'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

August 31, 2011

From Sex Fiends to Family Values: the LDS and The Family International

Chain The Dogma August 31, 2011

From Sex Fiends to Family Values: the LDS and The Family International

Religious doctrines abandoned for political or legal reasons, like Zombies, never die

by Perry Bulwer

A recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune discusses the doctrine of polygamy in the mainstream Mormon church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

If polygamy became legal in this country, would the LDS Church, which abandoned it in 1890, embrace it again?

After all, some say, it remains part of Mormon doctrine, enshrined in LDS scripture, and many Latter-day Saints believe it will exist in the afterlife. Even the late Mormon apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote that the “holy practice” would resume after Jesus Christ’s Second Coming.

Of course, Mormon leaders abandoned polygamy strictly for political reasons in 1890. If the U.S. government had not criminalized plural marriages and aggressively fought for over 40 years to end the practice, the LDS would likely still practice polygamy as a divine dogma today. As much as they have tried to reinterpret history and claim there were theological reasons for ending polygamy, the reality is that the political and legal consequences of continuing it jeopardized their church. It was self-preservation, not spiritual awakening.

David Berg, the deceased founder and self-proclaimed end-time prophet of the Children of God, now known as The Family International, greatly admired Joseph Smith. There are numerous references and discussions of Mormon history in his writings, and Berg often compared his cult to Joseph Smith's. It's true, there are many similarities between the two evangelical Christian sects, particularly in the way the two founding leaders created sexual doctrines to justify their own licentiousness.  And just like Mormon leaders did, Family International leaders were willing to abandon a core doctrine for mere political and legal expediency in order to save their 'new religious movement'. However, doctrines abandoned for those reasons often do not die, especially when they are written into so-called holy texts. They either get reinterpreted or remain dormant until it is safe to revive them, or they continue being practised by individuals and splinter groups, such as the fundamentalist Mormons that still consider polygamy a religious imperative today.

The Family International does not have a specific 'holy book' like the Book of Mormon, but they do consider Berg's writings to be divinely inspired and as important as the Bible (both groups use the King James Bible). Berg even wrote that if it came down to a choice between one or the other, his followers should read his writings before the Bible.  One of The Family International's foundational doctrines is the Law of Love, deviously devised by Berg to justify his own acts of incest and adultery. Essentially, the doctrine purported to provide divine approval for all sexual activity between anyone of any age, whether related or not. As Berg wrote to his followers in 1980:

 As far as God’s concerned, there are no more sexual prohibitions hardly of any kind … there’s nothing in the world at all wrong with sex as long as it’s practiced in love, whatever it is, whoever it’s with, no matter who or what age or what relative or what manner! … There are no relationship restrictions or age limitations in His law of love....

The only activity Berg clearly condemned was male homosexuality, which he considered worse than rape.  However, as reports of child abuse began to emerge in the 1980s, political and legal reactions resulted in raids of the group's communes in several countries. This forced the group's leaders to reinterpret the doctrine so that sex between adults and minors is prohibited. At least that's what they claim, that all adult-child sexual conduct was finally prohibited in1989, that they renounced certain sexual doctrines and that they have left their past far behind. However, such a claim coming from a group that has absolutely no oversight from or accountability to any external authority for its activities, and has an official policy of deceiving and lying to outsiders, including law enforcement and government officials, simply cannot be trusted when they say they have changed. In the years that followed, Family International leaders developed a new doctrine that continued the sexualization of children, even while they were insisting in a court of law that children were now protected from the sexual doctrines.

After Berg's death in 1994, the current leaders of the cult, Karen Zerby, aka Maria Fontaine, and Steven Kelly,  aka Peter Amsterdam, carried on his sexual extremism. Even while they were trying to convince a judge in a British custody case that they had now safe-guarded children from the sexual doctrines, Zerby and Kelly were secretly devising a new sexual doctrine they called Loving Jesus,  which among other things, encourages members, including children, to imagine having sex with Jesus while masturbating or during sexual intercourse. Zerby, like Berg, does not believe adult sexual molestation of children is wrong, stating that  “... a little fondling & sweet affection is not wrong in the eyes of God, & if they have experienced the same in the past they weren’t 'abused'”. She also wrote, as cited by the judge:  “This is the very thing the system would like to use against us—sex with minors which they always term child abuse although in our loving Family there would be very little possibility of genuine abuse…”. In order for men to practice the Loving Jesus doctrine they are required to imagine themselves as 'females in the spirit' because male homosexuality is one of the few sexual practices the group considers sinful.

First introduced to members in 1995, the development of this new sexual doctrine was directly related to the central role of the Law of Love in The Family International. Zerby was determined that members become even more sexually active by obeying and living the Law of Love more fully. To that end, in 1998, she published an 11-part series entitled Living the Lord’s Law of Love in an internal publication. There are censored versions of all 11 parts of that series at the following archive,  numbered 3199 to 3212. These letters were required reading and came with special instructions that the series had to be read by each home as a group, not individually, thus increasing the peer pressure to conform. The group's leaders did manage to convince that British judge, Justice Ward referenced above, that the child at the center of the child custody case was no longer in danger from the practice of the Law of Love. However, he did express some apprehension at the possibility of abandoned or denounced doctrines resurfacing in the future. It now seems that Justice Ward was quite prescient when he referred to the possible “resurrection of the freedoms given by the Law of Love”. He certainly would have been concerned about the effect of the new Loving Jesus doctrine on children, and if he had known it was in development even while the custody case was ongoing he surely would have ruled against returning the child to his cult mother. But he did not know because Family International members who testified in the case lied to him on the witness stand and in affidavits, as I have previously pointed out:

Near the beginning of the 295-page judgment in that case, in a section titled “The Family’s Attitude to Lies and Deception,” Justice Ward speaks to the issue of the veracity of Family witnesses by specific reference to the deceivers-yet-true doctrine, stating, “I regret to find that in many instances there has been a lack of frankness and a failure to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” He then gives six specific examples of how The Family’s witnesses were less than honest in the proceedings and goes on to say, “These are worrying examples and they are not the only ones of the ingrained habit of lying if they have to and of telling half the truth if they can get away with it.” Throughout the judgment, Ward provides further examples of Family witnesses “dissembling the truth—deceiving yet true” and withholding incriminating documentary evidence from the court.

Another controversial Berg doctrine The Family International supposedly abandoned, but could be resurrected at any time, was the practice of religious prostitution known as Flirty Fishing.  Based on Jesus' command to his disciples to become fishers of men, and expanding on the Law of Love doctrine, it became a way to not only 'win souls' but to gain protection and financial support. In the early days of the Children of God sex between unmarried regular members was forbidden, but the Law of Love changed that, and then Flirty Fishing opened the door to sex with outsiders. A scandal on the Canary Island of Tenerife in the 1970s exposed Flirty Fishing to the world (I have an explosive post in the works on that) and then as child abuse began to be exposed and the AIDS epidemic was taking hold around the world, Family leaders decided it was no longer in their best interest to continue the practice. Here's an official statement from the group on why they stopped it:

 In 1987 the Family discontinued FFing to emphasize other means of ministering the Word of God to others, as well as to take advantage of opportunities to reach more people than the very personalized ministry of FFing allowed. At that time as well, the plague of AIDS had begun its rampage through the world—another indication that it was time to reconsider Family policy of allowing sexual interaction outside our communities.

Although we no longer practice FFing, we believe the scriptural principles behind the ministry remain sound.  

