Squash him? Starve him? Poison him?

What should mormons in general, or the Church and/or Mitt Romney in particular, do about someone like Andrew Sullivan? His blog, sponsored by Time Magazine and CNN, has read like a poor man’s Godmakers in the past week. Under the pretense of “You wanna play by the rules of theoconservatism? Then deal with the consequences,” Sullivan has dredged up every controversial aspect of the Church he can find to hold it up to scrutiny. This goes beyond issues of blacks and the priesthood or historicity of the Book of Mormon; Sullivan has posted up pictures of men and women in their temple garments.

So what is the proper reaction?

First, let me suggest that our Church holds up remarkably well to such hack punditry. Our values and ideals are sterling; our history largely one of amazing sacrifice and devotion; our religion one of private piety. His muckraking has failed.

Second, I am not sure that anger or retribution are appropriate. I doubt the Church has any e-Danites at its disposal to “take care” of Mr. Sullivan, even were that necessary. That said, if Time magazine has any subscribers left, let alone Mormon subscribers, I would think that a polite letter to the Editor, urging reconsideration of linking their institution to Mr. Sullivan’s antimormonism, would be appropriate.

Third, political opportunists like Sullivan are like roaches. Squash all you want. Put out all the traps and bait you’d like. They won’t go away, as long as Mormons continue to strongly associate their religion with a given political party. As much as I hate to say it, there is something to Sullivan’s assertion that this is the cost of doing business when a political candidate invites a correlation between faith and a political agenda. When we begin to wise up and recognize that this world is not for us, and we go about practicing our religion without caring for such pests as Sullivan, we will become truly invulnerable.


  1. A bi-product of the Scientology Rule: the Lord Xenu Rule. We make fun of the DC-10s, they make fun of garments, quid pro quo. (Plus, we know we’ll have the last laugh anyway as we mock the mockers from the CK, so what’s the big deal?)

    In other words…humour. Someone do a cartoon of US Presidents posing in their underwear. I can think of a great one for Clinton, but I’ll leave it to your ‘magination.

    Of your 3…#3.

    I am quite sympathetic to the irony inherent in Sullivan’s posts. Remember he’s a Brit, and Brits do irony very well. Yanks generally don’t get irony, though. As we can see.

  2. Yeah, I posted on BT what I think, which is basicly to ignore. Its not the first time people have mocked, posted pictures, and such. Who really cares? Getting angry and taking him (or Time) on over it makes it a bigger deal than it is. I mean lets be honest, sponsered as it is, the blog doesn’t really have THAT many people reading it. I’m way more surprised by the overreaction to it than to the post itself. So, I gues, yeah, what Ronan said.

  3. Steve Evans says:

    Ronan, you’ll forgive me if my sense of humour doesn’t extend to mocking temple garments!

  4. Steve,

    I submit to you that Lord Xenu’s DC10’s are sacred to Scientologists and you and I mock that all the time around here.

    And why is posting a picture of garments mocking them? If a Zoroastrian was running for president someone might feature their religion and post a picture of their undergarment. This THEY’RE SECRET! GASP! lark only feeds into what makes them seem bizarre in the first place. And frankly, to an outsider, they are bizarre. That’s just a fact.

  5. Like roaches …

  6. I’m with Ronan as well. As much as I love the term “e-Danites” and wish I had thought of it, I wouldn’t recommend it as a strategy for cultural or political engagement. :-)

    And if you thnk this is bad, you might enjoy studying how some other religions have been defamed far, far more unfairly and dangerously than we have.

  7. Who’s Lord Xenu and what are DC10’s (besides airplanes)?

  8. A related thought:

    The American people are entitled to do due diligence on Romney if they’re going to allow him to run their country. Blunt though Sullivan et.al. are, you can hardly blame them as no-one has a clue what we believe, and we don’t tell them. Can’t you see that there’s a huge leap between a Mormon saying, “we believe in Jesus, we’re just like you!” and this secret whisper that goes around that Mormons wear weird underwear etc. You have to understand why Sullivan would want to shed light on the things we don’t ever talk about. That’s only fair. Americans deserve to know what Romney believes.

    If people shine light on our religion they will find some strange things, they will find some unsavoury things, and they will find some wonderful things. I am confident in the power of the latter. Bring it on!

  9. I am of two minds on this. If Andrew Sullivan wants to be a jerk, lets not get into his way.

    On the other hand, Sullivan is a demagogue. If his message were to reverberate then he would damage not only one particular group but the public good of religious freedom.

    In that sense, there is a duty to confront bigotry. There are tactical questions with respect to efficiency.

  10. Tracy,
    Xenu is a FREAKY, WEIRD, FIGMENT OF L.RON HUBBARD’s LSD imagination. Completely WACKY! CRAZY! And there are people who BELIEVE it! (For more information, utilise the power of Google.)

  11. Steve Evans says:

    Ronan, then is the solution in your mind a “de-weirding” of religion, or is the solution that we are best off leaving each other alone? Would you prefer a Mormonism without such things as sacred garments? I am not sure that I would.

    I am willing to believe that Sullivan just encountered the concept of mormon temple garments for the first time and is exercising a level of curiosity. But once the flood of “please take that photo down” emails hit him, don’t you think it would have been a civil gesture to do so?

    Tracy, some googling on both those terms will lead you to the world of Scientology.

  12. Ignore him.

    I didn’t see the garments picture on his blog, but I saw it over on Wikipedia.

    So what? It looks like a couple of people in white tee shirts and long boxer shorts.

    That Wiki has more about the symbolism–I’d be more comfortable if it weren’t there, but it doesn’t mock, and doesn’t make us look crazy. So let’s just ignore it.

    In 20 years, nobody will know who Andrew Sullivan was, and even fewer will care.

  13. Wheeeew. Oh. My.

  14. The problem with Sullivan’s posts is that he is pretending that Romney’s underwear is somehow relevant to the nation’s political discourse. It isn’t. So why is he putting pictures up? Because he is hostile to Romney’s candidacy and this is part of his hatchet job.

    Sullivan’s claim that he is “uninterested in Romney’s personal religious practices” is as disingenuous as the prosecutor who asks “Is it true that you beat your wife.” He is uninterested in them except as a tool he can use to up the weird quotient and remind people how different Romney is from them. It’s the equivalent of the Bush whisper campaign about McCain’s adoption of a black daughter. True or not, it is a scurrilous attempt to play to people’s prejudices to undermine a candidacy.

    While Ronan congratulates himself and his countrymen on their keenly developed sense of irony, he apparently misses the ugliness of Sullivan’s rhetorical move.

  15. Steve Evans says:

    p.s. by my title I am not actually advocating the squashing, starvation or poisoning of Andrew Sullivan. I have been informed that some of you do not understand irony, so I thought an ounce of prevention to be in order.

  16. No, Steve. I love the esoterica in Mormonism. I just understand that people are curious about it and we shouldn’t freak out when they are. If Romney was a Sikh, I’d LOVE to know whether he carried a dagger. I’d even like to see a picture. Nothing wrong with that, even if Sikhs were sensitive about it.

  17. Steve Evans says:

    Ronan, were Sullivan’s posts some sort of neutral curiosity, I wouldn’t care in the least. But he’s far from neutral, isn’t he? See Mathew’s comment — let’s not pretend that his blog is some sort of personal voyage of discovery to which we may be happy witnesses. It’s a tool of his political agenda, quite clearly so.

  18. Mathew,
    Oh sure he has an agenda. The Times article shows that he’s trying to push some Evangelical buttons: Evangelicals wanted a religious guy and they got a Mormon. That, my friend, is hilarious.
    And his underwear is relevant. It marks his Mormonism as a deeply, deeply committed Mormonism. It shows that he has made promises to sacrifice his all to his church. It shows that Romney the Mormon is far more that JFK the Catholic. That fact is worthy of public scrutiny.

  19. I always try to be careful about judging other people’s religions, because I know how crazy ours sounds. When Tom Cruise was jumping on couches and everyone was dishing about Scientology’s weirdness, I was really uncomfortable with all the joking my co-workers did about it. It’s not like some of our doctrine isn’t completely bonkers-sounding.

  20. But don’t make me defend Sullivan any further. I’m no big fan. I just think we Mormons should take a big blue Chill Pill.

  21. Andrew Sullivan is not a journalist. He’s a blogger, and one part of MSBS (Mainstream Blogosphere). As such, all he does it spew commentary. No one is forced to pay attention to him. The people in America who actually *elect* presidents don’t know who Andrew Sullivan is.

  22. Ronan,

    There are many other ways to discuss Romney’s commitment to Mormonism without profaning something his co-religionists hold sacred. Similarly, I can discuss John Kerry’s Catholicism without denigrating the Virgin Mary.

    In regards to the need to chill out, we aren’t as tightly wound as you seem to think. I’ve observed a few people saying that Sullivan is over the line, not calling for the destruction of the opera house.

  23. Matt,
    But we all know Kerry isn’t that religious. If he wore a Virgin Mary statue around his neck under his shirt, we’d all be happy to know that. And let’s say that that statue represented the fact that Kerry had made commitments to sacrifice his all to Rome. I think that posting a picture of this statue would be fair game.

  24. Weren’t both Kerry and Bush asked about their commitments to the SKull & Bones, and when they said it was “sacred” everyone basically left it alone?

  25. I agree with Ronan that Romney’s degree of religious commitment is a legitimate public-policy issue. If Romney’s political leadership would reflect obedience to religious leaders in Salt Lake City, voters ought to realize that and consider the kind of messages likely to come from SLC before they make up their mind. This isn’t any kind of religious bigotry; it’s a question of what kind of leadership and policy people prefer for the country.

    As to whether Sullivan’s methods for working through this debate are appropriate or not, well, one thing I can say for sure is that they are as American as anything. (Just look at campaign materials from the 19th century, or debates surrounding whether Kennedy would unflinchingly obey Rome.) Even so, I prefer more conceptual and less visceral ways of raising such issues.

  26. Steve Evans says:

    geez RT, your pants must chafe from riding that fence all day.

  27. Ah, Steve. You want fence-riding? Read this. I’m an amateur in comparison.

    If I’ve been ambiguous, let me clarify. Andrew Sullivan has spoken in a debate that needs to happen before Romney — or any other faithful member of a religion whose leadership claims the right to make political statements with divine sanction — can be a serious candidate for office in a country that mostly doesn’t share his views. Sullivan’s basically tabloidish approach will probably engage some people in the debate who wouldn’t otherwise be motivated to pay attention. So it’s probably a net good for American democracy.

    For the church? Nothing, not a blip on the radar. People have known for a long time that we wear different underwear. A bunch of church leaders and members talked about that on 60 Minutes like a decade ago. Nothing here is really new to religious debate (although it is somewhat new to political debate). Any renewed attention to the religious issues at least raises our profile, but probably doesn’t have much by way of positive or negative results. People recognize this kind of discourse for what it is, and those who haven’t already decided against Mormonism will typically discount expose-style rhetoric, at least until they’ve heard the other side.

  28. I concur with #27.

    I keep doing that. HMMMMM

    For the record I think that in a general election the LDS candidate will have as much a problem with secular liberals as they would with bible thumping evengelicals

  29. Tim, I don’t think anyone left the Skull and Bones alone. Indeed there was even a (bad) movie made over it after the media controversy back in 2000.

  30. Clark, I disagree. The issue of the Skull and Bones was almost completely left alone by the media. I have never seen anyone other than conspiracy sites talk about Skull and Bones and it’s political effect.

    Even after Kerry and Bush were asked about it, there were no follow up questions ect. Yes there was that movie, but no one takes a movie all that seriously.

