language, LDS, religion, videos, YouTube

Repost: I got accused of posting “hate speech”…

This post originally appeared on my Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife on November 27, 2013. I am reposting it for posterity because the issue that prompted me to write the post came up in Facebook memories. The discussion I had with friends about this situation was interesting.

because I posted the following video in an exMormon group on Facebook…

I first saw this video on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard, years ago. I later got to know “Weird Wilbur”, the guy who made this video. He’s a pretty funny guy, who has sadly fallen on some hard times in later years.

I have posted Weird Wilbur’s “Most Mormons are Jackoffs” video on my blog before.  It was the very first video I ever saw him do.  Someone had posted it on RfM and it garnered a lot of discussion.  I thought what Wilbur said, while neither particularly respectful nor gracefully stated, was largely based on truth.  Wilbur made this video several years ago after an exasperating visit with his now ex-wife’s family, who are LDS.  It wasn’t based on just one contact with them.  Wilbur’s opinions formed after many observations and interactions.

I posted the above video in a secret exMormon group last night with the note that Joseph Smith was a “flim flam” man.  And frankly, in my opinion, he was.  What else would you call a man who sells a ridiculous story about golden plates with “reformed Egyptian” writing on them that he “translated” by looking at them with “seer stones” in a hat?  This same man went on to “marry” girls as young as 14 and the wives of other men.

This video also mentions the excellent New York Times article about Hans Mattsson, a Swedish. LDS church authority who started to figure out the church was based on falsehoods.

Anyway, the first comment from a male member of the group was that Wilbur is an “asshat”.  I responded that I don’t think Wilbur is an asshat.  Then several other males piled on, calling it hate speech and saying that I “should have picked a ‘better video’.” It soon became very condescending and sexist.  That thread went on all day, and eventually turned into a discussion about Mormons and sexism, mainly because a number of the men in that group were trying to “school” the feisty women-folk who stuck up for me. I opted out of the group soon after the men started becoming offensive, because I ain’t got the time for that shit.

I was suddenly reminded of an awful interaction I had with an otherwise nice LDS couple I met while in the Peace Corps in Armenia.  They, too, were serving in the Peace Corps and had impressed me by being attractive, hard-working, and basically nice people.  I happened to mention to them that I had read the book Secret Ceremonies by the late Deborah Laake.  I didn’t know it at the time, but that book was very controversial to Mormons.  The male half of the LDS couple basically shamed me for reading “trash” that was full of lies about their religion.   

At the time, I was shocked.  I hadn’t meant to offend them.  Yes, I read the book, but at the time I didn’t have negative opinions about Mormonism.  I didn’t know enough about it to have negative opinions, despite having read Laake’s personal account about her experiences growing up LDS.  I didn’t say to them what I should have said… or really, should have asked.  And that was, “Have you read the book?  If not, how can you tell me it’s full of lies?”  They hadn’t read the book.  They wouldn’t read it, because church officials had condemned it and they were told it was trash.  Then they shamed me for reading it, even though I am not LDS and didn’t get the memo… and even if I had, I still have the right to my own thoughts and opinions.

Deborah Laake was an outstanding, award winning journalist.  Years after that encounter, I re-read the book with Bill, who is a former Mormon.  He confirmed to me that what Laake had written was true, though much of the book was full of uncomfortable aspects of Mormonism that church leaders would have rather kept under wraps and away from the wondering eyes of those who “can’t understand” Mormonism.  Laake was invited to many talk shows and at every taping, a group of Mormons would show up and try to drown her out.  She later died by her own hand, because she had breast cancer that was resistant to treatment.  She chose to kill herself rather than wait for cancer to kill her.  Some may think she was crazy for making that choice.  Having never had cancer, I don’t feel it’s my place to judge.

Now, I have read Secret Ceremonies twice.  I reviewed it on Epinions and, I think, gave it a fair rating (if I recall correctly, it was four stars, although I can no longer check).  The truth is, Deborah Laake’s book heavily emphasizes sex… and sexual problems that she specifically had.  She blamed her issues on the LDS church.  Some of her issues probably were caused by religion.  Many of her problems probably weren’t.  However, the book she wrote is not full of lies.

As for Wilbur’s video, I will admit and agree that what he says, and the way he says it, may be hard for people to hear.  But at least his opinion is an informed one, and isn’t based on just one interaction.  The group of guys who accused me of posting “hate speech” based their opinions on just one video Wilbur made after a frustrating encounter with Mormon in laws.  Wilbur later took the video down, but someone else reposted it. 

