Posts Tagged ‘Chastity’

"The Mormon Cult" front cover(The following is an excerpt from Jack B. Worthy’s The Mormon Cult: A Former Missionary Reveals the Secrets of Mormon Mind Control. The previous excerpt covered former Elder Worthy’s miserable homecoming after his mission.)


When I told my stake president I had had premarital sex, he asked me who the girl was. I was surprised that he asked and wondered aloud if I was required to tell him. He said I was. The fact that he knew I had taken his daughter out to dinner didn’t cross my mind at the time, but it would be tempting for a father in his position of power to want to convince an indoctrinated confessor that God required him to say who it was he had slept with. The only reason I took his daughter out on a date was because he had encouraged me to date Mormon girls.

This may have been one reason for him to ask me who the girl was, but it certainly wasn’t the only one. The Church Handbook of Instructions states that “[d]isclosure of the identity of others who participated in a transgression should be encouraged as part of the repentance process, especially when this can help Church leaders encourage the repentance of those participants . . .” It goes on to say that “[i]f a bishop learns that a Church member outside his ward may have been involved in a serious transgression, he informs that member’s bishop confidentially. When members of different wards transgress together, and when one has disclosed to his bishop the identity of the other transgressor, the bishop to whom the disclosure was made consults with the bishop of the other member.”1

As if that weren’t enough of a violation of privacy, bishops are instructed to advise “the ward Relief Society president in confidence when a member of the Relief Society has been disciplined or was a victim.”2 So even female “victims” who have chosen not to share an extremely personal matter are not shielded.

In addition to spreading gossip in the name of love, Church leaders also gather dirt: “If [a] member denies an accusation that the bishop has reliable evidence to support, the bishop . . . gathers further evidence . . .” He may do so himself or “assign two reliable Melchizedek Priesthood holders to do so . . . instruct[ing] them not to use methods that . . . could result in legal action.”3 (Is Salt Lake City’s Temple Square really all that different from Red Square?)

I told him who the girl was because I believed I had to. I regret having done so, even though it wasn’t the stake president’s daughter, and even though nothing at all happened to the girl, because she wasn’t a member. I regret having done so for the same reason I regret having confessed anything to him at all: it was none of his business.

A Church court was quickly arranged and I received a letter informing me of the time and date. I arrived at the chapel with my parents. They were not allowed to attend the court so they waited outside in the lobby. My bishop escorted me in. I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me. Filling the small room to capacity were fifteen men in suits and ties, standing around a conference table. This was standard procedure: “All three members of the stake presidency and all twelve members of the high council participate in a stake disciplinary council.”4

My court was a stake-level event, rather than a more local, ward-level event. That is because I was a Melchizedek Priesthood holder, and I was a likely candidate for excommunication. The Melchizedek Priesthood is held by virtually every Mormon male over the age of eighteen. A member of the Melchizedek Priesthood can only be excommunicated by the stake president. Everyone else, namely all women and children, can be excommunicated by their local bishop.5

I was escorted to the end of the table and stood there looking at all those men, and they at me. It was the most intimidating moment of my life.

The first counselor of the stake presidency led the hearing. He instructed everyone to sit. He explained the charges, after which he asked me to confirm my guilt. After going over what I had confessed, I was then subjected to questions from all of the men, as if I were at a press conference. The questions involved actions going back even before my mission and were mostly related to masturbation, pornography, and sex. I went through the robotic motions of the indoctrinated and answered them all, which is something I now regret very much. My hearing was a perverted and bizarre expression of power by some men over another—in this case, me.6

When asked, I chose to say nothing on my own behalf and did not plead to keep my membership. My bishop, a good man, sat beside me throughout the hearing. I found no mention of a bishop doing this in the Church Handbook of Instructions, but the bishop appeared to be acting as a character witness in my defense. He spoke admiringly of my parents, saying they were a wonderful asset to the ward, but, oddly, the only thing he seemed to be able to say in my defense was that I was very intelligent—something he repeated three times during his presentation. I appreciated the compliment but wondered how that particular characteristic (putting aside the question of its validity) was supposed to help me in this type of court, one where my eternal soul was on the brink for the grave act of having had consensual sex with another unmarried adult.

I was judged guilty based on my confession to the stake president. The sentence was excommunication. I was never told that “[i]nformation received in a member’s confession cannot be used as evidence in a disciplinary council without the member’s consent.”7 Even had I known that, I would probably have kept quiet and allowed information from my private confession to stand as evidence. But it only seems fair that a defendant should know the rules of the game before it starts.

