Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Call For Submissions

Just a reminder, now that we've entered the fall season and winter is just around the corner, to start thinking about the winter issue. Below is the call for submissions that was featured in the fall issue, but as always, we're interested in anything that you'd like to send our way.

Questions and submissions can be sent to, or you can post them here. If you've somehow missed our first two issues, you can request them by sending an e-mail to that address.
  • Married To A Non-Member: The Blessings You Never Hear About
  • Compassion And Understanding: What We Can Learn From Our Gay Brothers And Sisters
  • Dealing With Femiphobia In Relief Society
  • How To Get Along With Conservatives And Still Stay True To Our Leftist Values

Deadline for submissions for Winter 2009 issue: December 1, 2009.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Separation Of Church And State, Part I: A Founding Principle - by Derek Staffanson

Is the U.S. a Christian nation? On the campaign, John McCain asserted that it is. Barack Obama has insisted we are not. But what does the phrase mean?

There are two concepts to which the phrase “Christian nation” can be applied. The first concept is one in which the government itself directly upholds the cause of Christianity. Many Christian groups, most associated with conservatism, have endorsed that interpretation. For example, the Family Research Council has claimed that “Our founders expected that Christianity—and no other religion—would receive support from the government as long as that support did not violate peoples’ consciences and their right to worship.” Dozens of conservative books and websites proclaim that the concept of a wall of separation between Church and State is a myth. Many conservative Christian leaders and organizations, based on that premise, have actively promoted a greater integration of Church and State, seeking to use government power to advance their agendas. Even such supposedly libertarian conservatives as Ron Paul have argued against the separation and in favor of a Christian connection to our government.

Like the FRC, Paul and others who subscribe to that first concept of a Christian nation invoke the Founding Fathers. According to these religious conservatives, these Founding Fathers, fellow pious Christians, wanted this nation to be explicitly Christian in character, and would be shocked at the secularization of the government.

While there are some few nuggets of truth in their claims, one must pan out a whole lot of silt to find them. The colonies were indeed largely established as explicitly religious communities—most of them one particular denomination (Pennsylvania being the exception). Deviation from that denomination’s religion was legally restricted, as Jews, Catholics, Quakers, Baptists, and other minority faiths sadly discovered. Many in the U.S. are inaccurately taught in school that the original European immigrants came seeking religious freedom. In truth, these immigrants typically came to establish their own religious dominions. The pilgrims were so fanatical in their religious oppression, The crown in England sent a letter to Massachusetts demanding that local authorities stop executing his subjects for heresy.

The founding of the United States of America was altogether different. Before I explain, I should point out a historical misconception. In political debate, we frequently try to present the Founding Fathers as some harmonious body. But these generalizations are far from accurate. The founding generation was as factious and fractious a bunch as any. The debates were intense, their relationships frequently bitter. Those who present a particular political point of view as that of “The Founders” are incorrectly ascribing some unanimity to this diverse bunch.

Some of the founding generation were certainly conventional and deeply devout Christians who wanted the nation to be expressly and innately Christian. Like Mike Huckabee, those men wanted to mold the nation’s governing charter to “God’s standard.” Many of these men were outraged when—and here is a key point—the Constitution did not once address God. Virtually all prior government codes and charters in the Western tradition had very unequivocally prevailed upon and recognized God. Yet in the final bargain the Constitution conspicuously declined any such invocation. There is nothing within the founding document which supports the conservative claims.

Christian conservatives like to take selected words of the critical founders out of context to give the impression that they share with today’s Christians a similar faith. Given the way founders are described in LDS circles, one might even believe them some sort of pre-Restoration LDS quorum. But research on the wider scope of their lives reveals that none of the men most prominent in the founding of the U.S. can accurately be associated with conventional Christianity. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison all scoffed at the idea of the divinity of Christ and other core theological principles of Christianity. Each was highly skeptical of the organizations which had risen up around those beliefs. Institutionalized religion was frequently a target of Franklin’s wit. Jefferson believed that it was religion—the hierarchical structures and the orthodoxy they enforce—which had perverted the simple and beautiful doctrines of Jesus by building up the superstitions of his divinity. Even Adams, more tolerant of religion as a necessary evil than the other two, caustically erupted numerous times over one religion or another in his private correspondence. George Washington was much more circumspect on religion than the others. He served on the vestry of his local Episcopal congregation, as men of his status in Virginia were expected to do. He frequently made reference to a higher power in his discourse, both civic and private—the private references often in the form of thundering expletives. But he rarely chose Christian phrases for God in public, preferring instead masonic or deist epithets. While he often attended services, it is well attested that he never took communion. Rarely did he make mention of Christ, let alone discuss Jesus as his Savior, despite the persistent urging of the Christian leaders of his era. Some call the faith of these men Theistic Rationalism. Whatever we may believe about their postmortal religious beliefs and affiliations (Journal of Discourses, vol. 19, p. 229), during their earthly probation their beliefs can hardly be considered akin to the religious right—whether conventional Christian or conservative LDS.

The extent to which these men believed government should be interwoven with religion varied. Washington and Adams were agreeable to a general collaboration between Church and State. Washington felt religious institutions useful partners to government in establishing order in society, though he was indifferent to the doctrine of those institutions. Adams, despite his personal theological heterodoxy, believed Christian organizations and their doctrines should be supported by the government for their role in restraining the less savory aspects of our humanity (the cantankerous Adams derided most religion, but he was even more dubious about the prospects for humanity without it). Under these Presidents, the ones who made “so help me God” an unofficial addition to the Presidential oath of office, federally sponsored days of fasting and prayer were not uncommon, and the wall between Church and State was fairly permeable. Even so, Adams signed an official treaty which noted that “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion… (Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, 1796, article 11).”

Things were decidedly different with the next two presidents, Jefferson and Madison. Unlike their predecessors, these two outraged the religious establishment by refusing to call for national days of fasting and prayer during their administrations, seeing such declarations as unconstitutional (see “Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Rev. Samuel Millar,” 01.23.1808). Jefferson was indeed very insistent that there be the “wall of separation” between Church and State. The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, for which Jefferson had been the foremost architect, was to him such a crowning achievement that it was one of the three accomplishments he selected to list in his epitaph. As he put it:
“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg (Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 17,1782).”
Even more adamant about the necessity to separate Church and State, Madison’s original proposal for what became the First Amendment was stunning in its scope before being watered down in congressional compromise.
“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner or on any pretext infringed (Amendments Offered in Congress by James Madison June 8, 1789).”
Madison was not content to prevent government collusion with religion on a national level. States-rights proponents who list Jefferson and Madison as unqualified advocates of states supremacy over the federal government might be surprised to read the fifth amendment Madison submitted in his draft of amendments.
“No State shall violate the equal rights of conscience, or the freedom of the press, or the trial by jury in criminal cases (ibid, emphasis added).”
(Those same “states rights” absolutists should also note that Madison’s original “Virginia Plan” which he presented to the Constitutional Convention maintained that the federal government needed a “negative” power—essentially a federal veto—over state legislatures; see “Letter from James Madison to Thomas Jefferson,” 24.10.1787).

During his administration, Madison opposed the common practice of government chaplains, whether for the military, state-funded universities, or Congress. If individuals or groups wished spiritual guidance, he determined that they should seek it out on their own and if necessary, with their own funds. He fought the government practice of incorporating church properties. When Christian groups petitioned to have the U.S. postal service closed on Sundays in observance of the Sabbath, Madison actively opposed their efforts. He resisted any government involvement with private charities connected with religion.

Madison’s stated belief is most stark in defense of religious freedom and a separation of Church and State.
“We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society [ie, government] and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance (Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments; emphasis added).”
Exempt from its cognizance. Often when describing issues touching upon the relationship between Church and State, the phrase “religious tolerance” is used. But Madison’s vision is not one of a Christian-based government practicing kindly tolerance of other faiths. He well knew “tolerance” was arbitrary and “a source itself of discord and animosity, (”Letter from Madison to Edward Everett,” 03.19.1823).” Madison proposed a government completely blind to religion, one which does not even recognize the existence of religion.

These two men most closely associated with our founding documents, these icons of the early American Republicanism which conservatives invoke, strongly favored a disassociate between Church and State. In claiming that there is no historical foundation for this separation, conservatives show a profound ignorance and lack of understanding about the founding of our nation, the men who were instrumental in that founding, and the document which governs the nation.

