User:Seanmcox/Suspect Doctrine List

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Brigham Young once expressed that one of the greatest challenges facing the church was to root out the incorrect traditions which are brought into the church by the new members. At his time, as in our day the church's vitality came through new members and in our ancestry, all of us come from a foundation of new members. Consequently we are all affected by this problem.

I've noted a few common beliefs which I suspect to be false. These range from relatively innocuous to dangerous, and I've been beginning to think, as the list has grown, that I would do well to record the list and my thoughts, so far as I can remember them.

This is not a comprehensive false doctrine list. There are infinitely many false doctrines. rather, this is a list of doctrines that I have particularly noted as being suspect, widespread, and relatively unchecked.

Right Hand Rule

There is an unwritten rule among some members that the sacrament is to be taken with the right hand, and never the left. This is the first suspect doctrine I can ever recall being made aware of, and it was pointed out to me by my mother long ago. Years later, while on my mission, I discovered this doctrine being taught in Portugal, by one of the few bishops in the mission. I brought this up with my Mission President, and was shocked to discover that he too was a believer in this doctrine. (Now that I think back on it, I think it not unlikely that he might have spread it around Portugal himself.)

I did a lot of research after speaking with my Mission President, and I found no mention in scripture neither of the hand that ought to be used when taking the sacrament nor even of any particular hand incidentally used in taking the sacrament.

Searching outside the scriptures, I could only find one resource on the issue, that being an answer on the subject written by Elder Nelson for the Ensign, wherein he gave it as his own preference to use his right hand in taking the sacrament as being an action of some symbolic import in his view. He gives some allegorical foundation for his perspective and after much ado ends without really having answered the question. I'm not sure there was anything better that could have been done in his position.

My mother-in-law also recalled having heard somebody mention taking the sacrament with their right hand in a movie she saw in the Joseph Smith Memorial building. I cannot cite it however, and it didn't sound authoritative or even prescriptive.

Strictly speaking, the ordinance of the sacrament is well defined in its essentials, and it is nowhere given that using the right hand is a part of the ordinance. It is, however, an ordinance, and ordinances have more to them than essentials. Reverence dictates what reverence dictates, and it appears that some have found that adding the formalism of using the right hand enhances the experience for them. I personally do not understand it, but others can do as they like. However, inasmuch as the practice has, in some circles, become a doctrine, dictated and enforced, I do chafe at the prescription.

If the point of the action is to enhance the personal experience of the individual, by means of the mysterious symbolism which the individual perceives in the act, I find it to be a minor abuse to start prescribing the act on others who view things differently. A Bishop, I consider, has authority to make the request, and so does a parent, but make no pretense that the request is due to there being any general and long-standing revealed necessity to take the sacrament with the right hand. There simply is none. Either take the credit for the revelation or demand yourself, or don't make it, for I have seen that it becomes a burden to some and it has a real potential to distract from the real meaning of the sacrament rather than enhance it.

Regarding the source of this doctrine, I have been given to understand that there was a concern in the mid- to early 1900s that the sacrament wasn't being taken seriously enough, so the Church started experimenting with introducing extra formalisms to the ordinance in order to induce people to treat the ordinance with more respect. I have been told that different wards and stakes had different practices prescribed, and, after a period of experimentation, something akin to the modern policies and practices on how to administer the sacrament were prescribed. However, the old experimental practices did not all die out, and the right hand rule seems to be the major holdout from this old period of experimentation.

Folded Arms and Bowed Heads

I was very surprised one day to see a question once on the origin of the practice of folding arms and bowing heads during prayer among the LDS. I had always thought this was practiced by other churches as well for private prayer. However, a little research quickly showed that I was wrong in this supposition and a little more research failed to turn up a scriptural source for the practice. Unsatisfied, I kept looking and finally found a plausible suggestion for the schism; Primary.

As children we are taught to fold our arms and bow our heads in primary. This is not because there is any mandate from heaven for us to do so, but because it helps to keep rowdy young children under control during prayer. It strongly facilitates order among children almost universally. It's not too bad for adults either and it helps for us to set such an example for children that will facilitate their orderliness and thoughtfulness during prayer.

It is, however, not a mandate.

Where We Turn for Truth

There is, fairly clearly, a hierarchy of sources of truth in the gospel, and one problem that often occurs is that we often, in the church, get that mixed up.

