Read on for likelihoods, proof and the probable means.
Many seem to think that the horror stories of Mormonism are reserved for the fundamentalist sects, like the Warren Jeffs-led Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That such accounts, the Big Brother stories, are not found in the “mainstream” LDS church.
But I don’t have any doubt that the church spied on and targeted me, and lied about it.
On the afternoon of July 27 of last year, I got this little memo (the second screenshot is better but this one shows that it comes from an official church account, specifically about a member’s status):
(Here’s the remainder of it, with a footer including the copyright logo:)
This meant that I couldn’t access my church membership online. Such an action could make a member feel unwelcomed. Uninvited. Un… membered. And it did with me. George Orwell’s 1984, a story of a dystopian society crushed by omnipresent surveillance, came to mind immediately.
I did as the email asked and tried to change to change my email back and/or my password.
I wasn’t able to do either.
I was only able to report my activity to the Support Center, as copied in an email reply from the church:
This was the reply:
Now, how could an aspect of my LDS Account be “changed” (see first email) but “no changes were made on (my) account” (see last email)?
It’s a difference that I have thought about many times in the past year and can’t figure, other than the church participated in a (despicable) Mormon cultural practice called “lying for the Lord.”
(And, of course, I did indeed request the email.)
The Strengthening the Members Committee
Just a few weeks later, the bishop of the area, in a second lunch meeting with me, wondered why the church would have done that.
He indicated that it could have had to do with my being public with a blog (the horror!), but he asked, what are they worried you will steal, family history information? (The church is pretty big on that and Mormons can do it through their online membership accounts.)
He claimed that after he told me that church headquarters must have done the deed after I asked him whether he and/or the congregation’s clerk had done the manipulation.
In case you are unfamiliar with it, here are Wikipedia explanations:
“The Strengthening Church Members Committee is a committee of general authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who monitor the publications of church members for possible criticism of local and general leaders of the church. If criticism is found, the committee may forward information to local church authorities, who may bring charges of apostasy, which can result in excommunication.”
“Further, response to this public discourse (at the academic symposium Sunstone and in The Salt Lake Tribune), the LDS Church spokesman Don LeFevre acknowledged to the Religious News Service the existence of the committee. LeFevre said that the committee ‘receives complaints from church members about other members who have made statements that ‘conceivably could do harm to the church,’ then the committee will ‘pass the information along to the person’s ecclesiastical leader.’”
I invited 753 folks on Facebook on July 23 to listen to an interview in which I explained why I didn’t believe anymore —I indicated I would talk about historical data that has scholarly consensus (at the least, the church has admitted facts) but that seriously suggests that the church is very different from what it claims to be, including being the one true religion. Of those hundreds notified of the social media event, which was public, some were practicing believers. So, the applicability of LeFevre’s description of the committee “receiv(ing) complaints from church members who have made statements that ‘conceivably could do harm to the church’” (in the church’s eyes) to my situation seems fair. (And a few invited have held rank in the church, so they could have been on the committee itself.)
The interview was going to be on the 30th and the invitations went out over the weekend, so the 27th makes a lot of sense in that the church got word of it and acted within 72 hours and before the interview, but before the interview took place.
The spokesman also told The New York Times that the committee “provides local church leadership with information designed to help them counsel with members who, however well-meaning, may hinder the progress of the church through public criticism.” So perhaps this is what happened and I don’t know because the bishop observed a certain cultural bane.
Of belief and family
What’s also amazing about this is that Handbook 1, the manual for church leaders that church prophet Thomas Monson has suggested, at least, is the Lord’s word, says that members must stand trial when found of transgression like that which I apparently committed.
If they are not willing to abide by their own documents, if not their own scripture, how much do they believe themselves? Yet, they will punish others?
The main reason I didn’t write this post for a year is because I was because of family considerations. I was holding out that my wife wouldn’t go through with divorce. Also, I was, temporarily, staying at my parent’s house. They said that being public about opposing the fundamentals of the church means I’d be kicked out. But as a divorce lawsuit was filed last week and for months, I have been out of my parents’ house after being told I needed to get out if I didn’t take down a link (that actually didn’t have to do with the fundamentals, but a lived experience).
It’s too bad. As discipline, if not excommunication, seemed right around the corner, perhaps if I was more of an activist, I would have waited on that before resigning.
The church would have been the bad guy and probably resulted in the sympathy of loved ones, even devout family. But in resigning, I was the bad guy.
But I’m a damn authentic person and I’m incredibly proud of myself for that. If church members believed in their scripture and not cultural practice, they would be, too.
Regardless, I didn’t feel like there was much to lose at this point in finally making this known. That I felt the spiritually damaging Big Brother the minute I opened that email on the 27th. That as I already felt, due to Mormonism’s origins being entirely different than I was told, like I no longer knew my spiritual home, I then felt disowned.