  31. Ronan,

    You’ve missed the point entirely. You want to focus on why it is no big deal if pictures of garments find their way onto the internet. But you are totally ignoring the reasons why Sullivan is posting them–which is were the real problem lies. Sullivan justifies his actions by claiming Romney invited this sort of scrutiny of his religious beliefs by plumping for theoconservatism. This sort of live-by-the-sword-die-by-the-sword justification makes sense only if you think Romney represents Mormonism in an official capacity–which he clearly does not.

    It is perfectly respectable to discuss what affect Romney’s Mormonism might play if he were elected President. To pretend that photos of Romney’s underwear, regardless of what they symbolize, is germane to that conversation is nothing more than a flimsy excuse for a voyeuristic impulse. Romney’s commitments and beliefs can be fully discussed without visual aids and without displaying that which we hold sacred.

    It isn’t clear to me that the garment itself, as an object, is sacred, but there is no doubt that we hold it as so. Given the fact that I have been asked about it by co-workers on two separate occasions means that in time its existence will be generally known and it will become, like the yarmulke, a religious accoutrement that is seen as different but not strange. All of that, however, is beside the point. Isn’t it stunningly obvious that Romney’s underwear is none of the country’s business?

  32. Contrary examples.

    The Skulls

    CBS show

    Atlantic Monthly


    Newsweek fashion story

    New York Times

    And that was just from a quick google. I’m fairly confident it was widely covered.

    Of course I suspect were we to search for garment stories we’d find a fair bit as well.

  33. This sort of live-by-the-sword-die-by-the-sword justification makes sense only if you think Romney represents Mormonism in an official capacity–which he clearly does not.

    Well, not necessarily. To the extent that Romney is making his political appeal on the basis of some kind of shared religious values with evangelical protestants, close scrutiny of what, exactly, Romney’s religious values involve is legitimate. Also, not necessarily on your “official capacity” point. There have been a few news stories about the church walking close to the line in terms of supporting Romney’s campaign. Could Romney have received a secret calling to run for president? Not impossible, although I doubt it. But the church as an institution does seem inclined to favor him, which makes his representation of Mormonism semi-official in any case.

    Isn’t it stunningly obvious that Romney’s underwear is none of the country’s business?

    I think this is what’s called “begging the question.” Tabloid tactics like a focus on underwear do impart some politically relevant information, but that information is couched in a (distasteful) setting of entertainment that helps it reach a broader audience than it otherwise might. The trade-off between our interest in privacy and the public’s interest in an informed debate is real — and the resolution isn’t necessarily obvious. In my opinion, we suffer no real harm from Sullivan’s actions, so the overall benefits may outweigh the costs. But there are other points of view; my point here is just that the issue is a lot more complicated than you make it out to be.

  34. Andrew Sullivan is one of my favorite conservatives. That he is pro-gay marriage and the holder of a Ph.D. in political theory from Harvard makes him all the more interesting. Sullivan is a leading gay public intellectual. I am not surprised that he would attack Romney and Mormonism. This is what happens when we make homosexuality the greatest social problem in the nation (which it is not).

    I have been reading Sullivan for over a decade (before blogs). He is not that bad and his misinterpretations of Mormonism are not that uncommon.

    He is a JOURNALIST. He was the editor of the New Republic in the 1990s. He is a good journalist.

    He may not influence voters, but he was a regular guest to the White House during the first term of George W. Bush.

  35. By the way, here’s a quote from one of the blog entries of Sullivan’s that we’re debating:

    For my part, I’m uninterested in Romney’s personal religious practices. But I am concerned that Romney believes that America had a “divine founding”. When? Does he mean the Declaration of Independence? Does he mean the period when Mormons believe Jesus arrived in America and hung out for a while shortly after the resurrection? Or when exactly? A person’s private faith is irrelevant to me. But if it means he holds that one country on earth has a special divine founding, then that has serious ramifications for foreign policy, at the very least. Could someone fill me in on what Romney may mean by America’s “divine founding”? Obviously Washington and Jefferson weren’t gods (although Mormons believe they now could be, right?) So what role did the Mormon God play in founding America? This is an important question for understanding a potential president’s political philosophy. And since the theocons believe in bringing religious doctrine into the public square as a basis for political decisions, and Romney is the theocon candidate, how can they object to the dialogue?

    See, this is pretty solid public-policy stuff. It’s a good question, and one that hasn’t been asked often or loudly enough in discussions of Romney’s candidacy. A belief that the US had a “divine founding” (which other Mormons share to varying degrees) could have remarkable implications for how a president behaves — and as a national candidate Romney does have an obligation to spell out the practical implications that he sees as originating in that belief. Why’s it intolerant or otherwise bad behavior for Sullivan to press the question?

  36. “we suffer no real harms from Sullivan’s actions.”

    Well, that depends if Sullivan’s actions lead people to become informed about Mormonism or reinforces unfounded prejudice. It is pretty clear what Sullivan is hoping for.

    In regards to #35, you will note that I haven’t criticized Sullivan for raising the questions of race and Mormonism or Romney’s belief in a divine founding. Those are legitimate questions for the political arena and Romney will have to answer them.

    Generally I think Romney’s candidacy will be good for the church in that it will force us to deal with all of our boogeymen on a national stage. That has to happen at some point and it may go a long way to educating the general public (and perhaps the members as well). Do I find Sullivan’s actions distasteful? Sure. But at the end of the day, I understand they don’t amount to more than a tempest in a teapot.

  37. I have expressed this idea before and was roundly ignored, but I will try again. I has to do with Ronan’s Xenu rule. When people hear what we believe, they don’t believe that any rational person could really believe that. Therefore, it is okay to mock those beliefs because:
    1) only irrational people will care (and who cares what they think) and
    2) any rational Mormons don’t really believe it.

    Rational Mormons, under this understanding, are staying in church to keep other people happy; they openly laugh at the weirder aspects of Mormonism; they’ll play along and laugh at the right bits. “My friends, who are Mormon, are sane; therefore, they cannot really believe all this crazy stuff; therefore, they must stay in church to keep their family happy or something.” I think that this is a common reaction on the part of people who encounter Mormons.

  38. *yawns* did Crawford say something again?

  39. Sullivan justifies his actions by claiming Romney invited this sort of scrutiny of his religious beliefs by plumping for theoconservatism. This sort of live-by-the-sword-die-by-the-sword justification makes sense only if you think Romney represents Mormonism in an official capacity–which he clearly does not.

    Romney is pushing the theoconservative agenda with respect to gay marriage. Hence the live-by-the-sword logic does apply.

    Still, the criticism of ritual forms is ridiculous.

  40. #37 is also accurate in my view.

    Does the Xenu rule apply to Catholics and the veneration of the bits and pieces of dead saints bodies or trans….. to lazy to try and spell?

    If not then it must be because there are so many Catholics and its been going on for so long its lost its “wierd factor” Maybe soon we will also lose the weird factor.

  41. Hellmut,

    It is precisely the criticism of ritual forms that I object to and which I believe is not justified despite Romney’s courting of the evangelical vote.

  42. Thomas Parkin says:

    I ignore him.

    Andrew Sullivan’s claim to fame is a cogent argument in favor of gay marriage. Mormans broadly and even institutionally oppose gay marriage. We can expect that he will be opposed to anything faintly Mormon. I’ve seen him use the word ‘Mormon’ as a stand alone criticism. A word that tells you what you need to know. None of this is unexpected.

    He, along with Christopher Hitchens, were given the mantle of George Orwell in the run up to the Iraq War. He clearly isn’t that. “Theocon canditate” is just the kind of too broadly applicable and therefore meaningless phrase that Orwell would have taken apart. (Every Republican canditate will have to court Evangelicals to have a prayer in the primaries. Is every Republican canditate the Theocon canditate? Possibly so, since not a one of them will get the Evangelical vote if he favors gay marriage, and my bet his on all of then hedging their positions accordingly.)

    Anyway, now that I no longer live in Seattle – I live in the boonies with the other Neanderthals – I find that Andrew Sullivan can’t get a rise out of me anymore. Very easily ignored.


  43. “He is a good journalist.”

    For some reason this reminded me of statements over at Fafblog: “This is a good blog. This is the best blog.”

    However, while it was actively posting, I took Fafblog much more seriously.

  44. Ignore him, as most of his readers started to do long ago.

    Sullivan is a whiny, petulant fool. Sullivan used to be somewhat compelling because he was a political hybrid: a socially-libertarian-Catholic-gay-conservative-hawk and former New Republic editor. But he gave up being insightful about three years ago. Now he just goes for the cheap shots and the screechy tirades. If this had been someone more respected like Glenn Reynolds or Kevin Drum, I’d be more concerned.

    And Sullivan is being so disingenuous here that it’s incredibly transparent to all. Saying “I don’t personally care about these things, but Romney’s got to answer these questions,” then going on and on and on about Mormon weirdness just doesn’t pass the smell test.

    It also helps that the Senate’s highest ranking member is a Mormon, making any particularly vile attack on Romney (or Reid, for that matter) seem suspect.

  45. Hold on to your seats brothers and sisters, when Mitt Romney is fully involved in the primary season expect Mormonism to be scrutinized to the nth degree by the right and the left.

    I for one think this will help the Chruch members to follow more closley the admonition to be in the World and not of the world. Maybe this is part of the Lords plan to spread the Gospel to a wider audience.

    As for Andrew Sullivan, why add fuel to his fire? When I’m asked as a Mormon if I wear “funny underwear”, I answer YES. The usually reply to that answer is an embarassed OH and end of disscusion on my underwear.

  46. Maybe Sullivan needs a taste of his own medicine. You think Mormon practices are weird, wait until you hear what homosexuals do. I wonder if there are any pictures of that on the internets.

  47. gst, in the lower tubules that constitute Teh Internets I believe there are rendered captions of such things. You need to print them out onto foolscap paper, however, as they are ASCII-rendered drawrings.

  48. Wait a sec, did we just encourage our readership to go seek out gay porn?

  49. gay ASCII porn, HP. It is, as kids are wont to say these days, l33t supA h4xx0r.

  50. Every Republican canditate will have to court Evangelicals to have a prayer in the primaries. Is every Republican canditate the Theocon canditate? Possibly so, since not a one of them will get the Evangelical vote if he favors gay marriage, and my bet his on all of then hedging their positions accordingly.

    That’s probably not correct. Rudi Giuliani is not supporting the discrimination of gays. John McCain is but he is not making gay bashing his number one item on the agenda.

    Clearly, Romney has options. He made a choice and Sullivan is doing his utmost to make that choice costly.

    Anyways, my grandmother made it quite clear to me that everybody does it is no excuse.

    Courting the Christian right is not the main reason why Romney is associated with the theocons. His ecclesiastical leaders are pushing a political agenda that denies American citizens. Romney was an ecclesiastical leader of that organization and carries its water when it comes to civil rights for gays.

    Besides, Romney should not be isolated from criticism just because his opposition to civil rights for gays might be a tactical choice. Remember, George Wallace became governor of Alabama when he switched to a segregationist platform. His intent did not ameliorate the consequences of his actions.

    I suspect that Romney is only too happy that the gay issue provides him with an opportunity to demonstrate orthodoxy. In 1994 he justified his support for abortion rights in terms of his cousin’s death on national TV. In response, Faust came to BYU and condemned Romney’s reasoning at a devotional.

  51. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 47 This string is degenerating once comments like that start to appear. I would be happy, however, to provide information on homosexual underwear practices so gst can make his own comparison:


    (Don’t worry, that link won’t cost anyone their TR.)