However, Berg predicted in 1978 that Flirty Fishing through escort services  would be one of the group's main sources of support during the Great Tribulation, which he taught would occur during the 3 1/2 years prior to Jesus' return in 1993. That obviously never happened, but for many years after that failed date leaders continued to manipulate their followers into believing those events were just around the corner. But like all prognosticators do who make specific predictions of Biblical end time events, The Family International leaders recently changed their predictions once again.  They have now given their members 50 more years before Jesus returns, even though Berg and Zerby both prophesied that Zerby would be living when Jesus returned. Karen Zerby and Peter Kelly will be conveniently dead in 50 years, however, so they conveniently won't have to face more accusations of manipulating members with false prophecies. Meanwhile, the Zombie doctrine of Flirty Fishing could easily be resurrected at any time, just like Mormon polygamy.

The Family International's explanation for why they abandoned Flirty Fishing sounds a lot like what some Mormons say about polygamy, that they no longer practice it, though they still believe it is scripturally sound. The Family International has been trying for many years now to rewrite their corporate history, white-wash their past abuses, and remake their image as a sex-obsessed cult  that destroyed individuals and families into that of a respectable family-values missionary movement. Part of that public relations effort included contacting academic apologists to write favourable reports on them. James Chancellor's book, Life in The Family: an Oral History of the Children of God,  is one result of those efforts. William Sims Bainbridge, who wrote another inaccurate book about that group, wrote the forward to Chancellor's book. That short foreword contains several uninformed assertions and factual errors concerning The Family International that not only further undermine Bainbridge’s reliability on the subject, but also reflect badly on Chancellor’s effort to convey a realistic portrait of the group.

Bainbridge declares that The Family International “institutionalized nuclear family.” Certainly, the opposite is true. One of the most fundamental tenets of The Family’s theology is their One Wife doctrine based on a publication of that name, which remains required reading for new members:

But God’s in the business of breaking up little selfish private worldly families to make of their yielded broken pieces a larger unit—one Family! He’s in the business of destroying the relationships of many wives in order to make them One Wife—God’s Wife—The Bride of Christ. God is not averse to breaking up selfish little families for His glory, to make of the pieces a much larger unselfish unit—the Whole Family—the entire Bride—the One Wife instead of many wives!

One Wife is one of The Family’s foundational doctrines, out of which grew even more bizarre and controversial sexual doctrines, such as the Law of Love, Flirty Fishing, and Loving Jesus discussed above. Far from institutionalizing the nuclear family, The Family’s leadership has never hesitated to separate husbands from wives, and children from parents, or otherwise manipulate the parent-child relationship. If The Family International places any importance at all in the nuclear family, it is only within the following context, described by Wendell W. Watters, M.D.:

…[S]o powerful is the family in human society that many revolutionary political movements have, in their initial stages, attempted to destroy its power to maintain the status quo, by appealing directly to children over the heads of their parents. 
The present-day religious cults are noted for creating rifts between parents and their adolescent children. However, once a movement achieves its revolutionary goals, as in the case of Christianity and communism, it reverses this position and attempts once more to use the family as an ally in maintaining and extending its power. 
Wendell Watters, M.D., Deadly Doctrine: Health, Illness and Christian God-Talk (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1992), 47-49.

That is exactly what David Berg's cult did. They started out as the Children of God (who needs parents when you have God?), destroying the institutions of monogamous marriage and nuclear families, and then remade themselves as The Family International, supposedly upholding family values. Berg likened himself to a modern day Pied Piper. He claimed to have many spiritual helpers  (many of them fictional characters such as Don Quixote and the Abominable Snowman), which were revealed to him in séances with current leader, Karen Zerby, known as Maria to members. There are references to the Pied Piper throughout Berg's writings. Here are a few excerpts to highlight just how deliberately this cult set out to manipulate young people and destroy their familial relationships (MO is David Berg, emphasis in the original):

8. MARIA: DOES PETER THE HERMIT COUNSEL DAVID? MO smiles as he observes the Heavenly counselors, and answers slowly ... NO, BUT THE PIED PIPER DOES! MO chuckles as he continues to see the Pied Piper: He has big ears and a funny tall hat, and long blond hair. He plays the flute, and all the children like to dance and sing--'cause he likes children. My children dance! http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b4/ml0102.shtml

18. THE LORD HAS SPOKEN THROUGH ME FOR A PURPOSE, FOR THE PURPOSE OF CAUSING YOUTH TO BELIEVE & YOUTH TO FOLLOW! If God has made me the Pied Piper, so to speak, to jump & dance & play His tune to lead His children, why not? http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b5/ml1410.shtml

10. THANK YOU FOR THE PIED PIPER, LORD! Bless him, in Jesus name! Help him to charm the children by the Spirit. Help him to make the kids leave their parents to drown in the river like rats! ... (Surprised, MO continues:) I didn't know that, but all the parents who tried to chase their children fell in the river and drowned like rats! The Lord lets all the parents who chase us drown like rats! http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b4/ml0111.shtml

The Family International's history sounds an awful lot like the history of the LDS, as this quotation from a Boston Globe article indicates: "... as so-called “family values’’ came to dominate US political rhetoric, the Mormons who were once hounded as sex fiends were reborn as the American family ideal."  The early Mormon church under Joseph Smith's leadership started out destroying the institutions of monogamous marriage and nuclear families. Under political and legal pressure the church then reversed their position and began "to use the family as an ally in maintaining and extending its power." As the article goes on to explain:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has adapted to survive. Has it done so at the expense of core, if unpopular, convictions? ...  Mormonism has a mechanism for change that is unique among religions, with church leaders empowered to receive fresh revelations that can overturn doctrine on a dime. It happened most famously in 1890 on polygamy, and again in 1978 when the church admitted blacks to the LDS priesthood (a revelation, Romney says, that made him weep with relief). When other religions change, it is often with the pretense that the new dogma is not really new.

Given David Berg's fascination with Joseph Smith and Mormonism, the current leaders of The Family International no doubt place great hope in the fact that the LDS church, once hounded as sex fiends for their doctrine of polygamy, have been reborn as the American family ideal with two members in the race for U.S. president, one (Romney) whose near relatives were devout polygamists. If abandoning core doctrines worked for the Mormons, perhaps it will work for them. Just like the LDS, The Family International also uses "fresh revelations that can overturn doctrine on a dime." They have been doing that for years as a means of manipulating and controlling their members. And just as fundamentalist Mormons have revived the practice of polygamy (or never ended it), leading to horrendous abuses of children and women, the demented doctrines of David Berg can easily be resurrected at any time by leaders of The Family International, or by individuals or splinter groups that still believe in and practice abandoned doctrines.


  1. What is polygamy? Can we agree that it is having more than one spouse at a time? Yes, family law lawyers and judges love to play with what the word spouse means. Lets make the assumption that a spouses have "marital-like" relationship. They can have "religious ceremony of spousal hood, civil sanctioning as in marriage certificate or in some jurisdictions, common law marriage..identical to civil marriage..legal rights and legal obligations of marriage, enforced by state legislation found in family law.
    LDSF members do practice having multiple simultaneous spouses but they find loopholes in the laws against polygamy or bigamy by not having civil ceremonies for additional spouses.
    What if the state simply sanctioned and recognized multiple spouses to protect polygamists from criminal charges?
    Wouldn't it make sense to get rid of laws that make it illegal to have more than one partner at a time?
    Right now, in much of North America it is a protected right to be in a civil marriage and still have identical marital rights and obligations with a common law spouse. One does not need to get a divorce to enter into legal spousal hood with a common law partner.
    Why should civil marriages be any different?

