How Sex, Politics, Money and Religion are Killing Planet Earth

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Demystifying Mysteries about Mitt and Mormons: Part I – The Mormon War on Women

For the first time in United States history, a practicing Mormon appears to have secured the nomination for President in a major political party. Mormons have always been politically active. Founder Joseph Smith ran as an independent candidate for President in 1844, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) readily overturned major doctrinal tenants on polygamy and a belief in white racial supremacy in the interest of political expediency.  

Until recently, Mormons were impeded from much political ascension due to a general public distrust of their largely secretive and apparently strange religious views. The difference now is that thanks to the Citizens United ruling, as Wisconsin’s recent recall re-election of Governor Scott Walker demonstrates, elections now go to the highest bidder. With Willard Mitt Romney as a Presidential candidate, and both Wall Street and the wealthiest religious institution in the United States to back him up, Mormonism may now realize Joseph Smith’s original Presidential ambition. Yet it would seem that some of Mormonism’s basic tenants are distinctly at odds with the basic values upon which the United States was founded, including but not limited to free thought, separation of church and state, respect for diversity of opinions, equality and transparency.


In an effort to shed a light on some of these conflicting values, this will be the first in a series of blog posts on the Mormon faith. I hope that Mormon readers will weigh in and correct or clarify any misrepresentations I might make. I am endeavoring to research the topic objectively, but efforts are somewhat stifled by the fact that the Mormon faith is shielded by a deliberate veil of mystery. Founder Joseph Smith was an active Freemason and modeled many aspects of his church on the secret rituals of that infamous sect. Temple admission is restricted exclusively to church members who have “recommend” status, a qualification that is awarded only to those who tithe at least 10% of their annual incomes and swear to absolute, unquestioning dedication to the church and its teachings.  Consequently, much of what transpires within the actual ritual of the church is unavailable to scrutiny.

Even with the restrictions on actual practices within temple walls, enough information is available to raise some serious eyebrows. Of particular concern is the Mormon faith’s blatant discrimination against women. Like the Biblical polygamists who preceded him, founding father Joseph Smith subscribed to the self-aggrandizing notion that polygamy exalted a man’s position in heaven.  The number of wives a man secured, he reasoned, reflected his favor with God. In reality, Smith acquired many of his wives through sadistic manipulation, telling vulnerable women as young as 12 that their eternal salvation was entirely dependent upon their coupling with him. Like David Koresh, Jim Jones and other self-proclaimed prophets throughout history, Smith used his position of power to gain sexual access to every woman he desired and then mutated his doctrine to justify his own perversions.

The tainted history of polygamy in the church is only the tip of the sexist Mormon iceberg. While the contemporary LDS church would like to gloss over this unsavory founding principle, the residues of polygamy’s anti-female values continue to permeate the church and its teachings.

In the Mormon faith, men alone are indoctrinated into a “priesthood” that involves stages of hierarchical advancement, achieved through a combination of commitment to the church and secret ritual. Ascension through the levels of priesthood on earth is for Mormons the ticket to admittance into a similar hierarchy in heaven. Men realize their heavenly reward via success in the priesthood. Women, on the other hand, are only granted admittance through the pearly gates as accessories to their husband’s achievement. In other words, if a woman isn’t married to a man, she has no means to access the heavenly afterlife.

When a young person reaches adulthood, they are given a secret name (a practice also observed in Freemasonry) that grants access to heaven. Women must share their secret name with their husbands, who alone hold the key to their salvation. Men, of course, are under no such obligation, since they are worthy of entering the celestial kingdom based exclusively on their own merits.
The second-class status of women in the LDS church permeates all levels of infrastructure. Ruling positions in the church, including in descending order the President (believed to be the living prophet and God’s representative on earth), the First Presidency (a three-member council including the President), the Twelve Apostles and the “Seventies,” are all held by men. These authorities are further only answerable to themselves and administer global church affairs from centralized authority in Salt Lake City.

