The Amazing Meeting 2014

Like it? Share it!

Sign up for news and updates!






Enter word seen below
Visually impaired? Click here to have an audio challenge played.  You will then need to enter the code that is spelled out.
Change image

CAPTCHA image
Please leave this field empty

Login Form



From Fundamentalist Mormon to Skeptic PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Dr. Karen Stollznow   

I enjoy plane trips because these are the only times I get to read for enjoyment. On a recent flight my book of choice was a title by skeptic Steve Cuno and Joanne Hanks. “It’s Not About The Sex” My Ass: Confessions of an ex-Mormon, ex-Polygamist ex-wife tells the fascinating story of Joanne’s personal journey from mainline Mormon, to fundamentalist Mormon, to non-believer. 

This case is interesting in that most fundamentalists are born into these groups, while Joanne and her husband chose to join a polygamist cult. Joanne and her chiropractor husband Jeff were raised as members of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). They both had family with a polygamist past. Following exposure to Second Coming propaganda, they decided that the end was nigh, and they needed to return to the original church to ensure their salvation. After shopping around for a sect, the couple and their three young children moved to Manti, Utah, and joined James Harmston’s True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of the Last Days (TLC). As per section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, Jeff took a “celestial wife” and the family was promptly excommunicated by the LDS. 

 

The book covers many paranormal and pseudoscientific topics that will be of interest to skeptics, including creationism and alleged psychic abilities. The group’s leader claimed to be the reincarnation of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, while his wife was the reincarnation of Smith’s First Wife, Emma. Naturally, his other celestial wives (or women he coveted) were also reincarnated as Smith’s celestial wives. Other members purported to be such luminaries as Mary Magdalene, Queen Elizabeth the First, Josephine Bonaparte, and Isaac Newton. (Unfortunately, an argument once broke out when two different women both claimed to be Marie Antoinette). 

You may have heard of the LDS practice of “baptisms for the dead”. In this ritual, computer-generated lists of names of deceased people are read aloud (such as the names of Holocaust victims), and proxy Mormon baptisms are performed for them to save their souls. The TLC’s version of this was the “prayer session.” Joanne accurately defined these as séances, during which they summoned deceased non-Mormons via a channeler and had a nice chat with them. Then they asked the deceased if they would like to receive a baptism, which they invariably did. They always seemed to channel famous visitors including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill. Amazingly, Martin Luther, Wolfgang Mozart, and Joan of Arc spoke fluent American English during these sessions. 

For years, these strange beliefs and practices stirred skepticism in Joanne, which she shot down with her own rationalizations and the manipulation of the group. However, one incident (or lack of an incident) was too ridiculous to ignore. Harmston, as the group’s prophet, predicted that the Second Coming was going to take place on March 25, 2000. Everyone on earth would die, including mainstream Mormons, but the members of the TLC would be spared. The group planned for a massive celebration, but the day came and went without incident. Jesus was a no-show. How did the prophet explain his failure? Well, he didn’t fail! Jesus did return to earth and fulfilled the prophecy. Mercifully, God folded back time on itself by exactly one day and life carried on as usual…

False prophets and false promises were the final straws for Joanne and Jeff. They left the community and Mormonism altogether. (Jeff’s second wife had already left him and become another plural wife in Harmston’s growing harem of women.) In their search for a new church they eventually became atheists, with a little help from George Carlin and his humorous views on religion. In the end, the whole experience was destructive for the couple and it drove them apart. However, Joanne found a silver lining in her divorce. “At least,” I told Jeff one day, “I don’t have to defend chiropractic any more.” 

Joanne is a highly intelligent and rational woman, demonstrating that, under the right (or wrong) circumstances, we are all susceptible to cults and charismatic leaders. The book is witty and insightful, and the authors make many self-effacing and poignant observations that highlight the hypocrisy and manipulation of cults, and their considerable dangers. 

“It’s Not About the Sex” My Ass is available from Amazon in eBook and paperback formats.

Dr. Karen Stollznow is a linguist, author, skeptical paranormal investigator and a research fellow for the James Randi Foundation. You can follow Karen on Twitter here.

Trackback(0)
Comments (2)Add Comment
Not all of us are susceptible !
written by zhombu, June 16, 2014
Hello Karen,

Nice story, these are always fun, if more than a little sad. Just a quick comment on your assessment that, "we are all susceptible to cults and charismatic leaders." Not so. Sent briefly and inexplicably to Sunday School by non-beleivers parents in the mid-60's, I would sit there listening to the teacher's religious claims and mutter to myself about what a load of crap that was (probably "poo-poo" at the time but you get the idea). This was at age 5-6.

I have been a happy and proud non-beleiver my entire life and have never even needed nor looked for answers to the Big Questions from religion. Clearly, falling for such bunk has little to do with actual intelligence and more to do with heard behaviour extended into the human psyche. Joanne and Jeff in your story followed the herd until self-preseravtion made them stop and listen.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by zhombu, June 16, 2014
Oh dear. "Herd". I was eating while typing.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1

Write comment
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy