John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

Post by I have a question »

John Gee has recently ripped off Mike Ash's "Shaken Faith Syndrome" with a new book called "Saving Faith: How Families Protect, Sustain, and Encourage Faith". He explains who it is for and why he has felt the need to write it.
This book—for parents, leaders, and others interested in youth and young adults—discusses the studies and identifies factors that lead youth away from faith as well as those practices that protect, sustain, and encourage faith. On the bright side, parents are probably already doing a number of things that encourage faith in their youth. Close examination shows that weekly church attendance, daily prayer, frequent scripture study, and avoiding sexual activity outside of marriage make a difference in maintaining and preserving faith, confirming what scriptures and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have advised for many years.
https://www.amazon.com/Saving-Faith-Fam ... oks&sr=1-1
So it's a book in response to youth leaving the Church in sufficient numbers for it to be deemed enough of a problem that Gee needed to come to the rescue. However...Gee starts his introduction with the claim that youth aren't leaving the Church and therefore don't need saving in the first place.
In recent years, a number of stories have been circulating claiming that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is losing youth in droves. This notion contradicts a 2005 study, cited by President Gordon B. Hinckley in a general conference address, that showed that Latter-day Saint youth know more about their faith and show greater commitment to its teachings, particularly when it comes to social behavior, than do their peers.

These dismal accounts of the youth fleeing the Church are usually based on anecdotes rather than on data. Large-scale, well-structured studies give more reason for hope.
Presumably his book is also an underhanded criticism of the Apostles and leadership of the Church for not providing sufficient resources for parents, leaders and others interested in youth and young adults. Because if he thought they were doing a stand-up job he'd not feel the need to write the book in the first place.

Perhaps an email to the SCMC pointing out Gee's disloyalty is in order...

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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

Post by Philo Sofee »

I see Gee is still reduced to working for brownie points instead of actually developing and sharing credible scholarship. No surprise.
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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

Post by consiglieri »

This is an elegant point you make, IHAQ.

At one and the same time, John Gee is arguing there is no need for the book he has produced.

Which tells you all you need to know about how honest Professor Gee is.

Magnificent!
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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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Gee's book relies heavily on the National Study of Youth and Religion - and there are a number of problems with that core foundation.

The NSYR was a survey that took place starting in 2002 and finishing in 2012. The data is 8 years out of date, and a lot has happened since then.
The NSYR was a survey that tried to utilise a representative group of all faiths across the USA, which is problematic when trying to tie those results to specifically Mormon problems.
As the NSYR study progressed the representative group became smaller and smaller - 2002 = 3,370 people, 2005-2008 2,600 people...by 2012 it was only 261 people.
These latter groups may or may not have included Mormons.
https://youthandreligion.nd.edu/research-design/
In order to hide these issues with the data, Gee makes a point in his book of expressly stating he won't be explaining the methodology behind the gathering of the data he uses in the book. I can see why he wouldn't want to explain it...

Isn't there a more recent survey, with a representative group of Mormons? Why yes, there is.
The NMS was in the field from September 8 to November 1, 2016, though the majority of responses were collected during September. In all, 1,156 self-identified Mormons were included in the final sample, as well as 540 former Mormons, for a total of 1,696 completed surveys. The current Mormon sample has a standard survey margin of error of 2.9 percent and the former Mormon sample one of 4.2 percent, based on the sample sizes and the estimated size of those populations in the United States. For simplicity, we consider the margins of error to be ± 3 percent and ± 4 percent, respectively. The survey design and question wording received approval from Centre College’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) on September 1, 2016 (Centre College IRB Assurance #FWA00017871; IRB approval code 140-Knoll-NMS-F16).
https://thenextmormons.org/methodology/

Gee is using old data from a non representative group to try and make assertions about current specifically Mormon youth.
This is like taking a survey of people who ate food from 2002 -2012 and applying the results to make assertions about vegans in 2020.

Why produce this book at all when there was a more recent, more appropriate set of data and insights?
Why base this book on the NSYR rather than the more up to date, more relevant Next Mormons information?

