Category Archives: Politics

The Book of Mormon and elections: a brief observation

First, let’s start by acknowledging that the ‘reign of the judges’ described in the Book of Mormon bears almost no resemblance to a constitutional democracy or republic. There is no separation of powers, the office of chief judge (or governor, as it is sometimes called) is most often passed from father to son, the office of chief judge does not require periodic re-election and changes only when the chief judge dies or resigns, and so on. The “voice of the people” only appears to come into play in certain circumstances:

  • choosing lower or lesser judges (cf. Mosiah 29:39; note that this process is only mentioned once, at the initial selection of lesser judges);
  • when there are multiple replacement candidates for the dead/retiring chief judge (cf. Helaman 1:1-5)
  • the occasional national referendum, such as whether to change the form of government back to a monarchy (cf. Alma 2:7), or deciding whether and where to allow the people of Ammon (Anti-Nephi-Lehis) to settle in Nephite territory (cf. Alma 27:21-22).
  • ratification of the chief captain over the Nephite armies (see Alma 46:34) and granting him broad powers (cf. Alma 51:15-16).

Nothing terribly new here; this has all been discussed many times by better scholars. But here’s my point: how often in all this — or, for that matter, through the entire Book of Mormon history — does God intervene to ensure that a particular leader is chosen?

Answer: never.

To be a touch more accurate, there are a few instances when God chooses a leader — Lehi, Nephi, Mosiah1 — but those are in critical (and rare) circumstances where people must choose to follow that leader physically out of the current civilization and into wilderness. There are no cases where God Himself takes a hand in changing who ends up being the leader in a ‘voice of the people’ setting, or even in a monarchy; remember that Mosiah2 dissolved the monarchy precisely because of the risk of ending up with a ‘wicked king’, as happened with Zeniff’s son and successor, Noah (cf. Mosiah 29:16-25).

One of the dominant themes of the Book of Mormon is agency and its consequences, and that is applied to government as well, whether it be monarchy or judgeship. We are accountable for the government (and leaders) we choose and the results thereof; we cannot attribute the outcome to the Lord, only to ourselves.

Something to remember, whatever the results of tomorrow’s election here in the United States.  ..bruce..

 

 

 

Billy Graham breaks with a 30-year policy and appears to endorse Mitt Romney

My good friend Dan Blatt over at Gay Patriot send me an e-mail this afternoon which I just saw a little while ago, pointing to a Washington Post article that states that Mitt Romney met with Billy Graham, and Graham for all intents and purposes endorsed him:

Graham then asked Romney what he could do to help.

“Prayer is the most helpful thing you can do for me,” Romney said. “And what you’re planning, what your son has shown me is going to be very very helpful. And I appreciate that. Its going to be terrific.”

Graham, Franklin Graham and Romney then prayed and as the meeting ended, campaign aides said that Graham told Romney: “I’ll do all I can to help you. And you can quote me on that.”

Ever since Watergate, Graham has had a policy in place of not endorsing presidential candidates (cf. this 1980 article). He came close in 2000, meeting with George W. Bush just two days before the election, but even there he restated his policy:

Graham, in Jacksonville, Fla., for an evangelistic campaign in the city’s Alltel Stadium, met with Bush for a private prayer breakfast. In posing for photographs with Bush and his wife, Laura, and his son, Franklin, Graham stated: “I don’t endorse candidates, but I’ve come as close to it as any time in my life.”

The Florida Times-Union, on its Internet site, noted: “The legendary evangelical leader, the Rev. Billy Graham, practically endorsed Bush,” whose race against Vice President Al Gore concludes with Nov. 7’s general election.

Graham, who led in prayer when Bush was inaugurated as governor of Texas, was quoted by the newspaper as saying he had already voted by absentee ballot in his home state of North Carolina. “You can guess who I voted for,” said Graham, who has acknowledged being a lifelong Democrat.