  2. This article is not about polygamy or marriage. It is about religious con artists and hypocrites who claim their abusive doctrines were revealed to them directly by gods, angels, or spirits only to then abandon those same doctrines for political and legal reasons. Polygamy and marriage is only being discussed in this article in that context of religious hypocrisy, where a religious group starts out with a belief they claim is God's will and then abandon that belief, not for theological reasons such as God changed his/her mind, but out of self-interest. Doctrines abandoned for that reason never really die, as 'true believers' can always resurrect them at any time.

    Anyway Anonymous, why are you so interested in protecting law-breaking polygamists from criminal charges? Maybe you are one, which is why you are afraid to use your real name when merely expressing your opinion? There is plenty of evidence that polygamy is extremely harmful to children and women, and denies them many of their rights, but maybe you are a religious man who doesn't care about denying equal rights to women and children.



    http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/2011/06/study-on-bedouin-polygamy-finds-it.html .

  3. Perry,I am a person who was forced to become the spouse of a married person. This was not done in the purported exercise of religious rights. It was done by a government, Attorney General and judge in a family law court. They basically said married persons can have same time spouses. I cohabited with a married person who kept saying he would get divorced. He lied. I did not wish to be considered the legal spouse of a married person. The family law courts said that since I cohabited with this married person I was also his spouse at the same time he remained married (civil marriage).
    The point is that you call the supposed god given directions an abusive doctrine that allows sex fiends to abuse people. What is the difference if a religion allows polygamy and a government allows polygamy. You said "The early Mormon church under Joseph Smith's leadership started out destroying the institutions of monogamous marriage and nuclear families". My point is that polygamists or "flirty fishers" do not need any help in destroying the sanctity of marriage and nuclear family, the government is doing it for them. I wrote the initial paragraph to see what the response would be to legalizing polygamy everywhere.

  4. Anonymous, I took the tone I did in my first response to you because I often get bigoted, hateful or preachy comments from people who hide behind anonymity, which is why I usually do not approve anonymous comments. I do keep that option open for persons with a genuine need to remain anonymous, such as survivors or current members of religious groups who want to confirm or expose abuses within those groups. Your first comment here was somewhat ambiguous and it seemed to me that you were defending polygamy, but I wasn't certain so I approved it and then posed the question to you.

    Your situation seems different than that of a survivor of religion related abuse, though, and I still do not understand why you need to be anonymous to express your opinions on this matter. I have a feeling that you have posted similar comments about your situation before on the Religion and Child Abuse News archive I keep, and are also the same person who has posted similar comments on the blog Stop Polygamy in Canada.

    Now that you have explained yourself more, I can sympathize with your situation, but there's nothing I can do about it and I do not think that legalizing polygamy will solve anything, only endanger more children and women. It seems to me, without knowing more details (but I don't want to know), that you have been caught up in some kind of legal loophole. As one of Charles Dickens' characters says, "the law is a ass" sometimes, and this may be one of those times. I have a suggestion: go to or contact the nearest law school and find out if they have any kind of law student legal advice clinic. I worked in one when I was a student at UBC and we provided free legal advice under the direction of a supervisor for all kinds of legal problems and questions. Law students are often eager to dig into interesting cases and maybe you can find help that way.

  5. Is there an effort underway anywhere to ban the emotional manipulation of children; manipulation that uses fear and guilt as control techniques,i.e the conjuring up of frightening imagery by religion teachers? I was a psychiatric counselor for many years, and at minimum, half of my patients suffered from the duality teachings using angels and demons. We know the politicians all play the religion card to get votes, so it seems we will initally have to get a coalition of academic, legal, and health care professionals to make the case rendering such emotionally controlling and frightening teachings illegal. I'd appreciate it if you could put me in touch with such efforts. Thank you. Peter

  6. Radical cleric took winding path to become 'Pied Piper of jihadists'

    By Valerie J. Nelson L.A. Times
    September 30, 2011

    While living in San Diego in the late 1990s, Anwar Awlaki regularly fished for albacore and shared his catch with a neighbor. At the local mosque where he preached, he delighted in playing soccer with young children and taking the teenagers paint-balling.

    "He had an allure. He was charming," Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, outreach director of an Islamic center in Falls Church, Va., where Awlaki later gave sermons, told reporters in 2009.

    With his fashionable eyeglasses and fluent English, the U.S.-born radical cleric also had been called a "Pied Piper of jihadists," an Internet phenomenon who produced video and audio recordings to lure Westerners to his extremist ideologies.

    Awlaki, who had been linked to several terrorist plots in the U.S., was killed Friday in a joint CIA-military airstrike, U.S. officials said. He was 40.

    read the full article at:


  7. Anne Frank, a Mormon?

    By MAUREEN DOWD NYT October 18, 2011

    At an appearance at George Washington University here Saturday night, Bill Maher bounded into territory that the news media have been gingerly tiptoeing around. Magic underwear. Baptizing dead people. Celestial marriages. Private planets. Racism. Polygamy. “By any standard, Mormonism is more ridiculous than any other religion,” asserted the famously nonbelieving comic who skewered the “fairy tales” of several faiths in his documentary “Religulous.” “It’s a religion founded on the idea of polygamy. They call it The Principle. That sounds like The Prime Directive in ‘Star Trek.’ ” He said he expects the Romney crowd — fighting back after Robert Jeffress, a Texas Baptist pastor supporting Rick Perry, labeled Mormonism a non-Christian “cult” — to once more “gloss over the differences between Christians and Mormons.”

    Maher was not easy on the religion he was raised in either. He referred to the Roman Catholic Church as “an international child sex ring.” But atheists, like Catholics and evangelical Christians, seem especially wary of Mormons, dubbed the “ultimate shape-shifters” by Maher.

    ... In The Times on Sunday, Sheryl Gay Stolberg chronicled Romney’s role as a bishop in Boston often giving imperious pastoral guidance on everything from divorce to abortion. Stolberg reported that Romney, who would later run for Senate as a supporter of abortion rights against Teddy Kennedy and then flip to oppose those rights in Republican presidential primaries, showed up unannounced at a hospital in his role as bishop. He “sternly” warned a married mother of four, who was considering terminating a pregnancy because of a potentially dangerous blood clot, not to go forward.

    Another famous nonbeliever, Christopher Hitchens, wrote in Slate on Monday about “the weird and sinister belief system of the LDS,” the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Aside from Joseph Smith, whom Hitchens calls “a fraud and conjurer well known to the authorities in upstate New York,” the writer also wonders about the Mormon practice of amassing archives of the dead and “praying them in” as a way to “retrospectively ‘baptize’ everybody as a convert.” Hitchens noted that they “got hold of a list of those put to death by the Nazis’ Final Solution” and “began making these massacred Jews into honorary LDS members as well.” He called it “a crass attempt at mass identity theft from the deceased.”

    The Mormons even baptized Anne Frank. It took Ernest Michel, then chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, three years to get Mormons to agree to stop proxy-baptizing Holocaust victims. ...

    Kent Jackson, the associate dean of religion at Brigham Young University, says that while Mormons are Christians, “Mormonism is not part of the Christian family tree.” It probably won’t comfort skeptical evangelicals and Catholics to know that Mormons think that while other Christians merely “have a portion of the truth, what God revealed to Joseph Smith is the fullness of the truth,” as Jackson says. “We have no qualms about saying evangelicals, Catholics and Protestants can go to heaven, including Pastor Jeffress. We just believe that the highest blessings of heaven come” to Mormons.

