The ProgMo conundrum

Those of us who go to church know that most active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are generally good people who spend a lot of their free time with their families or doing service, either at the temple or in their callings.

President Gordon B. Hinckley famously said that the primary symbol of our faith is not the cross, like other Christian denominations, but instead “the lives of our people,” meaning that President Hinckley was betting that most Church members lead exemplary lives. And in fact I can report, and I am sure all readers can report, that you often hear from non-members that church members “sure are nice,” even if they don’t accept the doctrines of our faith.

It also happens to be true that the vast majority of Church members are conservative, at least socially. Most Church members are against elective abortion and are traditionalists on the issue of same-sex attraction and gender issues. Utah and Idaho, the most LDS states, are heavily Republican.

This creates a dilemma for Progressive Mormons (many of them call themselves ProgMos). How can it be that Church members are 1)nice people and 2)not social justice warriors like they are?

I have lived this reality for 20 years in the LDS on-line world, and one of the things I have discovered is that there is a huge amount of cognitive dissonance among ProgMos. It just can’t be true that your average member, the man or woman in your ward with the four kids and the job and the difficult calling and the monthly temple visits — it just can’t be that these are good people. So, what ProgMos do, and I have seen literally hundreds of examples over the years, is make up stories showing how these members are really racists or sexists or transphobes or whatever the latest really, really bad thing is.

Let me give you a recent example. Check out this tweet today:


Now, I want to make it clear that I am not trying to pick on Erika specifically. I am more interested in the ideology that Erika has decided to embrace, which is a problematic ideology for a variety of reasons.

If you go to the Utah Monthly substack, you will see that Erika’s passions include “ecofeminism” and “social justice.” And when you go to her Twitter profile you see the obligatory “she/her” pronouns and of course the Ukrainian flag. Erika has announced to the world that she is politically correct and a strident Signaler of Virtue.

So, Erika, who says she lives in Utah, still goes to church, which is awesome, and I hope she continues to do so. But our first clue that something is wrong comes at the time stamp on the tweet: 9:42 Mountain Time. Hmmm.

There are a few possibilities here. Does her ward have Sunday School first, starting at 9 a.m.? Ok, let’s say yes. So, she goes to Sunday School and gets offended and then marches out to immediately tweet how offended she is. She doesn’t even wait to go home — she tweets from the sidewalk parking lot outside of her chapel. And no wonder — she says she is shaking (with rage, I am guessing).

But in her tweet thread, somebody suggests she talk to the teacher first rather than venting to the public, and she says she has already talked to the teacher!!!

So, we are supposed to believe that by 9:42 a.m. she has gone to the Sunday school class and also talked to the teacher??? If her Sunday School class started at 9 a.m., that means it ended at 10 a.m., which means…no, she did not talk to the teacher.

And what kind of motivation does Erika have that the first thing she does it tweet about it publicly (thus Signaling her Virtue to the entire world)? You really have to wonder.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say most of this tweet is made up or heavily exaggerated.

But there are some other problems. She says the teacher “listed all of the Fortune 500 companies with Mormon men leading them.” Again, I am going to say this never happened. I can tell you from 40 years in the business world, working as a business reporter for the Boston Globe and other newspapers, that there are not that many Fortune 500 companies with LDS CEOs. This would be a very short list. And CEOs, in general, don’t go around discussing their religion, although you might, by accident, find out that David Neeleman, the CEO of Jet Blue and several other airlines, is LDS because you read a profile on him. But in general, no, I am saying that the teacher did NOT list all of the Fortune 500 companies with Mormon men leading them. Didn’t happen.

And the purpose of this list was….”convincing the class of white, capitalist prosperity gospel.”

Again, did not happen.

There is no way that the teacher of the Sunday School stood up in front of the class and listed LDS CEOs and then said they were all white. I would be willing to bet a lot of money, right now, that the teacher never mentioned race but that Erika the social justice enthusiast, inserted race into the equation on her own. (Erika, when the Brethren say in conference that you should not be racist, yes, they are talking about hicks from rural mountain states, but they are also talking about you, the type of person who inserts racism into every conversation. Word to the wise: social justice warriors are the most racist people on the planet. Be careful and avoid the racism.)