A couple of years after Wilbur posted his “Mormons are jackoffs” video, he posted another one to Mormons because he needed help from the “families first” church.  At the time, his son and daughter-in-law were having troubles with CPS and Wilbur asked Mormon viewers, who supposedly support families, for help in fighting child protective services on behalf of his grandchildren.  The video he made was later taken down and, to my knowledge, is no longer posted anywhere.  I remember being dumbfounded that he was asking for this help from Mormons, since Wilbur does not live a Mormon friendly lifestyle.  He smokes, drinks, swears, chases women and doesn’t attend church.  I imagine most devout Mormons, meeting him once, would never support him in his bid to “save” his grandchildren from CPS.  I bet most of them would base that opinion on just one encounter.  It wouldn’t take the repeated run-ins Wilbur had with his former in-laws that prompted his frustrated “hate” video. 

I got to know Wilbur after he posted that video and we’ve sort of become friends (ETA: in 2021, I no longer hang with Wilbur– he went too far down the Trump rabbit hole).  I most certainly do not agree with all of his opinions, especially pertaining to politics.  But I don’t think he’s guilty of posting “hate speech” when he says that “most Mormons are jackoffs”.  If anything, Wilbur is guilty of negatively painting a large group of people with a broad brush, which is something that a lot of people do, especially when they are angry or frustrated.  I think if I were subjected to repeated visits from people in my own home, self-righteously lecturing me about my habits and repeatedly trying to invoke a church I’m not a member of, I’d come to a similar conclusion.   

What’s more, I think it’s somewhat hypocritical that several people in that group were so deeply offended by Wilbur’s thoughts when members of that very same group recently made a game out of disrespecting the church… to the point of having sex in church parking lots and taking photos of themselves flipping off temples, then awarding each other “points” for doing so.  I don’t remember people screaming about hatred and asshats when that was going on… but I guess since I’ve never been LDS, I’m held to a different standard. 

*Sigh*…. well, at least it’s Thanksgiving weekend and I’m not visiting my parents.  I’ll have to post about that next.

If you choose to purchase through the above link, I will get a small commission from Amazon, as I am an Amazon Associate.

And now from 2021…

Here’s a link to Deborah Laake’s infamous book, Secret Ceremonies, which I first read in 1994, when it was first published. At the time, I knew nothing about Mormonism, and was five years from meeting Bill. I didn’t have negative opinions about the church, even after reading that book. In fact, it wasn’t until I saw firsthand the damage done to families by the church that I started having a less positive opinion about Mormonism.

In the below video, you can hear a formerly devout ex-member explain why he left Mormonism. In the video, he explicitly says that not believing in the church threatened to end his marriage. And I have seen how families fracture when people decide they don’t believe anymore. You see families become estranged– children threatened or actually cut off from their parents or their siblings or both… and marriages falling apart. That’s pretty fucked up.

This man explains why he left Mormonism. He’s very brave to post this. If you watch any of the videos in this post, this is a good one to watch.

Most LDS church members have never read Secret Ceremonies, yet they claim it’s full of lies. Bill, who has been LDS, confirmed to me that it’s not full of lies. Moreover, the church does have a lot of “issues”, which are easily discovered on the Internet. I, personally, no longer have such strong opinions against Mormonism as I did in 2013. I still think it’s a crock of shit and needlessly complicates lives, but I am grateful that LDS church members helped Bill’s daughter escape the mini cult run by her mother… who is responsible for getting the family involved in the church in the first place.

Anyway… I just thought it was interesting to re-read the Facebook post that prompted me to write the above post in 2013. The thread is too long and convoluted to add to this post, but it was quite a shitstorm.

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religion, videos, YouTube

A Christian diet cult crashes and burns…

Until last week, I had never heard of Gwen Shamblin Lara, or her husband, former Tarzan actor, Joe Lara. I didn’t know anything about their “church”, either– Remnant Fellowship— located in Brentwood, Tennessee. The couple came into my consciousness a few days ago, when news reports broke about how their 40 year old Cessna 501 airplane crashed into Percy Priest Lake in Smyrna, Tennessee, just east of Nashville. They had been headed for Palm Beach, Florida, home of many wealthy people and white Christians.

I didn’t initially pay much attention to the news about the crash. I had heard that Gwen Shamblin Lara’s ministry focused on breaking people out of addictions– particularly food addictions. I had noticed Gwen’s crazy high hair, and realized that she reminded me a bit of the late Jan Crouch, who famously had big pink hair and was seen on Trinity Broadcasting Network with her late husband, Paul. Those factors alone should have attracted me like a magnet to Gwen’s story. But I didn’t learn much about her until yesterday, when I caught Katie Joy’s videos about the Remnant Fellowship. I was pretty gobsmacked by them.

