What Does Gaslighting Mean?
The term “gaslighting” comes from the 1938 play Angel Street, which Alfred Hitchock later adapted into the film Gaslight, in which a man tries to convince his wife that she is going insane so he can steal from her. When he turns on the lights in the attic to search for her jewelry collection, and the gas lights dim downstairs, he tells her it’s all in her imagination. Gradually she begins to question her own memories and perceptions. He attempts to convince his wife that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly when she points out the changes he makes. The title alludes to how the abusive husband slowly dims the gaslights in their home while pretending nothing has changed in an effort to make his wife doubt her own perceptions. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where someone leads you to question your own reality, memory, or perceptions.
Gaslighting typically takes place in abusive relationships like this and is closely associated with other types of emotional and physical abuse. The gaslighting perpetrator manipulates their victim into thinking that the abuser is the only source of truth and nothing else can be trusted–even the victim’s own mind.
Gaslighting – 2022 Word of the Year
Gaslighting has become a popular phrase lately with more than just the church. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary announced the word of the year for 2022 as “gaslighting”.
In this age of misinformation—of “fake news,” conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes—gaslighting has emerged as a word for our time.
A driver of disorientation and mistrust, gaslighting is “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.” 2022 saw a 1740% increase in lookups for gaslighting, with high interest throughout the year.Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, Word of the Year 2022
Gaslight SNL Skit
Gaslighting has become such a common word that Saturday Night Live created a skit for the term.
Some want to keep the original definition of the word, but as we can see the word is changing to more loosely refer to any “act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for one’s own advantage”. We can see that in both instances the church is gaslighting members and non-members (and has been for a long time). The church likes to simultaneously call itself a living church, while also decreeing that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. This introduces a contradiction. If things change, how can things be unchanging? Rather than figure out how to address this simple contradiction, the church simply hides anything in the past that has changed. They don’t want members to know because it would be hard on their faith, or it wouldn’t be “faith-promoting”. They’ve been caught though, and now are attempting to clean things up with things like the Gospel Topic Essays, but this seems to be far too little and far too late to stop the sinking ship.
Mormon Gaslighting about Caffeine
First, a simple example of when BYU finally started to sell caffeinated soda on campus, citing low demand as the reason they hadn’t ever sold them before. This is not true and distracts from the fact that caffeine has been borderline against the Word of Wisdom. This is gaslighting light, but the way the church routinely manipulates the message to tell an alternate version of its narrative. The narrative of the church is an alternative to the truth, meaning it’s not the truth.
Did you laugh out loud when BYU claimed low demand as the reason it didn’t sell caffeinated beverages until 2017? We did. Students have been asking for caffeine for years.
BYU’s statement completely sidestepped around the reality that caffeine consumption within the church has been a contentious issue. By not acknowledging the longtime controversy over whether caffeine is against the Word of Wisdom, BYU implied the decision to sell caffeinated soda was as unremarkable as the decision to add a Taco Bell on campus.Mormons, you aren’t going crazy — it’s called gaslighting.
The church manipulates members as is explained well in this article from the Salt Lake Tribune (with an extended quote since the article is behind a pay gate and inaccessible to most readers).
The LDS Church manipulates its members in many ways, often under the guise of spiritual enlightenment. It punishes question asking, rewards complicity, destroys self-trust and delegitimizes non-Mormon sources, all in the name of spiritual growth. The LDS Church frames these manipulation tactics as hallmarks of being a good Mormon; thus, the more manipulated you are, the more Christ-like the church says you’ve become. Below are just a few of these techniques.
• “Treasures in heaven.” One of the most insidious ways the LDS Church controls its members is by conditioning them to focus on a promised future instead of the actual here-and-now.
The church doesn’t like answering hard questions about its history and teachings, so it creates a theology in which asking those questions can put your very soul in danger. It positions seeking truth as a threat to eternal salvation. One must put their questions on the shelf or risk not being with their family after this life. It’s a manipulation tactic that takes the phrase “families can be together forever” and tacks on a tacit “only if you do as we say.”
• “Blessed be the peacekeeper.” LDS theology is filled with lessons that teach its members to not rock the boat. While seeking peace can be a good thing, it should never come at the expense of justice or truth. Yet, too often, that’s exactly what the church asks of its members.