I also have my doubts that the teacher mentioned the term “capitalist prosperity gospel” or anything like it. I would even be willing to bet that the teacher would be shocked to hear that this is what Erika took away from the lesson.

So, based on this tweet, I am going to say one of two things happened. 1)Given the time stamp, the whole thing never happened and Erika made up the entire event out of her head or 2)the teacher made some innocent comment about Daniel having leadership qualities and convincing a long line of kings that he was useful, and then the teacher went on to say that having good leadership qualities can make you a good business leader — even a Fortune 500 CEO! And then based on this innocent comment, Erika went on to invent the rest of it out of her head.

Again, I do not intend to make this personal regarding Erika. She is being brainwashed by an evil but very tricky ideology. This ideology has been around for a long time, but the latest manifestation has become part of the social justice theology. The tricky part is that the ideology really does a good job of convincing some people that evil is good and good is evil. So I see Erika as more of a victim than anything else.

But it should be obvious to all of us that an ideology that forces you to lie, or at the very least write extreme exaggerations, to prove how “good” you are compared to all of the “bad conservative people,” is not on the right track. Remember, Satan is the father of lies, and if you are lying you are doing his will, not your Heavenly Father’s. So I sincerely hope that Erika reads this post and realizes that she is on the wrong track and makes some changes. For her own good.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

25 thoughts on “The ProgMo conundrum

  1. Her twitter feed is a hot mess….sheesh. Can’t we just go to church & leave our baggage at the door?

  2. Her Twitter profile says Keokuk, Iowa which is right across the river from Nauvoo and in Central Time zone. Twitter time stamps for the time the post was posted but shows the time according to your personal time zone. So when I who live in Chicago look I see 10:42 AM (which was the time of her post and would be approximately 32 minutes after Sunday School started for a Ward that starts Sacrament meeting at 9 AM) but you, who live in Colorado and in Mountain Time zone would see 9:42 AM.

    You may want to apologize for calling her a liar.

  3. Nice try Alain, but 10:42 a.m. still doesn’t cut it. I looked up the Keokuk, Iowa branch, and it starts at 9 a.m. with sacrament first. So, Sunday School starts at 10 a.m. more or less and ends at 11 a.m. In her tweet thread somebody asks her why she doesn’t talk to the teacher first, and she says that she did talk to the teacher first, and then she sent the tweet. Nope, didn’t happen. She stormed out of the class and immediately sent an angry tweet to signal her virtue to the world.

    And by the way, she must be a joy to have in that branch, with, what 50 or 60 people, and she is inventing things about the people in the branch. Yikes.

  4. I just read her twitter feed which is her response to your article. I wish I hadn’t.

  5. OK, just read that also. So, what she is saying that she raised her hand to object nicely and then left the class. So, I guess that is what she is counting her storming out of the class as being nice. Anyway, that explains the time stamp of 10:42 a.m. The first thing she did was get on Twitter right after leaving the class! She will show those idiotic people in her branch not to be progressive enough!!!

    She of course does not address any of the other concerns in my OP. I still believe her tweet was mostly made up. There is no way the teacher “listed all of the Fortune 500 companies with Mormon men leading them” and said they were all white.

    But seriously, I am glad she read this post. Maybe this will help her understand that, especially in a small town like Keokuk Iowa with a tiny branch, it is even more important to try to get along with people and leave ideology at home when you come to church?

  6. Geoff,

    I believe the story Erika tells is a fabrication. It takes factual elements, adds deception and deliberate lies, and misinforms the reader of what happened.

    What is likely true is that the teacher brought up names of LDS business leaders. This would include Mitt Romney and the Marriotts. Counting both CEOs and corporate division presidents one could probably build a lengthy list of LDS who have worked at the highest levels of business and government.. Most of whom would be white.

