Scene One: Five sharks are in the studio for the first pitch. They are left to right: Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner, and Robert Herjavec
Narrator: First into tank is a person that has found a sure fire way of returning to His presence and gaining eternal life.
Theme music plays in the background as GOD enters the studio seemingly floating in the air as He moves and then gently alights on the stage before the sharks.
GOD: Hi Sharks! My name is God, but my friends call me Elohim, and I’m from the planet Kolob. I am the CEO at “Plan of Salvation”. I have developed a way to save all my children. They only need to join the True Church, and they can then earn their way back to me. I am seeking $100 Billion for a 1% stake in the “Plan of Salvation”. So who wants to Save Mankind and join me today?
Kevin: You have a value of $10 trillion, you better have so really good sales for that ask.
GOD: We have a sort of subscription model, where people join our organization and then promise to pay 10% of their income to us. Currently we have about 16,000,000 subscribers, which we call members.
Mark: So you have 16 million members, yet there are about 7.9 billon people, so you only have 0.2% of the market?
GOD: Yes, that is correct, but we are growing.
Daymond: What are your growth rates?
GOD: For 2021 they were 1.2%
The sharks do some calculation on their papers.
Daymond: That 1.2% growth rate is roughly equal to the population of the world growth rate. How do you expect to save everybody if your growth and the worlds growth are the same?
GOD: Well, we expect our growth rate to roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.
Kevin: So what has your growth rate been like for the past 10 years?
GOD: Well, actually it is going down, but we have faith it will rebound in an upward trajectory at any time.
Lori: Let’s get back to your “members” as you call them. How many of them paying the 10%, and what is the yearly income from that?
GOD: Well, let’s see, I was just reviewing these numbers this morning. About 2 million members pay their 10%, and our income is about $7 billion annually.
Lori: And what are your expenditures?
GOD: We have a $6 billion annual burn rate, and invest the difference.
Mark: What is your plan to keep members?
GOD: Some of the $6 billion yearly is spent to develop facilities that only members who are paying their 10% can enter. We found we can increase income in the areas we build these facilities, earning $1.30 for every dollar spend building them.
Robert: Do you have any competition?
GOD: Well, that is interesting. I have competition from other GODs, which have cornered the market for about 2/3 the world’s population, and then we have counterfeit plans masquerading as my plan.
Lori: Have you taken legal action against the counterfeit plans?
GOD: Well, nothing is proprietary, so we have no legal bases for action, but we changed our name recently to emphasize our unique brand.
Kevin: And how did that name change work?
GOD: Not too well, but we are working on it.
Lori: And what do you plan to do with the $100 billion?
GOD: Invest it in the stock market and real estate.
Mark: So you really don’t need any more money for operations? If you don’t need the money, I think you just came on to get exposure. I’m out.
GOD: Sorry to see you go Mark. I hope Luka Doncic doesn’t have a season ending injury this weekend, just saying…..
Kevin: So let me make you an offer. I want a royalty deal. I’ll give you the $100 billion, but I want 7% of the company, and I want 10% of your yearly income in perpetuity.
GOD: I’m sorry, but our income is sacred, and we can’t be giving that away. We also have a hotel in Hawaii that we have our eye on.
Kevin: I wish you luck, but I’m out
Lori: Have you thought about an infomercial?
GOD: We’ve tried that in the past with little results. In fact about we had a whole campaign ten years ago with commercials, web sites, billboards, and signs on taxies, but that didn’t work.
Daymond: What is your current sales strategy?
GOD: Well, we ask the members to “always be closing” when they talk to their friends and neighbors, and we also recruit a sales force of about 50,000 young people to be full time door to door salespeople.
Lori: What is this, 1965? Door to door sales went out with Avon 50 years ago. Why haven’t you moved to digital marketing?
GOD: The internet has been a double edge sword for us. While it lets us reach more people, it also gives people more info about our plan, and this leads to lower growth and retention. I should have never let Al Gore be born!
Lori: You know, this just isn’t my thing. I just don’t see this selling well on QVC. But I wish you luck, I’m out
Narrator: With three sharks out, only Damon and Robert are left.
Daymond: I really don’t even get out of bed for less than 30% of a company. I’ll give you your $100 Billion, but I’d want 40%, and a seat on your board of directors.
GOD: I’m sorry, but our board of directors is currently full, and they are only replaced when one of them dies. It would take an act of, well…. Me, to change that, and I’ve not changed anything for years. I’m very set in my ways. But I could offer you a job as one of our regional managers.
Daymond: I’m out.
Robert: The problem I see is that this whole business concept does not seem well thought out. It seems like it was put together piece meal, without any real strategy. Your growth rate is terrible, you have no marketing strategy, your product seems dated, I can’t see how you’ll ever reach your goal of total salvation for all humans, and for those reason I’m out.
GOD walks out of the studio, head held high, and says to the camera: They really missed out. One day every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God!
Narrator: Next into the tank is Satan…….
Image by Andrea Bohl from Pixabay
What do you think would happen, Bill, if you succeeded in destroying the Church and all other religious entities that preach love and service? Do you really think that if the great hordes were left to their own devices that the world would be a better place?
No reasonable person can deny that if religious organizations cease to exist, the masses will turn to immediate gratification, without regard to the consequences. Debauchery would reach levels never before contemplated.
In essence, we would have a world of violence, substance abuse, and uncontrolled sexuality. Disease and murder would be everyday occurrences in the lives of the masses. Even the most hardened New Jersey mafia boss of today would look like a benevolent philanthropist in comparison.
The .2% metric that you mention is something that always bothered me when I was a TBM. It didn’t bother me from a testimony perspective as much as it bothered my sense of efficiency. I just could not under this the Lord could put into place a system that was so inefficient. The excuse that we’d catch up eventually didn’t make sense either since we were living in the very last days.
