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Mormonism and Truth

I found myself talking recently about Mormon culture with another ex-Mormon writer and how this culture comes out in a particular way in our stories. I think Mormons lie. A lot. Mormons would disagree vehemently with this statement. But there are a lot of different kinds of lies that I see within Mormonism. Some of these kinds of lies are lies that you see in all kinds of social situations. Others are lies that are particular to Mormonism. Let me see if I can make a useful list of these.

Lies for the Lord

There’s a long history in Mormonism of “lying for the Lord,” which means lying to the government about the leaders of the church (when Mormons practiced polygamy) or lying to non-Mormons from whom you need to get something. This is all justified with a kind of “greater good” mentality. It permeates a lot of Mormon leadership to the point that you can hear leaders preaching from the pulpit that some truths aren’t “useful” and shouldn’t be spoken, or that criticizing the leaders is wrong, even if it’s true.

Polite/Kind Lies

Mormon women are experts at these kinds of lies. I could spend time talking about why I think that Mormon women are tasked with the entire work of making society function — possibly because they don’t have other visible forms of power. But instead I will just say that if you expect someone to tell you if you look like you’ve gained weight after childbirth, don’t ask a group of Mormon women.

“I know” Lies

These are the lies that I think are most vociferously defended within Mormonism. People will insist that they “know” things that are not factual. But if you point this out, they won’t back down to “believe.” For instance, “I know” that Joseph Smith saw God in a vision in the Sacred Grove. How can you know this? This is not a knowing kind of thing. But I can already hear Mormons arguing this point with me. Sigh.

Passive/Aggressive Lies

Also very common with Mormonism are the kinds of lies that pretend to be nice, but are actually criticisms. This is because Mormons insist on protecting the image of the church by showing how good and happy and kind they always are. Therefore, they can’t be angry or mean. Except in a hidden way. But try to call them out on this, and they will insist that you are the angry or mean one, that they didn’t intend it that way at all.

Lies to Cover Your Ass

It shouldn’t really be a surprise to see Mormons individually offering these kinds of lies when the church as an institution has made an example of doing this. Get caught with a teenage girl in a barn? Lie. Encourage members to murder non-members in a massacre? Lie. Do temple baptisms for Jews who died in the Holocaust? Lie. It’s the first defense mechanism of Mormonism. It doesn’t count as a sin, though, because of God. And the gospel. And people don’t understand. And it’s complicated. And God requires hard things.

Anti-Science Lies

My daughter tried to explain why she didn’t believe in the story of Noah’s Ark on a literal level to her Sunday School class when she was thirteen. She was told she needed to repent and have more faith. Which makes me wonder if anyone really believes these things or if we just keep passing on the pretense for the sake of tradition. Mormons believe in science when it comes to airplanes. And cars. And cell phones. But not about dinosaurs and evolution?

“Faithful” Lies

I didn’t leave Mormonism because of historical issues, though I admit that sometimes I enjoy listening to all the ways in which the church has lied about the past because it bolsters my position. The church lies a lot about itself. It lies about Joseph Smith translating The Book of Mormon and The Book of Abraham. It lies about the temple ordinances never changing. It lies about what past leaders have said and done. It lies about whether it reversed the horrible November 2015 policy. It lies whenever it needs to make itself look better for public relations. And then it will lie about no one ever lying. It can be tedious sometimes, especially when you begin to see that those who lie faithfully the best are often the same people who rise in the ranks of the church to the highest levels of leadership, so that the process repeats itself.

Ignorant Lies

We’re all ignorant in most areas of our lives. In fact, the more I learn about being a writer, the more I realize how ignorant I am. I tend to think that the people who are most ignorant are perhaps the ones who have so little knowledge that they have never reached the point of seeing their own ignorance. Religion in general and Mormonism in particular seem to love these people who pontificate on everything they know, which is nothing.

Protective Lies

These are perhaps the most dangerous set of lies that I see Mormons perpetuating institutionally. These are the lies that have allowed sexual predators to not only remain in the church’s good graces but to be praised, because they are very good at lying and the church needs people like this. I am frankly disgusted by the kinds of protective lies that make Mormons believe that no bishop or stake president or higher leader could make a mistake because God is in charge of everything. And that means that the victims who come forward can be ignored because they’re just interested in damaging the reputation of the church or a church leader. No one Mormon can do anything bad, trust me. That’s not how Mormonism works. *wink, wink*

Written by

Author of The Bishop’s Wife mystery series, The Mormon Sabbatical Podcast, Princeton PhD, fiction editor at Exponent II, autist, she/her

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