Thursday, October 23, 2014

Whither the Disavowing and Unequivocal Condemning of Pedophilia?


So LDS Church, how do you really feel about pedophilia*?  Apparently, it's excusable.

Last year the LDS Church Newsroom and History Dept released press statements and an essay, both declaring that it doesn't matter what times were like in the 1800s, racism is wrong!  They offered meek excuses about the culture and times, but courageously, the LDS church used the words  "disavow" and "unequivocally condemn".
 “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”  (LDS Topic on Race and Priesthood)
In the past couple of days, we saw the release of another topic essay on Joseph Smith's polygamy.  In it, the church admits "Joseph Smith married multiple wives and introduced the practice to close associates" including with: 
“[T]he youngest was Helen Mar Kimball…who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday.”  
That is, when she was 14 years old, and Joseph Smith was 37 years old! (23 years her senior!) 

Joseph Smith used coercive tactics to get young (and little) Helen's hand in marriage, saying to the teen girl, “it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father’s household & all of your kindred.” 

Helen felt that “this promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward. None but God & his angels could see my mother’s bleeding heart-when Joseph asked her if she was willing…”  

After her marriage to Joseph, Helen, still a young teen, lamented that, “like a wild bird I longed for the freedom that was denied me; and thought myself  an abused child, and that it was pardonable if I did murmur.” 

Regardless of whether Joseph had sex with Helen (the essay writers suggest it was for "eternity-only"), she felt "abused" and she felt a loss of freedom.  She "willingly gave" herself so that she could "purchase" a reward.  Perhaps Helen initially thought she had married Smith "for eternity alone" but soon found out differently. She said Joseph protected her from the attention of young men, and that her marriage was "more than ceremony," suggesting that she did have or would have a sexual relationship with Smith. (See this reference, pp. 499-501.)  It sure sounds like she traded a lot for her "spiritual" virtue.

This form of child abuse and "spiritual" (if not literal) pedophilia* is very disgusting. 

Yet, the essay writers attempt to excuse it with this claim: 
“Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens.”

As if pedophilia was in style in Smith's time, therefore, it's just fine to dismiss. Further, young marriage practices or not, polygamy to teen brides was not normal in that era!

Apostle Neil Andersen tried this same excuse at the October 2014 general conference:
We might remind the inquirer that some information about Joseph, while true, may be presented completely out of context to his own day and situation.”

But then later in his talk, Andersen said:
“The negative commentary about the prophet Joseph Smith will increase as we move toward the second coming of the savior. The half-truths and subtle deceptions will not diminish. There will be family members and friends who need your help.”
On the one hand Andersen wants to excuse Joseph Smith by using the context of his day and situation, so that we don’t scrutinize him by our higher standards on a 37 year old Joseph Smith, the prophet, marrying a 14 year old teen girl. On the other hand Andersen, knowing the Internet is revealing the true character of Joseph Smith that they could formerly hide, calls on the idea that immorality increases and is more rampant in the latter days as we move toward the end-times.  

Andersen wants Joseph to eat his teen cake and have his slice of latter-day wickedness too.  

Sorry, Mr. Andersen, you can’t have it both ways. Either we excuse the unacceptable dalliances by our more modern strict views on pedophilia, or dismiss your view that modern culture is more sexually perverse than Smith was.  To cherry-pick your moral codes by era and give Joseph a pass while condemning those who view pedophilia as evil is just plain irrational and backwards.  Give credit to critics who decry pedophilia no matter where they see it--whether in Warren Jeffs or in Joseph Smith. Be honest and willing to admit your leader had some sick behaviors.

I challenge the LDS church to finally disavow and unequivocally condemn underage marriages and pedophilia, whether past, present or future.  The emotional, psychological and even spiritual abuse perpetuated on young girls by its leaders sickens the world.

Furthermore, as Grant Palmer recently pointed out "it is generally unknown that he was accused of illicit sexual conduct with a number of women from 1827 on, until his death in 1844."  Many of these women were not his so-called wives, but others that spurned his advances of spiritual wifery and swinging playfulness.  That list included Miriam and Rhoda Stowell, Eliza Winters, Marinda Nancy Johnson, Vienna Jacques and several more.

This kind of abuse extended from Joseph to Brigham (married a 16 year old at 45!) to Woodruff (15 year old girl), Snow (15 year old girl) and Joseph F. Smith (17 year old girl).  They all need to be condemned and disavowed like the pedophiles they are.

Stand up LDS essay writers and condemn this behavior!  It's sure the LDS apostles won't.  

In hindsight, Andersen's pre-emptive promotion of Joseph Smith just weeks ahead of the polygamy essay and confessions of Smith's teen girl dalliances--well, it appears Andersen craftily and calculatingly gave that speech to head off calls to the church for condemning Smith's untoward behavior.

