August 04, 2018
I made a post about the concept of milk before meat on the the r/cults subreddit. I thought I'd post it here too.
This is the content of my post:
"I was raised Mormon. You might have seen Mormon buildings before. Mormon temples are separate from Mormon chapels. Chapels are for Sunday worship. Temples are for performing baptisms for the dead, endowments, sealings, etc. during the week. They encourage you to ask questions about it at their visitors centers.
If you're curious, go to the YouTube channel NewNameNoah to see videos of what happens in Mormon temples and you can see the things that they won't tell you when you visit the visitors center: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cGi_tP_YjU
What they won't tell you about in the visitors center is that secret handshakes are a part of Mormonism and the temple. I didn't know this until after I graduated college and resigned from the church. I felt betrayed and horrified when I looked up the YouTube videos of the Mormon temple endowment.
Not because they do anything illegal, to be clear.
Betrayed because some of it was contradictory to what I was taught (for example, I was told that everyone wears all white in the temple. I had no idea that they wore green aprons) and horrified just because there was so much that was kept a secret.
I don't think they should have held back so much information from a young person like me who was being taught that the temple was the most important thing in my religion. As a child, I was taught songs with lyrics like "I love to see the temple/I'm going there some day", I was taught to pay tithing to the church (paying tithing, or 10% of your income for life, is a requirement to enter the temple), and I was always taught to listen to my priesthood leaders (there are other songs like "Follow the Prophet" that still get stuck in my head), who have control over whether or not members receive a temple recommend and are allowed to go into the temples. It makes me feel very manipulated, like they were trying to control me, now that I know how much they weren't telling me.
It was very much a "milk before meat" situation. We are taught that some things about the temple have to be a secret because they are too, I don't know, sacred? Special? Too important? to know about until you are actually going through the temple for yourself.
The more I read about cults, the more culty this aspect of Mormonism seem. It seems it's a common aspect of cults to have "special" doctrines, the "meat", that you don't talk about with recruits or children. The "milk" I was given in temple prep class was hardly sufficient to explain the actual temple experience. In the temple prep class, I was taught that the temple was about making sacred covenants. That made sense. Mormons consider weekly partaking of the sacrament to be a sacred covenant. But it's a covenant that you know about before hand. You can read about it. You can talk about it.
In the temple, the covenants you make include promising to give everything to the church, and for women, it includes promising to "hearken" to their husband. These are much bigger and scarier promises that you don't know are going to happen and you aren't allowed to talk about afterward (it's too sacred to talk about what happens in the temple in Mormon culture). It's like a bait and switch. They try to get you to think that temple covenants are as tame as taking the sacrament, but it's not! Even the rituals surrounding the covenants (like the handshakes, and some of the chanting that is done), are much more extreme than any of the other rituals that take place in Mormonism, and again, no one tells you what it's going to be like before you are already committed to going through for yourself.
That leads me to the most important point. There is no legitimate way to say no to the promises you are required to make in the temple. It's like once they offer you the meat, you have to eat it or face huge consequences. Usually, people are going through the temple in their late teens or early twenties as they prepare to leave on a mission or are getting ready to be married. Both of these events are huge milestones in a young persons life, and choosing to not go through with the temple is like cancelling the whole event. It brings so much shame and guilt if you don't go through with it, no matter how uncomfortable you feel about the promises you are required to make.
Have any of you ever been in a group like that? A group where the "meat" of the organization is not presented in an upfront way to new or young members, but instead they are given "milk" that is easier to swallow?
For me, one of the things that I think the Mormon church could do to make itself much less culty would be to start being open about the temple ceremonies. I think this would lead to a lot of people choosing not to be a part of the religion, but that's the whole point! If there is an aspect of a group that has to be kept a secret in order for people to want to join the group, then the answer is not for that group to hide the unsavory parts. That's what a cult would do. An honest group would be upfront and let people make a decision based on all the information, not just the handpicked information fed to them by the group."