In the next issue: Separation of Church and State II: Protecting both Church and State

The Morality of Politics: The Challenges of Mormon Tribalism - by Boyd Petersen

Last year, I did something no sane person would do. I ran for the state legislature. In Utah county. As a Democrat. I knew going into the campaign that only five percent of the district was registered Democrat, and that Utah county is often referred to as one of the reddest counties of one of the reddest states in the union. In 2004 Bush won Utah county 86% to Kerry's 12%; statewide, Utah gave Bush his largest margin of victory, and Utah County gave Bush the largest percentage of any county its size. The fact that I knew all this going into the campaign and still proceeded proves, I suppose, just how mentally unstable I was. But I also knew that within my district, a larger percentage of voters were registered as “unaffiliated” than Republican, 49% to 43%, so I thought it might be possible to win over these voters. And I was running as a socially conservative Democrat; my most radical position is supporting public schools and the PTA. We had seen a referendum on vouchers go down to defeat the year before, in my district vouchers failed by a strong majority, and I was running as an anti-voucher candidate. I was hoping the voters would consider the election Vouchers Part II: Revenge of the Voters.

I discovered, however, that in politics things are just not that simple. First, I found that most of these unaffiliated voters self identified as Republicans, or at least saw the Republican “brand” as more appealing. They liked to claim independence of thought, but most were every bit as committed to the Republican Party as the affiliated Republicans. I found that even the registered Republicans liked to think of themselves as fair-minded people who study the issues and vote for the best candidate. But what they think they do and what they actually do is not the same. For example, my wife was helping out with polling one night and she reported speaking to one self-identified Republican voter, reading the prepared questions:

“On what do you base your voting decisions?”

“Issues,” responded the voter.

My wife continued, “If someone shared your views and was running as a member of the opposing party, in your case a Democrat, would you vote for him or her?”

The response, “absolutely.”

“Do you plan to vote for Becky Lockhart, or Boyd Petersen for state legislature?”

“Which one is the Republican?” the voter asked.

Some voters, however, didn’t seem to know they could vote for individuals rather than a straight party ticket. I spoke with one Hispanic gentleman who had very strong feelings about immigration reform but also had very strong conservative moral values. He said he was going to vote a straight Republican ticket. It took twenty to thirty minutes to explain to him that if he did this he would end up voting against his interests about half the time. I finally ended up getting a sign in his yard and probably got his vote, but I realized that every vote above my 5% was going to require a long conversation.

Nevertheless, if some votes came hard, some came surprisingly easy. I found that the people who knew me, people in my neighborhood and ward—most of them strong Republicans, enthusiastically supported me. If they knew me, they tended to support me, and my position on issues didn’t really seem to matter to these people. In fact, my home teacher and I had just engaged in a very lively debate about vouchers a few months before I announced I was running. He was solidly pro-vouchers and I was solidly anti-vouchers. Nevertheless, when I announced my candidacy, he was one of the first people in the neighborhood to request a sign and offer to help with the campaign. But I also found that some votes, even from people who agreed with my platform, were impossible to get. Some people who should have supported me ideologically but didn’t know me often would adamantly not support me. Several public school teachers and officials told me flat out that they could not support a Democrat. On election day, I got a phone call from a sister in my ward who reported “Today, I did something I have never done before: I voted for someone who was not a Republican!” She had voted for me, but still couldn’t say the “D-word.” My positions really didn’t matter to most people. It was about whether I had a relationship of trust with them. Was I one of them? It all came down to tribe.
Now that the election is over, I have been reading up on the subject of how voters make decisions, and I have found that the anomalies I encountered as a candidate can all be explained by current research on the brain. According to that research, positions don’t much matter in politics. It’s all about emotion. Emotions about party, candidates, and, finally, issues.

In study after study, researchers have found that it is not so much what voters think than it is about what voters feel. “In politics,” states Drew Westen, “when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins” (35). Contrary to Enlightenment models of thought, emotion works hand in hand with reason. Summarizing the conclusions of cognitive and brain scientists, George Lakoff notes that idea that reason is “conscious, literal, logical, universal, unemotional, disembodied, and serves self-interest” is completely false (2). In fact, 98% of our thought takes place unconsciously and emotion and reason cannot be separated. It’s not so much that we are duped by emotion, but that emotion guides reason. Westen compares emotion to a “compass” that, in conjunction with reason, helps us to avoid adverse stimuli and seek out rewarding stimuli (88).

In sum, Westen states, “although the marketplace of ideas is a great place to shop for policies, what matters most in American politics is the marketplace of emotions” (35-36). And three sets of emotions, in this order, are primary in determining how people vote: their feelings toward the parties and the party’s principles, their feelings toward the candidates, and, if they haven't decided by then, their feelings toward the candidates’ policy positions. Voters get their feelings toward the parties largely by internalizing the values of their parents. “The single best predictor of party affiliation—and of broader value systems associated with it—is in fact the party affiliation of our parents” (Westen 82). So party loyalty is largely determined before one has really thought about the issues, despite what we might consciously want to believe. Most of us determine what tribe we belong to long before we know what that tribe stands for.

In a study I found particularly interesting, Drew Westen and several of his colleagues at Emory University did brain scans on fifteen committed Republicans and fifteen committed Democrats during the 2004 election. The psychologists discovered that when subjects saw images of their own party’s candidates, a part of the frontal lobe called the “frontal pole” was activated. It is an area that other studies have shown is particularly active when a subject thinks about something related to him- or herself. In short, the very sight of an image of our party’s candidate involuntarily activates brain synapses that foster identification with that candidate; whereas seeing images of the other party’s candidates activated areas of the brain where negative emotional reactions take place (52-53). We perceive candidates from our own party as “like us,” as part of our tribe. These responses are as involuntary as our breathing.

In another part of their study, Westen took brain scans as subjects read a series of statements attributed to the Republican and Democratic candidates, statements that any dispassionate observer would find conflicting. What Westen and his colleagues found is that people had no problem seeing the contradictions in the opposition’s candidate, but found their candidate’s position much less contradictory.

The brain scans showed that when confronted with the initial conflict in the person of their candidate, neural circuits associated with negative emotional states turned on, but as the individuals reasoned, falsely, toward a rationalization for their own candidate, neural circuits associated with positive emotions turned on. The partisan brain actually rewarded the individuals for biased reasoning. The circuits activated overlap significantly with those activated when a drug addict takes a hit, “giving new meaning,” as Westen puts it, “to the term political junkie” (xiv). Again a tribal instinct kicks in: our brains suppress conflicts with those who are part of our tribe.

I discovered when running a campaign that what voters really wanted to know was what tribe I belonged to. Was I one of them? My positions mattered very little. Voters were focused on their emotions about the political party I was affiliated with first and foremost. If they already knew and trusted me, their feelings toward me overshadowed their feelings about my party. But if they didn’t have any feelings for me, they focused on party and often voted, I believe, against their own interests.

So how did Mormon voters as a group come to have such positive feelings for the Republican party? How did Mormons come to see themselves as part of the Republican tribe? (My wife suggests it comes from Joseph’s Inspired Version translation of James 1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men conservatively….”)

Thomas Alexander has outlined five distinct periods of Church involvement in Utah politics. During the first period, spanning from 1847-1891, the church “essentially dominated the Utah scene” (36) with its own party, sponsoring candidates and opposing gentile political involvement. As the Church moved into the 20th century, it was forced to confront the dominant American culture head on. We can think of this as a process of assimilation, as Armand Mauss has called it; as a process of reconstructing memory, as Kathleen Flake has called it; or as a process of colonization of the Mormon mind, as Richard Bushman has called it; but we know that this process involved both accommodation of American values and a reinvention of what it means to be Mormon.

In order to achieve statehood, Mormon leaders disbanded the Mormon People’s Party, and urged members to become Republicans in order to achieve the political balance necessary for Utah to be granted statehood. Mormons were asked to switch their tribal loyalty from the Democrats (who had not had a party platform against the “twin evils of slavery and polygamy,” as the Republicans had), to the Republicans, in the name of political expediency. The administration of Heber J. Grant inaugurated a less partisan period of Church influence; however, Grant’s concerns about the New Deal and J. Reuben Clark’s increasing influence in the First Presidency led to a more partisan approach. From the late 1950s to the present, despite many individual Church leaders’ avowing Republican leanings, the Church as an institution has taken a more neutral part in political affairs, only entering the political fray, as Alexander put it, “to support or oppose measures they considered moral issues” (36). Significantly, this is the very period in which Utah Mormons became more closely allied with the Republican Party.

Looking back, it is hard to believe that Utah (and its predominately Mormon electorate) once voted enthusiastically for Democratic presidential candidates. From William Jennings Bryan, and Woodrow Wilson (second term), through all four terms of FDR (despite President Heber J. Grant’s advice to vote against him), to Truman and LBJ, Mormon Utah supported Democrats. Certainly, it also supported Republicans, but it was once considered a swing state, one that both parties courted and wooed. However, since 1964, every Republican presidential candidate has won Utah, and in all but two cases by over 60% of the vote. Utahns have not elected a Democrat to the Senate since Frank Moss left in 1977, nor to the governor’s mansion since Matheson left in 1985. The shift in Utah politics took place over the very period that Alexander says the Church leadership became less overtly and publicly partisan. It is curious that this tribal identification of Mormons with the GOP took place at a time when the Church leaders were less directly involved in politics.

