Category Archives: LDS Society

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..

Archuleta announces plans to serve mission

Here’s the story (in the Hollywood Reporter, no less):

Slightly overwhelmed with emotion and fighting back tears, Archie, as he’s affectionately known, explained to an audience of over 2,000 at Abravanel Hall why he felt a two-year mission was his calling at this juncture in his life. “It’s not because someone told me I was supposed to do it and not because I no longer want to do music anymore,” he said. “It’s because it’s what I feel I need to do next in my life. It’s the same feeling that I’ve always tried to follow in my life — the feeling that’s allowed me to have the opportunities I’ve had, the challenges and the blessings, too. And I’ve learned to trust that feeling and answer when it calls. That’s the reason why I know I have to do this in my life. ”

Good for him, all the more so because there is no guarantee he’ll have much of a music career waiting for him when he returns. (Yes, there are those who will argue he doesn’t have much of one now, but, hey, he is on tour, isn’t he?) Plus, it’s hard to think of a better innoculation against the unrealities and distortions of the showbiz industry than two years of hearing about the real problems of ordinary people.

A poem for Thanksgiving

No, not by me. I ran across this poem in a back issue (August 1972) of the Ensign while serving a mission in Central America (72-74). It impressed me so much — while I was working in the midst of true third-world poverty — that I wrote it inside my leatherbound copy of Gospel Doctrine (Joseph F. Smith). I dig it out and re-read it probably once a year or so.


I never know I was without —
The richness of my mother’s love
So wrapped me roundabout.
The sifting snow upon my bed,
The warm shawl tied around my head,
The clumsy shoes, the awkward dress —
There was no sense of more or less.
The well-thumbed books, the Bible’s lore,
The simple food from frugal store —
A child can seldom have a choice.
How rich I was — never without
My mother’s arms, my father’s voice!

— Inez George Gridley (The Ensign, August 1972)

A quick search online turned up Inez’s obituary from 2005 (scroll down):

Inez George Gridley, writer teacher, historian, died Monday, October 10, 2005 at Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris, N.Y. She was 97.

Born February 25, 1908 at Red Hill, Ulster County, Daughter of Andrew and Juliana Hanford George. . . .

She was a published writer of poetry and history and had co-authored several books on history including Brass Buttons & Leather Boots and Time & the Valley. Her books of poetry in print included Journey from Red Hill and Pitfalls & Promises, which was written when she was 92. She was Town of Neversink Historian for 16 years. She began writing poetry as a young woman and co-founded the Alchemy Club, which has nurtured poets from the 1930s to the present. Her poetry was published in many national magazines and newspapers throughout the years, including the New York Times, the New York Herald Tribune and the Saturday Evening Post.

Her community involvement included being one of the original group that was instrumental in the fight to bring a high school to Grahamsville. She was the first District Clerk for that school which is now called the Tri Valley Central School. She also was one of the founders of the Townsman, the volunteer community newspaper which still serves the Tri-Valley area. She was a teacher whose first school was a one-room school at Greenville, Ulster County. Her last school was the Tri Valley Central School, where she taught elementary school. While still teaching, she was named Delta Kappa Gamma, a national honor society for teachers.

She touched my life nearly 40 years ago with a single poem. I can only imagine the countless lives she affected elsewhere.  ..bruce..


Smoking on General Conference Weekend

No, not what you think. 🙂 I’m smoking a beef brisket and a few racks of pork babyback ribs today in anticipation of General Conference this weekend. It’s been quite a few years (at least six, while still living back in DC) since I smoked just one brisket cut; at our most recent very large scale BBQ (VLSB), back on Pioneer Day weekend, I smoked nine (9) briskets totaling about 70 lbs. On the other hand, we had roughly 200 people show up for that BBQ, whereas for now I’ve only invited our three home teaching families to come over, watch Conference, and eat some good smoked meats. A feast for body and soul, if you will.  ..bruce..

Interesting commentary on the US District Court ruling on DOMA

The Defense of Marriage Act, passed by the US Congress in 1996, defines marriage as being solely between “a man and a woman”. Judge Joseph Tauro of the US District Court of Massachusetts just issued a ruling striking down the DOMA as unconstitutional. In so doing, he apparently stated that

DOMA marks the first time that the federal government has ever attempted to legislatively mandate a uniform federal definition of marriage – or any other core concept of domestic relations, for that matter.

Charles Lane, over at the Post Partisan blog of the Washington Post, responds by saying, in effect, “Uh, no.”

During the 1856 presidential campaign, the Republican Party platform had accused the Democrats of countenancing “those twin relics of barbarism–polygamy and slavery” and declared it the “duty of Congress to prohibit” both evils in the territories. Buchanan’s expedition was intended to prove the Republicans wrong. It succeeded only in provoking a few inconsequential clashes between armed Mormons and U.S. soldiers.

Congress subsequently adopted three increasingly harsh criminal bans on bigamy and polygamy in the territories: in 1862, 1882 and 1887. The Supreme Court upheld these laws repeatedly against Mormon challenges alleging, among other things, that they violated religious liberty. The 1887 law, the Edmunds-Tucker Act, abrogated the Mormon Church’s corporate charter and confiscated its property, on the grounds that its leaders encouraged polygamy.

