Reason #55: Group Pressure in Mormonism


An LDS doctrine that had always strongly appealed to me was free agency:  that God respects our right to choose, and that it is our ethic to likewise respect unconstrained choice for all people.  That notion was badly shaken when I was first “endowed” in an LDS temple at the beginning of my missionary service.  Before attending, I was told that I would be making solemn promises or covenants, but was not told what those covenants were, because they were apparently to be discussed only in the temple.  So I was anticipating learning about them in the temple and that there I would choose to take them upon myself.  The ceremony I experienced turned out to be totally uncharacteristic of anything I had ever experienced in the Church.  It was a lock-step affair, with every move and every word by every participant rigidly choreographed. When it came time for the making of covenants, without a preliminary discussion of the covenants or any advance notice, the approximately one hundred of us who were undergoing this initiation were told to raise our right arms to the square and repeat after the officiator.  In this manner, I learned of the covenants I was to make while I and everyone else was making them for ourselves by repeating them after the officiator, as directed, phrase-by-phrase.  Though the covenants themselves would be reasonable enough to a fully-committed member, the manner in which they were administered non-plussed me.  There was an incredibly strong group pressure to make these covenants exactly as we were told.  I felt that I had been manipulated, and could not reconcile it with the ideal of free agency as taught by the Church.  This was probably the first incongruity in the Church that I became aware of, and from then on, I chaffed every time the Church called upon herd instinct for me to publicly affirm my loyalty to the Church leadership.

–Robert Bushman

Read his full story here.

For more information, see The Mormon Mirage 3rd Edition:  A Former Member Looks at the Mormon Church Today (Zondervan, 2009). Also available as an audiobook and as an expanded-text E-book for Nook, Kindle and other reading devices.


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