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    1. I was a missionary under Pres. Wright in Australia and after my mission dated one of the sister missionaries who Wright had asked to marry.
      Harvest the field was introduced under the previous mission president Loren C. Dunn. Yes people did show up the chapel not knowing the font was full and they were going to be baptized at the end of the discussion. However I met a guy after my mission who knew Pres Wright and told me that Wright was under extreme pressure from the previous mission president and then regional representative Dunn to increase baptisms. He believed the stress on Wright to increase baptisms led him to have psychological problems. What we use to call a nervous breakdown.
      Christian states 10 sister missionaries consented and 2 called their fathers. This is not totally accurate. This missionary I knew neither consented or reported she just ignored him. It was also a gradual process. In one meeting he asked her to pray about who she should marry. She thought he meant after her mission. Then in the next meeting he asked her if she had been praying about who she should marry, which she hadn’t. Then he asked her to pray if she should marry him and the Holy Ghost would confirm it was right. She was very confused by this request. Later in front of other missionaries Wright asked her, “Would you do anything for the Lord to which she replied, “NO!.” Which of course shocked the other elders who didn’t know the hidden meeting. She just ignored the situation hoping it would go away.
      She had just come home at the time Wright was sent home. The church did have her go to church HQ and tell what had happened. They also asked the sister missionaries who had planned to be roommates together to go to different colleges as if they would start something on their own. This sister missionary was active, believing and later married in the temple. However her father was inactive and she felt bad that she could not tell him her experience since he already had bad feelings towards the church.

      1. Dear Neil. The story you have told is mine. I did not give this information to you. This could only have been given to you from a second party. Now that makes this story a third party account. It is obvious from some of the distortions of the truth that you don’t have a clear understanding of what really took place. I am concerned that people are using this type of twisted stories to destroy people’s testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
        I served as a missionary under Orson Wright and had a very different experience than what was depicted on Dr Christian’s podcast too. It was clear to me that Dr. Christian’s understanding of the polygamy situation came mostly from gossip. I hope people who are deciding to leave the church will use more discretion than listening to twisted gossip before making their decision. Because I still believe the Church of Jesus Christ to be the truth on earth today. I am disappointed that you use such distortions to help people leave the church.

        1. Thank you, Karen, for your courage to step forward and speak your truth. I think we all realize that stories repeated and repeated again cannot help but stray further and further from what actually happened. Even first-hand experience is colored by the unavoidable cognitive filters and belief systems of the human condition.

          It would be super if you could see your way clear to describe in more detail your first-hand recollections of your experiences with President Wright regarding the polygamy issue. I am sure that all of us reading this site would value an information source up close and personal with what actually happened.

          Thank you in advance if you choose to share more of your story.

        2. Thank you, Karen, for coming forward to correct misinformation. We all know how stories can become distorted/embellished when passed from one person to another.

          Your first-hand, personal experience with President Wright makes you a valuable resource for this discussion. I am sure everyone reading these posts would deeply appreciate it if you could see your way clear to share with us your account of what DID transpire in your dealings with your mission president relating to polygamy.

          One way to mitigate gossip is to set the record straight. Would you be willing to share some specifics from your recollection of what you actually experienced? And perhaps also some of what you heard from other sources you consider reliable, like other sister missionaries?

    2. My brother-in-law served there as well. He always thought Wright had been sent home because when they had the mission wide meeting that told everyone to quit using the method, Wright held a follow-up meeting that told them all that the method had been taken away because they weren’t righteous enough, but that if they would only be more righteous and keep using it, all would be well.

      I’ll note he refused to use the method.

      I was surprised that Dave somehow missed the all mission meeting where they were told to quit using the method and did make the one where they noted Wright had been released.

      1. I was in this mission and I went to the meeting and there wasnt anything mentioned about the ‘method’ Wright was already gone by the time the meeting occured.

  1. I relate strongly to this. I served as a sister missionary in the Melbourne Australia mission during this time period. We used the harvest method. I experienced this process many times and never did feel comfortable with it. But..as a missionary you don’t argue, you just do it. And you didn’t dare questions the mission president, or Elder Dunn. There were also many sisters in the Sydney mission that got sent to other missions after President Wright got sent home. We had one of these sisters come to our mission. To look at it now it seems pretty incredible that they got away with it. They may have had higher baptismal rates, but the retention rate was abysmal.

  2. I was in that same mission in the ’77-’79 time frame. Yep we were taught to use high pressure sales tactics. Not an uplifting experience.

  3. Excellent podcast. I really loved hearing this mans story. I’ve been thinking about it all morning. His experiences on his mission were mind bending. I really appreciate hearing his perspective and experiences.

  4. What happened to Orson Wright? Was he excommunicated? Also what about his wife? What did she think of all of this and where is she today?

    1. orson davis wright & his lovely & patient wife of over 63 years had a long & respectable life in SLC. she passed away in December. it’s a very human & sad story all around. Dr. Christian is right to question the legitimacy of emotional epistemology.

    2. This is from a comment I made yesterday but it won’t show up here. Probably because it included URLs, which might be hitting the spam filter.