Now that I’m out, the numbers make so much more sense. The Church was in its prime when LDS culture matched the culture of the country. The 50s rocked and the 80s weren’t bad either. But now the very “family” marketing that helped us is hurting us because the country is more and more accepting of LGBTQ.
I’d like a believer to explain to me how/why, in these “latter” days with instantaneous travel and communications and more missionaries than ever (except that strange 2012-15 time frame), the Church barely grows. How do the true believers explain this? Is the world just too evil or blind to accept the truth? Or did the man-made brand image go down the drain?
JCS: feel free to explain this to me. Anybody else?
@josh h, they are explaining this by saying (1) we are growing in FAITH even if numbers are small, and focusing on (2) the evils and deceptions of the world are growing, wheat and tares sifting, etc, which is a terrible message IMO.
Also, this post gets 👍🏻👍🏻. Thanks for the chuckle but also quite insightful – top rate satire.
I second Elisa’s comment about great and insightful satire. Two serious points:
1. josh h is spot on about the church only growing when its tenets matched the surrounding culture. This, of course, provided the false confidence that things would always be on the upswing and has prevented the church from changing its approach much over the past forty years. And if the church didn’t anticipate this and didn’t adjust its strategy, how can God be directing this church? The fact is that most folks who have some sort of belief about the afterlife already believe they’ll be with their families, which means that the only thing the church has to offer is some sort of arcane claim to priestly authority, which most people don’t give a rat’s ass about. So we’re running around making claims about authority and priesthood, etc., while the rest of the world has moved on from that kind of crap which, by the way, is incredibly divisive. And if we continue to spend a lot of our time and rhetoric saying we offer the “only” way for people to be with their families in the afterlife and continue to ignore creating solutions to pressing, real world problems, we’re going to look exactly like God looks in Bishop Bill’s scenario above. I’d suggest we already do look that way.
2. I’ve resolved to never respond directly to JCS’s comments again, but I do think there is a thread of TBM folks who see the rest of us questioning the church and its policies as people who only want to tear down the church, destroy it and let evil run amok in the world. I’ve heard this exact same comment from more than one person in my ward. My answer to those folks has always been this: If an institution ends up doing more harm than good, if it treats people unequally, if it launders its prejudices and bigotry by using “God’s will” as a cover, then it deserves to die. Lots of people and organizations who aren’t Mormon do a great deal of good in this world and they don’t carry the negative baggage that the church does. The plain truth is that, despite the small amount (when compared to its overall resources) of humanitarian efforts the church involves itself in, if the church failed/went away/disappeared, other organizations would expand to take its place, at least in areas that really matter, such as humanitarian causes. Just because the church keeps telling its members and others that it’s special, unique and “true” doesn’t mean that it is. IMHO, we should be spending less time insisting how awesome we are and more time just doing the hard work of making the world a better place.
“In essence, we would have a world of violence, substance abuse, and uncontrolled sexuality. Disease and murder would be everyday occurrences in the lives of the masses.”
– IOW like Kansas City for the last 100 years? Where the hell have you been? & BTW 14 wives is “uncontrolled sexuality” but only for the man. Funny how that works. It’s almost like men invented this system for – men? Is that possible? (slap to forehead)
JCS is right. You people destroy one church, then go after another. And another. Until none are left to teach moral values. None will be left when others come after you. You slam the church for not listening, and then you try to shut up those you don’t agree with. Even Shark Tank at least listens to people.
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.
Thanks for the entertaining read. So funny!
I want to hear the second installment with Satan!
JCS: If the destruction of the “church” as an organization would lead to an anything goes run amok party as you describe, then the “church” isn’t doing a great job at actually teaching its members anything worthwhile. If the “church” disappeared tomorrow shouldn’t the members know how to act without it? If not, shame on the “church” and shame on its members for wasting their time on something without lasting value.
Also, it seems to me that members of the church already want instant gratification of all their wildest dreams. To wit, they refuse to accept any short-term restrictions related to a pandemic that will eventually end. Nope. They want their Jazz games and their kid’s proms without masks or distancing or testing or vaccine requirements. So seem like, even with the church in existence, what you describe is our current status quo, not some dystopian future.
Otherwise this was a fantastic read after a long day’s work, so thank you for letting the day end on a high note!
This great Bishop Bill sketch inspired me to research prior shark tank deals.
This has a mixed bag of entrepreneur experiences. But the main theme is the presenter got on the show; able to market the product and that moment a chance to catch eyeballs on screen; resulting in failure or the big success story and making a financial fortune. If the product was good, the audience and other investors recognized a good product, when the sharks did not.
The LDS church also got its time on camera. In the 1970’s you could not watch TV without the FREE public service ad in USA from The Mormons. But in all those decades, the Q15 avoided the press and any questions. Finally, Hinkley & Holland did their infamous failed interviews filled of 1/2 truths. The the Mormon moment of 2012 came and went. So now what?
Outside of the jello belt Morminism is now irrelevant and it’s messengers are selling VCR’s in 2022, and not understand why people do not stay in the ship and new consumers commit to its process.
Waiting for part 2 next week with Satan’s business plan for the sharks. Think it will involve a MLM?
Great OP Bishop Bill!
I don’t have the sources (sorry it is late and I’m writing fast), but years ago, maybe 25 years ago, an op-ed was penned, I believe, or it may have been a magazine article, that essentially asserted a central reason the Mormon church was growing so fast while mainline protestant denominations were shrinking is because the Mormons demanded much from their members, while protestant churches did not. The piece asserted that converts were drawn to the Mormon church’s call to be better, work harder, sacrifice more and embrace accountability. If those weren’t the exact words that was the upshot of the missive. It sounded great and that narrative was passed around member-to-member, ward-to-ward as yet one more bit of reinforcing evidence we were getting it right while the rest of those poor mainliners were adrift.