    As for those planets that devout Mormon couples might get after death, Jackson says that’s a canard. But Bushman says it’s part of “Mormon lore,” and that it’s based on the belief that if humans can become like God, and God has the whole universe, then maybe Mormons will get to run a bit of that universe. As for the special garment that Mitt wears, “we wouldn’t say ‘magic underwear,’ ” Bushman explains. It is meant to denote “moral protection,” a sign that they are “a consecrated people like the priests of ancient Israel.” ...

    read the full article at:


  8. When Mormons Were Socialists: Why the Mormon Church's Founders Would be Very Disappointed in Mitt Romney

    By Troy Williams, Salon posted on AlterNet on April 15, 2012

    “You are cursed because of your riches!”

    It was a bummer message that nobody wanted to hear. Samuel the Lamanite stood alone atop the great wall of the city of Zarahemla to warn the inhabitants of their pending destruction.

    Now you have probably never heard of this Samuel, nor the capital city that was once the center of the Nephite nation. But Mitt Romney certainly has. In 6 BC, as the story goes, somewhere on the American continent, the inhabitants of this mythic city had grown decadent. There were extreme class divisions. Politicians were corrupt. The government disregarded the sick and poor.

    Sound familiar?

    God had called Samuel to essentially Occupy Zarahemla, to stand up and speak out against corporate greed and wealth accumulation. For his trouble, he was promptly thrown out the front gates. Undeterred, he bravely scaled the city’s exterior wall, evading a barrage of arrows and stones to stand defiant. He offered Zarahemla a choice: repent or be destroyed by God. Like any of us who have ever witnessed the ranting of a doomsday prophet, the Nephites couldn’t be bothered. Four hundred years later, Samuel’s prophecy would sorely come to pass. After decades of perpetual wars and extreme environmental upheavals, the inhabitants of Zarahemla were wiped completely off the continent and out of history.

    They had been warned.

    The rise and fall of the Nephite nation is a cautionary tale included in the Book of Mormon. The book purports to be the history of ancient American people, written by prophets who foresaw the present day and knew that calamity was coming. Joseph Smith reportedly translated the record by “the gift and power of God.” The prophetic message of the scripture is sharp; if Americans are obedient to God, we will be blessed with riches. If Americans set our hearts on riches and ignore the poor, we will be destroyed.

    It’s an ontological dilemma facing every millionaire Mormon.

    One hundred and eighty-two years after its founding, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is certainly prospering. The Church has diversified into commercial enterprises, owning television and radio stations, universities, farms, banks and, most recently, retail. Last month, the Church opened City Creek Mall, a stunning billion-dollar downtown renovation in Salt Lake City featuring the Utah debut of Tiffany Jewelry, Michael Kors and Porches Design. This ambitious temple of high-end commerce sits adjacent to the iconic LDS Temple where sacred rituals are performed daily by the Mormon faithful.

    Mitt Romney and City Creek represent the culmination of a great transformation within Mormonism. As an outcast faith, early Mormons experimented with communal living and alternative marriages. This original brand of Mormonism was typified by their rugged frontier prophet and polygamist outsider Brigham Young. In 1848, Young famously declared, “There shall be no private ownership of the streams that come out of the canyons, nor the timber that grows on the hills. These belong to the people: all the people.”

    Young’s egalitarian separatism has long been superseded. The living embodiment of the 21st century saint is now the slick, painfully monogamous, politically malleable super-capitalist Romney who shares “humorous” tales of layoffs and factory closures.

    Romney perfected the art of “creative destruction” through leveraged buyouts and junk bond financing that enriched his investors at Bain Capital while at times devastating common workers. His critics from the 99 percent, he argues, are driven by envy.

    continued in next comment...

  9. continued from previous comment:

    Ironically, while Romney would prefer to discuss wealth inequality in “quiet rooms,” the topic consumed both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young’s sermons and writings. For a short time in the Book of Mormon, the Nephites abandoned their love of riches and established “Zion” — a classless utopia that “had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, but they were all made free.”

    The Nephite story provided the template for Smith and Young’s social experiments with communalism. They would both try repeatedly to replicate the mythic Zion. Smith repeatedly told his followers, “if you are not equal in earthly things you cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things.” Young also championed wealth redistribution, “We have plenty here. No person is going to starve, or suffer, if there is an equal distribution of the necessaries of life.”

    But like all utopias, the dream is easier than reality.

    Facing the existential threat of federal disincorporation, the LDS Church responded by seeking assimilation at any cost. They began to privatize their cooperative business ventures throughout the 1880s and publicly abandoned polygamy in 1890. The course was set. To survive in America, Mormons would transform themselves into patriotic citizens. The quest for Zion would be replaced by the American dream. The rhetoric of communalism exchanged with a reverence for the free market. Romney’s ascendance to the nation’s highest office will affirm to Mormons that their faith is finally authentic – that they are the indisputable Horatio Alger of American religions.

    But how would the poor fare under the first Mormon president? By all accounts, not well. Romney has eagerly endorsed Paul Ryan’s budget plan to slash $3.3 trillion from programs that benefit low-income Americans. Furthermore, Romney refuses to consider increased taxes on millionaires or a modest increase on the taxable rates of capital gains. He encourages the wealthy to hoard their riches while the poor continue to struggle. It’s a familiar story he should know. Samuel the Lamanite continues to cry out to Romney in sacred protest, “The day shall come when they shall hide up their treasures, because they have set their hearts upon riches; cursed be they and also their treasures.”

    He has been warned.


  10. Mitt Romney’s nomination marks milestone for Mormon faith

    By Sandhya Somashekhar and Jason Horowitz, The Washington Post May 29, 2012

    America quietly observed a major milestone in its history Tuesday when Mitt Romney became the first Mormon presidential nominee of a major political party.

    The achievement comes four years after a spate of firsts, culminating with the election of the first African American president. This one has been greeted with little fanfare. And that is just how Romney and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints want it.

    But whether they want to call attention to it or not, Romney’s achievement is historic. Nearly 200 years after the founding of Mormonism by Joseph Smith, who himself ran for president to call attention to his flock’s persecution, Romney’s nomination signals how far his faith, and the country’s acceptance of it, has come.

    “If you look at it in a historical perspective, it’s absolutely incredible,” said Richard Lyman Bushman, a leading Mormon scholar and longtime acquaintance of Romney’s. “A century-and-a-half ago, Mormons were detested as a people as well as a religion. They were thought to be primitive and crude. And now to have someone overcome all the lingering prejudice, that’s a milestone.”

    On Tuesday, Romney kept his focus on the economy and his criticism of President Obama as he campaigned in Colorado, California and Las Vegas. His campaign, which has been reluctant to address his faith, did not respond to e-mails Tuesday asking for comment about his trailblazing achievement.

    The church, which has taken pains this year to stay out of the presidential fray, offered a muted response.

    “The church’s neutrality in political campaigning is well established, and we won’t be making any statement today,” said church spokesman Michael Otterson.

    If the silence serves a political purpose for Romney, it serves a pastoral one for the church. Mormonism is one of the world’s fastest-growing religions, with as many adherents in the United States as Judaism. Still, about one in three Americans say they have an unfavorable view of the Mormon church, according to a March Bloomberg News poll.

    There may be no better face for a church on the rise than a president, but for a faith trying to expand its reach and demonstrate diversity, getting wrapped up in partisan politics carries some risk.

    Romney has only occasionally addressed his religion over the past year, touching on it primarily to portray himself generically as a man of faith and to draw similarities between his beliefs and those of other Christians, some of whom view Mormonism as outside traditional Christianity and akin to a cult.