      I saw an obituary for Orson Wright’s wife from last year. It mentioned their service in Australia. It said Orson was still alive and was her loving husband. There was a service listed for an LDS chapel. I’m guessing this was an embarrassing moment in their lives that they were able to move beyond it as a family and in the church. One thing to keep in mind (as mentioned by Paul below), we should be cautious when discussing his family, as they don’t deserve to be dragged into a scandal.

  5. Hi John. I’m a long time listener and first time commenter. I’m a never-mo who has probably listened to 100 episodes of Mormon Stories. I’m from Boise and have many Mormon friends, acquaintances, and coworkers, and I’ve always been kind of fascinated my mo culture. You are a great dude, John. Keep up the good work. There are countless people out there like me just listening (usually) from the sidelines, but we hear your kind words and message of love and acceptance.

  6. I really enjoyed this interview. I went with my husband to one counseling session with Dr. Christian after my faith crisis became full-blown. I wish we could have continued, because I believe he could have helped us a great deal. My husband became concerned when he found he wasn’t LDS and was worried he would take my side too much. Thanks for the interview. Greatly looking forward to part 2.

  7. Great Interview. It resonated with me on various levels. The hard core sales tack tics were encouraged to use in my mission in the 80’s. Pressuring people into baptism that were down on their luck or during periods of emotional turmoil. We also pressured people to pray with us to “Help them better feel the spirit”.

    This never felt right to me and was told these feeling were the power of Satan.

  8. Served in the same mission just after in 84-85. For such a juicy piece of gossip, the polygamy attempt was still virtually unknown among the members. I heard occasional vague references and finally got someone to spell the beans. Kind of an implicit code of silence was imposed. We were still feeling the ramifications of Dunn’s hard-sell and the members would say his name like it was a curse word and the church was not well liked at the time.

    1. Wasn’t Dunn the GA that was caught telling huge whoppers? I remember hearing of that somewhere. I think in the late ’80s.

      1. The name Dunn rang a bell for me too — had to look it up, but you’re probably thinking about Paul H. Dunn. Different GA, don’t know if they’re related.

        Paul H. Dunn was a very dynamic speaker and very popular with the youth. I remember attending one of his talks once — standing room only. People loved his stories about all the exciting things he had done in his life, until it turned out that most if not all of it wasn’t really true.

        EDiL13

  9. This episode suggests an interesting question for research: In general, where do ex-Mormons go after they’re done with the Mormon church, and specifically, what percentage of them end up becoming Unitarian Universalists? That’s where I ended up too, although I have noticed that a significant number also seem to end up either joining some other fundamentalist Christian church or else becoming atheists and/or not participating in any organized religion at all.

    In my case, I realized that religion had been most of my social life for over 30 years, and I had the choice of either doing without or finding another church to join, since that was the only way I knew (or at least that I was familiar with in my own experience) to be a part of a community of nice people who were trying to do good in the world, and that was the sort of social life that I wanted. I have noted that there are a number of other ex-Mormons (as well as atheists) in the Unitarian Universalist congregation that I now belong to.

    So do you plan to do any more research now that you’ve finished your dissertation, John? If so, this might be an idea…

    EDiL13 (Elohim’s Daughter in Law)

  10. Dunn was over my mission in 1983 in Missouri as a GA. He had us give up Pdays and work 90+ hours a week. We would knock on doors and invite to baptism as the door appoach. I hated then and hate it now. After a couple of months I told my junior no more we were done with his crap.

  11. Once people understand the principle of “circular logic”, they recognize it EVERYWHERE! Before Dr. Christian even uttered the word, I was already thinking it. I hope we can all help people understand and recognize it.

  12. John, I listened to the podcast and enjoyed your guests comments very much. But I did not appreciate the discussion of the situation with the mission president and the sister missionaries when the victims are still alive and would presumably want not to become public figures. Another thing that I did not appreciate is that you asked anyone who knew more details to come forward. It is likely that you may hear from people the sister missionaries have confided in and that information could result in the identities of those sister missionaries becoming public. The victims should control what information becomes public. Your way of handling this so far is not in the best interests of the victims. As a practicing psychologist, you should know better. They should not become public figures unless they want that. Your actions have greatly increased the probability that they will be outed by “the Internet”. If they are outed on reddit or elsewhere following the publicity you have generated, shame on you. You should do better than that.

    1. I can’t see anyone being outed. Not the type who listen here. Consider that it may be a cathartic opportunity these victims have never been given in a culture that traditionally wants these issues suppressed.

  13. I am so grateful to have served under President Neely in the Chicago Ill. Mission in 1990-1991. We used the “Ammon model” Our mission president told us to go out and serve people. If they wanted to learn more, we taught them, otherwise we served them either way it was a win. It was a wonderful experience.
    Unfortunately, as we heard in this podcast, not everyone is that lucky. So, I am also, I am so grateful that I learned as a young person to think for myself and not to be influenced by adults or authority. When young people have the confidence to think for themselves, it helps to prevent victimization. Problematically, I have found that as I have taught my children intellectual independence many adults (especially in the LDS church)do not want to treat a young person with love and kindness if they do not conform on demand.

    1. Oh man, Shanahan. I would have DIED to have an “Ammon Model” like that on my mission. It’s exactly what I wanted. I suffered a lot as an introvert who definitely did not excel at door-to-door, pressure approaches. My happiest memories of that time were of just what you mention – serving others. I don’t spiritually identify with the LDS faith anymore, but I still think of that time with mixed emotions.

