Monday, December 28, 2015

Mechanical Ticks (Part 1)

This blog post from New Zealander Gina Colvin describes eloquently the difference between the Christian church of Mormonism that strives to follow Jesus and the machinations of the corporate parasite that is devoted to hierarchy and institutional policy. My favorite section comes at the end:

"So I’m asking my snipers to put your guns down and lets call a truce. Let’s lay our cards on the table and start talking to each other.  Let me start – I’m a servant and a loyalist of the People’s Church; the Saint’s Church not the Corporate or the Leader’s Church and I have absolutely no guilt about that – not a shred.  Could you please explain to me how that’s a sin?  If I can see the spiritual efficacy of your argument I’ll change – that’s my promise
And let me say this also – I’m not alone. Daily – hundreds and thousands of people are paying a new kind of attention to the machinations of the Corporate Church – because something doesn’t feel right. Something is malfunctioning, something is off and this dis-ease is shooting through the church at pace.

You can scramble and scrape and bark orders all you want to clean up and kick out – but this mounting, convulsive outrage will continue until something transcendent happens to arrest this. Until we get back to good faith, love and spiritual generosity with each other we’ll stay on opposite sides of the fence – and I’ve read the Book of Mormon enough to know how that eventually goes."

 Are we willing to entertain the question of what makes an active, loyal member of the largest Mormon sect arrive at dissent such as this? She is comparing the corporate church to a machine, essentially admitting the same thing that Elder Christofferson alluded to on November 5th remarking on the policy update regarding children of same-sex marriage. These two agree philosophically on what the church has become, but disagree on the rightness of it.

How can this be? How can two different Mormons react differently to this engine? If you read her blog post, it would appear that she has given much work and presence to Mormonism. Relative to her time in the church, she has worked as hard and given as much of herself as Christofferson has to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, he is fine with accommodating the cybernetic implants that have been fitted to the bride of Christ while Mrs. Colvin is not okay with these machinations.

Is it crass for me to ask if the difference between them relates to pay scale? Mrs. Colvin pays tithing and speaks lovingly of a spiritual Church that is located in "people". Elder Christofferson, by contrast, is exempt from tithing and is given an undisclosed stipend for his efforts. His word of choice for the Church (critiqued here) is "triggers", and he appears to be perfectly fine with the division caused by institutional policy:

"When, for example, there is the formal blessing and naming of a child in the Church, which happens when a child has parents who are members of the Church, it triggers a lot of things. First, a membership record for them. It triggers the assignment of visiting and home teachers. It triggers an expectation that they will be in Primary and the other Church organizations. And that is likely not going to be an appropriate thing in the home setting, in the family setting where they're living as children where their parents are a same-sex couple." 


There seems to be two masters here. Scriptures that contain doctrine vs. handbooks that contain policy. If there is not in fact two masters, then what is it that accounts for these similar assessments and differing conclusions? I am open to explanations.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Teraphim












Like a lightning bolt from heaven:

"15 The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.

16 They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;

17 They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.

18 They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them."

~ Palms 135

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Drive-By Mormon History, Gems of Thought Circa 1872 Edition

Today's Drive-By Mormon History is from A Fragment: The Autobiography of Mary Jane Mount Tanner (from the Introduction) edited by Margery W. Ward:

"I too have some gems of thought and beautiful ideas that float through my mind like mists on a summer morning. But would they be appreciated? This is such a commonplace world after all, that it would be like putting sugar on our meat and potatoes; it would waste the sugar and spoil the meat...One can say all sorts of things if they are well said, and people are interested and think them witty or smart; but when I have an idea that I consider particularly nice, I turn it over in my mind until it seems so very stale that if I mention it I expect to hear someone say, 'how stupid.'" (diary, December 6, 1872)



Monday, December 21, 2015

Drive-By Mormon History, Statehood by Shotgun Edition

Today's Drive-By Mormon History is from the biography of Nicholas Groesbeck Morgan, The Man Who Moved City Hall by Jean R. Paulson, pp 55-56:

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Nick carried a smeared and deeply-creased newspaper clipping reminding him that there was occasional excitement to leaven the poverty and drudgery. It was from the Deseret Evening News of Saturday, January 4, 1896, and proclaimed that Utah had become the forty-fifth state. The lead paragraph of the story, under the headline, UTAH A STATE, and a subhead, THE PROCLAMATION ISSUED BY PRESIDENT CLEVELAND, set forth:

At 9:13 this morning the usual early morning activity at East Temple Street was decidedly disturbed owing to the fact that superintendent Brown of the Western Union Telegraph Company was observed to rush frantically out of the office armed with an old reliable shotgun, the contents of which belched forth in two resounding reports. A small boy in the near vicinity dived for an adjacent doorway, his juvenile brain having grasped the idea that a holdup or bank robbery was in progress.

The story then told how merchants decorated their stores with bunting, that George M. Scott and Cunningham and Co. erected steam whistles outside their doors, that the stars and stripes were strung from the east and west towers of the temple. The Utah National Guard Battery at noon took a position on Capitol Hill and fired a twenty-one gun salute, the booming accompanied by the ragged din of ringing bells, steam whistles, and half-a-dozen bombs set off at the news corner by a junior patriot.

It was a proud moment for the Morgans and the Groesbecks, for the pictures of members of the Constitutional convention, featured during that time, showed Uncle John Henry Smith --twice as large as the others, right spang in the center. And right under his was the photo of that brilliant friend of the family, Brigham H. Roberts.

A quarter of a million citizens of the new state shouted themselves hoarse on that bitter cold day, rejoicing in the victory that had been denied in the attempts of 1849, 1856, 1862, 1867, 1872, 1882, and 1887. Nick had heard both his famous uncle and BH Roberts say that the territory was becoming a state only because LDS Church President Wilford Woodruff had issued the Manifesto (4). Nick had also heard his mother say that Brother Roberts had done himself a "lot of harm" speaking against women's suffrage during the convention in 1895. Everybody flocked to hear BH speak, she said, but the convention adopted the suffrage amendment anyway, 75 to 14.

When the family resided briefly in the duplex after being evicted from the big house, Mellie had told the children about a dream she'd had, in which a great wave had engulfed her as she walked along the seashore, then receded, leaving her safely on shore. This renewed her faith that better days were coming.

That hope was partly realized in 1897, when a Civil War pension she had applied for during the previous year was granted, and with retroactive payments in hand, (at $12 a month) moved her fanily to a two-story frame house at 363 York Street (5). They had been in this home but a day when Shirley Kunkel, a neighbor boy, told 12-year-old Nick of a job in Granger putting up hay for Fred Eldredge and David Lambert.

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4. The manifesto was the church president's official declaration that he would submit to laws forbidding plural marriages, and would use his influence with other members of the church to have them do likewise.

5. York Street, which extended from Third East to Fifth East, later was known as Bryan Avenue.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Drive-By Mormon History, Print or Perish Edition

Today's drive-by Mormon history comes to us from Richard L. Saunders' book Printing in Deseret: Mormons, Politics, & Utah's Incunabula, 1849-1851 (2000, University of Utah Press)
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From the introduction:

"Because of the West's geographic richness and diversity, for some states the story begins with the economic draw of metals, timber, open range, or farmland. For what is now Utah the initial attraction was isolation-sky-broad emptiness and wind-strewn silence. The state's settlement began in July 1847 with the arrival of displaced Yankees in the self-styled Pioneer Company. Barely two years later, with a sizable part of the population still living out of canvas-topped wagons, residents petitioned for the civilizing status of US statehood. Though it was one of the earliest trans-Mississippi territories to be established, and despite the subsequent admission of almost a dozen of its fellow territories, Utah was not granted statehood for almost fifty years. The reason, agreed upon by both sides though from entirely opposite perspectives, was religion. Five times before 1896 Utah's electoral majority tried hard to make its overwhelming cultural hegemony appear to be an American liberal democracy."



