Dear BBC

[Available on Youtube]

To: James Jones, Producer, The Mormon Candidate

Re: This World: The Mormon Candidate (BBC2)

Dear Mr Jones,

If we are to follow the educational philosophy of Charles Dickens’s  Thomas Gradgrind — “In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!” — then we would find little to complain about in John Sweeney’s BBC account of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. Sweeney, the BBC’s go-to cult hunter, famous for his aggressive encounter with Scientology, provided a number facts about Mormonism that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints simply cannot deny.

They are, inter alia: Mormon prophet Joseph Smith married upwards of 30 women. The Egyptian of the extant fragments of the Book of Abraham is not directly related to Smith’s translation. Mormons once swore blood oaths in their temples. As a conservative religion, Mormonism can be a rather alienating place for those whose faith wanders from orthodoxy. The church maintains its own Vatican-like Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. &c.

Some of these facts, and others besides, are bound to make uncomfortable viewing for Mormons. Some are defensible, others are not. Many strike at the heart of Mormonism’s curse as a pre-modern religion that has come of age in a modern and post-modern age. The patina of history has rendered benign the strange beliefs and practices of some more ancient religions. Mormonism is not so lucky and this is why facts, polemically deployed, are not always as truthful as Gradgrind, and Sweeney, would have us believe.

Facts shorn of context can mislead. The obsolete blood oaths once sworn by a young Romney were visceral commitments to a fraternity of faith. As Mormon historian Samuel Brown has noted by reference to similar oaths among Freemasons, “by pledging their mortal fates to the fraternity, candidates bestowed on the order a symbolic power over life and death.” In a similar way, Mormons understand their belief in Christ to be a matter of eternal life; they also understand their rituals to be symbolic, a nuance Sweeney was not keen to explore.

Mormonism is, unapologetically, a covenant religion. Its crime in BBC eyes seems to be that it has, in the past, symbolised its covenants in distinctly pre-modern ways. Ancient rituals performed by Zoroastrian priests or Orthodox patriarchs are acceptable; similar rites performed by western moderns are not. The underlying belief seems to be that educated folk like Romney should know better. This is an unfortunate kind of secular paternalism. It also bears repeating that these oaths are long dead.

That Mormonism is a conservative religion is obviously a fact and its occasionally fundamentalist tendencies can be difficult for some to endure. However, the Mormon church is not the gulag that the malcontents so gleefully interviewed by Sweeney would suggest it to be. The church would be the first to admit that it is a challenge to retain its members. Probably less than 30% of those who have received Mormon baptism in the UK are still active in the religion.

Sweeney might want to ponder on how a religion that is apparently so difficult to escape lost President Obama’s own Mormon ancestors. And what of Marco Rubio, a rising star in the Republican Party who has journeyed from Mormon to Catholic? Mormonism is also not monolithically conservative: Britain’s first Mormon MP, Terry Rooney, was old Labour, and the current leader of the Democrats in the US Senate, Harry Reid, is a  Mormon convert. Is Reid similarly a Manchurian Candidate? If Sweeney would like to see what a committed Mormon feminist looks like, he might watch Kristine Haglund’s recent performance on C-Span (http://www.c-spanvideo.org/kristinehaglund). Alas, the drum beat of cult cult cult was deafening.

As we can see, facts are often deployed as caricature. Martin Luther King Jr’s sexual peccadilloes, whilst factual, say nothing useful about the rightness of the civil rights movement. The RAF’s bombing of Dresden is not the summum bonum of Britain’s war against the Nazis. And so it was with Sweeney’s documentary. He has excavated every possible Mormon misadventure and presented it as an indictment against the contemporary faith. Muslims, Catholics and others would rightly find similar caricatures of their faith upsetting. It ably showed why many Americans will not vote for a Mormon, but where were the counter voices, not just ambushed officials who rightly felt defensive but the contented rank and file? And what about the academics who could provide context? The programme was stacked in favour of Mormon foes 10-1.

The real fact is that at the core of Mormonism is a rather plain, low church Christianity, with decaffeinated adherents who go about their lives paying their taxes, loving their families, serving in their communities, helping the poor, and making mistakes along the way. The vast majority of Mormons would not be able to see themselves at all in Sweeney’s documentary. The British public, who could do with a sensible education in this interesting faith — let alone the tens of thousands of British Mormons who help fund the BBC — deserved much, much better.

Comments

  1. Outstanding, sir! Did you send this to Jones directly?

  2. Brilliant, Ronan. I thought your last two sentences were most important.

  3. Brad, I will tomorrow. Ben, that’s the heart of the matter ain’t it?

  4. Amen and amen. A well- (and very quickly) written response.

  5. David M. Morris says:

    Very good response, as they say I wish to associate myself with this message. Maybe get a list of twenty Mormon Scholars and send it the BBC.

  6. Dave, I’d be happy to append names of support to this. Also happy for it to be shared around if deemed useful.

    Also, P.S. can we stop with “the world’s fastest growing religion” silliness? For Mormons it breeds an “all is well in Zion” smugness; for non-Mormons it can be used as a Mormon Menace device.

  7. Nick Literski says:

    The obsolete blood oaths once sworn by a young Romney were visceral commitments to a fraternity of faith. As Mormon historian Samuel Brown has noted by reference to similar oaths among Freemasons, “by pledging their mortal fates to the fraternity, candidates bestowed on the order a symbolic power over life and death.”

    Sam Brown is not a Freemason, and does not understand some aspects of the Fraternity’s rituals or explanations thereof. In Masonic ritual, a candidate promises not to reveal certain information under “a no less penalty” than those symbolically depicted. Masonic writings are replete with the teaching that receiving the reputation of a perjured wretch is a punishment worse than death. The LDS borrowing of these ritual actions, on the other hand, involved a very explicit promise to endure death before ever revealing certain information. These are very different usages, Mr. Brown’s uninformed speculation notwithstanding.

  8. I am sure I have not done Sam Brown justice, but Nick, please do not derail the discussion.

  9. Well said Sir!
    I really wanted to find some balance in the documentary, but it was just a lazy hack job in the end.

  10. David M. Morris says:

    Add my name in full support. The BBC finds it harder to reject the collective concern of an academic and professional group after all all the BBCs prime mission is to educate.

  11. pangwitch says:

    i guess its hard for me, because the stuff about masons, academics giving things context, blood oaths being “long dead” etc, were never taught to me. if you want to talk about providing balance and context, why was i given none growing up in church, on my mission, at byu, etc.

    all that nuance was lacking from the “pro” side, just as you now see it from the “antis”

  12. Nick Literski says:

    Ronan, I’m not derailing. Others who saw Sam’s presentation described his claim precisely as you did, and it’s simply false. I’d recommend you not use it in your otherwise very good response above.

  13. pangwitch,
    I agree to the extent that this stuff was always going to catch Mormons up, but it still does not represent the core of Mormonism the way the show implied.

  14. Wilfried says:

    Exquisitely well said, Ronan. The problem you describe is, alas, European, and, I assume, pretty much worldwide for the international church. A French documentary did not do better last year by going to Southern Utah and presenting the RLDS as Mormons. And a recent Belgian news report allowed a disgruntled inactive member to define Mormonism and the Church. I wonder to what extent our Public Affairs in Europe are at the level required to help the media do a better job. I do not doubt their goodwill and motivation, but…

  15. Peter V. says:

    The programme content was predictable and I’m sanguine about discussing it with friends over the next couple of days. I agree with Ronan that the BBC could be rather more balanced but I think they are trying to make good TV rather than good journalism.

    Full marks to Ronan for turning in such well considered and presented copy in a short space of time. You should be a journalist !

  16. Peter, when I get going there’s nothing stopping me!

    Wilfried, great to hear from you as always.

  17. Sam’s claim, as I understand it, is about how Mormons understood the oaths. Not about how non mormon freemasons understand them, nor does it depend upon equivalent mormon/mason understandings of the meanings of the oaths and/or penalties.

  18. “….I wish I’d said that…”

  19. Decaffeinated? My Dr Pepper would beg to differ.

  20. Nick Literski says:

    Brad, I’ve referred to explicit text on the part of both Freemasons and Mormons, not amorphous “understandings.” That said, those texts reveal a substantial difference in the nature of the promises made by each group.

  21. To which the web form replied knowingly: “Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!”

  22. Very well written Ronan. Like many contemporary Mormons, I never experienced the temple endowment with the penalties. After taking a course on Biblical Hebrew, I was surprised to stumble across the original meaning of the term “karat beriyt” (make a covenant) while browsing my lexicon for another entry. In the ancient world, it meant literally “to cut the meat.” As covenants were made, the sacrificial animal was cut into pieces and placed on the ground. Those entering into the covenant would then walk between the pieces to signify that if one of the parties broke the agreement, the other party has the right to invoke the same penalty of being “cut to pieces” upon the other person(s) that failed to live up to their end of the covenant. (Jeremiah 34:18-20 NRSV.)

    I don’t dispute that the penalties may very well have been taken literally by early Mormons, but by 1990 it had lost most of its significance. For most, it was simply a symbolic gesture of saying “I cross my heart and hope to die.”

  23. Sam is not engaging in social scientific description of or commentary on freemasonry, but rather noting formal similarities between the two to contextualize his analysis of Mormon experiences and understandings of the elements in question.

  24. Nick Literski says:

    Brad, I’m not sure why that makes blatant inaccuracies a virtue. That said, Ronan did ask that this thread not get sidetracked, and I’ve told him I’ll try to be good! :-)

  25. Nick, I’m grateful for the callout and apologize that I seem to have offended practicing Masons with my outsider’s view of historic Freemasonry. I do not believe that Ronan has mischaracterized my arguments or that I have mischaracterized antebellum Freemasonry, though perhaps my tone was insufficiently friendly to Masonic institutions. The types of arguments we seem to be on the verge of embarking upon are exhausting to observers and academically generally uninformative. If these questions remain important to you, perhaps we could hash them out at MHA or Sunstone some time. With all affection and respect, let’s allow Ronan to make his important response to Sweeney.

  26. So you’re saying “in Masonic ritual, a candidate promises not to reveal certain information under ‘a no less penalty’ than those symbolically depicted” whereas the LDS usage “involved a very explicit promise to endure death before ever revealing certain information”?

    According to that explanation we’d have to toss out the idea that Mormons were threatened with death should they reveal things about the temple.

  27. whoop, sorry smb and nick.

  28. Let’s leave the masons in their lodge for now.

  29. Chrissie says:

    Perfect reply. I certainly didn’t see the church I know and care about represented at all in that bigoted portrayal.

  30. Well done Ronan. Thank you for taking that on. Send this to the Telegraph as an op-ed.

  31. Thou doth protest too much, me thinks!

    I find it odd that, while complaining about decontextualized facts, you would choose to decontextualize them.

    Martin Luther King jr. may have as many sexual partners than Joseph Smith, but he did not found a movement that would create an entire group of people who would practice said sexual practice as its cultural staple. Which practice would marginalize them for decades, thus forging a quasi-nationalistic identity that lingers into modern and post-modern age.

    Mormons may have turned symbolic once literal pre-modern blood oaths, but their once pre-modern literal interpretation of said oaths very much helped forge above-mentioned group identity that often borders on the cultic us/them dynamic.

    The Book of Abraham’s lack of factual, historical, and textual footing while persistently canonized within a historicized narrative bemoans a continuous distrust of modern scholarship (and science) that demonstrates LDS difficulties adapting to a more fluid secular and cultural world (e.g., on issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation, etc.).

    The fact of the matter is that all of these facts might very well be in the distant past, but their influence on contemporary Mormon culture and thinking cannot be so flippantly dismissed. You may like it, and from the inside you may not even notice it, but it’s there, and for those outside it’s rather noticeable.

  32. Marcello,
    I do not deny those facts. Indeed, I was quick to own them; where the church is hesitant to do so I agree that it only lays up future trauma for itself. However, Romney’s Mormonism was just as much forged in the mundane and happy moments of Mormon life. This was a documentary that offered no real insight into the lived religion of the vast majority of modern members.

  33. Joe Steve Swick III says:

    Nick’s comment (#7) is identical to a criticism I make of Brown’s book in an article I’m writing. Sam (#25) is in my opinion incorrect. In my judgment as a Freemason, he has grossly mischaracterized antebellum Freemasonry in a number of critical ways, and it isn’t about whether his language is generally friendly to Freemasonry or not. However, that discussion is perhaps better made elsewhere, as Sam notes. I would only add that “many Freemasons I know would not be able to see themselves at all in Sam Brown’s characterization in his book.”

    As for LDS Temple penalties being symbolic: the truth is that the pre-1990 Endowment was troubling for Latter-day Saints, and there was a relatively high attrition rate among temple-goers (i.e., high percentage of “attend once and never come back”). The changes in 1990 were largely about removing those troubling elements, which included the penalties. These were removed precisely because 1) there was no significant interpretive context ever provided for them, so they seemed overly bloody; and because 2) they were NOT symbolic, and many Latter-day Saints understood this. If it was simply seen as the equivalent of “cross my heart and hope to die,” there would have been no need to remove them; a few clarifying words would have sufficed.

    Masonic penalties are and always have been “only symbolic,” as the entire Masonic ritual is an extended allegory (sorry, Sam), and Kolipoki’s resort to Jeremiah 34 (#22) is one that Freemasons have made at least since the late 1700′s / early 1800′s. By contrast, LDS Prophets have clearly stated that the penalties were literal, and examples early and late of the “execution of the penalties” demonstrate how this has been viewed during the greater part of LDS history. Mormonism cannot be entirely blameless for the bad press received on this score, and how such ideas have divided them from their neighbors.

  34. Nick Literski says:

    Actually, I don’t find the penalties concerning with regard to Romney’s desperate POTUS craving. I find it far more concerning that most of his supporters are likely unaware that he has made solemn covenants to (1) obey LDS leaders standing in the place of deity, and (b) consecrate everything with which deity has blessed him, as well as everything with which deity may bless him with in the future (such as a powerful political office) to the benefit of the LDS church. Assuming that Romney takes his temple covenants more seriously than “cross your heart and hope to die,” his election poses a threat to American liberty every time Mr. Monson sputters “do all that you can with your time and means….”

  35. “The real fact is that at the core of Mormonism is a rather plain, low church Christianity, with decaffeinated adherents who go about their lives paying their taxes, loving their families, serving in their communities, helping the poor, and making mistakes along the way.” Very nicely put.

  36. Joe Steve Swick III says:

    Ronan states, “facts, polemically deployed, are not always . . . truthful.” Absolutely agreed. And, of course, not everyone that states “I’m not polemically deploying facts” is honestly not polemically deploying facts. It is a common technique in bad journalism (especially in the television news and bad documentaries) to present facts in a way that is akin to lying.

  37. However they were viewed by early Mormons, I never in a million years would have thought of the penalties as blood oaths. In fact, I miss them. They taught me something quite other than the severity of the penalty for breaking promises. I know for certain my father didn’t see them as an actual commitment to take one’s life, and I’m 95% certain my grandfather didn’t either. There is a dastardly part of me that thinks … neutered religion for a neutered people.

  38. Nick Literski says:

    It wasn’t a suicide pact, Thomas. It was a promise to let someone take your life before you’d reveal things to them.

  39. We’re doing fine so far, but be careful in speaking about the oaths, not because we fear the Danites might disembowel you at dawn but out of respect.

  40. KerBearRN says:

    Ronan, thanks so much for this. I am not a Brit scholar, but an American nurse (actually, since 90% at least of my personal genealogy comes from England and I feel a deep bond with your country, I consider myself an Anglo-American). In that spirit, i would willingly add my name to anything you send out for this (besides, it’s a global village now…and we get an adulterated form of the BBC over here!) I am also a fully practicing Mormon feminist, if that gives me better English street cred. ;)

    I am concerned by one-sided portrayals in England and Europe. Here in the US, at least here on the West Coast, most people know at least a handful of Mormons and manage to have an okay understanding of what we are about. I do suspect that it is partly because a fairly large percentage of Americans regularly practice their faith (yes, even here on the West Coast!). As such, the idea of a certain level of adherence to faith-related practices is not foreign to most Americans. There doesn’t seem to be as much common practice of religion on your side of the Atlantic, and so I fear that skewed portrayals just make us seem all that much much stranger.

  41. KerBearRN says:

    Oh– and kolipoki09– awesome bit of cultural/language context, THANKS!!

  42. Wow if you had went to the temple and been married there you would not be saying these things. The number of Mormons who have been married in the Temple with marriages over 50 years defies any rational attempt to explain it in light of the norms of today. My great grandfather was a poligamist not because he wanted to, he was asked to by church leaders. He had to support 16 childern and two households. He was a taylor in SLC and employed his whole family. That is a real man.Try that on all you judgemental hippocrites. Now we have a society that we all have to take care of because the moral values of a dog prevail. Who’s you daddy is what you should be talking about.

  43. janiecej says:

    Suddenly not paying my TV tax seems a bit more of a calculated act of defiance. :)

  44. Antonio Parr says:

    Ronan:

    That you were able to write something so insightful within hours of watching the broadcast is a testament to your sheer brilliance. I am stunned.

  45. Wendell Welling says:

    One refrain that keeps coming up is that Mr. Romney might suborn his own judgement to that of a distant Mormon Prophet should he win the Presidency, thus “endangering” liberty. This is pure hackneyed nonsense. The Mormon faith has actually canonized statements regarding the U.S. Constitution as “divinely inspired”. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that allows for any person to suborn their sworn duty to that document in preference to religious mandates. If Romney were to become President of the United States, he would swear to uphold a document regarded by his religion as divinely inspired. Harry Reid is a Democrat who leads one of the legislative houses in our Congress. How many times has the red phone rung in his office? Mormons have held high office at every level of Government short of the Presidency with no examples of anyone being forced to act according to the dictates of Salt Lake City in any particular. The Constitution of the United States would not be seen by Mr. Romney or any other Mormon as a possession he could bequeath to Mormonism. Such assertions are gross bigotry.

  46. What Antonio Parr said. Agreed.

  47. #31, the fact that you categorize polygamy as a “sexual practice” speaks volumes about how little people know about The Church.

  48. EOR (#46): It’s not??? It didn’t start out with a revelation geared up to generate “white and delightsome” children through interbreeding with Native American women? It didn’t evolve with Joseph Smith getting caught in a barn “doing it” with 16-year old Fanny Alger? It didn’t move onto Smith getting caught by Emma with one the teenage Partridge sisters? Or sending out for one of his teenage wives for a “sleepover” while Emma wasn’t there (with the warning to turn away if Emma came over and to burn the invitation upon receipt)?

    Yeah, I “know very little about The Church.”

  49. Wendell, although I agree with you that a LDS POTUS, especially Mitt Romney, would hardly be a “Mormon puppet” for the Church leadership, this is hardly “hackneyed nonsense” and “gross bigotry.”

    The Church does exert tremendous political pressure on Utah politics episodically, and it’s easy to see how outsiders might feel uneasy and nervous about it. The institutional premium on secrecy (e.g., temple rituals, Church finances, etc.) does not help to quell such concerns.

  50. Excellent response, Ronan.

    I knew it would get sidetracked the moment I read it (both from nit-picking and from bitterness, as has happened in this thread), and that is unfortunate, but please submit it as a formal response.

  51. #47, no, it isn’t a sexual practice…not anymore than any other marriage. Do you really think that Polygamy started with Joseph Smith? You never noticed it in the Bible or perhaps in nature anywhere?

    Also your teenager straw-men examples are useless. Sixteen year olds were women in the 19th century, not the babies they are today. You are trying to apply 21st Century cultural practices to people who don’t live in this time. Disingenuous at best, and intellectually dishonest at the worst.

  52. EOR (#$50):

    1) You will notice that I have signed my name, and I have used your acronym, and yet you insist on using numbers to address me!

    2) Yes, I have noticed that the Bible features an endorsement of polygamy. It also endorses genocide. It also endorses slavery. It also endorses rape (so long as the proper dowry fees are met). Do you feel a cadence here?

    3) You will have noticed that I mentioned episodes where Smith was caught engaging in sexual encounters, but I have yet to read you acknowledgement that polygamy was, indeed, at least partially, motivated by sex in its very first overtures. You will also remember that you were the one who bemoaned my characterization of polygamy as “sexual practice”, in context with Ronan’s initial contrasting with MLK’s sexual escapades.

    4) I am sure you will have also noticed that I addressed no one in this forum with the disrespect and rudeness of such statements as calling people ignorant (“how little people know”) or dishonest (“Disingenuous at best, and intellectually dishonest”) or depersonalizing them by calling them by numbers?

    5) My teenager comments were not the straw-man arguments you suggest. Let’s ask contemporary people what they thought of Joseph Smith having sex with young women who worked for his wife, or boarded in his house, or were in his legal guardianship. What were the reactions of, say, Oliver Cowdery? William Marks? William Law?

    Have you ever bothered to realize that the average age at first marriage in the late 19th century was roughly similar as today?

    Do you remember how Joseph Smith had to elope to marry 21-year old Emma, because she couldn’t get married without the permission of her father? Have you bothered to imagine how Isaac Hale would react to learn that a hypothetically older Joseph was shagging his 16-year old Emma?

    6) Are you not bothered that in two interactions, you would have to resort to calling me ignorant of “The Church” (am I?) and dishonest (am I?) in order to make your points?

    Cheers.

  53. “Have you ever bothered to realize that the average age at first marriage in the late 19th century was roughly similar as today?”

    And that’s somehow supposed to mean that it wasn’t common for 16-year-olds to get married back then? I think someone’s misunderstanding the word “average.”

  54. Tim:

    Absolutely not.

    But, as you might not have realized by the meaning of the word “average”, it is also common for 16-year old girls to get married today, just not as common as “average”. (Somewhere between 3 and 4% of all teens in the US.)

    Which is not to say that, today, we don’t find it scandalous!

  55. What I note is that no matter how many facts are used or left out, there will be a pattern exhibited by people who don’t want to understand something. It looks something like this – categorize, reduce, dismiss.

  56. I shouldn’t feed this threadjack, but two things – that I hope won’t be read as a blanket endorsement of polygamy and the way it was practiced in many instances:

    #51 – Referencing a comment by its number is common online. It happens all the time and isn’t about you at all – and it isn’t an insult or dismissive in any way. It’s an easy shorthand. That’s all.

    #53 – What was the average age of Joseph’s wives? Seriously, what was the average? I know what it was; do you? Please calculate it and share it with us.

    The way you are referencing the youngest ones makes it sound like the average. It wasn’t, so you’re using the outliers in a statistically invalid way – thus, distorting the situation – thus, proving Ronan’s point in this post.

    Iow, a full discussion beats a one-sided attack any day and twice on Sunday.

  57. Excellent, Ronan. I hope this gets picked up by several media outlets. Op-ed, babee.

  58. My goodness. Rarely have I seen such a pitch-perfect, wise, generous, hard-hitting, literary-merit-ful post such as this one devolve into such an absurd threadjack-filled thread.

    Can we get back to the main topic, or at least discuss in a way worthy of the OP?

  59. Excellent response. Well done.

  60. Marilyn King says:

    John Sweeney did not once refer to the church with its name… he refered to the church as the Church of the Latter Day Saints …missing out the name of Jesus Christ every time … the woman who couldnt attend her daughters wedding knew this all the time,long before her daughter got married …the programme was very very biased and a lot of it was untrue…obviously people would lose their jobs if they worked for the church …duh …am a member of the Church in the UK … am NOT brainwashed … to be honest … if I lived an the U.S.A …I would probably vote for Obama …coz it’s politics…have never been told how to vote ….love the gospel always have done …still do …get it right John Sweeney x

  61. Marilyn King says:

    not that Mitt Romney is a bad bloke …he is very caring … and does a lot of good for his people …

  62. As the journalist admitted in his last programme about scientology he was a self confessed aetheist and in that viene has denounced most christian belief and published the negative and not allowed positivity to come into his issues with religion therefore an unbalanced level of journalism has been produced this is not what the BBC stands for and should in fact be allowing fair and balanced programmes to be aired. Where would the world be without progress and removal of some of the ancient laws that have dominated society we certainly wouldnt be having the kind of freedom we have today the changes since the 1950s in this country in social intergration has been immense look back see the realistic events in this world we dont all live in caves still do we!?

  63. Peter Fagg says:

    thank you Ronan. The first part of the programme I was quite happily viewing, but then he took a distinct turn into cult land. Even the camera work and flashing of ‘scary’ images left a lot to be desired. The programme leaves a rotten aftertaste that clearly misrepresents who we are. Shoddy.

  64. You’re right everyone, I apologize for the thread-jack, I got carried away. So, back to the topic at hand…

    I did not see the program, but I did read the “live-tweet” of it. It was definitely interesting to see it through other people’s POV. I have seen programs of the sort of course which induce a sort of hysteria when it comes to Mormons. As a side note, one such program inspired a fellow citizen to pull a shot-gun on me when I knocked on his door while out tracting one day.

    I feel the letter is all things diplomatic but it definitely registers disapproval. Just the sort that is likely to get some attention from a thinking television producer or programmer. Bravo!

  65. Lorraine says:

    All I will say is that as members of the church, we should be setting an example to those who are ignorant of our religion and do what the first presidency has asked us to do, and that is to NOT use the word mormon…..we are asked to use the full and correct name of the church, I have been dismayed to see members referring to the church as mormons!!!

    We are supposed to know better, and as for Romney, well he hasn’t been a great example for the church, he has let us down badly by seeming to be secretive about our religion, and not answering the most simple of questions, if he doesn’t want to get hot stay away from the fire!!!!!

  66. John Burns says:

    What an excellent and articulate reply to a program that was produced purely to provide what the BBC view as good televison. It always amazes me how they use the experiences of a small number of individuals who obviously have challenges with the church to spout there views as if they are the views of all members. I am a convert to the church in the UK and can honestly say that my decsion to be baptised was the best one I ever made. I have also spent time in Utah on business and although there are cultural differences the doctrine is the same. I am happy for my name to be associated with Ronan’s comments. Keep up the good work.

  67. Peter, I agree that it took a turn about 15 mins in. Then it was all cult all the time.

  68. Lorraine, what is your view of the Church’s “I’m a Mormon” campaign? Did that fly under the First Presidency’s radar?

    We’re Mormons. Let’s own it: http://bycommonconsent.com/2011/10/14/becoming-a-mormon-thinking-about-a-brand-with-elder-ballard/

  69. Sam Rushworth says:

    Ronan – I have never come across this blog before and don’t know who you are as others seem to, but this is an excellently written letter. I came across it doing my own research into the matter. In my political life (with Labour) I work very hard to promote respect and fight discrimination, whether based on gender, sexuality, ethnicity or faith. It is disappointing that the BBC seems so inconsistant in applying these principles. It has rightly been a standard bearer for equal rights for the disabled, homosexuals, and ethnic minorities, but has become a sounding board for prejudice against Christianity and Mormonism in particular. As your article says so very well, thousands of latter-day saints in the UK who love their families and serve in their communities have been misrepresented by this biased piece of film-making – and some will experience persecution as a consequence. They won’t necessarily be explicitly attacked, but they will be subject to the unspoken latent discrimination by those who feel less able to trust them.

    The fact that Sweeny described the church’s PRs who had the temerity to peacefully hand in a private letter of complaint as ‘invading’ his office, betrays the sheer scale of his venom and his inability to be impartial. He therefore has no place on the BBC. The 250,000 latter-day-saints in the UK who pay a licence fee should not see public money used to asbuse their good names.

    I would be happy to put my name to this letter.

  70. Sam (#69) Cheers! What a nice comment for Ronan and his letter.

  71. Say someone in the public eye was a high-profile member of a golf club and you wanted to see what it was about this club that was so interesting.
    Using the Sweeney method you would:

    1) Interview people who are not members of the golf club at all but have adapted the rules of golf to fit their own lifestyle (crazy golf!).
    2) Interview disaffected former members of the golf club that:
    a) Broke some of the rules of the golf club and didn’t like the way they were enforced (didn’t replace a divot on the fairway, refused to pay the fine)
    b) Believed that former by-laws of the golf club were opressive (prior to 1990, you couldn’t wear jeans in the clubhouse after 6pm!)
    3) Make a big deal out of the rules that govern what clothes can be worn on the course (look at the funny hats!)
    4) Interview some members of more mainstream sports clubs who couldn’t ever be friends with a golfer. I mean, they put the wrong sized balls in the wrong sized holes. Their clothes are funny etc etc.
    5) Very briefly interview an elderly member of the golf club and confront him with former by-laws and odd things the club founder did 200 years ago.
    6) Whatever you do, don’t show anyone playing golf. Looks too normal.

    You could use this method for any organisation in the world.

  72. Sir, this article was fantastic. Thank you. I sincerely hope you send this to Jones directly!

  73. ldsbishop,
    That’s pretty good.

  74. I have sent this to Mr. Jones and invited him to do a Q&A here. It has also gone to BBC Points of View, their viewer feedback programme.

  75. ldsbishop (#71) Perfect assessment. My favorite part was the funny hats.

  76. janiecej says:

    Now that I’ve actually watched the ridiculousness that is Sweeny, Ronan your post is all the more brilliant. A thoughtful, evenhanded, and eloquent reply.

  77. @ldsbishop, your golf club analogy is misleading because it leaves out a few important facts about the Mormon ‘golf club.
    1. Most people who leave the golf club do so because they found that the club owners/managers blatantly lie to the club members and to the public on an ongoing basis. That makes it newsworthy.
    2. The “clothing rules” are, by most standard, silly and superstitious — something that sets them apart from all other similar clubs, therefore making the club of particular interest to the public, if not newsworthy.
    3. Some of the so-called “odd things” that the club founder did include marrying adolescents and marrying other men’s wives WHILE they are still married to those men who are still living. It also includes spending hours looking at a rock in a hat. And those are just the beginning of the list of odd things.
    4. There is little point in showing the “normal” aspects the club does when all other golf clubs also do it too, especially when it’s only a one hour documentary and the not normal aspects could fill several hours.

  78. Jeff,
    You really don’t understand the point of analogies.

  79. Mthompson says:

    Jeff Ricks… Have you studied American social History i suggest you do. don’t Judge todays standards and laws to those of 200 years ago.. Back then, alot of women in the UK joined the Mormon church and chose to travel to America. Many were already in unhappy marriages and chose to leave their husbands behind. Unfortunately for them, Divorce was’nt readily available, even for those living in the same country as thier spouse. These women were in a hostile land where it was common place for un-married and unprotected women to be kidnapped and forced into marriage (You’ve seen paint your wagon.) I Also love the sexism in this comment, as no one ever picks up that these women were also marrying someone elses husband.. And It was’nt uncommon for women to marry in their teens either LDS or NOT. My Gran an Irish Catholic married my 22 year old Irish Catholic Grandfather at the age of 14. I would’nt reguard their relationship as perverse or wrong. it was just done in those days.

  80. Of course I understand the point of analogies, John. They can be used to help clarify something, or they can also be used to cleverly misrepresent or only partially represent in order to create a distorted picture of something, as does ldsbishop in his use of analogy.

  81. Left Field says:

    #65: According to the official church style guide, “Mormons” is acceptable when referring to members of the church. That’s been the official guideline for a couple of decades now.

    http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/style-guide

  82. Mthompson, points taken, but it doesn’t change my argument one bit, which is that Sweeney represented things in his documentary that he felt people TODAY would want to know about the man who could soon hold the most powerful office in the world.

  83. The real problem with Mormon belief is that they, and they alone, have the full Truth. That all other religious are wrong, their creeds an abomination in the sight of God.
    LDS, inc spent more money on a shopping mall in the past 5 years than they have spent on charitable giving in the last 100 years. Their books are secret, hidden even from the members who donate. Their Leaders teach ‘tell the truth’ while hiding the truth from the members. Leadership who used to boldly declare Doctrine now hide behind PR firms and Lawyers – their modern day version of ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’.
    I know many non-LDS in Utah whose children were ostracized by Mormon neighbors. I know some who were denied buying a home in neighborhoods because they were not LDS(Mormon).
    Their own ‘Apostles’ tell members to avoid reading early Church history. Their own Sunday School manuals are written to avoid these uncomfortable Truths – such as Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s haveing more than one Wife. Certainly that Brigham Young had 10 divorces. Certainly that the Oath of Vengeance against the US government was part and parcel of the Temple Ceremony.
    The biggest problem is why an outfit that claims to be the sole repository of Truth has to tell lies to convince others of this ‘truth’?

  84. Valerie Sperrer says:

    Ronan, when you are done, the Red Bull is on ice.

  85. #77, #80, Jeff. I don’t think my analogy was misleading at all. I was just demonstrating what I see to be Sweeney’s tactics. You can make any organisation seem weird and cultish if you follow those steps. Newsworthy or not, that is what Sweeney did. It was far from balanced.

    Anyway, way to kill the humour, man.

  86. Jeff says They can be used to help clarify something, or they can also be used to cleverly misrepresent or only partially represent in order to create a distorted picture of something,

    You’d know all about that, Rick, seeing as how everything you contributed to this “documentary” created just such a distorted picture. I don’t think you’re evil, I don’t need to label you as an apostate. I just think your contribution was lame.

  87. Peter LLC says:

    Jeff’s point about analogies seemed strangely familiar and then I was like, oh yeah, the OP: “facts, polemically deployed, are not always as truthful as Gradgrind, and Sweeney, would have us believe. Facts shorn of context can mislead.”

  88. sharonparq says:

    #71 (Jeff Ricks)…

    Do you have any hard evidence for your first assertion? I’d be interested in seeing documentation that at least 51% (most) of the people who leave the Church do so because they felt lied to.

  89. I did not get to see the mockumentary because I was attending “cult” meetings (i.e. ward council) and it wasn’t streaming on iPlayer yet when I got home. However, I read the live blog about it and this post and Sweeney’s hamfisted BBC article about Park Romney yesterday.

    Re Jeff Ricks’ participation, since I have not seen the programme yet, I have to ask whether in addition to digging up dirt on the Church and confronting active members with difficult or embarassing questions Sweeney also did the same to the ex-Mormons who provided his material. Did he confront them or cross-examine them in their accounts, stories, accusations? If not, it seems natural to ask why not.

    Did Sweeney, for example, grill ex-Mormons on the topic of “shunning” that they apparently alleged? Being shunned, as most Mormons know from being shunned in society at large and by Sweeney types, is a painful experience. On that basis, it would not do for Sweeney to have pressed or cross-examined these ex-Mormons about their allegations of shunning. We should take their word for it at face value. However, part of me wonders whether objective and professional reporting would have at least enquired whether ex-Mormons who report being shunned by Mormon family and friends have a habit of trying to discuss their opinions about Mormon history and truth claims at family gatherings or send emails to Mormon friends and family detailing their new opinions about the beliefs they formerly shared with those who have remained in the Church. If that is the case, then where is the line between shunning someone and just avoiding them because they’re always denigrating your religion — or essentially making fun of you for staying — whenever you see them?

  90. Judith Grant says:

    I am honored to ‘know’ you all and have you speak for the Church. The reply to the BBC was brlliant and I am late for work!

  91. Val, make it a Red Bull Cola, please.

  92. #85, ldsbishop, you said, “You can make any organisation seem weird and cultish if you follow those steps. Newsworthy or not, that is what Sweeney did. It was far from balanced.”

    You can also make any organization seem normal if you follow the steps used by the Church. Its self-representation to the world is far from balanced. I think documentaries like Sweeney are important because they help balance against the church’s tactics.