  14. I was a missionary in Independence Missouri from 83 to 85. I experienced Elder Dunn’s “Harvest the Field” approach. Dr Christian is accurate in his description of the methodology. At one point in my mission we were given word that Elder Dunn wanted us to tract and give baptismal challenges at the door. I do not know if this actually came from Elder Dunn however I did my job faithfully until we were told to go back to the previous aggressive approach: “Hello. We are representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ and he sent us to your home to leave his peace and a blessing. May we come in and do it.” Often if we were let in to give a discussion we would perform a hard or soft challenge for baptism. We were made to feel special to be called to ZION and that there was little time to harvest the field to make way to the Lord’s second coming. I personally felt very uneasy with the approach but did it dutifully. I had some good experiences but wonder what could have been with a more altruistic approach. I had my faith crisis at BYU and left the church after graduation in 93. The issues I had intellectually with the church and it’s approach to it’s historicity have now been vindicated in the age of the Internet and the recent admissions.

  15. I searched a little on Google, and it looks like this issue has come up briefly a few times:

    * http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,829242
    * http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,577338,579909
    * http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,421077,421077
    * http://www.mormondiscussions.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=23197&p=570374
    * http://www.postmormon.org/exp_e/index.php/discussions/viewthread/26983/

    Here’s a chronology of the mission presidents, showing Dunn, then Wright, then Wirthlin (with brief tenure, finishing up for Wright):
    http://preparetoserve.com/australia-sydney-mission/

    Comments keep saying Wright’s hard-sell approach was inherited from Loren C. Dunn. While Dunn was mission president in Australia (1976-78) he was also a member of the First Quorum of Seventy. Prior to that he directed the Missionary Department at church headquarters and was in the 7-member First Council of Seventy (essentially the Presidency of the Seventy). This would have made me guess his approach to missionary work was acceptable in the regard of church leadership at the time. A couple commenters above said Dunn brought this teaching system to Missouri in the 1980s. It doesn’t appear that he was a mission president, but he was president of the North America Central Area during this time (which apparently included Missouri and Nauvoo). He also headed up the church’s departments for Correlation, Curriculum, Church History, and Family History. He was well-trusted and unblemished by any of this. If Wright truly did follow Dunn’s process, then I doubt his dismissal was a disavowal of aggressive missionary tactics.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loren_C._Dunn
    https://www.lds.org/ensign/2001/07/news-of-the-church/elder-loren-c-dunn-dies-at-70?lang=eng

    I also saw an obituary for Wright’s wife from last year, and at the time he was still alive. Respecting Paul’s comment that we should avoid dragging the innocent into a scandal, I won’t link to it. He has a family too, after all.

  16. I just noticed that Dunn published two books (both through Bookcraft). The first was during his mission presidency: “Prepare Now to Succeed on Your Mission” (1977) by Bookcraft. I guess he was something of an authority on being a successful missionary. His second book was a collection of his talks from 1968-83, called “This I Know” (1985). An interesting title, given Dr. Christian’s questions about epistemology. I wonder if he addresses *how* he knows. I’m guessing so.

  17. I believe my brother in law was in that mission. He was in Australia and reports that his MP was sent home for “secretly” marrying sisters in the mission.

  18. Continuing with Loren C. Dunn, I’m curious if his writings or sermons reveal anything about his approach to missionary preaching. Was his heavy-handed spiritual pressuring typical of LDS leaders, or was it his own style?

    While he was mission president he spoke at general conference about the witness of the spirit. It was mostly standard stuff. But he did tell a story about a 19th century missionary in Australia who sought to see the face of God, and did! And he reported how President Kimball had just visited Australia and told them to “Grow!” He said they were growing, and it was because of spiritual witnesses by burnings in the bosoms. This was the focus of the rest of his talk. He stressed that this knowledge cannot come through rationality.
    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1977/04/did-not-our-heart-burn-within-us?lang=eng

    He had argued this in GC before:
    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1972/10/how-to-gain-a-testimony?lang=eng

    Again, nothing very unusual. Here are more talks by Dunn, yet to be examined:
    http://instituteofreligion.org/?&ga=4&l=Dunn&f=Loren&m=C.
    https://speeches.byu.edu/speaker/loren-c-dunn/

    And I found other people commenting about Dunn’s super tough missionary approach. It seems like fire-and-brimstone was his standard technique with missionaries.
    http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon100.htm
    http://www.salamandersociety.com/foyer/mpfromhell/
    https://www.reddit.com/r/exmormon/comments/2y4x3g/loren_c_dunn/

    I saw mentions of Dunn organizing “Wilford Woodruff Weeks” (which I still found in some recent missionary blogs). Dunn pushed for on-the-spot baptisms “like on the day of Pentecost”.
    http://mormondiscussions.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3860&st=0&sk=t&sd=a

    Simon Southerton recalls this too (while his dad was a bishop in Australia), and this seems similar to what Hartman Rector was doing with the San Diego Mission at the same time. Maybe this high-pressure technique isn’t just attributable to Dunn.
    http://simonsoutherton.blogspot.com/2013/11/meldrums-x-lineage-ugly.html

  19. Dr Christenson
    Thank you for a very clearly stated and educational expression of your mission experiences. You seem a very ethical man. I applaud you for your maturity and courage to speak your values to your Mission President and General Authorities even under difficult circumstances. It speaks to your apparent character. I found your statements on the state of mind of the Sister Missionaries who trusted and agreed to the silence and the polygamy a current day example of the horrific situation for women of the early Church. Those coming to Zioin from over seas and finding themselves trapped in a lie, women stranded in Utah as well as those entrapped by Joseph Smith. The Sister Missionaries in your mission delt with the devastation of the Mission President. Can you imagine seeing up close what that would look like if it had been who they believed to be a Prophet of God!