The danger, of course, is that the money quote from Graham is being repeated by Romney aides; on the other hand, I suspect the Washington Post did some verifying of its own.

What is truly telling is the language: “I’ll do all I can to help you.” That’s not a tepid endorsement or a ‘lesser of two evils’ resignation; that’s about as full-throated as Graham can get at his age. I will be interested to see if it helps some of those Evangelicals who are concerned about putting a Mormon in the White House to vote for Romney anyway.  ..bruce..

 

Clinton (Bill) plays the anti-Mormon card

Buzzfeed reports on a Bill Clinton stump speech in which the former President gives a false representation of LDS theology:

Clinton also recalled a moment from his youth in Arkansas being approached by two or three Mormon missionaries in Hot Springs, where they explained the Mormon view.
Clinton spoke highly of their effort, recounting the different degrees of heaven as was explained to him 50 years ago, describing it as a pyramid with many levels that put Hitler and Stalin at the very bottom, faithful Mormons on top, and everyone else in between.

Clinton, a Baptist, said the sticking point for him was leaving his friends and family out of the top level of heaven.

“I didn’t want to leave all these other people behind,” he said.

I can’t speak to what those missionaries told Clinton — assuming this ever actually happened — but the representation of LDS beliefs is false. Unlike much of Christianity, LDS doctrine is nearly Universalist as to who gets saved. As I wrote five years ago on this site when Gary South at Politico tried to play the same card:

This posting — indeed, my starting this entire blog [Adventures in Mormonism] — is prompted by Hugh Hewett’s blasting of a piece by Gary South on Politico.com talking about “Mormon Intolerance”. South’s big concern: the LDS Church’s claim that “no other Christian church…is valid” and that only those who receive proxy baptism will be saved. He sees this as intolerance, being apparently unaware of that the LDS belief (and practice) actually is vastly more inclusive than the “problem of the unevangelized” that has plagued Christianity for most of the last 2000 years, viz., eternal condemnation to hell for anyone who doesn’t accept Christ (and, for some churches such as the Catholic Church, the appropriate sacraments/ordinances) in this life. Didn’t South ever read Dante’s Inferno, if not St. Augustine? In fact, by Augustinian doctrine, even Christians, however sincere, who never received an acceptable baptism, are damned to hell forever. Does South consider that religious intolerance?

The irony is that LDS theology is possible the most inclusive and diverse in terms of salvation of any major Christian denomination.

To wit:

  • Honest-to-goodness Mormons (by which I mean — and will always mean on this blog — individuals who in this life have been baptized into the LDS Church since its founding in 1830) will make up a very tiny fraction (<0.01%) of those who who inherit the highest (celestial) kingdom of glory.
  • Virtually everyone (>99.9% and probably >99.9999…%) who has ever lived upon this earth will end up in a kingdom of glory (celestial, terrestrial, telestial — glory likened to sun, moon, stars), in service to God — and the glory of the lowest (telestial) kingdom “surpasses all understanding” (D&C 76:89). Mormons will be scattered throughout all three kingdoms, based on how they’ve lived their lives.
  • Mormons, on the other hand, will likely dominate among those in this life who end up as the “sons of perdition” (D&C 76:26-32, 43), the only group that will not ultimately be saved in a kingdom of glory.

Let me explain.

Read the whole thing. Also, if you’re interested on how LDS concepts of “hell” (a term actually not used much within the LDS Church — instead, we tend to talk about “spirit prison” and “outer darkness”) differ from the rest of Christianity — no actual fire and brimstone and (with a very few exceptions) only of limited duration — here is this post as well.

