The church has lately been making regular changes to church policy and the church handbook. Most of these changes are met with praise, such as 2-hour church services! Others seem to simply be bureaucratic noise. Retiring the Home and Visiting Teaching programs, only to replace them with a similar Ministering Program, a big push to not use the dirty word Mormon when talking about the church or the members of the church, even other updates to terminology which really don’t change anything other than the words and acronyms used at church. Along with the push to inoculate the youth with an updated (more correct) narrative about church history, it seems the church is working to get with the times.
Is it more than seeking to rebrand the bad images and rework the false narratives? It seems like they are working to reframe the whole church bit by bit.
Considering the recent updates to the church handbook, it seems to be following the example of 1984 in more than just doublethink but also Newspeak. Newspeak refers to a fictional language created by the Party in Oceania with the intention of narrowing and controlling thought. It is a form of linguistic manipulation aimed at limiting the range of expression and eliminating words that could be used to express dissent or independent thinking. The purpose of Newspeak is to make it impossible to think critically or articulate ideas that challenge the Party’s ideology by removing the vocabulary to do so by changing their meaning or literally removing words.
The purpose of Newspeak is to limit freedom of thought and expression by reducing the range of available words and concepts. Here are a few examples of Newspeak terms, some of which will seem familiar to Mormons in the Church. Even the official names of the Ministries are examples of Newspeak as they reflect the manipulation of language and the distortion of reality.:
- Doublethink: The act of simultaneously holding two contradictory beliefs or opinions and accepting both as true. It reflects the idea of suppressing individual critical thinking and embracing contradictory ideas without questioning them.
- Thoughtcrime: The criminal act of having thoughts that are considered rebellious or contrary to the principles of the Party. It implies the punishment for unorthodox thinking.
- Big Brother: The figurehead and leader of the Party who is worshipped by the citizens. The term is used to refer to a dictatorial authority figure or an intrusive government surveillance system.
- Ministry of Truth: Responsible for propaganda, historical revisionism, and the control of information. Its purpose is to manipulate the past and present to support the Party’s ideology and maintain its power. This feels similar to the Church History Department, which rather than teaching true history, teaches whitewashed, faith-promoting church propaganda as instructed by church leaders.
- Ministry of Peace: Deals with matters related to war and maintains a state of perpetual warfare. It manipulates public perception and justifies aggression against other nations as necessary for maintaining stability and loyalty to the Party.
- Ministry of Plenty: Manages economic affairs, scarcity, and rationing. It controls the production and distribution of resources to maintain a state of perpetual shortage and ensure the citizens’ dependence on the Party.
- Ministry of Love: The most feared and brutal of all ministries. It is responsible for maintaining law and order through surveillance, torture, punishment, and mind control. It is a euphemism for a place of extreme suffering and psychological manipulation and its aim is to eliminate dissent, enforce loyalty, and re-educate those who are deemed disloyal to the Party. This feels similar to the Disciplinary Council often referred to by the church as a “Court of Love” which decides to excommunicate members.
These examples illustrate how Newspeak is used to manipulate language, control thoughts, and create a totalitarian society where independent thinking is suppressed and dissent is eliminated. The latest updates to the Church Handbook make it more of a dictionary of Newspeak than anything else.
Church Handbook Newspeak
Here are some of the latest updates from the church handbooks and prevalent instances in Mormon culture which show tendencies for Newspeak:
- We don’t excommunicate people anymore we withdraw their membership.
- It’s not a disciplinary council it’s a membership council or “court of love”.
- Dissident members are not disfellowshipped, now they have formal membership restrictions.
- We’re not Momons, we’re The One True Church.
- Mormon means “more good”, no, now it’s a major victory for Satan.
- We’ve stopped doing Home Teaching, now introducing our new Ministering program.
- Polygamy and Polyandry are rarely called anything but “Plural Marriage” — if it is even mentioned at all.
- Research doesn’t answer questions.
- Dark skin in the Book of Mormon is a curse from God, and the church banned black members from receiving the Priesthood and attending the temple, but the church “has from its beginnings stood strongly against racism in any of its malignant manifestations.”
- Faith is now a desire to believe despite all evidence to the contrary.
- A peep stone is now a Seer Stone or Urim and Thummim.
- Church Propaganda is called Church History.
- Sex-Abuse Hotline for Bishops is actually the Church’s defense law firm fighting sex abuse lawsuits. Who are they protecting with the hotline? It certainly doesn’t have a track record of protecting the victims!
- “barley for mild drinks, as also other grain” – Somehow means no beer or alcohol allowed.
- “The Church complies with all applicable law governing our donations, investments, taxes, and reserves.” in response to whistleblower in 2019, turns into response to SEC settlement in 2023: “We reached resolution with the SEC. We affirm our commitment to comply with the law, regret mistakes made, and now consider this matter closed.”
Church News Explains the Handbook Changes
The Church news published an article acknowledging the numerous changes and states that “though small, these and other changes in terminology in the revised handbook are significant”.
Though small, these and other changes in terminology in the revised handbook are significant, said Elder Anthony D. Perkins, General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Correlation Department, which oversees the handbook.
The new digital-only handbook replaces Handbook 1 (for stake presidents and bishops) and Handbook 2 (for all other leaders) and is being revised under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Whereas previous handbooks were written in an administrative, procedural voice for Church leaders, the General Handbook — available to the public and written for a global Church — aims to be more principle based. Content has been simplified, reduced and made more adaptable for congregations of all sizes worldwide.Why some words and phrases are no longer used in the Church’s General Handbook
The include some examples of thier own which look eerily similar to the list of newspeak terms above. You can’t make this up.
Repentance and Church membership council terms
The language in Chapter 32: Repentance and Church Membership Councils was adjusted to have a more ministerial tone and be more precise and clear. Terminology that had a legalistic tone was removed.
Why some words and phrases are no longer used in the Church’s General Handbook
- “Probation” has been changed to “membership restrictions.”
- Terms such as “jurisdiction” and “investigation” have been removed.
- “Discipline” has been changed to “restrictions.”
- “Disciplinary council” has been changed to “membership council.” (The term “disciplinary council” presumed a need for “discipline” before the council had been held.)
- “Disfellowship” has been changed to “formal membership restrictions.” (“Disfellowship” connotes shunning and withholding fellowship, which is contrary to the intent of the action taken.)
- “Excommunication” has been changed to “withdrawal of membership.”
What else is there that’s changed recently, but in name only, or things that are spun positively while having a more negative aspect?
The past was alterable. The past never had been altered.1984, George Orwell