Certainly the issues coming to the fore during the decades of the 50s through the 70s—communism, civil rights, welfare reform, abortion, the ERA—were galvanizing. Furthermore, the impact of Ezra Taft Benson’s outspoken conservatism during these years must also be considered. However, I believe there was another factor, one more subtle but more profound: Republican discourse frames began to overlap with the frames of Mormon discourse in subtle ways that remapped the Mormon mind.
Linguists have known since the mid-70s that the brain organizes words by semantic fields, or what Lakoff calls “conceptual frames” (22). We are mostly familiar with this concept in the idea of professional jargons. For example, for an actor, the words “play,” “direction,” “score,” and “run” have specific meanings in the semantic field of her profession. The exact same words used by an athlete, in the semantic field of sports competition, mean something else entirely, and the framing is what makes the difference.

Such frames, in turn, create conceptual metaphors that organize our thinking. We think metaphorically and, at the same time, metaphors shape how we think. Political issues, like everything else, are always framed, and political language is never neutral. Take, for example, the issue of immigration reform. If we use the phrase “illegal immigrant” we are already, by framing it with that adjective, making a judgment about the issue that is very different from the alternate frame available in the term “undocumented immigrant.” We are usually not aware that we are using such frames when we think about issues, but by talking about these issues in these ways, repeating the framing metaphors over and over again, our brains are changed.

George Lakoff argues that there are two primary frames that shape the way people think about political issues: both see governance through metaphors of the family. One is an obedience-oriented frame that Lakoff calls the “strict father” metaphor. It sees a family structure where “children” (i.e., the citizens) need to be disciplined by a strong “father” (i.e., the government) in order that they can be made into responsible “adults.” Once the “children” reach adulthood, however, the “father” should no longer interfere with their lives: the government should not interfere with the business of those in society who have proved their responsibility.

The other frame is an empathy-oriented approach that he calls the “nurturing parent” metaphor. This metaphor sees both “mothers” and “fathers” working to help the essentially good “children” develop and keeping them away from “corrupting influences” like pollution, social injustice, and poverty. Most people are what Lakoff calls “biconceptional,” employing both models in different spheres of their lives. But when one frame is activated, the other turns off. The difference between conservatives and progressives, Lakoff argues, stems from the fact that they subscribe with different strengths to one or the other of these orienting metaphors. Conservatives follow more closely the “strict father” metaphor and thus find themselves in the Republican tribe, while progressives follow the “nurturing parent” model and find themselves in the Democratic tribe. However, Republicans, both Lakoff and Westen concur, have been much better at crafting frames for their arguments, moving politics from the world of ideas to the world of emotion-laden values.

At the same time Republicans have been mastering the world of metaphorical framing, Mormons leaders have, likely unconsciously, employed metaphorical frames from the same network. For example, Gordon and Gary Shepherd have shown how the rhetoric of General Conference shifted between 1890 and 1950, as uniquely Mormon themes like Zion, kingdom-building, eschatology, missionary work, apostasy, etc. declined and more American themes like patriotism and good citizenship increased. Particularly important has been an increased emphasis, especially since the 1950s, on obedience, keeping the commandments, and the importance of obeying priesthood leaders. Academics like Richard Poll, Eugene England, and most recently Terryl Givens have noted the tension within Mormon thought between obedience and individuality, community and freedom, the “Iron Rod” and “Liahona” perspectives. However, within the general Mormon populace the emphasis has shifted so far toward “obedience” that most members don’t often perceive much tension.

For example, when I read to my High Priests Group the 1945 ward teaching message that “when our leaders speak, the thinking has been done,” all of them nodded in agreement, assuming the statement was gospel. When I told them that the statement had been repudiated by President George Albert Smith, they were astonished, but seemed, ironically, eager to follow their priesthood leader’s orders to stop blindly following orders. Combine this discourse of obedience with the patriarchal structure of Mormon hierarchy, and contemporary Mormon cultural framework maps astonishingly well onto Lakoff’s metaphor of the “strict father.” In fact, Lakoff even cites as an example of the strict father “politics of authority” a quote by President James E. Faust: “Obedience leads to true freedom. The more we obey revealed truth, the more we become liberated” (61).

Another significant shift in Mormon rhetoric has been noted by Armand Mauss in an essay published in the recent festschrift for Eugene England. Mauss sees a change in Mormon discourse from the analytical to the affective, from an emphasis on doctrine to an emphasis on feelings. He astutely observes that while speakers in Mormon chapels once “reached under the lectern in search of the books of scripture,” today they reach for that “dependable box of Kleenex tissues” (23). This change in discourse, Mauss argues, “symbolizes the triumph of feeling over understanding” in contemporary Mormonism. It is indicative of:
“a softer worship over a harder one; perhaps of an evangelical—or even Pentecostal—homiletic over an analytical style; of personalized adaptations of scripture over appreciation of historical context. It represents the triumph of the heart over the head in popular Latter-day Saint religious expression.” (24)
I certainly do not wish to characterize conservative thought as less intellectual or less rational, but many on both sides of the political divide have acknowledged that Republicans have done a better job of framing their agenda in emotional terms. Democrats have too often grounded their campaigns on Enlightenment theories of rationality, ignoring the ways emotion and reason work together in the decision making process. So the Church’s move toward more emotive discourse would also help solidify an unconscious tribal connection between Republicanism and Mormonism.

Many Mormon Democrats share with me a sense of frustration that we are not fully accepted within Mormon culture, that our tribe has been voted off the island. We believe, as we must seeing the world as we do through our framing metaphors, that what we see as our core moral values—caring for the poor, providing strong education, protecting the environment—are fully compatible, in fact, central to Mormonism. Yet many of our fellow Church members see us as apostates. For example, in Tuesday’s Deseret News, an op-ed written by an adjunct history professor at Weber State cried out for tolerance among Mormon congregations for differences of ideology, stating that Mormon Democrats “have faced increasingly vicious verbal attacks in [our] wards and in [our] neighborhoods.” Many of the comments from readers of the online version of the article drove her point home with unconsciously and self-righteously vicious irony. They compare progressive ideology to “Satan’s plan,” state that tolerating Democrats’ views would necessarily “dilute the true doctrines of the Church,” and call the author of the column “morally week,” “unstable,” and “a nutcase.” Utah Mormons still ask the question, “Can a good Mormon be a Democrat?” But no one is asking “Can a good Mormon be a Republican?” despite the fact that many of us see, as we cannot help but see, through our progressive Mormon frame, serious problems reconciling some of the values of the Republican party with Mormon values. At times we progressive Mormons feel like we are not just a different tribe, but like we are living on a different planet from politically conservative Mormons, and I’m sure that conservative Mormons can only look upon progressive Mormons with disbelief. While we may not be living on separate planets, we are seeing our world through different frames and that gap that divides us into separate tribes can seem unfathomable.

This gulf between the tribes is not healthy for Mormon religious devotion. I have personally known many students who have left the Church because they have felt excluded or ridiculed for their progressive beliefs. However, I believe, one-party dominance is a problem for the Church itself. As others have noted, nationally both parties tend to ignore the Mormon vote; Republicans know they have it in the bag and Democrats know they don’t have a chance. Candidates for national office don’t bother with Utah. But one-party rule also leads to ethical lapses. When I lived in Washington, DC, I experienced first-hand the problem with single-party Democratic party rule, and I believe similar problems plague Utah. The problem also affects the image of the Church as we become a world religion. It becomes difficult to bridge cultural divides when we have a dominant “strict father” political frame and Mormonism is so closely tied to the Republican agenda. However, the bigger problem can result when our culture’s “strict father” obedience frame overwhelms and even denigrates the “nurturant parent” frame. I reported elsewhere how the Church received some extremely unfavorable media attention these past few years as it was revealed that Mormons had been involved in creating, implementing, and defending interrogation techniques that many felt crossed the line into torture. This was not just a crisis of bad publicity; it took a human toll. The press also reported how one Mormon Army interrogator committed suicide after she was forced to implement these techniques. The “strict father” model certainly is a valid frame from which to view the world, but without the mitigating influence of the “nurturing parent” model, it can lead to abuses.

So how might progressives create a space within Mormon culture for their tribe? The answer is to do exactly what conservative Mormons have done: employ frames both within political discourse and within Church discourse that remap the brain. Mormon theology fully supports an empathy-based frame, perhaps more so than any other Christian denomination. Mormons believe in a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father, who are literal parents of each of us. We believe in serving each other and the community. We believe in building communities where people live with one heart, one mind, dwell in righteousness, and eliminate poverty among us—and not just by building gated communities in which the poor are unwelcome. We believe in an earth that is created spiritually, and we can understand environmental responsibility as an act of stewardship. And in a moving example of a completely nurturant parent, Mormon scripture tells us that God himself looks down from heaven and weeps for his suffering children. In short, Mormon theology supports a metaphorical frame of empathy.

