A Response to “A Response to Glenn Beck’s Mormon Conversion Story”

Yes, Glenn Beck is a Mormon, that is, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Apparently searches for “glenn beck” and “mormon” are pretty common. In reading the afore-linked article, I decided to do a search for “glenn beck mormon” myself, and one of the links that came up is from the anti-Mormon site exmormon.org, which I’ve been to before and appears to primarily be made up of rantings from angry, unhappy people who claim that Mormonism ruined their lives. Each post generally has a number of comments, and I’ve never found any comments that are positive–only negative, and the comments are always closed such that I can’t post anything in response. It seems to be very one-sided.

The specific page I came across is entitled A Response to Glenn Beck’s Mormon Conversion Story. It’s apparently written by one “bob mccue” who seems to think of himself as being a logical, rational, and intelligent human being. His post is in response to a video on YouTube of Glenn Beck’s conversion to Mormonism. McCue starts out by saying ” If you don’t want to read an analytical response to Beck’s sincere, uninformed, deceptive pap, stop reading here.” and yet what follows is hardly analytical. But since he’s gone so far as to analyze Beck and Mormonism, I thought I’d do the same to his analysis. Here is my analysis of his analysis, with his statements in italics:

Every religious organization is populated by sincere people who have important social needs met by the organization, and who confuse the strong feelings that come from that experience with a divine encounter that justifies belief that their organization has “the truth”. So, you find one of those people who perceives the institution to be particularly important for him (“Without Mormonism, I would be a drunk with no family and no job”, says Beck), get him to tell his story using the usual, formulaic salvation narrative – “Things were going really bad in my life; then I fell into a crisis of some kind; then I found [insert name of religion]; then I had a powerful emotion experience [insert tears]; then some really great things started to happen in my life that are a sign from God; and now things are wonderful for me and my family”, and you have poster boy that is highly useful for marketing purposes. The more high profile the individual, the better this works.

McCue’s analysis begins off with the above paragraph, in which he effectively claims that because some religious people falsely confuse strong feelings with a divine experience, that means there is no such thing as a divine experience. By the same logic if sometimes I’m sitting in my car at a stop light and it feels as though the car is moving when it really isn’t, this means my car never moves, and any sense I have of my car moving, even when everything outside the car appears to be passing by me, is merely an illusion I’ve created to make myself feel better.

A large part of LDS inspiration these days comes from a marketing firm named Edelman on Madison Avenue in NYC. Seriously. The Mormons are trying to catch up with the Evangelicals who for years have been using relatively sophisticated marketing tools, and largely as a result far outperform the Mormons in terms of conversions. Richard Bushman explained, in part, how this works to a crowd of well heeled Mormons at a dinner in Calgary recently. He did not name Edelman, but laid out the LDS marketing strategy in some detail. I know from other sources that this information is provided to LDS leaders, at high cost using tithing money of course, by Edelman. A Mormon who was at the Busman meeting summarized it for me. With typically naïve Mormon hubris, he was thrilled that his church was getting more sophisticated in terms of marketing and communications. That is prophetic inspiration for you. Call the gurus on Madison Avenue when you need to find out what to do. God must be leading each and every major business in North America, because they all use this strategy too. My acquaintance somehow missed this irony.

Next, McCue takes issue with the LDS Church using a marketing firm. It seems that McCue’s opinion is that if the LDS Church is run by prophets as claimed, then all the Church’s marketing efforts should be the direct result of revelation from God. I suppose this is an understandable misunderstanding, so allow me to set things straight for Mr. McCue and anyone else who may be similarly confused on this point. Mormons don’t believe that nothing can be done without revelation from God. We believe God gives us timely and needful revelation, but much of the time leaves things up to us to figure out. We believe that God steps in once we have done all we can do. One might imagine a conversation between God and the President of the LDS Church in which the President asks God “God, how can we spread the gospel message more effectively?” and God responds “C’mon, I gave you a brain, why don’t you use it? Go hire a marketing firm or something and don’t ask me about this again until you’ve done everything you can on your own.” Thus the hiring of a marketing firm by the LDS Church is perfectly in line with Mormon doctrine, if not with McCue’s own line of thinking.

At the end of the paragraph McCue once again misteps in his logic by stating that if the LDS Church uses a marketing firm and the LDS Church is led by God, then that means that anyone who uses a marketing firm is also led by God. That would be akin to stating that if Bobby has a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, and he says his mom made it for him, and Joey also has a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, then Bobby’s mom must have also made Joey’s sandwich. Huh? Yeah, doesn’t make much sense.

