark state is true. A man who leaves a monogamous wife to become a polygamist, and there are many, leave an unhappy monogamous marriage. The same holds true for the woman. The most vulnerable woman is a single LDS mom who has experienced an unpleasant monogamous relationship.
It isn’t until the convert begins to realize capital in the new movement that doctrine becomes important. Put another way, when the convert becomes settled and decides he or she is better off than before, doctrine becomes the justification for conversion. When you see on Larry King Live polygamist women defending their lifestyle, what they are really doing is protecting their investment. Television is a vast stage of make-believe where they can portray themselves as misunderstood devotees advocating for a holy cause. Why then are they protecting a lifestyle that is designed to oppress women?
Each time I read through The True Believer I continue to marvel at how that old dock worker, Eric Hoffer, a lifelong bachelor who seemed wedded to the pursuit of knowledge and an understanding of human behavior, was so insightful. He had a mind that could have made him a billionaire had he pursued that direction. But he was content to labor alongside ordinary men on the waterfront of San Francisco – an ordinary working man who loaded sea-going ships by day, with an extraordinary mind at night as he read and wrote in the solitary of a modest apartment.
He said a rising movement “attracts and holds a following not by its doctrine and promises but by the refuge it offer from the anxieties, barrenness and meaninglessness of an individual existence.” He couldn’t have hit the nail’s head more squarely. Hoffer went on to say that once unified it “cured” the individual of the “frustrations” (difficulties and abuses) that made their lives “miserable.” It was the unification, the “refuge” and not the “doctrines and promises” that “freed” them from their “ineffectual selves.” If the individual is submissive and malleable, that is open to being reshaped by indoctrination, he is absorbed and enfolded” into the unified whole.” (Page 42)
When a Latter-day Saint jumps from the Church to fundamentalism it is not without criticizing the Church for its weakness. The common complaint is that the Church is out of order and sacrificed sacred beliefs in exchange for popularity in a wicked world. The convert does not seek “release from religious control, but for a fuller and more abundant religious control.” It seems that in many cases he doesn’t know how to deal with what autonomy the Church allows.
Hoffer says that “uncertainty and responsibility” weigh heavily on the frustrated. He longs for “certitude, camaraderie, a vision separate from a free society and especially, “freedom from individual responsibility.”
He couldn’t describe the majority of converts to organized fundamentalism more completely because they tend to place their lives in the hands of the prophet and his priesthood, right down to sometimes consulting the prophet as to what light bulbs to use, and that is a fact. In so many words, Hoffer says the frustrated find freedom in the “brotherhood” that dictates and takes control of their lives. (Page 47)
When Eric Hoffer presents an idea he does it so elegantly that it is hard to not quote. However, I will paraphrase from his chapter dealing with doctrine and self-sacrifice.
All mass movements go through a dynamic stage. The seventies and eighties were a dynamic stage among the fundamentalists. The FLDS and Kingstons were integrating with mainstream society by way of economic corporations. But socially and privately they remained stoic and standoffish. But their business dealings were impressive, resulting in indifference by non Mormons to their personal lives. Money has a way of changing our thoughts and principles.
In the seventies and eighties AUB was receiving converts out of the LDS Church right and left. Ambitious polygamists like Alex Joseph, after learning the ropes while in AUB started up their own little groups, most of which failed.
When a movement begins to rationalize its doctrines (that is to justify by reasoning) it is a sign stability is desired. That is when they rely on their intellectuals for validation. Orson Pratt was Brigham’s intellectual.
That is where the fundamentalist movement is today. You will notice that when they make their pro polygamy argument on television they “speak with their hearts and not their minds.” That is because their doctrines are vague and ambivalent. They shy away from Section 132 and concentrate on the future – a glorious afterlife – but even then they are careful not to give many details because that afterlife discriminates against nonbelievers more severely than it does against monogamy, apostates and non believers here and now. In the Mormon celestial kingdom great men like Abraham Lincoln, because they were not Mormon polygamists, will be shining the shoes of Joe Blow fundamentalist. It is taught that the honorable men of the Earth will be servants to the celestial polygamists. In the mean time, “celebrity” polygamists seek sympathy from the public by emotionally portraying themselves as pious victims who are ready to sacrifice their lives for a holy cause.