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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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Chapter 1 of his book starts with a reference to “a General Authority” claiming that youth were leaving the Church in droves. Gee chooses to not mention Jensen by name, nor quote what Jensen actually said. He stops at simply stating he’s only interested in whether the claim of Church youth leaving the church in numbers was true. He rebuts the claim by referencing Elder Cook’s talk in 2015 in which he claims the Church has never been stronger.

In which case, why the need for a book on saving faith if there isn’t a problem with numbers of youth losing faith?

For reference (because Gee chooses not to clarify what the mysterious anonymous General Authority actually said) here is what Jensen said;
“The fifteen men really do know (First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 Apostles), and they really care. And they realize that maybe since Kirtland, we never have had a period of, I’ll call it apostasy, like we’re having right now”
https://leadingsaints.org/the-root-caus ... -about-it/
I can see why a person wanting to portray that the Church has never been stronger (I repeat, in which case why the need for the book?) would not want to promote what Jensen actually said. But stooping so far as to obfuscate by not even using Jensen’s name...well, that’s Gee in a nutshell.

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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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I have a question wrote:
Thu Jul 09, 2020 8:09 am
Chapter 1 of his book starts with a reference to “a General Authority” claiming that youth were leaving the Church in droves. Gee chooses to not mention Jensen by name, nor quote what Jensen actually said. He stops at simply stating he’s only interested in whether the claim of Church youth leaving the church in numbers was true. He rebuts the claim by referencing Elder Cook’s talk in 2015 in which he claims the Church has never been stronger.

In which case, why the need for a book on saving faith if there isn’t a problem with numbers of youth losing faith?

For reference (because Gee chooses not to clarify what the mysterious anonymous General Authority actually said) here is what Jensen said;
“The fifteen men really do know (First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 Apostles), and they really care. And they realize that maybe since Kirtland, we never have had a period of, I’ll call it apostasy, like we’re having right now”
https://leadingsaints.org/the-root-caus ... -about-it/
I can see why a person wanting to portray that the Church has never been stronger (I repeat, in which case why the need for the book?) would not want to promote what Jensen actually said. But stooping so far as to obfuscate by not even using Jensen’s name...well, that’s Gee in a nutshell.
Mopologist hate Jensen. He made their life hell first by the shift to a “more honest history” at least compared what was before. This brought more attention to their work by questioning members. And interaction, which they totally failed at doing in a effective way. That lead to the eventually 2012 purge. Which Jensen was also heavily involved in. Jensen also continues to be on the Maxwell Institute board.

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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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Wait! Gee isn't sharing his methodology and is using cherry picked data .
I am shocked I tell you shocked!
"Any over-ritualized religion since the dawn of time can make its priests say yes, we know, it is rotten, and hard luck, but just do as we say, keep at the ritual, stick it out, give us your money and you'll end up with the angels in heaven for evermore."

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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

Post by I have a question »

Quite early on in the book Gee invokes Dunning-Kruger as a means of explaining why young people lose faith in the Church. Briefly, here's the gist of Dunning-Kruger's hypothesis:
...the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people with low ability at a task overestimate their ability. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability. Without the self-awareness of metacognition, people cannot objectively evaluate their competence or incompetence.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect

Gee attaches Dunning-Kruger to people who lose faith by asserting that they do so because they overestimated the strength of their faith in the first place and couldn't see that was what they were doing.
"The Dunning–Kruger effect is alive and well among Latter-day Saints. This is one of the reasons we have interviews with someone else to assess our worthiness and are not allowed just to determine for ourselves if we are worthy. People have a tendency to think their self-assessments are more accurate that than other’s assessments are."
(Gee, John - Saving Faith: How Families Protect, Sustain, and Encourage Faith Section 1 "Hardly perfect")

I assume, based on his acceptance and promotion of this K-D idea, Gee now recognises that Ritner's assessment of his professional work is likely more accurate than what Gee thinks about it himself...