While wishing Glenn Beck and his family well, I found his video repugnant. It presents a false picture of Mormonism, and will be used to dupe innocent people. The “true love” Beck talks about is at the root of countless religious and secular movements. That fact that this is a revelation to him says something about him, but not about how Mormonism is special or different from other religious groups. Members of Jim Jones’ and other cults say the same kind of thing about their groups as Beck does about Mormonism.

Again, this is hardly analytical. McCue states that Glenn’s video presents “a false picture of Mormonism” but that’s only McCue’s opinion. I found the video to present a very accurate and honest picture of Mormonism. The fact that what Beck says about his conversion story is similar to what crazy people like Jim Jones’ followers may have said doesn’t mean Beck’s experiences are also crazy. If you see a kid with a 20-dollar bill and ask him who it belongs to and he says “It’s mine” but you find out he stole it, does that mean the next kid you see with a 20-dollar bill also stole it? There’s no connection. Two people can say the exact same thing and one can be 100% lying and the other can be telling 100% the pure truth.

Beck’s favorites day of week is Sunday because that is a family day. That is the case at my house too, and only since leaving Mormonism. While Mormon, I was seldom at home with my kids on Sunday, and when I was I tended to be exhausted and hence far less of a father than I could have been. You, I know, were in the same position. You and I gave our energy to the Mormon institution instead of our families. Glenn Beck has not yet experienced that side of his new faith.

McCue, how do you know that Beck has not experienced “that side of his new faith”? I’m not saying that he has, but the point is that I don’t know. How do you know? Maybe he has, and yet he has still found a way to make it a family day. How can you claim that you know Beck’s life and his feelings about it better than he does himself?

Beck’s fear based claim that he would be on the human trash heap without Mormonism is a pathetic, but unfortunately well-used religious claim. It is designed to scare people into the fold, and into staying in the fold. I reject life lived on the basis of fear, and want nothing to do with organizations that promote that point of view. This is a virus that weakens human beings, and makes them dependant on manmade authority.

Once again, McCue seems to be making many assumptions without basis. McCue, how do you know that Beck’s claim is “designed to scare people into the fold”? Maybe he sincerely feels what he is saying. By the way, I’ve been an active member of the LDS Church for 34 years and when you say you claim that the LDS Church teaches people to live life “on the basis of fear” I must admit I have no idea what you’re talking about. Maybe that’s what you got from Church teachings, but it’s not what I get from them.

And, Beck does not address the most important question about religious groups. That is, “How reliable is the authority of the institution that asks for our allegiance, and how much do they ask of us?” The more the institution asks, the more reliable its authority should be proven to be before we go along for the ride.

I completely agree with McCue on this one. Joseph Smith said that a religion that doesn’t ask you to sacrificed everything doesn’t have the power to save. That’s a pretty large request, and so I myself wouldn’t be a member of the LDS Church unless I had received an answer from God himself that it was his true church.

We know how much Mormonism asks. Ultimately, it wants full commitment. It is designed to push us as far in that direction as we will go. But perhaps Glenn Beck does not know that yet. This is because Mormonism uses sales pitches like his to get people in the door and on the train on the basis of attractive “milk”. Then the train starts to move, social commitments are made, roots go down, the forces of cognitive dissonance kick in, and the more momentum the train has the harder it is to get off. The Moonies, Hare Krishna and many other cults explicitly recruit on this basis. So do the Mormons, though most Mormons don’t realize it until the facts are pointed out to them. That is, the “hard doctrines”, the “meat”, the “mysteries” (“Why did God tell the Mormon leaders to lie about so many things!?”), the commitments required of those who attend the temple and become Mormon leaders, and a host of other aspects of Mormonism, are kept purposefully hidden until the convert gradually becomes “ready”. Why is that? Well, by that time the train will be moving so fast that it will be very hard for the convert to de-couple his life from it. The forces of denial and cognitive dissonance will then hide Mormonism’s flaws from him.

Based on how much research does on other topics related to his show I find it difficult to believe he wouldn’t have researched the LDS Church quite thoroughly prior to being baptized. The guy is a voracious reader.

As for Mormonism teaching “attractive milk,” most of those who are introduced to the LDS Church very quickly are exposed to a number of controversial ideas such as modern-day prophets like Moses, new scripture in addition to the Bible, requirements to not drink alcohol, coffee, or tea, to not smoke or use drugs, etc. In many cases joining the LDS Church means being disowned by ones family and friends or at least introducing some awkwardness into relationships. Converts have to jump through a lot of hoops and do lots of things that are rather uncomfortable if not downright near impossible. There is little that is “easy” about becoming a Mormon, and I’ve found that in the cases that are exceptions those who do become Mormons too “easily” have a tendency to leave the LDS Church just about as easily as they came in.

