Mormons and fraud

The SLTribune has a great article today on Mormons and fraud. According to the article, Utah doesn’t rank #1 in fraud anymore, but it’s still up there. In an effort to combat this, several groups have organized “Fraud College” at Utah Valley State University. But, guess who has opted out of participating? The CoJCoLDS!!! The organizers are disappointed, as they rightly recognize the culture of Mormonism is a major contributor to this fraud – Mormons trust other Mormons. They were hoping LDS Inc. would step up to help educate people about trusting… um… other Mormons. 😉


I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

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14 Responses

  1. Ah Q says:

    The Church’s decision to opt out of the conference is baffling. But in fairness, in February 2008 the First Presidency did send out a letter warning against financial fraud.

  2. Craig says:

    When I lived in Provo I was really surprised how often this happened. I had a roommate who was always trying to get me to go to some presentation or another for some scheme he had gotten wrapped up in. And of course he trusted them exactly because they were Mormons and used Book of Mormon (Moroni’s Promise) and testimony rhetoric to convince – which he also tried to use on me.

    I’m not surprised the church is declining to participate. It’s not in the church’s best interest to be promoting distrust between members, especially if it’s between members and their priesthood leadership.

  3. Maybe the LDS Church, with its power and influence, could work to protect its members against fraud by educating them in critical thinking. You know, how to evaluate people’s claims using evidence, having healthy skepticism, not relying on testimonial evidence or appeals to authority.

    I think that would be a really good idea.

  4. Hellmut says:

    In markets, people know that they have to watch out for themselves. In families, ethnic groups, and religions, people tend to believe that others watch out for them.

    Bernie Madoff, for example, was able to prey on fellow Jews because they trusted him and believed that he would protect them from the machinations of gentiles.

    In my neighborhood, we determined that home buyers with Hispanic names paid 10% more per square foot. We suspect that Hispanic real estate agents took advantage of their clients’ trust.

  5. chanson says:

    I’m actually kind of surprised that they approached the CoJCoL-dS to participate. Not because the church would oppose the aims of the conference, but because the church generally doesn’t officially participate in any conferences they didn’t organize.

    I’m far from Utah — so correct me if this is a misimpression, but — it seems like the CoJCoL-dS is extremely wary about giving an official/institutional stamp of participation to anything where they can’t control the content 100%.

  6. Craig says:

    Im far from Utah so correct me if this is a misimpression, but it seems like the CoJCoL-dS is extremely wary about giving an official/institutional stamp of participation to anything where they cant control the content 100%

    I’d definitely say that’s the case.

  7. profxm says:

    Speaking of Mormons and fraud:,0,7077212.story

    Yeah, the Church doesn’t want to encourage mistrust among members. That’s perfectly reasonable. But the story linked here is the result.

    If I were a con-man, I’d move to Provo and join the Mormon Church.

  8. Hellmut says:

    Apparently, there are guys who are preying on Mormon widows. They get married in the temple. When the bridegroom consumed the family home, voila, there is a divorce.

  9. Seth R. says:

    Guys, this crap happens in ANY community where you have an actual community.

    Since that does not describe the vast majority of our self-centered, bunkered, TV-drugged, American suburban wasteland, the Mormons appear odd in this respect.

    Mormons aren’t any more gullible than anyone else. They just happen, unlike most of America, to have actual community ties.

    Whenever you have community ties, there will be people able and willing to exploit them. Comes with the territory.

  10. profxm says:

    Seth, I don’t disagree. I’m not saying that there is something “magical” about Mormonism that makes Mormons more gullible (well, okay, there is something “magical” – e.g., Joseph Smith practiced magic; and deep in my heart of hearts I do think those who don’t question the origin myths of Mormonism are a bit gullible, but that aside…).

    You’re exactly right that because Mormonism generally has a strong, close-knit community (of which I’m a bit jealous), people trust other members of the community. The point is: The LDS Church can’t really afford to tell its members not to trust each other, even though they probably should tell them that. It’s kind of a double-edged sword: you want to trust people in your community (and, social psychologically you are more likely to because they are part of your ingroup), but the members of your community can then take advantage of that trust. So, what do you do? Seriously, Seth, what do you do?

  11. profxm says:

    Oh, and Priesthood is quasi-magic, too. The anthropological definition of magic: controlling god/s/esses. This is different from prayer, which is pleading with god for something. Ergo, Mormon priesthood is a combination of the two – Mormons make promises/claims/etc. in prayers/blessings, but then say that the promises will come true if people have faith and, well, if god wants it to. Kind of funny, in a way. It’s not really “revelation” if all that is revealed is “um, whatever happens, that’s god’s will.”

  12. chanson says:

    Seth definitely has a point. One factor is that there’s been a breakdown of the sense of community in general, yet Mormons — in a ward — have a real community. Such a community has both positive and negative aspects. Negative: exploitation of trust; Positive: the community getting together to deal with the problem by hosting a “Fraud College” to help their neighbors identify the warning signs of fraud.

    However, I still think the CoJCoL-dS is a real part of the problem (and, as we see here, not really contributing to the solution). I don’t think the problem is the “magical thinking” so much as the blind trust in the church hierarchy. The CoJCoL-dS encourages people to think they can trust their leaders 100%. So, when a con man pulls out a valid temple recommend, faithful Mormons take it as proof that he’s trustworthy.

    Ultimately, the CoJCoL-dS needs to be willing to tell people that they sometimes make mistakes — and just because someone is “worthy” to enter the temple, that doesn’t mean you should automatically trust him not to steal your money…

  13. Seth R. says:

    I don’t think respect for authority automatically translates into respect for a temple recommend. Especially since many LDS know exactly how easy it is to have one.

  14. Kathryn says:

    Mormonism is the worlds biggest cult
    they are a cult !!!

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