Finally, I believe that as both sides come to understand the workings of language and the mind, we will be able to foster more tolerance. As we discover that each individual’s moral vision is necessarily framed by an organizing primary metaphor, one that necessarily shuts off competing frames, we can better relate to one another. . We will, we can hope, stop assuming that political difference is simply a matter of sinfulness, insanity or not having all the facts. To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, “For now we see through a frame darkly.” We must remember that each of us has a point of view. “I have a point of view,” says Madeline L’Engle, “you have a point of view—God has view.”

Works Cited

Alexander, Thomas G. Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, i890-1930. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1986.

Bushman, Richard Lyman. “The Colonization of the Mormon Mind.” Annual Meeting of the Association for Mormon Letters (2000): 14-23.

Flake, Kathleen. “Re-placing Memory: Latter-day Saint Use of Historical Monuments and Narrative in the Early Twentieth Century.” Religion and American Culture 13 (2003): 69-109.

Gottlieb, Robert, and Peter Wiley. America’s Saints: The Rise of Mormon Power. New York: Putnam, 1984.

Heinerman, John, and Anson Shupe. The Mormon Corporate Empire. Boston: Beacon, 1985.

Lakoff, George. The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain. New York: Viking, 2008.

L’Engle, Madeline. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. New York: Shaw, 1980.

Mauss, Armand L. “Assimilation and Ambivalence: The Mormon Reaction to Americanization.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 22.1 (1989): 30-67.

---. “Feelings, Faith, and Folkways.” “Proving Contraries”: A Collection of Writings in Honor of Eugene England. Ed. Robert A. Rees. Salt Lake: Signature, 2005.

Ostling, Richard N., and Joan K. Ostling. Mormon America: The Power and the Promise. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1999.

Prince, Gregory A., and William Robert Wright. David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. Salt Lake: U of Utah P, 2005.

Quinn, D. Michael. Elder Statesman: A Biography of J. Reuben Clark. Salt Lake: Signature, 2005.

---. The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power. Salt Lake: Signature, 1997.
Shepherd, Gordon, and Gary Shepherd. A Kingdom Transformed: Themes in the Development of Mormonism. Salt Lake: U of Utah P, 1984.

Westen, Drew. The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation. New York: Public Affairs, 2007.

*Editor’s Note: Learn more about why Boyd is a Mormon Democrat here.

Dominion - by Delina Macmichael

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have often found myself frustrated at the apparent disregard with which many members of our church treat the world we’ve been entrusted with. The general attitude seems to be twofold: “I am too busy being about the Lord’s work to be inconvenienced with caring for the earth.” Or, “Why should I spend my time on that? When the Saviour comes again, He’ll fix everything. There’s simply no point.”

Indeed, many of us are so consumed with keeping the Ten Commandments, keeping our end of the covenants we’ve made, and trying to exemplify Jesus Christ in everything we do that we neglect to remember the first charge ever given to man after his creation. In the Garden of Eden, Adam was given “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26, emphasis added.)

Let’s examine the word “dominion” for a brief moment. Those among us who hold the priesthood are no doubt familiar with the phrase “unrighteous dominion.” We are cautioned to exercise the priesthood with righteousness and love, with gentleness and caring. We are charged with providing a righteous dominion over our families. Unrighteous dominion includes emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or neglect of our family’s basic needs. If God has also given all men dominion over the earth, should we not exercise a righteous dominion? “There is a forgotten teaching of the early Jews and Christians that the dominion that God gave to Adam in Eden over His other creatures was nothing less than the holy priesthood, the power to act in God’s stead.” (Hugh Nibley, To the Glory of God pg. 21)
My objective in writing this article is not to point out the same ten little things we’ve heard countless times that we can do to change our ecological footprint. Fixing the problems we’ve created will require more than a mere band-aid. We are now past the point where reusing our plastic bags and water bottles, and doing nothing else, will make a real difference. Rather, a shift in our attitudes is necessary in order to take the great leap from a dying world to a living, breathing world, a world of hope. My goal with this article is to outline the various duties that we have as members of this church, in possession of the whole gospel of Jesus Christ, to take care of the earth on which we stand and rely on for everything that we have.

Our first duty, as mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants, is to “seek ye diligently, and teach one another words of wisdom, yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118) In this scripture we are advised not to stay in a state of ignorance, but to continually learn and grow, to expand our knowledge. The first thing we must do as Latter-day Saints is to reject ignorance and look for knowledge. In this age of technology, knowledge is so easy to obtain. The internet and various other forms of media can assist us in our research. We must consecrate some of our time and energy to learning about global issues, and discovering actions we can take in order to preserve nature. To quote Joseph F. Smith, “Nature helps us to see and understand God . . . Love of nature is akin to the love of God; the two are inseparable.”

We have been told throughout our lives to have faith. Faith is an admirable quality that one possesses. Yet, is it enough alone to have faith? As mentioned earlier, many members of our church feel that it is a waste of time to care for the earth; they have faith that Jesus Christ will return and “the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” (Articles of Faith, verse 10) Having faith is good, but as members of this church we know and understand that “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (The Epistle of James 2:17) Therefore, our second duty to the earth we’ve been given is to act.

Our third duty is to leave future generations with a world worthy of their presence. Too many of the earth’s inhabitants are concerned only with the immediate consequences of their actions. But what of the long-term? To say that “now” is the only thing that matters is probably the most selfish attitude one can possess. “We owe something to future generations and those that declare ‘plenty more where that came from’ are recklessly indifferent to the gravest responsibilities… The Latter-day Saints ought not to be governed by purely selfish motives in the use of their landed inheritances… It is a duty which we owe to ourselves and to those who have the right to rely upon us to give this matter our earnest consideration.” (Joseph F. Smith, The Juvenile Instructor, 38:466-467, Aug. 1, 1903) President Ezra Taft Benson has declared that “we are morally obligated to turn this land over to those who succeed us – not drained of its fertility, but improved in quality, in productivity, and in usefulness for future generations.” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pg. 645)

If we are to shun ignorance and seek wisdom, if we are to act and not just believe, and if we are to leave our children with a clean and beautiful world, we must be willing to perform the fourth duty, which is to be adaptable and willing to succumb to the prospect of change.

Change is so hard for so many. We grow comfortable in our little ruts and hate the idea of leaving them. As human beings we are creatures of habit, and to abandon our traditions and rituals is one of the most difficult things we could ever do. It is no small task to change the way we dress or what kinds of furniture we buy, what foods we eat, the way we speak, our methods of transportation, the way we dispose of refuse and trash, or how we spend our time, money and energy. When I think of the word “change” I think of humility, the willingness to admit that we are not perfect, and to be teachable. The two terms go hand-in-hand. We have been commanded to be humble, and therefore, have been commanded to change.

“Let him that is ignorant learn wisdom by humbling himself and calling upon the Lord his God, that his eyes may be opened that he may see, and his ears opened that he may hear.” (D&C 136:32) If we reject ignorance, seek wisdom, and stumble across the truth, our minds will fill with knowledge and we will be compelled to humble ourselves, to change our lives and improve the world we live in.
We are all aware that the world is in a state of ecological peril, but do we know why? Do we know what actions have led us to this point, and what we can do to stop it, to reverse the damage we’ve done? The simple answer is this: Do some research, take action, and as your knowledge changes, you need to be willing to change yourself.

Mormon Scientist: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring by Henry J. Eyring, A Synopsis and Review - by Lewis Steven Campbell

I remember listening to Elder Henry B. Eyring during General Conference years ago. During the talk he spoke of how his father, a career scientist, showed him through example that there is no conflict between science and religion. I remember being overwhelmed on that day with the feeling that this man, despite his status as the most junior apostle at that time, would one day be President of the Church.

Now, of course, President Eyring is First Councilor to the President. Long since the day I heard him speak I have wanted to find out more about the father whom he alluded to. So when Mormon Scientist was published, I hastened to get myself a copy.

Mormon Scientist is about, as the subtitle says, the life and faith of Henry Eyring, President Eyring’s father. It’s not a typical biography; it doesn’t cover his life from beginning to end in chronological order.

On one level, Mormon Scientist is about the issue of science and faith, and whether they conflict or mesh an issue that was at the core of Brother Eyring’s life. But Mormon Scientist on a deeper level is about the life of a progressive Latter-day Saint. In many ways, Henry Eyring was a pioneer who, in his day, chose a very spiritually progressive path, but a path that clashed with the general mood and consensus of the majority of people in the Church. The wonderful thing about his story, however, is that it shows that such a man - a man who even tangled with one of the apostles of the Church – could still remain solidly faithful.

The key was that Henry Eyring stood firm on what he knew to be the truth, but did so with such grace and with such a foundation of pure and absolute strong faith, that not only did he avoid repercussions from the brethren of the church, but in fact enjoyed their wholehearted support. To me, that is a testimony that the Church really is true and that the Brethren that lead the church really do put aside their own personal feelings and their own personal opinions of these things, and really do follow the voice of God.

