Friday, October 28, 2022

Part 2 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real"

In Part 1 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real", I covered the first five of thirty different false narratives about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our beliefs. If you're jumping into this current post from a search engine result, I recommend reading at least the first part of Part 1 for better context before continuing. I'll wait here. 😁

All done? Let's get cracking with these next five, shall we?

A portrait of a family in Ghana.
A portrait of an LDS family in Ghana.

6. It’s OK To Lie

No one should be encouraged to tell porky pies but throughout the history of the church, it has been acceptable to lie to outsiders to protect the Church. Mormons share the Ten Commandments with Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The commandment about not giving false testimony doesn’t really hold the same ground in Mormonism that it does in the other religions.

No. No, it's not. We never have taught or accepted this, we don't teach or accept it now, and we never will. For an article made of almost nothing but lies, this is a very bold assertion for its author to be making.

Some of our detractors make this claim because they pretend to find inconsistencies in what we say to individuals about our faith as we endeavor to teach the Gospel through missionary work. Or because they resent that some of the more sacred parts of ordinances in the temple are not made open or public knowledge by the Church. Or because they feel that our history is too "messy" for their tastes and that we aren't regularly and openly airing our warts enough before the world. (As if no other religion, organization, or governmental or non-governmental entity has problematic parts in their own history.)

Also, from their perspective, they call it a "lie" when someone who we've just started talking to doesn't get the entire doctrinal "brain dump" all in one session (an impossible task). 

With exceptions for the extremely rare, extremely motivated learners who are the most eager to ask about and accept everything immediately upon reading or hearing it, learning the Gospel, like learning any complex topic, is something that necessarily happens in stages. 

In the Bible, the apostle Paul calls this putting the milk before the meat.

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

Paul was writing to Greek saints (church members), some of whom not only had no knowledge of Christ before becoming converted but had little to no context from the foreign (to them) religion of Judaism about why a Savior was awaited or even necessary. 

If Paul immediately gave them a complete and total "download" of everything there was to know and said, "See? There! Now you know everything and you can't say I've deceived you!" it would have taken reams of parchment or papyrus and would have come across as pure nonsense. Almost nobody learns well that way. Instead, he opted to gradually ease them into basic concepts and followed up with more as they were willing and able to receive it.

The Savior Jesus Christ was the model for this way of simple-to-complex teaching. But, He also taught the people using parables or stories. Contrary to common belief, these were meant as riddles, not ways to ease understanding using relatable concepts. Jesus stated to his disciples that his intention with parables was to hide His teachings within symbolism that faithful seekers would recognize, but that the merely curious, or his enemies, would not understand. So, to be consistent, the accuser of the Latter-day Saints will also need to point that accusing finger at the Savior Himself.

In all things, people are always encouraged to study and ask questions. The more humble they are in learning, the more they'll receive. Matthew 7:6-8 is clear.

¶ Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

¶ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

For the person reading this who says "but what about this teaching or that one that missionaries don't cover in detail?" I urge you to consider that literally everything we teach, excluding only the most sacred (not secret) parts of the ordinances of the temple, has been keyword searchable since the early 2000s and available to view online at The temple is available to everyone on the planet who gets baptized into the Church and lives according to the commandments of God. 

No lie.

7. Here are the rules on kissing

When it comes to kissing, Mormons have they their own set of guidelines. Teenagers are allowed to pucker up providing there is no passion. The kiss can’t last long (not sure if a stop watch is used) and absolutely no tongues. Hugging and holding hands follow the same rules.
Going back to Part 1 of this series, this seems to refer to the Law of Chastity in general and, more specifically, the "For the Strength of the Youth" guidelines. 

Let's not be naïve or obtuse here. We all know from personal experience that being a teenager was/is a really confusing and fraught time with regard to physical intimacy. It's a total rollercoaster of hormones, lust, and emotion. There are constant pressures from peers, society, and the entertainment world to engage in all kinds of behaviors. Some of those behaviors are within the bounds the Lord has set and others are decidedly not.

In past editions of "For the Strength of the Youth", more specifics were, indeed, given when it comes to kissing (and several other related aspects of intimacy). None of these were founded in puritanic prudery at all. The adults writing those guidelines were fathers and mothers and had, at one time, been teens themselves. They were writing from a practical place of knowledge and experience with those strong emotions emerging at tender ages in themselves. They had seen the devastation that misuse of those feelings led to in their own world. They were trying to spare the next generation the deep sorrows of the negative consequences of unchaste behaviors.