Gee quotes Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
"Unfortunately, some in the Church may believe sincerely that their testimony is a raging bonfire when it really is little more than the faint flickering of a candle. Their faithfulness has more to do with habit than holiness, and their pursuit of personal righteousness almost always takes a back seat to their pursuit of personal interests and pleasure. With such a feeble light of testimony for protection, these travelers on life’s highways are easy prey for the wolves of the adversary. . . ."
(Gee, John - Saving Faith: How Families Protect, Sustain, and Encourage Faith Section 1 "Hardly Perfect")

So the reason young people lose faith is because they lack ability and don't recognise it, claims Gee.

Now, whilst quick to blame the individual young person and tie that to Dunning-Kruger, Gee neglects to fully apply the findings of Dunning - Kruger and explore other reasons for it being in play in cases of young people leaving Mormonism.
Studies of the Dunning–Kruger effect usually have been of North Americans, but studies of Japanese people suggest that cultural forces have a role in the occurrence of the effect.[20] The study "Divergent Consequences of Success and Failure in Japan and North America: An Investigation of Self-improving Motivations and Malleable Selves" (2001) indicated that Japanese people tended to underestimate their abilities, and tended to see underachievement (failure) as an opportunity to improve their abilities at a given task, thereby increasing their value to the social group.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–K ... ecognition

So Dunning - Kruger has to be looked for through a lens of culture, something Gee does not do. His assertion that Dunning - Kruger is a reason for young people leaving the Church is quick, dirty, lazy (deliberately misleading?) and likely not accurate enough to be used in a book claiming to be a resource in correcting the problem of young people leaving the Church in significant numbers (even though Gee also claims young people are not leaving the Church in significant numbers).

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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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...the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people with low ability at a task overestimate their ability. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability. Without the self-awareness of metacognition, people cannot objectively evaluate their competence or incompetence.
Now in addition to accusing people of losing their faith because they sinned, the faithful elect can also tell people they are just too stupid to keep their faith. This is going to go over really well with someone who is questioning their faith.

Hauglid may have understated his assessment of Gee's scholarship.
Last edited by Fence Sitter on Fri Jul 10, 2020 11:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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IHAQ, I think I understand the point Gee is making here, and I don't know that it is entirely off base. Now, we can argue about how important it is or should be that people understand the LDS gospel. We can also fairly critique Gee for perhaps implying, intentionally or not, that apostates are stupid or misinformed, but I think it is fair to make the argument that many people who leave do so with an incomplete understanding of Mormonism. I think it is also fair for Gee to point out that some people have stronger spiritual convictions than others.

Of course, many of us can say that the LDS Church does not really facilitate an accurate or full understanding of Mormonism anyways, and that such an understanding really leads to the conclusion that the whole thing is garbage.

But I can see how a deeply committed believer who knows an awful lot about Mormonism might measure the knowledge of many leave-takers as severely wanting.
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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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but I think it is fair to make the argument that many people who leave do so with an incomplete understanding of Mormonism.
Only if it’s also fair to make the argument that many people who stay also “do so with an incomplete understanding of Mormonism.“ In which case, it’s an attribute across the board. Gee is not acknowledging that, however. By discussing it only in the context of those who leave, he is implying that it is a cause, and that those with a more complete understanding stay.

It’s no different than mentalgymnast’s faulty argument that Jenkins is “biased” and therefore his arguments are worth less in the Jenkins-Hamblin debate, even though he later defined bias as something everyone has.

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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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Hey, Lemmie. I am absolute agreement with you on the people who stay. This is why I wrote:

"Of course, many of us can say that the LDS Church does not really facilitate an accurate or full understanding of Mormonism anyways, and that such an understanding really leads to the conclusion that the whole thing is garbage."

But I do appreciate you making the same point more directly.
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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

Post by Lemmie »

Kishkumen wrote:
Fri Jul 10, 2020 10:21 am
Hey, Lemmie. I am absolute agreement with you on the people who stay. This is why I wrote:

"Of course, many of us can say that the LDS Church does not really facilitate an accurate or full understanding of Mormonism anyways, and that such an understanding really leads to the conclusion that the whole thing is garbage."

But I do appreciate you making the same point more directly.
You are missing my point then. My point was that I disagree with your statement that you “think it is fair to make the argument that many people who leave do so with an incomplete understanding of Mormonism.” If everyone has that same incomplete understanding, then it is NOT fair to allow an argument to stand that singles out those who leave, blaming it on their incomplete understanding.