Discrimination is central to the fundamentalist’s lifestyle. Portraying themselves as perpetual victims is one of their strengths. This victim persona stems from when the Mormons were run out of Missouri and Illinois. In the civil case where James D. Harmston was accused of cheating a quarter million dollars out of Kaziah May Hancock and Cindy Stewart, he portrayed himself as a harmless holy man carrying out the duties God had charged him with. When he tried to use the witness stand as a pulpit the judge had to shut him up. And when he hissed and jeered at the plaintiff’s testimony, after two warnings the judge found it necessary to evict Harmston and his legal wife, Elaine, from the courtroom.
In the civil case, Hill vs. Allred, Jenson et.al., which was filed to recover the 1.5 million dollars stolen from Hill, Allred and Jenson attempted to portray themselves as the actual victims, not only by Hill but by John C. Putvin, one of the other defendants.
Hoffer says the fanatic is “perpetually incomplete and insecure” even though he demonstrates inordinate passion for his holy cause. His next comment is so true to Mormon fundamentalism that it ought to be pictured, framed and hung on the wall.
The fanatic’s “sense of security is derived from his” extravagant passion and “not from the excellence of his cause.”
Gallons and gallons of passionate tears have been shed by Mormon fundamentalists bearing testimony of the truthfulness and correctness of Joseph Smith’s plural marriage revelation.
The pro polygamy movement has moved away from religious principle and is currently concentrating on the privacy issues resulting from Lawrence vs. Texas. Mormon polygamists hate homosexuals because homosexuality is contrary to heterosexual polygamy. In the beginning of their movement they did not want to use the gay argument, but as the gays gained recognition the polygamists, who like politicians that lean in whatever direction the wind blows, jumped on the gay argument. You will now hear a few polygamists applauding the gays they secretly despise.
I found Hoffer’s chapter on Unifying Agents the most compelling. He begins by explaining that hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of behaviors. In the polygamist’s need to be a victim, hatred and the masochistic are like Siamese twins. He says that mass movements can “rise and spread without a belief in a God,” but they can’t survive without a “belief in a devil.” By devil he means an adversary, an enemy, real or mythical. For example, the rise of Nazism is believed to have grown in proportion to how it made the Jews out to be devils. Hoffer uses the words, “the vividness and tangibility of its devil.” The devil must be easily identified and discernable. As I said at the beginning of this thesis, if there really is a devil then Mormon fundamentalism must be his playground because what most people consider evil, he has been turned into virtue, like sex with pubescent girls.
Mormon fundamentalists are among the best haters you will find. They hate the LDS Church for sacrificing polygamy. They hate apostates because they reveal the weakness and corruption of Mormon fundamentalism. They hate the government for not protecting the faithful when they were expelled from Missouri and Illinois. They hate the government for not recognizing plural marriage as a lawful religious tenet. There are many fundamentalists who hate Black people, Jews, communists, homosexuals and feel it is righteous to exploit and even steal from non believers. In the Nineteenth Century it was called “milking the gentiles.” If they have no one to hate they will invent something or someone.
Hoffer is absolutely right. Fundamentalists spend more time and energy savoring their woes than in thanking their God. They have a huge investment in being victimized which they use to justify their hatred. Some fundamentalists, attempting to create their own bizarre brand of Mormonism, have gone so far as to denigrate those things which most Christians and Mormons hold sacred, such as the sanctity of the family and our Founding Fathers.
The Devil is a mythical character who embodies the antithesis of virtue. But for the Mormon fundamentalist, the Devil is as real as Jesus Christ. The Devil, or Satan, is the impetus behind all antagonism towards Mormonism. Dissidents who speak out against Mormon fundamentalism are either in league with the Devil or are under the Devil’s spell. It was the Devil who manufactured false evidence used to find AUB leaders culpable in the theft of Virginia Hill’s 1.5 million dollars.