    You all know very well that the church has a mandate against representing both sides of issues equally (per Boyd Packer’s infamous talk, et al). It’s quite ironic that you all now seem to have your shorts in a bunch over someone attempting to fill in the other side in order to provide a more balanced presentation of the Church.

    Re #86, BHodges. My “contribution was lame?” All I did was answer their questions as honestly as I know how. I’m not responsible for the editing.

  93. I agree that #71′s analogies are misleading. What Sweeney was doing was actually:

    Say someone in the public eye was a high-profile member of church and wanted to become president of the United States. You wanted to see what it was about this church that made so many voters unwilling to vote for that high-profile member.
    Using the Sweeney method you would:

    1) Interview people who are not members of the church at all but are often confused by the public of being a part of the church and appeal to religious claims held that church, and add to a stereotype that the high-profile member desperately wants to avoid.
    2) Interview disaffected former members of the church that:
    a) stopped believing in the tenents of the church
    b) believed that some of the past and present church teachings were racist and/or sexist
    c) believe that the church had not been forthcoming with some of its past
    d) provide narratives that explain why so many Americans are unwilling to vote for the high profile member

    3) point out practices by the church that seem very “cultish” to many Americans which
    a) partly explains why so many Americans are unwilling to vote for the high profile member

    4) Interview some members of the church about their church and why it shouldn’t cause Americans to be unwilling to vote for a high profile member.
    5) Show several lengthy parts of an interview with a leader of the church and ask questions regarding to issues that leave many Americans unwilling to vote for the high-profile member
    6) Show several positive clips and interviews with members of the church and discuss the church’s wide humanitarian aid, and juxtapose that against the unwillingness of so many Americans to vote for the high-profile member

    So many of you seem to be unwilling to recognize that this was not about the Church. It was about Mitt Romney and why so many Americans are unwilling to vote for him because of his Mormonism. For pete’s sake, 1/4 of the show didn’t even talk about Mormonism and focused on Romney’s policies, concerns of the conservative-right, and Santorum!!!

  94. #88 Sharon. I believe I can find you some numbers taken from a recent study. I can tell you from my personal experience with thousands of former Mormons that at least 90% of those who resign from the church do so because they discovered that they have been lied to and the church continues lying to the public and its members. They, like I, can’t in good conscience continue belonging to such an organization.

    But lets say it’s “51%” per your proposed number. It would still mean that the church probably needs to raise its ethical standards, don’t you think, Sharon?

  95. Add my name to the pile of support for this article. As much as I wish them well, ex members are the spoiled little kids who didn’t want to join in and who are doing their level best to ruin it for everyine else!

  96. Peter LLC says:

    As much as I wish them well, ex members are…

    Probably should have just stopped there.

  97. sharonparq says:

    #94 (Jeff Ricks)…

    Actually, 51% is *your* proposed number (you said “most”). I would be very interested in the study. Please post the link here, if you don’t mind.

  98. Ah, so narrator, Sweeney’s approach was perfectly justified. Thank you for the insight. Transparency is great and yellow journalism is better!

  99. narrator,
    If the intent was to show why Americans do not trust Mormons, it was excellent. I suppose one might wish that these attitudes would then have been challenged. This is not, by the way, to diminish the real PR challenges the church has, some of its own making.

  100. sharonparq says:

    #49 (Marcello Jun): “The Church does exert tremendous political pressure on Utah politics episodically, and it’s easy to see how outsiders might feel uneasy and nervous about it.”

    Not according to a just-finished Salt Lake Tribune survey.

  101. (96) PeterLLC – Why should I have stopped there? Y’mean I am *not* allowed to state my annoyance as well? Sorry…..!

  102. #98 john f., cut the nonsense. I didn’t say that his approach was perfectly justified. I think it could have been done better. However, it was not the anti-Mormon hack-piece that so many of you are desperately wanting it to be.

    This wasn’t Helen Whitney’s 4 hour discussion of “The MORMONS.” This was a one hour discussion of “The Mormon CANDIDATE.”

  103. #100, perhaps a better way to put it is: “Mormonism does exert tremendous political pressure on Utah politics episodically, and it’s easy to see how outsiders might feel uneasy and nervous about it.”

  104. sharonparq says:

    #103 (the narrator)…

    Not sure that is better, as it loses all meaning. You could replace “Mormonism” with any “ism” (including “humanism”) and you’d be able to find outsiders who might feel uneasy and nervous.

    Original point is that some people are fearful that Romney (the candidate) will be unduly influenced by the institutional Church. The Trib survey demonstrates that such isn’t the way the Church operates. Whether Romney is influenced by Mormonism is a different matter, and not one that has come up with any other POTUS candidate (with the notable exception of John Kennedy) who adhered to any other “ism.”

  105. Sorry, narrator, what nonsense? By “correcting” ldsbishop’s earlier analogy, your comment # 93 is pretty defensive of Sweeney’s approach. Anyway, remind me again how interviewing Jeff Ricks is relevant to Mitt Romney’s candidacy for President of the United States? It sounds like the programme expressed essentially that ex-Mormons, Park Romney and Evangelical Christians dismiss Romney based on his religion, is that correct? Was the consensus of the ex-Mormon interviews that the Church is a cult? If it weren’t a cult then members would gladly endure the constant derision of ex-Mormon relatives and friends without succumbing to any natural reactions to such interactions.

    Did Sweeney note for the sake of the British viewing public that if, as his FLDS, ex-Mormon and Evangelical Christian interviewees lead him to conclude, the Church is a cult, it appears to be a particularly inept cult that is essentially an utter failure in “brainwashing” people or forcing people to stay inside? Or is that merely left implicit, through Sweeney’s journalistic expertise and subtlety, in the juxtaposition between the picture Sweeney paints and the reality of lived Mormonism by the 1/3 who choose to stay in the Church?

  106. #97, sharon. The link is to preliminary results of an ongoing study that was conducted on or in connection with Utah State University as part of doctoral thesis on why people leave Mormonism. It doesn’t provide the kind of percentage you’re requesting but it does show that the top four reasons people leave the church are:

    1. I lost faith in Joseph Smith.
    2. I studied church history and lost my belief.
    3. I ceased to believe in the church’s doctrine/theology.
    4. I lost faith in the Book of Mormon.

    That, I believe adequately supports my statement that most people leave the church because they discovered that the church has been lying to them.

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://whymormonsleave.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/WhyTheyLeave_30Jan2012v4.pdf

  107. #105 John f. Sure, I’ll be happy to remind you. The information that former Mormons provide about the church, helps fill in the parts that the church intentionally leaves out in order to created a distorted picture of Mormonism. I think that providing a more complete picture of Romney’s Mormonism is vital when this guy could possibly take the position of the most powerful person in the world, don’t you?

  108. #105

    Sorry, narrator, what nonsense? As I explicitly stated already, your claim that I was saying that “Sweeney’s approach was perfectly justified.” By “correcting” ldsbishop’s earlier analogy, your comment # 93 is pretty defensive of Sweeney’s approach. No. It was, as I explicitly stated, that ldsbishops analogy was wrong and misleading. Anyway, remind me again how interviewing Jeff Ricks is relevant to Mitt Romney’s candidacy for President of the United States? Because it illustrates perceptions of the LDS Church that cause many Americans to be unwilling to vote for the Mormon CANDIDATE. It sounds like the programme expressed essentially that ex-Mormons, Park Romney and Evangelical Christians dismiss Romney based on his religion, is that correct? Yes. And then it allowed them to explain why they felt that way. Was the consensus of the ex-Mormon interviews that the Church is a cult? If it weren’t a cult then members would gladly endure the constant derision of ex-Mormon relatives and friends without succumbing to any natural reactions to such interactions. Again, here is where you are misrepresenting the show. The show was not about whether or not the LDS Church is a cult. It was about why so many Americans (particularly the conservative-right) were unwilling to vote for the Mormon CANDIDATE

    <Did Sweeney note for the sake of the British viewing public that if, as his FLDS, ex-Mormon and Evangelical Christian interviewees lead him to conclude, the Church is a cult, it appears to be a particularly inept cult that is essentially an utter failure in “brainwashing” people or forcing people to stay inside? Again, here is where you are misrepresenting the show. The show was not about whether or not the LDS Church is a cult, nor did Sweeney conclude that it was. It was about why so many Americans (particularly the conservative-right) were unwilling to vote for the Mormon CANDIDATE Or is that merely left implicit, through Sweeney’s journalistic expertise and subtlety, in the juxtaposition between the picture Sweeney paints and the reality of lived Mormonism by the 1/3 who choose to stay in the Church? Again, here is where you are misrepresenting the show. The show was not about whether or not the LDS Church is a cult. It was about why so many Americans (particularly the conservative-right) were unwilling to vote for the Mormon CANDIDATE

  109. By the way, Whitney’s documentary was excellent. I have my doubts about this one but may perhaps be pleasantly surprised. I assume Sweeney presents the British public with a balanced view of the Church — such as on the following pattern:

    1. this is how it is lived by its adherents in the US and UK (interviews of current active members, leaders, scholars);
    2. some ex-Mormons felt the Church was lying to them because of historical facts that aren’t often discussed in Church and that are not included in any official Church curricula and these ex-Mormons report feeling shunned by family and friends who remained in the Church despite their efforts to convince them of their now differing opinions about the Church’s truth claims (interviews with Jeff Ricks, Park Romney, countercultists, scholars, sociologists etc.);
    3. FLDS still practice polygamy so you can see what Mormons used to be like by examining them and, in fact, watching the polygamists should inform the British public about how Mormons actually are currently (somehow);
    4. creedal Christians and in particular American Evangelical Christians would never vote for a Mormon because they see the Church as a cult (magic underwear, doctrinal disagreement, etc.);
    5. confront and cross-examine current leader about strange sounding practices or issues (temple issues; organisational issues such as the Strengthening the Members Committee, etc.).

    From what I’ve seen, Sweeney covered 2 through 5 but missed out on # 1. Don’t you think he still could have concluded the Church is a dangerous cult, therefore justifying Americans’ reluctance to vote for a Mormon, with the inclusion of # 1? Most of us Mormons know that our categorisation as a cult is already a foregone conclusion. Some of us have embarassed the rest of us by taking the posture that any report about us that is not outright positive or endorsing is a negative attack. But I do not think that an expectation of balance in such a report is really beyond the pale (i.e. at least wishing Sweeney would have included # 1 in the mix so that those Mormons among the British viewing public who pay their TV tax can at least recognise themselves in the programme and perhaps feel like there is a place for them in a truly pluralistic society).

  110. Joe Steve Swick III says:

    Ray (#50) said: “I knew it [i.e., Ronan's excellent response] would get sidetracked the moment I read it (both from nit-picking and from bitterness, as has happened in this thread), and that is unfortunate.”

    While I have little to say about later coments, at the point of your response, Ray, I don’t suppose there was a lot of “side-tracking” or “bitterness.” It seemed to me that the comments were largely respectful, and were in fact engaging the content of Ronan’s original post. That kind of feedback is far from diversionary: it is really invaluable to a writer/blogger, and I’d like to think that Ronan is happy for it. If all an author gets is a slap on the back and kind words, how is that useful if he or she wishes to make improvements or adjustments in their piece?

    I would like to think that he would reword some of the “Temple penalties were only symbolic” language, because historically they were not (again, see John Taylor to Daniel H. Wells in the Salt Lake School of the Prophets 1883 Minute Book for clarification). One could say that “like the Freemasons,many if not all Latter-day Saints have believed the penalties to be only symbolic,” or maybe that “their removal demonstrates the sensitivity of the modern Church to the idea that they could be taken literally.” However, Mormon historian Sam Brown does NOT say in his book that Masonic penalties were only symbolic, but rather that they were not: “[Masons] proved themselves willing to sacrifice their lives, to make them forfeit, in the interest of their fraternal community . . . [and] simulate[d] their own deaths if they strayed. The penalty for disclosing the secrets of Masonry was dismemberment . . . . For participants, these ritual executions underscored the power that Masonry could have over life and death” (Brown 181). This is the section of Brown’s book that Ronan is referencing, and as a Freemason, I take exception not only with what Brown suggests, but in how Ronan characterizes it. I think that this kind of information from an Endowed Freemason is useful to Ronan; I do not provide it here as an attempt to publicly grandstand, but as honest feedback, and I would hope he accepts those comments in that spirit.