What’s with the hair?
Kudos to Katie Joy for dishing on this couple.

If you are interested in learning more about Gwen and Joe, I highly recommend watching Katie Joy’s videos from Without a Crystal Ball. I know a lot of people seem to have a problem with Katie Joy, but I think she did a good job covering this story. I watched and listened with some shock and disgust as I learned more about this couple, who claimed to be Christians, yet lived in extreme opulence and evidently promoted abuse and eating disordered behaviors.

In one clip Katie Joy provides, the skeletal looking Gwen is wearing a tank dress that is clearly at least a size too big for her. She stands with her hands in the air, the dress shifted to one side and the strap falling off her shoulder. Her voice is thick with a southern accent as she commends one mom for spanking her child. Another mom, Sonya Smith of Mableton, Georgia, followed Gwen’s advice to punish her son, locking him in his room with a Bible for days (starts at 8:20 in the second video). Gwen commends Sonya Smith for not “spoiling” her child.

In 2007, Sonya Smith, and her husband, Joseph, ultimately went on trial for the 2003 death of their eight year old son, Josef. In October 2003, Josef Smith passed out without ever regaining consciousness as the family had gathered in their kitchen to participate in a prayer session over the Internet. When Josef collapsed, father Joseph touched him, noting that the boy was “warm to the touch” but sweaty. He thought Josef was overheating, so he carried him outside to the carport and laid him down on the concrete. When that didn’t help cool off Josef, the family called 911 and Josef was brought into the dining room. Paramedics first encountered the child there; he wasn’t breathing and was without a pulse. They took him to a hospital, where he was determined brain dead. A day later, he was dead.

Medical examiners determined that Josef Smith had died having suffered extreme abuse from his parents. The police stated that the child was frequently locked in a closet and forced to pray to a picture of Jesus. His parents admitted to striking him with a glue stick, although they didn’t think the punishment was abusive. See the featured photo for an example of what a glue stick looks like. The ones in the photo are about a half inch in diameter and 12 inches long, but they come in different sizes and colors. Before I started learning more about fundie Christians, I had never heard of people spanking their kids with glue sticks. I always thought of them as being much smaller and in a plastic push up tube. Even the hot glue sticks I’ve seen were a lot shorter than the ones used by fundies to discipline their kids.

I always thought the “rod” was the gospel, not an actual rod…

Many devout Christians are particularly enamored of the Bible verse about sparing the rod and spoiling the child and take it very literally. I’m not sure if Gwen and Joe were fans of Michael and Debi Pearl’s controversial book, To Train Up A Child, but that book is infamous for its strong emphasis on corporal punishment for the purpose of “training children” to be obedient Christians. It goes as far as advising parents what implements they should use for spankings. It sounds to me like the Remnant Fellowship, which, like the LDS church, claims to be the “one true church”, might be in favor of the Pearls’ teachings about breaking children’s wills to turn them into good little Christian robots.

If you listen to Katie Joy’s video, at around 9:19, you hear Gwen Shamblin Lara preaching about not spoiling children and being sure to “spank” them to show love. But then you look at how she lived. She and her husband had a huge mansion decked out with gilded furniture, and they owned their own airplane… which ultimately led to their demise. And here she is telling her followers not to “spoil” their children, when she herself appears to be very pampered, living a lavish lifestyle on donations from her flock. Ultimately, her privileged lifestyle led to her early death, didn’t it? What a hypocrite!

Sonya and Joseph Smith became members of Gwen Shamblin Lara’s church in 2000. The Remnant Fellowship Church is an offshoot of Gwen’s “Weigh Down Workshop”, which is a diet program she started in 1996. The church is known for its focus on saving souls from Hell and reforming people with addictions to drugs, alcohol, and food. However, according to Katie Joy’s expose, this church’s methods are extremely controlling and abusive and many people have been harmed by it. The Smiths’ case led to authorities raiding and investigating the Remnant Fellowship Church in 2004; the church supported the Smiths in their legal fight.