    As you say, no way the teacher emphasized the race of these leaders. Race was unimportant to the purpose! The purpose would be to show how in modern times the Lord’s covenant people serve in Babylon, just as Daniel and his Hebrew friends did.

    Something about the teacher’s lesson offended Erika. Maybe it was the mention of Mitt Romney or other LDS Republicans. Erika may not even realize what triggered her. But once triggered Erika adopted the all too common position of activists. She was justified in being offended and the person who offended her was wrong.

    In retelling the story, Erika had to massage the narrative to show she was justified in being offended and that any normal person would be offended. This is a key aspect of these fabrications. The offended party asserts the moral superiority that because others in the class did not object, as she did, they are also in the wrong.

    The result is hurt feelings and sadness. And why? Because Erica lacked Charity. And rather than recognize this beam in her eye, she found fault and took offense when none was intended.

    Erika, if you read this comment, you will likely disagree with what I have said. But please consider the question: Is there a similarity between Daniel “serving” in Babylon of the Bible and LDS “serving” in Babylon today? Making this observation is not offensive. Why should it be?

  7. “Not picking on Erika,” huh? That explains why you make things up (she never claimed to live in Utah, for one thing) and didn’t black out her identifying information. Have an ounce of integrity and admit to the fact that you included her @ and pfp purposely so that you could send likeminded people to harass her. Verrrry Saintlike of you.

  8. Megan, I honestly thought she lived in Utah when I first posted this because of her being involved with the Utah Monthly. You are correct that I probably should have blocked out her identifying information. If I ever do a post like this again (unlikely) I will do that. I am honestly not a big fan of Twitter fights, so I can honestly say that my intent was not to get anybody to harass her. I am not concerned at all of what you think of my saintly-ness. My wife, my bishop and my stake president all think I am doing OK, and those the only opinions I care about on that subject. But on the subject of: was this a perfect post? No, it was not. You have raised some valid concerns. My primary concern was and continues to be to point out how left-wing ideology causes people to lie and/or exaggerate inside the LDS church. That point is still true. People should leave their ideologies at home when going to church, yes they should.

    If it makes you feel any better, I would imagine there are cases where extreme right-wing ideologies might make somebody lie/exaggerate as well. To give one example off the top of my head, the Church is generally pro-immigration, and I can imagine a scenario where a right-wing immigration restrictionist might freak out if somebody at church mentioned that and then might post about it, exaggerating or lying about what happened. I have never experienced that, but I could easily see it happening.

    I mentioned the ProgMo phenomenon of left-wing exaggeration/lying because I have seen literally hundreds of cases on-line in the last 20 years or so.

  9. Megan, now hopefully with my response you have discerned that I am not a complete monster. Maybe we have some common ground to “reason together.” Let me ask you something: how do you think the Sunday School teacher in that small branch feels seeing one of the people in the class raise an objection and then immediately storm out and post on Twitter about the class? Do you think that was a super-charitable thing to do? Have you ever been in a branch or a small ward? You know that usually there are only 50 or so people in such an environment and that everybody knows each other really well. In such an environment, there is even more reason to try to bend over backwards to get along. Did Erika do this, or was she overcome by her ideology, which is the point of my post? Should ideological concerns outweigh kindness, especially at church? And lastly, who is the one who took the issue public first, and honestly what do you think about her motives?

    Let me propose an alternate way of dealing with this. She could have raised her objection and then, even though the answer apparently upset her, she could have waited until class was over and tried to talk things through with the teacher privately. Maybe she could even have convinced the teacher to change her teaching style.

    But Erika went immediately to DefCon 1. I hope we can agree there is a better way.

  10. ” Have an ounce of integrity and admit to the fact that you included her @ and pfp purposely so that you could send likeminded people to harass her. Verrrry Saintlike of you”

    Leaving aside whether I agree with the post or not I feel like I am missing something here. Isn’t the whole point of posting something on twitter so you engender reactions? If so, then why is it wrong to include the tweet when you are commenting on it?