In closing, the officiator said he was not asking anything of me that was not also required of him. He, after all, was required to maintain a monogamous relationship with his wife. Masked behind his indignant tone, I detected what seemed to be some resentment. I felt as if he was taking the opportunity to vent a little self-righteous frustration at my expense.

Not only did his tone of voice surprise me, but I was puzzled by his statement. He certainly knew I was well aware of the fact that the Church required him to live a monogamous marriage. Why state something so obvious? Perhaps the law of chastity, which required him to remain monogamous, may have been causing him some frustration. Or perhaps he just felt compelled, as the officiator, to say something that would emphasize the moral gulf between me and my ecclesiastical judges.

It is interesting to note that his analogy equated premarital sex between two consenting adults with an extramarital affair. And it is even more interesting to consider the fact that, if he had held me up against Joseph Smith, I would have looked pure as snow. Joseph Smith was a man with sexual morals that would shock most people who would approve of my having had consensual premarital sex. He had “sexual relationships with polygamous wives as young as fourteen, polyandry of women with more than one husband, [and] marriage and sexual co-habitation with foster daughters.”8

Considering the behavior of the Church’s founder, it is ironic that I was judged unfit for membership because I had sex outside of marriage. But I’m not complaining. It is much more interesting and re-warding to sit among the audience outside the dome of The Mormon Show than it ever was acting on the set.

(to be continued)

1. 1998 Church Handbook of Instructions, p. 92.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid., p. 96.

5. “[B]ishops normally administer Church discipline unless evidence indicates that a person who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood is likely to be excommunicated” (1998 Church Handbook of Instructions, p. 90).

6. Mormonism is a patriarchal society with very strict moral codes pertaining to sex. To ensure that members adhere to the rules, they are frequently interviewed by their male bishops in face-to-face, one-on-one meetings, and detailed questions about their sexual lives (including masturbation) are asked of both sexes beginning at the age of twelve. (It should be noted that not all bishops do this.) In The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan writes about the perverted aspects of the Inquisition that I think are relevant, although much more extreme: “There were strong erotic and misogynistic elements—as might be expected in a sexually repressed, male-dominated society with inquisitors drawn from the class of nominally celibate priests. The trials paid close attention to the quality and quantity of orgasm in the supposed copulations of defendants with demons or the Devil . . . ‘Devil’s marks’ were found ‘generally on the breasts or private parts’ according to Ludovico Sinistrari’s 1700 book. As a result pubic hair was shaved, and the genitalia were carefully inspected by the exclusively male inquisitors. . . .” Of course I’m not saying that modern-day Mormonism is the equivalent of the Inquisition. There certainly isn’t any examination of genitalia going on in disciplinary courts. However, questioning young girls about masturbation is still a form of perversion, albeit more subtle and less harmful. But unquestioned power often leads to harmful actions, and a patriarchal society such as the Mormon Church lends itself to instances of abuse, including sexual abuse.

7. 1998 Church Handbook of Instructions, p. 92.

8. D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, p. 89.

"The Mormon Cult" front cover(The following is an excerpt from Jack B. Worthy’s The Mormon Cult: A Former Missionary Reveals the Secrets of Mormon Mind Control. Near the end of his mission, former Elder Worthy fell into unworthiness. Here, he describes his miserable homecoming. We’d suggest that non-Mormons read the preceding post, Mormonism and Chastity, prior to reading this. We’ll publish follow-up posts in the coming days.)


Returning Without Honor

It’s not hard to guess what my twenty-four-hour trip home was like: lots of time to think, lots of time to shudder at the thought of facing my parents. Lots and lots of time, but still not enough. I didn’t want the trip to end. I wanted it to last forever. I didn’t want the plane to land. Ever.

When the trip finally did end, I sat on the plane and waited until everyone else had exited. I couldn’t keep the flight staff waiting, so I forced myself up and dragged myself off the plane. When I neared the end of the exit tunnel, just before rounding the final corner where I would be in view of the people waiting in the reception area, I stopped. I set my luggage down and leaned against the wall. I didn’t want to walk around that corner where I knew my parents were waiting—I didn’t feel I could take it. I wanted to lie down, close my eyes and vanish.

I knew I couldn’t stay inside an airplane exit tunnel forever, so I walked past the corner to face what lay ahead. I immediately saw my parents standing there all alone. Everyone else had left. This meeting was terribly hard on them as well, and my making them wait so long had made it even worse.