  20. Elder Lorne C Dunn interviewed me before I could go on a mission. I do not have a lot of fond memories of that man. Freaking on me for what I did before I was baptized. When I asked him what suggestions he had for me to change my past he lectured me on being a smart aleck.

  21. “Harvest the field” or “el boom de los bautismos”( called in spanish), during my mission time in Chihuahua I heard many stories from less active members about this coercive method used to baptize many people also during the 80’s in Mexico. Sadly the results of this method were deeply damaged for the people as well for the Church because many of this “converts” feel duped and manipulated into doing something that was not a real conversion…I struggled with that feeling of guiltiness that something like this could happen in the Church and as a Missionary really make me question Am I really following Jesus Christ or I am also been duped ?

    1. Mariano, I worked in Chihuahua on my mission in the early 70’s, then part of the North Central Mission. We were instructed to use the same high pressure tactics to baptize as many as possible. We showed “Man’s Search for Happiness” to prospects and then immediately pressured them into baptism the same day. It was a numbers game. Sounds like these tactics were common place for almost 2 decades.

  22. Thanks, Dr. Christian. Discussion of your mission brought back difficult memories for my husband and I. Wright was bishop of our married student ward at the U of U (before he was your mission pres.), and because of our callings, we got to know him well. A temple recommend interview with him was not a pleasant experience, as he often went off script into issues that were none of his business.

    When Wright was dismissed from the mission in Australia for indiscretions with sister missionaries, I felt vindicated, because until then I’d always assumed that because he made me uncomfortable there was something wrong with me.

    We also thought Wright had passed away – but it was his wife who passed last year. Just found her obit and there are 110 family photos posted with it. Pres Wright is shown with a cane and wheelchair.
    http://obits.dignitymemorial.com/dignity-memorial/obituary.aspx?n=Patricia-Wright&lc=4088&pid=173420724&mid=6230302&Affiliate=saltlaketribune&PersonID=173420724&FHID=11609

  23. John or Dr. Christian, can either one of you recommend a good book, etc. about epistemology and how one can evaluate “spiritual” vs. “emotional” experiences?

    This is probably the single most difficult issue for me going forward as a post-mo. I don’t know how to evaluate past experiences – what to keep vs. what to reexamine.

  24. I served my mission in Central America during the time of John Dehlin, 1989-1991. I used to think only my mission was crazy and I had the only “Hitler” mission President. My mission President caused me harm and I still regret parts of my mission now 25 years later. I loved the people ( and still do), but despised the mission office, the President and his tactics. I knew at the time he was being protected by the GA who called him, his former mission President. SLC was aware of him and did NOTHING. He tried to send me home for refusing to work on a P-day and for another time refusing to baptize someone with cerebral palsy. He was crazy !! He claimed dreams and visions he receive from God, that as a missionary I knew were wrong. We were young kids which no one would listen to. He sent 3 consecutive of my companions home. One for being over weight ! I would not consider my MP to be a Christian. I could go on for literally hours of horror stories from my mission.

    My MP made a pact with God. That if God helped his son’s health that the mission would baptize 100%. (we were told all the other Central American Missions, especially Guatemala and Nicaragua were baptizing hundreds and we were not worthy ). Well every month for the 2 years we pushed the numbers for the 100%, his pact with God. Until finally the MP’s last month we got 100%, by deceit. I have left out many details, but my companion and I baptized 3 people the first week of that month (Pressure off us!). And instead of nurturing and helping out the new converts we were pulled from our area, to another area that had not baptized. This was done until all areas had a baptism. (who cared about those who were just baptized). Imagine the last week of the month, all of us working in the final area just to baptize one person. What a waste !

    I came home, tried to tell my Stake President and was ignored.

    Now I identify with John and many out there, and know I am not alone. I ask, why do they continue to call “jerks” and power seekers as mission Presidents. Why are the humble people not called ? The more I find out about power seeking leaders, the less I want to attend church. I see this same structure in my Stake. I am still active in church, but I wish the decision-makers (supposed “leadership”) would open their eyes and cease the cliques and power abuse. The LDS church needs an honest, open discussion about Mission Presidents, Stake Presidents who are abusive and protected by the higher ups. We are not having honest discussions. If we talk about this more, they will finally change with the pressure. They have caused extensive harm to thousands of returned missionaries. We just kept quiet.

    I still want to attend church and believe in the good of the LDS church, but I reject Mormon culture and trying to find my place in the world. For those of us still hanging on, if you have a family member who is a GA, reach out to them and tell them the truth of the front lines of the church and to tell the real stories of what they have created.

    My other church soap box topic is Early morning seminary…John please have a Podcast on it and it’s inherent problems.

    1. One thing Joseph Smith got right was the 121st section of the D&C. That is it the nature and disposition of almost all men when they get a little authority as they suppose the immediately begin to practice unrighteous dominion.

