Note: This commentary is a part of my “Saints Who Swear” series wherein I challenge attacks from apostates and haters of the LDS Church. I have chosen to use very salty language. I swear, a lot. If swear words offend you in the slightest, please do not read on.
I just spent one week on Twitter arguing with apostates about the LDS Church’s savings account and SEC fine and then arguing over an old version of the temple Initiatory ordinance. The former argument concerned itself with apostate charges that the First Presidency acted both illegally and fraudulently to deceive the federal government and Latter-day Saints for nefarious purposes. The latter argument concerned how apostates who had experienced the temple Initiatory ordinance over 20 years ago felt sexually abused.
And, trust me, apostates draw a connection between the two issues (i.e., they are victims of the LDS Church and you should be too).
The problem with social media is not its existence. Obviously, social media plays an important role in connecting people. The problem with social media is the false sense of equality it promotes. Everyone has an opinion and the anonymity provided by social media allows simply everyone, anyone, with an opinion to express themselves. Prior to social media, opinions tended to be earned. Opinions were screened through the overseers of media — editors, publishers, producers, directors, professors, professional associations, etc. If your opinion was smart enough, these overseers would provide an outlet.
Earned opinions. I always have championed earned opinions. Social media is the antithesis of earned opinions. In this belief, I can see now that I am old-fashioned. But I’ll come back to that point.
Apostates believe that the LDS Church has violated the law — acted illegally — for having wrongly filed an incorrect form with the SEC. In addition, apostates believe that the First Presidency (FP) of the LDS Church has defrauded its members by trying to hide the aggregate amount of its savings — the reason given is that the FP was concerned with the optics of a $100 billion savings account. The SEC fined the LDS Church $5 million for the filing mistake.
The apostates posted on Twitter several passages from the SEC report in which it stipulates the violation but, most especially, indicates that the FP approved the architecture of the several savings accounts to create the illusion that its aggregate savings were not amounting to $100 billion. Ah ha! Apostates point that out and claim that the FP is at least dishonest when honesty is a Gospel premium, but, more so, perpetrators of an unforgivable fraud.
I countered on Twitter that the Ensign Peak financial advisors and their lawyers concocted the multi-savings account approach, advised the FP to use the approach, and the FP approved the approach. Apostates complained that I was attempting to put the blame on the Ensign Peak advisors and not the FP (where the buck stops). My Salt Lake Tribune op-ed belies that complaint, I think. I know where the buck stops. I also know how organizations run and how humans make decisions.
A close friend who worked with the Brethren throughout the 1990s and early 2000s tells me the whole idea of spreading the aggregate accounts into several smaller accounts came from the administration of President Gordon B. Hinckley — a man who might have prioritized Church optics over prudence. As I say in my op-ed, we should not follow the optics. We should follow the Prophet. But, in this case, my friend tells me following the Prophet means following the decision to spread the accounts. He does not know this for sure but he is pretty certain — say, would not be surprised — that President Hinckley put it all in motion. I don’t know and I don’t care.
So, here we are, nearly 30 years later — nearly 30 years of multiple savings accounts and a lot of focus paid to them by the SEC over the years — and the LDS Church gets tagged with a fine. The fine changes at least how the aggregate savings account is reported to the SEC. Nothing illegal. A fine is not a criminal penalty. And no fraud. The LDS Church did not defraud the SEC.
Left on the table are the initial decision and the reason behind it. Did President Hinckley, assuming the idea of multiple accounts started with him, make this decision because he was concerned (fearful?) members would be less likely to pay their tithing if they knew their Church was sitting on $100 million? Now, apostates don’t care about Latter-day Saints. All they care about is embarrassing the Church and, in this case, driving a wedge between members and leaders.
Apostates got pissy with me because I explained that the decision-making process began with the financial advisors and their lawyers. They place the blame on the FP. In fact, they say, the SEC report agrees with them. Well, the SEC report deals with processes they know of. The SEC knows that the FP is legally responsible as fiduciaries. But stating the obvious does not explain the actual internal decision-making process.
My position is public through the op-ed: The FP made a fear-based decision, Ensign Peak concocted the whole thing because they’re the financial and legal experts, and everyone involved should be fired, replaced, or moved out of a seat. Moved out of a seat? What do I mean? I mean that Church employees involved in the mess should go do something else. This current FP is not culpabale. In fact, they settled the matter. I suggest they simply move on from this bad decision.
The second issue — the Initiatory ordinance inside the temple — seems tangential at most to the argument over the LDS Church savings account. But it is not tangential to apostates. They believe everything the LDS Church does is one big act of deception and fraud, leading them to believe that everybody is a victim of the LDS Church.
Regarding the Initiatory ordinance, apostates tell the world and me that they were sexually abused at most and, at the very least, made to feel uncomfortable and uninformed (i.e., lacking consent) to be touched by a temple worker administering the ordinance. The Initiatory ordinance, for those who don’t know, is a blessing of water and oil for the body prior to receiving the holy garment (otherwise popularly known as the “magic Mormon underwear”).
