Theft at Church

I stole today…during church…in the church building…in front of the young men I was about to teach a lesson to.

Our stake is collecting donations for a rummage sale/street fair that we do every year, and the donated stuff is sitting in the room where the young men meet for priesthood meeting.

Sitting right on top of the pile this morning was D. Michael Quinn’s Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. I figured it was an odd choice for a donation, and an even odder thing for our stake to sell for 50 cents to some guy munching on a funnel cake.

So I swiped it, right there during our quorum meeting.

Was I wrong to do so? And is the act more or less wrong if I read the “hot” book? You decide!


  1. Good move. I absolve you.

    Nobody would fault you for swiping pr0n from the donation box. This is no different.

  2. It depends. Is it a first edition? If so, my husband says it’s worth about $150.00.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    I would make a donation to the rummage sale to cover the “theft.” (This seems to me just like those who have early access to DI donations and can buy them before they’re put on the shelves.)

    And yes, definitely read the book.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh, wow. My copy is a first edition, but I had no idea it was worth so much on the Mormon secondary book market. In that case, I want to change my answer. You were definitely right to swipe it; it’s totally inappropriate to sell a book like that for 50 cents at a rummage sale. But now you need to sell it through a Mormon book reseller, like Benchmark, and then donate the profit. You can take a slice off the top to buy yourself the paperback second edition if you like.

  5. You should have bought a funnal cake_ and then the book.
    Yes, it’s theft___no, the book is not prOn.

  6. It’s silly to pay $150 for a 1st edition MWV when only in the 2nd edition can you read the spicy footnotes containing Quinn’s broadsides at FARMS, which are more enjoyable than the text itself.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Aaron B speaks the truth. I couldn’t justify actually buying a second edition when I still have the first on my shelf, but the second is the juicier product.

  8. Yes, it was theft; yes, it was wrong; repent and donate a few dollars to more than cover what the book would have brought at the sale.

    Make it full repentance by telling the young men it was wrong of you do take it without making a donation when you took it.

    Would I have grabbed it before the sale? I think so. I just hope I would have given the people organizing the sale the few dollars I would have paid gladly for it at the sale.

  9. and what Aaron said

  10. I don’t know the book. It sounds like you took it because you wanted it (not because it was inappropriate for the rummage sale to sell it, or to have it sitting on the table at church).
    This is theft. Stealing. Wrong. Plus it has the added bonus of giving such a horrible example to the young men if they see something donating that they really want it is ok to just take it, even if it belongs to someone or an organization or charity. As a parent of four children I cringe thinking that the youth leaders give these kinds of examples.
    You have no way of knowing what it might get at the sale. Either return it or work out a deal with someone responsible for the rummage sale. If they take responsibility to sell it to you for a certain amount, then you can buy it rather than stealing it.

  11. jks, you couldn’t read all the way to the fourth sentence of the OP?

  12. I have a copy of the Book of Mormon in the Deseret alphabet (the short version) under suspiciously similar circumstances. If I ever sell it, I’ll be donating the proceeds to the DI.

  13. Kyle M.
    Your sentence #4 says: “I figured it was an odd choice for a donation, and an even odder thing for our stake to sell for 50 cents to some guy munching on a funnel cake.”
    Yes, I read this sentence. You found it odd. I don’t know why it is odd. I don’t know the book, like I said. I don’t think you stole it because it was too odd or in some way wrong to have it on the table in the church. So I am unsure why you asked if I read the sentence.

  14. Gotcha jks, sorry so snarky. I didn’t think it was appropriate for the type of event we’re putting on, and figured the title alone was enough to make that clear.

    Anyway, it is a first edition, and there’s a name written on the inside cover. Trying to get in touch now; hopefully she’ll still let me sell it on behalf of the scout camp fund. Just not at the rummage sale…

  15. Ah, I get it. I think if as a youth leader you thought it was iffy to have it lying around or as part of the sale, it sounds like you are finding a good way to handle it. I can think of a few things I would “steal” and throw away if I saw them, and I can think of a few things that might be better not sold in a family setting so I think it is appropriate to look for individual solutions. Good luck!

  16. BWJohnson says:

    Bad news if you bought it as a book collector – if it’s signed on the inside cover, its worth drops considerably. Yes, you stole it. Yes, you need to acknowledge that you did rather than rationalize. Yes, you need to contact the Rummage Sale folks and pay a fair price for it. Yes, I probably would have done the same thing – and repented. And done what I just recommended that you do. I have read D. Michael Quinn’s books. I donated my copies long ago.