    I would also suggest that the variety of responses here to Ronan’s post is a subset of the larger responses he will see when he submits it as a formal response (and I agree that he should do so — it is quite excellent). He is seeing in microcosm just how many people choose to see the LDS tradition from which Mitt Romney comes; he is seeing the range of visceral and emotional responses that this connection produces in people. I’ve certainly nothing good to say about Sweeney. As a journalist, he has learned that secretly, everyone likes a scary story — likes to be frightened by a boogeyman — and that people are often willing to pay money to be frightened, even if the story isn’t entirely true. In my opinion, he is pandering to fears because that is what sells. Ronan’s remarks are a corrective to that kind of irresponsible journalism, and I applaud him for his efforts.

  111. Re # 108, fair enough. The show was about the Mormon candidate. Any sense that Mitt Romney is just an American running for President who happens to be Mormon or did the show (through interviews with ex-Mormons and Evangelical Christians) paint a picture that it would somehow be dangerous for a Mormon to be President of the United States, as Jeff Ricks implies in his comment # 107 (and presumably in his interview).

  112. Ronan, great letter. Thanks!

  113. Jeff,
    The fact that you have experience with “thousands” of former Mormons would suggest a bias towards a certain type of former Mormon, the type that gets together with those of similar (negative) experience. The folks like my cousins, the ones who stopped going in their teens, or the ones like my good friends, who never believed in the first place, or like my uncle, who would rather fly his plane on a Sunday or my friend who was ex-communicated but doesn’t have a bad thing to say about the Church, they don’t gather together to share their reasons for why they’re not Mormons anymore. They just don’t care.

    That is not to say your (and your thousands of friends’) experience isn’t valid or that you don’t feel lied to. Only that there is absolutely no way you guys represent anywhere near 50% of those who leave the Church. And forget about former Mormons outside the US, the number guaranteed to be even lower. Even looking at John Dehlin’s survey that you linked to, in his methodology he admits the sample is NOT random and the people used in the survey were gathered through sites such as from the Bloggernacle, blogs and social media. Again, a definite bias towards a certain kind of former Mormon. I promise, my cousin is not participating in that survey because she just doesn’t care. Not a single one of the former Mormons I associate with (outside of the online world) would have participated.

  114. #111 john f. You seem to be suggesting that an incomplete picture of Romney is sufficient, when he could become the most powerful person in the world. Is that what you mean? If not then I think my statement, that you suggest is overstated, is fully justified.

  115. I am not convinced that your experience paints a more complete picture of Mitt Romney. Unless of course you were mistreated by Mitt Romney. Or is it a matter of telling anecdotes and then generalising it to all Mormons, thus rendering Romney culpable?

  116. #113 ninemoons. You point out the bias that skews my assessment. You acknowledge your own bias that skews your assessment in the opposite direction. Too bad there aren’t better data to determine what it actually is. Until then, the best we can do is make educated guesses.

    By the way, I think most people who leave Mormonism because they have been lied to also don’t care enough to participate in John’s survey because the majority of them have put it behind them and moved on with their lives.

  117. sharonparq says:

    #106 (Jeff Ricks)…

    I’ve seen and read John’s preliminary study before and find the top four reasons, which you cite, interesting. And, as an aside, I don’t blame anyone for leaving if they do lose faith in Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, or the church’s doctrine/theology. People join the church because they start to believe in those things, so why shouldn’t they leave if they stop believing in them?

    However, I don’t think John’s study (or, at least, the four top reasons you cited) support your statement as adequately as you may think. People can lose faith or belief for a variety of reasons (besides the four top ones cited by John), but that doesn’t mean there was lying involved. The statement “I lost faith” and “the church lied to me” aren’t synonymous.

    Anyway, if you have any other studies you could cite, I would still be very interested.

  118. #115. John f. The fact that you’re “not convinced” doesn’t change the reality that filling in the side of Romney’s Mormonism that the church leaves out does, in fact, present a more complete picture. If you want argue specific reasons for refusing to be convinced, hey I’m all ears. Otherwise, your unjustified personal opinion is not very persuasive.

  119. The reason I am not convinced about how your anecdotes say anything about Mitt Romney or his candidacy is that I’m not seeing the connection between you and Mitt Romney. Did he lie to you or mistreat you or shun you? Or is it more syllogistic: a. other Mormons lied to you (or rather the Church did not provide a comprehensive statement about its past in its devotional curricula), mistreated you, shunned you; b. Mitt Romney is a Mormon; c. ergo Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is dangerous and justifies Americans’ reticence in voting for a nefarious Mormon.

  120. sharonparq says:

    #119 (john f.)…

    I think that Sweeney constructed the syllogism you note, and used Jeff’s comments relative to the church as evidence for that syllogism. I think it is weak, but not a syllogism that Jeff created. (Jeff, feel free to correct me if I’ve misstated this.)

  121. #119 john f. “… I’m not seeing the connection between you and Mitt Romney.”
    Come on man. Do I have to spell it out?

    Me –>> Mormon <<– Mitt Romney

    Looks like a connection to me! Your attempts to dance around the obvious, I'm sorry but, are comical. Nice try, but it doesn't fly. Let me refocus you back on the issue.

    A. Mitt is a Mormon.
    B. The church intentionally presents a distorted picture of Mitt's Mormonism.
    C. Mitt is seeking the most powerful position in the world.
    D. If the church won't do it, that leaves it the responsibility of others to provide the world with a more of MItt Romney's Mormonism. Who better to assume that responsibility than people who lived Mormonism faithfully for much of their lives, then left?

    Again, John, I ask you, are you suggesting that presenting a distorted representation of Mormonism to the world, when the stakes are so high, is responsible or even sufficient?

  122. Peter LLC says:

    Why should I have stopped there? Y’mean I am *not* allowed to state my annoyance as well?

    Because it undermines your declaration of support for a thoughtful appeal to the BBC to be fair and balanced in its depiction of Mormonism. And it goes without saying that you are as free as anyone here to state your annoyance and to do so using unwarranted and excessive terms.

  123. Jeff, is your argument that the Church needs to present itself in a particular way in the context of Mitt Romney’s candidacy for the Presidency?

    Also, are you suggesting that somehow your version of what Mormonism is happens to be the right one?

  124. sharonparq says:

    #121 (Jeff Ricks):

    A. Mitt is a Mormon.
    B. The church intentionally presents a distorted picture of Mitt’s Mormonism.
    C. Mitt is seeking the most powerful position in the world.
    D. If the church won’t do it, that leaves it the responsibility of others to provide the world with a more of MItt Romney’s Mormonism. Who better to assume that responsibility than people who lived Mormonism faithfully for much of their lives, then left?

    Assuming, for the sake of argument, that B is true (and that is a big assumption), your question of “who better” isn’t, really, better. By such logic, the ones best able to tell about America are disillusioned ex-Americans, best able to tell about England are disillusioned ex-Brits, best able to tell about Google are employees who have left in disgust, best able to tell about your family are those who’ve disowned your family, etc.

    While I applaud your willingness to shoulder the responsibility and perform such a heroic public service, there have been rather rigorous studies done that indicate that ex-members of an organization (even religious organizations) are not the best resource for unbiased information.

  125. Well we’ll agree to disagree then my friend. But as to unwarrented and excessive? . Certainly my comments are not as nearly ‘unwarrented’ or ‘excessive’ as some of the posts I have read here in support of Sweeny’s view, or is that only the perserve of the anti-mormon critic? If it is so, sorry to have trod on the toes then and will leave that type of comment to those who spout them the best.

  126. Please note my comment at 125 is addressed in reply to (122) Peter LLC.

  127. Also, Jeff, your ultimate question lacks necessity. Even assuming that the way you depict the Church is completely accurate and true, how does that make any difference as to Mitt Romney’s candidacy for President? Does the information presented somehow bear on his qualifications for the Presidency? Isn’t there far more sinister and conspiracy-oriented material in the history of Catholicism than there is in Mormonism? But was such history or were such characteristics of Catholicism (as painted unflatteringly by ex-Catholics or detractors of the Catholic Church such as Evangelical Christians) somehow relevant to John F. Kennedy’s abilities or qualifications to seek and then occupy that office?

  128. John f and sharon, I think you’re missing the point. No, of course ex-mormons are not the “best resource” for unbiased information about the church. Neither is the church. My point is, if the church won’t fill in both sides, that leaves it up to others to fill in the side the church leaves out. I probably overstated by saying, “who better” but my argument remains the same: If the church won’t do it, others will have to and ex-Mormons are at least willing to do their best to fill in the parts the church leaves out. What I should have said is, “Who else is doing it?”

  129. John f, when the most powerful person in the world swears an oath to commit all he has, his time, talents, and all he does to the Mormon church, you bet that’s relevant to his qualifications!

  130. Holy crap, Jeff, you’re right. And then, if elected, Romney will swear an oath to faithfully execute the office of the President, &c. (Not to mention that, as a GOP candidate, he’s signed a pledge not to raise taxes.) He has likely pledged allegiance to the flag, too.

    And what will happen if those pledges/oaths/etc. come into conflict? Because I don’t know if we follow a last-in-time principle, or a first-in-time, or what!

  131. Jeff, that is not necessarily true. I suspect you know that Mitt Romney would take his oath of office very seriously and would not elevate his Church above his country.

    As Ronan wrote in this post, the temple covenant is indeed a fact. For some Mormons it might even be an uncomfortable fact, especially if the presentation of the fact does not adequately disclose the current state of their presentation. But the particular interpretation of that fact that you appear interested in presenting is not a fact but an opinion. In your opinion, this temple covenant that Romney has made is somehow incompatible with the oath of office. So now you and other ex-Mormons have expressed that opinion. Whether it adds value to evaluations of Mitt Romney’s qualifications for the Presidency or to public discourse about religious pluralism and Mormonism in particular, is up for debate in venues like this and the public square.

    But this temple covenant that you have highlighted cannot rightly be explained as the source of Americans’ reticence to vote for a Mormon because it is at best extremely nitpicky marginalia about Mormonism to the general public. Americans’ reticence to vote for a Mormon is because their pastors have taught them that Mormonism is a cult, not based on this temple covenant but based on broader doctrinal differences, in particular Mormonism’s contentious rejection of the trinitarian creeds, and as a corollary, of creation ex nihilo. A show exposing temple covenants (which virtually no believing Mormon would ever think would interfere with or prevent honoring the presidential oath of office with exactness) as a reason that a Mormon should not be president is just sensationalism.

  132. Jeff wants educated guesses, but that isn’t what I see in the survey he refers to. It seems to me “John’s preliminary study” has plenty of methodological problems with it. The largest, and it seems completely shot through with it, is an intolerable level of selection bias rendering the findings useful for one thing: discovering what a particular group of people pointed to on a predetermined and often mixed list of things.

    But before anyone dismisses my so saying I’d add that the largest problem, selection bias, also leads me to question some of the recent Pew findings which on the whole reflect rather positively on the LDS Church.

    Jeff, you mentioned that you weren’t responsible for the editing. Are you saying your better, more balanced moments were edited out?

  133. Nick Literski says:

    #45:
    One refrain that keeps coming up is that Mr. Romney might suborn his own judgement to that of a distant Mormon Prophet should he win the Presidency, thus “endangering” liberty. This is pure hackneyed nonsense. The Mormon faith has actually canonized statements regarding the U.S. Constitution as “divinely inspired”. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that allows for any person to suborn their sworn duty to that document in preference to religious mandates. If Romney were to become President of the United States, he would swear to uphold a document regarded by his religion as divinely inspired.

    Funny, but this man who allegedly believes the U.S. Constitution was “divinely inspired” has signed a solemn pledge to seek an amendment to that “divine inspiration,” in order to make certain citizens an exception to that document’s guarantees of equal protection before the law. The amendment he’s promised to seek just happens to coincide with previously-stated political goals of the LDS church, since that church’s first presidency already advised their followers to urge Congress to approve it.