Of course, Henry’s most famous progressive stance was on the issue of organic evolution. But, as the book exposes, he had some very interesting views on other things as well, from the appropriateness of sharing the more unflattering aspects of Joseph Smith’s life to dangers of an overly literal interpretation of scripture. We’ll cover some of these in this synopsis.

Organic Evolution

Being a scientist in the middle part of the 1900s, Henry was naturally asked very often about evolution, both from people who supported evolution as a science and wanted to pressure him into arguing against religion, and people who wanted him to argue against evolution. The interesting thing about Henry Eyring was that he could do neither. He knew deeply in his heard that the Church was true yet he also believed that evolution offered the best scientific explanation of the origin of man and he didn’t see that as a conflict.

He once said, when replying to a letter:
“We are not told who Adam's father was. To me the important thing is that Adam is the spirit child of God. He came into this world when he received a mortal body. The Fall consisted of becoming subject to death, and everyone born into the world is subject to death and so partakes of this fallen state with Adam. Finally, through the atonement we will all receive a resurrected body.”

“Whether Adam's father lived on this earth or somewhere else would seem of secondary importance to me. Adam was the one whom God recognized as presiding over the first dispensation and as such, with Eve his wife, became our first parents. …if God did or did not use organic evolution to prepare the bodies to house his spirit children I remain unconcerned. I think the scientific evidence on organic evolution like anything else should stand or fall on its merits. Being trained as a geologist it answers many otherwise difficult problems for me, and I find no conflict with it and the gospel.”
The book also contains an interesting quote from someone surprising to me – President Brigham Young:
“…our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular. You may take geology, for instance, and it is a true science; not that I would say for a moment that all the conclusions and deductions of its professors are true, but its leading principles are; they are facts-they are eternal; and to assert that the Lord made this earth out of nothing is preposterous and impossible. God never made something out of nothing; it is not in the economy or law by which the worlds were, are, or will exist. There is an eternity before us, and it is full of matter; and if we but understand enough of the Lord and his ways, we would say that he took of this matter and organized this earth from it. How long it has been organized it is not for me to say, and I do not care anything about it. As for the Bible account of the creation we may say that the Lord gave it to Moses, or rather Moses obtained the history and traditions of the fathers, and from these picked out what he considered necessary, and that account has been handed down from age to age, and we have got it, no matter whether it is correct or not, and whether the Lord found the earth empty and void, whether he made it out of nothing or out of the rude elements; or whether he made it in six days or in as many millions of years, is and will remain a matter of speculation in the minds of men unless he give revelation on the subject. If we understood the process of creation there would be no mystery about it, it would be all reasonable and plain, for there is no mystery except to the ignorant.”
Henry’s life was based on this idea of chasing after the truth; that the church is ultimately interested in the truth, and because of that there is no conflict between science and religion. Henry’s attitude about truth started when he was a young man, when his father told him:
“…in this church you don’t have to believe anything that isn’t true. You go over to the University of Arizona and learn everything you can, and whatever is true is part of the gospel. The Lord is actually running this universe. … If you go to the university and are not profane, if you live in such a way that you’ll feel comfortable in the company of good people, and if you go to church and do the other things we’ve always done, I don’t worry about your getting away from the Lord.”
According to Henry himself, that was the jumping point that launched him on his lifelong quest and belief in the truth.

Exemplifying this, Henry once said “We learned from the Prophet Joseph Smith that man lived before he was born; that life is a school where man is sent to learn the things the Lord intends; and that he continues on into life after death. Death is not the end; it is but one more step in a great forward march made possible by the redemption wrought by the Savior. This is the spirit of true science— constant and eternal seeking.” When he talked about the church he said:
“I am happy to represent a people who throughout their history have encouraged learning and scholarship in all fields of honorable endeavor, a people who have among their scriptural teachings such lofty concepts as these: ’The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.’ ’A man cannot be saved in ignorance.’ ’Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.’”
He also said:
“I am now going to venture to say that science has rendered a service to religion. The scientific spirit is a spirit of inquiry, a spirit of reaching out for truth. In the final analysis, this spirit is likewise of the essence of religion. The Savior said: ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’ The scientist has in effect reaffirmed this great fundamental laid down by the Master, and in doing so has given a new impetus to religion.”
Henry Eyring was expected and asked by the Brethren of the church multiple times to serve as the spokesman for the church on matters of science and religion. At one time, Brother Eyring was asked to respond to a supposedly Biblically-based chronology dating the Earth at about 4000 years old. Brother Eyring said this:
“Accurate dating of events by radioactive elements decaying in the rocks and in textile fibers and elsewhere makes possible an accuracy in chronology which was undreamed of a generation ago. In effect, clocks are set going whenever these materials are laid down. These clocks can often be read with great accuracy. Such data, with many kinds of cross- checks, leads to an antiquity for life on this earth of at least some six hundred million years and an age of the Earth of upwards of two billion years. These conclusions are well known and will surprise no one.”
Because he had these beliefs and opinions, it is a mistake to believe that he thought that evolution was definitely the truth. What he believed was that we have the right to pursue science and find truth in all its forms. What he believed was that the gospel is about finding truth. What he believed was that it was wrong to discount something that seemed to be a strong argument for many of the things discovered in science.

But when people tried to nail him down to actually saying that Adam was created through evolution or something similar, he wouldn’t go there. It was like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree.

One his friends once wrote, “When I was in Salt Lake one time, I was discussing some problems of early man with you in your office. I then asked ‘how do you believe it was?’ You replied, ‘I believe whichever way it turns out to have actually been.’”

He saw the God as being a pure intelligence that understood everything. And he saw our intelligence and our abilities as miniscule in comparison. We don’t know everything yet, and God does, so how can we be so arrogant as to assume that what we know is right, when we don’t know the full scope? He believed that all these truths would eventually be revealed to us at some point if we are faithful.

Literal Truth of the Scriptures

Henry always argued for a synthesis between science and religion, and didn’t understand people who couldn’t do that. It led him to a belief in scripture that was definitely more metaphorical than literal. But, as with everything else, he struck a balance:
“To be understood, the Lord must reveal Himself in a language His Children can understand. Of necessity, many things not necessary for their immediate progress are omitted, to be revealed later, and to be discovered by man’s own enterprise. There are some people who throw away the scriptures and restrict themselves to science and related fields. Others use the scriptures to the exclusion of other truth. Both are wrong. Latter-day Saints should seek after truth by all avenues with earnest humility. There is, of course, no conflict in the gospel since it embraces all truth. Undoubtedly, however, science is continually challenging us to think through again our conceptions of the gospel. This should work both ways, of course.”
One of the most well known things about Henry Eyring was his perceived conflict with Elder Joseph Fielding Smith. In 1954 Elder Smith published a book called Man, His Origin and Destiny. This was a direct challenge to Charles Darwin’s book of a similar name. In the book, Elder Smith reiterated the position that scripture should be read literally as it pertained to the creation. Henry didn’t exactly agree with this, but he was a faithful member of the church and believed in kindness, mutual respect, and the value of coming to consensus.

In one exchange with Elder Smith, he said:
“I am convinced that if the Lord required that His children understand His works before they could be saved that no one would be saved. It seems to me that to struggle for agreement on scientific matters in view of the disparity in background which the members of the Church have is to put emphasis on the wrong place. In my judgment there is room in the Church for people who think that the periods of creation were (a) 24 hours, (b) 1000 years, or (c) millions of years. I think it is fine to discuss these questions and for each individual to try to convert the other to what he thinks is right, but in matters where apparently equally reliable authorities disagree, I prefer to make haste slowly.”
Now I’d like to pause for a minute and think about that quote in relation to current conflicts; in relation to political disagreements, in relation to some of the questions we discuss today about politics and religion, about the left and the right and the in between in relation to the church. If this wasn’t evolution we were talking about, if we substituted some words, for instance: “I’m convinced that if the Lord required that his children be [liberal or conservative] before they could be saved, no one would be saved. It seems to me that to struggle for agreement on [political] matters in view of the disparity in background which the members of the Church have is to put emphasis on the wrong place. In my judgment there is room in the Church for people who think that the [Lord guides us towards equanimity in economics as well as people who emphasize the concept of individual responsibility.] I think it is fine to discuss these questions and for each individual to try to convert the other to what he thinks is right, but in matters where apparently equally reliable authorities disagree, I prefer to make haste slowly.” (Words in brackets are mine.)

Now, to be sure, I don’t want to insert words into Brother Eyring’s mouth. It’s clear from the record that, politically, he was a product of the Cold War era – he passionately opposed communism and everything associated with it, and was most likely of a flavor that we would call conservative today. But his stance on science and religion makes him at the very least a distant cousin, philosophically, to those of us in the small but growing minority of faithful LDS people who do not agree with the current politically conservative LDS majority.