In any case, it would be interesting to see how many actually do stay while knowing it is “not true,” for want of a more comprehensive term.
Last edited by Lemmie on Fri Jul 10, 2020 2:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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It's a two way street. Would Gee complain when someone joins the church who is incapable of or does not understand it?
"Any over-ritualized religion since the dawn of time can make its priests say yes, we know, it is rotten, and hard luck, but just do as we say, keep at the ritual, stick it out, give us your money and you'll end up with the angels in heaven for evermore."

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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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Gee wrote:The Dunning–Kruger effect is alive and well among Latter-day Saints.
It sure is! From the top right on down the file.
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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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Gee wrote: Unfortunately, some in the Church may believe sincerely that their testimony is a raging bonfire when it really is little more than the faint flickering of a candle.
Spoken like a true pharisee.

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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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Lemmie wrote:
Fri Jul 10, 2020 10:33 am
It would be interesting to see how many actually do stay while knowing it is “not true,” for want of a more comprehensive term.
I know of a few thousand in various Facebook groups...

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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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Dr Moore wrote:
Fri Jul 10, 2020 11:46 am
Lemmie wrote:
Fri Jul 10, 2020 10:33 am
It would be interesting to see how many actually do stay while knowing it is “not true,” for want of a more comprehensive term.
I know of a few thousand in various Facebook groups...
Exactly. It suggests a different reason (control) for interviews than the one Gee gives, right?

...one of the reasons we have interviews with someone else to assess our worthiness and are not allowed just to determine for ourselves if we are worthy....
Regarding the Facebook groups you mentioned, Dr. Moore, I find that an interesting development. I seem to recall when I was in that the LDS church prohibited any smaller group meetings, such as scripture study or even book groups. It seems a Facebook group violates the spirit of that rule, but not the law, technically. What an opportune loophole.

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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

Post by Dr Moore »

There are so many reasons why folks choose to stay "actively" involved with Mormonism, despite knowing through and through that the foundational truth claims are false. I couldn't even begin to offer an adequate survey of that picture.

I suppose the nuances involved for those who stay "in" are as numerous as the final straw for those who ultimately choose to get "out." It's hardly discernible to me at the edges, because whether someone falls on the "in" or "out" side of an issue, I see no difference in sincerity. It probably boils down to external factors, more than anything else.

Good point on the kibosh of "study groups." I remember that being frowned upon when I was a teenager, and to my knowledge, unofficial physical meetings of the sort are still discouraged. There are exceptions, of course.

I believe the church has acquiesced to allow certain types of online support groups, for the greater good, in cases where the ultimate goal is to find ways of remaining "constructively involved." You'll see Greg Prince and David Ostler pop in to some of these groups to comment or post, and they're just normal members in those circles. These "safe" groups have pretty clear rules of engagement (eg, disallow "cult" talk, avoid speculation, no personal attacks, and mandatory leaving the group upon resigning membership from the church... stuff like that). They are heavily moderated, but besides that, they allow safe space for open expressions of pain, struggle, frustration, and the like.

What's funny to me is that the less moderated groups may look similar on the surface in terms of most posts are folks writing the same kinds of expressions of pain, struggle, frustration... but as the group allows for openly anti-church comments, inevitably those groups seem to spawn moles and sooner or later, a group member will rage quit because some "spy" ratted them out to a family member or bishop. A person can write something in one group with no risk, because the spirit of the place is to keep you in, but risk discipline or family shame by writing the same thing in another place simply because it allows for "anti" comments. Silly, but not surprising. As a result, the "stay in" groups appear to be more enduring, like a "second ward" model, while the more open groups eventually devolve into exMo reddit, mostly transitory. That's my observation, for what it's worth.

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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

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Kishkumen wrote:
Fri Jul 10, 2020 9:40 am
IHAQ, I think I understand the point Gee is making here, and I don't know that it is entirely off base. Now, we can argue about how important it is or should be that people understand the LDS gospel. We can also fairly critique Gee for perhaps implying, intentionally or not, that apostates are stupid or misinformed, but I think it is fair to make the argument that many people who leave do so with an incomplete understanding of Mormonism. I think it is also fair for Gee to point out that some people have stronger spiritual convictions than others.

