Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Attacking the Questioner

The LDS church is at a quandary.  They have attempted in the past to control the information that members will look at when they begin to have questions.  They have subtly attacked the critics, using auxiliary and "unaffiliated organizations" to place doubt in the websites, organizations and critics who bring forward unsavory information about the church.

It hasn't worked. Members are still leaving, as evidenced by the up-swing in talks and conferences geared toward those who doubt.

Now, with insider information at hand, I predict a shift is happening.  Instead of protecting information and attacking the messenger, they will attack the questioner.  Let me review a little and explain this transition.

The LDS church is and has been fond of quoting a few scriptures to tell you that learning can be bad.  

"Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."(2 Tim. 3:7)

"When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish."(2 Ne. 9:28)

These verses suggest that learning should be tempered and controlled by church dictates. The internet made information (and learning) abundant beyond LDS Inc control.  The LDS church's failed attempts to keep members from finding information seems to have peaked in about 2012 or early 2013. For thereafter, they published the essays addressing the same information critics have been reviewing for decades. 

For example consider from October 2012 this  statement:

"Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed." Elder Quentin Cook, 6 Oct 2012

October 2012, Apostle Neil Anderson warned: "There have always been a few who want to discredit the Church and to destroy faith. Today they use the Internet. Some of the information about the church, no matter how convincing, is just not true."

Elder Walter Gonzalez declared: "Today, surrounded by so much information, we might think that navigating millions of web pages will give us all that we need to know. We can find good and bad information on the web, but information alone is not enough. God has given us another source for greater knowledge, even knowledge sent from heaven. Our Heavenly Father can give us such knowledge when we navigate the celestial web in our hearts and minds."

Elder Holland clamored against "To those who were once with us but have retreated, preferring to pick and choose a few cultural hors d’oeuvres from the smorgasbord of the Restoration and leave the rest of the feast, I say that I fear you face a lot of long nights and empty nets."

And as another example, President Monson once told the youth:
"Should doubt knock at your doorway, just say to those skeptical, disturbing, rebellious thoughts: ‘I propose to stay with my faith, with the faith of my people. I know that happiness and contentment are there, and I forbid you, agnostic, doubting thoughts, to destroy the house of my faith. I acknowledge that I do not understand the processes of creation, but I accept the fact of it. I grant that I cannot explain the miracles of the Bible, and I do not attempt to do so, but I accept God’s word. I wasn’t with Joseph, but I believe him. My faith did not come to me through science, and I will not permit so-called science to destroy it.’ "

Yes, so-called science...  Because science with all its inventions is just so-called imaginary stuff.

Then in October 2013, Apostle Holland also said to doubting members: "[P]lease don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will. In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know." 

Apostle Uchtdorf also said (infamously quoted): "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith."   

However, in that same talk, Dieter did say that it is valid to ask questions: "It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions."

While applauding this statement, I predict this is the last time you will hear this validity of unregulated questioning from LDS sources. Soon enough the call to "proper questions" will be raised in the church at fervent high-pitch.

FAIR and LDS leaders used to have a mantra that "there are no easy answers to the questions members have".  Then it morphed into "you just haven't studied enough."  You see, if you haven't seen the complex answers given in deep archives of FAIR or LDS topic pages, then you are to blame, Brother or Sister.  This "blame the investigator" is currently the standard modus operandi.  

However, a shift will occur, or is occurring, from blaming the member for not already knowing obscure answers, to blaming them for not having reasonable questions. The frontline is moving from answers to questions.  Now LDS members will be told their questions are not always reasonable.

An example of this is given already in an Ensign article to youth teachers.  They tell readers that "controversial questions" are "questions to avoid", and to use "carefully worded questions" because, "some questions invite inspiration" while others, it's implied, cause a loss of the spirit.

To the youth themselves, LDS church magazines tell the youth "how you ask a question can make a huge difference in where it leads you."  It attempts to define "questioning" as not good, and "asking questions" as okay: "When it comes to matters of faith, there can be a pretty big difference between [questioning and asking questions]."  

Questioning is defined as "challenging, disputing, or picking something apart...to find fault and destroy confidence." Whereas, asking questions is dependent on "your attitude and your motive in asking a question."  

Did you see that?  That is, why you ask a question matters as much as what or how you ask it.  Really?  Yes, because you better have the right attitude toward the church before you dare question it or ask questions.

This "attack the questioner" tactic is very clever.

While the above strategy comes from lesser known articles and authors, we may expect to see this approach from top leaders coming soon to conferences near you.  