    I wonder if Andrew is reading this. He’s actually a great guy, and anything but whiny. I agree, though, that he clearly does have a very personal beef against the Church over the gay marriage issue and to claim otherwise is disingenuous. Gay moderates and conservatives are pretty cool. Y’all should get to know some of us better!

  52. Steve Evans says:

    quit trying to seduce us Mike with your evil ways and multicolored, patterned and comfortable underwear. DAMN YOU!!

  53. Mike, it was a Botched Joke.

  54. All I will say is, beware of the unitard.

  55. Andrew Sullivan is a backstabber? What did you expect from a homosexual?

  56. Steve Evans says:

    goodbye, GeorgeD.

  57. Now the thread has degenerated.

  58. Julie M. Smith says:

    “I suspect that Romney is only too happy that the gay issue provides him with an opportunity to demonstrate orthodoxy. In 1994 he justified his support for abortion rights in terms of his cousin’s death on national TV. In response, Faust came to BYU and condemned Romney’s reasoning at a devotional.”

    Can you provide some sources for this?

  59. Debating Edward Kennedy during the 1994 race for Senate, Romney was challenged about abortion. Romney said that he opposed abortion but that women needed to have legal access to abortion otherwise too many would share the fate of his cousin who died in consequence of an illegal abortion.

    There might be a transcript of the debate on Lexis Nexis. My apologies, I don’t have access to the database today.

    Fortunately, the Boston Globe republished some of Romney’s 1994 remarks but that is an imperfect substitute for the entire transcript. If anyone can find it that would be great.

    The text of Faust’s reply at the BYU devotional is here. The speech is titled Trying to Serve the Lord Without Offending the Devil.

    Faust did not mention Romney by name but everybody who had seen the Senate debate agreed that Faust meant Romney when he talked about “politicians.” That included half the students and many faculty members of the political science department.

  60. Julie M. Smith says:

    Thank you.

  61. Well, Sullivan was a respectable journalist, till he decided that anyone who did not agree with his version of gay-rights was evil, and had to be destroyed. So, in the last couple of years, he has gone from being a strong conservative to espousing a more or less an ACT-UP type of viewpoint. That anyone who doesnt unconditionally support gay-rights, gay-marriage, is the enemy.

  62. Why not just send the missionaries. Over and over and over and over again.

  63. re: 62
    That’s an over-simplification, to say the least. Andrew has been harshly critical of many gay activists and both he and the ACT-UP leftist types would laugh to hear you lumping them together. It’s about as fair as comparing Richard Bushman to Warren Jeffs.

    Do you think all gays walk in lock-step? That’s just as inaccurate as when people assume that all Mormons are right-wing homophobes. But then again….. : )

  64. R.W. Rasband says:

    The blogger Ann Althouse, a non-member, seems to be more angry about Sullivan’s tactics than some of you all:


  65. I hereby issue a Fatwa that Andrew Sullivan should be killed for his heresy, and anyone who kills him shall inherit 72 bags of Fiery Habanero Doritos in paradise for eternity.

  66. Someone asked me if I would ever vote for a Mormon president. Thinking of Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney, my first reaction was no. Then I realized that I would vote for Harry Reid for President without worrying that the LDS Church would be running the country.

    Lost in all this debate over Romney’s religion is that the Senate Majority Leader has been a Mormon Bishop (Mormons have a lay clergy). The difference is that he doesn’t make his religion an issue, so no one questions whether Harry Reid will turn the Senate into an LDS Sacrament meeting. He lets his religion guide his morals, and then votes what he thinks is best for the country.

    Romney is campaigning to earn the votes of the Theocrats: those evangelicals who put the Bible ahead of the Constitution. They are worried that Romney will put the Book of Mormon ahead of the Bible.

    The question is not whether a Mormon can be a good American leader. Harry Reid has already proven that a Mormon who doesn’t wear his religion on his sleeve can do so. The question is whether a Mormon can lead an American Christian Theocracy.

  67. Okay, I came over from Sullivan’s blog, and I am not a Mormon. I have been more or less an active Catholic for my adult life, and all I can say is, being asked whether you wear funny underwear seems positively restrained compared to being asked whether you use contraception. And yet people do ask those kinds of questions. In the case of Catholics, it’s usually your co-religionists looking for a reason to jump down your throat. At least Romney won’t be getting it from all sides. Seriously, all religions have tenets that make claims that strike non-believers as outlandish, and someone from a out of the mainstream faith who wants to wield the kind of power that a president has needs to figure out how to answer some questions that make him or her or you, for that matter, less than comfortable.

  68. When Mitt Romney made it clear he was going to run for President, I thought “Oh no, now the Church will be under a microscope for the next two years. Hopefully the “Church” will not keep us from the rest of the debate. Romney seems to be a capable politician, good leader, and might just make a good President. Lets hope we can find out before it is too late.

  69. “That’s an over-simplification, to say the least.”

    It may be an oversimplification, but it feels basically accurate to me. I used to read Sullivan’s blog on a daily basis (back when he was writing the Daily Dish, before he had corporate sponsorship). Back then, Andrew would go on some interesting tangents now and then, but he seemed imminently reasonable more than half the time. Over the past three or four years, he’s become more and more shrill and unreasonable and much more of a single-issue pundit. On everything else, he’s been so inconsistent that he’s lost credibility with almost everyone.

    And if you don’t realize how disingenuous Sullivan is being with regard to Romney, then we’ll just have to agree to disagree because I don’t think I’ll be able to get you to see the elephant in the living room, no matter how hard I try.

  70. Hi, just came over from Sullivan’s site. Not a Mormon.

    Axel has it right: while I find Sullivan’s recent flailing at the Christianist Right much less interesting than his more sustained, thoughtful ‘What is conservatism?’ posts a couple of months ago (he really does turn on a dime, tonally), it’s reasonable for him to ask questions about the intersection of a candidate’s religious beliefs and his policy beliefs. Some commentators on the Left wanted to bring George Bush’s apocalyptic beliefs about history to the fore even in time for the 2000 election; consider what the country might be like had they succeeded in guiding the discourse in that direction. On certain civil-rights questions (e.g. marriage rights for gay couples) Romney’s religious beliefs may well come into play in the same way.

    All of which has little or nothing to do with Romney’s underwear. But Sullivan isn’t posting pictures of those garments because the content of such pictures is important. I think he feels that he’s engaging in a minor version of something like the Danish ‘Mohammed’ cartoons affair – in which the reaction of a group of religious believers (in that case devout Muslims) to an act of ‘profanity’ was taken as evidence of some cultural pathology. The message is meant to be the same: If you really give a damn about seeing pictures of your underwear, get over yourself. No one cares about the garments as such, only about your attitude toward them, their fetishization.

    The idea that posting pictures of undergarments is somehow sacrilegious is…illiberal. And Sullivan’s hobby-horse these days is the illiberalism of fundamentalist religion. Hell, he just published a book about it (you’ll notice he links to its Amazon page every other post or so). As someone who’s wrestled with his own Church’s authoritarianism, plain bigotry, and illiberal mucking-about in the private lives of its members, Sullivan has first-hand experience of the damage that fundamentally repressive belief-systems can do. And the open question is whether that frame of mind – to which Ronan speaks above re: Romney (“And his underwear is relevant. It marks his Mormonism as a deeply, deeply committed Mormonism. It shows that he has made promises to sacrifice his all to his church”) – is compatible with a leadership position over an American people that continues to liberalize, technologize, and secularize.

    Sullivan’s recent posts about Mark Foley, Ted Haggard, and ‘the closet’ also speak to these points. His arguments about ‘outing’ homosexuals (he’s generally against it but believes it actually helps in many/most cases, as I recall) follow similar lines to his slightly disingenuous ‘fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke’ talk on Mormonism. It’s one thing to respect the dignity of another individual; it’s another thing entirely to allow systemic repression or dogmatism to go uncommented upon. And at day’s end, if the cost of more deeply knowing one’s fellow Americans is embarrassing everyone a little bit with pictures of undies, that’s a small price to pay. Sullivan knows a good deal about embarrassment and getting over it; he’s playing on solid ground here, and acting from reasonable principles.

  71. Steve, I see the roach has linked to BCC. Congrats. He is still, though as you described:

    Sullivan has dredged up every controversial aspect of the Church he can find to hold it up to scrutiny. This goes beyond issues of blacks and the priesthood or historicity of the Book of Mormon; Sullivan has posted up pictures of men and women in their temple garments.

    He has now dredged up more junk which you can see on his blog if you want to waste the time. The guy is pathetic, and continues on in his inane religious bigotry, unlike the Moderate Voice Blog which removed the garment photos.

    His credibility as a political blogger is shredded. His style is a cut below the National Enquirer at this point.

    I say look for and send Porter and the boys!

  72. Wow–am I the only active Mormon in the world who doesn’t regard my underwear as a holy relic? It seems to me that what’s sacred about the garment is what we invest it with, in the context of our temple experience and our relationship with God. To people who see it outside of that context, it’s just funny underwear. And, let’s face it: it *is* funny-looking.

    The only thing gained by a response like Steve’s (and who kidnapped the real Steve Evans, btw??) is that people who want to mock get to mock us for wearing funny underwear *and* for idolizing our underwear!

  73. Poster #67 totally gets it. It’s not the fact that Romney is a Mormon that terrifies those of us who want the separation of church and state to be honored — it’s the fear that Romney would use religious dogma as his governing principals.

    Barry Goldwater warned about this very issue as far back as the 1960s. Sullivan is not some crackpot who’s invented a controvery to drive traffic to his website. He’s raising very legitimate concerns and asking totally fair questions about the Church and its practices. The personal attacks against him that I’ve read here only make me more suspicious of its members, not less.

  74. Look, my personal attacks agains Sullivan weren’t appropriate. There’s no question that I was just throwing out insults, and that’s a product of initial shock and anger more than serious reflection. Apologies to Andrew, and to all his fans.

    I agree that we should all be concerned about the mixing of church and state that occurs whenever a political candidate is so obviously a devotee of a given faith. Similarly, I can agree that when a candidate makes his faith an issue, we should be wary and examine that faith carefully. Personally, the current intermix of church and state already makes me uncomfortable.

    But there is an obvious difference, I believe, between examination of the dogmas and governing principles of a faith, and deliberate muckraking. Mormons have nothing to hide; anything embarrassing to say about our faith has already been said a thousand times. But like any religion, we have things we hold to be very sacred, and we really don’t like it when those sacred aspects are held up to scrutiny and mockery by those who do not understand them.

    In other words — politically speaking, I or any other mormon may not be very different from Sullivan. All we’d like is a little decency, and some taste.

  75. If anyone wants to see the diversity that does in fact exist within Mormonism (we’re not all cowering under the shadow of the Salt Lake Temple as some are claiming) they should take a look at:

    “Why I favor gay marriage”.

    Heated disagreement, yes, blind conformity, no.

  76. In other words — politically speaking, I or any other mormon may not be very different from Sullivan. All we’d like is a little decency, and some taste.

    But the fatwa stands.

  77. It’s underwear, for goodness sake, and it is weird to the outsider. People who take umbrage at any mention of the garmies by a non-member are the reason that Mormons are still often perceived as we are.

    If we really want to be a welcoming people, and we want to be accepted as mainstream, there are some questions that we’ll have to answer that will make many among us uncomfortable.

    Why the underwear? Why the racism? Why the polygamy? Why the blood atonement? Etc. Grow up, people. This is the price we pay for trying to be mainstream, and it’s the price the Mittster pays for trying suck up to the Religious Right.