    Romney’s emphasis on the common threads were at the heart of a speech he made this month at Liberty University, an evangelical Christian college.

    “Central to America’s rise to global leadership is our Judeo-Christian tradition, with its vision of the goodness and possibilities of every life,” Romney said in his May 12 commencement address. “From the beginning, this nation has trusted in God, not man. . . . There is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action.”

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    Romney is not the first candidate to walk a thin line on religion, though his efforts to appeal to evangelicals with his spirituality, while gliding over theological differences, has required some acrobatics.

    In 1960, John F. Kennedy was forced to assuage fears that he was more loyal to his Catholic faith than the country. As far back as 1908, William Howard Taft fended off attacks on his Unitarianism. But in 1976, Jimmy Carter emphasized his “born again” bona fides as an antidote to the spiritually trying time after Watergate and the Vietnam War.

    If Tuesday’s groundbreaking moment fell softly, it is partly because the echoes of 2008 have not faded. Not only did the campaign lead to the elevation of Obama, but Hillary Rodham Clinton nearly shattered the glass ceiling in her effort to win the Democratic nomination and Sarah Palin made history as the first female Republican vice presidential candidate.

    But it is also because Romney has long been laying the groundwork for this moment. This is his second run for president, and his Mormon faith has been a source of curiosity, with journalists probing his years as a bishop and examining his relationship with church leaders in Salt Lake City.

    Many say it was inevitable that a Mormon would one day reach this benchmark. Founded in the United States, Mormonism is a deeply American religion and many of its adherents believe the nation’s founding documents were divinely inspired. Though the church tries to remain neutral in elections, Mormons are encouraged to be politically active and have long participated at every level of government. They have also been active in both parties, though polls show the vast majority of Mormons are politically conservative.

    In 1843, Smith asked all the declared candidates to come to the defense of Mormons, who had suffered persecution in Missouri and elsewhere. Unsatisfied with the response, he ran for president in 1844, essentially as a protest candidate. He was killed that year in Illinois.

    When Utah was incorporated into the union, prominent Mormons immediately began seeking higher office. But by the turn of the century, they still encountered deep suspicion in government.

    In 1902, Reed Smoot won a Senate seat representing Utah as a Republican, but wary members of Congress refused to seat him. A landmark case followed, and in 1907 he assumed his place in the Senate.

    A century ago the notion of a Mormon occupying the presidency was inconceivable.

    “This is in a way a natural development in the history of Mormonism,” said Jon Meacham, a journalist who has written extensively on politics and religion. “Joseph Smith and the founders of the church clearly saw America as the new Jerusalem, and therefore for an adherent of the faith to have such a central role in the life of a nation would have been something they dreamed of.”

    Staff writers Michelle Boorstein and Elizabeth Tenety contributed to this report.


  12. What Happens If We Wake Up With a Mormon in the White House?

    What Joseph Smith's Run for President Suggests About Mitt Romney

    By Mark Ames, Punch! June 22, 2012
    "I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world." -- Joseph Smith, Jr.

    CHAPTER ONE: 'I Suck, Please Slay Me'

    When Punch first assigned me this story -- a review of A Mormon President, a DVD docudrama about Mormon founder Joseph Smith and his disastrous run for president in 1844 -- I assured my editor he’d have a comic gem with timely political relevance delivered to his inbox before he could say “TK.”

    I was so sure this would be one of the easiest stories I had ever knocked out that I even sent him an ironic pre-victory email labeling the assignment a “slam dunk,” my way of daring the Gods of Writer’s Block.

    That was two months ago.

    Now it’s two days past the final-final deadline. Here I sit, staring at a blank Microsoft Word document titled 
    MORMON BRAINFUCK HATE HATE I SUCK PLEASE SLAY ME DRAFT-8.82c3a.docx. The last communication I had with Punch was when I emailed a quote from Joseph Smith: “You don’t know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history.” It’s the epigraph that opens A Mormon President -- but taken out of context all it did was scare my editor: “Why are you sending me Charlie Manson quotes, Ames? Are you threatening me?”

    I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was quoting Mitt Romney’s own personal Yoda or that the thought of an upgraded version of Joseph Smith taking control of the White House should scare the shit out of secular humanists and liberal elites, who, so far, have dismissed Romney’s foundational ideology, treating it with parody or scorn, if at all.

    Now that it's well past deadline -- the “post-apocalypse” in journalism terms --and I find myself in a peaceful, death-like state, I am capable of telling the tragic story about how a straight-to-DVD historical docudrama (full title: A Mormon President: Joseph Smith and the Mormon Quest for the White House) ruined the life of a promising forty-something writer named Mark Ames in the prime of his middle-youth.

    But this review is about more than Mark Ames. This is about all of us. Because long after the snickering about Mormonism dies down, we are likely to wake up one November morning with a real-life "A Mormon President" of our own. And if the Mormons themselves are to be believed, it means we’re about five months away from the End Days.

    According to a controversial Joseph Smith prophecy, when America degenerates to the point where “the Constitution hangs by a thread” -- and most TV pundits agree we’re there already -- at this time, a Mormon will be elected President of the United States, triggering a whole series of disaster-film plot twists: the end of the world as we know it; the overthrow of “gentile” rule; and the long-promised Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Only, instead of teleporting Himself somewhere interesting like Jerusalem, say the Mormons, Jesus will stage his comeback in Independence, Missouri.

    Let me put it another way. Mitt Romney was raised to believe that if Mitt Romney is elected president, Mitt Romney will rule the world (or whatever is left of it) as the Mormon gods’ Viceroy, while Jesus Christ stumbles through tornado country, making crop circles in a corn field, or whatever it is you do there.

    If you don’t believe me, it’s because you don’t know the operating software system Romney runs on. A slow and stupid operating system, sure, but it may soon be hooked up to about 5,000 nuclear warheads and a global empire, so ignoring it won’t save you.

    It sounds too crazy to be true, I know -- but by now we liberal elites should know not to trust our instincts. Look at what happened in the case of Barack Obama: ... read the rest at:


  13. Dawkins disses Mormonism shock-horror

    Ophelia Benson, Butterflies & Wheels - Free Thoughts Blogs September 11, 2012

    The Telegraph is outraged because Richard Dawkins had the temerity to say that Mormonism has ridiculous stuff in it. It uses loaded language to convey its outrage.

    Richard Dawkins on Sunday accused Mitt Romney of being a “massively gullible fool” as he launched into a furious tirade against the Republican’s Mormon faith.

    Britain’s most prominent atheist attacked the core tenets of Mr Romney’s religion, saying that the Church of Latter Day Saints’ founding prophet was “a fraud” and that the presidential contender was “too stupid to see it”.

    “No matter how much you agree with Romney’s economic policy, can you really vote for such a massively gullible fool?” asked Prof Dawkins during an outburst on Twitter that lasted several hours. [emphasis added]

    So? Mormonism does have ridiculous stuff in it. We need to know if candidates for public office believe ridiculous stuff. (In the US they almost all do, but that’s no reason not to point it out when they do.)

    The Oxford academic focused his criticism on the Church’s belief that its founder, Joseph Smith, was visited by an angel in 1820s New York, who guided him to a set of golden plates buried in a hill.

    Smith claimed to have translated runes engraved on the plates, and compiled them into the Book of Mormon. The text describes how Jesus Christ appeared in the United States after the Crucifixion and how Adam and Eve went to the site of present-day Missouri after being expelled from the Garden of Eden.

    Well exactly – and that’s ridiculous!