To receive the Initiatory ordinance over 20 years ago, the member would undress privately and put on a gown, a gown with both sides open. The gown is cloth and modest. It covers the entire body from the neck down. The open sides allow the temple worker administering the ordinance to gently touch parts of the body as a part of the blessing ritual — the head, the eyes, the neck, the shoulders, and so on down the body to the feet.
Apostates complain that they were touched on their genitals (i.e., a blessing of fertility) and that the experience gave them deep anxiety and discomfort with the whole ordinance. So much so, they use the experience, among many others, to justify leaving the Church.
Here is the truth: Nobody’s private parts were touched. For the fertility blessing, the temple worker touches your hip or lower stomach. No penis. No vagina. No abuse.
For expressing that truth on Twitter, I am told that I am insensitive to how some people, mostly women, experienced it. (BTW, women touched women. No men touched any woman during the ordinance.) Who am I to say what was appropriate or inappropriate, or comfortable and uncomfortable? Honestly, I don’t give a shit how they felt. I was addressing the idea that somehow they were sexually abused — and that claim is complete and utter bullshit. So, some people felt uncomfortable. Big whoop. The whole ritualized temple experience is uncomfortable to one degree or another. If it weren’t, it hardly would make for a religious ritual.
So, again, as I said on Twitter to these oh-so-sensitive people: Don’t attend the temple if it makes you uncomfortable. Go ahead and leave the Church. I don’t care. If those decisions make you feel better, so be it. Good! I just think you’re a bunch of exaggerating, even lying, apostates.
Now, let me return to how old-fashioned I am. For all of my trouble arguing these issues on Twitter, my opponents fall into childish name-calling and denigrating attacks. That is the last defense of their victimhood. Just insult me personally.
In the cases of these arguments, especially the Initiatory argument, I called them cowards for their anonymity. I told them I don’t hide. They know my name and who I am with a few swift keystrokes. I told them to check out my personal blog. The blog contains nearly everything about my life. For that suggestion, they then ridicule me for having a blog. I guess this is where I am old-fashioned. I guess blogs are out of style. Maybe I should have a podcast or TikTok account? I don’t know.
Regardless, these apostates show their true colors when confronted with the truth. They melt into pettiness and childishness. They attack how few followers I have on Twitter but conveniently point to my @SaintsWhoSwear handle which is new and, frankly, very aggressive. Few people, even my friends, like it. My @paulmero handle has plenty of followers, a few times more than those I follow.
They also are experts at creating and utilizing denigrating memes and GIFs. I don’t know how to create those and I’m not sure I would. But they seemed to congregate around a GIF I use on my @SaintsWhoSwear handle — a picture of me with the words, “F*ck Those People.” This is how petty they are. They call me a hypocrite for using the asterisk. That picture and those words were created by colleagues as a compliment to my characteristic unrestrained candor — during a work interview video I was asked what I thought about critics of my work and I answered “Fuck those people.” My colleagues made stickers, memes, and GIFs out of that experience. They did it. I did not do it. I simply used what they created. They are more polite than I am. They used an asterisk. I would not have.
Even so, I was attacked for being a “mediocre white man” and basically inconsequential as a human being. Evidently, I am megalomaniacal for pointing them to my blog, as if to say, “hey kids, look at me!” The reality for me is that I use the blog as a living diary. I don’t care if nobody reads what I write. I write for me. The blog contains my personal history. If you want to know who I am, read my blog.
To attack my self-importance, one person actually compared my resume with her appearance on an ABC interview with Diane Sawyer — she is somebody, and I am nobody. What the fuck is that? I don’t understand the purpose of the comparison. She doesn’t even explain why she was on television or why her being on television is more significant than when I have been on television.
They nitpick. They latch on to a word and turn it against me. They see my picture and make fun of how I look (which, frankly, is impossible to ridicule seriously). 😉 They doubt my experiential authority, my earned opinions, and my voice for truth. Their identity is apostasy. That’s it! They live on social media to ridicule the LDS Church, conservative ideas and values, and religious authority.
They ridicule the books I have authored as if my books are meaningless. Have they authored serious books? You know, none of these assholes even come close to experiencing life as I have — and yet I’m the asshole for defending my Church and my values.
Lastly, apostates attack in droves. Over the course of these two arguments on Twitter, the score was my one voice to their legions. They pile on mercilessly and that is when the pile denigrates into personal insults. These apostates are insecure, so much so that they need dozens of friends to help them with their arguments. These people’s opinions are not equal to mine. Their dozens of voices do not compare to my one voice. No number of voices dashes the truth.
These are the depths of immaturity I just experienced on Twitter because I have opinions and share them with apostates. Like this blog page itself, I attack apostates to uncover the roots of their hatred for the LDS Church. I seem to be doing a good job.