    To the extent she is aware of this post she can respond to it. If she is not aware of it then she is not aware of either the contents of the post or the comments made here so she is indifferent to them. And, if readers go and make responses on her twitter feed she can respond to those as well and defend or clarify her position.

    But if the issue is that the post here is bad because it is critical of her tweet then can’t the same be said for her tweet criticizing the SS teacher? If it is a branch then you can be certain that at some point the teacher will be made aware of the contents of the tweet.

  11. So Erika is now the victim.because her public attack of her church and Sunday school teacher garnered public attention?

    What a crazy world!

    How about this: Taking offense is not a justification for holding a public trial to prove you were offended. As Geoff commented, if Erika was truly hurt by the teacher’s presentation she should have resolved that concern privately with the teacher. If Erika thought the lesson missed the mark she could have written about that, without attacking her church and teacher.

    What we see is Erika wants the privilege of being a victim not only of her church experience but of rebuttals to her public criticism. She wants to be absolved of responsibility and accountability for her own thoughts and reactions. Not only is this attitude contrary to Gospel principles but it invites contention and social discord, rather than learning and understanding.

  12. I don’t know what happened in Erika’s Sunday School class as I wasn’t there. What one can reasonably infer from her public twitter post is that she was looking for attention and got it and then some.

    I have little in the way of sympathy for those who make a public post and then get dog piled on. Own your words and the positive and negative attention that comes from it. Now Erika’s out playing the victim card because someone posted mean replies. If you’re that fragile, maybe it’s time to get off of social media or take whatever beef you have with the Sunday School teacher to a non-public form (see D&C for the correct way to do this).

  13. Wow! I’m not sure if I want to wade into the issue but here goes. Thank you, Geoff, for a well written essay. Being a linguistics nerd, “Linguini” is the term used where I am from, and a foreign language teacher, I appreciate linguistic precision. For this reason I am going to call all 320 million of my American cousins to task.

    Firstly, I am a devout Liberal. No, not a classical liberal, I’m still alive. I believe that the rights of the individual supersede those of the state or collective. I also believe in individual choice and accountability This makes me a Liberal as most faithful and active LDS are. And don’t get me started on the importance of personal liberty, I haven’t got all night. Please start using the word ‘socialist’ instead of ‘liberal’. It is never too late to repent in this regard.

    Secondly, I am a devout ‘social justice warrior’. I follow the suggestions of King Benjamin, In our Welfare Meetings, our personal Priesthood and Relief Society ministries, our Fast Offerings, we follow the stern command of Jesus Christ to seek out actively poor and the needy and bring relief. Let’s vigorously reclaim this term.

    Lastly, please get out and vote. Even if you think you are holding your nose and voting in protest for the lesser of two evils, please do it. The rest of the world is looking on to see if Americans will shake off the Gadianton bonds that have been placed upon you.

    May God bless you all and defend your constitution.

  14. David, you’re the best. But I am not getting the “linguini” reference. Perhaps you could spell that out for those of us slower and older people?

    I really like your attempt to reclaim those two great phrases, “liberal” and “social justice warrior.” Yes, I am a liberal and a social justice warrior if we use those terms.

    In the U.S. there has been a separation between a “liberal” and a “progressive.” Most activists these days are “progressive,” but of course there is nothing at all progressive about demanding to kill babies up to the moment of birth (and sometimes after) or encouraging young people to mutilate their bodies because of gender dysphoria. But these are the primary causes of the U.S. left these days. In any case, I have not used the word “liberal” to describe somebody on the left for a long time.

    In terms of today’s election, there will be a few candidates willing to stand up to the Gadiantons who are trying to enslave us, but a lot more who are just establishment shills. Both parties are mostly hopeless, I am afraid. But if those candidates win — and unfortunately we won’t know for sure in some cases for days — it will be something worth celebrating. I have avoided discussing the election on this site this time around. Please contact me if you would like an update on the few candidates who appear to be worthwhile.