The problem is the assertion was wrong. Years later I read a great quantitatively based piece that corrected why mainline protestant churches were shrinking and it had nothing to do with the lack of challenge. It had everything to do with the negative correlation of education and income levels, and birthrates. As mainline protestant education and income levels rose over the twentieth century, birth rates fell. The falling birthrate is what caused the membership decline, and not because the Presbyterian or Lutherans or Episcopalians aren’t “high demand” churches. (In North America, the Mormon church is facing the same problem as our birthrates have plummeted since 2008 and it is doubtful that will change, particularly when you look at the rising cost of living in Utah.)
The problem is the church seems to confuse correlation with causation. We create these reinforcing narratives, we buy into our own plans so completely we don’t see the implicit fallacies that hit us in the face later on when the narrative loses efficacy. When we fail, we just deflect it. Instead of seeing it for what it is and taking responsibility to correct and change, we kind of play the part of SNL’s church lady, “Could it be Satan?!?” When really it is the church’s inability to employ the learning cycle *throughout* its enterprise. The institutional church paints itself into a corner time and again by refusing to admit we get it wrong, when that is the liberation we needed to formulate and execute course corrections that sustain better and more consistent positive outcomes. I would have more faith in the Q15 if they said, “Here is what we used to do…and we think that is wrong / no longer works / we have been working hard to better understand God’s will and want to propose a change…” Instead, evidently we can’t ever be wrong, which leads our highest leaders and members to stay on courses that often make matters worse. (You might counter and say that’s not true. After all, the church rescinded its gay marriage policy four years after it was implemented. The problem with that counterpoint is RMN never explained *why.* The opportunity for learning was blown because the church could have rescinded it for reasons other than the policy was wrong, in their view. *Devious chuckle,* “Maybe it was just a big Abrahamic test after all!” In my opinion, it could have been an incredibly positive inflection point had RMN treated us like adults and explained why, that they simply got it wrong and want to do better.)
To move off platitudes and offer some examples god could use in his next pitch to the sharks, I would suggest this. Families sold well post WWII, and we capitalized on that message. In fact we took it so far as to make it the center piece of our religious reason-for-being. Oops, we later discovered that in doing so we excluded half our adult members in our very country club, nuclear family-based religious culture. Realizing we have shut out this segment, we propose several changes to recapture divorced, widowed and single adult members and make our religious offering more appealing to single adults the world over. Not only that, we are going to do away with sad heaven and be really serious about our commitment to the idea of family by embracing gay temple marriage, doing away with worthiness interviews in their current form and open the aperture for all members to access the temples as a place of learning and renewal if they choose. Our next correction is to make full use of the women in our church–I know its embarrassing we have left half our adult talent pool untapped–by calling them to preside over local units, counsel members with full priesthood authority, and call them to senior leadership posts at the general level not to advise only but to lead as equal decision-makers in equal numbers alongside male counterparts. The last step in our reinvigoration plan is to convert our missionary force into trained service providers to the world as a part of a fully developed plan to provide clean water where it is scarce, build distribution channels for food where there is famine, provide elementary education where it lacks, and to promote peace among nations and peoples and reverence for our most sacred resource, planet earth. And to do this not just in response to an acute disaster, or on an ad hoc basis. We are actually going to make a global, century commitment to these initiatives. We won’t ask that recipients bind themselves to learning our religious teachings, but we will have gospel ministers, teachers, for those who wish to explore joining our congregations of humble worshipers.
I know, I know, this will really chafe those who believe real truth has to be restrictive and punitive because Mormon truth means we weed out, we prune the tree, we entrench in the narrowness of 19th century, provincial religious thinking instead of bring to the sharks something big and audacious…something actually worth investing in.
(To go big and be audacious, a few footnotes probably need to appear at the bottom of the proposal to the sharks. Like we’ll need a new eschatology. Since we don’t do theology in the Mormon church, I don’t think anyone will notice if we change to a happier how-the-world-ends narrative.)
On the question of whether there is a relationship between morality and religion. No. Especially not recently.
So the conservative right in America (which is also the religious right) believe in discriminating against gays, women, and transferring wealth to the already wealthy, and do believe in trump, who is their idea of an example of christlike morality. They do not believe democracy is the best form of government, they would prefer a dictatorship. This is their understanding of morality?
Christ values caring for the less fortunate, loving our neifgbour, discriminates against none of his children, and provides us all with his light that helps us each have basic morality.
If you look at most any metric of morality social democracies come out ahead of much more conservative America. Poverty, inequality, abortion rates, crime rates, murders, teen pregnancies, happiness.
Only republicans believe there is a relationship between their idea of religion, and morality.
Some of the comments & OP have reminded me / have me thinking about the *only* adult convert baptisms I’ve seen in my community in recent years both in Utah County and in SoCal when I lived there.
They are all men. Many strike me as somewhat broken men, many from difficult backgrounds. Some have married Mormon women. And I have to wonder for some of them if Mormonism provides them a sense of identity and purpose and community and, yes, power and authority.
I own this is 100% anecdotal and I may be wildly wrong and I’m fine with that but that’s my observation and I think it’s quite interesting. Dovetails with my other observation which is that my middle-aged female friends are leaving / disengaging in droves and their husbands are the ones who are more committed, which seems like the opposite of the way things were in the 80’s and 90’s when I was growing up when it seems that more women were dragging kids to church and men were less engaged.
So I guess you can add that to the shark tank pitch. We’re not doing great with women and young people anymore but doing OK with a middle aged men searching for a sense of identity!
@bigsky I agree with everything you said, but actually RMN did explain why the POX was rescinded.
(1) God told them to implement the POX in 2015 as revelation.