    Dawkins expanded on his “outburst” in a couple of comments at RDF. He addressed the claim that Mormonism is no more absurd than the other religions.

    Christianity, even fundamentalist Christianity, is substantially less ridiculous than Mormonism…Christian scriptures are genuinely ancient. The translations from Hebrew and Greek that Christians use are in a language contemporary with the translators. The Book of Mormon is not ancient and the language of its alleged “translation” is ludicrously anachronistic. It was dictated by Joseph Smith, a man with a track record of charlatanry, purporting to translate it from “Reformed Egyptian” with the aid of a magic stone in a magic hat (Douglas Adams’ Babel Fish is not less plausible). The English in which Smith dictated it is not the English of his own time (1830) but the English of more than two centuries earlier. As Mark Twain cuttingly observed, if you remove all occurrences of “It came to pass” the book would be reduced to a pamphlet. The language in which it is written proclaims it to be a palpable fake – as if Smith’s cock-and-bull story of golden plates hadn’t already given the game away. Smith obviously was steeped in the King James Bible, and he made up a whole new set of “scriptures” in the same style of English.

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    Which is so…rube-like. It depends on not realizing that the King James language is 17th century English, not goddy or holy English. Mind you, it worked, so perhaps I shouldn’t laugh. But I do.

    Setting aside the mountebankery of Smith’s English style, many of the core beliefs of Mormonism run counter to everything we now know for certain about the colonisation of America. DNA evidence, for example, utterly refutes the claim that native Americans are “a remnant of the House of Israel”. The idea that Jesus visited America is preposterous, and the idea the Adam and Eve did too is even worse (it is at least arguable that Jesus existed). The traditional Mormon belief in the inferiority of black people (only lately renounced for reasons of political expediency) is as scientifically inaccurate as it is obnoxious.The great “prophet” Brigham Young even prescribed the death penalty for inter-racial marriage.

    Yes but it doesn’t do to say so!

    And then there’s the no religion test retort.

    The other main retort to my Mormon tweets is an important one. It is that a candidate’s religion should be ignored unless he allows it to impinge on his policy. The principle of this was laid out by J F Kennedy, when his Catholicism was counting against him. It appears to some readers to be enshrined in Article VI of the Constitution: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Of course that is right. There should never be any law barring a person of any particular faith (or none) from holding office (as the law of England, for example, prohibits a Roman Catholic from occupying the throne). But of course that admirable constitutional clause doesn’t prohibit individual voters from taking the religion of a candidate into account when they make up their own minds in the voting booth.

    Yes and not just individual voters; also observers and commentators…and bloggers and tweeters. We all get to point out the problems and discuss them and form opinions because of them.

    Even if Romney, like Kennedy (but unlike G W Bush) scrupulously kept his religion out of his politics, a voter would still be entitled to take account of his religious beliefs in deciding whether he had the intellect and the judgment to be a good president. It is rational to say something like this: Never mind whether Romney’s taxation policy, foreign policy, education policy etc is completely free of Mormon influence, I am still entitled to say that a man sufficiently gullible to believe in Joseph Smith as a prophet, and sufficiently unscientific to believe Native Americans are a lost tribe of Israel, is not qualified to be president of the world’s most powerful country.

    Yes indeed. (But never forget – it doesn’t do to say so.)

    To read the links embedded in this article go to:


  15. Mitt Romney's Role as Mormon Bishop Shows His Extremist Religious Beliefs

    By Nancy L. Cohen AlterNet September 15, 2012 

    Republican nominee Mitt Romney urged a tough line on Egypt amid deadly anti-US violence in the region, as his running mate called for greater "moral clarity" in Obama administration foreign policy.One winter day, far along into her pregnancy with her second child, 21-year-old Peggy Hayes received a phone call from Willard Mitt Romney. He wanted to talk to her, he said. Could he come over?

    Hayes, the divorced, unmarried mother of a 3-year-old daughter, was struggling as a nurse’s aide in a working-class suburb of Boston. She had little in common with the successful Bain executive, but the request wasn’t as odd as it might seem. Hayes was a Mormon. Romney was her bishop. Romney walked into her small apartment, made small talk and then commanded her to give her baby up for adoption after it was born. He was her bishop, and as she knew, Mormonism disapproved of single motherhood. Hayes said no.

    “Well, this is what the church wants you to do, and if you don’t then you could be excommunicated for failing to follow the leadership of the church,” Romney said, according to Hayes in an interview withBoston Globe journalists Michael Kranish and Scott Helman. Romney denied he made that threat, although he did not dispute the incident.

    Somehow this tale didn’t make it into the Mormon Moment at the Republican National Convention.

    Is Mitt Romney a captive of the religious extremists who control the Republican party, or is he one of them? The answer can be found in a subject Romney has been loathe to discuss: his Mormonism.

    Now we know that the tin man has a heart. Romney is “a loving father, man of faith, and a caring and compassionate friend,” we learned in Tampa, in genuinely moving stories from Mormons Romney pastored. But there’s another side of Romney’s story that begs to be told. In the wake of Todd Akin’s rape comments and the GOP’s adoption of an extremist platform, voters deserve to hear about how Romney has imposed Mormonism’s retrograde doctrines about women, gays and sex on the people he has authority over.

    Given Americans’ limited knowledge about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, let’s begin with an introduction to Mormon mores, where sin-wise “unchastity is next to murder in seriousness.” The Mormon Church forbids any and all sex outside of heterosexual marriage, including “necking and petting”; masturbation; pornography; homosexuality; and abortion in almost all circumstances. Gays who act on their “inclinations” are banned from entering Mormon temples, where many of the most important family events and sacred rituals—marriage, funerals, baptism of the dead—are celebrated. Traditional gender roles are encouraged, and often enforced. Mormonism bars women from the priesthood, enjoins them to have many children, and frowns on mothers working outside the home. In a nation of declining middle-class incomes, there’s not much the hierarchy can do to force mothers back into full-time motherhood and wifedom. Still, the LDS Church doesn’t employ Mormon women with young children or cover birth control for its employees.

    In Mormonism, mothers may be exalted, but women sure aren’t equal.

    To be sure, the LDS church isn’t impervious to change. It did, after all, end polygamy and eventually allow African American men into the priesthood. Yet when it comes to stepping into the 21st century on women’s equality, gay civil rights and sex—as many ordinary Mormons would prefer-- the Mormon Church has dug in its heels.

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    And this is where Romney comes in.

    In 1981, the 34-year-old Romney was already a fabulously successful consultant at Bain & Company when the LDS hierarchy tasked him to be a lay bishop. The Belmont ward, where Romney’s family worshipped, was a hotbed of Mormon feminism—a sign, from Salt Lake City’s perspective, that the congregation needed a Mr. Turnaround. Romney ultimately spent nearly 14 years as a Mormon clergyman, becoming the highest Mormon Church leader in the Boston region. He resigned in 1994 to run for the U.S. Senate against Ted Kennedy.

    Chosen as a kind of enforcer-in-chief, Romney betrayed a zeal far beyond the call of duty. Bishop Romney tried to stop a mother of four whose health was seriously endangered by her pregnancy from having an abortion. The church allows abortion in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother, provided a male LDS authority gives permission to the pregnant woman. Romney's superior had already told the woman to proceed for the sake of her health; Romney intervened. Romney refused to allow an infertile couple to take advantage of the LDS adoption service until the wife agreed to quit her job and be a stay-at-home mother. Other reliable reports of Mitt’s years as a Mormon clergyman have him excommunicating adulterers, calling homosexuals under his authority “perverse,” warning a middle-aged divorced woman that she was not allowed to have sex, and telling a leading Mormon feminist, “You’re not my kind of Mormon.”