  25. It would be very interesting to have a show about some of the negative experiences people have had serving missions. We know all about the positives, but I am sure there are many, many stories like this one that need to be told. We always hear about missionaries who stay out in the field, even if they lose a family member in death. What about missionaries who come home with a health crisis, or are sent home early because they were guilt tripped into confessing something that happened before their mission? It would be a fascinating show.

  26. I was at BYU circa 1982 sitting waiting for class to start when I glanced over and noticed that the girl sitting next to me had really interesting scripture covers. I commented on them and she said that they were made out of kangaroo fur. I asked her where she got them and she said that she had served her mission in Australia.

    Wow, I said that must have been a cool place to serve a mission. She said not really because she had served her mission under unrighteous dominion and that her mission president had tried to start a polygamous cult with the sister missionaries. Church leaders had subsequently told them to disregard everything that mission president said because it was unrighteous dominion. She said it was hard for her to talk about her mission because she was still trying to come to terms with it.

    At that point the instructor arrived and class started. Even at that tender age I wasn’t shocked because I guess I had never idealized church members. I had already seen both positive and negative behavior among the membership in my home ward. I do remember thinking poor her, what a horrible experience for her to go through, especially on a mission.

    I did see her around BYU on and off over the next couple of years until my graduation. I didn’t ask her about it again though because obviously it was a sensitive subject.

    I am commenting because there was some implication in the podcast that the sisters in question were sworn to secrecy. That certainly was not my experience with my classmate. She spoke about it quite openly to me, a casual acquaintance. It certainly didn’t seem like she was under a gag order. As for the church as an institution, I completely get why they wouldn’t want to print this in the Church News. ;D

  27. John, you may have just been using Utah slang, but you should know it’s never okay to refer to abuse or the retelling of it as “fun.” No, it would not be “fun” to hear about the horrific experiences of the women this mission president sexually abused, especially first hand. It took my breath away (and not in a good way) to hear the chuckle in your voice as you remarked how fun it would be to hear from them.

    1. I resonate with emaN’s observation.

      I, too, glitched, John, when I heard you use the word ‘fun’ in connection with hoping to hear more details about Orson Wright’s innocent victims.

      I’m sure you’ll be able to sharpen up your empathy for those abused by Church authorities, as much as it does feel ‘fun’ when the Church displays more of its True Colors and disgusting core values.

      I am glad when the Church gives us a clear view of the fruits by which we shall know the True Church. This is a new slant on the cliche’ “True Church”. The True [actual] Church is a Remarkably Disgusting Church.

      1. Anyone who has been listening to Dehlin for any amount of time knows he’s a very empathic interviewer. Please, let’s not succumb to the strangely popular phenomenon of “I’m offended” or “I’m outraged” that pervades online discourse these days. Only a fool takes offense where none was intended, as Mom used to say.

        Two points:

        – “Fun”, in some circles, is like the word “funny”. Not always meaning “funny” exactly, but often “interesting” (Like the saying, “Funny ‘ha ha’ or funny ‘interesting’?”) Dehlin uses “fun” in this way all the time in his interviews. I can see why it might be off-putting to some listeners, but listeners gaining a bit of cultural awareness in the various ways people express themselves would help here.

        – He chuckled. Another human sound that doesn’t only have one meaning. In the context his was an ironic “people are crazy sometimes” chuckle. Think about all the times you laugh for various reasons.

        Anyway – all that said. Cut him some slack and be empathetic listeners too. Dehlin’s a friend.

      2. Based on your feedback, I edited the episode to remove the “fun” comment, along with the comment that gave the impression that I was soliciting information that would violate people’s privacy. I hope this helps. Thanks for the feedback! I’m clearly flawed, but willing to accept respectful, constructive feedback!

    2. Based on your feedback, I edited the episode to remove the “fun” comment, along with the comment that gave the impression that I was soliciting information that would violate people’s privacy. I hope this helps. Thanks for the feedback! I’m clearly flawed, but willing to accept respectful, constructive feedback!

  28. Great disclosures, Dave!

    Cudos to you for having the courage as a young man to stand up to phony Church authority and speak your Truth unflinchingly. (Standing, clapping slowly …)

    I don’t recall you mentioning the eventual fate of Orson Wright. Was the pompous bastard excommunicated? Or did the sordid affair get swept under the carpet along with all of the rest of the Church’s rotting secrets?

  29. I don’t think John was trying to get anyone to talk about the mission girls. I don’t think he thought it would be “fun” to hear their stories or out them, that’s just silly talk. Who in their right mind would want that?. I think and please correct me if I’m wrong, that he wanted to hear from anyone who experienced or heard the details of Orson Wrights miss deeds.

    1. I had heard he was disfellowshipped. but was in good standing within 6 months or so. I cant confirm this 100% though.

  30. It seems that picking up wives in the mission field was a tradition among early Mormons.

    The New York Times in 1860 supposedly quotes apostle Heber C. Kimball in an address to departing missionaries:

    “Brethren, I want you to understand that it is not to be as it has been heretofore. The brother missionaries have been in the habit of picking out the prettiest women for themselves before they get here, and bringing on the ugly ones for us; hereafter you have to bring them all here before taking any of them, and let us all have a fair shake.”