(2) Then they (church leaders) saw that it was hurting a lot of people, so they petitioned God to change it, and after four years God relented and revealed to them that they could change it.
So basically God was the bad guy and Nelson the hero rescued us from a short-sighted, petty, prejudiced God who was apparently too dumb to foresee the pain the POX would inflict or do anything about it with Nelson’s intervention.
So the leaders were never wrong. They are our saviors.
This is all explained in Nelson’s BYU devotional “the love and laws of God” which so happened to be the absolute final straw for my orthodoxy for the reasons laid out above and more.
Many of thr adult members disengaging with the LDS church after a decades of attendence are men. Some of us are on this blog. But I agree with part of your premise.
I think some of the males that remain in the church do so for the power leadership positions. They like to sit on the stand and have congratulatory pats on the back and have a title For men who want to attend church for spirituality, some are regonizing it is an empty shell. Some women remain for community so their kids have a teaching against teenage sex or drugs, but themselves are PIMO. Some men and women attending still are ” innocent”TBM.
Now my moment of observation, where I do not have data.
In the previous dedades the lds church grew fast in Latin America. In part due to poverty., but the church also attracted men who thrived under machismo in both their society and LDS church. Certain personalities, in all cultures, want attention they do not get at home or at work. But it was over reinforced in their society. Now Latin America is walking away from machismo, so less and less men are being taught such. Now Latin America has elected muliple female presidents and many countries legislators are higher percentage female than those in Europe.
However, in Sub-Saharan Africa machismo has been on the rise. Very few female presidents have been elected. I believe men with power personality traits are attracted to the LDS church; hence one reason for lds church growth (lagging all other churchs) in Sub-Saharan africa.
With correlation it forces God to present only 1 product to the sharks. No adapting for cultures. There is only the culture of (Utah) Christ. Not adjusting with society awakenings every decade. Maybe the sharks will let God comeback and do another presentation. If there are guest sharks like Kevin Hart, he may get a bite.
John Charity’s attitude on W&T mimics leadership: issue an edict, then disengage, not deigning to countenance the concerns & questions of underlings. This actually worked well before the Internet, conforming to “strong leader [man] “ evolutionary models of group formation & maintenance. Now it just seems arrogant & pointless. I believe mankind will eventually & positively adjust to the great social disruptions caused/enabled by the Net, but top-down entities like LDS Inc will either restructure or wither.
You all would be wise to remember the past when you claim that attacking religion does not harm society:
“ Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.”
“I could offer you a job as one of our regional managers”…that is a fabulous statement and actually prompts other thoughts like the pending publicity tour of the Washington DC temple, BOM musical, etc. Ten years ago I lived in Texas and things were very churchy there as well among pastors, megachurches etc. This is my favorite quote from a book about the afterlife and such experiences, “After” by Dr. Bruce Greyson, University of Virginia
One near-death vision (page 179) – “I was shown that religions are like jars of jelly – each jar has a different label put there by man. It is all jelly, it’s all sweet.”
@faith I agree. 100% there are tons of men leaving too and I also agree with your observations on sub-Saharan Africa (which also for people’s comments about the church growing where it already fits the culture). In my personal bubble it’s a trend that women are out and their husbands stay in and that’s largely over social justice issues. But that probably a reflection of my personal bubble.
@juls I don’t think you understand what the Holocaust was about, like, at all. Literally no one here is going after Mormons as individuals. I think you are misunderstanding. It’s a ridiculous comparison.
Enjoyed the satire. Nice job.
Perhaps the basic problem is viewing the church’s ministry through the lens of a business model: What are the products, services, and benefits offered by the church? You can change the content but it’s still consumerism. An alternate would be a discipleship model: How can the church develop and empower disciples of Christ who are in relationship with God, one another, and all of creation? Coincidentally, this morning I preached in my CofC congregation using the lectionary passage of Luke 4:14-21. This is where Jesus returns home to the Nazareth synagogue and reads from the scroll of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me….” The quoted passages are snippets from Second Isaiah’s “Servant Songs,” dating to the post-exilic era. The lectionary further pairs this scripture with Paul’s metaphor of the various parts of the body in I Corinthians 12. Together they paint a compelling picture of what ministry should be.
The all-too-obvious question is: Do you want a church that’s a corporation or a faith community?
@elisa, thanks for the clarification on RMN’s BYU address. Somehow I missed that and I kind of wish even now I didn’t know about it! So discouraging. I guess it reinforces the point I was making despite my not having full facts.
I know it’s tangential to the OP but since it was brought up:
Studies show a positive correlation between nations’ secularization and their levels of prosperity, freedom, and peacefulness. Conversely, the most religious nations have the highest rates of violent crime, infant mortality, etc. This holds true across US states as well. So no, religion is not all that stands between society and chaos.
Studies also show, however, that individuals across the globe report higher levels of personal satisfaction and happiness if they are religiously active. This supports my anecdotal findings from my own life in that since distancing myself from the church, I feel more awake to the plight of the marginalized and I have (allegedly) become a more egalitarian and empathetic husband but I’m also more isolated, depressed, and less confident about the future than I was when I was a believer (though that could also be the pandemic talking). I really wish church didn’t suck. I miss it but it’s not a healthy place for me right now.
To Elisa’s point: in Brazil my mission would baptize about 400 people a month, mostly women and children. Baptizing a man was a more difficult feat but since they were necessary to build up leadership for a branch they were top priority and would bring additional glory, laud, and honor if you baptized one. Men in Brazil—at least in the region and time period I served in—had a real problem with machismo and responsibility. I taught a woman whose husband traveled back and forth between two separate families without committing to either one of them. The men I did baptize, though, really benefitted from the lifestyle change (at least it seemed that way to me at the time). They overcame addictions and gained community and a sense of purpose and responsibility. They were still perpetuating a sexist society, granted. But I think the church may have appealed to the women of that place and time, I think, because the church was less misogynistic than the surrounding culture. But that wouldn’t necessarily be true of the church in post-me-too America.