    Perhaps this is why Romney has been as cagey about his Mormonism as he is about his Cayman Islands tax shelters.

    Mormon theology—its view of God, the afterlife or Joseph Smith’s revelation—is not at issue here. The issue is whether a President Romney would be able to separate his actions as president from Mormon doctrines about how to live on this planet.

    The record from Romney's four brief years in elected office is not comforting.

    Candidate Romney supported a women’s right to legal abortion, and opposed abstinence-only sex education; Governor Romney opposed abortion, tried to roll back reproductive rights and embryonic stem-cell research, and expanded abstinence-only sex education. The candidate dropped pink fliers at Boston’s Gay Pride parade saying, “Mitt and Kerry wish you a great Pride weekend.” Mitt the governor tried to change state law to allow Catholic adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples. Most troubling, given the credible Washington Post report about a teenaged Mitt chopping off the hair of a gay classmate, was Romney’s elimination of the governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. The commission had been chartered by Republican Governor William Weld to tackle the problem of gay teen suicide.

    Given recent controversies over rape and abortion, one particular decision by Governor Romney merits renewed scrutiny. In July 2005, Romney cut short a New Hampshire vacation in order to veto a bill requiring hospitals to give emergency contraception to rape victims. (The legislature overrode his veto.)Romney defended his veto by claiming he had “spoken with medical professionals” who had informed him that the morning-after pill could work as “an abortion pill.” Who those unnamed scientists are and what they told Romney is unknown. But Romney’s contention is as false, if not as patently absurd, as Todd Akin’s now classic “legitimate rape” canard. The morning-after pill contains a different dose of hormonal contraception to prevent pregnancy; it does not induce abortion. Romney persists in calling emergency contraception “abortive pills.”

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    Mitt’s Mormonism matters because in the one elective office he has held, he governed in accord with Mormon doctrines and against the consensus values of the citizens who elected him. It matters because, by all accounts, it has been the most powerful influence in forging his values and identity. And it matters because the Mormon Church has deployed its wealth and power in the political arena for the purpose of keeping women and gays in their God-given place.

    The LDS Church’s outsized role in California’s Proposition 8 is only the most notorious of the Mormon hierarchy’s political campaigns. Mormons contributed up to half of the $40 million spent by the successful campaign to repeal gay marriage in California. This was no spontaneous, grassroots effort. Most of that money came in after Salt Lake City emailed Mormons to warn that Prop. 8 was losing and ask for contributions. As Michael Otterson, the LDS managing director of public affairs, explained, the church “felt there was only one way we could stand on such a fundamental moral issue, and they took that stand.”

    This wasn’t the first time the Mormon hierarchy intruded in politics to impose its sectarian views on the public. Claiming that the LDS president and prophet had received a revelation from God to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment, in 1976 the Mormon Church formally opposed the amendment and mobilized Mormon women to be footsoldiers in the anti-ERA campaign.

    “We fear it will even stifle many God-given feminine instincts,” wrote the members of the LDS First Presidency, Spencer Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner and Marion G. Romney, Mitt’s cousin. Using the same rationale it does today regarding gay marriage, the church deemed the ERA a “moral issue” that compelled it to act. And harshly, at that. Salt Lake City excommunicated Sonia Johnson, a prominent pro-ERA Mormon who had clashed with Senator Orrin Hatch in a Senate hearing. Years after Salt Lake City had helped send the ERA down to defeat, and as late as 2000, LDS authorities were still excommunicating Mormon feminists.

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    Now, nothing in these stories sharply distinguishes the Mormon Church from the American Catholic Church’s political activism and threats against elected Catholics, say, on abortion or birth control. Nor do these stories of Romney’s governorship distinguish Romney from the Mike Huckabees, Paul Ryans and Rick Santorums of the Republican Party. They do, however, call into question certain assumptions about Romney that the GOP establishment is keen to cultivate--that he is a pragmatic, technocratic conservative who is merely pandering to the religious far-right, that Mr. Turnaround only cares about the economy.

    Sixty-two years ago, another presidential candidate from a minority religion told voters, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” John F. Kennedy went on to promise that no priest, bishop or pope would hold any power over him. “Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with [my views as the Democratic candidate for president and] in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates.”

    Romney’s statements on religion and politics cut exactly the opposite way. “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom, ” Romney asserted in a major 2007 speech. If that Orwellian turn of phrase doesn’t give you chills, consider this. Moments before he said that, Romney had asserted, “Radical violent Islam seeks to destroy us,” and thus insinuated that a major world religion was little more than a terrorist front. Granted, Romney acknowledged the “separation of church and state,” but mainly to warn that the greatest threat to liberty emanates from “the religion of secularism.”

    This dogwhistle to the religious far-right has morphed into Romney’s oft-repeated charge that Obama is waging a “war against religion.”

    Romney has now uttered the word “Mormon” in public. That’s not enough. Americans have a right to full disclosure about how his faith shapes his views on policy, how his longstanding personal relationship with the LDS Church might influence his actions as president, and how he might resolve a conflict between his presidential duties and his church over so-called “moral issues.”

    Is Mitt Romney an establishment conservative or a Mormon militant? Voters won’t discover the truth unless we ask the right questions and demand that Romney not dodge them. Before it’s too late.


  19. Mormon moment ends with a loss — but his religion still won

    But members see victory in the visibility Romney’ run brought to their faith.

    By Peggy Fletcher Stack The Salt Lake Tribune November 7, 2012

    Mormons in Utah and across the nation were thrilled by the prospect that one of their own might occupy the highest office in the land.

    That won’t happen now. But Mitt Romney came closer to doing that than any other Latter-day Saint since that once-beleaguered brand of Christianity burst onto the American scene in 1830.

    “For many Latter-day Saints, it was a surprise that a Mormon candidate was able to make it as far as Mitt,” said Stuart Reid, a Mormon and a Republican state senator from Ogden. “He’s done more than any single person in recent church history to share with the general public what a Mormon is, putting up a very positive image about Mormons and creating interest in our faith that was unprecedented.”

    Howard Rudy, a retired LDS businessman in Salt Lake City and a Romney backer, was disappointed.

    The Republican nominee, Rudy said, is “the kind of character that Americans just don’t understand. He could have turned things around.”

    Despite the outcome, Mormonism came out a winner, said Philip Barlow, chair of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University.

    “It developed a thicker skin in the eyes of the world,” Barlow said, “and the world could see that a Mormon who runs for office isn’t, by definition, a nut case.”

    Overall, most observers say, the Romney candidacy was a net positive for his Utah-based faith.

    “For us, this has really been an opportunity to really depict who we are,” LDS spokesman Michael Otterson told The Washington Post. “The opportunity to set aside some of the long-standing misunderstandings, more misunderstandings and lack of education than prejudice.”

    Romney’s bid did focus attention on Mormonism, which helped bring The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into the mainstream of American religion, says Jan Shipps, a Methodist and a leading expert on LDS history.

    But being better known “may not be entirely positive, just different,” she said. “Once a church loses its minority status, it may not be as protected as it once was.”

    The Mormon factor might have become more difficult, Shipps said, under a President Romney.

    “During a campaign, he can blame his advisers for his lies or misrepresentations,” she said, “but once he’s in the White House, he’d become more responsible for everything he says and does than any candidate.”