The ultimate Mormon disdain for women is reflected in the fact that LDS doctrine teaches that God, who was supposedly once a human, also has a wife, and with her procreated the world. Yet She, the co-creator of the world, is not an object of worship. Feminist Mormons, who have suggested that both heavenly parents should be accorded reverence, have been excommunicated, and the sticky subject finally resulted in a public statement by LDS President Gordon Hinckley, stating unequivocally that he considers “it inappropriate for anyone in church to pray to our Mother in heaven.”

The day-to-day lives of female Mormons reflect the symbolic role of their Mother. Women are incubators of children and companions for men. They are expected to subordinate their own ambitions in the interests of their husband’s and be content to ride submissively and unrecognized on his coattails all the way through this life and into eternity.

36 comments:

  1. I also would be interested to see what Mormons reply. I once emailed a progressive Mormon blogger about the LDS attitude toward blatant lying in light of Romney's numerous "misstatements of fact" that he has uttered and which he keeps repeating despite having been corrected frequently. She replied by sending me to another blogger whose response was more along the line that Romney is acting politically, but both did respond and neither of them tried to defend his actions. And neither thought that Romney should be president.

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    1. I doubt I will get any comments from Mormons Aggie. The more I read about them, the more I realized how tightly controlled they are as a group. Commenting on a liberal blog would probably not be allowed. We shall see. I am trying to pull together the next post on the concept of "truth" in Mormon and other cultures. Clearly it is a concept that is in the eye of the beholder.

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  2. As you wrote,will the money win out in the election? Most people don't care about faith, its all about money.

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    1. Doing It. I fear you may be correct. The zombie voter in America seems incapable of thought that is independent of media influence. Therefore, advertising$ are directly proportional to a candidate's chances of winning. Sad.

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  3. killing mother-

    "Mormons were impeded from much political ascension due to a general public distrust of their largely secretive and apparently strange religious views".

    I lived in Utah in the mid 70's and had my first exposure to Mormonism. Prior to my retirement in 2004 I had a Mormon on my board of directors as my company was based in Utah due to their lax regulatory laws regarding the financial industry. My board members wife, a so-called 'jack mormon', got fairly close with my wife and they discussed the 'secretive and apparently strange religious views' at length.

    Like all religions, Mormonism is a cult, not as large as Islam or Christianity but with many of the same bizarre stories and some others unique to themselves. Magic underwear, levels, or a hierarchy, in heaven and several others.

    I guess it probably bothers me more that Christian faith has become a prerequisite for higher office in this country than the fact that we may elect someone with even stranger beliefs than your typical evangelical Christian. With the evangelical's strangle hold on the republican party and the dumbing down of the electorate with the able assistance of Fox News and talk radio, we are close to becoming a fascist theocracy, except, thanks to 'Citizens United', the corporations are controlling the government instead of vice versa. As Sinclair Lewis once said, 'When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a bible.'

    Anyway, thanks for posting on this issue. As John Locke put so eloquently, "It is one thing to show a man that he is in error, and another to put him in possession of the truth."

    I'm sure you've seen 'Religulous' by Bill Mahre, but if not you should. A great book in helping to understand both the conservative and religious mind set is "The Republican Brain" by Chris Mooney.

    I look forward to your next post.

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    1. Jim, Thank you for your insight as well as your book and film recommendations. I have seen "Religulous" - a great and inspired film as you note, and "The Republican Brain" has been on my reading list for a long time. I am hoping to get around to it soon.

      Your experiences in Utah probably make you much more aware of the Mormon cult than most other people. As you note, it really isn't any different than any of the other strange religious beliefs embraced as mainstream and even "essential" for holding public office. The fascinating thing about Mormonism is its contemporary creation, which makes it much more historically accessible to scrutiny than the ancient Judeo-Christianities. I find the subject fascinating. The religion is evolving and developing in real time, thus providing a unique case study for how religions work their way into mass consciousness.

      My research is unearthing some amazing details that confirm your above premise. All religions are cults. The older ones simply have the cache of time, which is presented as (non-sequitur) "proof" of their respectability.