Juls: And who is it that came for the Jews? Hint, it wasn’t the godless/churchless.
Kirkstall: Your anecdotal finding resonates completely with me. I feel the same: happy to be out, and a better advocate for the hands that hang down in despair, but somewhat lonely. There was a local thrive event yesterday I wanted to attend so badly to maybe find a new community but as a CPA it’s that time of year when I just couldn’t spare the time away. “I miss it but it’s not a healthy place for me right now” pretty much sums it up. I guess to be the change I’m looking for, if anyone’s here in Orange County CA, I’d love to meet you in person!
To Elisa’s point, men have been wishy-washy members for decades with minimal overall impact. But it’s the women leaving that are making the waves now. And when the women leave, they take the kids with them (mostly because they are leaving because of the kids). It’s the women that will ultimately make the church face a day of reckoning.
Kirkstall, I too served in Brazil and have similar impressions. I was in the northeast in the poorest state in Brazil, Alagoas. Machismo prevailed less in the church than in the wider low class northeastern culture. Most baptisms were woman and children indeed. Men were rare. Common in the culture was males hanging out with their buddies, drinking cachaca (the most popular alcoholic drink in Brazil), and watching soccer on Sundays at the local bar (shirts were optional) while their wives managed the kids at home. Church attendance (not just of the Mormon church but the many evangelical churches) was marketed to males as learning how to put your life in order and stop being a deadbeat. I saw great changes happen in the lives of many males where I served, and for the better.
Interesting comment from Elisa. Demographics have a lot to do with it, I think. The ratio of single women to single men in the church is severely imbalanced towards women.
I agree with what everyone is saying about males and females in the church. In areas where the Church’s roles for men are better in some ways than the local culture than the Church is an improvement. What we are seeing now is that I think in some areas Church is kinda worse. Culture has moved on to a more egalitarian (and pro-lgbtq) model and Church has stayed more rigid and patriarchal so women are saying no thanks whereas in other cultures women have benefitted from a church culture that asked men to be better fathers and stop drinking etc. I think this gets back to the heart of the issue – that the Church remains stagnant and stuck. Sure, there is and was a lot of good, but there’s a lot of not-good. The Church refuses to let go of the not-good even as that has stopped serving it long ago in the US and many other western nations.
I’m grossly overgeneralizing so many things. Someone with actual expertise in this area should look at it more closely!
👍👍 for the good job OP. Very clever.
👎👎 for commenters comparing satire to the Holocaust. Bad form.
Very humorous post! I’ve always questioned the very small membership numbers when compared to the world population. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that the church is one small (but important) piece of the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of God includes most(possibly all) religions and covers the entire earth.
One interesting observation, if I may. As a newcomer to this blog, I’ve recently gone back and read a lot of the posts going back for years. From my perspective, it seems like a lot of the posts and comments used to have the tone of, “The church is quirky and flawed, but here’s how I’m navigating it in a nuanced way.” And over time there has been a gradual shift to more of the posts and comments having a tone of “The church is not good and here’s why I left/you should leave.”
Has it seemed that way to anyone else? Not saying this is good or bad/justified or unjustified. Just curious if it’s my imagination or not.
Apparently RMN gave a pep talk to European saints today.
aporetic1, I can’t speak for anybody else here, but I would say that for about the last five years, I’ve been inching more steadily towards the door. I like some folks in my ward and consider them friends, but that’s about all that I’ve got going now. My kids are out of the church, my partner’s believe is more nuanced, and the church’s stance on LGBTQ , its own past and the host of issues regarding women, coupled with the damage that I feel the church has caused to especially its most vulnerable, has made me cross the line from a sort of cranky believer to a disaffected skeptic.
The other big realization for me was that a lot of people who attend my ward, at least, seem to be going through the motions and don’t really offer compelling reasons why they go to church (at least the ones with whom I feel comfortable enough to have those conversations). And while I try very hard to be charitable to those who seem to truly believe, over the past decade, I’ve gone from viewing them as amazing, faithful people to feeling sorry for them that they are so deluded. Again, that’s not a charitable thing to think and that’s my own fault and in large part due to my own unhelpful cynicism, but that’s just what I’m feeling these days.
And of course much of this, as some other folks on the blog may also attest, is the readily available amounts of information available now about the church and its history that aren’t “official” sources, but are actually more likely to be factually accurate than the spin and gaslighting we get from the church (see Elisa’s comment about RMN’s defense of the POX and the change, e.g.). So it’s been a long time coming, but I don’t really have much time or energy for church anymore. As a few folks have mentioned, I’m less happy, but more aware and more at peace, if that makes sense.
aporetic1, I believe my bark is worse than my bite. I still attend from time to time, and even taught EQ 2 weeks ago. (see the Back of My Hand post). I hope to write my posts such that if anybody in my ward read them, they would not be blown away, but would say “Wow, he has some interesting ideas.” As far as I know, nobody in my ward reads W&T, and even if they did would not know me as Biship Bill
Oh wow, didn’t catch the Holocaust comparison. So offensive. So ignorant. Bear in mind that what anti-Semites criticize and have criticized Jews about isn’t their religious beliefs (many Jews today are irreligious), it is their perceived connectedness on the basis of culture and DNA. Hatred is directed against their ethnic identity more than their religious identities. Mormons are connected really only through belief and culture, not DNA. If I proclaim myself atheist, I sort of stop being Mormon. I’m not someoneother Mormons would consider Mormon, nor am I probably going to identify as Mormon. Such is not the case with Jews. A Jew who says their atheist is still going to be seen as Jewish by other Jews and self-identify as Jew on the basis of DNA. Massive difference.