  78. Maybe someone should alert Krakauer that the fatwa thing is a joke.

  79. Though there is a lot of conformity in the Mormon experience. On many issues, the Mormon bell curve would display less variance then the general population or many other groups that confer identity.

  80. Oh Please Ronan . . .Is this some effort to endear some subset of Mormons to Mr. Sullivan? Is trotting out a viewpoint on gay marriage that is not only a minority view in the LDS community, but one that is also expressly against the united and unanimous governing Quorums of the Church really a good idea? Will Mr. Sullivan begin saying nice things now about the LDS faith because an extreme minority might believe in Mr. Sullivan’s sacred cow of gay marriage? Don’t bet on it.

  81. Hellmut, it’s possible that your experience is skewed because you’re a vocal critic of the Church. People are much more likely to unite in their defense against attacks from an outsider than they are to reasonably disagree among themselves.

  82. I just followed the link from Sullivan’s site, and I’m just curious what the general tenor of the debate here was like when the Muslims were protesting the Danish cartoons of Muhammad.

    Sullivan himself argued very strongly against those protestors. His basic take was that their own belief that Muhammad was sacred and should not be drawn was not enough to justify censorship, even in a private sense, of others. It seems to me that Sullivan’s reasoning would also apply to Mormons asking that he take down the photographs of the garments.

    Regarding whether Sullivan was “attacking” Mormons, I didn’t see any attacks in what he wrote. It seemed to me that he was genuinely ignorant of the whole “holy underwear” thing. I personally never even heard of such a thing, and never could have imagined such a thing, until I moved to SLC about ten years ago. Heck, I didn’t even know what garments actually looked like until Sullivan posted those photos. So count at least one informed reader.

  83. Settle down, Guy. Kevin’s post was well-written, well-reasoned and well worth reading. No point sounding all indignant.

  84. Steve H., we’re not talking about censorship here, are we? No one questions whether Sullivan has the right to post such material. The entire debate is over whether it was smart/appropriate/polite/tasteful to do so.

  85. Mr. Murray,
    Some guy has posted on Sullivan’s blog about how he is hated by the Mormon community because he is gay. Yes, many Mormons are homophobes, but not everyone. I think that’s important for people to know, is all.

  86. Thank God there are mormons like Ronan!

  87. Yeah, thanks for the endorsement, Ronan. “The Mormons: Only Mostly Homophobic.”

  88. Steve: I didn’t say it was poorly written. Keven, is a very intelligent guy–way smarter than I am. I read it. I think the attempt by Ronan to use it as cheap political fodder in the Andrew Sullivan dispute is questionable that’s all.

    Ronan: Yeah. . . that’s rich. I, am a homophobe (and all those other horrible Mormons too) because we believe in the advice and counsel of living prophets, seers, and revelators. And, I don’t care one whit about what the likes of Andrew Sullivan has to say. Yep–color me phobic.

  89. I really don’t understand the fuss. I’ve read and re-read the section on Sullivan’s blog that mentions the garments. He didn’t say anything negative about them. Publishing pictures of the garments is not, by itself, denigrating or insulting. I had no idea that Mormons wore special undergarments until one of Andrew’s readers brought it up and then Andrew followed up on it. I don’t particularly care that Mormons wear such clothes, just like I don’t care that some people wear yarmulkes, turbans, veils, or daggers because of their religion. To a non-Mormon such as myself, it’s an interesting tidbit of trivia and nothing more, despite how sacred they may be to Mormons. I’m far more interested in how the religion may affect the politics of certain candidates, and from the looks of it, the same is true of Andrew.

  90. #80 Greg, of course it’s possible that my particular experience is skewed.

    Fortunately, one can also document this tendency quantitatively. The most obvious datapoint is the overwhelming support of Mormons for Republicans, Bush, and the war. If we brainstormed for ten minutes then we would come up with dozens of other examples.

    By the way, I would have held the same view as a believer.

  91. eople who take umbrage at any mention of the garmies

    Garmies? What?

  92. Lost in this debate, of course, is the idea that Romney may not actually be a so-called theoconservative. I don’t really have a dog in that fight, but it seems to me that Sullivan has achieved his primary objective of undermining Romney’s candidacy among mainstream voters if that assumption is left uncritically examined. Say Romney is a theocrat, point out that he takes his strange religion seriously, step back and allow people to connect the two in their heads. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    Anything Sullivan writes about Mormonism, whether accurate or not, is merely a prop in his attempt to incite fear among mainstream voters of a President who will discard the Constitution if it conflicts with his theology. Sullivan means no disrespect to Mormonism, it just happens to be handy in his attempts to undermine Romney’s nomination. The Bush team did the same thing to McCain in South Carolina. Fear and prejudice are great electoral tools. And they work–witness #72. Any mention of Romney’s record? No. Just “fear” of Romney and “suspicion” of his church. Ignorance is a demagogue’s best friend.

  93. Guy,

    Since you cannot be bothered to read the link, here’s what I was responding to:

    I am one ex-Mormon (BYU graduate, Mormon mission to Paris, France, son of a notorious Mormon charismatic preacher who taught religion at Brigham Young) and living with my gay lover for the last ten years in the shadow of the Salt Lake Temple.

    One nice thing for you is that this may be a lesson in empathy – you are getting a tiny glimpse into what it’s like to be raised, indoctrinated and then terrorized by Mormons daily for being gay

    Readers visiting here from The Daily Dish may have the impression that Mormons “terrorize” gays. Being gay and Mormon is no doubt an awful struggle, but Kevin’s post suggests there ain’t some blanket “terrorizing” going on. This is not about prophets, seers, and revelators, so you can quit playing the authority card too. This is just about a claim — “Mormons terrorize gays” — that deserves closer scrutiny.

  94. #87 Guy, just because we are someone else’s follower does not exonerate us from responsibility for our actions. That includes our believes.

    If our faith requires us to deny rights to other human beings then we should question our beliefs rather than blaming them on God. If we want to discriminate our brothers and sisters that is not His fault.

  95. Ronan I already saw and read that particular post on Sullivan’s blog. Assuming it’s true–given the source–I don’t think it necessarily helpful that that you make the specious claim:

    Yes, most Mormons are homophobes

    That is utter nonsense, and does more damage to the LDS public image because unlike the Daily Dish, and Andrew Sullivan, which have absolutely no credibility in anything Mormon, YOU and BCC do have that credibility at least in the Mormon community. Why the hell do you think Sullivan linked to BCC anyway?

    You, sir owe an apology to “most Mormons” because I do not believe they are homophobes as you suggest. Most Mormons may oppose gay marriage; but, that does not equate with most Mormons being homophobes.

    That is the nonsense Andrew Sullivan would have people believe.

  96. Actually, Guy, I do think plenty of mormons are homophobic, but it’s not because their religion teaches them so. Rather, I would look to insular and rural cultural factors Perhaps that is a distinction that should be considered, one that permits both you and Ronan to be correct! Amazing!

    Now, calling for an apology? A tad on the dramatic side. You lost me at “sir.”

  97. That’s ok. he lost me at “Mr. Murray”

  98. OK, in my experience, most Mormons are homophobes. But I’ve yet to meet a Mormon who terrorizes gays. So, I stand by my characterization inasmuch as it reflects my experience. If most Mormons in California do not in fact get agitated by, have a little chuckle about, or otherwise feel uncomfortable because of the Gay Man, then I stand corrected.

    P.S. I prefer to be called Lord Ronan.

  99. This, as opposed to many other comment threads on other blogs talking about religion, has been very well informed and enlightened.

    My own two cents as a Hetro-catholic-libertarian-male is that Sullivan is justified in taking measure of the LDS Church and how it shapes Mitt’s potential ideology. I mean lets be fair this is not the first time in American politics that a candidates religion was held up to examination because if how it might influence his policy decisions. Yet, JFK, unlike Mitt, ran away from his religion (politically) and was still made to bear the test of American or Catholic first? It might not be fun or nice, but it is justified.

  100. Last Lemming says:

    All we’d like is a little decency, and some taste.

    It’s sympathy and taste, Steve. Sheesh.

  101. oopsy — LL, you’re right, and 10,000 points to you for getting the reference.

  102. I’m honestly amazed to see people saying on this board that Andrew Sullivan is a “demagogue” and “a single issue pundit”, only interested in gay issues. Have you actually even looked at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, beyond these posts?

    Andrew Sullivan is the pre-eminent critic of the USA’s current policy of torture. He has been blogging for years on fiscal discipline and the deficit.

    This is a single-issue pundit?

  103. Guy,

    Upon reflection, I’ll amend my claim: many Mormons are homophobic; I have no way of knowing if most are. That’s probably true of society as a whole anyway. Certainly I’m not going to call you a homophobe, and that goes for many of the people who disagreed with Kevin’s post. It was a fairly polite thread that tried to discuss the issue without much in the way of name calling.

    So, here’s what I’m confident about (randomly expressed): many Mormons are homophobes; many Americans are homophobes; one can have reservations about gay marriage without being a gay-basher; many Mormon gays are likely to have a miserable time in the church; we have yet to fully deal with the gay issue; some Mormons favour gay marriage; no Mormon I have met “terrorizes” gays.

    BCC’s thread shows there is nuance and charity in this discussion, a nuance that most people don’t see. I stand by my decision to point that out and am sorry if anyone felt slandered. Salaam Aleikum.

  104. Are people really joking about the Danites and Orrin Porter Rockwell? Hey, how about Blood Atonement? So, to get this straight, showing a picture of magic underwear = bad. Setting “Porter and the boys” on non-believers = all in good fun. Hey, maybe they can meet you in Mountain Meadows! LMAO JK!

    “Plus, we know we’ll have the last laugh anyway as we mock the mockers from the CK, so what’s the big deal?”

    And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

  105. I’m not in Utah, and I’m not in California (or Idaho, either!) As a Mormon, I have to chime in about the homophobe accusations-perhaps isolationism and insular experience does breed somthing of a “phobia”, but only insomuch as lack of familiarity with anything incites such feelings. But true homophobia? No, not for anyone who is paying attention to the true teachings of Christ.

    I have two gay family members and a gay best friend, and have no trouble being a devout Mormon.

  106. 103- It’s this mentality that got our buts kicked out of missouri in the first place..

  107. Ronan, I can live with that, and even would agree with your revised observations for the most part. I’m sure there are homophobes (whatever that term actually encompasses) in all walks of society and in all religious persuasions.

    Thanks for this more moderate version of your earlier statement, Lord Ronan

  108. I find it rather convenient that this subject is up for discussion today. I spent about an hour and a half this morning discussing what climate scientists should be doing about global warming from a policy and from an outreach perspective. I’d really rather talk about some of the ideas that were bandied about, but unfortunately I was upset by a turn the duscussion took toward bashing relion.

    See, the problem is most non-religious people associate religion with an inability to think rationally. We religious folk make many of our decisions based on faith, which is, at its core, not rational, and can, indeed, be interpreted as a rejection of the rational. I suggest the vast majority of decisions that I make based on my faith are either the same, rational ones I would make irregardless of faith (10 commandments-type stuff) or are just preferences that have significance to me, but beyond that really don’t matter one way or the other (the type of underwear I choose, for example). But if the justification for a decision is described as simply faith, it’s nearly impossible to argue rationally and marks one as an irrational person.

    my acceptance of some “irrational, faith-based” decisions marks me as different. I don’t think religion is a bad thing, or something that should be held either for or against someone. Religion is a convenient marker for “tribe” vs “non-tribe” and we humans would much rather support one of the same tribe than one of another tribe, even if both parties are equally qualified and would make the same decisions. Sullivan is trying to ascertain whether someone like Romney would support Sullivan’s tribe or not, based on the beliefs of the tribe to which Romney belongs. It’s a fair question. I don’t think Sullivan was picking on Mormons any more than anyone else he picks on. His attitude seems more the patronizing disdain of those who accept only rational arguments, and so reject religion.