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  4. It's funny, you could have replaced Catholicism with your explanation of Mormonism's male hierarchy up until a few years (decades?) ago when they too became a "kinder and gentler" religion to appease their constituents. My guess is that as Mormonism gains in popular awareness, the same may occur. Either way, as long as the tax-free income (oh...right...tithing) keeps rolling in (and no doubt it will now! Oh, Mitt, you man you), they'll modify their structure as needed. Religion relies on concentrated power and benevolent (not always!) but strict influence of the "flock" (read: sheep). No doubt there is much political rhetoric occurring in the many LDS wards that never will be shown to the light of day. Tax 'em all until the last profitable breath is squeezed from their illicit and immoral corporeal bodies.

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    1. I totally agree on your tax proposition. Catholicism was once the biggest racket going. Now we have mega churches and multi-millionaire preachers like Pat Robertson laughing all the way to the bank. Now that the churches make no bones about sticking their noses into politics, they should definitely be taxed as the for-profit entities that they really are.

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  5. I know this is completely unrelated to your post, and I'm sorry about that. I was just wondering if I could ask you some questions about environmental science since I'm majoring in it and whether or not it would be better to ask these questions through e-mail?

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. Not qualified to comment on Mormons as my only knowledge comes from the few I have known. All seemed to be first-rate, quality citizens. But that is anecdotal.

    So far as money and advertising dollars winning elections, not so fast. Ask Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina. Most people vote a combination of their own pocketbook. A problem for Obama. And how they identify with a candidate...is he like me? A problem for Romney.

    To be sure, money does influence and needs to removed from politics as much as possible. However, the most money does not insure victory.

    Have missed your posts as they often enlighten. Welcome back.

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    1. Concernicus, Always good to hear from you. Wouldn't it be nice if every candidate could be judged based on his platform rather than his personality, pocketbook or religious affiliation? Oh well, we can but dream.

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  7. I just found this article via your good articles regarding Lennox.... I would suggest you stick to dog issues. You have an apparent bias agaisnt Mormons... Probably being a life long democrat. I would take this link off of any you have for Lennox.

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    1. Anonymous, Your comment is cryptic. I am intrigued. Can you please clarify your reference to Lennox? Dogs? And what does being a Democrat (Which btw I am not) have to do with a historical analysis of the LDS church?

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  8. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joan-k-smith/an-outrage-in-belfast-the_b_1504739.html
    ????>

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    1. This is the first time I have heard about the plight of poor Lennox. I think we can both agree the tragedy of Lennox is a miscarriage of justice. If links to this blog appear in association with Lennox, somebody else posted them. I am not associated with that cause. If you are a member of the LDS church, I would welcome any critique you can offer of this post. Please feel free to correct any misrepresentations you think I may have offered.

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  9. I tried sending you an e-mail, but it said an error has occurred and that it didn't send.

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  10. I wonder if the play, The Book of Mormon will help or hurt Romney's cause. As they say in book publishing, bad reviews still get the word out. So it might help him more than hurt him.

    I live in Mormon country, but will be attending the PNWA conference this year. See you there maybe?

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    1. englishemporium, Great Blog! Alas, I think your prediction will be correct about increased publicity, even if negative, helping rather than hurting Romney's cause. An interesting piece of information is that when the media started reporting on the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, more people started believing in them. Sigh. I won't be at PNWA this year. I will be starting a major project before the end of the summer probably, and it will be consuming all of my time. Maybe next year:)

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  11. I just randomly ran into this blog post through Google, and since I have a little bit of time on my hands, and there have been some comments or requests for a response from a Mormon on this post, I don’t mind responding. Just a little background info—I am a young entrepreneur, my wife is a student finishing up her master’s degree, and we have a little baby girl almost 8 months old. I love composing music, studying science, and playing most sports—but especially soccer. I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at a young age and have been a member for close to 20 years. I did serve a full time mission for the church a while back at 19-21 years old, but currently do not hold any special or authoritative position in the church in which I could speak officially for the church. For the most part, I’m just a normal guy and I’ll do my best to “weigh in and correct or clarify any misrepresentations [the author might have made]” from just my own personal standpoint as a Mormon. Quickly going through, here are some of the things the stick out to me as misrepresented or wrong:

    “readily overturned major doctrinal tenants on polygamy and a belief in white racial supremacy in the interest of political expediency.” There are a few loaded issues with this statement. The doctrines or policies I believe you were referencing were not overturned readily, and from a Mormon perspective definitely not out of political expediency. And there was definitely never an accepted belief in white racial supremacy. Mormons believe in continuing revelation through our leaders who we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators. If you are familiar with any revelation found in the LDS cannon, including the Bible, it is more often than not given in a response to a particular question weighing on the mind of God’s people. God cannot answer a question if it is not asked. It should not be surprising then that in the late 1800’s when Mormon’s were being heavily persecuted over polygamy that the Prophet leading the church would inquire concerning its future, or that during the civil rights movement the Prophet would inquire about the policy of the priesthood for those of African descent. The latter issue arose from a common early American belief that African’s are the descendents of Ham, who Noah cursed as to the Priesthood. While for a time generally accepted, it was never accepted as official LDS doctrine. In time God revealed that in fact, all worthy males could be ordained to the Priesthood, and the policy was overturned. That there were probably members who held incorrect and ignorant views on race is more than likely, but this of course is hardly unique to Mormons in American history. I am personally grateful that God has given us prophets who help us as a people and a church to course correct and leave behind former ignorance.

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  12. “Yet it would seem that some of Mormonism’s basic tenants are distinctly at odds with the basic values upon which the United States was founded, including but not limited to free thought, separation of church and state, respect for diversity of opinions, equality and transparency.” Not sure where these ideas are coming from, but in my relatively long experience in the church I would say quite the opposite, that these are in fact all basic values that we share with the founding of the United States. As just a partial example, Joseph Smith in our early church history, in an effort to explain our basic tenants wrote 13 articles of faith (see https://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/a-of-f/1?lang=eng). Particularly relevant to the above assertions are articles 11-13:
    “ 11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
    12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
    13 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

    “the fact that the Mormon faith is shielded by a deliberate veil of mystery” Mormon.org is especially designed to help those who are trying to learn more about our faith. We have one of the most active proselytizing efforts in the world, and more than 50,000 missionaries all over the world who would be happy to sit down with you and go over any questions or concerns that you might ever have. I would say that we are trying to dispel any myths or mysteries about our faith and to be as transparent as possible. If you for some reason would be uncomfortable sitting down with a Mormon missionary, chats are available online at Mormon.org where you can feel free to ask questions. There are so many thousands of resources provided—books, articles, magazines, websites, blogs, missionaries, members, etc.--that there should be no need to feel like there is some sort of shield/barrier.

    “Temple admission is restricted exclusively to church members who have “recommend” status, a qualification that is awarded only to those who tithe at least 10% of their annual incomes and swear to absolute, unquestioning dedication to the church and its teachings. Consequently, much of what transpires within the actual ritual of the church is unavailable to scrutiny.” I’ve never been suggested to me to have unquestioning dedication, much less as a requirement to obtain a temple recommend. (Questions include whether you are honest with other people, live a chaste life, refrain from smoking and alcohol, pay tithing, and whether you believe in Christ.) On the contrary, we are told to pray and have any truth taught in the church confirmed for ourselves, to gain a personal knowledge of truth and form our own opinions.

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  13. The next sections in this post are so full of slander and straight up lies that it really is going to take far too long to go through this sentence by sentence. For example, “The number of wives a man secured, he reasoned, reflected his favor with God” is a complete lie. “Smith used his position of power to gain sexual access to every woman he desired” is an ignorant and slanderous explanation for polygamy—most scholars agree that the large majority of his “marriages” or sealings did not involve sexual relations at all. And then later, your assertion that somehow men get into heaven on their own merits and women rely on their husbands is also a straight up lie and misrepresentation of Mormon belief. Mormons believe in several degrees of heaven, but in order to obtain the highest a man and woman must be married and have their marriage sealed for eternity by one in authority and love and respect each other and grow as one in that marriage. In this way both men and women are co-dependent on one another to achieve the highest degree of happiness (or heaven) in the next life. Each of your other accusations of being sexist are just as unfounded.