The Supreme Court said that was okay, too. Echoing the majority opinion of the day, the court recoiled in frank horror at a practice the Mormons believed was ordained by God — but which the justices considered a “crime against the laws and abhorrent to the sentiments and feelings of the civilized world.” They compared it to human sacrifice. . . .

So it is a bit misleading to say, as Tauro does, “every [historical] effort to establish a national definition of marriage met failure.” Washington’s triumph over Mormon polygamy, made permanent in a national statute, would seem to qualify as a federal definition of marriage, at least in the sense of what marriage is not.

To be sure, Tauro emphasizes that the states have always had exclusive authority over marriage. Utah was a territory at the time of Washington’s effort to stamp out polygamy, and the constitution gave the federal government paramount authority over territories, including their domestic legislation. (That is why, technically, the anti-polygamy laws aimed at Utah also applied to Arizona, Oklahoma, Alaska and the District of Columbia.) Congress functioned, in effect, as the super-legislature for each territory.

Yet what is noteworthy about the Utah case is that Congress leveraged its power over Utah the territory into power over Utah the state. As a condition of admission to the Union, Utah’s people gave Congress a permanent veto over their marriage laws – a veto that remains on the books to this day. The fact that today’s Mormons are proponents of heterosexual monogamy and opponents of same-sex monogamy, is deeply ironic, but legally irrelevant.

What’s more, Utah is not the only state in which this situation obtains. The language of the Utah Enabling Act was repeated, word-for-word, in the laws that admitted New Mexico, Arizona and Oklahoma as states in the early 20th Century. In short, the federal government has shared authority over the marriage laws of four U.S. states.

Now, I have long been amused by those who state that efforts to allow gay marriage would have no impact on efforts to allow plural marriage. It has always struck me that any successful legal argument allowing gay marriage would have to, of necessity, allow plural marriage — I have yet to see a convincing argument to the contrary, particularly since plural marriage has a much deeper and broader history worldwide (including current active practice, particularly in Islamic and African cultures) than gay marriage does.

If Judge Tauro’s ruling is upheld, it would be interesting to see whether legal challenges to the Federally-mandated Arizona laws might arise from one of the polygamous religious groups therein (Arizona being, in my opinion, the most likely candidate for such an effort). Since Judge Tauro’s ruling does indicate that states can define marriage on their own, such an effort could be quickly ended by a de novo state law banning plural marriage (and for all I know, such a law already exists). But we continue to live in interesting times.  ..bruce..

Interesting view of LDS professionals

The Financial Times (which I read faithfully for a while back in DC, while I still read physical newspapers) notes the increased visibility of Mormons in Western business, government, and culture (free registration may be required):

Mormons are moving from the periphery of modern American life to the very centre. From Romney’s failed tilt at the presidency to the tales of everyday polygamous families in HBO’s popular drama Big Love, Mormonism has become increasingly visible over the last generation. Where its most famous acolytes were once the Osmonds, leading lights now include politicians such as US Senate majority leader Harry Reid (a Democrat) and Romney (a Republican); Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight  vampire saga; Glenn Beck, the popular conservative talk-show host; and self-help guru Stephen R. Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Those are the household names. As important are the Mormons who play central roles at the companies and institutions that make America tick: Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University (one of the biggest in the US); David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airlines; J.W. (“Bill”) Marriott, head of Marriott International; and Jon Huntsman Jr, ambassador to China – to name a few. And while firm data are hard to come by, off-the-record interviews conducted for this article suggest that a generation of Mormons in their thirties and forties is accelerating the trend. For every Hill Cumorah Pageant – an annual set of performances starting this weekend in which a cast of 650 enact scenes from the Bible and Book of Mormon before massive audiences near Joseph Smith’s birthplace – there are much more mundane scenes being played out across the US: an investment banker in New York said, “I was at my final day of interviews at JPMorgan during my senior year in college. They took students from Princeton, Yale, Harvard, U-Penn and Brigham Young University [a Mormon university in Utah]. I was like, ‘what the hell? BYU?’ Then I slowly realised how many Mormons there are on Wall Street.”

The CIA has its eye out for Mormons, who, people say jokingly, ace the mandatory drugs and lie-detector tests. Blue-chip corporations are recruiting, too. And at Harvard Business School, female students note ruefully that attractive male classmates are invariably associated with one of the “three Ms”: the military, the management consultancy McKinsey or Mormonism.

In that complaint lies the conundrum: much of the US still sees Mormons as weirdly strait-laced at best, cultish at worst. Yet elite institutions are embracing them. What does that fact say about the world’s youngest major religion – and about success in modern America?

Much of this is not new — Stephen Covey has been writing for decades, and the CIA was recruiting at BYU when I was an undergrad in the 70s — but I do agree with the articles main points: Mormons and the LDS Church as visible as never before, and — as noted — “elite institutions are embracing them.” Some of their observations and answers are quite interesting.

Must drive the anti-LDS crowd nuts. 🙂 Read the whole thing.  ..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 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..