Category Archives: Media

In case anyone mentions “the Book of Mormon” and “Smithsonian” in the same breath…

…please sent them over to this post at Keepapitchinin by Ardis “Ace” Parshall, Mormon Detective:

News of the impending publication reached Salt Lake City early in November, 1936. Alarmed, Heber J. Grant “immediately sent [Kelly] a cablegram” – not a slow-boat letter, but a lightning-fast cablegram! – “not to print that letter as we have reason to believe that statements made therein are not authentic.”

“We hope that the cablegram arrived in time to prevent your publishing the article,” President Grant wrote in a follow-up letter.

At last! One wise head, at least, was not mesmerized by the sensation. “We have reason to believe that statements made therein are not authentic.” (You think?) I do not find an article after a cursory search of Der Stern, but without a more careful search I cannot yet be certain whether the cablegram arrived in time.

This particular chain was not the story’s sole transmission route, of course. When each link in this chain proved so willing – eager, even – to share the story, there can be no doubt that each person in the chain shared the story with multiple others, not just those traced here. Some of those others must have shared it with still more contacts, who shares it with yet more … The fabulous rumor escaped into the wild, where it has spread like a malignant virus from missionary to missionary, seminary teacher to seminary teacher, one credulous soul to another, discovered anew by each generation, to the embarrassment of the Church and the annoyance of the Smithsonian Institution.

This is not true! Do not teach it!

Go read the whole thing.  And remember: it is not true that the Smithsonian Institution ever used the Book of Mormon for archaeological purposes. Don’t teach it.  ..bruce w..

Shades of Zarahemla

Over the past several years, I have been struck by something each time I read King Benjamin’s speech in Mosiah 2-6 to the combined Mulekites[1] and Nephites. Benjamin begins his speech with a long list of negatives, that is, things that he has not done during his reign as king. These include (Mosiah 2:10-16):

  • causing the people to fear him
  • presenting himself as “more than a mortal man”
  • seeking gold, silver, or “any manner of riches” from the people
  • confining them in dungeons
  • allowing them to make slaves of one another
  • allowing them to murder, plunder, steal, and commit adultery
  • levying taxes upon them
  • boasting of his own accomplishments
  • accusing the people of their own alleged failings.

Let’s look at the context of these comments. Benjamin’s father, Mosiah1, led the Nephites who would follow him out of the land of Nephi and ultimately into the land of Zarahemla, which was already occupied by the Mulekites and ruled over by a man named Zarahemla. There were only about half as many Nephites as there were Mulekites, and the two groups did not share a common language, yet Mosiah1 was made ruler over the combined people, and we hear no more about Zarahemla (though one of his descendants, Ammon, leads the group that goes to the land of Lehi-Nephi to see what happened to Zeniff’s party).

I have come to wonder if Benjamin, in preparing to extend his family’s dynasty by proclaiming his son Mosiah2 as the third successive Nephite king over the combined factions (in which the Nephites were still a minority), was drawing a contrast between how he (and presumably his father) had ruled vs. how the Mulekite kings (or, at least, Zarahemla) had ruled. After all, if neither Benjamin nor Mosiah1 had done any of these things — the rule of these two kings covering a period of what appears to be at least a few decades — why would Benjamin have felt compelled to start off his address with these reminders? So I think that Benjamin was reminding the combined people, and the Mulekites in particular, how much better things were under the Nephite kings than their previous ruler(s).

One could reasonably argue that Benjamin was instead drawing a contrast between himself and whomever was ruling over the Nephites in the land of (Lehi-)Nephi up until the time when Mosiah1 led a faction of the Nephites away from there over to Zarahemla, and that could well be true. But that comparison would have no real meaning for the Mulekites, who made up roughly 2/3rds of the population, while the Nephite portion of the population were all individuals (or descendants thereof) who had chosen to follow Mosiah1 away from those rulers.

Instead, I believe that the contrast — if that was in fact what Benjamin was doing — was with the prior Mulekite regime. In other words, I think the list above was a not-so-subtle reminder from Benjamin of how things had been for the Mulekites prior to Mosiah1‘s arrival and how they might be again if Mosiah2‘s coronation is not accepted.

