Sunday, February 9, 2014
I work with children with disabilities and one of the skills we teach them is how to generalize. Most children learn this concept naturally, but not all people, on all skills in all areas, over all environments. For example, we can teach a child in a controlled setting how to identify his colors, but that doesn't mean they can identify their colors out of that controlled environment. They need to then be taken out of that controlled environment and taught their colors in other ways. They need to be taught to match color cards to objects of the same color. They need to be taken around the room and in the real world and asked what color certain objects are. They need to be asked what color their clothes are, the walls are, etc. In this way, they are able to generalize the concept of learning colors.
When I was on my mission, we tracted out a young man who was so excited to show us what he had found in the back of a magazine. He had found a handkerchief that was personally blessed by a popular televangelist and if you paid $49.99, you could be the proud owner of the handkerchief and untold blessings would come to you.
My companion and I walked away and were confounded how people could be taken in by half truths and lies by something that was so obviously a religious charlatan. Today, I watched this video:
Inside Edition on Televangelists
As I watched it, I was reminded of Jim Jones and how he was able to fool so many people and they couldn't see through his half truths and lies at the cost of their lives, not just at the cost of their money. When the story of Jim Jones broke on the news, I remember hearing about the points that make up a cult. As I read them in the news, I remember thinking that they were just like the Mormon church. Yet, with nobody to discuss my concerns with, I quickly dismissed them.
Today, as I watched the video, I am once again taken back in time and marvel how I was not able to generalize the knowledge I had of cults or of charlatans to my own experience within the Mormon church. I could see it in other churches and other church leaders, but not my own. I could see how other church leaders used their charisma to get their members to hand over money, but I could not see it within the Mormon church leaders. I could see where the Mormon leaders would say, 'trust me', without actual facts or data to show trustworthiness, yet I could not see how handing over 10% of my income, without transparency within the Mormon church would be considered criminal in any other corporation. If I was told by any other organization to not compare what they told me about their history to what was available about their history from other sources, I would be suspicious and sceptical of that organization. Yet, when the Mormon church said to do that very thing, I just blindly accepted it.
As I speak to others who continue within the Mormon church who also have knowledge of how the leaders hide their history, are not transparent with their finances, who have knowledge of the leaders purchasing billion dollar malls, yet they cannot generalize this knowledge to other religious leaders who own million dollar jets or homes.
City Creek Mall
This week, several members who have been able to generalize, filed a criminal fraud suit against the Mormon church for similar practices that are so often seen in other churches and other corporations, yet so hard for Mormon members to see within its own ranks.
It will take Mormon members to get out of their controlled environment, and compare what is happening within the top leadership to see what is happening before they can generalize.
An Open Letter to Mormon Leadership
I learned to generalize once I stepped out of the controlled environment the church set up and stepped out into the real world. What a beautiful world it is.