Open Thread: Secret Religious Teachings

This great comment by Rollingforest in another thread got me thinking:

When they go door to door, Mormons like to present themselves as Christians with minor but important improvements on Christian doctrine. These missionaries make sure to forget to mention or to gloss over the huge changes in dogma that becoming a Mormon requires (multiple Gods, belief that polygamy was Godly in the past and could be again in the future, absolute submission to the decrees of the Prophet, baptism of the dead, three levels of heaven, the belief that the Native Americans are descended from Jews who turned their back on God, the ability of believers to become Gods of their own, etc). These beliefs are only taught to a person after they’ve been sucked in, gradually becoming more receptive to drastically changing their world view. This process is called “milk before meat” and it is the church’s primary method of conversion. Here is an article by a Mormon defending this practice and complaining that Google allows people to find out truths about the Mormon Church that it isn’t ready to tell them yet.

http://www.mormontimes.com/article/15891/Jerry-Johnston-Milk-before-meat

I was incredulous when I clicked on the link, but it’s exactly as the comment described it: a Mormon editorialist who’s frustrated and upset that non-Mormons can so easily find out about the more secret and esoteric teachings of Mormonism without converting – which is, according to the author, “an easy way to do yourself more harm than good”.

What this really means is that Mormonism has some ideas so off-putting, so outlandish, so bizarre, that the church leadership deems them too dangerous to teach to seekers and newcomers. It’s only after a person has already become a Mormon – after they’ve already invested time and effort into the religion, after they’ve integrated it into their identity and personal life, after the cost of walking away has become much higher – that the church believes they can safely learn these things.

But then it occurred to me that Mormonism isn’t the only religion for which this is true. There are other religions which have teachings meant only for the elect, teachings which they’d be highly embarrassed to see disclosed and discussed in public.

So, since we’re all fearless, icon-smashing atheists, let’s blow the lid off of them and let in the daylight.

This is an open thread to discuss and highlight these secret religious teachings. My intent isn’t to list embarrassing episodes of hypocrisy in a church’s past, or verses from their holy books that aren’t widely known, but actual doctrines that are a recognized, accepted part of its teachings but that are supposed to be known only to those within the church (or just a subset of those within the church). If there are teachings or historical facts that aren’t exactly secret, but which a church would prefer not be generally known, those would also qualify. Of course, the fact that a religion even has secret doctrines may itself be a secret doctrine.

I can think of a few, but there must be more I don’t know about. What can you come up with? If you have them, please try to include references and citations – since members of these religions are probably going to deny that they believe these things!

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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Arc of Fire, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.


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