If this does reflect how things were under Mulekite rule, it helps explain why the Mulekites, or a sufficiently large segment thereof, were willing to have Mosiah1 — accompanied by a smaller group of foreign people speaking a foreign tongue and practicing a foreign religion — show up and rule over them, without any apparent military conquest.

It also explains, or at least provides context for, the subsequent problems and wars over the next 160 years. Most of those problems/wars are caused by “Nephite dissenters” (many of whom I suspect are Mulekites) who work and fight constantly to (re)establish an authoritarian and self-indulgent kingship, in contrast to the Christ-like reign of the Mosiah1 lineage, followed by the reign of the judges. In other words, Benjamin may well have been warning the people, Mulekites and Nephites combined, against the temptation of such a regime. And it will be his successor, Mosiah2, who will abolish the Nephite kingship entirely, in part I believe in reaction to Alma and Limhi leading their respective groups into Zarahemla and telling the tale of King Noah — but likely also due to the “king men” faction present in the Mulekite/Nephite population.

[1] The term “Mulekites,” of course, never appears in the Book of Mormon text itself, but it is useful shorthand for “the people living in Zarahemla (and relevant outlying regions) at the time Mosiah and his Nephite followers happened upon them .”

Mormons, Vietnam, Romney and the Draft, revisited

Five years ago, the Boston Globe ran an article suggesting collusion between the LDS Church and the US Selective Services regarding deferments for missionaries in general, and Mitt Romney in particular. The simple truth was, yes, young men could get a ministerial deferment (one of many different deferments available) for the duration of their mission, but the deferment vanished as soon as the mission ended — and the mission was fixed in duration. I should know: my own draft number was 4, and the only reason I didn’t end up enlisting in the US Navy was that the draft was suspended before I returned home from my mission.

More significant, though, is that during an era in which anti-war protests were common on many college campuses, they were almost non-existent at Brigham Young University. What’s more, BYU had large, active Army and Air Force ROTC programs all through the war, even though many other colleges and universities were criticizing, curtailing, or even shutting down their own ROTC programs.

Well, the issue has come up again, triggered in part by Ann Romney’s appearance on The View, where Whoopi Goldberg inexplicably thought that Mormons weren’t allowed to fight. (Seriously? Did someone feed her this question, or did she come up with it on her own?) But that brought up the fact that Mitt Romney didn’t serve in the military and has resurrected the same themes of collusion and draft dodging. I made the statement in my post five years ago that Latter-day Saints if anything were probably over-represented in the US military during the Vietnam War; now I have evidence of that.

Let’s look at the figures. During the period of the Vietnam War — say, 1965-1974 — the total US population was around 200 million. During that same period of time, LDS Church membership grew from roughly 2.4 million to 3.4 million. That membership is men, women, and children of all ages, both inside and outside of the United States. I have not yet been able to find the actual United States LDS membership for that period, but I will assume that it was on the order of 75% of the total LDS membership, or about 2 to 2.5 million — just a bit over 1% of the US population.

Furthermore, probably only about 50% (if that much) of that membership within the United States represented actively practicing and attending members. So the ratio of active LDS members living in the US to the US population at large during that period was probably on the order of 0.5%, perhaps less.

So, how many self-identified Mormons were killed in Vietnam? 589 out of 58,193, or just over 1% of all US military deaths. In other words, Mormons were at least proportionately represented by population among US military deaths in Vietnam and were likely over-represented. 

How many Mormons served in uniform for the US military in Vietnam? Assuming they died at the same rate as everyone else, it would be about 27,000 (1% of 2.7 million).

So, yes, Mormons did fight — and die –in Vietnam in numbers at least proportional to their percentage of the US population and likely higher.

As for Mitt Romney, my understanding was that he had a ministerial deferment for his mission and one or more student deferments (which didn’t end until 1971) while attending college. Millions of other students had legitimate student deferments, too, usually in multiples (since you had to reaffirm each year that you were still enrolled in college) — that wasn’t draft dodging, that was the norm, and it actually increased college enrollment during the period in question. ..bruce..