UPDATE: The irony is that Bill Clinton gave this speech the same day that his wife Hilary, our SecState, tweeted, “The U.S. deplores the intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”

 

 

Mormons: Perceptions and Politics

This transcript of a panel discussion — with a large set of (for me, at least) fascinating slides — is well worth reading. It not only deals with Mormon attitudes on various key political issues, it also deals with how others view Mormons as well (in a political context). I particularly found this slide interesting:

Here’s the discussion around the slide:

DR. CAMPBELL: On the Faith Matters Survey we asked a question about civil liberties. We asked people to make a choice. Do they think it was more important to protect civil liberties or was it more important to protect personal security? And so on this question you would expect conservatives and Republicans to be more likely to favor safety over civil liberties, but actually among Mormons you find exactly the opposite. Mormons are actually more likely to take the civil liberties side of that question than they are the safety and security side.

PARTICIPANT: How was that question asked exactly?

DR. CAMPBELL: People had two choices and two choices only. So we forced them to make a tradeoff. The way it was worded was personal security versus civil liberties, and the lead-in to the question made a reference to terrorism so that we wanted them to be thinking about the debates over homeland security and such.

I’m reminded of Orson Scott Card’s comment in Saintspeak: The Mormon Dictionary:

Johnston’s Army An expensive military expedition sent in 1857 to quell a Mormon rebellion that wasn’t taking place. Ever since, Mormons have suspected that the federal government was not their friend.

There is a libertarian undercurrent among US Mormons, mostly because they want the US government to leave them alone. ..bruce..

The DUP in Ireland and us (or is that U.S.?) Mormons

What I first ran across this headline (and associated article), I was wondering what the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers were doing running an ad, especially in Ireland. :-) As it turns out, “DUP” stands for Democrat Unionist Party, one of the larger political parties in Ireland. Here’s the article lead:

The two attractive young models used on controversial DUP election posters are American Mormons living in New York, it has been revealed.

Fortunately for the scandal-hit DUP they are clean-living conservatives but they’ve never even been to Northern Ireland let alone registered to vote on May 6.

The Sunday Life yesterday revealed the pair are Kristin Mackenzie and Dan Whitmore who had never even heard of the DUP until last week when they were splashed across election posters proclaiming they were going to vote for the party.

Mormons get the blame for Maine

Mollie over at GetReligion.org 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..

A great GayPatriot brunch

Sandra and I attended a brunch today, hosted by Dan Blatt of GayPatriot.net here in downtown Denver. There were eleven of us in all there, and the discussions were all quite interesting. Dan’s a screenwriter in west LA; at one point, he said that the tricky part of living there is not indicating that he’s gay but rather that he’s a conservative, though he says now he does it just to enjoy the reaction (and to get a sense of what kind of person he’s talking with).

If you’re not reading GayPatriot, you should be; it’s in my Blogs Level One bookmarks folder (read at least once/day and often twice/day).

So, what are you doing still here?  ..bruce w..

[Cross-posted from And Still I Persist]

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..

Mixing politics and religion, the wrong way

Even though my disaffection with the Democratic Party began 30 years ago (under Jimmy Carter), I remained a registered Democrat until last fall, when I switched my affiliation to Republican. However, articles such as this give me pause to reconsider:

Utah County Republicans defeated a resolution opposing well-heeled groups that a delegate claims are pushing a satanic plan to encourage illegitimate births and illegal immigration.

Don Larsen, a Springville delegate, offered the resolution, titled “Resolution opposing the Hate America anti-Christian Open Borders cabal,” warning delegates that an “invisible government” comprised of left-wing foundations was pumping money into the Democratic Party to push for looser immigration laws and anti-family legislation.

Larsen said Democrats get most of the votes cast by illegal immigrants and people in dysfunctional families.

But it’s not the Democrats who are behind this strategy, Larsen said. It’s the devil.

“Satan’s ultimate goal is to destroy the family,” Larsen said, “and these people are playing a leading part in it.”

Larsen’s resolution contained quotes from the New Testament on the battle between good and evil. The copy of the resolution handed to delegates stated it “fulfills scriptural prophecies about our times.”

Larsen offered a similar resolution at the 2007 convention. That also was defeated by delegates.

And we’re all glad it was.   ..bruce..