Dad forced a little smile. I know mom wanted to, but she couldn’t. It was obvious she’d been crying, and I’m sure she had shed many tears during the previous two days.

Unlike some other missionaries, I was blessed with wonderful, loving parents, both of whom welcomed me home with open arms, glad to see me return to them alive and healthy. We exchanged big hugs and then they took me home. They certainly still loved me, and they made sure I understood that. They never once said or did anything to make me doubt it. But my mother’s dreams had been shattered. I would later discover that she wrote in her journal that it was the saddest experience of her life. Nevertheless, her love and concern for me had not diminished in the slightest.

An example of how closely my mother stood by my side was the fact that she was angry about my being disqualified from returning to Brigham Young University, and therefore had to forfeit the academic scholarship that BYU had previously awarded me. That was because excommunicated former members and disfellowshipped members are not allowed to attend BYU. She was also frustrated and disappointed by my treatment as a disfellowshipped member of the Church. Many Mormon families would have stood by the Church in all its “righteous” judgment and ostracization of an “unworthy” son, but my parents stood by me as much as could be expected of active and devoted members. I will always be grateful to them for that.

The Unpleasantness of Church

The first thing a missionary does when he or she returns home is to give a homecoming talk. I didn’t. I wasn’t even allowed to pray in church, let alone give a talk.

My mother no doubt had been talking excitedly to people in the ward about my return. I’m sure the fact that I would soon be returning was announced to everyone at church. (I wonder how many noticed that I returned a week earlier than I was supposed to.) The ward members were no doubt all expecting to hear me speak on the first or second Sunday after my return. Instead, my return was merely announced by the bishop during sacrament meeting.

I stood up for everyone to see, then sat down without saying a word. Minutes later the sacrament was passed around for all worthy attendees. Because I was a disfellowshipped sinner I was unworthy to partake, and the fact that I merely passed the trays of bread and water on to the person sitting beside me was a physical manifestation of my unworthiness.

All of these obvious signs sent a clear message to everyone in the ward: the newly returned missionary had sinned. Every time I attended church, I was wearing the figurative scarlet letter I had stitched in Victoria Park with Mandy.

People at church were nice and I made some friends, but on the whole it was socially awkward and I hated going. I only went to make my parents happy. I knew I had hurt them enough. I didn’t want to do any more to them than I already had. So I went through the motions.
None of this did my self-esteem any good.

Prelude to Excommunication

Before long I met a girl and we started to date steadily. The relationship developed, and sex became a regular part of it. I was sinning while on probation.

My probation period involved regular interviews with the bishop and stake president. For a while I lied to them and said I was doing fine. Before long, though, I decided I had had enough. I no longer wanted to lie just so I could continue to participate in a charade that I wanted no part of. I wanted to end it all. So I confessed.

It is probably hard for nonmembers to understand, but at the time I had absolutely no harsh feelings against the Church. I had been programmed to blame myself for my unhappiness, and that’s what I did. I wasn’t angry at the Church or any of its members, but I hated my life, and wanted to stop play acting. Something had to change and confessing was the only way I knew to change things. Asking to have my name removed from Church records and my membership cancelled never crossed my mind. I was still following the programming from my life-long indoctrination and was ready and willing to accept whatever judgment the Church pronounced on me.
I had not yet concluded that the Church was false, but I was very unhappy in it and I wanted out, at least for a while. In the back of my mind I still felt that if any church were true, then it was certainly the Mormon Church. I believed it was the most rational and logical of all religions, offering better, more thorough answers to all the deep theological questions. It explained very clearly where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going after we die. At that time, though, I needed a break. I decided to step away from religion entirely, believing that if I ever went back to religion, it would definitely be to the Mormon Church.

*   *   *

I now look back at my belief about the Church and laugh at it for two reasons. First, I had not studied other religions, so my assumption that the Mormon Church possessed the best answers was based on what I had been told by the Mormon Church itself. Second, I hadn’t even studied Mormonism (which is typical of the vast majority of Mormons), so I believed it to be logical and rational—again, based on what it said about itself. So I allowed myself to remain in confusion for years regarding a belief system that is anything but logical and rational, a belief system that is in fact very easy to refute.