The church conditions its members to avoid conflict, especially in religious settings. It gets its members to be quiet by aligning that feature with Jesus and aligning anger and contention with the devil. Most Mormons want to be good Christians, and if their religious organization is telling them that a good Christian doesn’t cause contention, then they’re more likely to not publicly push back against problematic policies and teachings.
• “God’s ways are higher than our ways.” Nothing is more characteristic of the LDS Church than the overarching idea that God is omnipotent and, therefore, his servants know more than the average person.
It’s with this teaching that Mormons are conditioned to stop listening to their own instincts. They must consult LDS scripture, LDS leaders or other LDS-controlled resources that, not surprisingly, funnel the person toward the church, not away from it. The church teaches its members that God knows best, and God’s wisdom can only be found in resources that are conveniently controlled by the church.
• “A peculiar people.” In a similar vein, psychological manipulation wouldn’t be complete without a mechanism to enforce an us vs. them mentality. That’s accomplished in the LDS Church by reinforcing the idea that anyone who has left the church was led astray by the devil and anyone not in the church is of the world, not of God.
By teaching that the LDS church is the only source of complete truth, anyone not under their direct control is delegitimized. Its members are taught that, in spiritual and religious matters, non-Mormons have been deceived and, therefore, cannot be trusted.
The LDS Church manipulates and controls its members in a myriad of ways, but these are some of the most insidious and ubiquitous methods. Any religion that claims its critics are deceived by Satan and that trains its members not to think critically about their beliefs is not one that seeks truth but, rather, one that seeks power and control.
The LDS Church may want to light the world this time of year, but be wary that it doesn’t gaslight you instead.Tanner Call: How the LDS Church gaslights the world and manipulates its members
LDS Church rewards complicity and destroys self-trust under the guise of spiritual enlightenment.
Gaslighting about the Church’s Racist Past
The church, until 1978, forbid black members or those of African descent from being ordained into the priesthood, or attending the temple and receiving the most sought-after blessings in the religion. This is no secret, it now includes in its scriptures the very declaration allowing all races to receive the priesthood. How is it then, that church leaders can stand at the pulpit and claim that the church “from its beginnings stood strongly against racism in any of its malignant manifestations”? Would the world agree with this statement? They’re working to rewrite history here.
How grateful I am that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has from its beginnings stood strongly against racism in any of its malignant manifestations.Elder Alexander B. Morrison Of the Seventy, “No More Strangers”
Gaslight The World
Listen to the song Gaslighting track by Weird Alma regarding Gaslighting in the church. Here are some of the lyrics:
They’ll make you question everything about your own sanity, oh yeah
(When you question, they make you question)
If something seems wrong that’s just the way it’s supposed to be, oh yeah
(It’s your problem, not the church’s problem)
If you point out something’s bad
Then they’ll say you must be mad
They’ll question your intent
While dismissing what you meant
Well, it’s so gaslightin’ with the things the Prophet Joe would do
(No seer stone, he didn’t use a seer stone)
But then they change the narrative and tell you that they always knew
(He used a seer stone, of course he used a seer stone)
It’s always been OrwellianGaslighting
The Gospel Topic Essays are a Mastercourse in Gaslighting
When we read the essays, we felt as if we had been transported into the dystopian society described in George Orwell’s 1984, a place where history was literally rewritten to match new state-approved facts. The LDS Church, which for decades has presented a neatly packaged Our Heritage version of its history, has published a drastically different version without a unified explanation to its people as a whole.
LDS Church Historian and Recorder Elder Steven E. Snow called the way the essays were released a “soft launch,” meaning this messier history was placed on lds.org where internet search engines would find them, but a casual browser of the church website would not. This strategy was intended to expose church members gradually to this new information and also be available for seminary teachers to inoculate their students.
Though these essays started being released in 2013, there has never been direct links to them from the lds.org homepage. The essays were included in the 2017 adult Sunday School curriculum as optional supplements, but many teachers stuck with the traditional unmodified Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual. Most active Latter-day Saints we’ve spoken with know little about the controversial content of these essays.