Here's the hierarchy:

3) Scriptures
2) Prophets
1) Holy Ghost

Here, Scriptures are the least authoritative, or direct, or "living" source of truth, and the Holy Ghost is the most authoritative, direct, or "living" source of truth. (Maybe a personal visit from the entire Godhead would rank higher as a source 0.)

"The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching"

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 191

The Scriptures Have the Answers to All Our Questions

Brigham Young famously endorsed the importance of prophets by declaring "I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books."(

Joseph Smith endorsed this view, following up Brigham's remarks by saying "Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth". Of course, that doesn't mean that you can't find all the answers in the Scriptures. After all, perhaps prophets are just more practical. However, there are several things to keep in mind. First, what do we mean by scripture? Different groups of people have different ideas about that, and the idea that the scriptures have all the answers is not unique to Mormon culture.

Consider the 9th article of faith:

"We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."

As if to emphasize (I think intentionally) the incompleteness of the scriptural record, this declaration followed directly after a declaration of our belief in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The incompleteness of our scriptural record is a matter that has been clearly described on multiple occasions. The importance of having the help of the Holy Ghost to help us answer our personal and individual questions is also something that has been clearly declared. Why then should we exaggerate the importance of the scriptures (which I think are immensely important) by declaring something so absurd as that they have the answers to all of our questions? We absolutely shouldn't, but nevertheless this is done so regularly that it has become an unofficial article of faith.

When challenged, people will couch their claim by stating that, well, what they mean is that it can answer all the moral questions we need answered in our personal lives? However, I would still be inclined to challenge, "can they really"? Perhaps, but I'm not sure what source there is that can back up even for that claim. The scriptures are wonderful, but they are a dead and woefully incomplete record of how the Lord helped specific peoples with their moral problems. The Book of Mormon at least, was intended to be read by us today, but as a dead record speaking to a broad audience, does such a small book really answer all of our moral dilemmas? I know that I, personally, have had great trouble gaining deep mental health insights from this wonderful book. No, I think that for greater power, greater directness, and additional answers, a living source is needed.

I expect the source of this suspect doctrine is converts clinging to the ideas they were taught in their dead sects that lacked prophets or a tradition of accepting and seeking personal revelation.

The Mormon Pope

There is an idea circulating that when the prophet acts in the office of his calling, he is infallible. There are several influences that promote this doctrine. The main reason the doctrine exists is as a correction to the false notion that a prophet is absolutely infallible and always walks around repeating articulate communications from the spirit, and that perfectly. This false notion is something of a straw man set up by our enemies to "prove" by their prejudice, that prophets are dangerous and thus should not exist, or to prove that our prophets are not real prophets, or to prove some other such nonsense which this ridiculous swindle might appear to prove.

The reality is that a prophet is human just like anyone else, and is therefore prone to err just like anyone else, except that he does have a well above average understanding of the gospel and a close connection with the spirit. In addition he has keys and authority to act administratively in the church as well as special blessings to aid him in his teaching and other responsibilities. These things make a prophet very reliable, but not at all infallible. In reality, we as members of the church are not bound to believe anything the prophet says, although we are bound to conform to administrative policy. Rather when the prophet speaks, we hear and we rely on the spirit to help us discern the truth. We generally trust the prophets words more readily and do well in so doing, but even the prophet is not free from the scriptural promise that "by the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every thing be established". We all have the right to a personal witness. So, if the prophet asks me to kill a modern Laban and it doesn't make sense to me, I can ask, and I have the right to independent confirmation of something that seems so bizarre. (Since he's a prophet, I would do well to ask rather than just assume he's wrong.)

Rather than respond with this correction, I have generally heard members respond with a description of a Mormon Pope.

"According to the teaching of the First Vatican Council and Catholic tradition, the conditions required for ex cathedra teaching are as follows:

1. "the Roman Pontiff"
2. "speaks ex cathedra" ("that is, when in the discharge of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, and by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority….")
3. "he defines"
4. "that a doctrine concerning faith or morals"
5. "must be held by the whole Church" (Pastor Aeternus, chap. 4) [1]

In particular, people speak of phrases such as "thus saith the Lord" and obtuse conditions such as "acting in his office" and other such things, all of which is complete nonsense. A prophet does not have to say "thus saith the Lord" and if you're waiting for it, you're going to miss a lot. In addition, there's no way to determine if a prophet is "acting in his office", so it becomes a rather useless criterion. I have particularly heard many discussions regarding how to tell if a prophet is "acting in his office"... all nonsense. A prophet is always a prophet. He never really gets to put his office down.