I foolishly postponed investigating the Church. For the time being I just wanted out, and as long as all my unconscious baggage remained, confessing seemed like the most natural thing to do. Unfortunately, I waited ten years to do my investigating; I say “unfortunately,” because recovering former believers of a particular belief system must come to terms with the question, “Is it true?” Until they do that, they will always carry around a ball and chain—of various weight and size depending on their experience with the organization in question, and the nature of that organization. When I finally did my studying and saw how easily the Mormon Church can be seen for what it is, I kicked myself for not doing it years earlier. The truth really does set one free.

(to be continued)

"The Mormon Cult" front cover(The following is an excerpt from Jack B. Worthy’s The Mormon Cult: A Former Missionary Reveals the Secrets of Mormon Mind Control. Near the end of his mission, former Elder Worthy fell into unworthiness. Here, he describes the Mormon attitude toward sexual “sin.” We’ll run further excerpts from the book over the next few days.)


Better Dead and Clean than Alive and Unclean

It may be hard for nonmembers to comprehend just how serious Mormons consider my sin [sex outside of marriage] to be. Former prophet Spencer W. Kimball said that “[e]ven mortal life itself, when placed upon the balance scales, weighs less than chastity.” In his 1969 book, Miracle of Forgiveness, President Kimball quoted two other Mormon prophets: David O. McKay said, “Your virtue is worth more than your life. Please, young folk, preserve your virtue even if you lose your lives” (not at all a pleasant thing to believe for rape victims who are overpowered but not killed); and Heber J. Grant said, “There is no true Latter-day Saint who would not rather bury a son or a daughter than to have him or her lose his or her chastity” (both quotes on p. 63). Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, in the 1966 version of his classic Mormon Doctrine, put it bluntly: “Better dead clean, than alive unclean. Many is the faithful Latter-day Saint parent who has sent a son or daughter on a mission or otherwise out into the world with the direction, ‘I would rather have you come back home in a pine box with your virtue than return alive without it.’” (p. 124)

Many members take all this very seriously. One example is the story mentioned in this book’s preface about Brother Borden’s reaction to his son Bradley having been stabbed while serving a mission in Russia. Bradley suffered knife wounds to his upper intestines, liver and pancreas. An article in The Arizona Republic (October 19, 1998) reported the incident. It describes the reaction of Bradley’s mother, Myrna Borden, as follows:

[W]hen the 20-year-old recovers from the stabbing, his mother said Sunday, “I know he’ll want to go back to Russia” . . . “Being a missionary is the best thing a young man can do,” Myrna Borden said. “It’s what the prophet of our church has asked our young men to do.

The article said this about Brother Borden’s reaction:

[T]he young man’s father added that there are worse things for a Mormon missionary than wounds or even death.

That must have put a tremendous amount of pressure on Bradley to overcome any fear he may have had of returning to Russia after his recovery. Then the article said this about the family’s reaction:

[Mr. Borden] said that when their church president came to their home Saturday and said, “There has been a problem with Bradley,” the family was “worried that he’d done something unworthy.”

They were apparently relieved to find out that Bradley hadn’t done what I had done, but had instead merely been stabbed by drunken Russians. Quoting from Apostle Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine, Brother Borden explained why they were so glad to hear this:

You see, we’d rather have him come home in a pine box than do something unworthy,” Dale Borden said, battling to hold back tears.

Tears coursed down Borden’s cheeks as he explained the importance of his missionary son “choos[ing] the right, do[ing] what is right, return[ing] with honor.”

[Bradley’s brother] Christopher said he recently had come home from a mission in New Zealand.

[Christopher] related how he and fellow missionaries were told that in ancient Greece, Spartan mothers told their sons to come home carrying their shields or carried on their shields—to have fought well or to have died fighting well.

“We want Bradley to return with his shield, or on it,” Christopher said.

That’s pressure. If Bradley was frightened enough by his experience to not want to continue his missionary work in Russia, his family would probably not have been supportive, especially after having gone public with their views. And if, instead, Bradley had succumbed to the tempting invitation of a pretty Russian girl who fell madly in love with him, and he with her, his family might have actually preferred that he were dead.

Quoting from the article again, we learn:

Bradley Borden was stabbed once in the stomach, and his fellow Mormon missionary, José Manuel Mackintosh of Nevada, was killed.

We are left wondering what the Mackintosh family thought of the Borden family’s preference that Bradley come home in a pine box rather than “do something unworthy.” Perhaps the Mackintoshes would rather have seen their son come home outside of a pine box, even if he had done something so human as to commit a “sin” as defined by the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.