  17. However, if he is part of the organizers (the stuff is being collected in the YM’s room… it because they are part of the organizers?) he has the duty to consider whether it would be beneficial to sell a specialized item like the book to interested parties who would pay more for it, rather than sell it for almost nothing. Or if it is something valuable or special that only he knows about, make sure the information is given to potential buyers during the rummage sale.
    If he felt something was inappropriate, then as a YM’s leader he should take it and then let the organizers know.

  18. shame on you. not worth sending it to the hogs, but worth enough for some type of easy recompense, I’d say.

  19. Just saying, I don’t think the first edition has been worth that much since the early to mid 90s. You can get it now for well under $50. Sorry. And, that’s one I’ve never owned because for a lot less you can get a decidedly better book in the second edition.

  20. Bro. Jones says:

    Pfftt. It’s not stealing, just an advance sale. Drop a couple bucks at the rummage sale and call ut a day.

  21. Oh, that last was to Em Jen…incidentally, I think I might know who you’re husband is… :)

    BWJohnson, it’s true that writing in a book can decrease its collectible value and appeal, but it depends on a lot of factors. In this case, I really doubt that the value of this particular book would be seriously affected (much less “considerably”) by a simple former owner’s name on the inside cover.

    Sorry for the threadjack. Yeah, wrong to have done as it was donated for a purpose. But easily mended, I think.

  22. Turn yourself in. Plead for leniency.

  23. Not long ago I was perusing the shelves of the afterschool program of a church where I was playing the organ and was a little horrified to find a copy of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. I felt justified removing the reprint of that notorious forgery from circulation.

  24. I am currently reading the book. I agree, not the best book for a youth rummage sale. I am enjoying the ideas in the book, but haven’t been impressed with the writing. I don’t have a problem with any of the ideas, but the arguments are so circumstantial. I could never use such an approach in a journal in my field (not history); they would think it was a joke. Any history PhDs out there that have seen this type of methodological approach before and care to comment?

  25. I noticed a Oliver train (of Sodor fame) in the lost & found at the stake center a few Sundays after we moved into our current ward. I kept my eye on it for about 2 years, checking in to see if anyone ever picked it up every few months. Finally, I asked all of my cobloggers at BCC if the statute of limitations on claims for lost & found items was expired, and they all mocked me roundly for waiting as long as I did.

    It’s been almost 2 years since my crime, and I haven’t slept easily since I stole that train for my little boy.

  26. I was surprised to find a copy of “The New Mormon Challenge” in a box in the church library. I didn’t take it out of the library, but I did read the conclusion and thought it was pretty weak. I just wonder how or why the book got there.

  27. Mormon Enigma is missing from a ward library on the East Coast.

  28. Thomas Parkin says:

    Is this your worst sin? If yes, I’ve got a few I’d like to lend you: armed robbery, genocide, reading my kids’ diaries. Sure glad Jesus died for me.

    What is more frightening. to a generalized you, really: wickedness, or the reputation of wickedness? I ask because I find that I’m not so concerned that I may yet contain a germ of wickedness, than that some little thing I’ve done might get out and they be talking about my wickedness in R.S. Or, more like, after R.S. on the wireless. I find that I have to commit to truthfulness again and again and again. A do like a gut check: truthfulness, yes; truthiness, leave it at the chapel door.

    Just riffing.

  29. I see many of you (far from all), are comfortable with stealing. But also the censorship of books to the point of removing them from public places.Not a good sign.

  30. Not to mention books with hard-hitting truths and meticulously researched facts like Quinn’s, Bob. Despite being an award-winning researcher, he was excommunicated for revealing a not-so “faith promoting” side to church history.

  31. If you are playing/performing music for the event, then I think you could justify this as a musician’s tax. Or you could drop two quarters into the register, munch some funnel cake, read the book and then forget about it.

    I’d pay two bucks for it as I’m slightly curious about it myself. I’ve picked up a Michael Quinn book in the past but I have always ended up putting it back down.

  32. i dont get it – did you steal the book because you wanted it? or because you don’t like its content?

  33. I don’t have a problem with the author or the book, just don’t think it’s appropriate for this particular (missionary-centric) event. So I stole it, censored it, whatever.

    Bob, ward libraries aren’t public places.

  34. Well played, Kyle.

  35. Swisster says:

    The Red Carpet and The Naked Communist are missing from a ward library in the American Midwest.

  36. Wait a minute. What’s your stake doing holding a rummage sale? I thought fund-raising was out.

    And #25: your PFR should be unloading those lost and found items periodically (more frequently than every two years), so go to sleep.