Tongue-kissing, the "soul kiss", or "French kissing" was the one I remember being called out the most. The other two were "petting" (basically all about not touching people's erogenous zones under or over the clothing) and "necking" (basically all about not kissing below the face). But when you think about it in rational, mature adult terms, tongue kissing really does simulate (and stimulate the desire for) sexual intercourse in a way that a simple kiss on the cheek or lips does not. And groping or kissing another person below the face is almost always signaling that sexual intercourse is on your agenda, or will eventually be.

Did I want to engage in these things? Um, yes! I was a red-blooded hormonal teen growing up in the 1980s like so many others around me. But I trusted my parents and leaders who signaled to me that, at least outside of marriage, it was not wise to do so. And, being an observational learner, I saw how other teens went from those behaviors to far more intimate contact very quickly, followed by decisions and consequences they would later regret.

Hugging, holding hands, and other aspects of teen romance were also given guidelines, but not always total prohibitions. The current edition of "For the Strength of the Youth" largely does away with specifics and focuses on Law of Chastity principles, respecting each youth's individual agency, and allowing the youth to study it out in their own minds and make decisions based on revelation and their relationship with God. 
8. Divorce? Not a chance

Divorce is a filthy word to Mormons. The Church considers it a necessary evil although they will accept an annulment (probably if cash is handed over). Mormons have two weddings, one where families are invited and there is the usual food and cake (maybe even a chocolate fountain). The other wedding is the sealing (for ever) of their marriage at the Temple and that seal can never be broken, even in the afterlife.
Ok, personally, I do consider divorce to be a dirty word. In fact, as children of divorce, both my wife and I decided that we would not say that word in our home. If we did so (as a casual reference, say, to someone else's divorce) we would follow that up by apologizing for using the word. It was our way of strongly signaling to each other our total commitment to our marriage and to being "chain breakers". It was one of the best things we ever did at the start of our marriage.

Also, there are not "two weddings". The author of that post is describing the wedding reception that usually happens the evening of or a day or two after the temple marriage. Sometimes that reception will include a ring exchange and/or discussion of marriage promises (but it's not performed as nor is it  considered a ceremony). That is usually done for the benefit of non-LDS family members who weren't in attendance at the temple sealing ordinance.

This business about annulment (a word we don't use) or cash being handed over? I don't know where that is coming from. Our weddings don't involve paying the clergy to perform them. The clergy presides over weddings for free, in all cases. It would be mockery against God to charge a fee to perform such a sacred ordinance. And there's certainly no money exchanging hands to allow divorces. That's just plain insulting.

If by "two weddings" the author refers to civil vs. temple marriage, that can sometimes be the case. But the prophets past and present have emphasized that where permitted by earthly law and a couple's ability to get to a temple, a temple marriage (called a "sealing", as in sealing an eternal agreement between God, man, and woman) is the ideal marriage ordinance every faithful member should participate in.

On occasions when members marry under civil terms first and later go to the temple to also be sealed, the former is only recognized by God as "for this life only". Unless later sealed in the temple, after the couple parts in death, they are not considered bound by marriage under God's law (with an exception noted below). The sealing is recognized by God as eternal in the afterlife if and only if both the man and the woman remain faithful to each other and to their temple covenants. It's a conditional promise, not an unconditional guarantee.

Because we are all flawed mortals, divorce does happen in the Church. Even God knew divorce would be necessary due to our sinful natures. 

Though it is strongly discouraged, it's not (or is no longer) the hush-hush taboo the author of the post claims. And, there are times when divorce is not only allowed, but recommended, especially in cases of abandonment, abuse, and adultery leading to a spouse leaving and living with or marrying another person. All parties in a divorce are carefully counseled by bishops and stake presidents to ensure everything is according to God's law and the wishes of the ex-couple. 

Couples in the church who were sealed can obtain civil divorces but also decide not to have their temple sealings canceled. That was the case for my parents. I won't share the details, but the situation leading to their civil divorce was not one that they felt also necessitated a cancelation of their sealing. They still loved each other profoundly, but couldn't live together in marriage under their particular circumstances. All sealing matters, including sealing cancelations, are approved by the First Presidency of the Church. 

As noted earlier, there's an exception for civil-married-only couples who have passed on. That is done through a proxy temple sealing ordinance they or their descendants can perform "for and in behalf of" them after one or both pass away.