Why the Catholic Church is upset with “New Moon”

After having seen “New Moon” on Friday afternoon with my sweet wife Sandra, I was a bit startled in late night browsing to read the following article (hat tip to Big Hollywood):

The latest movie in vampire saga Twilight is a ‘deviant moral vacuum’, the Vatican said yesterday.

New Moon, which opens in Britain today, is a ‘mixture of excesses aimed at young people and gives a heavy esoteric element’, a spokesman added.

The blockbuster opened on Wednesday in Italy and took £1.8million at the box office.

Monsignor Franco Perazzolo, of the Pontifical Council of Culture, said: ‘Men and women are transformed with horrible masks and it is once again that age-old trick or ideal formula of using extremes to make an impact at the box office.’

Huh? “Deviant moral vacuum” for a series that gets mocked because of the lack of premarital sex among its youthful characters? And I’m not entirely sure what “heavy esoteric element” means or why it would be a reason to condemn a movie. After all, the Vatican (as far as I can tell) had nothing to say about “2012” which actually depicts the violent death of the Pope and the rest of the Catholic Church leadership, along with hundreds of people being crushed by the collapse of St. Paul’s Basilica. Given all the films that are out there, with plenty of morally objectionable content, why would the Vatican choose to unload on “New Moon” of all things?

Then it hit me: the Volturi.

For those of you who haven’t read the series/seen the films, the Volturi are in effect the global rulers of all vampires and the only ones who can and do enforce (via death) a small set of rules — intended to keep the existence of vampires a secret — upon other vampires.

And, by the way, the Volturi live in Italy, where they rule from a large secret domed chamber. And they sit in throne-like chairs wearing formal antique clothing (see photo above).

Now, I don’t think that Stephenie Meyer had the Catholic Church in mind (at least, not consciously) when she invented the Volturi. The Volturi don’t act like religious leaders, and they don’t live in Rome but rather in Volterra (an actual small ancient town in the Tuscany region of Italy). But I suspect that someone at the Vatican saw the film, drew certain inferences, and was not happy, particularly given Meyer’s well-publicized LDS (Mormon) background. I also strongly suspect that if the Volturi had lived somewhere other than Italy that the Vatican would have had nothing to say about the film. ..bruce..

P.S. The movie itself? Meh. Better done than the first one, but the first 30-45 minutes seemed to drag. On the other hand, the 2nd book was the weakest of the four.

Mormons get the blame for Maine

Mollie over at points out that in wake of Maine citizens overturning the gay marriage law (the Question 1 initiative before voters this past Tuesday), gay marriage supporters are now seeking to blame the LDS Church somehow:

Check out this paragraph in the Post story about the National Organization for Marriage:

Some groups for gays say the organization is a stalking horse for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormons, which dominated fundraising in the California campaign. Many of the actors in a nationally televised ad produced by NOM, called “Gathering Storm,” turned out to be Mormon activists.

Wow. Okay, so the allegation at play here is that the Mormons are deceiving everyone by operating this group without being up front about it. That is a very serious charge. Nowhere is it substantiated. I mean, I know that the National Organization for Marriage has at least one Mormon board member — Orson Scott Card. But he’s hiding in plain sight. I found out that information by surfing the NOM website myself. And what does it mean that “many” of the actors in a television ad “turned out to be” Mormon activists? I don’t even know what that means, although it does sound scary. What, exactly, is a “Mormon activist”?

I think they’re called Danites. 😉 ..bruce..

Did you know that LDS women “flock”, “swarm”, and “buzz”?

This morning’s Salt Lake Tribune has the following story headline and opening sentence:

LDS women flock to upcoming BYU Women’s Conference

More than 20,000 Mormon women will swarm the campus of Brigham Young University next week, buzzing about mothering, marriage, the media and dozens of other spiritual and secular topics.

It prompted me to write Peggy Stack (the author of the piece) this e-mail:

“LDS Women Flock”? Would you (or the Trib) use that verb to describe (a) a NOW or Emily’s List conference,  (b) an LDS Priesthood conference, or (c) any non-religious gathering of men (or, for that matter, women)? The headline has a whiff of religious and/or sexist condescension. Same question for the use of the verbs “swarm” and “buzz” in the first sentence.