    So, what in the world does this have to do with climate science (sorry for the threadjack here, but I need to vent)? One of teh biggest hurdles for climate scientists to overcome is uncertainty and risk. Humans are terrible at understanding intuitively uncertainties and risks. Relgion doesn’t so much help that. Unfortunately, some religious people (and I’d say not most) make their decisions so unerringly based on faith that they leave the rational behind, I would suggest as a way to escape the clutches of uncertainties and risk. Belief becomes an end unto itself and critical reasoning are scorned because the One True Faith, followed exactly, will lead to happiness and prosperity. Now, in my experience this hypothetical religious person is more characature than real, but every so often I come across someone who says something to the effect that “God wouldn’t let anything bad happen to the Earth because it’s his.” This person immdiately marks him or herself out as that characature.

    Scientists and other “rational” people make fun of this person.

    Scientists and other “rational” people use this person as justification for why religion is bad, and why religious people shouldn’t be trusted with important decisions.

    Unfortunately, anyone who is religious is assumed to be one of these people. So, Romney and all of us religious types have the burden of proving we do think and we don’t just follow the One True Way. Embracing rational justification for actions and beliefs goes a long way toward that end.

    Oh yeah, and global warming is happening, we’ve caused the observed warming of the last 50 or so years by emitting CO2, and God isn’t going to clean up the mess for us.

  109. MikeInWeHo says:

    It really depends on how you define “homophobe,” Ronan. So often conservative religious people of various creed say, essentially, “We love and accept you, but your sinful lifestyle is unacceptable.” This double-speak leads one side to believe they’re not being homophobic, while the person on the receiving end (no pun intended… : )experiences it as extremely rejecting and anything-but-loving.

    It’s great that Sullivan is stirring the pot a bit. Apparently he read my email yesterday where I told him about this thread! Voila, today there’s a link on his site.

  110. Post #76 has it.

    What Sullivan says is hardly demagogery.

    If Mormons will run for national office, they are going to have to get thicker skins.

    I didn’t know about the underwear either. If I was writng about Romney running for prez in a blog, I think my surpirse about this might have spilled out in a similar way.

    Ranting on for years about it, a la Limbaugh, now that would be demagogery.

  111. Chris in LA says:

    In one post on Sullivan’s site, a former Mormon talked about how the entire Church turned on a dime when Blacks were given the priesthood, throwing open the doors and their arms.

    I would bet that if the FP came out tomorrow and declared that women could hold the PH, we’d do the same. If the next day they said that our glbt brothers and sisters could enjoy civil marriage, we’d all give the big thumbs up and accept it.

    Taken a bit further, if in 2008 the FP came out and in some cautious way supported a Democrat for President (without actually saying it, etc. etc.) Utah and Idaho would turn from red to blue overnight.

    No, Mormons are not generally homophobes or racists or anti-feminists; we are followers. We are told to jump, we prayerfully ask how high.

    But IMHO a pecular people whose fundamental principle is free agency should not take that as a compliment. Au contraire.

  112. That’s why Utah was the swing state to repeal prrohibtion, we’re just a bunch of followers…

  113. Chris in LA says:

    Matt W:

    Prohibition? That’s it? Pre-WWII stuff?

    I thought at least under David O MacKay under Spencer W. Kimball we’d would have something better to show.

    Man, it’s worse than I thought.

  114. Sorry Chris, I’m just heckling from the back row, not researching a disertation.

  115. Chris in LA says:

    Matt W, “researching a disertation” is called Google nowadays.

    But my point still stands — Mormons will turn on a dime, even on any controversial issue, if the Brethren tell us to. And even if it contradicts something we thought we used to believe the day before.

    Not something to be proud of.

  116. “I don’t think Sullivan was picking on Mormons any more than anyone else he picks on. His attitude seems more the patronizing disdain of those who accept only rational arguments, and so reject religion.”

    That would be true if Sullivan was your run-of-the-mill agnostic/atheist intellectual. But he’s someone who considers himself a devout Catholic, so it’s not. I’m pretty sure that Sullivan would get all up in arms if someone was ridiculing transubstantiation and immaculate conception in response to a Catholic candidate.

  117. Jacky in Utah says:

    Haha! Temple garments were designed to look so unsexy that they’d be funny. Give us a break!

  118. Cousin Lymon says:

    Sullivan hasn’t got to -every- controversy about the Mormons — he hasn’t mentioned the post-death conversions of Jewish Holocaust victims.

  119. Hi, Kudos & three cheers for Andrew Sullivan raising the issue of Mormonism as the 2008 Presidental Campaign begins. Rommey is obviously trolling for the GOP’s Christianist Right support in the GOP primaries. Romney’s obsession with gay marriage is the issue he hopes to secure the GOP nomination with. Thus Romney will become the THEOCONS candidate, now that Senators Allen & Santorum have fallen from their God’s grace. Therefore the American people must know the political implications of Romney’s religious beliefs. If Romney wins the Christian Right’s support in 2008, it will mean that those GOP THEOCONS have concluded that Romney is their man to lead an American Fascist Christian Theocracy. Thus it is vital to know where Romney stands on the Separation of Church & State; His specific position on CIVIL UNIONS. Will Romney place the Book Of Mormon before The Bible & The US Constitution? His specific views on the “Divine Founding” of the USA; On the Public School System vs. vouchers/tuition tax credits; On Armageddon-WW III & The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; On the “Baptism of the Dead”–even if they were JEWISH;On Jesus’ first visit to America & later trip to Hiram Ohio[1831-32].

    Why? recall JFK had to defend his Roman Catholic faith in Jan. 1960 before the Southern Baptist ministers in Houston, Texas. However, President George W. Bush NEVER had to defend the domestic & international implications of his born again Fundamentalist faith or his stated opinion tha Jews weren’t going to get to Heaven unless they accepted his Jesus. Do we have a double standard? One for Catholics & another for Born Again Protestants & Mormons?
    And look at the mess in Iraq his NEO/THECONS’ policies have created. If a discussion of Romney’s “holy underware” triggers a much larger Great Debate over the survival of our Secular Democratic Constitutional Republic vs. an impending AmeriKan Fascist Christianist Democracy, then it’s all to the good.
    Now let’s the Debate about the proper degree of RELIGION IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE begin anew. Very concerned for our secular America’s future. George E. Lowe of Stuart & Port Medway, N.S.

  120. All good points, deftly accentuated by judicious punctuation. Thank you sir.

  121. Patrick Graham, says:

    That would be true if Sullivan was your run-of-the-mill agnostic/atheist intellectual. But he’s someone who considers himself a devout Catholic, so it’s not. I’m pretty sure that Sullivan would get all up in arms if someone was ridiculing transubstantiation and immaculate conception in response to a Catholic candidate.

    Why would you assume that? If you read Andrew Sullivan’s writing beyond his Mormon/Romney posts you will find that, like Stephen Colbert (another devout Catholic in the public eye) that he is not above making fun of his own religion.

    And I know plenty of Mormon’s who make gentle fun of Temple Garments along with too much ice cream in the freezer. Maybe this is unpious irreverent or maybe mild humor about your religion is a good way of expressing humility?

  122. I came over from Sullivan’s blog. I’m actually politically progressive but I read Andrew’s blog for another perspective.

    That said, after readying this thread, there are two points to make:

    1. When Thomas Jefferson advocated the separation of church and state, it was to protect religion from government, not the other way around. Look what’s happened to the Evangelicals. They are now reconsidering how much they got into politics and if they lost sight of their faith. To an outsider like myself, it seems that poverty and helping others has been completely supplanted by abortion and gay rights. And when someone like Ted Haggard falls from grace, Evangelical leaders say they can’t help him because it will take too much time? Yeesh.

    2. If Mormons are going to claim their political philosophies are informed by their faith (which Romney does), you are going to have to expect inquiries into its nature, and non-mainstream elements will raise curious eyebrows. For example, there WILL be jokes on late night TV. Guaranteed. So the questions is, how will you handle it? Some people on this thread are correct and say you need to expect the faith to speak for itself, and that some things will seem odd to people simply because some people haven’t seen them before. This is not a value judgement, this is human nature.

    Or there’s the reaction of others in their ad hominim attacks or demonstrably false claims:

    “Andrew Sullivan’s credibility is shredded.” It’s certainly not and his popularity and influence has been growing.

    “Andrew Sullivan is not a journalist.” Actually, he’s an award-winning magazine editor, author and journalist.

    “If you don’t agree with Andrew on gay-rights he thinks you are evil and must be destroyed.” Uh, ok.

    “Mormanism is sacred, like being a member of Skull & Bones, so it’s therefore wrong to check it out.” No one is claiming to make political philosphy and governing decisions based on their membership in a little Yalie secret society.

    “He opposes Mormonism and is trying to discredit Romney because LDS oppose homosexuality.” Andrew is a devout Catholic. Dur.

    So I guess the question is, when an opportunity for great exposure of your faith reveals itself, what will you do?

  123. Jeremy,

    I don’t think anyone here believes Romney in particular or Mormons in general are above scrutiny. Far from it. The question is whether Sullivan is appealing to bigotry in order to score political points. I think he is. He’s holding up peculiar mormon beliefs (funny underwear, Christ in America) to paint Mormons as wackos, and then applying the same brush to Romney.

    Sullivan mentioned the “divine founding” belief and asked whether that would affect a Pres. Romney’s foreign policy. I think that’s a fair question, and it deserves an answer. But asking a candidate about his underwear is no more relevant now than it was in ’96.

  124. Hi,

    Not a Mormon- followed this link from Sullivan. Thanks for the lively and intelligent discussion- seems refreshing as I find most religious websites I’ve encountered (which is few, though I am Christian) often lack the courage to discuss differences.

    Just wanted to say that I found his comment about some Mormon beliefs being “transparently loopy” offensive. These were some of his very first comments. That said, don’t you find some Catholic beliefs “transparently loopy?”

    As another Sullivan reader commented, Sullivan is a very big believer in the right to say to someone that you don’t understand their religion- whether this be through the showing of Temple garments (which, if you read, he did not realize the displaying would be offensive to Mormons) or South Park cruelly and offensively mocking Catholicism. And yet, he is a huge fan of South Park. He is a bigger advocate in their right to offend, to use satire.

    And yet, despite his “loopy” comment and his slant that an evangelical moral hawk should be careful of his bedfellows- besides these two points- he has linked to A LOT of Mormon websites (seemingly written and managed by Mormons, not just about them). If he was a demagogue who simply wanted to slur your beliefs, it seems it would be easier if he didn’t link to sites by you and your fellow-believers.

    I’ve been following Sulli for years. I would wager (at least 50 cents) that there have been more links to Mormon sites in the last week then he has linked to homosexual sites in the last 4 years.

    I can’t tell anyone how to feel, and won’t be ignorant enough to assume you feel the same, but if he wanted to slur your beliefs he could be a lot more effective if he stopped linking to Mormon websites. Giving his opinion and then linking to another’s, that’s dialogue.


  125. Steve (referring back to post 83), I know we’re not talking about censorship in its precise meaning (which is why my post included the caveat “even in a private sense”), because no one here is advocating that the government ban photos of the garments.