    I will say this: during the pandemic, most Republicans in office were just as bad as the Democrats in office in terms of shutting people down, closing the schools and businesses and forcing vaccine and mask mandates on an unwilling populace. Mitt Romney was one of the worst, always favoring the most draconian measures. But again there were some exceptions like DeSantis, governor of Florida, and Noem, governor or South Dakota, and now there really has been a separation and, almost without exception, the Republican party is running as the pro-freedom party regarding pandemic response. So, that has been good to see. If the Republicans get elected will they find a way to sell us out? Yes, many will. That appears to be our fate when it comes to politics.

    Anyway, take care David.

  15. Wow! Quite an insightful analysis of her tweet AND her personality. I think you were spot on. However, this is the main reason I am not a user of social media. Examples like this are never ending. One can spend all day, every day in rebuttal to negative comments. That’s why I never reply to any comments on any post I’ve contributed here. What I have said….I’ve said. But it sure is fun to read your comments. You’ve never written anything I don’t agree with and someday I hope to meet you simply because you’re a defender of the Gospel the way I believe it should be defended. I’m grateful you have the time and energy to do this. Keep it up.

  16. Hans, thanks for the nice comment. If you are ever in northern Colorado (near the Boulder area) I would be happy to meet up. We have a great ward if you ever come on a Sunday. Take care.

  17. Aside from a handful of posts (from both progressives as well as at-least-not-as-progressives) that Twitter thread is a dumpster fire. However, beneath all of the infernal refuse lies the gem that is Erika’s exchange with Goat Player, who called her weird and then, upon Erika’s playing the reverse Uno card, called her really weird. Too bad that moment of discovery was tainted by the bad taste in my mouth from having witnessed her word crime just moments before. Erika, gaslighting requires more than one singular event of questioning your story and your motives. Please refrain from abusing that term ever again.

    Geoff, sir, it is commendable that you reached out to Erika directly about your skepticism. Not only that, but you did so before posting this article if tweet and MS email time stamps don’t mislead. Speaking of, you admitted your error regarding time zones and whatnot, which is also commendable. Thank you for not being afraid to admit weakness in mortality, and thank you for sharing your strength as well.

  18. I have to say I was surprised when a friend called me from California and asked me about my Sunday School Lesson in Keokuk . To set the record straight, The teacher played a clip from a CNN interview that was aired during Mitt Romney’s run for President. It was with a gentleman that had written a book on successful members of the Church and how their faithfulness in living the gospel and putting it first in there lives was crucial to their success. It was a small part of the lesson and she was never able to make her point of which was mentioned earlier that the Lord raises leaders even today in Babylon as in David’s day in Babylon. She even used our sweet missionaries as examples of how the Lord has set up ways for our youth to grow and learn life changing life skills to help them succeed in Babylon by these successful examples and when they succeed they will be able to help others navigate Babylon. I’m sorry Erika missed the message, she is a bright intelligent woman and has so much to offer. We love our Branch and want to be united, it is small but it’s growing as the Lord has put it into the hearts of many saints to move to this area of the country, my husband and myself included, so we are experiencing some growing pains. Change is hard for some. Our teacher last Sunday is my hero, she stood strong Sunday and was revered for a wonderful lesson that contained no malice, capitalism, racism or any other isms that are contrary to the Lord’s teachings.

  19. Brandon, yes, thanks for your comment. Very perceptive of you to see the entire picture.

    Paula, thank you so much for your input from what actually happened in the Sunday School class. I would imagine that 90 percent-plus of Latter-day Saints who actually go to church regularly knew that the situation was as you describe, but it is nice to hear it confirmed.