Humanity of Leaders

In another example of kinship with many modern LDS progressives, Henry Eyring says some refreshing things about the practice of emphasizing the positive and negative traits of Church leaders:
“I like a little bit of a mess, and I am glad when one of the brethren says something that I think is a little bit foolish, because I think if the Lord can stand him, maybe He can stand me. So that’s it, and I think that maybe there’s a certain stumbling block that some of us have: we expect other people to be a kind of perfection that we don’t even attempt to approach ourselves. We expect the Lord to just open and shut their mouths, but He doesn’t do that – they are human beings; but they’re wonderful, and they do better than they would if it weren’t for the Lord helping them. … So that’s my answer to this remark – somebody says that a student is down here at BYU and he’s a member of the Church, but he’s a mess. And I say, ‘Yes, I agree. But you ought to see what the fellow would be like if it weren’t for the Church.‘ And that’s what the gospel does. It takes all of us with our faults and makes us better.”
Interesting, isn’t it? But what is more interesting is that his son, President Eyring, First Counselor in the Church, appears to share his views. This quote is from a half-hour BYU documentary about Mormon Scientist (with the same title):
“Dad had the most interesting view of the prophet Joseph. You could bring – and I’m thinking of it – when you read the journals – I mean, what a tumultuous life , I mean, just incredible and most folks would want to just dress it up and – you know – because that wouldn’t be ‘faith promoting.’ Dad loved it when people would talk about the humanity of Joseph. He said it just makes me feel so terrific to know the Lord could do what he did through a person that wasn’t perfect. It gives me hope.”
What’s really interesting when you watch the interview is the disdain in President Eyring’s voice when he talks about how some people believe sharing the unflattering points of the Prophet’s life would not be “faith promoting.” It give me hope that we might just see a reversal in recent trends to “clean up” Church materials and other facets of Church life as President Eyring becomes more and more of an influence in the Church.

Intellectual Honesty

Something particularly admirable was Henry Eyring’s recognition that people who feign intellectual prowess with poor arguments or with a background that’s not complete enough to put together a good argument actually do a disservice to the thing they are trying to defend – even if that thing is the true Church.

“There are few ways in which good people do more harm to those who take them seriously than to defend the gospel with arguments that won't hold water,” he says. “Many of the difficulties encountered by young people going to college would be avoided if parents and teachers were more careful to distinguish between what they know to be true and what they think may be true. Impetuous youth, upon finding the authority it trusts crumbling, even on unimportant details, is apt to lump everything together and throw the baby out with the bath.”

The quote is certainly applicable today. I am heartened by President Eyring’s apparent agreement with his father on such matters. Like his father, he appears to be a man who absolutely does believe that the truth shall set you free and isn’t afraid to put that in front of people and have them make their own decisions. And I think that’s what his father says in this quote, that that’s what we have to do, that we have to not be afraid of the truth, and we have to not be afraid to grasp it.

Another thing that Henry Eyring does in here that’s so beautiful to me is that he explains with such clarity and such good examples why it is important to embrace the truth. And he does that by using scientific history as a backdrop and a context:
“With each new discovery, the skeptic finds less need for God, while the devout Latter-day Saint sees in it one more evidence of His overruling hand. It was ever so. The Bible speaks of the four corners of the earth. In the time of Columbus, there were those who thought a flat earth was a religious necessity. When it turned out to be round, Christ’s teachings were found to be just as consistent with the new view as with the old. Later, when Galileo verified the theories of Copernicus and said the earth moved about the sun and so could no longer be considered the center of creation, there were bigots ready to burn him at the stake. When the smoke of battle cleared away and men looked at matters calmly, it became apparent that nothing essential had been lost. A lot of human philosophy disappeared, but it turned out to be unnecessary.”
A Complete Life

There are many other things this book covers that are interesting about this man that can’t be covered in detail here. He was the son of a polygamist father, a man who was married to two women who both happened to be sisters. In fact, Henry was known to have said that it took him “until the age of sixteen to realize that a man is not well advised to marry two sisters.” He was an acquaintance of Albert Einstein, whom he spoke to on several occasions about the Church (although, to Henry’s discouragement, Mr. Einstein never gained an interest). He started a crazy tradition of running annual footraces with his graduate students at the University of Utah, footraces that eventually culminated with national news coverage by none other than Charles Kuralt, who astutely observed, “Everyone’s here to watch Henry Eyring – the favorite. Not the favorite to win, just the favorite.”

Perhaps it would be fitting to end this synopsis with the scripture on the back of the dust jacket and the book itself:
“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” (D&C 130:18-19)
That, more than anything, is a brilliant summary of the life of this great man.

A Screwtape Letter On Mormon Politics - by John Matos

Dear Wormwood,

After so many years of moving the Church to the right of the political spectrum, Church members are beginning to discover the distinctly left of center teachings, history, and scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What are we conservatives to do? Some may point to influential right-wing leaders among the LDS community like Mitt Romney, Orrin Hatch, or even to our hero of the far-right, Glenn Beck, and say “The Church is firmly conservative and will remain so, so why worry?” To this I can only respond, “Open your eyes!” Mormons are beginning, little by little, to realize their own radical history, their own history of egalitarianism, their past leader’s exhortations for economic equality, and worst of all, the revealed scriptures that warn against materialism, individualism, war, and inequality. Why, in just a few short years, such groups as the LDS Left have seen their numbers grow and grow, even establishing a quarterly newsletter disseminating this information to those who may have gone so long unaware of it!

Now that I have hopefully scared conservatives into realizing the precarious condition our ideology is facing among the LDS population, let me reassure you that we have ways of preventing further enlightenment concerning LDS radical history, teachings and revelations. I would like to propose some solutions that will once and for all rid us of the pesky problem of a growing left leaning membership and firmly establish the wavering right-wing, conservative, and reactionary elements of LDS culture.
First we must consider what the dangers are that right-wing ideology faces among LDS membership. We must identify them so that we may confront them and eliminate them, beginning with the least dangerous and working our way to the most dangerous. The tricky part is that attacking them directly may bring attention to them. After decades of explaining away, dismissing, and then ignoring these elements of Mormonism, we have created a climate in which most members are not even aware of their own liberal and leftist roots. The challenge we face is preventing the rollback of this absence of self-awareness while making absolutely sure that in the process we do not reveal them to others who remain in blissful ignorance.

The least dangerous to our dominance in LDS political life is LDS history. This isn’t because LDS history is free of liberal, leftist and radical moments however. To the contrary, early LDS history is chuck full of such moments. Joseph Smith himself ran for President of the United States with a platform that included such liberal elements as peace through diplomatic efforts rather than war, prison reform and the elimination of the death penalty in all but the most extreme cases. Even worse, his platform included the establishment of a national bank.(1) As you may be realizing, how could we call prison reform “weak on crime” and denounce the nationalizing of the banking system as “Communist” or “socialist” without simultaneously slapping the founder of the LDS Church with the same labels? Now you see the danger, but do not fear. Over the years, we have dismissed these aspects of Joseph Smith’s ideology by simply not mentioning it, and over time the result has been that few people even know where to find this information.

Another example of successfully hidden history is the story of Nauvoo. Many LDS conservatives have been successful in not only covering up the liberal aspects of the city of Nauvoo, but have emphasized the market economy aspect of that period in LDS history so much, that many believe Nauvoo to be the prime example of LDS capitalism. Little do they know that large tracts of land were set aside by the city of Nauvoo and collectivized. The poor and the needy were then able to tend these large tracts of land to support themselves and their families.(2) To us, this smacks too much of land reform, one of the key features of socialism… found in LDS history no less! What is even more sickening is that it was successful! How disgusting to think of the poor and needy being allowed the dignity and opportunity to work and use land that should have been the private property of a more deserving capitalist!

The same is true of other aspects of LDS history. For instance, many have heard about the Law of Consecration, but what they know is so mixed up with conservative culture that they completely misunderstand it. Why, ask almost any member of the Church about it and you will often get the response that God himself withdrew the commandment, wisely replacing it with the Law of Tithing instead. It almost makes you laugh, such nonsense, but hold your laughter if you can, you do not want to inadvertently reveal that this is false. Of course, we know that the commandment still stands, and that blessings will be (and are being) withheld for not adhering to it. But who needs blessings when you are rich and powerful? With our right-wing agenda in full swing, we can create our own blessings and everyone else can fend for themselves.

We also know that even after the Church failed to live up to the Law of Consecration, the Church attempted other steps towards a more egalitarian society. Funny thing is that this also has become very convoluted as generations have passed. In fact, most members think that the Law of Consecration, the United Order and the LDS cooperative movement are all one and the same, not even aware that they were not attempts at the Law of Consecration, but were attempts to establish communities based on economic equality rather than individualism and competition. For the most part, members are unaware that each one was in reality a separate attempt to establish economic equality and to form an alternative to the capitalism that LDS leaders saw developing in the eastern United States and were warning the members against.(3) By letting them believe that all three attempts are the same thing however, and with the idea firmly established in LDS culture that the Law of Consecration is something that has been given up on until the millennium, Saints are left believing they have no responsibility to look for more egalitarian social systems.