    It is obvious at this point to someone with a solid understanding of Mormonism that either you have a complete bias or hate against Mormons, or that your sources come from enemies of the church who have spent decades scouring through our materials and historical records to nit-pick half-truths, mostly out of context, to paint some sort of dark and sinister story line about Mormon doctrine and history. I am inclined to believe the latter, and that your article was unintentionally ignorant and biased, since you have admitted your lack of experience with Mormons and several of your statements (e.g “The more I read about them, the more I realized how tightly controlled they are as a group. Commenting on a liberal blog would probably not be allowed”) show that you really don’t know much about Mormons in general – definitely not enough for you to create such a nit-picked deceptive article all on your own. (By the way, there is no restriction to my knowledge on commenting on blogs, and furthermore there are a good chunk of Mormons who would consider themselves to be politically liberal).

    There is a complete lack of unbiased research here, and I’m not trying to be rude at all, but just to point out how it looks to someone familiar with the subject – I would consider the lack of intellectual integrity on the subject to be on par or greater than someone who tries to explain evolution only through resources found on young earth creationist websites or opinions – which I know is saying a lot. The picture of a dark sinister mysterious group is so far from the truth it would almost be laughable, except for the fact that some people who continue to ignorantly buy into such things – maybe stemming from the often innate fear of “otherness” that has caused other forms of bigotry and fear-mongering in the past, like racism. Yet, anybody can search for a local meetinghouse closest to your area on mormon.org and attend even once to quickly dispel such a picture. I would even encourage that you do attend a meeting or two, just for learning sake, as visitors are always welcome. If this is part of some multi-series of posts on Mormonism, I would suggest using more legitimate resources starting with mormon.org and/or lds.org, and would even suggest meeting with a missionary in your area. I’ve already invested so much writing this (much longer than I originally intended) that I would be happy to take any questions as well. If you or anyone else wishes, feel free to email me at sfellows9@gmail.com. Hope this helps!

    Your friend,
    Steve

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    1. Steve,
      I sincerely appreciate the great lengths you have gone to to clarify what you believe to be misrepresentations in my post. Thank you also for your offer to clarify any further questions. It might take me a few days to digest all of your material, but I am sure I will want to ask some questions. Thank you for your openness and willingness to communicate.

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    2. Steve, Please see my response (part I). I will look forward to a continuing discussion.

      http://killingmother.blogspot.com/2012/07/mitt-and-mormons-part-iv-clarifying.html

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  15. I am exmormon. I saw a couple errors: the secret name is not give to every adult Mormon. It is given when you go through the temple for the first time. When I was LDS (the proper term), I believed it was your true name. Was very disappointed to learn that everyone going through the temple on the same day gets the same name.
    Also, IIRC, the youngest of Joseph Smith's wives was 14-not 12. Todd Compton has a book on the wives of JS where this can be checked.
    On the idea of white racial supremacy as a belief: do you believe this was the case because Africans could not hold the priesthood until 1978? If so, you are wrong-notice I said Africans-not blacks. Some people with black skin (Hawaiian Island natives, Samoans, and probably some others) could hold the priesthood prior to 1978. Also in the early days of the LDS church there was some Africans who held the priesthood. IIRC, one reason the priesthood was later withdrawn from Africans was political-the Mormons were driven out of areas because they were an unified voting block and were anti-slavery.
    I was at BYU 1975-78. An African-American was elected vice president of the student body back before they had the priesthood.

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    1. Unknown, Thank you very much for your input. I appreciate the inside scoop and corrections. I base the white racial supremacy as a belief on the actual wording in Mormon scriptures. Smith in a number of passages describes people of dark skin as unfavored by God, while white is clearly the desired color. Please see the other posts for clarification.

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  16. I don't know why this lists me as unknown when I had to sign in with Google to post. My name is Lindalee Stahlman Volmert. I saw a link to your blog on a FB friends page.

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    1. No problem. I appreciate your comments and insight.

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