    Love you all.

    1. Great quote, tropical!

      If Heber really said that, he revealed the true purpose of the Law of Celestial Marriage = lotsa sex with hot babes, and the hotter the better!

      Heber didn’t even have the decency to label the unclaimed women who arrived in Utah unmarried as ‘sweet spirits.’

    2. Liberty through Obedience
      RESTORATION: Levitical Rites and the Melchizedek Priesthood
      Levite Priests were the only tribe to have multiple wives as part of their PRIESTLY AUTHORITY.
      With the proper balancing of ritual and tone, incantation and the placing of hands Melchizedek Power emanates through the Saints of the Latter Day, with authority as in the days of old, when slaves were owned and concubines were bought and sold and dark skin was a sign of the manichean reality. Hashem, our Heavenly Father so ordained.
      Levitical Rights –– carry on today through Elohim’s Mormon Guardianship.
      Beyond the sound of one hand clapping
      there is the Melchizedek Priesthood,
      the powers of which allows one to keep time
      with no hands clapping.
      With the shekels gathered, the babes are bonked, the meat is divvied up and the hides sold off the Levites of the Melchizedek Priesthood hung out in the coolness of their temple and entertained other powers to acquire. That’s why, the “LDS church” is indemnified by this many wife idea. Without many wives The Restoration can’t “Come To Pass.”
      And it came to pass, and so it goes –– hope it all gets sorted out in the end.

      Ephima

      1. John thanks for posting the above missive, a llittle late, posted on the 28th, but still important for the faithful.
        it’s good to know from whence the inspiration comes.
        I’m a bit skeptical of the chronology of mormon re-reformation –– restoration.
        the restoration did’nt take the first time, it fatlers as can be expected with such claims.
        Hoping in one hand and wishing in the other for it all to be sorted out in the end.
        Dear me, we know another vision for mormondom needs refiguring.
        The liberal notion of the faith is worth pursuing, whishing for a better tax dodge.
        Can’t help but wonder where it’s all gong? Ritual Anointing might suffice but the nagging questions remai?

        Ephima

  31. Does anyone know if any of the Sisters and the Mission president consummated their marriage? How did that not get asked?

    1. Yes I do think it is very important to know if the mission president consummated the marriages
      It shouldn’t be hidden —like they try to hide The fact that most of Joseph Smith marriages were consummated
      Yes I respect the privacy of the girls please ….don’t give their names or information Was the mission president excommunicated ?

      1. Yes, Emma, we certainly would like to know if Orson Wright was excommunicated. That is the only possible ‘Right Action’ from The Brethren for such an egregious crime that inflicted real damage on real people, in addition to damaging the pristine reputation of the Only Twoo Church. Never mind that The Brethren would be hard pressed to recognize ‘Right Action’ even if it hit them hard upside their exalted heads.

  32. I listened to The Righteous Mind (audiobook read by the author) last year and found it fascinating. Can’t wait to hear you two discuss it!

  33. I haven’t posted here in a long time, but this story caught my attention.

    I served in Melbourne Australia from 1980 to 1982 and I still have my copy of “Harvest the Field” and the even more disturbing companion the “Baptismal Discussion”. Loren C. Dunn was our area administrator and pushed both of these hard. After Elder Dunn’s release, Elder Pinegar became the new area authority and abolished them stating that we as missionaries had corrupted them. He was wrong, we were using those programs just as Elder Dunn had set them up. By putting the blame on us, Elder Pinegar was covering up. He told us in an area Motivation and Development meeting that inviting people to Christ was noble, commanding them was of the devil.

    Elder Dunn remained a GA after that despite the fact that what he pushed on all the missions in Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea was inherently evil. This was my first lesson in how things get covered up to protect the organization. It was also my first experience of being manipulated to do things that seemed very wrong and yet being told that if we asked God, he would make us feel that it was right. Well, myself and many others believed God was behind it and worked these programs with vigor. We were sure the “spirit” had born witness that we should follow our priesthood leaders, which led us into manipulating others as we had been.

    I heard the rumors of President Wright getting sisters to secretly marry him, but I never put two and two together to see how they had been manipulated to believe they should. The message on epistemology here in this podcast is too important to be ignored…

  34. My mission president, William Bradford, authored the original “Harvesting the Field” approach in Chile, and worked with Loren Dunn later to spread this program abroad to other missions. In spanish, the term was “Cosechando el Campo”. My mission was from ’75-’77.

    I recognized a lot of the program features from Dr. Christian’s story:

    1. The idea to kneel down with the investigator and try to manipulate a spiritual experience.
    2. The intensive rework of the lessons, to lay out an overview of the gospel, end-to-end, in one discussion. This one less was called the “Overview”, “Sobrevista”.
    3. The linking of results of this program with the potential for having your calling and election made sure — President Bradford talked about this all the time. Having a pretty close relationship with him, I came to understand that when Elder Bradford was appointed to the very first cohort in the new First Quorum of Seventy, he had received his second anointing.

    In our mission, we did not do the “Overview” at the chapel with the intention to baptize the investigator right then and there. We certainly used the silence after the prayer, the specific emotional manipulation, to tell the investigator that if they had a warm feeling, or more specifically, if we did, then that was the Holy Ghost telling them/us that they should be baptized, and we challenged them to do so whenever they/we had that feeling.