From Part 1:

"Far and away the most successful counterclaimant to apostolic leadership was James J. Strang, a Wisconsin convert with merely four months' tenure as a member of the church and almost absolute anonymity at the time of Smith's murder. But Strang was consumed by a hunger for worldly reputation and possessed an innate talent for promotion. Through 1845 while the apostles labored to gather the scattered saints to Nauvoo, keep mobs at bay, plan the evacuation of the city, lay in food stores, and decide just where it was they were going, and through 1846 as the Nauvoo saints vacated homes to move across the frozen Mississippi River and Iowa mud, James Strang was busy initiating a publishing campaign of pamphlets and a weekly newspaper to announce and build upon his claim as Smith's successor (10).

The apostles realized how vulnerable congregations would be without an authoritative source of news. One plan for westward movement called for the pioneering company to take with them a printing press, one of the two presses from the Times and Seasons plant. That plan lasted merely a week. The city's established news-and-book printing office had to be abandoned as the saints began hastily leaving Nauvoo in February 1846. Still, the printing office was almost the last of the city's institutions to be closed down. Its closure stanched the outward flow of print-disseminated news, encouragement, and instructions from the church's newspaper and broadside proclamations. For three years after the city's evacuation the dearth of printed communications from the apostolic leaders (1846-48) proved to be an expensive lesson in social cohesion. The apostles struggled mightily to maintain connections to scattered congregations with correspondence and rare visits from missionaries but could not personally contact every branch of the church. Keenly aware of the importance of communication, in September 1846 Brigham Young wrote the Nauvoo Trustees asking them to send him at Winter Quarters the two presses from the newspaper office and other supplies:

We wish you to send us the two printing presses, all the type, brass rule and fixtures belonging thereto… and all the plates and fixtures of the stereotype foundry and screw tools of the bindery [probably a job backer], ink, paper, etc. etc. etc.-everything that may be useful and cannot readily be furnished by the labor in the wildernes, with as little delay as possible, either by the team going from here or such as you shall furnish (11).

Primarily because a capital outlay was necessary to move the equipment, it never happened through all of 1846, 1847, and into 1848. Young might as well have asked them to ship the Nauvoo Temple. Despite their positions as receivers, the trustees had no resources. The central body of Mormonism lacked both a printing press of its own and cash to have the printing done. The apostles, frantically trying to gather a dispersed membership, were unable to distribute the call effectively.

In the communicative vacuum that followed, Strang (and others) successfully stepped into the breach. Most used the extended social reach that printing gave them to propagandize, attracting the allegiance of church members from isolated congregations and even invading the Mormon core. Strang's weekly newspaper (the Voree Herald and later Gospel Herald) and active pamphleteering broadcast a competing summons and heralded an organization that , despite his anonymity, eventually drew several hundred church members and a few thousand new converts to his Wisconsin (later Michigan) kingdom. That Strang's publishing made inroads into church membership was a point not at all missed by the apostles. The greatest number of Strang's "Old Mormon" converts were gleaned out of the Midwest from isolated Latter-day Saint congregations, those that had not gathered with the saints to Nauvoo and would not choose to make the trek west. The attention Strang's press generated among the scattered Mormon flock thumbed a proverbial nose at the apostles' solid claims to ordained authority, underscoring their inability to communicate meaningfully with the saints (12). In the midst of the Mormon flight westward, Strang's success confirmed the importance of reestablishing the fleeing saints' own press as quickly as possible. With that they could again broadcast their word. But in the pinched face of general privation after the evacuation of Nauvoo, simple human survival became the paramount interest of both church leaders and members generally."