Making fun of religious beliefs is and always has been fair game. Making fun of ethnic groups has never been ok.
Being new to “Wheat and Tares” I am having a difficult time reading and understanding the comments as there are several abbreviations used in reference to church groups, organizations and LDS leaders. Is there anyone out there who is able to furnish definitions for these abbreviations?
It would be very helpful to me and possibly others to better understand the comments section.
Some men stay in the church NOT for authority, titles, and pats on the back. Some stay in the church and are satisfied being called to less-prominent positions in the church their entire lives. Some stay in the church and have come from great childhoods and are not broken or searching for purpose in life. Some men stay in the church and teach their families morals and good living by their example and their words. Some stay in the church and pay tithes and offerings without the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing. Some men stay in the church and actually give their best, honest effort to help and serve those in their family and community. So while there are men who stay in the church for the reasons some of you have listed above, there are plenty who stay for nobler reasons. I’m sure you all know men like that in your current or past wards. Hooray for these men!! 🙂
The same could be said for women, but some of the posts above were specifically about men staying or leaving, so I followed suit,
aporetic1, my experience is similar to Blue Sky. Over the last five years, the internet, the retrenchment against the marginalized, and our own leaders divisive language about musket fire and name calling (covenant breakers, lazy disciples) has moved me from someone hoping to stay and wait for/enact change to someone who just can’t anymore. When those you love most finally have the courage to tell you how the church makes them feel broken just for being alive, it awakes the dragon inside. And because I want to honor the experiences of family and friends who still believe, this platform is my opportunity to vent. Thank you all for making me feel welcome here. It’s an understatement to call it a lifeline.
@bwbarnett – to be clear, I was speaking specifically about adult convert men in SoCal and Utah over the last ten years. I was *not* talking about men who were already members who’ve stayed. Of course I know a ton of men who stay in the church for exactly the reasons you’ve listed. But the adult men I’ve seen *join* through missionary work have often been men with quite a bit of baggage (and for that reason had a hard time integrating into wards). Men who already have good families and careers and fulfilling lives are not flocking to the Church that I’ve seen but yes, many have stayed, including many of my friends and family members. So I certainly wasn’t suggesting that the only men sticking around at church are doing so for power trips.
@aporetic1, ditto to what others have said. I’ve only hung around on this blog for the last year or two so can’t speak to its particular evolution, but my experience and observation among friends and family is that the last five years saw an acceleration from nuanced participation in the Church to disengagement and more strident criticism. Many reasons for that. Lots of people simply left after the POX in November 2015 and those of us who stuck around hoped to see some improvement but keep seeing a lot of steps backward, even in connection with its semi-reversal (I say semi because folks, it wasn’t really reversed), along with a lot of what the other commenters have mentioned and the $100B news, bizarre first conference during the pandemic, etc etc. Personally I am also a huge not-fan of Nelson and Oaks, 2018 was a pretty big turning point for me with their ascendency, and the Trump years and pandemic have also caused a lot of division and alienation for folks.
Fwiw I do still participate, have a calling, went today, etc, and like others this blog is a safe space to vent and discuss without offending believing friends and family and neighbors. I actually love most Mormons and think local participation is great. It’s the corporation institution that is deeply problematic and that I think we generally discuss here.
Re: staying in the Church, the “shelf-breaking” metaphor is overused, but Holland’s musket talk broke mine. Since 2015, I had resigned myself to staying in the Church and working for change from the inside. Holland was actually the one I was pinning my hopes on – when Nelson and Oaks and Ballard are gone, surely Holland would be the one with the compassion and vision to reverse course on our LGBTQ exclusion. In that talk, Holland made it clear that his goal is to shine the Church’s turds as brightly as possible rather than flush them. It was then I realized decisively that I’m on my way out.
And yet I’m not out. I don’t anticipate making a big stink about it, but my wife and I are likely to drift into inactivity in our golden years. I’m PIMO at this point.
Thanks for the responses as always. This reminds me of the comments in the post entitled “Falsifiable” a couple of weeks ago. There was a discussion about whether most people who leave the church turn vicious, or leave quietly.
I gather that this seems to be a meeting place for a number of people who have left quietly, where they can express their thoughts to people who will understand. As well as being a place for people who are still in the church, where they can hear and share different ideas and perspectives. And anyone in-between or outside who also wants to participate.
I’m honestly fascinated by the posts and discussions that I find here. To me it seems to be a fun little corner of the internet where people are sharing controversial topics and disagreeing with each other while still being civil (super rare). Kudos to those who participate for posting and commenting with thoughtful and intelligent ideas
Regarding @aporetic1 comment on the ideology drift of this site…
I think I perceived the drift, and watched it as it happened. But ironically, my own shift in views happened faster and on a grander scale. When I first started lurking here I was a true and total believer and mostly came by to see what the more liberal and less literal members thought. It was frequently too far outside the mainstream of the church for my tastes. I lurked without commenting for a long time, multiple years I think. By the time I started commenting my views had mostly shifted and quickly found that my beliefs were and are farther from the mainstream of the church.
I value this blog and community partly because of the spectrum of views. It seems like there is a gap right now in the spectrum of belief that isn’t represented. I agree with commenters above that the 2015 exclusion policy seems to have been the trigger for a massive change for a lot of people. Many of the “nuanced” or “middle way” posters and commenters do not show up here as much as they did in times past. So now we see many comment threads like this one that have a wide divide in the responses between people that defend the church and those that see the humor of the post. I could name several folks that used to post and comment here that represented a nuanced view, and they just don’t participate much anymore.
This OP seems to have really hit a nerve with a a certain faction of believers. I’m not sure why. The issues discussed here are discussed all the time, so it must be the tone or humor that triggered the sensitive responses. I’m not opposed to criticizing the OP; I just think that the comments that “they are a coming for you” are way off base.