    I do not remember work weeks being 90 hours. However, President Bradford instituted a detailed time accounting status report that was anal in the extreme. I took joy in malicious compliance, writing down every bathroom break and other item to fill the ridiculous timecard.

    Coincidentally, having a gung-ho companion, we really took the program seriously, and became the “Master Harvesters”/ top baptizing missionaries for a month, tying the mission record to that point at 22 baptisms. I remember the pressure to do this was so great, that in one case, I said to the family, “If you don’t get baptized, I know, by the spirit, that something bad is going to happen to you. They got baptized, but of course, went inactive immediately.

    After that month, we had a zone conference, and President Bradford decided to show that careful timekeeping correlated with high number of baptisms, so he read my maliciously-created time report as if it was the example of righteous missionary work. At this point I was deeply remorseful for the manipulation, and determined to never submit another weekly status report.

    The APs (we called them “Apes”) went around the room challenging each companionship with how many baptisms they would have in the coming month. They expected the “Master Harvesters”, Elders Crego and Bischoff, to give a goal of at least 10-15. I said “zero”, which caused quite a stir.

    At least I was honest.

  35. I served in the New Zealand Christchurch mission on the same dates as Dr. Christian and heard the story about the mission president in Australia. We were amazed at the time, but were more focused on getting our investigators to the BCD (Baptismal Challenge Discussion). Philip T Sontag was our mission president at the time and he was all over this BCD which was our name for the same thing Dunn had introduced in all of the missions he was over including the missions in NZ. I hatted the BCD from the beginning and was glad when we discontinued it. Baptism numbers did go way down however and of course we felt bad about that.

    My faith crisis came from reading the BofM. Mormonism can’t be found in the BofM, and in my opinion, the BofM is anti-mormon literature. I still attend the church for my families sake and rarely speak to anyone about my faith crisis. It’s a lonely world in this situation.

    The internet is our modern day Urim and Thummim and I am glad to have it to be able to listen and read from very wise people like Dr. Christian. Thank you John for all your work and thanks to Dr. Christian for his work. Thoroughly enjoyed listening! Can’t wait for part 2!

    1. Jack- there are many Facebook groups full of people who have similar feelings to you and can support. Try searching for “A Thoughtful Faith” on Facebook. This group helped a lot when I was going through the beginning of my faith crisis.

  36. On my wife’s mission Elder Poll, who was AP and BFF with Elder Holland, gave sisters at his visitors center a special training on the spiritual beauty of polyandry during Joseph Smith’s time— yes, I said polyandry and not polygamy. My wife said it was the most disturbing training she ever experienced in her life. She said one sister even said “what the hell” under her breath next to her. There is some really intense history in our church that is secretly spiritualized and romanticized behind closed doors even among authorized high up leaders that are not kicked out for teaching it. It seems like the key to teaching disturbing principles appropriately in our church, and not get kicked out like Dr. Dave’s mission president, is to teach them as an eternal principles that are not asked of us now but were asked of saints during Joseph Smith’s time and will be asks of only certain individuals in the eternities. I believe that abusive principles are always abusive principles and teaching them in a spiritual or romanticized way or removing them from the present time do not make them any less abusive or disturbing to the truly moral and compassionate heart.

    All men and women deserve happiness and spousal support, love and undivided devotion in this life and saying that God said otherwise for certain individuals seems terribly wrong and abusive. It is amazing to me that this church feels like it has the moral high ground in the marriage and family department when it has such unhealthy family formation principles at its very core that it still supports in subversive ways.

  37. John could you please have your guest answer the following questions ??????was the mission president excommunicated ?????
    and did he consummate the marriage is with the missionaries???
    These things should not be a secret
    Thank you

  38. Speaking as one who was there and knew some of the people., their was no consummation . The people I know who gave information to Church HQ about what happened did not know the results of his church court. I am currently friends with one of Wrights missionary’s assistants at the time. Their were lots of evening phone calls to Wright from the sisters but the assistants did not know what was going on. Also some of the sisters who were under this stress were having disturbing dreams but Wright interpreted the dreams for them to show that what he was asking was right.

  39. Dr. Christian,
    Enjoyed your discussion on building community. Your ideas are applicable.

    Tossing in a few ideas off the top of my head. (I’m no expert.)

    A large part of community is emotional rather than verbal-intellectual.

    To form community, you would need to get (SMALL) groups to do pleasant activities which would increase the level of oxytocin among the group.

    Women are probably more adapted to group bonding than men. Bonding occurs in SMALL groups not mass society, because of frequent pleasant familiar face-to-face repetition.

    Spiritual experiences and testimonies may have a linear relationship with low seratonin level. In other words, depressed people, like in Utah, may be more spiritually inclined. In the past, a couple of guests on John’s podcast had their testimonies turn off, when they got on anti-depressants. (But I don’t think anti-depressants are the way to go.) But perhaps exercise, nutrition, sunshine and someone to listen to them would work better, to help them out of their faith crisis.

    UU could just do Mormonism as a working model, but leave Joseph Smith and his dream-based scripture out of the framework. (But don’t tell anyone what you are doing.)

    Thanks Dave and John. I enjoyed your podcast. PS. We need to get John a seer stone and possibly a hat.

    Love you all.