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10. The best treatment of Strang's early years is Roger Van Noord, King of Beaver Island: The Life and Assassination of James Jesse Strang (Urbana: The Univ. of Illinois Press, 1988), 4-66. For an intimate window into Strang's character, see The Diary of James J. Strang, ed. Mark Strang (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1961).

11. A circular of the High Council (Nauvoo, Ill., 1846), dated Jan. 20. The Mormons began leaving February 6. Brigham Young to Almon Babbitt, Joseph Heywood, John Fullmer, 27 Sept. 1846, in Journal History of the Church, 28 Sept. 1846.

12. An entirely different picture existed elsewhere. The Latter-Day Saint press in Britain remained healthy and active, for example. Not only was it easily able to counter schism, but the number of converts continued to grow. See Peter Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, Vol. 1, 1830-1847 (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young Univ. Religious Studies Center, 1998)(successive volumes will carry the catalog history through 1857).

Monday, December 14, 2015

Drive-By-Mormon-History, Political KJV Edition

Today's drive-by Mormon history comes from Philip Barlow's book: Mormons and the Bible (Oxford 1991).
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"When copies of the published work, The Holy Scriptures, began to proliferate in Utah, various leaders of The School of the Prophets in Provo voiced the church's stand against the new revision: "the world does not want this [new Bible]... they are satisfied with the king James translation...."; "The King James translation is good enough... I feel to support the old Bible until we can get a better one."(14)

This sentiment was not universal in Utah, and it was explicitly provisional ("until we can get a better one"), but it was reiterated in later years(15) and it marked the ironic beginning of a conscious stress on the King James Version.

An indirect influence increasing the status of the KJV among the Saints was the general Protestant antipathy to Catholic immigrants. Anti-popery had long flourished in Protestant lands, of course, but the Catholic population in eighteenth century (eastern) America was too small and too localized to incite broad conflict. By the 1820s, however, Protestants were viewing Catholics, who before mid-century would constitute the nation's largest denomination, as a genuine threat to an evangelical America.
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To some extent, the Mormons participated in this trend. Alienated from the culturally dominant Protestants in so many ways, the Saints might plausibly have identified with the embattled Catholics by defending alternative translations. But most Mormon converts had come from Protestant ranks that assumed the KJV. Moreover, the Saints themselves had inherited a significant strain of anti-Catholicism, and during the course of Mormon history some would identify the pope as the head of "the great and abominable church" mentioned in the Book of Mormon. An occasional Mormon leader even made these drifts explicit, remarking on the worth of the Authorized Version against Roman Catholics who objected to it. (18)
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In addition to such causes, we must also acknowledge that Mormon loyalty to the KJV was-as it was for many Protestants-simply a natural attachment to the vehicle by which a people felt they had encountered the sacred. A similar phenomenon may be seen in the great struggle Roman Catholics had in producing an acceptable vernacular Bible in America. This love of the Bible "of one's youth" is easily traced in the resistance with which every major new translation , including the KJV, has been greeted. This preservationist impulse will be explored more fully as we look at the later twentieth century, but it was doubtless a factor in earlier decades as well.
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Even when Church leaders did articulate reasons for recommending the King James over other translations, they rarely asserted that it was more accurate. They supported it primarily because they suspected the RLDS production of Joseph Smith's revision, or because they believed the elegant familiar version had "taken too firm a hold of the popular heart" to forsake it.(23) Sometimes, in fact, they highly praised modern translations, offering only an appended tolerance for those who would continue to prefer the familiar version "because they have become accustomed to its lofty phrases."(24)

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14. Testimonies of G.G. Bywater and J.W. Fleming recorded in the Minutes of the School of the Prophets July 6th, 1868.