The most hated are the apostates and dissidents like Tapestry Against Polygamy – for that matter, anyone who speaks out against Mormon plural marriage. They already hate the author of this book and will hate him even more after this book is published.
Hoffer says that noble or exalted religions will “inevitably generate strong feelings of guilt.” In that respect, I doubt there is any religion that draws upon high sounding verbs, adverbs and adjectives to rhetorically exalt their religion more than the Mormon fundamentalists. Hoffer continues by saying there is an “unavoidable” distinction between “loftiness of profession and imperfection of practice.” Once again his observations are uncanny as it seems he must have been secretly scrutinizing the Mormon fundamentalists.
Loftiness is overlaid with humility but the humility is transparent. For example, when the Saints migrated to Missouri in the 1830s, in all probability it was a sense of loftiness that enticed a few of the Saints to suggest to the native Missourians that like the Israelites of old about to invade Canaan, God had given them Jackson County as an inheritance and that they, the natives, might just as well pack up and leave. When Brigham Young’s attempted to create the “State of Deseret,” a geographical parcel three time the size of Texas, he was probably motivated by a sense of loftiness. Whatever the LDS Church undertakes it tends to do it in a big way.
Hoffer suggests that loftiness results from “imperfection of practice.” Polygamy, in the long run, proved to be a liability for the L D S Church rather than a boon. Try as they did, the early Mormons could never make the “law of consecration,” better known as the “united order,” a form of communalism work. The Mormon fundamentalist are currently trying their hand at the United Order, communities where all things are suppose to be held in common. If we take Colorado City as an example, what they call the United Effort Plan, supposedly a form of the United Order, is really all things are owned by the prophet and the people are “tenets at will.”
The principle of plural marriage is supposed to be a higher law practiced by the deity, but as this thesis demonstrates along with the trail of shattered lives, the polygamist lifestyle is saturated with imperfections.
Hoffer says that the more “sublime” the faith, the more “virulent the hatred it breeds.”
According to Hoffer, a mass movement, as in the case Mormon fundamentalism, offers unlimited opportunities for hatred to cover up their feelings of guilt. Hatred can give meaning and purpose to empty, purposeless lives. Organized Mormon polygamy are places where they can submerge themselves into a holy cause by “nursing a fanatical grievance.” (Pages 101-102)
Before becoming fundamentalists, many converts were nobodies, that is, they were just another blade of grass, and now they are somebodies. In the Celestial Kingdom they will be the only heavenly creatures having sex. The rest of humanity, guys like Thomas Jefferson, will be their servants. They will have wives, children and worlds galore. On a more serious note, as these Mormon polygamists take their celestial kingdom seriously, the plural wife will be the “EVE of her own world, the husband ADAM. Together they will people the world with their celestial offspring – a world for each wife. If the man has fifty wives, he will be the ADAM of fifty worlds like Earth. This belief, or illusion, tends to raise the self esteem of a man who would otherwise just be another inconspicuous face in a crowd.
Sunday sermons, especially in the TLC, are often devoted to vilifying their enemies. In reality, most of their enemies are illusions, nevertheless, to have enemies provides unification and gives them a feeling of importance. A nobody has no need of enemies.
Imitation is a unifier and Mormon fundamentalists are great imitators. The acolytes imitate the leaders in dress, hairstyle, rhetoric, walk – sometimes right down to the cut of the mustache and belt buckle. What offends the prophet offends the follower. Clever cliches are contagious. Imitation is acceptable, even encouraged as it is a sign of devotion and conformity, but originality, even within the confines of doctrine, is considered pompous and in bad taste.
The most commonly imitated behavior is humility, often a ruse that tends to disarm potential plural wives and non believers. Humility is not only displayed in speech and demeanor but in dress as well. Frugality is a form of humility – sometimes carried to the extreme forcing women and children to subsist on the bare necessities. Imitating hatred tends to isolate the true believer from apostates and non believers.