If the LDS church can control the questions, then the need to control information is lessened.  The members are removed further from knowledge that brings more doubts.  If the member who questions while still being faithful is told they are not fulfilling the commandments by asking the wrong questions, then the LDS church can keep that member from even approaching controversial information (which they no longer can control).

Yes, the tactic is a good one if an organization is worried about the truth of its message.  

Can you imagine the same tactic applied in science?  Can you imagine scientific academies controlling what kinds of questions other scientist should dare to ask?  How would that inhibit discovery and invention?

This is one major difference between science and religion: churches have no laboratories. What I mean is that if a scientist has a clever thought (hypothesis), before he turns it into a belief (theory), he will comb the journals to see if it was already out there and tested. If not tested, he will go to the lab and painstakingly experiment until he has validated or--most often--eliminated the idea. It is in the lab where good ideas and bad ones are sorted out. Churches have no laboratories. Just belief systems. 

Interestingly, while labs are where good ideas and bad ones are sorted out, the LDS church wants to sort good questions from bad ones for you to reinforce their belief system.

Does God really intend his true church to inhibit growth by controlling the very questions members can ask?

A sign that an organization is a cult is traditionally called  "information control".  Here, "those who control the information control the person... any information from outside the cult is considered evil, especially if it is opposing the cult. Members are told not to read it or believe it. Only information supplied by the cult is true." (See http://www.cultwatch.com/howcultswork.html )

In a new book released by LDS owned Deseret Book for Terryl and  Fiona Givens, called "The Crucible of Doubt" the description tells us, "Questioning is not the problem, according to authors Terryl and Fiona Givens...The difficulty arises when questions are based on flawed assumptions or incorrect perceptions, which can 'point us in the wrong direction, misdirect our attention, or constrain the answers we are capable of hearing.' "

T. Givens is fond of quoting German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer who said(paraphrased) "to ask a genuine question is to make ourselves vulnerable to risk.  By asking a question genuinely, we follow wherever the question leads."

Givens nor the LDS church want members to actually ask genuine questions that lead to genuine fact.  They want them to ask non-controversial questions that lead to faith.

During May 2013, under the apparent direction of the Church, LDS apologist Terryl Givens and his wife Fiona toured the UK and Ireland giving firesides on the ‘Crucible of Doubt’. It seemed to preface to the upcoming 2014 book and attempt to reframe the battle against the critics.  I predict it could be an outline of upcoming LDS leaders strategy.

Cleverly, the LDS church realizes that it is losing the information control battle, and moving the frontline to controlling the question is seemingly one emerging strategy.  If information control is a sign of a cult bearing negative results, then question control is even more so.  

By their fruits ye shall know them, and see them as a dangerous cult.

Science is complex.  Faith simple.
Science produces understanding and invention.
Faith yields belief.
Belief is essentially just the first step of science.


  1. I hope you are right about this new strategy, because it is doomed to fail. Whenever I tell my kids not to do something or not to look at something they usually do the opposite. Its just basic human nature, people don't like to be intimidated or belittled, they will push back. And in most cases they will push themselves right out of the church. The Church is its own worst enemy.

  2. Yes, he right about it. The message will be softened with a Heartsell-like approach implemented in its delivery. Sadly, the rank and file TBM will most likely fall in line, as obedience is the first law of heaven. ***snark*** Mormons have lost the ability to think independently. Group think and peer-pressure are the order of the day.

  3. Going to be impossible to control information in today's world. This is a strategy that is a 1950's strategy. If this is all the church has then things must be desperate indeed!

    1. I'm picturing the COB as frantic ants scrambling around the colony, moving grains of sand here and there desperately trying to plug holes while others continue to open up all around them.

  4. A few months ago I asked my brother-in-law, who is a CES institute instructor, if any of his students ask questions about controversial church issues. He side-stepped my question by giving me a short explanation in favor of answering only "inspired questions." I have since thought about this (as a former public-school teacher) and have concluded that sincere questions should be what a teacher answers. The questioner should not be worried about the question being "inspired" (read "appropriate"). This is just another example of the church cleverly using semantics to influence its members. It is fascinating to me how many church members jump on the band wagon, so to speak, and repeat these clever "sound bites," without thinking for themselves.

    1. I remember being told in the MTC that when an investigator asks a difficult question, we should instead answer the question they were really trying to ask. For example, if someone asks about polygamy, we were to instead talk about how God gives prophets instruction through revelation. The investigator wasn't really asking about polygamy. Instead, they were asking about how revelation works. Oh how blind I was...

  5. We are also told that the answers we find are not what they seem. We just don't understand. We need to pray and feel comforted that, though it doesn't seem right, it is. "Just trust us."