For example, if a man and woman are married by a Justice of the Peace, then later decide to get sealed in the temple (as was the case with my maternal grandparents), they can do so. But if, as with my paternal grandparents, they were married by the law of the land and then both died without being sealed in the temple, their descendants, with next-of-kin permission, can perform the ordinance for them by proxy. Likewise, if one of the civil-married pair still alive wishes to be sealed by proxy to their departed spouse, they can do so in the temple.

By-proxy ordinances are never thought of or taught as forcing a deceased person into accepting the ordinance. Vicarious ordinances are always contingent upon the spirit of the deceased person accepting it of their own free will and choice. We simply do the ordinance as a service so as to make it available for the deceased person. They are free to accept or reject of their own free will and choice.
9. Non-Mormons Don’t Love As Much

Mormons believe that the love felt between spouses and families of ‘outsiders’ is not as strong as for those within the faith. Their views are that they are brought together on this earth for a reason and that creates a higher love. Meeting a partner in Wetherspoons, falling madly in love and living happily ever after cannot be judged as the love between two Mormons.
This is simply absurd. Never in my life have I been taught in any version of any Sunday School, Seminary, or Institute manual nor by any prophet or teacher that I am to love the people of the Church more than those who aren't members. Christ's teachings about loving others come to us from our leaders and prophets and from the same scriptures we read that all Christians read.

Perhaps this accusation springs from non-LDS people who, from the outside of our faith looking in, see us socializing in ways that are different from how we socialize with them. That's more a function of typical in-group psychology all humans engage in and has nothing to do with the Gospel we believe in. It is decidedly not the case that we've been taught to love others less

We have dear, dear friends who are not members of our church but with whom we have vacationed, have frequent get-togethers, and otherwise treat as family members. They are a de-facto aunt and uncle and their kids are like cousins to our kids who, being born of two only-child parents, won't have the blessing of by-blood, first-degree aunts, uncles, and cousins. If you asked these friends if we treat them "less" than we do our LDS friends, they would laugh loud and hard in your face. Especially since we invite them to LDS get-togethers and out to eat with our LDS friends, who they also love to be with. We've, of course, shared our beliefs with our friends and they have politely declined to follow us in it, but that is of zero consequence to how we all continue to treat and feel about each other.
10. Marrying Age

It is quite usual for Mormons to marry in their late teens so much younger than the rest of the British and American population. Once the man has completed his missionary work, at the age of 18, he sets his sights on finding a wife. There is no need for him to register on Tinder as there will be an abundance of females that he knows in the Church and one of them will win his heart.
There's so much wrong with this, I don't even know where to start. I guess I'll start in the middle with the age of completion of missionary service. Young men can begin missions at 18 and young women can begin at 19 but they never end missions at those ages. Missions usually end at 20 for men and 21 for women. Or older depending on if they waited to go to college for a bit before starting their missions.

Marriage in one's late teens almost never happens anymore. It once did, up to 100 years ago, when the necessity to be getting on with life and establish yourself was more urgent, and cultural norms allowed for it under parental guidance. But as society progressed in marrying ages, so, respectively, did the young men and women of our Church in their marrying ages. Even though per capita we still, on average, choose to get married younger than society at large, it has never stayed static. We move in the same river as the rest of humankind. We just tend to row against it a little more.

In fact, we have (for better or worse) whole congregations dedicated to being just for single young men and young women, both before and after serving missions, to attend. The idea is to give them a chance to meet and serve together in their own age bracket of 18-30 years of age. In so-called "family wards", serendipitous meetings of single people in this age bracket is noticeably less likely, so it makes a certain sense to put them together in a "singles ward" setting. 

Increasingly, though, singles wards are waning in popularity as well as effectiveness in helping people find their future mate. Some just are not ready for marriage and they postpone it. Others are looking to finish their educations and build their careers, which can put some past the age-30 threshold for continuing in attending young single adult wards. (Contrary to popular belief, we do find it weird for a 30-year-old to be looking for dates among happens, sometimes, but not as often as some people think).

Online apps are becoming a popular avenue for single LDS people to meet. Most prefer LDS-oriented dating apps like Mutual (not owned by or affiliated with the Church) because it helps them find like-minded dating partners more quickly. But there is still a significant number of young single adults who use Tinder and other non-LDS-oriented dating apps to look for their soulmates.

Time to end this post, but there's more in Part 3!

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We are happy to discuss any and every topic and question. We will give wide berth to a variety of opinions and ideas. The only thing we ask is that you return the favor by respecting our right to believe as we do and by not issuing lengthy, inflammatory diatribes meant to shock and confuse anyone not familiar with LDS teachings. They can certainly get that elsewhere. :)