I wonder somewhat if perhaps this explanation comes from Catholic converts or simply individuals who have been exposed to this papal infallibility idea. It is probably a mixture of the two.

Another point that often confuses people here is Official Declaration 1 in the Doctrine and Covenants, wherein Wilford Woodruff states:

"The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty."

This sounds a lot like he's saying prophets can't be wrong in certain circumstances. However, if you consider The Standard of Truth it is not hard to see that Wilford Woodruff's statement is really nothing new. The Standard of Truth states:

"The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; . . . the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done."

Has Wilford Woodruff said much more than this? No. Rather he has stated more particularly that the Standard of Truth applies even to prophets. Even the hallowed hand cannot stop the work, though, it may make mistakes.

See also:

Never Question Your Leaders

This one is related to the Mormon Pope doctrine. If we consider our leaders to be infallible, then it might make sense to believe that we should never question our leaders. Quite to the contrary, Brigham Young once stated:

What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.

Brother Joseph W. Young remarked this morning that he wished the people to receive the word of the Lord through his servants, be dictated by them, and have no will of their own. I would express it in this wise: God has placed within us a will, and we should be satisfied to have it controlled by the will of the Almighty. Let the human will be indomitable for right....

Let all persons be fervent in prayer, until they know the things of God for themselves and become certain that they are walking in the path that leads to everlasting life; then will envy, the child of ignorance, vanish, and there will be no disposition in any man to place himself above another; for such a feeling meets no countenance in the order of heaven. Jesus Christ never wanted to be different from his father: they were and are one. If a people are led by the revelations of Jesus Christ, and they are cognizant of the fact through their faithfulness, there is no fear but they will be one in Christ Jesus, and see eye to eye.[1]

See also:

The Lord's Servants Don't Accept Feedback (and It's Better That Way)

Occasionally, in my callings, I will have to deal with Church Headquarters. Some of the people at church headquarters seem to think themselves rather special. They seem to adopt the Mormon Pope philosophy, along with Never Question Your Leaders, and then take it a step further. They canonize every manual a committee was ever commissioned to create. They canonize every policy statement. Not only is the prophet infallible, and leaders beyond question or reproach, but the obscure committees at church headquarters, the clerks, and the software developers, are all driven 100% by revelation, which revelation is so pure that hearing feedback from someone who is confused by a user interface or by a policy statement is unnecessary, unhelpful, and certainly heretical. "How dare you think to suggest a feature! Do you not realize that it doesn't work like that? We're so busy handling the flow of information from the divine that the information you provided couldn't possibly even work its way into the data stream, let alone be noticed by anyone amidst all the glorious light. Information only flows from the Lord down."

In this vein of thinking, suggesting an improvement to something as mundane as MLS is tantamount to trying to steady the ark. It is heretical. It shows that you don't understand how things work in the Lord's database management team and are clearly corrupted with false doctrine.

This is not just a Salt Lake thing, but that is the context in which I have encountered this problem the most.

Sure, the Church will not fall apart without my suggestion. (It may even be a bad suggestion.) However, the church won't fall apart if young men fail to serve missions, or if I don't hold family home evening either. Only a fool claims to be receiving revelation to command their leaders in how they lead the church, but similarly, only a fool thinks that there is no benefit served to participating, sharing ideas, and providing perspective.

In reality, this bizarre ill-defined no-feedback doctrine probably stems from a number of different influences.

First, there are plenty of de-facto apostates who thing it is their mission to "fix" the church. The church isn't "broken" in any fundamental sense, it is just full of quirky people who are pretty much all messed up somehow, because they're people. Our assurance in this dispensation is that the Church will remain functional and on course until Christ returns. Hence, stay with the body of the Church. However, this doesn't mean that every single policy statement from every single committee will be clear or even ideal, even if reviewed by the First Presidency, because, hey, they're not infallible. Nevertheless, they won't run the ship into the ground, so don't get too excited. Still, you, personally, might be affected in a bad way, so giving some feedback could be valuable. You might learn something, (like what your leader actually intended) and your leader (gasp) might learn something. The critics of feedback don't seem to have noticed that Apostles are regularly using material submitted to them by regular members to supplement their teaching. (Some of it is even written in an FYI form! Gasp!) Did Emma's complaint not precipitate the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom? To discount the value of any feedback seems like a knee-jerk reaction to apostates trying to save the already safe ship.