  134. Nick,

    The amendment he’s promised to seek just happens to coincide with previously-stated political goals of the LDS church, since that church’s first presidency already advised their followers to urge Congress to approve it.

    I’m not sure what this has to do with his Mormonness; Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich (who certainly aren’t Mormon) have also pushed such an amendment; whatever its (de)merits, the marriage amendment appears a de rigueur requirement for GOP presidential candidates.

  135. Sam, I think that the implication seems to be that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have pushed for a marriage amendment because that is the desire of Mitt Romney’s Church.

  136. Nick Literski says:

    #131:
    A show exposing temple covenants (which virtually no believing Mormon would ever think would interfere with or prevent honoring the presidential oath of office with exactness) as a reason that a Mormon should not be president is just sensationalism.

    Not necessarily. When I was a believing Mormon, I’d have chosen to follow temple covenants over government oaths in any case where I felt there was a possible conflict. Earlier believing Mormons willingly went to jail for violating the law of the land, rather than violate a sacred tenet of their faith. Additionally, Romney isn’t just any “believing Mormon,” or even “believing LDS.” Romney is what some call “Mormon royalty,” from a family with (a) big money, (b) long-standing family history from the earliest days of Mormonism, (c) ancestors who fled the country rather than submit to the law of the land in preference to their faith, and (d) very significant ties to the first presidency and 12.

  137. it's a series of tubes says:

    If Romney is elected, I’d love to watch the smoke coming out of Jeff Ricks’ ears. Just the thought puts a big smile on my face.

  138. People. Regardless of whether or not Romney will take his oath to the church literal and execute it accordingly, my point that you seem to keep skirting around remains the same, which is, the fact that he DID take such an oath and has never disavowed that oath, sure as hell IS relevant to the office he is seeking, AND the public has a right to know that he has taken such an oath. Any disagreements on the public’s right to know? If not then issue closed.

  139. Nick: “When I was a believing Mormon, I’d have chosen to follow temple covenants over government oaths in any case where I felt there was a possible conflict.”

    What the heck is a “government oath” supposed to be? The notion that the temple covenants will lead Romney to sedition is just ludicrous.

  140. The Documentry has been critisized for not having nuanced interlectuals on the program, however it was the church’s decision to use a Mayer, missioneries and a PR representative rather than Joanna Brooks. I think the church underestimated the nature of the program.

  141. Nick Literski says:

    Sam @ #124:
    The whole “you can’t criticize us for persecuting gays and lesbians, because others do it too” argument is not only silly, but becoming rather tired. In fact, not all of the republican POTUS candidates signed that pledge, and at least one still running specifically opposed such an amendment. You could argue that candidate’s opposition contributes to his fourth-place standing, but let’s face it—he’s behind for all sorts of positions he’s taken.

    The fact remains that if Romney genuinely considers the U.S. Constitution “divinely inspired,” why would he be so eager to amend it, let alone sign a promise to do so (not to mention promising to launch a federal investigation against anyone who dared publicly criticize groups that promote such an amendment).

  142. I still don’t see how your (a) through (d) makes Mitt Romney potentially dangerous or somehow unfit for office. The America I believe in is pluralistic and does not disenfranchise people because of their religion.

    Your statement about your own commitment to your temple covenants raises some interesting questions. For one thing, having left the Church you actually did not honor them so it’s not clear that you would have elevated them above your presidential oath of office. Setting that aside and assuming that you would have honored your temple covenants instead of your oath of office, this reflection seems to imply that you consider yourself to have been more faithful than Mormons who would not put their Church before their governmental oath of office. This brings the discussion into the territory of Romney actually being a bad Mormon. If he is a good Mormon, he’s unfit or at least Americans should be very scared. If he is a bad Mormon does that then win him a badge of honor or make him less dangerous?

  143. #132, BHodges said, “Jeff, you mentioned that you weren’t responsible for the editing. Are you saying your better, more balanced moments were edited out?”

    No, I’m not saying that at all. As I said, I didn’t edit it, I only answered their questions. While I haven’t seen the entire documentary yet, the part that I did see that included statements I made are not misrepresented.

  144. Mark Brown says:

    Jeff Ricks, 121,

    Jeff Ricks –>> Former Mormon <<– Park Romney

    I take this to mean that you accept unquestioningly Park's assertion that the LDS church is having him followed by former FBI agents, since we all know you Post Mos are all alike.

    This is the part of the documentary that is difficult for me to understand. Everybody knows this is a stupid claim — seriously, we are now in black helicopter, tinfoil hat territory — and Sweeney just let it go.

    In other news, Park Romney is finding meaning in his spiritual life by following the teachings of The Buddha combined with, yes, the teachings of Ayn Rand. HELLO!?!?!?! When he traded in his Mormonism for whatever it is he now has, he got a bad deal.

  145. Nick Literski says:

    #139:
    What the heck is a “government oath” supposed to be?

    Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with our political system. When an American citizen takes office as President, that individual swears an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I hope this helps you understand what a “government oath” is, since you seem to find that term confusing.

    The notion that the temple covenants will lead Romney to sedition is just ludicrous.

    Sedition is an act of open rebellion against a government. Nobody has suggested that Romney would engage in such an action.

  146. 142. john f. Let me spell it out again. I’m not saying that Romney is necessarily “dangerous or somehow unfit for office,” I’m simply saying that the public has a right to have a more complete picture of Romney’s Mormonism than what the church is willing to provide. Then they’re in a better position to decide if they want to vote for the guy. Give them a more balanced picture and then let them decided. If the church isn’t going to fill in the missing information, then if not “who better” but ‘who else will” do it if not ex-mormons?

  147. Nick: “The fact remains that if Romney genuinely considers the U.S. Constitution “divinely inspired,” why would he be so eager to amend it, let alone sign a promise to do so (not to mention promising to launch a federal investigation against anyone who dared publicly criticize groups that promote such an amendment).”

    Some arguments are just not well thought out — like this one. Yeah, that section in the Constitution that allow for amendments to the Constitution is definitely not inspired. Wait, does the Constitution allow for amendments? Hey wait, wouldn’t that make allowing amendments inspired too? Go figure that a remarkably inept argument is so easily disassembled.

  148. Jeff, I still don’t think you’ve established the relevance of Romney’s temple covenant to his candidacy for the Presidency. I don’t think it’s a matter of people having a right to know about the marginalia or his religious devotion though there is certainly no reason for them not to know. A programme like this is there to make sure people know that Romney has made this and other temple covenants, and to inform people that ex-Mormons view the Church as a cult and dangerous. But Romney has no duty to hold a press conference or give a speech and educate Americans about the minutia of Mormon life and belief. The Church is not invested in Romney’s candidacy and has no reason to make helpful informative releases about ex-Mormons’ opinions about the Church’s presentation of its history in devotional curricular materials.

    And in the end analysis, whether some Mormons mistreat or even shun friends and family who reject the faith and leave the Church simply has no relevance for Mitt Romney’s candidacy, unless someone is making the case that Mitt Romney himself has lied, shunned, generally been a bad person because of his Mormonism. Apparently the documentary wades into that territory with the interview of the woman whom he allegedly counseled to put her out-of-wedlock child up for adoption (which Romney denies). But, again, this can’t be a justification for the programme because this might be considered a feature and not a bug from the perspective of the constituency that is considering Romney as its nominee. So it would not be a data point explaining such constituency’s reticence to vote for Romney.

  149. #144. Mark, then you “take it” completely wrong. Imagine whatever you wish.

  150. Jeff Ricks: How on earth is the Church somehow responsible for providing a picture of Romney as a candidate at all? Where has it undertaken to do so? Honestly, you’re coming off like a UFO conspiracy theorist.

    Where were you when Harry Reid was sworn in?

  151. 148, John f. You can think whatever you want John. I’m perfectly happy to let the public decide if the information in the documentary is relevant to Romney’s qualifications as President.

  152. Nick Literski says:

    #142:
    I still don’t see how your (a) through (d) makes Mitt Romney potentially dangerous or somehow unfit for office. The America I believe in is pluralistic and does not disenfranchise people because of their religion.

    I suppose that’s a clever way to twist what I stated, but perhaps you might disagree with my comment, rather than playing the “religious persecution” strawman.

    Your statement about your own commitment to your temple covenants raises some interesting questions. For one thing, having left the Church you actually did not honor them…

    Wow…I haven’t had the “you’re an evil apostate who broke his covenants” argument thrown at me in at least a couple years! First, note that I said “when I was a believing Mormon.” I left the LDS church because I was no longer a “believing Mormon.” Further, the policy of the LDS church explicitly states that when an individual directs that his name be removed from that organization’s records (as I did), the individual’s ordinances (which includes the covenants you refer to) are “null and void.” It’s as if they never happened. Ergo, having your name removed from the records of the LDS church cannot actually “dishonor,” “break,” or “violate” any such covenants. Perhaps this is why the good man serving at the time as my stake president actually supported my decision as the honorable thing to do under the circumstances.

    Feel free to apologize for bearing false witness against me, john f.

  153. Thank you for this article- as a practicing Mormon myself, I run into the whole ‘it’s a cult’ thing often. I especially appreciated your last paragraph- we really are just normal citizens. We obey the law of the land (article of faith #12: “we believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates, and obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law”), try to serve others as much as we can, and love our families. I think it’s really disappointing that so many people are so badly misinformed about our faith, or that they choose to ignore the good and only focus on past events, or take them out of context. Anybody investigating the LDS faith should strive to gather as many facts as possible, good and bad, and make an informed decision from there. I firmly believe that the good vastly outweighs the bad, and that anybody who sincerely wants to find answers will come to the same conclusion.

  154. Nick Literski says:

    #147:
    Some arguments are just not well thought out — like this one. Yeah, that section in the Constitution that allow for amendments to the Constitution is definitely not inspired. Wait, does the Constitution allow for amendments? Hey wait, wouldn’t that make allowing amendments inspired too? Go figure that a remarkably inept argument is so easily disassembled.

    Saying that you’ve “disassembled” an argument doesn’t make it so. In fact, your retort calls into question the whole “Constitution was divinely inspired” mantra to begin with, since deity doesn’t typically provide clauses for amendment of his “inspired word.” That, however, should be an entirely different discussion.

  155. Nick Literski says:

    On a separate note about the documentary (which I haven’t seen), I was just told that Jeffrey R. Holland called the President “Osama” on camera. I’d be rather surprised if that was the case. Did it actually happen?

  156. Nick: Your response is just beyond reason. Really, in a religion that rejects the kind of scriptural fundamentalism that underlies your argument, and the nonsense that either Mormons in general or Joseph Smith in particular consider the Constitution inspired in the sense that it is infallible and cannot be changed is clearly and palpably a bad faith distortion.

  157. Mark Brown says:

    Jeff, I’m trying to understand what you think of Park Romney’s claims. Do you have an opinion on their validity?

    I also want to push back, gently, at your citation of the Why Mormons Leave study. You seem to be unaware of the problems with it.

    Just for starters, 34% of leavers self-report that they felt the church intentionally lied about the stones-in-a-hat method of Book of Mormon translation. Yet, in the past decade, this has been the topic of a talk in general conference as well as an article in The Friend. I mean, The friggin’ Friend, for crying out loud. The stones in the hat were frankly acknowledged in both cases. So while I can certainly sympathize with the view that the church needs to do a better job of teaching its own history, I don’t think it can credibly be accused of hiding anything in this case. NEWSFLASH — when something gets talked about in general conference by an apostle and published in the official magazines, we just look stupid and childish when we claim nobody told us.

    In light of this fact, do you think the Why Mormons Leave study suffers from a credibility problem? Why are you LYING about the church, and WHITEWASHING the stories of those who left over this issue? Why? Huh? Huh???

  158. “Saying that you’ve “disassembled” an argument doesn’t make it so. In fact, your retort calls into question the whole “Constitution was divinely inspired” mantra to begin with, since deity doesn’t typically provide clauses for amendment of his “inspired word.” That, however, should be an entirely different discussion.”