You can find this content if you google search for Gospel Topic Essays, a title which implies they are about routine subjects like prayer and faith. But the content covered here is anything but routine!
The essays present information never before seen in official church curriculum and facts only previously available in the anti-Mormon literature we were warned not to read. For many active Latter-day Saints, these essays present an alternate version of reality.Mormons, you aren’t going crazy — it’s called gaslighting
Experiencing gaslighting is a recurring experience in the life of questioning members of the church or those who have left. Believing members routinely deny any church teachings, practices, and history that they are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. Here are just a few more examples of gaslighting an exmormon may experience on the way out the door. The church teaches all of these things, and just saying that they don’t, doesn’t make it true.
Gaslighting via Denials
Denying that the church teaches that obedience to “the brethren” is more important than following one’s own conscious
Obedience to the brethren is constantly taught. In fact, we have a song for children that is chanted so they can learn early on that the prophet knows the way. We are taught to doubt our doubts. The prophet teaches that he would never lead any of us astray, and so forth. So yes, I believe that obedience to the brethren is taught.
Denying that the church teaches that I’m going to hell
We definitely are taught that apostates are going to “hell.” I think that when the word “hell” is brought up to a member, they immediately shut it down because we have removed the worldly connotation from it and this word is no longer useful in our religion. So if you stretch, really hard, you can make the connection that we don’t teach that people are going to hell. In reality, though, we do teach it. Our own definition of hell is the absence of the presence of god, so yes, there is a hell and we are going there.
Denying bigotry within the church
Once again, denying that bigotry doesn’t exist in the church doesn’t stand up to reality. It existed, and still exists, with racism, religion, and even politics. Right now we are witnessing it with the LGBTQ community. When we don’t like someone or something, we make up special rules for them. Leaders have told the members to root it out, but the church takes no actions or responsibility to remove and unteach these bigoted practices. It seems kind of funny to me that the church tells everyone to do everything that they say, but when it comes to certain hot topics, the members are left with no instructions, and no examples to follow. In the church, we like to blame our bigotry on God. Everything has to do with God’s timing. Is it because we are too lazy to put in our own work to root out the bigotry? We have to wait for the leaders, who supposedly speak for God, to say that it’s okay to move forward. Would that makes us slothful servants because we have to be commanded in all things?
Does the LDS church encourage and facilitate free thinking, inquiry, and following the evidence wherever it leads?
As for asking questions? That is a slippery slope. There are questions that we definitely shouldn’t be asking, and the church definitely teaches that only approved sources should be used. The church doesn’t want to allow any outside sources. If it didn’t have The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints printed on the back, the source is not approved and shouldn’t be used in teaching. Another surefire way to test if certain questions and such are discouraged is to ask something questionable or complicated in a Sunday school lesson. How quickly will the defenders of the faith jump into action to shut down the “inappropriate” question? All in all, the church doesn’t encourage free thinking and questioning. It would cause a loss of control for the leaders and it seems that maintaining control is what it’s all about.
Controlling the Members
The church does its best to control the information and thus control the narrative. But with the increased information, there’s no way they can control it, so they try to control members. They can’t limit the information that is available, so they work to make the members limit the information they allow themselves to look at. They use fear tactics to do this and then deny doing it. They even ask members to do social media fasts, or even all media fasts, where members will not look at any media for entertainment or even news. Many members follow these suggested programs or challenges, in an effort to show their righteousness. But these members also avoid some influence of this information which challenges their worldview. The church encourages members to hunker down in defense of the fiery darts of the devil that aim to make them doubt their precious faith and testimony. They use fear to keep members from looking at information which leads to dissonance or doubt.
The only way the gaslighting works is if the church can keep members ignorant of the things that are changing. They don’t want members to research truth, they only want research to support the church-approved answers. Ironically, some members have been studious their whole lives, and certainly notice when the church wants to rewrite the narrative and continue to whitewash church history with more apologetics. Have you experienced any gaslighting? Please, contribute your story and add your voice to block the church’s attempts to gaslight the world.
- Yesterday’s Anti-Mormon “Lies” Are Today’s Church Essays
- Church as transparent as it knows how to be