Second, people don't care about your suggestion and your suggestion probably isn't valuable to them. I've been there. The church isn't special in promulgating this idea that your shouldn't make suggestions. There are many corporate environments discouraging effective communication because managers don't value their employees, or employees don't value their customers. They're busy, autistic, dyslexic, bipolar, anxious, narcissistic, or whatever, and chances are, your suggestion isn't going to be useful anyway. People have plenty of reasons why communication sometimes seems to require more investment than it is worth, and they communicate this low assessment of its worth. (These organizations often make a big show of wanting to encourage open communication, while impeding it in practice.) They invent reasons to support their assessment, and try to persuade others to just leave them alone. (Please kids! I just want to sleep! I'm not interested in what you did in Pokemon.) The Church isn't unique in having a culture of poor communication. It is simply (relatively) unique in having a doctrinal invention circulated to support this culture of one-way communication.

Equality of Sins

In a Gospel Doctrine lesson once, the teacher (who was a new convert and was both known for teaching questionable doctrine and deserving of some goodly measure of understanding) set up some cards on her board with sins named on them. She then asked a member of the class to arrange them in order of seriousness. After all was said and done she revealed that the correct order was to put them all on the same level since they were all equally serious. This justly caused some disturbance, but much to my dismay, the debate was decidedly won by the equality of sins crowd which overcame the opposition with sheer insistence and some otherwise very respectable proponents.

Unfortunately while this perspective may be useful to induce a little false humility, it utterly fails to reflect reality, the damage we cause others, and the difficulty of the repentance process.

Is there a beam in my eye preventing me from removing the beam in yours, or does your eye only have a mote? (Matt 7:3-5)

Would you rather have a murderer, an adulterer, or a proud man staying at your home? How easy would it be for them to repent? How difficult would it be for them to join the church? If you had problems with these sins and could eliminate one of them with a wish, which one would be best to eliminate? (I'll give you a hint... it's not the one you're having the most trouble with, it's the one that would otherwise be almost impossible to repent of.) (See: Alma 39:3-7, Jacob 2:22-23])

A Home Teacher for Every Family, and Every Family Being Home Taught (Now!)

I certainly don't want to say that we shouldn't work to get a home teacher for every family. As far as I know, everyone should ideally have a home teacher. However, the ideal is not alway an immediately attainable reality.

I first began pushing this idea around while serving in an Elder's Quorum Presidency. Home teaching was going relatively well, but we were always struggling to get a home teacher for that one more family, and there were certainly families we hadn't been able to assign. The Elder's Quorum president and his first counselor had 6 or 7 families they visited. Certainly, I've heard of worse situations. When I was on my mission in Portugal I served in one area on the island of Madeira with over 500 members in the branch, and only about 20 showing up on Sunday. In a situation like that, you realize that it's just not possible to home teach everyone. You can assign a home teacher to all of them, but, let's face it, they won't get home taught; not really.

This was a time shortly after we had been taught in conference that it's not home teaching if the Elder's Quorum President goes to visit the families of slacking home teachers. (M. Russel Ballard, "O Be Wise", General Conference, October 2006, Sunday Morning Session) I'd also heard some noise about flyers being sent to hard or impossible to reach families, and I suggested that we might try something like that. I visited my parents shortly thereafter and found my father quite dubious when I told him I thought that there must exist extreme cases when it would be perfectly fine to just not assign home teachers. Logically, I said, it must be so. I mean, consider Madeira. Still, he thought that at least home teachers should be assigned.

So, I decided to do some research. I very much expected to find my father's view more officially reiterated. However, I did not. In fact, I found that specific numeric opinions as to what constituted "overburdening" had been given and were much more reasonable than my average Elder's Quorum Presidency had ever let on. (Almost certainly because they didn't know.)

Consider these statements:

"assigning unreasonable workloads of six, seven, eight or more families has proven not to be ... satisfactory"
"it is wrong to assign to a quorum or a group more than the leadership is capable of controlling"
(Elder L. Tom Perry, "Increasing Our Effectiveness in Home Teaching", Ensign, July 1981)

"Active home teachers should be assigned according to need, focusing first on new converts. Total coverage may not be achieved for some time."
(Elder Dale E. Miller, "The Effective Elders Quorum", Ensign, April 2005)

There are some locations in the Church where, for a time, home teaching to every home each month may not be possible because of insufficient numbers of active priesthood brethren and various other local challenges.
(First Presidency Letter: Watching Over and Strengthening Members, 10-Dec-2001)

Now, I'm not saying we all need to rush to drop a bunch of families from the program, but I think that in far too many cases, we are overburdening our home teachers and causing the overall program to suffer. I can see no reason why this principle (but perhaps not the specific numeric figures) would not apply to visiting teaching as well.