    Nick, I speak as someone who thinks a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is a terrible and offensive idea, and as someone who does _not_ want Mitt Romney to become President. This is just a really bad argument.

  159. Nick (141),

    at least one still running specifically opposed such an amendment

    Really? Who? My quick Google search of Santorum and Gingrich says they both have said they do (or would) support such an amendment. AFAIK, the trio of Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney is the world of GOP hopefuls (though Gingrich has apparently made it clear that he’s not in contention anymore).

  160. re # 152, it’s instructive to see you twisting my words in a comment in which you accuse me of twisting your words! Of course I did not call you an evil apostate for not honoring your temple covenants. Your statement about elevating this temple covenant over a governmental oath of office (as if the two were incompatible or necessarily in conflict) did not make sense in light of your actual course of action. Using the word “honor” was problematic and I apologise for it.

    Anyway, I still think the argument that you were a more faithful Mormon because you would put your Church before your governmental oath of office is a fascinating perspective. Romney has already assured the American public that he would never put his Church before his duty to the people and his governmental oath of office (as if the two were potentially incompatible in a pluralistic society, which is not clear). So it is not clear what else he needs to do; it certainly has not been established that he needs to present ex-Mormons’ opinions about the dangers of Mormonism. But, Romney’s revelation that he would not put his Church (through his temple covenants) before his country (through his governmental oath of office) should at least win him some street cred as a bad Mormon among ex-Mormons, shouldn’t it, when viewed from the perspective of your comment # 136.

  161. Nick Literski says:

    Perhaps, Brad, but the argument that Romney’s covenants of obedience and consecration would never affect him as POTUS “because Mormons believe the Constitution was inspired” is at least as bad. Pointing out that he urges an amendment thereto was illustrating the problem with that argument.

  162. Researcher says:

    So what’s the real concern here? If Mitt Romney wins the nomination, do people like Nick Literski and Jeff Ricks and John Sweeney think that he is going to operate as a mind-controlled robot for the Mormon church? Outlaw alcohol and coffee and tea? Require less meat in the USDA nutritional guidelines? Re-institute blue laws? Make Pioneer Day a national holiday?

  163. Oh wait, you mean Ron Paul? Given that he’s got less of a chance than Gingrich does in the GOP primary, I’m not terribly interested in him as representative of the GOP orthodoxy.

    Moreover, I’m not trying to make a normative argument about whether support of the at-times-proposed amendment is right; that’s way beyond the realm of anything suggested by the OP. Rather, I’m suggesting that Romney’s Mormonness probably has nothing to do with the support or not of such an amendment.

  164. Besides, Nick, nothing in any of these blog comments could possibly constitute “bearing false witness against you”. If it is, then you’ve born false witness against me, arguing that I, as a Mormon, am a cultist and a danger to American society.

  165. Re: #157: Mark, my answer to your first line is, “No.”

    Regarding the “stones in the hat method” of translation, yes the church has made public Smith’s use of the method, however, it still shows Smith translating from gold plates on its website and in it’s current literature and other media, even though it has admitted that he used a completely different method than what they represent. Here’s a little exercise you can do just to illustrate this. Find for me ONE instance on the church’s website that shows Smith using the rock in the hat method. You won’t be able to. But there are multiple examples of Smith translating from gold plates, which by the church’s own admission didn’t actually happen.

  166. I don’t see it at all, Nick. I think Mormon veneration of the Constitution is, in fact, a legitimately mitigating factor in the question of Mormon temple oaths and consecration commitments. I think there are scores of reasons why Romney would make a bad President. I just don’t think the temple oath issue really falls into that category. I think there’s actually a better argument to be made regarding the primary song “Follow The Prophet” than temple covenants. It’s creepy and off-putting to outsiders, because of the ceremonialism and the secrecy, and so I get why opponents of Mormonism and/or the GOP would focus energy there, but as someone who gets mormonism pretty well, I have to say that temple oaths don’t even register on my list of reasons why Mitt should not be President.

  167. Mark Brown says:

    Mitt’s position on immigration is at odds with the position outlined by the church.

    That fact is at least mildly interesting, isn’t it, in this conversation?

  168. re # 165, so artistic license taken by mediocre artists whose paintings have found their way into the Church’s kitsch art universe makes the Church a liar? Such an interesting perspective — and one with which I am not unfamiliar:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/03/10/canonization-of-kitsch/

    (Also, are you completely sure that Joseph Smith never, not a single time, read straight from the Golden Plates? It seems like a hard burden of proof to uphold, though I’m open to the idea — I am certainly not defending the Church’s staple of artistic renditions of that or other episodes of Church history.)

    One interesting side note is that as someone who presumably believes that the idea of Joseph Smith translating Golden Plates into English-language scripture is purely fiction (I have inferred that about you — please excuse me if it is off-base), you are taking an interesting approach in expecting “historical” accuracy in the portrayal of this fictional event.

  169. sharonparq says:

    #166 (Jeff Ricks)…

    Joseph Smith never relayed how the translation occurred. The “head in the hat” method was one of several first-hand accounts of the way it occurred, and not all of the accounts agreed. Why would you have the church preference one conflicting account over others?

  170. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that my suspicion that Mitt is more committed to the GOP as his springboard for acquiring political power than he is to Mormonism is rather high on my list of reasons why I don’t want him to be president. I know plenty of Mormons who I think would consider suborning the interests of the nation to those of the Church if they had the power to do so. And they will never, ever have the power to do so, because achieving that power would necessarily entail the sacrifice of (among other things) that kind of commitment to the LDS Church.

  171. #133: Funny, but this man who allegedly believes the U.S. Constitution was “divinely inspired” has signed a solemn pledge to seek an amendment to that “divine inspiration,” in order to make certain citizens an exception to that document’s guarantees of equal protection before the law.

    Without speaking to the particular political issue in question it seems you think “divinely inspired” stuff must be infallible, or that all Mormons must believe such. Mormons can consistently state that they believe it is divinely inspired and still imperfect, or at least amenable to changes. None of the founders claimed perfection in it, quite the contrary, and I haven’t seen any LDS leaders claiming it was perfect, either. The constitution included provisions for amending, so your point fails on two fronts, one theological the other simply logical.

  172. Plus, LDS, as believers in continuing revelation, don’t even believe that the scriptural canon isn’t subject to change.

  173. The seerstone in the hat is indeed a fact, sharonparq. The question is why its existence means that Joseph Smith never, a single time, translated straight from the Golden Plates. I don’t think that can be substantiated.

    But hopefully no one is building a commitment to the Church on the basis of kitsch paintings of Joseph Smith translating the Golden Plates. If they are, then it is no wonder that they eventually leave the Church. I don’t think the Church ever meant people to build on that foundation.

  174. Mark Brown says:

    Jeff, 165,

    Please.

    Conference talks and magazines are readily available on the church’s website. Therefore your claim that I won’t be able to find anything on the church’s website is false.

    Perhaps you are referring to pictures. In that case I’ll readily admit that I prefer words to pictures, I guess in contrast to you.

    I’ve acknowledged that the church needs to do a better job of teaching its own history. Can you acknowledge that there are problems with the PostMo narrative about nobody telling them about stones in a hat? If not, who is behaving like a cultist?

    Also, I’m curious about you not wanting to express an opinion about Park Romney’s credibility. His claims were used as a weapon against the LDS church. Assuming you are as interested in The Truth as you claim to be, why isn’t it important to interrogate Park’s claims?

  175. Holy cow! I take a day off to murder some apostates and the comments go all to Sheol in my absence.

    Anyway, I don’t see what all the ruckus is about. My familiar tells me that Romney is a pretty minor demon, some kind of free-lance accountant for Abaddon or something like that. Apparently the lowerarchy is insulted that we’re getting worked up over this guy and is thinking about masterminding Santorum’s election as punishment.

  176. Rick: People. Regardless of whether or not Romney will take his oath to the church literal and execute it accordingly, my point that you seem to keep skirting around remains the same, which is, the fact that he DID take such an oath and has never disavowed that oath, sure as hell IS relevant to the office he is seeking, AND the public has a right to know that he has taken such an oath. Any disagreements on the public’s right to know? If not then issue closed.

    You’re skating awfully close to violating Article 6 paragraph 3 of the US Constitution:

    The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

    Individual voters, of course, can make judgments based on their own perspectives of Romney’s religion, however ill-informed by certain “post-Mormon” exit narratives, of course. But where is this “public’s right to know” concerning a private religious practice espoused in the Constitution itself? Romney’s temple worship is a religious practice which bears directly on his personal vows to God and peripherally with his religious community. It is theologically separable from the oath he would make as POtUS to uphold and defend the US Constitution and act in the capcity of the executive. He did not pledge the fortune, name, time or efforts of anyone else, Americans, Republicans, etc., to building up the Kingdom of God–itself being an activity, by the way, that can be understood to transcend proselyting for Mormonism.

    For fears of Romney merely parroting instructions from LDS leaders check out his rhetoric on immigration compared to statements LDS leaders have made and you’ll see, the man doesn’t march to the beat of the drum in the sort of brainwashed oath-bound way you’re implying.

  177. Adam G,
    Awesome.

  178. sharonparq says:

    #174 (john f.)…

    I know it is a fact. It is also a fact that there are all sorts of reports of the instruments (such as stones or spectacles) and methods (such as placing his head in a hat) that are recorded. FAIR has put together an excellent chronology of all known references to the translation method. It is worth examining.

    Question still remains: Why should the Church favor the head-in-the hat reports over other conflicting reports?

  179. I am with Brad, I don’t think Romney would make a good president. That certainly isn’t because he is a Mormon though. It also certainly did not give Sweeney any leeway to paint all Mormons with a broad-brush when we come from all over the world and from all different backgrounds.

  180. It’s pretty clear, I’ll add, that Jeff Ricks is making a big deal out of this largely because he recognizes that the Temple is a taboo topic for Mormons, they become uncomfortable discussing temple matters in public, and so it’s a nice way for him to make people unduly suspicious of Mormons while simultaneously making Mormons uncomfortable. A pretty fun deal for him, I’d say, though he tries to shift the burden of proof that a religious covenant such as the one Romney made in the temple would somehow make him seditious. Guess what, Rick: I can’t prove that Romney won’t somehow go rogue and pass a law requiring Monday night FHE’s, or banning R rated movies and cola beverages. How do you propose Romney “prove” that he won’t do things that he won’t do, exactly?

  181. “facts are not always truthful” ha…
    Typical pseudo academic Mormon rubbish. Most of the people reading (and praising) this won’t understand it. Pffff

  182. Belly laugh on # 175. Thank you Adam. That was needed. To Jeff and Nick and other ex-Mormons, peace to you. We in the Church need to do a lot better making everyone comfortable worshipping with us and to the extent that our behaviours have influenced your decision to leave and then abuse us, we have failed you. I readily acknowledge that our current Church culture can be crushing for many people to the extent that they, as parishioners, are treated instead like employees of a corporation. I hope we can focus ourselves more on ministering than on managing. The ship has sailed for you so such a reorientation is beside the point for you, but perhaps it will bring those of us who stayed and those who will join us to a brighter future. Please excuse my cantankerousness on this thread.

  183. BHodges that reminds me, someone said it earlier (sorry I can’t remember) but I would love for him to make Pioneer Day a National Holiday. :)

  184. Re: #169 (Sharon) You said, “Joseph Smith never relayed how the translation occurred. The “head in the hat” method was one of several first-hand accounts of the way it occurred, and not all of the accounts agreed. Why would you have the church preference one conflicting account over others?”

    My answer is, the CHURCH IS preferencing one account, and it’s the least substantiated. Why?

    Re: #174. Mark, I don’t have an opinion on how Park came across in the documentary because, for one, I HAVEN’T SEEN his part in the documentary. How can I have an opinion on something I haven’t seen?