Hoffer devotes several pages to “persuasion and coercion” as unifying agents. Both are central to Mormon fundamentalism because what is wanted, sex with many women, goes against tradition. Where persuasion is lacking, coercion is the next step.
It is much easier to convert a man or a woman if they already have a knowledge of Mormonism and a testimony of Joseph Smith. It may seem like converting men would be increasing the competition for plural wives. Not necessarily. Many men bring daughters into the group, but what is coveted as much as daughters, is the man’s assets – money, real estate and a thriving business. Men who are suckered into AUB and TLC are often exploited as much as women.
Hoffer reminds us that it was conquest that made Christianity and Islam great. First came conquest, conversion second, as if a byproduct. Proselyting, either by persuasion or coercion is a way of strengthening one’s faith. For a classic example of coercion for sex see Polygamy’s Rape of Rachael Strong.
A potential leader cannot “conjure up a movement out of the void.” There must be “dissatisfaction” and an eagerness to “follow and obey.”
Often the proselyting rhetoric, propaganda and or scripture is designed to appeal to the dissatisfied who are waiting for someone or something to give meaning to their lives. For example if scripture can be created that ennobles the poor, it tends to relieve pressure for one to succeed and take on responsibility. If you can create scripture that dictates that the way to serve God is to contribute to the poor, we are apt to find that the leader and author of the scripture is the most poor of all.
In any event, once the foundation has been laid for a new movement, “an outstanding leader is indispensable.” (The True Believer, page 117)
The leader of a movement is always the most interesting. James D. Harmston of the TLC imitates Joseph and according to apostates pretends he is the reincarnation of Joseph. Many of Harmston’s male followers imitate him. Other fundamentalists receive revelations in imitation of Joseph. The act of imitating goes on and on. By and large, Mormon fundamentalism is one big house of fantasy.
One of the most profound and compelling books about Joseph Smith is Inside The Mind of Joseph Smith, Psychobiography And The Book Of Mormon by Robert D. Anderson, a prominent psychiatrist. Anderson draws from Joseph’s writings, mainly the Book of Mormon, and characterizes him as a narcissist. It is interesting to note that where Joseph would probably say that the words that make up the Book of Mormon are not his but that of the angel Moroni, Anderson conducts his analysis as though they were the words of Joseph.
What makes Anderson’s conclusions so profound is that identical characteristics can be seen in want-to-be fundamentalist leaders who use Mormonism to capitalize on their hidden desires.
Anderson tell us that the narcissist personality can appear very normal, functions well and seems to be socially in control. It is my observation that emphasis should be placed on control because these narcissistic types seem to be control freaks. Even when things are not going well, they will portray a charade of being in control. It is important that all around him sees him as being in control.
According to Anderson the narcissist personality has “a marked degree of self-reference.” In other words, everything revolves around him and his needs. His ego continually needs bolstering. He lives for praise and if he doesn’t get it, he will manufacture praise in the form of scripture or coerced affidavits. Some have been known to pretend to be an admirer and send letters of praise to himself. He has an inflated sense of self importance and is in constant “need [of] tribute from others.”
Anderson goes on to suggest that the main characters in the Book of Mormon, especially Nephi, are Joseph’s “alter egos” He points out that the words, “I Nephi” are repeated “eighty-six” times.
Nephi is probably the quintessential hero, God’s special person filled with virtue, faith and dedication. In the third chapter of 2 Nephi there is a prediction about Joseph being a “righteous branch,” one like Moses who will rise up out of the dark in the “latter days” and bring “light” to the people.
If one reads the Torah or first five books of the Old Testament, and compares it with Joseph’s Mormonism, you will find that Moses must have made a great impression upon Joseph as there are many parallels – a God of flesh and bones, the Urim and Thummim, the use of the word, “everlasting,” and the exodus to Missouri, to name a few. Joseph even came up with the Book of Moses, the unadulterated words of Moses that is included in the Pearl of Great Price.