Jesus Was Kind to Everyone

The truth of this really depends on your definition of kindness, but this line of thinking is frequently used to justify the need to be polite, to justify a philosophy of non-violence, or to not speak harsh truths.

Jesus was a big proponent of harsh truths, his rudeness is well-documented, and he even employed violence. (Do remember how he used a whip to drive the money-changers out of the temple.)

What I do believe is that Jesus acted charitably, and that even when he was being tough on people, he was doing so to help people come closer to God, inasmuch as it was possible; even those money-changers. Identifying love is not always as easy as identifying niceness, or politeness, or non-violence. A parent needs to punish a child, spouses need to call each other out, the justice system needs to punish criminals. These things should be done in a way as to promote growth and improvement in the individuals involved.

Women Are Spiritually Superior to Men

There has been a tendency for some church leaders to put the entire female gender on a pedestal and suggest that they are spiritually superior to men. This is not a doctrine which I feel is supported by scripture and seems to be born of our modern society's brand of feminism which denigrates men and papers over the dangers inherent to femininity. I have always held that women and men are both equally beloved in our heavenly father's eyes, and each subject to their own particular strengths and weaknesses.

Having Negative Feelings Is Immoral

Apparently, there is a term for this cultural doctrine, and how it harms people. It is "Toxic Positivity".[2]

An Example

To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon.

- Elder David A. Bednar, "And Nothing Shall Offend Them", General Conference, October 2006

Many negative feelings have been lampooned by church authorities and church culture. Elder Bednar here suggests that being angry, hurt, or bitter is immoral. Denigrating anger as an inappropriate emotion is not uncommon. It has also been common to chastise others for being sad and to teach that we have no right to be sad because we have the gospel, which should always provide us with happiness.

Like the suspect doctrine that Jesus Was Kind to Everyone, none of these teachings stands the test of What Would Jesus Do. Was Jesus ever angry? Was Jesus ever sad? Was Jesus ever hurt? The Bible shows that not only he, but also God, absolutely feel many, if not all, of these negative emotions, that are frequently lampooned within the church. Yet, we hold them to be perfect. What basis then, is there, for chastising the membership of the church for having these feelings?

I would propose, that there is no basis for this doctrine. I would further propose that it is not how we feel, but what we do with those feelings, which merits moral scrutiny. Teaching people to suppress their feelings does not make them stop having feelings. It teaches them to mask their feelings, and to act out their feelings in destructive and passive-agressive ways. It does not give them the skills to cope with their negative emotions and to either redirect them, or channel them into productive outlets.

One pathological behavior I have seen in my life is for an angry bitter person who abuses someone to throw out the accusation that the abused person deserves it because the abused person was angry. Now take a step away from that scenario just a little. Was the angry bitter abuser morally wrong for being angry and bitter, or were they morally wrong for being abusive? Clearly, they were wrong for being abusive, not for having had negative emotions.

Many an angry person has learned to go take a walk, or listen to music, or meditate, in order to gain control of their anger. Sometimes an angry action may not even be the wrong thing to do. (Imagine you discovered someone molesting a child.)


Here is a selection from a talk given in 1998.

Becoming angry is a conscious choice, a decision; therefore, we can make the choice not to become angry. ...

The Lord expects us to make the choice not to become angry.

Nor can becoming angry be justified. ...

Anger is a yielding to Satan’s influence by surrendering our self-control. It is the thought-sin that leads to hostile feelings or behavior. ...

Anger is an uncivil attempt to make another feel guilty or a cruel way of trying to correct them. ...

Choice and accountability are inseparable principles. Because anger is a choice, ...

- Elder Lynn G. Robbins, "Agency and Anger", General Conference, Sunday Afternoon Session, April 1998

There are many good principles in this talk, but the absurdities I highlight, which may partially be a result of careless and imprecise communication, are often fairly good examples of what Dr. John Gottman would call an emotion-dismissing approach to responding to emotional disregulation.[3]

Emotion-dismissing parents will tend to not notice lower intensity emotions, they tend to not want their children to experience negative emotions, they might punish anger, even when it is not producing negative behaviors, they avoid and sometimes fear introspection, they see one's emotional state as a choice, and they lack a well developed vocabulary to express their emotions. There are a host of negative outcomes for children when their parents are emotion-dismissing.