As for the Smiths, according to Wikipedia, they were “each charged with four counts of murder, five counts of first-degree cruelty to children, three counts of aggravated assault and two counts of false imprisonment.” On February 12, 2007, which would have been Josef’s 12th birthday, a jury found them guilty on eleven counts: “one count each of felony murder, reckless conduct, false imprisonment; three counts of aggravated assault, and four counts of cruelty to children (two specifically pertaining to glue sticks and others to unknown objects).” On March 27, 2007, Joseph and Sonya Smith were each sentenced to life plus thirty years– the maximum allowed by Georgia law. The case was appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court in 2010, but the original convictions and sentences were upheld. In February 2011, a petition was filed with the United States Supreme Court, asking the justices to review the decisions made by Georgia’s lower courts. The petition was denied.

I would not wish a plane crash on anyone. I’m sure the crash was horrific for everyone on board. Katie Joy said that the aircraft basically “broke” and there’s debris everywhere with no chance whatsoever of any survivors. However, after listening to Gwen Shamblin Lara speak and hearing about Josef Smith’s very sad case, I kind of feel relieved that Gwen will no longer be around to spread her particular brand of “the gospel”.

I’m sure the Remnant Fellowship won’t be going away, but at least now more people know about it and the potential dangers it poses to innocent people. It’s not hard to fall into abusive situations… whether they be abusive relationships with other people or abusive organizations like religious groups or cults. These systems thrive on attracting people who are weakened because they are in trouble. People with financial or health problems… people with low self-esteem or addictions… people who are desperately looking for a way out of a bad situation– these are all examples of folks who might be lured into joining falling into abuse. Sometimes, those situations lead to terrible tragedies involving innocent people like Josef Smith, or plane crashes that kill innocent people, like those who were onboard the private Cessna aircraft with Gwen and Joe.

As I wrote in yesterday’s post about culty churches, Shamblin Lara’s followers were required to close themselves off from other influences. They weren’t allowed to read anything not produced by Gwen or listen to music not made by Gwen’s son, Michael Shamblin. That raises some red flags, right? Gwen also says that her followers should not use antidepressants and they should disconnect from their families. More culty red flags!

For more information about this “cult” of starvation, check out Jen’s Fundie Fridays’ YouTube channel and its lengthy expose of Gwen Shamblin Lara’s “church” and weight loss program that combines religion with anorexic behaviors. This video below was made about a year ago. I wonder if Jan will do another video soon, now that Gwen and Joe are dancing with whatever they found in the great beyond after their plane crashed into Percy Priest Lake.

That hair on Gwen… wow. I like Jen’s style. She has a great sense of humor.

In the above video, I see clips from Gwen’s videos and they all depict her living the perfect, romanticized life, complete with music from Shrek (really?). All of the people are dressed to the nines and there are romantic gazebos and depictions of perfect family living… but that’s all it is. It’s just a facade– a highly staged, manipulated, fantastic facade– that sadly roped in enough followers for the Laras to be able to afford this very anti-Christlike church they promote. It’s obvious that Gwen was idolized by her followers, which is pretty much not what the Bible promotes, right? Idolatry is specifically forbidden, according to the Bible. See below, where it’s spelled out…

Yup… Idolatry is not Christian.

In yet another example of idol worship, Gwen Shamblin Lara even compared herself to Michael Jackson, claiming she was persecuted. But I think it’s fair to say that the criticism she got was warranted. People died following her… a child died! His parents are now in prison for the rest of their lives. She promoted pro-ana ideas, which are extremely dangerous, especially for people who already have tendencies to fall into eating disorders. And frankly, I think her hair was a crime against nature. So, while I don’t rejoice in the death of Gwen and Joe, I am glad that their toxic brand of “Christianity” has been dealt a serious blow. If the church continues, I hope it is run by people who are less dangerous and hypocritical… and culty.

Anyway… a week ago, I had never heard of Gwen Shamblin Lara. And now that I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, I’m glad I didn’t find her until she was dead. What a toxic load of shit her church is. I thought Teddi Mellencamp’s diet program was abusive and predatory. At least Teddi Mellencamp doesn’t marry dieting with religion. She just charges a lot of money to bully her customers into starving themselves down to a more “acceptable” size.

And she has more normal hair, too. Of course, her weight loss program is also pretty fucked up and dangerous.

In other news… I was successful in getting my second shot yesterday. So far, I feel okay. My arm is a bit sore and I’m a little tired, but otherwise, no sweat. Bill suffered a lot more from his second shot than I have so far. But I hesitate to celebrate too much, since I have heard that the side effects can come on within a day or two. I may be down for the count tomorrow or over the weekend. We shall see. I’m just glad it’s done.

Edited to add: Fundie Fridays posted a new video about a half hour ago (as of June 5, 2021 3:30pm Central European Summer Time)

Very newsy! This video is done by James instead of Jen.
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