I went through the post and comments and here’s what I found that I haven’t run into elsewhere:
TBM- true blue Mormon, true believing Mormon (lots of variations exist)
Q15- the Quorum of the 15, i.e. the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12
RMN- Russell M. Nelson
POX- the policy of exclusion, i.e. the policy regarding same-sex marriage and the baptism of children of LGBTQ parents that was enacted in Nov. 2015 and kinda sorta rescinded a few years later
PIMO- physically in, mentally out
BOM- Book of Mormon
EQ- Elders Quorum
Everything else is pretty common outside of this forum, I think. Anything else that you aren’t sure about?
geraldo121, “Is there anyone out there who is able to furnish definitions for these abbreviations? It would be very helpful to me and possibly others to better understand the comments section.”
I put together a list of common acronyms and abbreviations. Hopefully this helps! https://wheatandtares.org/common-acronyms-abbreviations/
On ideological drift, I have long frequented the Mormon blogosphere (since the mid 2000s), although I had only occasionally stopped by Wheat and Tares until just a couple of years ago when I became a regular. Before, my blogs of choice were Times and Seasons and By Common Consent, and I used to perceive Wheat and Tares as similar to those blogs. However, I had such intense spats with the permas on other blogs (often over Book of Mormon historicity) that they banned me. What I found here is a group of middle-pathers who don’t fully believe but still attend church, who also tend politically liberal (with a few libertarians and non-liberals, but with mostly civil conversation). You can talk about your disbelief here and not have perma-bloggers with overly inflated egos, such as Steve Evans, J. Stapley, Nathaniel Givens, and Jonathan Green resort to childish name-calling and hyperventilative and defensive bouts of cognitive dissonance simply because you make a cogent argument as to why Joseph Smith probably wrote the Book of Mormon or why the church leaders and its culture are homophobic.
I think that Wheat and Tares has discovered/carved out a niche of a very specific kind of Mormons (who are no doubt a growing population) and does important work and entertains conversations that many other Mormon blogs don’t and won’t (often for fear of apologist and believer backlash). There’s nothing else quite like it. Keep doing what you do.
JCS = Wayne *wink* “For now we see as through a sock, darkly.” 1 Corinthians 13:12
Bishop Bill: This satiric piece made me laugh. I have never really watched Shark Tank, but I feel like I get the gist of it now. It made me think what would be different if this were written about the original Jesus movement of 30 AD. There are some real differences to things your piece mentioned, particularly: 1) the competitive landscape, 2) investment / return on membership, 3) there was no subscription per se, but more of a socialist compound, right?, 4) the uniqueness of the message was very innovative, especially compared to both polytheism and Judaism. It was a provocative game-changer. And maybe that’s why Christianity really did take over so much of the world while the Greek and Roman gods were abandoned.
@aporetic1: I think many feel like the Church has left them rather than the other way around. Like others, I attend, but honestly I could take it or leave it under the current leadership regime, in a post-Trump world, with a pandemic happening, and with my adult kids finding it completely irrelevant to them. What’s there for me that I can’t get a better version of on my own? That’s a queston I have to ask myself regularly. I do miss the days of the ward feeling like a family, being supportive in hard times, and laughing together while we raised our kids. Those days are apparently gone.
The fact that the Church has moved on doesn’t bother me. Times change. It’s the direction they’ve gone that’s disconcerting. The emphasis on genealogy, work for the dead, and temple construction. The attitude toward the LGBTQ community. The lack of female leadership at the top. Hoarding tithing money. Etc.
Instead, of work for the dead, many of us would like to see massively increased assistance for the global poor. Pres. Monson set the stage by adding a forth mission (helping the poor). Unfortunately, the Q15 have dropped the ball. Only Sister Eubanks seems to understand.
The Church has the human and financial resources to help the world’s poor. Instead, we are constructing extravagant temples.
From a typical non acronym user – LMAO! This blog post may seem sacrilegious to many but it was so accurate. I commented on the recent ‘taboo’ post about how I brought up a statement in SS a few years back that God’s plan wasn’t really working that well. Bishop Bill – your post was so creative and brilliant. The writing in these blogs is always interesting and stimulating.
And regarding the question and comments about why some of us are still hanging around the fringes of Mormonism if we’re more or less out the door – my response would be similar to what has been better expressed by others. It’s just such a huge comfort and reassuring to find like-minded people out there. I don’t think I can ever go back to how things were. At this time I’m having constant conversations with myself as to whether to renew my TR so that I can attend a grandson’s wedding in the spring. Its complicated and I don’t feel I can be an authentic ally to our LGBTQ. friends by doing so. And I agree with @Roger Hanson that we spend far too much time on the dead and temples than on what’s needed for the here and now. It all seems like a huge distraction.
I know I harp on this, but @Roger Hansen’s observations aren’t just those of the middle-aged jaded folks. My kids are recognizing those issues on their own. They are confused why they see fancy temples popping up everywhere in Utah County while there are homeless people in our towns and they are saving their pennies to donate to cancer research. I constantly find myself trying to defend religion to them (seriously, I know, shocking since I’m the opposite here but really) but at ten years old they find it immoral that a religion would spend money on beautiful buildings instead of helping people (and they aren’t fond of the discrimination lessons, either).
It seems that as young sharks, they’re already saying “And for that reason, I’m out.”
Just gonna leave this here…
Per Church News re: Nelson Europe broadcast yesterday, paraphrased – President Nelson (added) that today the Lord has indicated His optimism for the future of Europe by directing that new temples be constructed in Oslo, Brussels, and Vienna.
^ Those were announced in the April 2021 conference, I think.