Anderson points out that the narcissist personality “lives for admiration from others.” During times of peace he will intentionally “agitate” if it is the only way of bringing attention to himself. “No accomplishment is adequate,” he must move on to new and challenging issues. (Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith, page 225)
Hoffer’s description of a leader is in complete harmony with Dr. Anderson. Hoffer’s characteristics of a [cult] leader are defiance, certitude and the illusion of grandeur and power. He portends exceptional intelligence, evokes enthusiasm and imputes the illusion of “liberation from a petty and meaningless individual existence.” The fanatical leader is a man of noble character, audacity, iron will and fanatical conviction. He has “faith in his destiny, contempt for the present and a cunning estimate of human nature.” He is daring and seems to have the uncanny “ability to dominate and almost bewitch a small group of able men.”
But the leader is nothing without the followers and the followers are nothing without the leader. It is a symbiotic relationship where they are dependent upon each other. Altogether they create a fantasy world.
In the matter of Hill vs. Allred et.al., when the court found clear and convincing evidence that the defendants did indeed unlawfully take Virginia’s money and convert it to their own use, I expected a good portion of the 7000 ABU membership to be outraged over their leaders crimes. But there was no outrage. In fact, the true believers made up excuses exonerating their leaders – excuses like “the Devil manufactured false evidence, Virginia had actually donated the money and changed her mind, the leaders had repented and were no longer accountable.”
I puzzled over the membership’s denial in the face of compelling evidence until I became familiar with the concepts of symbiosis, religious capital and Cognitive Dissonance.
Cognitive Dissonance is a psychological “defense mechanism” that we all use to alleviate conflict, the resulting stress and hopefully give stability, security, meaning and purpose to life. It can be good or bad depending upon one’s cultural foundation and priorities. Cognitive dissonance is a ubiquitous Darwinian response meaning it is common in all cultures and societies. It has helped me in answering compelling questions concerning behavior, not just my own behavior but group behavior.
With that in mind, it has been my observation that religion provides us with some of the most complex and mystifying examples of human behavior; and from a materialistic point of view we should add superstition and mythology to the equation. But before I site an example consider the following academic definition of Cognitive Dissonance which I have taken from the Internet:
According to cognitive dissonance theory, there is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions (i.e., beliefs, opinions). When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors (dissonance), something must change to eliminate the dissonance. In the case of a discrepancy between attitudes and behavior, it is most likely that the attitude will change to accommodate the behavior
A common example of dissonance is in the case of conflicting beliefs, both of which may affect behavior. Confronted with this dilemma an individual must choose that belief which results in the least trauma, discomfort, discord or dissonance.
The more important the belief the greater the dissonance. According to the Internet there are three ways to eliminate dissonance: “(1) reduce the importance of the dissonant beliefs, (2) add more consonant beliefs that outweigh the dissonant beliefs, or (3) change the dissonant beliefs so that they are no longer inconsistent.”
As you may know I played a significant role (along with others) in the building of the law suit: Hill vs. Allred, Jenson, Apostolic United Brethren, et. al. The matter went before the Utah Supreme Court twice, and both times the Court ruled in favor of the Plaintiff, Hill. In the Supreme Court’s final ruling the Justices concluded that the Defendants had engaged in a “pattern of unlawful activity.”
In a civil case the deciding rule is “a preponderance of evidence.” In a criminal case the rule is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The Defendants were not charged in criminal court for stealing Hill’s money. Nevertheless, based on my experience as a detective with the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, I believe that the “preponderance of evidence” also reached the standard required for “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In other words I believe that had the Defendants been charged with felony theft in a criminal court they would have been found guilty by either a “bench” or “jury” trial and very well could have been sentenced to prison. Put another way, the “pattern of unlawful [criminal] activity” was consistent with organized crime.