    But a lot of the debate concerning the Muhammad cartoons dealt with self-restriction of this sort, because there was a lot of debate over whether newspapers “should” have published the cartoons, or whether the newspapers here reporting on the controversy should have published the cartoons as part of the story.

    The way I see it, there is little difference between Mormons protesting the publication of garment photos and Muslims protesting the publication or republication of the Danish cartoons. I was just curious whether that issue was discussed here at any length, since I had not heard of this blog until today.

    By the way, I am impressed with the general tenor of the debate here, both its intellectual merit and the fact that people (mostly) are able to discuss these issues without just calling each other names.

  126. Steve Evans says:

    Steve H: “there is little difference between Mormons protesting the publication of garment photos and Muslims protesting the publication or republication of the Danish cartoons.”

    Well, that’s not quite so. No mormons are going to be protesting at American embassies. No one is afraid of militant mormons (anymore). So the reasons not to publish pictures of mormon underwear are quite different than the reasons not to publish a cartoon of the Prophet Muhummad. But I can see what you’re getting at.

  127. Steve: By the way, I am impressed with the general tenor of the debate here, both its intellectual merit and the fact that people (mostly) are able to discuss these issues without just calling each other names.

    How thoroughly patronizing.

  128. Oops, that previous quote should be attributed to Steve H., so as to avoid ambiguity.

  129. The path of the Mormon man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of Andrew Sullivan and the tyranny of Andrew Sullivan. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the Mormons through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And the Lord will strike down upon Andrew Sullivan with great vengeance and furious anger for attempting to poison and destroy His Mormons. And Andrew Sullivan will know the Lord’s name is the Lord when He lays His vengeance upon Andrew Sullivan. (bang, bang)

  130. No one is afraid of militant mormonns (anymore).

    I know . . .what happened to the good ole days!

  131. All joking aside, I have to say that I’m not so terribly bothered by Andrew Sullivan’s photo of the folks in their garments. On the contrary, I think that the chick on the right looks pretty hot.

  132. Yes I came here from Andrew Sullivan’s (aka The Roach) blog. And no, I had never heard of the temple garments until he mentioned them on the blog. My reaction was, hmm OK, a little odd, but whatever floats their boat.

    But I disagree strongly with comparing asking Romney if he wears them to Clinton’s “boxer’s or briefs” moment. Clinton’s question was just prurient and rude. But asking Romney if he wears them (while being intrusive) can be informative.

    If (A) Romney is basing his fitness for being president on his devout Mormon beliefs, and (B) devout Mormons wear what are known as temple garments, then (C) does Romney wear them? Is he truly then devout? Or he is just saying he’s devout to cynically win votes?

    If Romney doesn’t make his religious devotion an issue, then I say don’t bring it up. But if he does, then it’s free game. It would be like asking a Muslim if he prayed 5 times a day, or if a Jew only ate kosher and observed the Sabbath, all things that supposedly devoted followers would do daily.

    Yes they are rude questions. But if someone wants to me to vote for them due in part to their religious devotion, my response: oh yeah? Prove it.

  133. re:123 Sullivan claims he’s recieved more mail about Mormons now than he has about gay marriage. At least we can say we care.

  134. Heather (#131), it’s one thing to ask Romney whether he wears his temple garments — I agree that it is a good test of devotion to the mormon religion, albeit an extremely rude and intrusive question.

    But Sullivan’s done quite a bit more than that, wouldn’t you say? Do you think his series on Mormons is really tailored to a fair and thorough investigation of Romney’s personal beliefs?

  135. Steve–I’m not convinced it’s intended to be tailored and fair (maybe that’s your point). it seems like he’s curious about our religion, just not necessarily in the way we’d prefer. Some of what he’s dredged up is complimentary to the church, though most of it isn’t. I’d still say he isn’t giving the LDS church any special attention. I used to read him a fair amount, and he pretty much follows a thread as long as it’s interesting. There’s plenty of “interesting” history for him to uncover yet if he doesn’t get bored with us.

  136. kristine, maybe so. I guess time will tell.

  137. Hi, I’m a non-Mormon who jumped over from Sullivan’s site in order to be just a bit more enlightened. Unfortunately its true, with out this debate most people do not seem really inclined to know or learn much more about being Mormon and pardon the ignorance, but it seems only the few “unsavory” issues, such a polygamy, multiple phobia’s and racism seem to be associated with the religion. Having said that, please let me refer to two quotes in previous posts above:

    “Why the underwear? Why the racism? Why the polygamy? Why the blood atonement? Etc. Grow up, people. This is the price we pay for trying to be mainstream, and it’s the price the Mittster pays for trying suck up to the Religious Right. -Andrew”

    And –

    “If our faith requires us to deny rights to other human beings then we should question our beliefs rather than blaming them on God. If we want to discriminate our brothers and sisters that is not His fault.” – Hellmut

    So, for the sake of getting off the underwear topic, and to try understand, someone please explain why these controversial issues are so seemingly deeply associated with Mormons and why as human being I shouldn’t feel at all threatened or disturbed by the fact that there seems to be people still sitting in this country who use religion as a way to keep others “subservient”? Shouldn’t that then make me wary of anyone who wants to enter political office touting those beliefs?

    I’m looking for a cogent, reasonable discussion. Saying that your bestfriend/coworker/distant relative or the like is black or gay as your reason does not count. Using insults and/or slander will just undermine your argument.

    Thank you.

  138. I’m looking for a cogent, reasonable discussion. Saying that your bestfriend/coworker/distant relative or the like is black or gay as your reason does not count. Using insults and/or slander will just undermine your argument.

    Well, then I got nothing.

  139. MikeInWeHo says:

    Jay Leno just made a joke about Romney (something about ’17 First Ladies…” not really very funny to me, but y’all get the idea). Expect much more of this.

    This could prove to be very, very interesting.

  140. I agree with everything Mathew said above. Sullivan is ridiculing the church in hopes it hurts Romney, who Sullivan despises for his strong opposition to gay marriage. His motive is best demonstrated by his calling Mormon beliefs “transparently loopy.” That is not a description any educated person would use to summarize religious beliefs they know almost nothing about. A person who is simply curious, or hoping to learn more about a political candidate, or otherwise agenda-free, would choose a term like “unusual” or “peculiar.”

  141. ann, I think that you’ve misunderstood the people you quote. Furthermore, you seem to have made the assumption that there is some homogeneity of opinion among Mormons on these issues.

    Just to be perfectly clear, there are a few things that need to be distinguished:

    1. Current policy of the LDS church
    2. Past policy of the LDS church
    3. Official explanations of LDS church policy, past or present (very rare)
    4. Unofficial explanations of LDS church policy, past or present (more common)
    5. Speculation on the reasoning behind LDS church policy (dime-a-dozen)
    6. Individual church member attitudes towards these policies; each member has their own, and they aren’t all positive

    So that when somebody points to the fact that until 3 decades ago, the LDS church excluded blacks from its priesthood, she’s talking about a past policy. When she quotes statements from the mid-20th century that demonstrate that many LDS church leaders held a racial outlook no more enlightened than most of their contemporaries, she’s dealing with unofficial explanations. And what one sees on this blog when there are discussions about blacks and the priesthood is mostly speculation about ancient history. I have yet to meet a member of the LDS church who thinks that the move 3 decades ago to extend the priesthood to blacks was a bad idea.

    Going on to the topic of the gays, the LDS church, like many other churches (including the Catholics) holds that homosexuality is a sin. Individual Mormons may or may not have their own feelings about this, and they frequently express them (in all their variety) in places like this.

    ann: someone please explain why these controversial issues are so seemingly deeply associated with Mormons

    You’re the one who associates these things with Mormonism, not me. Am I supposed to read your mind to explain your own reasoning? Why don’t you tell me why you make this association, and then we can actually have a dialogue.

    ann: someone please explain… why as human being I shouldn’t feel at all threatened or disturbed by the fact that there seems to be people still sitting in this country who use religion as a way to keep others “subservient”?

    This is the wrong question. First of all, it tacitly assumes that Mormons want to use religion to keep people subservient. Second, I’m assuming that by subservient, you mean something like violating civil liberties, since (for example) keeping children subservient isn’t always thought to be a cause for alarm. Third, you should feel threatened by those who want to keep other adults subservient, whether their motivation is religious or otherwise. You just shouldn’t feel like Mormons as a group are among those interested in doing such things.

    ann: Using insults and/or slander will just undermine your argument.

    Right, just like it did with Andrew Sullivan’s.

  142. DKL – I’m not agreeing with Sullivan. The opinions are not mine as I have never known a drop about Mormons until this debate. So I’m going off the information I’ve read SO FAR. Be the sources correct or incorrect, I’ve decided to ask this thread of people to enlighten me as you are more closely related to the religion. Hence an open dialogue with the hopeful result of better understanding. Everything I’ve read so far has been associated with these issues. So no, “I” don’t associate them. I’m looking to find out why the information I’ve been pointed to does cite these as huge issues of the Mormon falith and if in fact it seems so alarmingly overwhelming, for someone to show me the other side or point me in the right direction, not attack me for it. So please, try again…

  143. FYI – It may serve your argument better to point to some established literature rather than going off on a personal perception. The debate is out there whether people like it or not… This is no particular attack on ONE person, rather a question about the perception of ideas that seem (please read that last word, “SEEM”) to belong to a group (everyone is fully aware that not all people hold the same ideals, even if it seems to be the associated to the particular group one belongs to)… So DKL, this is not a personal affront… you misunderstand me….

  144. I’m not a Mormon and I’m not a conservative (warning to those who click on my website link!) and my admiration for Sullivan is, for the most part, pretty high. But I have to say that even as a non-Mormon liberal (who, admittedly, grew up in Helena, Montana which had a large Mormon community allowing me to have more exposure to the reality of daily Mormon life than most non-Mormons) I find Sullivan’s tactics rather obscene.

    Not because the garments are sacred and not because he believes Mormons aren’t Christians. Those aren’t serious ideas and they aren’t worth thinking about or getting angry about. I’m not a tremendous fan of any organized religion, and I believe voters have a right to know what a politician believes and how his religious faith effects his politics. It’s not anti-Mormon to challenge Romney’s specific applications of LDS theology to conservative politics. And there are bigger problems, on substantive policy issues, that the anti-Romney side would be better off highlighting. We can start with the fact that Romney is using his faith in the most cynical of ways, using it to push himself to the right despite his generally moderate-to-liberal political career. Mormons themselves should be concerned about that.

    But what bothers me about Sullivan is that it seems to me that Mormonism is being trotted out merely to degrade Romney. As someone above noted, very little is being made of Harry Reid’s Mormonism. Unfortunately, that commentator suggests this is because Reid doesn’t make a big deal out of it, which is true. But neither, really, does Romney. He stresses his shared Christian faith, not the specifics of Mormonism. And it’s not true that Reid’s religion plays no role in public policy. The Democrats in the Senate are now led by a man who opposes abortion and that opposition is firmly rooted in his religious beliefs.

    Here’s another example. I have no use for either John Ashcroft or Joe Lieberman, and believe that both represent the very worst of religion in politics, but when Ashcroft was nominated for AG, a great deal of gasping, bewildered commentary was made about the fact that Ashcroft, for religious reasons, doesn’t dance. But when Lieberman was running for the Vice Presidency, and later Presidency, while his strict, orthodox Jewish faith was mentioned often, it was usually in the reverent tones of people with a respect for the religious beliefs of others. Meanwhile, Ashcroft’s religious stances were a major weapon against his nomination, while no one thought to challenge Lieberman’s religiously-motivated hostility to the entertainment industry.