15. Apostle Charles Penrose's 1881 assertion was typical. The Church would use the Authorized Version, he said, "until the inspired... revision commenced by the prophet Joseph Smith shall have been completed in a form acceptable to The Almighty..." ("The Revised Scriptures", Deseret News, April 22, 1881)

This suspicion of the "Reorganite" production of Smith's biblical revision was still apparent in the Utah-based church as recently as the early 1970's, after which it rapidly faded. See, for example, Mark E. Peterson, "As Translated Correctly" (Deseret Book, 1966) pg. 30, and an unsigned editorial in The Church News November 14, 1970 pg. 16. The change was evidenced quite publicly when another CN editorial (Nov. 16, 1974) expressed deep reservations about the "Inspired Version", but was followed (Dec. 7) by a tactful correction that amounted to a retraction. In contrast to all of this, the Reorganized Church began in the nineteenth century its current practice of using Smith's Inspired Version as its primary Bible.

18. George Q Cannon, Juvenile Instructor 10 (Oct. 16, 1875): 246.

23. Charles Penrose, "Revised Scriptures," Deseret News, (April 22, 1881); "Editor's Table," The Improvement Era 2(1899): 621.

24. C. Frank Steele, The Church News (Nov. 9, 1935): 6.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Drive-By Mormon History, Polygamy Prosecution Edition

Today's drive-by-Mormon-history is from Zion In The Courts by Edwin Firmage & Richard Mangrum, pp. 129-30:

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"Polygamy provided a clear rallying point for anti-Mormon forces. It was a practice so abhorrent to most nineteenth-century Americans that sophisticated constitutional arguments were not required to justify its eradication. "The traditional family was seen as the basis of civilization, and a domestic role for women was considered essential to the stability of the marriage.," observe two scholars of polygamy legislation. "These were the propositions which underlay the nineteenth-century hostility to modification of women's roles" (Weisbrod and Sheingorn, 830). Typical of this attitude are the views of one representative expressed during debate on the first anti-polygamy legislation:

"The existence of such an institution as prevails in Utah, under the protection of the laws of the United States, is an outrage upon the moral feelings of our whole population. It is, as I conceive, an insult to our own wives and our own daughters, , and the wives and daughters of our constituents" (Congressional Globe, 1860, 194). But the nation's leaders were not merely troubled by the Mormon's peculiar marriage practices. Washington was also troubled by Mormon society, in particular its isolation from non-Mormon America, the Church's domination of Utah politics, and Mormon economic power (Arrington, 1958, 356). What began as a campaign against polygamy eventually became a war against all who professed to be Mormons, a war intended to break the secular power of the Mormon church and force it into conformity with mainstream America.

For the Mormons the cost of the war against polygamy was high. Over a thousand Mormons were convicted of practicing polygamy (Arrington, 1958, 359). Mormon women were jailed for refusing to testfy against their husbands. Polygamous families were left fatherless, as Mormon men either went into hiding or obeyed federal law and abandoned wives and children. Federal spies tracking down polygamists disrupted Mormon communities and invaded the privacy of Mormon homes. On a larger scale, the role of the Mormon church as a guiding force in all aspects of Mormon life was destroyed. The church that Washington permitted to survive was shorn of its secular powers, and church experimentation with novel forms of social organization such as the United Order were abandoned. For better or worse, thenceforth the civil and religious powers in Utah were clearly separated, and Mormons became by and large indistinguishable from other Americans.

America also paid a price. The image of judicial impartiality was tarnished by the active roleUtah's judges assumed in the war against the Mormons. In the hysteria of anti-polygamy sentiment, the Supreme Court defined the scope of constitutionally protected religious activity in a narrow and distorted fashion. Thus, in deciding whether polygamy was protected by the Constitution, America defined in general terms the extent to which religious practices could stand against the claims of the state.

Finally, there was a moral cost. Imposing conformity on a group of sincerely dedicated dissenters almost inevitably requires a level of force that debases the oppressor. In a sorry cycle, resistance breeds repression that calls forth yet more resistance and yet more savage repression. In the case of polygamy, it may be questioned whether the prize was worth the price."