  40. Their was NO consummation. Individuals I know who told what happened were never told the results of Wright’s church court and they don’t know.

    I know one of the assistants to the President at the time. He said the sister missionaries were making lots of phone calls in the evening to the President but the assistants didn’t know what was going on. Also some of the sister missionaries were having vivid dreams while they were under this anxiety. Unfortunately Wright was interpreting their dreams for them to show this is what they were suppose to do.

    I have been told by a Wright acquaintance that he thinks he snapped under the pressure to increase baptisms which caused this to happen due to his psychological problems.

    When I had my final interview with Wright his only piece of advice was, “The only thing you need to do in your life is just follow the Spirit” Little did I know at the time to what extremes this concept was being taken too.

  41. The madness and gullibility of people seems to have no bounds. I choose scepticism and pragmatism in the search for ‘light and knowledge’ and not the emotional ‘burning’ that has been used as an instrument of persuasion to manipulate.It’s obvious that the antagonists in this story, Wright and Dunn, were recipients of the ‘second anointing’! Indestructible and unaccountable for their ‘violence’ and ‘deceptions’. How sad? Their long suffering emotionally battered wives remain by their sides, victims of the same priesthood con that has been used for millennia to control and subvert.

  42. Polygamy and polyandry are both abusive practices, especially as practiced by the early Mormons. It breaks my heart to read the stories of these women and their children, whether they “accepted” and lived it or not. Words of Heber C. Kimball and other leaders were horrible. Kimball “I think no more of taking another wife than I do of buying a cow.” Despicable.

    The polygamy alone is enough to tell me these men were not righteous men, and certainly not prophets, mouthpieces of God. I think Wright’s main goal was lust, even if not spoken. I can only imagine what his wife suffered with from him.

    And I’m tired of the church brushing all these deviances under the rug. Honesty is needed, so members and potential converts can accurately evaluate if we want to give them our money and time, or if want to seek out a more worthy church or cause. Quit lying!!! “Choose the right and let the consequences follow.”

    1. Well stated, ameliafyoung!

      I’ll just spin your last quote slightly:

      “Choose whatever your heart (or your gonads) truly desire, and let the consequences follow.”

      The Mormon Church used to be more about lotsa sex than lotsa money. Today it’s more about lotsa money, but lotsa sex is still right up there, as President Wright so graphically illustrated.

      The veils in the temples should be replaced with a denim curtain sporting a giant zipper you unzip and crawl through to enter the Celestial Room.

      1. Hey Gary, wouldn’t the proper term for Amelia be “ovaries.” When in doubt just use “rocks.”

        I have to agree with you, why define motivation in spiritual terms, like driven by an “angel with a sword,” when it is more realistic and factual to use the obvious physical explanation.

        I wonder when dating at BYU, what it would have been like
        if I had said the Lord commanded us to do this. Or we gotta do this, otherwise an angel with a sword will kill me.

        But then the women at BYU didn’t require such lines.
        It seems BYU women must carry the DNA of their polygamist ancestors. Once outta her cage, you got a tiger by the tail. And it was I who had to put on the brakes.

  43. Outstanding podcast John. One of the most important you have ever done in my opinion because it deals with the central core question that mystical must confront. How do you know what the “truth” is? The notion that internal psychological factors can be stimulated and manipulated to condition people to conclude that something is real and legitimate when reason and common sense tells them that it is not is a powerful construct and an answer to those who retreat to the supposed safety of spiritual testimony when the they have no rational answer to the manifest weight of the historical and doctrinal issues that confront them.

    I can’t help but wonder if the Church is making use of Pavlov and Skinner’s conditioning principles by accident or by design. The answer to that question goes to the heart of Mormon claims to legitimacy because manipulation constrains free agency. If your decision process is successfully being manipulated, do you really have agency?

  44. Thank you Dr. Dave for sharing your experiences about personal truth, how to know truth and abuses within the church. I’m interested in why it seems the church covers up prophets that have dementia, yet still lead the church. You saw odd behavior with Kimball, and I’ve heard a few stories that Monson is suffering from this as well. Is this true to anyone’s knowledge? How do we know anyone has “authority”?

    1. It is true President Monson is experiencing advanced dementia. Just don’t ask how I know. The Church has made a half hearted attempt at transparency by saying he is suffering from the effects of his age. I wish they would be more honest but I believe they fear it would impact people’s confidence in the leadership. They should tell the truth and then emphasize how the structure of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve insures competent leadership even if the President becomes incapacitated.

  45. This was so fascinating, I can’t wait for the second interview! I have been checking frequently to see if it has been posted yet. The Righteous Mind is on my top 5 list of favorite/life changing books I’ve read! Right up there with Dale Carnegie’s book in my opinion.

  46. At this time I was serving a mission in Brisbane Australia. I and the mission was very impacted by the extreme method of proselytizing. I found your account accurate and even gentle in your presentation and analysis. I also experienced the disonance you referred to. Fortunately I had a wise Mission President who changed the program without letting Elder Dunn know what was doing. Like you I have been privy to the details of what was going on and how the situation got exposed. The experience taught me the reality of the abuse of power and that we should respect our priesthood leaders but not worship them or let them get between us and our relationship with the divine. Unfortunately, I am currently experiencing a similar case of extremism with my son and a wacked out mission president.

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