    Reid’s Mormonism is often mentioned as part of his “complexity” and as proof of the Big Tent Democratic Party. I agree. But why, then, is Romney’s Mormonism proof of his weirdness and, implicitly, inability to lead?

    Attacking Romney for being a political weasel with no strict moral compass and a cravenly ambitious a-hole would strike me as less repugnant and more helpful to American voters.

  145. hey guys, just letting you know that your debate here has been noticed by Mr. Sullivan.

    For a fascinating Mormon discussion thread on my bigotry or lack thereof, check this page out. The headline is ironic. Many Mormons have a sense of humor – and perspective. Just not all.

    of course, in that post, he brings up Orgazmo. Yeah, he’s not learning much.

  146. My two cents:

    After having observed (and been part of) the protest over at The Moderate Voice over their pictures and discussion of “Mormon Underwear” here are my suggestions:

    First of all, I think that there are lot of people who want to believe that Mormons are whackos and enjoy seeing us roast over the coals. However, I personally think that there are yet more who are aware that (even if it does seem strange) doing things like posting pictures of underwear is also a cheap shot. And they will pay at least as much attention to how we say things as what we say.

    I’d say that if you feel really compelled to make your voice heard, just do it in as reasonable a way as possible. Lots of people won’t care. But the ones who have some empathy already will have yet more empathy if we comport ourselves well.

  147. Ann: So, for the sake of getting off the underwear topic, and to try understand, someone please explain why these controversial issues [“polygamy, multiple phobia’s and racism”] are so seemingly deeply associated with Mormons . . .

    Because our Church has a colorful history that includes polygamy and racism. Some of the early founders of the LDS Church believed that polygamy was divinely sanctioned and they practiced polygamy. Around the turn of the century (19th to 20th) the Church officially repudiated the practice and ever since then any member found to be practicing polygamy is excommunicated. There are still some small sects (the most prominent is headed by the notorious Warren Jeffs) who call themselves Mormons who believe that the LDS Church went astray when it stopped sanctioning polygamous marriages. The LDS Church has no association with groups that practice polygamy.

    Racism: starting sometime in the 19th century it became the official policy of the Church that people of African descent could not hold the priesthood, meaning that they could not officiate in ordinances like baptism and they couldn’t participate in the ministry as leaders of congregations, for examples. I don’t know that there was ever an official doctrinal reason given for this, but there have been many prominent Mormons over the years who have taught that Africans were cursed because they were the descendents of Cain as well as other things that would indicate that Blacks were denied the priesthood because they were inherently inferior. It was not until 1978 that the policy barring members of African descent from holding the priesthood was reversed. The Church hasn’t officially said that the ban was a mistake, but current Church policy and practice is entirely race-blind.

    It is my opinion (biased, but honest) that Mormons on average are no more racist than the general population. Meaning that, there are certainly some racist Mormons out there, just like there are some racist Catholics, Baptists, and Methodists. But anybody who is paying any attention to current Church teaching knows that racist attitudes of any kind are unacceptable. The current president of the Church, Gordon Hinkley recently stated,

    Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ.

    As for “multiple phobias,” I don’t know what you’re getting at. If you’re referring to homophobia, that’s already been addressed. According to LDS belief, any sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman is sinful. That would include pre-marital and extra-marital homosexual and heterosexual sex. The Church considers every person a child of God and worthy of love and friendship, no matter what their inclinations. Some people consider it homophobic to belive that homosexual relations are sinful. I don’t. Just like it’s not heterophobic to believe that pre-marital heterosexual sex is sinful. We believe that the Lord places boundaries on our behavior. That doesn’t mean that we think that people whose behavior is outside those boundaries are any less children of God. We all sin.

    If you’re worried that Romney will be against gay marriage, your worry is justified. If that’s a really important issue for you, though, his Mormonism is pretty much irrelevant. There are a lot of Americans and a lot of politicians of many different religions who have the same view. So the question shouldn’t be what religion they are, it should be what is their policy preference with regards to gay marriage.

    “. . . why as human being I shouldn’t feel at all threatened or disturbed by the fact that there seems to be people still sitting in this country who use religion as a way to keep others “subservient”?

    If you view opposition to legal sanction of marriage between people of the same sex as keeping others “subservient,” then you should be disturbed, because there are a lot of people, probably a majority, in this country who oppose legal recognition gay marriage and whose opposition is based to a large degree on their religious beliefs. I’m sure you’re not surprised to find that out and I’m sure it’s not Sullivan’s writings about Romney over the past week that have opened your eyes to that fact.

  148. I am amused that anyone considers Harry Reid a committed LDS member. Everyone overlooks his “Mormon” membership because by his actions and attitudes about anything that is important to the LDS people, he doesn’t hold to many of the tenets of his religion. He is LDS in name only, in my opinion, and therefore his religion is no threat.

  149. You know Lynne–I’m surprised you haven’t been made prophet yet, what with your amazing ability to determine whether a member in good standing is LDS in name only. Well done.

  150. I just want to go on the record as one active Mormon who believes that Mr. Sullivan is doing us all a really big favor. Both in and out of the church.

    There was a time when we were both bold and proud of all our differences as a church/faith/people. While I don’t personally ascribe to many of these early teachings, I do admire our early boldness.

    And while I understand why the church has chosen to assimilate (partly to survive, and partly to thrive) I do believe very strongly that this whole Romney/Sullivan thing, to quote Malcolm X, is “the chickens coming home to roost.”

    What I mean by that is–we’ve been trying to straddle the fence of maintaining (or at least not officially denouncing) some very strange (dare I say loopy?) teachings/doctrines of the past, while trying to present ourselves to the Christian world as “just one of them….with perhaps some slight improvements.”

    Thus when President Hinckley is asked publicly about polygamy, he responds, “Not doctrinal,” even though this is not really as open/accurate as the very important questions demands (even some of the 12 are in heavenly polygamous marriages today). And when asked about God once being a man like us, he responds, “I don’t know that we teach/emphasize it.”

    The truth is (and I’m saying this as an active Mormon):

    –Mormon beliefs ARE in many ways very much out of the mainstream of Christianity, much like Scientology. This is not a sin, of course, but I believe that it does warrant exploration by the general public once a Mormon is seeking the most powerful position in the world (next to President Hinckley, of course), and

    –Because we have been less than bold/candid about our beliefs (both internally and externally), we’re now facing a bold day of reckoning. This will be painful, but ultimately, I believe that we will all be better off for it. And once we come clean (again both internally and externally) and clarify what we still do and don’t believe officially–we will once and for all be able to put all this behind us.

    My 2 cents.

  151. Ann, if you want something to read about what Mormons believe here is the FAQ from one of the church’s official websites. (I believe the ‘Social Issues’ and ‘Beliefs and Doctrines’ category will contain most of the information you’re looking for.)
    Also available online are all of the texts that are used in our various Sunday School classes, the monthly magazines that many church members subscribe to, and all of the texts we consider to be Scripture.
    These links contain just about all the things the church actively teaches its members.

  152. To Lynne,
    Reid teaches the Gospel Doctrine Class in his ward in Virginia. Now perhaps he, and many of us,are not as “perfect” as you, but unrighteous judgement of others in strongly condemed by the Savior.

    As I have had an evening of rest and sleep to ponder this debate, and Andrew S’s intitial input into this, I would say let the light shine in. There will be many who find our faith strange and unconventional, just as people for 176 years have. However, there will be some where certain things may resonate to the degree of further investigation. Misrepresentations, or lack of correctly communicating Church teachings will not deter those who seek truth from finding it.

    As to Romney, it is only fair that if he claims to be a “good” member in standing that he can support that with reasonable answers. I still say I would much rather know what his foreign and domestic policies would be than if he is a devoted follower of Christ and his Church.

  153. Chris in LA says:

    Lynne at 144 makes the standard ridiculous claim that because a Mormon like Reid doesn’t make semi-offical or culturally accepted Mormon political causes his own, he’s just a MINO. Rank nonsense. And let’s be honest, shall we? I would bet that the first place Reid goes wrong for Lynne is where he goes wrong for many if not most Mormons — he’s a Democrat.

    But the first beam in Lynne’s eye of course is in his/her assumption of her own God-like abilities to see into the heart of another human being s/he has never met to proclaim what that person’ beliefs are. Say it with me: Ridiculous.

    The second larger beam is the ignorance of the fact that Reid and other Mormons like myself are opposed to many of the semi-offical or culturally accepted Mormon political causes because of our religious views, not in spite of them.

    I find it fundamentally unethical and immoral to use Caesar’s law to impose one interpretation of Christian beliefs on a polyglot nation such as this. As our own Articles of Faith tell us, we believe in letting everyone worship who, how and what they may, without imposition from us or anyone else. And the reason why is pretty clear in Mormon doctrine — life itself has little value if we don’t have the power and ability to direct that life in a meaningful way, to make choices good and bad, and to live with the consequences. That’s the core of it.

    And yet to have had to watch over the last 20 years as the church I grew up in, served a mission for, married in the temple, and blessed my child in turns towards the highly undemocratic extremes of the religious right has been shocking, painful and deeply undoctrinal.

    But Reid and other Mormons like him, including me, are indeed Mormons despite Lynne’s cavalier attempt at bloggy excommunication. We worship in the same ward houses and meeting halls that s/he would pronounce full of “good” Mormons. And guess what? Our political perspectives come out of that same moral foundation. Just because s/he doesn’t agree with them does not make us less moral or less Mormon.

    But it might make him/her so.

  154. if you run for high office in america, you’re going to be examined under a microscope, and things that seem bizarre/alien/interesting to observers will be highlighted & mocked. nothing wrong with that as long as we’re all treated equally unfairly.

    btw, i’m not a mormon but my trip to the tabernacle in salt lake city was a pleasure! everyone was very nice & friendly. and the sound in that room…….amazing!

  155. “my trip to the tabernacle in salte lake city was a pleasure! everyone was very nice & friendly. and the sound in that room…….amazing!”


    You’re pushing all the right buttons. Nothing makes a Mormon stand up straighter than when someone compliments our acoustics.:)

  156. Chris in L.A.


    Well said. Since this thread is about Andrew Sullivan, let’s look at his Quote of the Day from Barry Goldwater:

    “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them…

    There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.'”

  157. I also came from Sullivan’s blog. I’m unsure as to the reasoning behind the offense over the temple garment photos. As a non-Mormon (sociological Catholic is probably the closest religious label to a fit) I’m unsure as to why publishing/posting the pictures is patently offensive. Is it similar to the notion of a hair shirt? That is, are they marks of devotion that are intended to purify the wearer and are not the concern of any other – even a co-religionist?

    As for the questioning of Mormonism/religion in general, that is now part and parcel of running for the highest office in this country. It is as Goldwater said all those years ago.

    With regard to 121, Jefferson didn’t want to protect religion from government – at least not exclusively. He (A) wanted the varied states to be allowed to choose what denomination, if any, they would adopt (Yay for Federalism) and (B) to prevent say…a sesquicentennial of sectarian warfare a la Europe.

    Oh, and by the way DKL, you should have told me about the guy in the bathroom with the hand cannon. And now I realize that I am the tyranny of Andrew Sullivan.

  158. Update: Sullivan has revisited the mormons, and this time I like much of what he has to say (unsurprisingly — his post is fairly laudatory). One bit stuck out:

    If you cannot handle some inspection of your religious practices, then you need to find some other place to live.

    um… we tried that already.

    note: this was originally its own post, then I decided it wasn’t worth it.

  159. okay so i’ll post here what i said there.

    that’s an interesting point of view from a man who wishes others to be tolerant of his way of life….

