About This Blog
In part one of Lying for the Lord, I asked this question: What explains Mitt Romney's presidential campaign of lying and deception? Now, some might argue here that Mr. Romney hasn't, or isn't lying in his presidential campaign....hasn't tried to deceive anyone and has been truthful and honest during the entire process. If you are one of those folks, then read no further. This blog will only anger or upset you, and that's not my purpose.
Second....if you are the type of person who thinks it is "uncivil" to critique religion, that questioning the history or beliefs of religious groups should be considered taboo, or that such discussions should be avoided in order to spare the feelings of those who are members of that religious group....then please, read no further.
Although there is ample material available explaining the history and beliefs of the Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons....today's blog material comes primarily from Ken Clark.....
My wife and I left the LDS Church on August 7th, 2002, the same day that I resigned as Institute Director of the Pullman Washington Institute of Religion, and the LDS Church Education System (CES). I had worked full-time for CES for 27 years. I'm also a former bishop, high councilman, stake young men's president, high priest's group leader, ward mission leader, ward young men's president, and more. I wasn't a casual Mormon who lived on the fringes.
Mr. Clark began a list of alleged lies by the LDS church in the hopes of vindicating the religious group, not condemning it. The list is found here and it includes 136 separate examples (with all the references) stretching over 100 years of Mormon Church history.
First, it is impossible to understand Mormonism without knowing something about Joseph Smith, Founder and Prophet of the Mormon faith.
Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont, and by 1817 had moved with his family to the burned-over district of western New York, an area repeatedly swept by religious revivals during the Second Great Awakening. The Smiths believed in visions and prophecies, and participated in folk religious practices typical of the era. According to Smith, beginning in the early 1820s he had visions, in one of which an angel directed him to a buried book of golden plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history of ancient American civilizations. In 1830, he published what he said was an English translation of these plates as the Book of Mormon, and organized the Church of Christ as a restoration of the early Christian church. Church members were later called Latter Day Saints, Saints, or Mormons.
From Ken Clark....
Before becoming a prophet, Smith's chosen profession relied on deception to earn a living. He assured clients that he could see underground treasure using a magic stone in the bottom of his hat and clients paid him to locate hidden gold using this method.....Smith's arrest, trial and conviction in Bainbridge, NY for fraud in 1826 documented his activity. He was found guilty of glass looking. The modern term for Smith would be a con artist.
In the court record Joseph Smith confessed that "for three years" prior to 1826 he had used a magic stone placed in his hat to find treasures or lost property, placing his money-digging activities from 1823 to 1826. Mormon histories indicate that a heavenly messenger revealed the presence of gold plates on September 21, 1823. Joseph Smith was conning overly optimistic treasure seekers out of their money at the very time he claimed that an angel revealed to him that gold plates lay buried near his home.
Smith "translates" those "golden plates" .....
Smith.....used a peep stone or "Seers Stone" to translate the Book of Mormon; one that he had found while digging a well. It looked like an ordinary rock but Smith claimed it gave him the ability to see buried treasure, receive revelations, and translate ancient records.
Draw your own conclusion here. To me, it seems clear that the "founding" of the Mormon movement was one rather large and imaginative con. By the way, the "golden plates" were never seen by anyone, except "spiritually", and except for Joseph Smith.
Notice here that deception is part and parcel of the founding of, what is today, the Latter-Day Saints.
For Mormons, that's the good news. It gets much worse.
The essence of the accusations that the LDS deceive and lie "for the lord" are rooted in the church's long history with polygamy. From Ken Clark's exhaustive research, I submit that the LDS experience with polygamy began as a flip-flop of the flesh, so to speak.
One of Joseph Smith's first experiments with adultery began with a teen-age girl named Fanny Ward Alger who worked in the Smith home as a maidservant. William E. McLellin, Mormon apostle, indicated that Emma Smith "looked through a crack and saw the transaction" in the barn.
Church leaders and loyal defenders avoid linking Smith with his adultery by calling it an authorized "plural marriage.".... It has been noted that calling it a marriage instead of an affair raises more questions. Polygamous marriages were not legal in Ohio, the man who married Ms. Alger and Smith had no authority to perform the illegal marriage, nor had God authorized Smith to enter into polygamous arrangements in 1833-1835.
Number 19 in Ken Clark.s long list is vital in understanding the long Mormon tradition of lying for the lord.....
Joseph Smith institutionalized the practice of lying, so church leaders could deny the practice of taking multiple wives and keep Smith out of legal trouble. Straight-faced lies permitted leaders to deceive with a clear conscience; believing that God permitted and even encouraged lying to protect the principle.
An article from the 1886 Deseret News listed the code words and the rationale for their use. When accused of practicing "polygamy" Joseph and Hyrum denied it because it was different than "celestial marriage" and "a plurality of wives." Polygamy was after all, a doctrine of men and the devil. "Celestial marriage" was different Smith reasoned, because it was a holy doctrine revealed by God. Joseph wanted followers to believe that the two terms were completely dissimilar. Other code words were, "eternal marriage," "the divine order of marriage," "Holy order of marriage," "living up to your privileges," "new and everlasting covenant," and "a different view of things."
If accusers did not frame their allegations using precisely the right terms, the leaders felt justified in prevaricating.
And it is over polygamy that Mormons ran into the most trouble with authorities. Mitt Romney's great grandfather fled the U.S.for Mexico in 1885....
Romney’s great-grandfather, Miles Park Romney, fled to Mexico to escape America’s anti-polygamy laws. Along with a group of his fellow Mormons, Miles Park Romney, who had four wives and 30 children, settled in Chihuahua, Mexico, where polygamy was still legal.
Here is the way Mitt Romney referred to his polygamy-practicing great-grandfather....
The GOP nominee touted his immigrant grandparents as “refugees of a revolution.” But unlike many of the speakers that came before him, Romney’s grandparents did not seek refuge in America, they fled it.
It is unfortunate (or not) that a growing and successful religious group must constantly lie and deceive others about their faith because of Joseph Smith's and other LDS leader's criminal, deceptive and adulterous behavior. But it is....what it is.
Having said that.....Mitt Romney knows about what Ken Clark explains. Romney is a Mormon bishop educated about his church's history. Romney avoided Vietnam (see this week's Doonesberry) by going to France as a Mormon "missionary" during those years. Romney is a true LDS believer who has contributed, and continues to contribute, millions each year to the LDS. Mrs. Romney has pointed to Mitt's tithing to the LDS as evidence that Mitt is a good man who can be trusted.
So, the question....is it possible that Mr. Romney's habit of lying, misleading and deceiving voters this campaign season is simply a result of Mitt's long membership in the LDS...where lying for the lord...or lying for a greater good....or lying to protect your own....or speaking one thing to your own and another thing to those who aren't.....or using multiple-meaning, special code words or phrases to deceive.....seem to have been long virtuous traditions?
I encourage you to read all of Ken Clark's overwhelming collection dealing with the LDS tradition of lying for the lord.
*Again, I mean no disrespect to Mormon church members, who, quite likely, have been shielded from exposure to their church's many historical warts.