Of course, many of us can say that the LDS Church does not really facilitate an accurate or full understanding of Mormonism anyways, and that such an understanding really leads to the conclusion that the whole thing is garbage.

But I can see how a deeply committed believer who knows an awful lot about Mormonism might measure the knowledge of many leave-takers as severely wanting.
All excellent points, but I would be one of those who argue that it is not, or should not, be all that important that people understand the LDS Gospel. The number one reason people leave the Church, even if they don't say so, is that it is not contributing to the quality of their lives. The Book of Abraham is a canary in a coal mine for some, but I really doubt that it matters at all for most people who stop being Mormon. I doubt few of them even know that the Book of Abraham is not in the Old Testament.

But why would it make a difference if they did know? Assuming that people leave with a shallow understanding of just what it is they are leaving, the case needs to be made why some deeper understanding is really what is needed. It's not clear that the Church even cares about doing that, and so we find what I think is a paraodox: historical problem are actually a benefit for the Church. Rather than having to be more attentive to members' needs (or perhaps more accurately: rather than reforming the institution so that it can be more attentive), they will just write off a whole generation or two as insufficiently committed without ever having to do the work of persuasion: "it's not me, it's you."

The best argument against the Church's claim that you need to stay or join, and the one that is implicit in most people's leaving, has nothing to do with Mormon scripture or Mormon history or Mormon doctrine. That best argument is: living as a Mormon sucks; it has a low payoff but a high cost.

Convince us otherwise, John Gee.

Also, what a strong and relevant addition to the scholarship of the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages at BYU.
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Re: John Gee claims in his new book intro that there's no need for his new book

Post by Dr Moore »

Gee, quoted by IHAQ wrote: The Dunning–Kruger effect is alive and well among Latter-day Saints. This is one of the reasons we have interviews with someone else to assess our worthiness and are not allowed just to determine for ourselves if we are worthy. People have a tendency to think their self-assessments are more accurate that than other’s assessments are.
(Gee, John - Saving Faith: How Families Protect, Sustain, and Encourage Faith Section 1 "Hardly perfect")
(bold mine)

Source, Gee? I might have missed it, but I publicly wager $1 with Gee that NO CHURCH LEADER EVER has attributed the need for priesthood interviews to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Not by direct reference, nor by articulating the requirement as he does: because "people have a tendency to think their self-assessments are more accurate than other's assessments."

He might find one, but I'd go double or nothing that such a GA statement was made in context of a person who doubts their worthiness and needs a priesthood leader to tell them, as a representative of Christ, that yes, he/she is worthy after all. Which is, of course, the antithesis of Gee's implied statement. He betrays his view of chronically inflated self-assessment when he says "...and are not allowed just to determine for ourselves if we are worthy." Gee thinks most people believe they're better than they are. He doesn't even consider the possibility that many people believe they're worse than they are.

Gee's assertion is wrong, in spirit and in letter. Self-assessment is, in fact, put on members at almost every point of decision for which worthiness matters to the church. If we weren't allowed "just to determine for ourselves" then there would be a brief interview every Sunday morning on the way in to Sacrament meetings (especially for the teenage boys!).

The priesthood interview, in its most sincere form, allows a person to articulate their self-assessment to a person who stands in for Christ. The interviewer determines worthiness based on the answers to questions like "do you consider yourself worthy." Gee claims Dunning-Kruger for an instance of using someone's watch to tell them the time. Mormons are not only "allowed" but "expected" to self-assess worthiness. Period.

Gee is a Pharisee who thinks so highly of his holy ideas, he is willing to transfer his mind into the mind of God who never said what he asserts God meant to say. The more I hear from Gee, the more I'm convinced he uses modern-day LDS prophets as nothing but mascots to ennoble his ultra sanctimonious notions of what constitutes righteousness.
Last edited by Dr Moore on Fri Jul 10, 2020 1:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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