My point is that, for better or for worse, we are led by a 97 year old optimist who has never viewed Shark Tank – here are some additional quotes from his remarks.
President Nelson asked Latter-day Saints who have questions to put in the effort, ask the Lord, and seek for answers. “The Holy Ghost will testify to you—and to every sincere seeker of truth — that the gospel is true.”
Then he pleaded with the congregation to “stay focused on what you do know.”
“The magnificent breadth of what the Lord has revealed and the spiritual knowledge He has already given us far outweigh any gaps in our present understanding…,” he said. “Having questions does not mean that you don’t have a testimony. If you know that Jesus is the Christ and that His gospel has been restored, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that prophets walk the earth today, you have a testimony.”
He asked the congregation to “lead out in the gathering of Israel.”
“I invite you to remember this truth: you are perfectly positioned to find the children of Israel who are living in or are coming to Europe. Share the priceless message that can lead them to eternal life.”
@Chet, he may be an optimist but I think it’s actually two things going on.
First, Nelson is a narcissist who wants to be the BEST prophet and beat (the Satanic, Mormon-embracing) Hinckley by building (well, *announcing*) the most temples. He also wants to project success by building temples to cover up the fact that there actually is no growth, and spend some of that $100B. It’s such a charade. Yes, I think he genuinely likes temple work, I’m not saying it’s in bad faith, but I also think it’s pretty convenient and self-serving.
Second, I’m not sure he’s an optimist so much as he is a fundamentalist who thinks Jesus is coming any day now to rescue Church leaders from their mismanagement of Church history, membership, and funds. They are just white-knuckling it until the Second Coming.
I’m serious. I was absolutely baffled at why leadership continues to resist changes that might cause some short-term pain but would create long-term sustainability for the Church because they have the data about why people are leaving and they aren’t stupid. When it finally got through my thick skull that Nelson is an absolute fundamentalist and believes in a literal Second Coming and a literal gathering of Israel that is going to happen very soon, I realized that they don’t care about the long-term future of the Church or the planet and they won’t do anything that would cause any short-term issues because they are only thinking short-term. They are hanging on for dear life temporarily and then Jesus will rescue everyone.
A belief in the literal Second Coming of a Jesus who will rescue us from our failure to take responsibility for our choices is so problematic and we’re seeing that unfold before our eyes. Part of why religious belief is definitely not essential for and is in some ways antithetical to actual moral behavior. Depending on the belief, it can just people to abdicate responsibility.
So yeah Sharks – not a good long-term investment.
Well said as usual, Elisa. I think the post and most comments here remind us of just how “myopic” the vision of our leaders is.
Can’t wait for the comments in Sunday School when we talk about the vision of the Second Coming given to Enoch (Joseph Smith).
Very well said, Elisa, but on one tiny detail here there is something that I think is not correct, and it’s not correct in a way that makes Elisa’s point even more salient.
I have no real evidence for this, but it is my belief that the church is not dipping at all into it’s $100 billion ( probably 140 billion, by now, but who’s counting) investment fund to build temples. My understanding is temples are built using tithing funds and that the investment funds are kept separate from tithing funds. The whistle blower that blew the lid on the Ensign Peak investment fund listed the past instances when the church dipped into those funds and temples were not part of that.
When explaining the need for the investment portfolio, there are multiple explanations, but some folks cite the troubles preceding the second coming… hat tip to Elisa regarding how a belief in a literal second coming (and the events surrounding the second coming) may distort moral choices about how resources are to be used.
@rockwell, yes. I should have said “appear to spend” the $100B. Basically everyone knows now that the Church is unfathomably rich, so rich members are uncomfortable with it, so building temples is a way to look like the money’s being put to better use than GameStop. Even though it’s not because the Church is literally unfathomably rich.
I’m still truly baffled at how they think the money will be useful in the Second Coming. While I don’t envision a Second Coming the same way RMN does, if I did, I have a pretty different view of how Jesus would react to “would you like that $140B in check or cash?”
For I was naked and ye clothed me, etc etc.
This just isn’t hard.
@Elisa: re. the Church’s wealth
Perhaps my sensibilities are off, but the U.S. financial system itself that sustains the Church’s accumulation of such vast, untaxed wealth strikes me as immoral. Consider the tax regime and weak consumer and labor protection laws that over the past fifty years have transferred so much wealth from the bottom to the top of our society. Do laws and policies not oppress the hirelings of their wages? Is this not an intrinsically immoral system when it fosters the accumulation rather than the deployment of wealth?
Perhaps the stewards of this idle (or should it be “idol”) wealth say to themselves: we’re simply doing that which is permissible. That may be so, but there is much in our fallen world that is both permissible and immoral. The stewards might also say: how else should we oversee the Church’s sacred funds except through careful financial management using the tools available to us? All that and more may be true, but does the Savior, the true fount of morality, truly need such morally tainted wealth? I doubt it.
Maybe there is no morally untainted way for the Church to manage its wealth, but to stand on the sidelines (as measured by our potential) of so much need is patently immoral. To say nothing when so many of our own people espouse untruth is immoral. Therein, to borrow an idea from Hannah Arendt, lies the true banality of immorality: one doesn’t not need to be immoral per se to foster immorality.
@phr yes I do think the system is immoral for many of the reasons you’ve mentioned.
I’m late to the party, but I just want to say thanks to Bishop Bill for a hilariously spot on post, and to all the commenters who wrote such an interesting discussion! As a long-time reader (but mostly just lurker), it makes me happy to see folks like aporetic1 showing up and finding what a cool place this is! Also, Elisa, I especially love your comment about RMN’s short-term view of the impending Second Coming. That does make a lot of sense now that you explain it that way, and I admit that I’m sure it didn’t really occur to me before because it just seems out of touch to me to think that Jesus will actually be back shortly (or ever). Thanks for articulating that!