As I have said, these aspects of LDS history have become so obscure that there is little danger of them becoming widely known and therefore influential on a large number of LDS members. However, we must not let our guard down. We must continue to pretend these moments never existed, and if we must discuss those periods in LDS history, we must continue to emphasize the spirituality of the early Saints, the persecution they faced, etc. and completely ignore the very temporal efforts and teachings of that time that motivated them in their spirituality and often was the cause of that persecution. While on the subject of persecution, I should also add that we must always keep the pressure on left leaning members of the Church. This is easily accomplished by perpetuating the stigma that has arisen in LDS culture that anything liberal, and especially anything socialistic, is “Satan’s plan”. All it takes is for members to feel that they cannot possibly be “real” or “true” Mormons unless their political views are conservative and right-wing. It probably would help to even make it seem that even centrist opinions are “out of line” with the Church.

Another, more dangerous aspect of Mormonism that threatens right-wing ideology among the membership is the teachings of past LDS leaders. These too have been suppressed and therefore have become more and more obscure, but because the Saints have a tendency to take an interest in their Prophets and Apostles, it is a more serious concern for us. As we speak, members have been discovering a document that has been forgotten for over a century but which has found it’s way to the internet. It matters not that it has been erroneously called the “Proclamation On The Economy”, for the quotes are real quotes. Even more frightening, the endorsement from the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, including such names as Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, Lorenzo Snow, George Q. Cannon and George A. Smith, is very real. This document conveys such dangerous and radical messages as the following:
“The experience of mankind has shown that the people of communities and nations among whom wealth is the most equally distributed, enjoy the largest degree of liberty, are the least exposed to tyranny and oppression and suffer the least from luxurious habits which beget vice.”(4)
It goes on even further to inform the Saints that American liberties are in danger due to the power that wealth gives to individuals and corporations who accumulate it.

Now, obviously, it becomes very difficult to convince Saints who have read such words that redistribution of wealth, and preventing the amassing of enormous fortunes in private hands is “socialist” and contrary to God’s will. For the more studious and curious among the LDS population, it is not hard to find other such dangerous talk. Take the following:
“To serve the classes that are living on them, the poor, laboring men and women are toiling, working their lives out to earn that which will keep a little life within them. Is this equality? No! What is going to be done? The Latter-day Saints will never accomplish their mission until this inequality shall cease on the earth.”(5)
That one was Brigham Young, sometimes referred to as the American Moses. Just think of the danger of members discovering that this revered and respected leader despised inequality so! Here is another from Apostle Orson Pratt:
"An inequality of property is the root and foundation of innumerable evils; it tends to derision, and to keep asunder the social feelings that should exist among the people of God…It is inequality in riches that is a great curse."
Once again, I advise that those of us that wish to maintain our hold on the LDS community as a reliable source of right-wing support be aware. We must be vigilant and do all we can to prevent the discovery of these teachings. If members do discover the large amount of teachings regarding economic equality, I advise flooding them with early Ezra Taft Benson talks. Since he was a Prophet fairly recently, his name carries much weight, and with it, so do his personal political views. Be careful, however, and do not let on that his Church leaders often chastised him for giving such talks. It also helps to refer to these talks, given before Benson was President of the Church, as being talks given by “the Prophet” or “a Prophet of God” even though this is not really accurate, as the prophetic mantle had not been passed to Benson yet.

Now I must come to the most dangerous challenge to right-wing ideology among Mormons. That is, the scriptures themselves. I know that this seems strange, considering that we often pick through the scriptures to denounce this or that, or to make it appear God is a partisan and takes our side on every issue, but let me hammer this one in…The scriptures are DANGEROUS! Oh sure, we can refer to the Old Testament and find passages to support militarism, war, territorial expansion, capital punishment, even slavery and exploitation, but don’t be fooled! A deeper reading and understanding of even the Old Testament will guide one to many dangerous ideas. For example, early on we find Joseph being praised for increasing taxes to prevent suffering among the Egyptians.(6) Taxes used as a way to help the general population of a nation? Of course, we know that taxes should only be used to subsidize the rich, and that the working classes should be the ones burdened by taxes - not the wealthy, who deserve to be privileged. In the Old Testament, we also read of the world being flooded to rid it of its violent inhabitants.(7) As you must see, it becomes difficult for us to advocate war, the most violent interaction between men, if people realize God is so opposed to violence. We read of Moses’ establishment of worker safety laws in the famous Mosaic Law.(8) We even read of God, through Moses, commanding the Israelites to allow the poor to glean the fields rather than sucking out every profit possible from a harvest, which would be appropriate, as any capitalist realizes.(9)

Even prized scriptures for us conservatives, such as the story of Sodom and Gomorrah - which we use to denounce homosexuality - is in jeopardy if one were to read on in the Old Testament. Several books into the Old Testament, in a book called Ezekiel, the Prophet Ezekiel informs us that Sodom was destroyed because it lived in abundance but chose luxury and idleness, refusing to help the poor and the needy with their wealth.(10) Because of such a passage, many Saints have come to think that perhaps the intended rape of God’s servants that we previously read about in the story of Sodom’s destruction was more about violence than sexuality.(11) From this they may even come to believe that God loves all His children… even the gay ones! Now that is a dangerous idea that challenges our position if I’ve ever heard one! They may even come to believe that perhaps God does not require the brutal destruction of homosexuals, but rather the destruction of those that increase the suffering of his less fortunate children. Dangerous ideas I tell you, and they must be prevented!

If we were to go on into the New Testament, we discover Christ to be a peaceful man, averse to violence, loving all God’s children, even denouncing businessmen just using the free-market principles of supply and demand to earn money in the temple.(12) We read of Him teaching that it is difficult for the wealthy to enter heaven - even more difficult than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.(13) We find him teaching a young man to give all his possessions to the poor,(14) but worst of all… we find him providing free healthcare while he travels!(15) Oh the horror!

If one were to read on further in the New Testament, they would come across the accounts of the early Christians living a communal life, sharing their wealth no less!(16) We even find Paul advising the Saints to withdraw from those that would have us believe that earning more and more wealth is godly. Not only does he teach this (which stabs right into the heart of our conservative way of thinking) but he even goes on to teach that money is the root of all evil!(17) This man, holding such an important position as Apostle of the Lord, teaches such heresies as economic equality, claiming that the abundance of the wealthy should be used to supply the wants of the poor.(18)

The most dangerous of all, however, is latter-day scripture. Today, many Saints are oblivious to the economic nature of the scriptures right before their faces, but because it is right in front of them, our ideology is that much closer to the dangers I speak of. To emphasize this point, let me quote from one of the LDS Church’s own historians, Leonard J. Arrington:
“A considerable part, if not the bulk, of the revealed scripture of the Mormons dealt with temporalities. Of the one hundred and twelve revelations announced by Joseph Smith, eighty-eight dealt partly or entirely with matters that were economic in nature. Out of 9,614 printed lines in Smith’s revelations, 2,618 lines, by actual count, treated “definitely and directly of economic matters.”(19)
Of course, that would be fine and dandy if we were talking about free-market, capitalist economics, but we are not. All throughout the Book of Mormon we read of how God punishes societies that do not use their wealth to help the poor and the needy. We find scriptures that advise whole civilizations to use their riches to help others rather than prudently advising that riches be used to create more riches for the investing class. Rather than learning about the “freedom” that a free-market creates, we learn about how the accumulation of wealth leads to corruption, the stripping away of democratic society, and eventual destruction. On the other hand we learn that when these societies established social relief for the less fortunate, not only did they not turn into Communist tyrannies, but the people lived in freedom and happiness! Not only is this ridiculous, but dangerous I tell you!

In the Doctrine and Covenants, what has been specifically referred to as revelation directly for this dispensation, it gets even more specific. We learn the specifics about establishing egalitarian law under revelations about the Law of Consecration.(20) God Himself speaks as very radically on the subject in the Doctrine and Covenants! Listen to this exact quote, not from some Church leader or historical account, but an actual revelation from God Himself: “It is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin."(21)

How can we possibly have our fellow members reading such words, and words from the Lord no less! We must act quickly before LDS members start to become aware of just what this means!

We also come across commandments from God concerning war that are very contrary to our ideology. Not only do we find passages where we are told that we should not go to war unless God reveals that we should, but we even read that in reality we should renounce war altogether!(22) Luckily, few people have realized that renounce means to literally turn away from it and never come back.(23) On this we have lucked out and can still rely on American Saints to “rally around the flag” as we prefer to call it. Of course, it’s not really rallying around the flag and the principles it stands for that we are asking, but to rally around the bombing of this or that nation for this or that reason, and thereby feed the military industry and the pockets of the wealthy.