What do you think?  ..bruce..

“Could Pat Robertson Be Mormon?”

Paul Abrams over at the Huffingon Post has a snarky and somewhat ill-informed article in response to comments that Pat Robertston apparently made about heaven. To give you an idea of the silliness of Abrams’ piece, here’s an excerpt (the bracketed, italized section is in the original and seems to suggest that Abrams didn’t exactly quote Robertson accurately in the preceding sentence):

Without hesitating a nanosecond, Robertson half-chuckled his answer, telling the viewer in no uncertain terms that if he thinks he is just going to spend eternity lying in a lounge-chair on a cloud, well, he’s got another thing coming. The Lord has a lot of work for him to do, he might give him (the viewer) a planet to manage, there are 200-300 million of them. [Btw, this is not an exaggeration, Robertson actually talked about lounging on a cloud and millions of planets to manage, and lots of work the Lord has for him].

Robertson knows this (and all else) because, as you all know, once a year Robertson spends a day with the Lord. Now, I must admit that I have always found it curious that the Lord, who is the Lord of the entire universe, measures time-cycles by how long it takes for one of his stars, the sun, to orbit the Earth, oh, I mean the Earth to orbit the sun–sorry, I forgot that we have revised that certitude–but I am not surprised that the Lord created exactly one planet for every US citizen, so each of us knows that there is an eternity of work in Heaven (and, let’s face it, not all of you are going to get there, and some of you are illegal immigrants, and the Lord will be damned if those people are going to get a planet to manage!–although, Lord knows, they do work cheaply.). . . .

Come to think of it, God himself (or herself, or itself?) is not exactly doing a hot job of managing this planet, so how could lowly me, or even Heavenly me, be expected to do any better? We’ve got wars, piracy, diabetes, cancer, poverty, drug-resistant superbugs, John Boehner handing out tobacco-lobbying checks on the House floor, socialism and the prospect of Arnold Schwarzeneggar making another film when his time as Governor expires (can’t you get him a third term, or a US birth certificate—anything?).

Illegal immigration? US citizens only? I’m not sure how Abrams made that leap, particularly given the fact that — whatever criticisms I have of Evangelical Christianity — they are most definitely a world faith and do vastly more humanitarian work in developing nations than Abrams and his ilk ever dreamed of attempting. Abrams then goes on to point out that “I always thought that it was the Mormons who received planets to manage in Heaven”, making Robertson a “closet Mormon.” Abrams then decides that this means that Robertson must be planning to support Romney in 2012, after having supported Giuliani in 2008.

I think that Abrams was trying to write a witty, satirical piece, but mostly he comes across as someone who is mostly interested in scoring cheap laughs by mocking others without learning enough to say anything really clever or actually applying any semblance of logic to his leaps.

In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll note that I actually appeared once on “The 700 Club” and was interviewed by Robertson. It had to do with Year 2000 issues (I had testified three times before Congress on the matter and was working with Fannie Mae on its corporate-wide Y2K remediation efforts). That, of course, is not to be construed as an endorsement of or agreement with Robertson or “The 700 Club”, either their collective theology or their approach and operations, and I’m sure Robertson would feel the same about me. But at least in my experience he took the time to learn what he was talking about.  ..bruce..

LDS themes in Battlestar Galactica, Knowing, and Watchmen?


[NOTE: welcome to all the traffic from Twitter and from Roger Ebert’s review of “Knowing”! I’ve expanded a few things below for clarification.]

I’m going to discuss religious themes, particularly as related to LDS beliefs and themes, as found in the movies “Watchmen” and “Knowing”, as well as in the finale of the TV series “Battlestar Galactica”. In doing so, I’ll freely discuss spoilers, at least in “Knowing” and BSG. You’ve been warned.

If you don’t want to read the spoilers, let me tell you that I strongly recommend the BSG finale (the whole series, really) and the movie “Knowing”. I haven’t seen “Watchmen” (though I’ve read the graphic novel several times over the years), but based on what I’ve read about the film, I don’t plan on seeing it.

Continue reading LDS themes in Battlestar Galactica, Knowing, and Watchmen?