  160. As will I,

    I dare say Sullivan’s blog has revealed more about Andrew Sullivan to a mainstream audience than many other outlets in recent history.

  161. I read his latest blog and it seems to me that Andrew Sullivan has educated himself a little more about who Mormons are and how they fit into the American landscape. I sense maybe his eyes were opened a little bit and discovered we are not as different as most people think, despite our underwear. Even if Mitt is not my cup of punch for President, his candidacy and Senator Ried could cast a welcome light on who we really are as a regilous group and culture. We are a honest, hard working people with some of the same phobias as other Americans.

  162. Larry, Intersting point of view, I thought he “discovered” we were different, in that we are different than the typical so-called religious right.

  163. In my opinion, I’m pleased he sees us as different than the religious right. My point was that we are not that different from mainstream Americans.

  164. I’d like to second what Chris in LA has to say in 155. Lets remember our Article of Faith to let others worship who, what or how they may. This should apply to non religious aspects as well. Remember, one of the most sacred tenets of our faith is “free agency”, and yet how willing some are to embrace those who would dictate our salvations through laws. Obedience is a personal thing and forcing a man/woman to heaven is not of God. So, where does Mitt stand on this? I don’t think anyone knows, but hopefully we will all find out. Lets welcome the debate.

  165. Mark Borok says:

    As an atheist, I really don’t much care what Mormons wear under their clothes and I think Sullivan (whose writings I usually enjoy since he’s stopped being a war apologist) went overboard on the subject. It was sophomoric of him. As I once said to a conservative Mormon friend of mine (or meant to tell him, but never got around to it), we secular liberals may privately think your religion is kind of odd, but we think that about a lot of religions and, unlike the evangelicals, we’re not going to tell you that you’re going to hell, are a dupe of satan, or need to convert.

    Having said that (and I’m not really sure what it has to do with anything, except I wanted to say it) what bothers me about Romney is this; he was elected as a moderate by liberal voters in a liberal state. If he wanted to swing to the right to help along his presidential campaign, he should have done it after he left office. And bad-mouthing your own state to raise money from conservative Republicans is just a very wrong thing for a governor to do.

    Aside from that his Mormonism doesn’t bother me. The influence of religion on poltics bothers me, but I don’t single out Mormons in that.

  166. Guys, with these comments I come full circle. I came here from Sullivan’s Website, but unlike the other posters I grew up in Southern Idaho, so I’m no stranger to your religion or to you. It’s funny: Sullivan and the rest of the Eastern establishment are separated from you by culture and distance. My problem is quite different. I’ve been blinded by the closeness. I thought I knew all there was to know about Mormons (and let’s face it-there’s nothing the Harvard educated Sullivan knows that every 10 year-old farm kid in Southern Idaho doesn’t know). But until recently, I never knew about the amazing diversity of opinion to be found among the Saints. This discussion has proven to be one of the most illuminating and enjoyable internet threads I have ever read. Kudos to Sullivan for highlighting the issue-and Kudos to you guys for the insight. Keep it up.

  167. Well, I agree with Lynne about Reid. He’s as corrupt as the day is long, and still Mormons defend him with vigor because they’re blind to the faults of those who haven’t turned away from the faith yet. (I’ve written about this elsewhere…)

  168. Personally I LOVE Andrew Sullivan; think he’s brilliant, thoughtful and a TRUE Conservative. Have been reading him daily for years, and he is not the least bit sensational–and certainly doesn’t merit the label of “roach.”

    As he rightly points out, if Romney is going to seriosuly make a bid for the Presidency, and if LDS Church members are going to support him (many BECAUSE he is LDS–let’s be honest about that), then it is completely within the American political tradition that any aspect of Romney’s views, beliefs or practices that are thought to be “out of the mainstream,” will be explored. In other words, plan on seeing Garments throughout the media. You’ll survive it, Romney will survive it, and the LDS Church will survive it.

    Of course, I’m a Reform Mormon (not LDS), so I feel no need to defend the LDS institution.

  169. What’s a Reform Mormon, Rob?

  170. Reform Mormonism is a newer denomination within world-wide Mormonism. It is registered in Washington state, as a religious denomination, but it is primarily a home-based religion.

    It has no connection to the LDS Church; does not claim to be “the only true church.” Reform Mormonism is a religion of principles only. It’s theology consists entirely of the Mormon Paradigm of Eternal Progression: “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may become.” Conversion to Reform Mormonism does not consist of joining a church or submitting at any ordinance such as baptism. One becomes a Reform Mormon when one makes a personal covenant to emulate God and start on a path of personal Eternal Progression.

    You can visit Reform Mormonism’s central website (which includes links to other Reform Mormon websites) by clicking on to:


  171. Puny the Elder says:

    Garments, Garments, Garments! All of this discussion about Temple garments. Who cares about the garments, who cares about the picture. I sure don’t. It was the comment by Sullivan that Romney is not a Christian that I find so offensive. How rude! So members of The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saints are not Christians. And the justification he used was laughable he used the Mormon perception of the Trinity and also the baptism ritual (immersion instead of sprinkling). The fact that Mormons recognize the Trinity as three distinct people who are ONE IN purpose instead of being just one person. Well lets see when Jesus was baptized and a voice boomed out “This is my son with whom I am well pleased” I suppose it was just a vetriloquist act. And people who were baptized the same way that Jesus was baptized would definately not qualify as Christians, blimey!

  172. Puny, Sullivan didn’t say that Christians have to be sprinkled. He said that Mormons and Christians do not recognize each other’s baptisms.

    “Christians” in Sullivan’s sense recognize each other’s baptisms. Since Mormons do not recognize other Christian’s baptism, Sullivan concludes that they are not “Christians.”

    If you are baptized Lutheran or Pentecostal, for example, you won’t have to be rebaptized when you join the Catholic Church. That includes baptism by immersion if it were performed by Mennonites, for example.

    Clearly, there is a bright line between Mormonism and the Nicean creeds. We don’t teach that we are the only true church for nothing. It’s only natural that adherents of the criticized faiths would respond with their own exclusive claims.

    On the other hand, it is a little provincial to limit Christianity to the Niceans. Christ and the Apostles were not Niceans. Just as there are a lot of different ideas about Mormonism, one can be a Christian without being a Nicean.

  173. MikeInWeHo says:

    Well put, Hellmut. I agree with your last sentence completely.

    You’re over simplifying things when you say that “Christians in Sullivan’s sense recognize each other’s baptisms.” A Lutheran who becomes a Baptist would have to be baptized by immersion, as just one example. The Nicene creed is pretty much the bottom line though. Denominations which reject that creed are typically considered “non-Christian” by the vast majority of Christendom. That’s why the J.W.’s are similarly outcast.

    The question becomes: Who gets to decide who can properly be called a Christian ? Jesus Christ decides. However, since he’s not giving case-by-case feedback at the moment, it really should be up to the individual.

    This is where Sullivan becomes a hypocrite. As a gay man, many (most?) Christians reject him as a fellow-believer due to his lifestyle choice. Who is he to say Mormons aren’t Christian due to their creedal choice?

  174. I think Andrew Sullivan has been totally fair in his posts about the LDS Church, Mormonism and Romney. In fact, he later comments this week have been positive BECAUSE he recognizes that Mormons are DIFFERENT from Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians.

    And he has quoted emails from devout Mormons, as well as former Mormons. I was one of the Mormons he quoted on his blog. I DEFENDED LDS Mormons as being NON-racist.

  175. Correction: A Luthern beccoming a Baptist would not HAVE to be baptised by immersion. One could join a Baptist church without being baptized at all. (Practices vary from one baptist congregtaion to another; each in autonomous.) And all Baptists recognize immersion baptism by any other Christian denomination. With the exception of Catholics, all Christian denominations accept one another’s baptisms and ordinances. There is no concept of “one true church” (as in one true denomination) in Christianity; all denominations are part of the one universal church. With the exception of Catholics (and they are changing) Christians have no concept of Priesthood authority–that is, that God authorizes men in certain offices to perform ordinance, and that without that authority the ordinances are invalid. THAT is a unique LDS doctrine, and it is one of the major theological differences between LDS Mormonism and Christianity.

  176. Rob, BCC’s not your podium; your own site is. Your last comment is bizarre, even on its own terms:except for Catholics, Mormons are unique on baptism and priesthood authority and therefore not Christian? put the crack pipe down, now.

  177. Fact is, the vast majority of Americans will not vote for a Mormon president. I wouldn’t. Why not? Not bashing the Mormons, but the LDS religion is not orthodox. The Mormons state that only they have the true religion. This is bunk for one simple reason. I’m an orthodox Lutheran and we adhere to a doctrine known as Sola Scriptura — in effect, that only the Holy Bible is the innerent Word of God Himself. The Bible states plainly In Saint Matthew that the gates of hell will never prevail against the one true faith – Christianity. The Mormons dispute this in their pearl of great price in chapter one. Only the Bible is Word of God. The prophets were only unto Saint John, as God Himself stated. There is NO extra-Biblical revelation. None.

    The above reasons are why orthodox Christians will never vote for a man who adheres to a religion that blatently throws what God Himself said to the wind. The Mormon claim that “As man is now, God once was. As God is, man can become” is patently false. There is one God. Orthodox Christians have read Isaiah 43 and 44.

    Mormonism adds works to what Christ already did. John 19 states Christ, who IS God Himself, say “it is finished”. God already did what is required for us to achieve eternal life. Now, please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. Saint Jamed DID say faith without works is dead, but Saint James was speaking to people who were already Christians. In other words, we do things that are pleasing to God not to warrant merit, but to please God alone. Our works will not in any way influence God. Saint Paul so eloquently point this out when he stated that our righteousness before God is filthy rags and that no one should boast about his works before God. We get to Heaven through Christ Jesus alone. Jesus is God Himself. Rad John 14:6. We do works only to bear good fruit, to show we are Christians, not to earn merit with God.
    Mormons believe people can become gods. This is heresy. Mormons believe men are prophets in these days. The prophets were unto Saint John as God Himself has declared.
    Mormons are just not going to get the votes required to put someone in the big chair.

    Mormons reject the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by stating that they are three separate gods. There is but ONE triune God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Father was not created, but was, is, and forever shall be. The Son was not created, but was begotten from the Father. The Holy Spirit was not created, nor begotten, but proceeds from the Father and Son. They are three-in-one. The Godhead is what has always been taught — the One Triune God. Americans will not vote for someone who even remotely, possibly believes otherwise.
    In my opinion, and, yes, I risked getting flamed here, but — I believe in order to be elected to public office, one must be a believer – an orthodox believer. There is no room for anything less.
    Alot of what I have stated will no doubt be thrown out with a grain of salt, but a reading of the Holy Bible will put what I have said in the light of truth. And no, the KJV is not the only version worth believing. The New American Standard is internationally recognized as being the closest to the original Hebrew and Greek texts. No Bible is perfectly translated. They Bible is the perfect, innerant Word of God translated by sinful men. There are bound to be some mistakes, but what matters is the heart of men. God judges our hearts more than anything else.

  178. Don’t get your temple undergarments in a bunch.


  1. […] (Update 11/27/06 1:45 p.m.)  See Steve Evans’ take over at BCC (any available Danites should apply) […]

  2. […] Andrew Sullivan has responded to the criticisms about the “insensitivity” of his posting pictures of LDS garments on his blog, in addition to other topics he covered. I commented about this topic briefly on a recent BCC post here. […]

  3. […] On Mr. Sullivan’s blog, he references a comment I made on another blog about his program, but he didn’t get the link quite right. If you are interested, you can access it here. […]

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