    I don’t have time for anymore of this. I think I’ve made my points clear and I don’t have time to keep rehashing them. This is becoming too time consuming. If I keep typing away on my computer the company officer (who I answer to) who sits across the hall from me is going to ask me why I’m spending so much time on the Internet. Maybe I’ll check back in later today.

  185. Peter LLC says:

    the public has a right to have a more complete picture of Romney’s Mormonism than what the church is willing to provide. [...] If the church isn’t going to fill in the missing information, then if not “who better” but ‘who else will” do it if not ex-mormons?

    Setting aside for the time being whether the public has a right to anything of the sort, a church that felt obliged to butt into my affairs in the way you think it should is one that, frankly, I too would leave.

  186. “facts are not always truthful” ha…
    Typical pseudo academic Mormon rubbish. Most of the people reading (and praising) this won’t understand it. Pffff

    Maybe they won’t understand your quote simply because you misquoted the original statement. Pffff.

    Cool, Jeff, when you come back I hope you’ll directly respond to my #176.

  187. 185 Peter, absolutely! The public has absolutely no right to the private details of a Candidate’s life unless it will impact the office of the President. Jeff would have us believe it would, but I definitely disagree.

  188. Nick Literski says:

    #160:
    Anyway, I still think the argument that you were a more faithful Mormon because you would put your Church before your governmental oath of office is a fascinating perspective. Romney has already assured the American public that he would never put his Church before his duty to the people and his governmental oath of office (as if the two were potentially incompatible in a pluralistic society, which is not clear).

    Sorry, I didn’t address the “more faithful Mormon” issue earlier, because I genuinely thought it was tongue in cheek. While Romney has stated that he would never put his church before his duty to the people and his government oath of office, I’d question whether he’s “assured” anyone at all of that claim. In fact, this man who says he wants to “save the soul of America” would just as likely rationalize that translating the dictates of his faith into political policy is serving his duty to the people and his government oath of office. I’m genuinely surprised that you seem to think the two are not “potentially incompatible in a pluralistic society.” He’s already made it clear that he will seek to enact the dictates of his faith in a manner which not only limits the rights of certain American citizens, but in 6 (soon to be 8) states specifically eliminates their rights. How can that not be “potentially incompatible?”

    #164:
    I never suggested that you were a “cultist.” In fact, I find the word itself generally silly. Nor, for that matter, did I suggest that you were a danger to American society. It might surprise you that of any of those republicans who grasped for the POTUS ring this cycle, I favored Huntsman. Frankly, I trusted Huntsman to put the well-being of all citizens before the dictates of his faith and/or its leadership. I don’t have the same trust for Romney. Part of that is based on their statements and actions, and part of that is plain old “gut reaction.”

    #170:
    In fact, I’d go so far as to say that my suspicion that Mitt is more committed to the GOP as his springboard for acquiring political power than he is to Mormonism is rather high on my list of reasons why I don’t want him to be president.

    I can understand that, Brad. My own impression of Romney is that he has a voracious appetite for power–period. I don’t think he’d want to do anything that might jeapordize his potential for ecclesiastical power/influence, and that adds to my concern about him “following the prophet” rather than serving and protecting the rights of all Americans.

  189. Ronan, Before you send it, please correct the missing ‘of’ in the first paragraph – ‘provided a number OF facts’

  190. Nick Literski says:

    #176:
    For fears of Romney merely parroting instructions from LDS leaders check out his rhetoric on immigration compared to statements LDS leaders have made and you’ll see, the man doesn’t march to the beat of the drum in the sort of brainwashed oath-bound way you’re implying.

    Romney’s current distinction from the LDS first presidency on immigration exists for one reason only—he’s trying to impress the so-called tea party extremists in a primary election where such appears necessary. How much do you want to bet that an elected Romney would fall back in line with the LDS first presidency on immigration, yet remain just as committed to the tea-baggery that’s already in agreement with Monson & Co.?

  191. Becoming president or even getting the gop nod will in itself permanently and irreversably jeopardize his access to formal ecclesiastical power. Sorry, but being a general authority for the mormon church is pretty damn small potatoes in Mitt’s world, and doesn’t even register on the radar screen of his power ambitions.

  192. Nick Literski says:

    Maybe so, Brad. Key word is “formal,” though. In my limited experience of 26 years, LDS members with close access to top level leadership seem to place a very high value on that relationship. Romney showed it off in his Olympics-era bio, highlighting his chumminess with Hinckley. Funny, but those parts have been removed in the most recent reprint I saw.

  193. Honestly Nick, I swear to god I don’t think Mitt gives a flying fig what Thomas Monson thinks about any political questions. He probably would if he thought it would increase his chances at getting elected, but you’re not giving his machiavellianism nearly enough credit.

  194. If he had to give up all influence, formal and informal, with the mormon hierarchy for the rest of his in exchange for virginia’s electoral votes alone, he’d be shaking your hand before you even finished making offer.

  195. Nick Literski says:

    Heh—it’s tough to argue with that, Brad! It doesn’t really lessen my concern about Romney’s obedience to Monson & Co., but this man does give me the constant impression that he’s one of the most power-hungry individuals I’ve ever seen.

  196. I think both Brad and Nick lack any understanding of Romney. He is merely a pragmatist that sees the necessity of electing someone who understands how to deal with the $16 Trillion deficit or the Constitution and everything it stands for won’t mean a fig. A pragmatist takes a pragmatic approach to issues about seeing what it takes to get elected. He gets it.

  197. I watched the programme from about half-way through. What I felt dissapointed about of how “the church” defended itself. I think elder Holland basically said, to counter-act charges that the church is a cult, was that he is quite an informed person and people ought to be able to conclude he is not a dodo. And some chap seems to first say he knows nothing of some church programme, but a minute later seems to recall it’s existence. All this just looks bad. Yet, if anyone examines the doctrines of the church, the doctrines are the only ones which represents the merciful and wise God that we are supposed to put our faith in. Did the churh not know what it was doing when putting forth it’s case. I wonder.

  198. sharonparq says:

    #195 (Nick Literski)…

    Ever? Wow. That’s quite the judgment.

    Extra points for anyone who can name a candidate who cannot (fairly or unfairly) be characterized as “power hungry.”

  199. Doug Hudson says:

    Similar arguments (in tone, if not in detail) were used against Catholics for almost two centuries in American politics, yet when we finally started electing Catholic officials, guess what? They turned out to be the same as any other politician.

    Likewise, we’ve had Mormon representatives and senators, and they haven’t been caught advancing any sort of secret Mormon plot.

    Why (besides ignorance and, in some cases, hatred) would we have any reason to believe Romney would be any different? He’s a politician, his religion is just a minor side note (in terms of his presidency, not necessarily to him personally).

    I say this as a never-Mormon, incidentally.

  200. Ron Madson says:

    I would take Brad’s comments even further. Romney, like nearly all neocons, would not blink at starting another war of aggression or perpetuate the existing imperial wards and murder hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children if it meant being re-elected and/or being more “militant than thou” to show his “base” that like Henry V he too can and will kill/murder for his country. What concerns me is not whether he would defer to church leadership but that I am certain, like most mormons where I live, would never defer to DC 98 or the words and Christ that require us to “renounce war and proclaim peace.” Romney will murder with the rest of the them including “cruise missile/drone liberals” who want power even if it requires taking human life.

  201. #196,
    I don’t think anything I’ve said rules out Mitt’s pragmatism. Quite to the contrary, I don’t think those who seek power achieve what he has without also being gifted pragmatists. I also don’t share Nick’s hyperbolic assessment. He’s not even the most power hungry person in the gop race.

  202. What a load of rubbish.

    I’m afraid some people are going to get banned here. How very SCMC of me, I know, but still.

  203. Nick Literski says:

    #199:
    Similar arguments (in tone, if not in detail) were used against Catholics for almost two centuries in American politics, yet when we finally started electing Catholic officials, guess what? They turned out to be the same as any other politician.

    Kennedy broke this logjam by not only proclaiming his independence, but blatantly refusing to engage in Catholic protocol when making a state visit to the Vatican. Interestingly, recent years have seen multiple instances of Catholic officials condemning and denying communion to any Catholic politician who supported positions contrary to Catholic dogma.

    Even in the allegedly-enlightened Bloggernacle, I’ve seen comments wherein LDS members have declared that Harry Reid needs to be denied a temple recommend (if not stronger action against his membership) for advocating positions which they deem contrary to LDS teachings. Granted that’s not an official response, but it’s a cultural (part of the culture, not all) reality.

  204. Ron Madson says:

    I should clarify my previous comment. Of course as Kristine (her interview) and Brad pointed out above, Romney is a pragmatist. My problem is not that his faith might inform his decisions it is that it does not really inform his worldview. But I can’t blame him. Who in our ecclesiastical chief seats have clearly and unequivocally “renounced war and proclaimed” peace and followed at the minimum the requirements of DC 98 or at best the words of Christ when it comes to our nation’s wars? No one except President Kimball (False Idols we worship) in the last 50 years but that was given a year after Viet Nam concluded–ten years too late, imo. I wish pure Christianity and Mormon doctrine informed him, but he aligns like most Mormons in the camp of Korihor (prosper according management of flesh and see no application of Mormon 8) and Pope Urban II (crusaders for Jesus).

  205. Applause, RJH. Applause.

  206. I dunno about you guys, but I usually judge all matters by the extreme outliers as well.

  207. Just further to this dodo saying by elder Holland. He actually says to the interviwer, in context of some conversation about some people thinking the church is a cult “I’d like to think that your respect for me would be enough to know that this man is not a dodo”. What is elder Holland trying to say? Maybe I’m missing something. There is the saying “As dead as a dodo,” Meaning, yep it’s dead alright! :c)

    .

  208. Mormons who think that any political position should be grounds for revoking temple recommends are probably not difficult to find, on- or offline. But not a single one of then will ever, ever come within a country mile of high national political office.

  209. Ron Madson says:

    Why bring temple recommends into this discussion? Lack of cognitive dissonances and compromise often is required to avoid being disqualified for both political and ecclesiastical advancement. What is new under the sun?

  210. Re: #200: Ron, accusing Romney of being willing to murder is so over the top in terms of (totally unjustified) judgment that I wonder how one claims to spout justifying scriptural references at all. Come on. Being President is a tough job — but it isn’t reason to accuse him of such ludicrous things. Is anyone who won’t just roll over and adopt universal pacifism acceptable on your a view?

    It seems to me that his desire to strengthen the military by increasing the number of soldiers is a good thing. Maybe we could avoid having a well-respected veteran who has had four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan go off shooting innocent civilians that way. Maybe if all of our soldiers weren’t exhausted because we have so few of them we could avoid a lot of hardship.

    I say get them all home now but don’t tell the enemy our timetable so all those in power in Afghanistan can switch their allegiances and project just how long the enemy has to amass arms before moving in. What an amazingly stupid move that was by Obama.

  211. Ron Madson says:

    I should have deleted “lack of” in my comment above.

  212. Valerie Sperrer says:

    Better make it 2 cans.

  213. I’m reposting John Fowles’s earlier comment and then I will invite everyone to go home.

    “To Jeff and Nick and other ex-Mormons, peace to you. We in the Church need to do a lot better making everyone comfortable worshipping with us and to the extent that our behaviours have influenced your decision to leave and then abuse us, we have failed you. I readily acknowledge that our current Church culture can be crushing for many people to the extent that they, as parishioners, are treated instead like employees of a corporation. I hope we can focus ourselves more on ministering than on managing. The ship has sailed for you so such a reorientation is beside the point for you, but perhaps it will bring those of us who stayed and those who will join us to a brighter future.”

    Peace, indeed.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] of course) that we should all complain about the programme’s misrepresentation of the church. By Common Consent even published an open letter to the BBC about the decontextualisation of the facts in the [...]

  2. [...] Mormon Candidate. By Common Consent liveblogged the program when it premiered, and afterward, BCC’s Ronan Head wrote up a letter to the BBC featuring his thoughts about the program. I’ll summarize Ronan’s post with his last paragraph: The real fact is that at the core [...]

  3. [...] at getting elected, but you’re not giving his machiavellianism nearly enough credit.” (source) Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

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