As one reads on, even the Pearl of Great Price speaks of Enoch’s people living in economic equality, with “no poor among them.”(24) So, as you can see, the danger is right on the surface. All it takes is for a few people here and there to start questioning the right-wing culture we have tried so hard to establish, and it could all fall to pieces for us. That is why I am advising that we take the drastic measures necessary to prevent this gradual political education of the LDS population. What drastic measures, you ask? Well, we must continue to prevent members from learning about their own liberal, leftist, and radical history. We must prevent them from discovering the large amount of teachings concerning equality and the devastation of war and militarism. But that is not all.

What else are we to do? We must get members to pick their way through the scriptures, never actually reading them in full, just reading a passage here, an individual scripture or chapter there, but never from cover to cover. If we do not do this, I’m afraid we will be left to the same methods the early Christian apostates resorted to. We would be forced to edit out the undesirable knowledge that the scriptures possess. Having done this, we can rest assured that wars will continue, that our undeserving poor and needy brothers and sisters will continue to be a source of great wealth without us having to feed them, educate them, care for their elderly, provide them with healthcare or transportation, and otherwise alleviate their suffering in any way. Remember though, we must act fast, and whatever happens… we must not allow those LDS members who are already leaning to the left of the political spectrum to discover that we are concerned! Lastly, keep pushing the idea that what really determines whether or not an individual is a “true” Mormon or not, is whether or not they hold conservative political opinions.




1. Joseph Smith’s Presidential platform can be found in his campaign pamphlet, “Joseph Smith’s Views”
2. “Great Basin Kingdom: Economic History of the Latter-day Saints 1830-1900” by Leonard J. Arrington, page 17.
3. “Building the City of God:Community and Cooperation Among the Latter-day Saints” by Arrington, Fox and May, pg. 7
4. Pamphlet from the First Presidency, 1875, can be found in Volume 2 of “The Messages of the First Presidency”
5. “Discourses of Brigham Young” 19:46
6. Story of Joseph’s plan to tax yearly harvests as an insurance against draught begins in Genesis 41.
7. Genesis 6:11-13
8. This includes laws requiring railing to be built upon structures to prevent people from falling, as found in Deuteronomy 22:8 for example. Further correlations between the Law of Moses and contemporary worker conditions are mentioned in Hugh Nibley’s “Work We Must, But the Lunch is Free”.
9. Deuteronomy 22:19-21
10. Ezekiel 16:49-50
11. Genesis 19:4-9
12. Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, John 2:13-16
13. Matthew 19:23-24, Mark 10:24-25, Luke 18:24-25
14. Matthew 19:21, Luke 18:22
15. Examples of Christ healing the sick at no charge are too numerous to list; from healing the blind, the leprous, a woman with an issue of blood, and even raising the dead…all without proof of insurance and at no charge!
16. Acts 4:32
17. 1 Timothy 6:5-11
18. 2 Corinthians 8:13-15
19. “Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints” by Leonard J. Arrington, pg. 5-6
20. D&C 42 & 51.
21. D&C 49:20
22. Section 98 of the Doctrine & Covenants give very specifics about when it is appropriate to resort to war explained in D&C 98:32-48. The passage where God commands us to renounce war altogether is found in D&C 98:16.
23. Definitions of the word “renounce” are as follows 1: to announce one’s abandonment or giving up of a right or interest. 2: to refuse to follow, obey, or recognize any further.
24. Moses 7:18

God's Love - by Cody McKay

There is one thing I feel I have learned over the course of years (and am probably still learning), and that is that God’s love really is all-reaching and limitless. There is no one living or dead, past, present, or future that this love does not apply to. Often, as human beings, we are so quick to judge others or ourselves, and there are times when we think God couldn’t possibly love us because of the things we’ve done in our lives. Perhaps there are certain people we think God couldn’t (or even shouldn’t) love. God’s love is hard to understand with our limited human perception, but I feel sure he loves everyone, even the people that are harder to love.

I remember a particular church meeting I went to. In Sunday School the lesson was about Samuel the Lamanite, and as I was listening, it struck me that Samuel, righteous as he was, was actually an outsider preaching to members of the Church who had become prideful and wicked. I assume Samuel was considered a member of the Church, too, since he was a prophet and living his life in righteousness. But my point is that it struck me as ironic that these high and mighty Nephites, who probably felt Samuel was beneath them, were being preached to and called to repentance by he who was actually more righteous in his life than they were. I just thought it was interesting.

What really lifted me up spiritually that day was that the Special Needs Mutual came to our ward to sing and speak. I didn't even know that such a group existed. What was interesting to me was that during the sacrament, one of the special needs women started commentating on the proceedings at full voice. She was pretty much shouting stuff like "Here comes the bread!" and "Oh, he's passing by us now," etc. She wasn't doing it to be rude. In fact, she was quite joyful in doing it. It's just the way she was. As I sat there, I thought about how social rules have taught us all our life to be "normal," whatever that means, and that one of those rules is that we're supposed to be quiet and reverent during the sacrament, and I thought, "I'll bet there are people in the congregation who are uncomfortable or bothered by this woman,” and I asked myself a question I have asked myself often: "Why are we so afraid of people that are different from us?" I myself was not bothered by her behavior; in fact, I found it sweet in a way. And I always am interested in things that "rock the boat" a bit. In my mind I thought, "This woman is who she is. She can't help behaving that way nor does she view it as being wrong or abnormal." As I thought about this, I equated it to my own situation of being a homosexual, something I feel I just am even if it means I don't always fit in the "Mormon box."

What really moved me was that this special needs group sang a song that I know very well from having sang it in high school many years ago. Perhaps you are familiar with it as well. It is called "In This Very Room," and these are the lyrics:

"In this very room there's quite enough love for one like me,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for one like me,
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus ... is in this very room.
And in this very room there's quite enough love for all of us,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for all of us,
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus ... is in this very room.

In this very room there's quite enough love for all the world,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for all the world,
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus ... is in this very room."

What was interesting was their configuration as they sang it. Unlike a "normal" choir that would be in some proper formation, one guy with Down’s syndrome came to the front of the group all by himself, and yet another sang the song from the aisle near the congregation (still a part of the group, but completely on his own at the same time). Their voices were varied. Some sang just fine, others couldn't sing well at all, and that one woman just commented while everybody was singing until she was the last voice heard muttering various things long after the song itself had ended. It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen or heard in church, and I was crying throughout, especially because the words seemed so poignant to their situation as well as my own. Sometimes one doesn't fit the conventional definition of "normalcy," at least by the world's standards or the church's standards or society's standards or what-have-you. But what really hit me was that it doesn't matter so much because God's love is so far-reaching, so eternal, so abundant, so boundless, that there is a place for everyone at his table. No one is beyond the reach of his love. No one is excluded. Sometimes religion can seem like a very exclusive thing, and it is interesting that the irony is that God is completely inclusive.

I was reminded of a song from an Off-Broadway show, Altar Boyz, called "Everybody Fits." It goes like this:

“Some days you just can't begin.
You feel outside looking in.
It's like you're the odd man out.
Let me help you end your doubt.

It doesn't matter if you're different and out of place.
It doesn't matter if there's acne upon your face.
It doesn't matter.
Take my hand and then you will see
Everybody fits in God's great family.

Strangers seem to stop and stare,
Wonderin' why you're even there,
Feeling so left out and wrong.
I'll show you that you belong.

It doesn't matter if you have a gigantic nose.
It doesn't matter if you're born with eleven toes.
It doesn't matter.
You can trust and believe in me.
Everybody fits in God's great family.

In the family of God you'll learn
That there is no such thing as others.
All the woman and men on Earth
Can be your sisters and your brothers.

It doesn't matter if you're wrinkled and old and gray.
It doesn't matter if you face Mecca when you pray.
It doesn't matter.
Won't you listen and hear my plea?
Everybody fits.
It doesn't matter if you're yellow or white or red.
It doesn't matter if you're pregnant and you're unwed.
It doesn't matter
'Cause the truth, it can set you free,
Everybody fits!
Everybody fits!

It doesn't matter .
Every murderer on death row
It doesn't matter
Every prostitute that you know
It doesn't matter
Welcome to the fraternity.
Everybody fits in God's great family,
You and me,
We fit into the family.”

I really believe in an all-loving God. I think sometimes people and religion make us think we lose his love if we sin or that if we're not living our lives perfectly according to society's norms that we're somehow unworthy of that love. I wish I could convince everyone that this isn't true. My heart powerfully received the message on that Sunday (as it has many times before) that there is a place for all at God's table regardless of your situation. I don't care if you're a murderer, an adulterer, an atheist, gay, mentally-challenged, mentally-deranged, suicidal, a woman, a man, if you've lost all faith or have plenty, whether you're a prophet, or the biggest sinner in the world. God loves you and me in terms that are inexplicable to our finite human minds, and nothing we ever do will cause him to stop loving us. I become more and more convinced of that as I continue on my life's journey. It's good to know.