Monday, May 14, 2012

Intellectual abuse

One of the things that I find most troubling about the LDS church is the intellectual abuse that it perpetrates on its members. This abuse is a product of the brainwashing that the church does, and it is incredibly harmful to the ability of its members to exercise unfettered critical thinking. Members are trained to constantly measure their own thoughts, opinions, and conclusions against the positions of the church and the teachings of its leaders. If the church has made no definite statement on a given subject, members may debate and think freely, but if the church does have some doctrine or position, then woe to the member who should dare to differ. In essence, the church undercuts the intellectual process. I have seen members develop sophisticated and compelling reasoning for some view that they may hold, and then drop it all without a second thought when they hear a prophet or apostle speak on the matter--even if that prophet's or apostle's justification (if any is provided at all) is weak or patently absurd. 

When I was a believing member of the church, the church was all-encompassing in my thinking. All my thoughts and conclusions had to fit into the framework of my belief. This is only natural, and all human beings do this--try to fit new thoughts and ideas into their existing perception of how the world may be. The troubling thing was and is that the church clothes itself in asserted moral superiority, and disagreeing with the church is not mere disagreement--it is immoral and a reflection on the individual's righteousness. Disagreement with or--heaven forbid--criticism of church leaders is a cardinal sin in Mormonism. Those who dare to criticize are automatically seen as at risk for apostasy--if they are not apostates already. This attitude stifles intellectual discourse and proper airing of ideas. The church sees itself as a unilateral giver of universal truth. Any who disagree are at best misguided by Satan, and at worst are his servants. 

All this means that any members who do question anything in the church or think anything that is not consistent with its official positions are made to feel guilty for their thoughts. It doesn't matter if the issue is something small and stupid like earrings or skirt length, or hugely important like gay marriage or the truth of the church itself. The concept and culpability of thoughtcrime is alive and well in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

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