    So, to make it clear to all readers: the original point of my OP stands. Erika lied in her tweet. The teacher did NOT list all of the Fortune 500 companies with Mormon men leading them. The teacher did NOT say they were white. The teacher did NOT say this in an attempt to preach capitalist prosperity gospel. Erika DID act like an over-the-top, ideological activist, not even willing to understand the real point of the lesson. Erika DID try to cause contention in her small branch for ideological reasons rather than reaching out to the teacher with her concerns privately. Erika DID perform public virtue signaling by immediately sending out the tweet condemning the Sunday School teacher.

    I will repeat the point I made in the OP. This post is NOT intended as an attack on Erika specifically. It is more a study of how woke ideology causes unnecessary contention among Church members. That was clearly the case here. Erika is just a victim of the ideology. I hope she turns back to the Lord and learns to treat other people as she would like to be treated.

    I did make a few mistakes in the OP that have been corrected in the comments. But the rest of my OP stands as written.

  20. By your fruits you shall know them. I think phrase applies broadly to both the original post as well as the responses

  21. I have about a quarter of a century now in the online LDS world and its parallel, what I’ve often called “NOMsphere,” and we have and have had some people of exactly this temper and intellectual orientation on these boards, and still do.

    Many of them support and vigorously defend same-sex marriage, CRT, multiculturalism, trans ideology, anti-free market and anti-property rights doctrines, statism and endlessly expanding government power and worship both in church on Sunday and at another seculo-pagan alter of “green,” and one of them here on my FB boards still holds Che Guevara up as an icon of “hope” to millions around the world.

    Such are the last days.

  22. “And the purpose of this list was….”convincing the class of white, capitalist prosperity gospel.””

    This is the clincher. Erika is ideologically possessed (in Jordon Peterson’s sense) and has become one of those Dr. Thomas Sowell calls “The Anointed.”

    It is doubtful she is reachable by rational argument at this time.

  23. “Her Twitter profile says Keokuk, Iowa which is right across the river from Nauvoo and in Central Time zone. Twitter time stamps for the time the post was posted but shows the time according to your personal time zone. So when I who live in Chicago look I see 10:42 AM (which was the time of her post and would be approximately 32 minutes after Sunday School started for a Ward that starts Sacrament meeting at 9 AM) but you, who live in Colorado and in Mountain Time zone would see 9:42 AM.

    You may want to apologize for calling her a liar.”

    Even if this were correct, Geoffs point that it is highly unlikely any of this actually happened is still in force. l’ve dealt with many “woke” or progressive members, and particularly those more inclined to overt activism and confrontation over the years who tell stories of woe, trauma and hurt at the hands of bishops, stake presidents, gospel doctrine teachers etc., which can be neither verified or falsified but which, on sight, for anyone with long, substantial experience as a church member, generate suspicions that what is being narrated is often, not only at best a substantial exaggeration, but often a naked fabrication.

    The anti-church world, whether evangelical Protestant or modern progressive “middle way Mormons” thrives in an environment of heady and sometimes lurid trauma and abuse narratives of emotional and psychological scarring (often, nothing more than a couple Conference talks that teach settled, core doctrine are enough to generate wails of anguish and trips to the psychiatrist) and, following the psychology of the Metoo movement, the more stories there are, the more stories are generated, ad infinitum) based upon the church’s stubborn refusal to adopt the fashionable ideological vogues of the day.

    Some stories, as with Erika’s, are implausible on their face.

  24. Add to that the fact that our local leaders are just ordinary people trying to do do extraordinary work. They are working hard and struggling along and often get criticized for very small things.

  25. I wish this habit of twisting truth existed only among progressive Latter Day Saints. I lost a longtime friend earlier this year because she can only see Donald Trump as the most severely persecuted man who ever served as president. Her words. She twists everything I say so she can defend him and absolutely refuses to listen to any testimony given at the January 6 hearings. All partisan lies. Biden is a senile monster. Trump the man chosen by God to save our nation. I, of course, must be painted as a liberal Democrat, despite serving as Republican delegate to the county convention and having been a registered Republican for almost 50 years. But no facts must come between her and her social justice warrior beliefs. Fake news is how she labels anything that would require a reasonable person to reconsider their opinion.

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