  37. Researcher says:

    I noticed a while back that our ward library had an early edition of Mormon Doctrine and mentioned it to another sister in the ward who was also in the library at the time (an English professor, to be exact). She picked it up and went right over to the bishop’s office and told him that it was being removed from the library and why. He had no problem with that. There are still two more recent editions of that book in the library as well as various other dubious selections.

  38. Oh, but I do agree with JKS — what youth leaders do in front of youth is really important. Some follow-up teaching might be in order. (I know if a certain son of mine had been in your group of youth, he — who is exceptionally rule-bound for a number of complicated reasons — would have worried about what you did for a week.)

  39. #37: Interesting how things change: “Mormon Doctrine” removed from your ward library because of concerns about doctrinal errancy. I swear that about 1/4 of all the sacrament meeting talks I hear still quote from this book as the speaker tries to define a gospel principle. Makes me wonder what currently popular LDS works will be eschewed generations from now. I can only hope that the number of times that Stephen E. Robinson’s “bicycle parable” from “Believing in Christ” will not be quoted in sacrament meeting 10 times per year in the future…that’s been going on a long time. It’s actually a pretty good story, but I’ve heard it quoted over the past 15 years or so probably more than any of the words of Christ from the scriptures.

  40. I agree with others that it was theft. But I don’t think this kind of theft is as reprehensible as the censorship you are talking about. Shame on Mormons who try to take away others’ opportunities of being exposed to scholarly work that some (ignorant) Mormons disagree with.

    The book is really good, and if anything, I think it is quite absolving of some early folk practices in the Church, since it presents the cultural context that give a much more comprehensive backdrop for how the early saints viewed their world and tried to live their religion.

    Once again, ignorance and narrow-mindedness knows no limits.

  41. “I think it is quite absolving of some early folk practices in the Church”

    Oh good…perfect missionary literature then!

    Context is key, as you yourself point out.

  42. That’s your excuse? “missionary literature”

    That’s pretty lame. Have you even bothered to read the book? I don’t think it is “perfect” missionary literature, neither are other pieces you may consider “more appropriate.” Nevertheless, I do think it is a good and reasonable scholarly work, and perfectly safe for anyone. This isn’t “anti-Mormon” literature, as you seem to be making it sound.

    All I have to say to say about your censorship attitude is: grow up.

  43. I own and have read all of Quinn’s books. “Magic World View” is interesting and certainly not dangerous as some seem to think, although it is densely written and not as approachable as some of his writing. But in my view, although it’s a solid scholarly work, some of the leaps from point A to point B are a bit of a stretch. I think his Magnum Opus is his two volume “Mormon Hierarchy” series, which I have studied and read cover to cover several times. Although this work has been villified also, I think it is superb scholarship and it’s hard to put down once you start digging.

  44. Yeah, I agree. Although I also think “leaps from point A to point B” that are “a bit of a stretch,” can be found even in such “missionary literature” such as “A Marvelous Work and Wonder” and “Jesus the Christ.” To name two very familiar and beloved books among LDS.

  45. I’ve heard good things about the book, but the title links “early mormonism” and “magic world view.” Why would I want to encourage that association among non-mormons casually browsing at a stake event?

    Also, calm down Manuel. We’re talking about “whitewashing” the rummage sale pile. This isn’t the latest front in a decades-old battle against intellectualism and scholarship. It’s the rummage sale.

  46. Oh, believe me I am calm.

    OK, so by your answer I deduct no, you have not read the book. You have made an assessment of the book by its title, and have decided it is not appropriate for anyone there to have. Wow. I rest my case.

    But to answer your first question, yes, you were wrong to do so. You were wrong to do so in front of a youth. You were wrong to do so out of a misinformed self-rightous act. You are officially a thief. Repent already. ;)

  47. @ Kyle:
    #33: Bob, ward libraries aren’t public places.
    #45:….non-mormons casually browsing at a stake event? Sounds like you took the book from a public place to me(?)

  48. Speaking of collectible books, did I mention I color the hell out of all the books I read? (Except for a precious few volumes, that is.)

  49. #48: Do you mean like Porky Pig or Donald Duck? (grin)

  50. yes

  51. What honest tithing paying member of the church hasn’t helped themselves to something just laying around a church building? Find the supply closets that aren’t locked and enjoy five year old laffy taffys meant for the primary. No big deal.

  52. I don’t understand the fuss. It’s not as though you stole “Same-Sex Dynamics among 19th-Century Mormons”. Now that would have been a theft worth blogging about!

  53. Brent wins

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