Apostolic United Brethren, AUB, is a Mormon fundamentalist group boasting a membership of between 5 and 7 thousand. At the time of the theft the leadership of AUB, Owen A. Allred and J. LaMoine Jenson, especially Jenson, were involved in the “criminal activity” up to their eye brows. When the final judgment was rendered, which obviously sullied the reputation of Allred and Jenson, I expected there to be a wholesale exodus of scornful members. But to my surprise, only a small handful had the temerity and strength of independence to seek more forthright and reputable pastures. It was not until I happened on to the concept of “cognitive dissonance” that it all made sense.
The AUB membership was vexed (dissonance) by two conflicting beliefs. (1) due process of law based on fact and reality, and (2) that Allred and Jenson were the plenipotentiary viceroys of Jesus Christ and had power and authority over their exaltation, (sic) irreality.
Belief is “irreality” when it becomes an emotional conclusion akin to “faith” not supported by fact, evidence or reality. Strange as it may seem, due to the ingenuity and complexity of the brain a belief often has more influence over attitude and behavior than reality. However, there is a paradox that can occur as it did in the case of the loyal AUB members. In that case there occurred a contingency of reality, that is facts that influenced their “belief.” It is that paradoxical aspect of comingling fact and mysticism in religion that I find so fascinating, which I will attempt to explain.
Mormonism is “a way of life,” a theocratic culture that revolves around the authority of a prophet and priesthood who has exclusive control over the present and afterlife. Mormon fundamentalism has the additional attraction of plural marriage or polygney (one man with two or more wives), commonly referred to as polygamy. This belief permits a man to cohabit sexually (reality) with many women. The belief (unsupported by fact) commands the Mormon man to cohabit sexually with more than one wife (reality).
Mormon fundamentalists tend to group together forming their own peculiar ethos – literature, heroes, lexicon, values, priorities, communities and social interaction (reality). The lives of many fundamentalists, especially if they have been born into the “cult,” the ethos has been so ingrained into their intellective, that is cerebral introspection, that any other way of life would be alien and foreboding. To be a Mormon is to embrace the Mormon past, present and future. It identifies you as a person of esteem, purpose and direction. It defines who you are. Your sensibility and emotional security is cognately and cognitively attached to the concept of Mormon as divined by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Mormonism cannot exist without a prophet and priesthood. The true blue Mormon fundamentalist therefore devotes his mind, time and talents to that end. In many cases his occupation as well as family is inexplicably linked to priesthood and the group. Consequently, to perceive Allred and Jenson as crooks is to give all that up – and return to uncertainty, which is too much to bear.
The alternative cognitive antidote is to give more weight to reality which in this case is an agnostic or skeptical approach reached by asking oneself the following simple questions: Does God condone thievery? The facts proved that these so-called ambassadors of Jesus Christ lied. If they are lying about stealing money what else are they lying about? The Eighth of the Ten Commandments states, “Thou shalt not steal.” These men did steal and God took no action. Is that because God is as mythical as the authority these men claim?
One question leads to another until ultimately we arrive at Joseph Smith the founding Mormon prophet and the whole concept of Mormonism. And if the inquiry progresses unabated Christianity, Judaism and Islam, all those faiths that evolved from the Bible, may become questionable.
The alternative was obviously too painful for those who had woven their lives within the spiritual fabric of AUB, necessitating the creation of new consonant beliefs to overwhelm the dissonant alternative. And this is what happened:
They maligned the reputation of the Plaintiff and her investigators, portraying them as evil acolytes of the Devil, which tends to mitigate the criminality of the defendants. They sewed the rumor that the money was not stolen but actually donated by the Plaintiff. They blamed the crime on subordinates who lied and tricked the beloved prophet and apostle into participating in the crime. They excused their leaders’ participation as a rare incident of poor judgment of which they have repented. They predictably created and created those cognitive antidotes until they accepted and believed, preserving the status quo, thus saving their personal investment in a “sacred” lifestyle.