We should not be teaching each other that having negative emotions is inherently wrong or immoral. What we should be doing is recognizing that having negative emotions are natural. Sometimes life is sad, or frustrating, or cruel, and it is OK to recognize and be sad, or frustrated, or angry about those things. Nevertheless, the way we act in response, should be healthy and, ideally, constructive.


The Church's online Guide to the Scriptures defines anger as "the display of temper."[4] There seems to be a sloppy inexactness in the language; a failure to distinguish between the feeling itself, and the expression of that feeling. In a scriptural context, that might be justified. "Love" for example, is not, scripturally, an emotion, in most cases, but the actions that evince the emotion. This is similar to how faith without works is dead. We might then beg the question, is anger without a temper tantrum really anger? In modern parlance, however, the rhetoric surrounding anger becomes quite confusing, and while the distinction between the feeling and the actions is usually acknowledged, they are also often treated as being the same evil.

It might be interesting to do a study of the scriptures specifically to examine general emotional language and determine where that language might be referring to the internal state, and when it might be referring to the expression of the emotion. I have doubts as to whether my charitable analysis of this definition would really stand up to examination.

God is a Sociopath?

If we look at the psychology behind negative emotion, one point that could be made is that intense negative emotion is associated with activity in the amygdala. Some personality disorders ARE absolutely associated with an overactive amygdala and intense negative emotion. However, an underactive amygdala is also a problem, and is associated with sociopathy. This would be a condition that I would expect to most naturally occur among Upholder personalities due to it's close connection with psychopathy. (Both are considered subtypes of Antisocial Personality Disorder.) Also, due to the lack of emotional experience, sociopaths, of necessity, have poor ability to use emotional experience to help ground them in reality, and hence, societal norms, traditions, and authority figures become an important tool to help them stay grounded.

I would hypothesize, then, that there are many sociopaths in the church, and especially in leadership positions. On the one hand, their lack of negative emotion combined with their pro-social conduct (because these are people who adapt by using social norms) leads people to believe that the lack of negative emotion is a good and desirable thing. Similarly, successful sociopaths could easily be expected to believe and teach that others should be like them.

The danger of sociopathy, of course, should be obvious, but even for these successful sociopaths there are dangers. One danger is that they may only act prosocially when they think they might be observed. Another danger is that their lack of emotional experience would likely make it difficult for them to regulate their behavior when their experience strays outside the bounds of the social narrative (especially likely when they are the authority figures). Yet another danger is that they can become authoritarian as they reject anything foreign to the social narrative.

It seems absurd, but the denigration of negative emotion easily translates into the idea that God is a high functioning sociopath, since he is the very ideal we are to strive for.

Other Examples

Cringe is Driving the Spirit Away

I have heard from various people, that the spirit can't be in a location where people are doing some evil. Often the evil is being "contentious", or being angry, or yelling, or just being stern. This is related to the "Jesus was Kind to Everyone" doctrine and the "Having Negative Feelings Is Immoral" doctrine. I have ironically found that the very same people that fear and devalue personal revelation (See the "Where We Turn for Truth" section, above) are some of the fastest to assert that some circumstance that makes them uncomfortable is "driving the spirit away". Perhaps, for some, there could be an element of; they are filled with the spirit of contention and are becoming insensitive to the spirit as they engage in a conflict. However, generally, I don't think even that makes sense. Rather, I think that it is more common that people are confusing the spirit with their personal feelings of comfort or some other emotional state. While the Holy Ghost is known as the "Comforter", I think that comfort is not always what the spirit brings. Sometimes, the Lord stretches us and drains us.

TBD Examples to cite:

  • Jesus was Kind to Everyone counteraxamples
  • Elijah mocking idolatrous priests example
  • Book of Mormon Prophets dealing with apostates
  • Alma and Amulek witnessing genocide
  • Examples of this teaching from modern general authorities or official church material
  • Spirit of contention scripture (paired with the counterexamples that strongly suggest this scripture is being misinterpreted)


  1. Brigham Young, (12 January 1862) Journal of Discourses 9:150
  2. Chris "The Brain", "Words MADDER - "Toxic Positivity" does NOT mean being "too positive!" It's about controlling people.", YouTube, 26 December 2022
  3. John Mordechai Gottman PhD, "Principia Amoris", pp. 25-36