And as for anything being kept “purposefully hidden” perhaps you know something about Mormonism that I don’t, but I’ve read enough anti-Mormon material to know that what people think the Mormon leadership is “hiding” generally means those things the Church isn’t actively promoting, but there’s a big difference between a lack of promotion and actively hiding something. I don’t go about telling everyone I meet about every mistake I’ve ever made, but that doesn’t mean I’m hiding my mistakes.

Towards the end, McCue tries to promote the idea that the majority of people who become Mormons are intellectually lacking. However, his evidence appears to be anecdotal other than his reference to a study that claims, in his words to “predict that Mormon missionary work will only be successful where magical thinking is as bad or worse than the Mormon level”. Unfortunately he doesn’t link to the study, only the website where he claims it was found, but in searching that particular website I couldn’t find any reference to “mormon” or “lds” on it. But I will quote a few statistics relating to the education levels of Mormons in general:

  • LDS women are more likely to graduate from college than Catholic or Protestant women
  • Utah “spends a larger percentage of state dollars on education” than any other state
  • Utah has been ranked at high as 7th academically in the nation
  • A recent national Advanced Placement study found Utah ranked first in the nation in both [AP] exams taken and exams passed on a per capita basis
  • Utah has one of the highest high school graduation rates in the nation
  • Utah is ranked 2nd in proportion of the population who are high school graduates
  • Utah ranks first in personal computer ownership
  • As Latter-day Saints become more educated, they are more likely to be active Church participants, a trend opposite what is found in most denominations

Granted, these statistics pertain to those who are members of the LDS Church as opposed to those who join, so in a way I’m not responding to the exact argument McCue is making, but it’s the best I can do given the data available to me. It would be fair to say based on the data above that Mormons are hardly uneducated or uninformed and that they only reason they are Mormons is because of a lack of intellectual ability. I find that last bit of data in the bulleted list especially interesting.

Obviously McCue has an ax to grind. I think it’s sad that something that has brought me so much happiness could be blamed for causing the bittnerness and regret he seems to feel. Most members of the LDS Church who leave seem to do so because they were offended by one more more fellow members, and if that’s the case I’m sorry it happened. Members of the LDS Church, leaders included, are by no means perfect and in many cases are surprisingly imperfect. But as Dan Jones, one of the early members of the Church said, “I’d rather have a prophet who’s a drunk than no prophet at all.” Not that we’ve had any prophets who were drunks that I know of, but the point is that even if the head of the LDS Church isn’t perfect, that doesn’t mean it isn’t God’s church.

Comments

  1. yall mormons are insane!!! the mormons brainwash their members… yeah i know what yall are all about…yall are in to mind control!!! yall are all just crazy!!!! plus i would hate to be like god! god is not great! god is mean and mad and if you dont do his will, his way, then he will make you suffer and i am tired of suffering just cause god has his tempter tantrums and blows everyone away out of his anger and hate!!! there has to be a better way cause god is too faced. if i am his child then why does he make me suffer? if he loves me then how come he doesnt love me for the way i am??? god only loves a person if a person does what he says and wants! and if we dont do what he says then god makes us suffer. i see god as a greedy selfish god and i do not want to ever be like him! i rather go to hell with my real father satan!!!!! satan is understanding and way more loving than god is and satan takes good care of his own! he dont just throw a person a way like god does just cause we choose to exercise our free will!!! god dont like us to have free will! god wants us to be his slave!!!

  2. Sara, God loves us and wants us to be happy. Satan hates us and wants us to be miserable. God doesn't make us suffer, we bring suffering upon ourselves by our choices. He loves us know matter who or what or how we choose to be, but if we choose to be someone or something that will ultimately make us unhappy, he tries to help us make different choices that will make us happy. It would be an uncaring, unloving God who didn't care what choices we made and never tried to steer us in a different direction. God never throws us away, but we often throw God away and reject him. God does want us to have our free will, he is the one who gave it to us in the first place. If he wanted us to be his slaves he never would have given us a choice in the first place. Plus, what good are slaves to God? He has everything he could ever want or need. He could take away our free choice in a moment. But what good would that do him? He gives us free choice because it's the only way we can progress, live up to our full potential, and achieve greater happiness. But it's a very risky plan, because in giving us the freedom to choose good, he also must give us the freedom to choose bad. Some of us do make wrong choices and suffer for it, but we suffer not because God has taken away our freedom, but because he has given it to us.

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