If you had been following my blog, www.polygamybooks.org, you may recall that I predicted that if the AUB leadership handled this crisis right (right being synonymous with cunning) AUB as a fundamentalist “cult” would emerge stronger than ever. According to informants it appears that my augury has borne fruit and J. LaMoine Jenson and his priesthood cronies were more than up to the task. This crisis (cognitive dissonance) has united the membership as never before. J. LaMoine Jenson is worshiped far greater than his predecessors. The crises cleansed the group of the fainthearted and consolidated the true believers to the point they have dug deep into their pockets, taken out loans and sold treasured personal belongings to raise the money to pay off the six million dollar judgment imposed upon their spiritual leader and sacred organization. To date, they are only 1.5 million shy of paying off 6.5 million. Such is the power of cognitive dissonance.
The concept of cognitive dissonance is so important that I believe a review is justified.
We currently live during a time of unprecedented enlightenment where science has inadvertently toppled thousands of spurious religious beliefs and superstitions which have, in my opinion, made life more safe and palatable than the irreality of religion. The list is enormous, including such simple things as running hot water, disinfectants, sanitation, reading and writing, electricity, the telephone, gasoline engines, railroads, steam powered ships and airplanes that can fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo without refueling – all of which we take for granted. Science has burst the belief in witchcraft and evil spirits that was once thought by Christians to cause disease. Science has condemned the Inquisition authorized by popes and priests that put to death by the noose and stake thousands of innocent women. When scientists were at last free to doubt and experiment unfettered by religious prejudice, the Age of Enlightenment (reason triumphing over mythology) exposed the Dark Ages as a blight on human civilization. New inventions poured forth uninhibited, causing one scientist to predict religion would soon be antiquated and no longer necessary. Yet, religion is as strong and powerful and dangerous today as ever – how come? Look at 9-11? Could it be cognitive dissonance?
In Mormon fundamentalism the prophet is picked by God or the previous prophet, which amounts to the same thing. The AUB members all had a good deal of capital invested in AUB. They couldn’t pick a new prophet so were stuck with the one they had. It was much simpler for the true believers to create the illusion of innocence, which was easily palatable in a world where fantasy was already the norm rather than the exception. The members fantasized excuses in order to preserve their religious capital. In other words, the members had a huge investment in a belief system that had become a lifestyle. That lifestyle required a prophet with authority. If Owen was nothing but a common thief, then his authority would be a sham and their investment would be without substance. They couldn’t let that happen. Owen represented certainty, the opposite of unbearable, irrational doubt.
The refusal of the AUB faithful to accept reality coincides with the phenomenon of submission. It is not so much who or to what one submits too that relieves doubt and the feeling of aloneness and helplessness, but the act of submission itself. The effect is the same for the person who submits to a god, religion, leader, or a political persuasion as long as they submit to a great cause. Once submitted and then to change beliefs, the change must be more valuable than that submitted too. But change in and of itself can bring back doubt, aloneness and helplessness.
Pro Polygamy Women
Why do some women defend and promote a male dominated lifestyle”
I have touched upon the reasons in nearly every chapter. When women defend the polygamist lifestyle it is my theory that it is Meme 132 at work. As I mentioned before, with the occasional exception of one or two women, female converts to Mormon fundamentalism are typically single moms who experienced a bad monogamous marriage. The capital they find in fundamentalism is more valuable to them than the capital they left in the LDS Church Capital and what it does for the individual is far more explanatory than doctrine. Doctrine is the justification.
It is a safe bet that the pro polygamy women defending polygamy on television are the favorite or dominate wife in the family. They haven’t been abused or forced to rely on welfare services or gratuities from friends and monogamous families. By advocating for the decriminalization of polygamy they are receiving celebrity-like attention not only from the media but other polygamists – motivation enough for some to champion a holy cause. In any event, it is a paradox and phenomenon that certainly deserves study. But when you think about it, there are Muslim women who defend their oppressive lifestyle, so why should it be so strange that Mormon polygamist women defend their lifestyle?
I have been contacted and asked by university students, journalists and talk show hosts why polygamy should not be given the same respect as homosexuality and same sex marriages. Here is my reply.