    The campaign may have educated more Americans about Mormonism, but it didn’t change overall attitudes , said David Campbell, an LDS political scientist at the University of Notre Dame. Perceptions of Latter-day Saints are “not driven by politics or by news coverage of Mormons. It is driven by personal relationships with Mormons.”

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    Still, Romney’s run did alter some views: He won nearly the entire Bible Belt, dominated by evangelical Christians who long have been suspicious of Mormonism and critical of LDS theology.

    “Right now, attitudes toward Mormons are sharply divided along partisan lines,” Campbell said. If Romney were president, those partisan views could be “baked into the American political psyche ... [which would be] unhealthy for Mormons as a group, for religious tolerance, and for the Republican and Democratic parties.”

    Romney’s loss “may be a blessing for Mormons concerned about further public scrutiny of their faith,” said Utah Valley University administrator Brian Birch. “A Romney presidency would almost certainly have kept Mormonism under the microscope for many years to come.”

    Matthew Jorgensen, an LDS scholar on a research fellowship in Germany, worried that a Mormon president would have put his fellow believers, including missionaries, at risk across the globe.

    “If Mitt Romney [offended] radical Islam,” he wrote in an email, “then Mormons all over the world could become the target of terrorism in response to some offhand comment.”

    LDS statement

    The LDS Church’s governing First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles issued a statement late Tuesday congratulating President Barack Obama and commending Mitt Romney for “engaging at the highest level of our democratic process which, by its nature, demands so much of those who offer themselves for public service.”

    “This is now a time for Americans to come together,” the statement said. “It is a long tradition among Latter-day Saints to pray for our national leaders in our personal prayers and in our congregations. We invite Americans everywhere, whatever their political persuasion, to pray for the president, for his administration and the new Congress as they lead us through difficult and turbulent times.”


  21. New Mormon scriptures tweak race, polygamy references

    Scholars laud changes, say they bring a more accurate, fuller view of faith’s history.

    MARCH 1, 2013

    Mormon historians are cheering the newly released English edition of LDS scriptures, pointing to new wording about race and polygamy that provides a more accurate and complexview of the Utah-based church and its sometimes-controversial past.

    It marks the first time in more than 30 years that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has updated its four books of scripture — the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price — and the changes are generating lots of buzz among members, scholars and bloggers.

    The new edition, already available online at scriptures.lds.org, includes hundreds of minor spelling and punctuation changes to the holy script, as well as more substantive (though subtle) alterations of chapter headings, study helps and historical descriptions.

    “What this reveals is something all religions eventually have to wrestle with — incorporating history into how we experience God,” says American religion historian Matthew Bowman, who last year released a one-volume history of the LDS Church. “The most significant changes to this new edition emphasize the importance of understanding the culture and context these scriptures were produced in.”

    Taken together, says Bowman, a Latter-day Saint who teaches at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, the changes reflect an evolving and sophisticated understanding of that past and a “more thoughtful Mormonism going forward.”

    Among the biggest changes were new introductions to two documents in the back of the “quad,” as Mormons call a single volume of the four works.

    The lead-in to Official Declaration 2, which describes the church’s 1978 announcement to lift its ban on black males holding the faith’s priesthood, makes clear that Mormon founder Joseph Smith had previously ordained several black men.

    Subsequent LDS officials “stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent,” the new introduction says. “Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.”

    The new edition does not dispel any of the theological myths that arose to defend the practice, saying only that Mormon leaders believed it would take a revelation to undo the ban.

    “I am thrilled by the new statement regarding blacks,” says Darius Gray, former president of the Genesis Group, a support organization for black Mormons. “The language is more forthcoming than anything we’ve previously had on the past priesthood restriction, so I take great pleasure in seeing the changes.”

    Still, they are “incomplete,” Gray says. “There is more that needs to be done.”

    On polygamy, the new LDS scriptures alter the chapter headingto Doctrine & Covenants Section 132, which lays out the theology behind eternal marriage and plural marriage. They also provide a historical introduction to Official Declaration 1, known as “the Manifesto,” which signaled a commitment to end the church’s practice of polygamy in 1890.

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  22. Valerie Hudson, a Mormon political science professor at Texas A&M University, has argued previously that Mormon polygamy was a temporary exception and not an essential LDS doctrine.

    “In these new introductions, we see that ‘plural marriage’ (notice, not ‘plurality of wives’) is to be viewed as a principle and not as a commandment, and that the ‘standard’ of marriage is monogamy,” Hudson, co-author of Sex and World Peace, writes in an email. “Small changes such as these can be momentous in their impact on the lives of current and future Saints, which is no doubt why they are attended to with such concern and finesse.”

    Brian Hales, an LDS researcher who just published a three-volume work, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, sees the changes as “moving away from the 19th-century wording on polygamy” in some parts, while being more accurate to the history in others.

    “We are admitting our past,” he says, “better than we ever have before.”

    One other change brings a new perspective to questions surrounding a set of Egyptian papyri that Smith bought in the 1830s and claimed to “translate” into English. The text Smith produced became part of the faith’s scripture and is known as the Pearl of Great Price, but critics charge that the Egyptian images reproduced in the book do not match Smith’s text.

    In the book’s previous edition, it is called a “translation.” This time around it says it is “an inspired translation,” suggesting a more spiritual process.

    Mormons seem pleased with the new versions.

    “Pretty much everything I’m seeing is a victory for the more modern, scholarly approach to the scriptures with a greater awareness of modern sensibilities,” Mormon blogger Julie M. Smith writes at timesandseasons.org, “and the removal of a few generations of unjustifiable accretions of tradition to the record.”

    Benjamin Park, an LDS doctoral student at Cambridge University, agrees.

    “It teaches the lay reader that [Mormon] facts, quotes and issues aren’t set in stone, nor are they easily decipherable,” Park writes in an email. “Rather, it teaches them that there is complexity, nuance and even gray area. Sometimes, the most important thing to teach a member of the church is how history is done, not just what happened.”

    By August, members will be able to buy the new print version, though they need not do so, according to an LDS Church news release, because the updated edition does not change any page numbers or layout.

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  23. LDS officials, who commissioned these revisions eight years ago, seem excited by the product.

    “The current edition of the scriptures, with its extensive study helps, will continue to serve Latter-day Saints very well,” LDS apostle Neil L. Andersen says in the release. “This new edition incorporates adjustments that will be a blessing to church members in years to come.”

    Some of the changes

    Section heading to Doctrine & Covenants 132

    Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded July 12, 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant and the principle of plural marriage. Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, evidence indicates that some of the principles involved in this revelation were known by the Prophet as early as 1831. See Official Declaration 1.

    New introduction to Official Declaration 1:

    The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless He declares otherwise (see 2 Samuel 12:7–8 and Jacob 2:27, 30). Following a revelation to Joseph Smith, the practice of plural marriage was instituted among Church members in the early 1840s (see section 132). From the 1860s to the 1880s, the United States government passed laws to make this religious practice illegal. These laws were eventually upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. After receiving revelation, President Wilford Woodruff issued the following Manifesto, which was accepted by the Church as authoritative and binding on October 6, 1890. This led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church.

    New Introduction to Official Declaration 2:

    The Book of Mormon teaches that “all are alike unto God,” including “black and white, bond and free, male and female” (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. The revelation removed all restrictions with regard to race that once applied to the priesthood.

    Samples of spelling and punctuation changes:

    Gen. 8:11 “pluckt” to “plucked”

    Alma 12:31—”becoming as Gods” to “becoming as gods” (lowercased gods)

    Hel. 13:17—”the peoples’” to “the people’s”

    Source: scriptures.lds.org