Mormon polygamists do not want to be held by the same standards as monogamy. They want to control the institution of plural marriage without being accountable to government or society. The only standard they respect is that mandated by Section 132 which imposes only one rule and that is, “thou shalt live plural marriage or be damned or destroyed.”
Mormon plural marriage is based on fantasy. By that I mean the driving force is based upon an unconfirmable supernatural revelation. There are literally dozens of men who claim to have authority over the sealing of plural marriages. These men may, and often do, use their feigned authority and the illusion of revelation to manipulate both men and women to gain power, money and sex. These men literally merchandise plural wives.
The only law that holds unscrupulous polygamists accountable is the bigamy statute and it is currently being ignored. One of the purposes of the bigamy statute is to protect the primary family. Why should polygamists be granted less accountability than monogamists? What is there about the lifestyle that man made laws should not be allowed to interfere with polygamist institutions? Why should they have the freedom to use “religious, mental and emotional abuse to coerce women into unwanted bigamous relationships for sex?
It is the nature of men powered by their Y-chromosome to use every conceivable artifice short of force, to lure women into bed, the backseat of a car or on a blanked beneath a tree. For many men, tricks and schemes are fair game so long as the woman submits. Most women are aware of this and are equally adept at resisting unwanted advances. The smart woman places a high value on her virtue. Of all the tricks and schemes Section 132 is the most degrading because it purports to be a heavenly principle and takes advantage of a woman when she is the most vulnerable.
It is the contention of this author that organized polygamist corporations like Apostolic United Brethren are business hiding behind a religious façade. Money classified as tithing and donations are nothing more than a pecuniary exchange for the privilege of taking plural wives. Tithing money is treated as tribute, something owed. These cults create nonprofit, religious corporations so they will be given tax exempt status. The so-called tithing money is actually tribute, and is more often than not used to finance business ventures of elite priesthood monarchs.
It is my opinion that every red cent received by a priesthood organization should be taxable.
* It was in 2007 when I wrote that the ladies of Principle Voices and Centennial Park would not speak out against the abusers of plural wives. They didn’t then, now they are, but without naming names. It appears they would like the world to know they can be just as politically correct as monogamists.
It seems that Centennial Park plural wives held an open house on Thursday, March 10th of this year. A conference was subsequently held in St. George the next day. The Salt Lake Tribune and Fox 13 reported. The following is an excerpt from Ben Winslow of Fox 13.
The Safety Net is a coalition of government, social service agencies and fundamentalist communities working to combat abuse and neglect in closed societies. The group is sponsoring a conference in St. George on Friday.
Centennial Park members insist they are against abuse and so-called “child bride marriages.” Community members told the crowd they prize education, have strong family values and consider women as equals. In fact, women involved in CPAC have been quite outspoken about decriminalizing polygamy in Utah and Arizona.
The Safety Net referred to is the one founded by the Utah Attorney General. It is my opinion that the polygamists who frequent the Safety Net meetings may only represent a third to a half of the attitude and actions of the entire polygamist subculture. Of course all Mormon polygamists would like to see the bigamy statute decriminalized, but as far as caring for their women and children on a level with monogamy, the subculture as a whole has a long way to go.
The elements of power, money, sex and ego are still much more pernicious among polygamists than monogamy. It is not enough for the women at Centennial Park to say that monogamy has its abusers and child molesters as well. The Safety Net’s endorsement is not enough to welcome Mormon polygamy on an equal, respectful level with monogamy. The polygamists are going to have to clean up their own house, just as Islam will have to start cleaning up its own house before their peaceable, responsible, eleemosynary claims are believed.
I think that Mormon “fundamentalism” and “radical” Islam share a common impediment and that is they don’t totally subdue the Natural Man. In fact, they harbor doctrines (memes) that tend to exploit the Natural Man. For that reason Utah’s bigamy statute should never be decriminalized because corruption in the form of abuse and lasciviousness will always be both immanent and imminent. The pattern has been established. It is just a matter of time until arrogance blossoms once again and another Mormon polygamist does something really stupid.