They're going to have to craft speeches on the other prophets with teen brides soon enough, if they choose to defend the polygamous teen-marriage practice of their leaders.



While  you're at it, essay writers, remember that you also admitted, "Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married."  You may feel free to condemn that as well.


If I were still a member on the LDS records, I would be embarrassed to know the church has not gone on record to disavow and condemn pedophilia yet.  Members of the LDS Church, you should petition your leaders to publicly and unequivocally condemn underage sexual relationships and spiritual marriages.  

Why haven't you?  Because you covenant not to speak ill of the Lord's anointed?  Do you still believe these men, these pedophiles were anointed?  

*Note: Technically, it isn't pedophilia as sexual relations with younger teens is called hebephilia. However at 23 years older than a 14 year old, Joseph Smith was one sick man whatever technical term you use.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

TL;DR


For the impatient, with LDS friendly links.
(click here to get larger version)





https://www.lds.org/topics/plural-marriage-in-kirtland-and-nauvoo

https://www.lds.org/topics/book-of-mormon-and-dna-studies




Plural Adultery in Kirtland and Nauvoo



The LDS Church has finally admitted that Joseph is an adulterer.  Their new essay, called Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo, while not explicitly stating Smith committed adultery, does admit he practiced a form of plural marriage that by almost any standard, even including the explicit one given in its own scripture (D&C 132), Joseph broke the rules, and did so many times.  The church will not come out and call Joseph Smith an adulterer, but by the end of this blog, you will have to admit to wondering why not.

TL;DR summary:  The essay admits--

1) Joseph Smith married girls, one as young as 14-years-old.
2) Joseph married women who were already married to other living men (polyandry).
3) Joseph likely had sex with some (or many) of the women he married.
4) An angel with a drawn sword threatened Joseph into practicing polygamy.
5) Excuses Joseph by claiming that many (but not all) of the marriages were sexless (eternity-only).
6) Excuses Joseph by telling us not to use modern cultural standards to judge the appropriateness of his marriages.
7) Claims that much of polygamy isn't fully understood because of the secrecy behind it.

In reviewing the essay, I’ll follow an “admission”/”claim” and my response of “truth” afterward.

First of all, I want to give the LDS History Department kudos for this admission.

Admission:  "Joseph told associates that an angel appeared to him three times between 1834 and 1842 and commanded him to proceed with plural marriage when he hesitated to move forward. During the third and final appearance, the angel came with a drawn sword, threatening Joseph with destruction unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment fully."

I can't add a whole lot to this except, HAHAHAHAHA.  Silly Joseph.  "The Devil Angel made me do it!"


Essay Admission: “After receiving a revelation commanding him to practice plural marriage, Joseph Smith married multiple wives and introduced the practice to close associates.”

Furthermore:  This is a very bold beginning for the LDS church essay.  Until this, the admission of Joseph's polygamy was met with denial.  Even some members are threatened with disciplinary action if they, once-upon-a-time preached the same doctrines exposed on the essay today.  The essay goes on to include statements that “Plural marriage was introduced among the early Saints incrementally, and participants were asked to keep their actions confidential.”  One can wonder why it was a secret in prudish America (duh!).  

Because of rumors of Joseph Smith’s dalliances in the mid 1830s, the LDS church quickly adopted a “Chapter of Rules for Marriage among the Saints”, which declared, “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with...polygamy; we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife...”  This “Article on Marriage” was canonized and published in the Doctrine & Covenants from 1835 for about 40 years. (See Joseph Smith Papers, D&C 1835 edition.)

Essay Claim: “Although the Lord commanded the adoption—and later the cessation—of plural marriage in the latter days, He did not give exact instructions on how to obey the commandment.”

Truth:  The commandment specifically states “if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified … But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery” (D&C 132:61-63) 

Truth:  The commandment also states: “I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.” (D&C 132: 4).  And that “if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery and shall be destroyed. …And if her husband be with another woman, and he was under a vow, he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery.” (D&C 132: 41-43).  Further, that to a man, virgins in plural marriage “are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth” (D&C 132:63)

What are the rules?  The exact instructions (quote above) in Section 132 are:
  • marry only virgins
  • the first wife (virgin) has to give consent
  • women are not to be with other men
  • multiple wives are given to a man to multiply and replenish the earth (by sex)


Admission: “The revelation on plural marriage was not written down until 1843, but its early verses suggest that part of it emerged from Joseph Smith’s study of the Old Testament in 1831.”

Furthermore: The essay even admits to Fanny Alger (a surprise I didn’t expect). Quote: “Fragmentary evidence suggests that Joseph Smith acted on the angel’s first command by marrying a plural wife, Fanny Alger, in Kirtland, Ohio, in the mid-1830s.”  (It was about in 1833 when 17 year old Fanny spent time with Emma and Joseph working in their home.)  The essay also claims, “nothing is known about the conversations between Joseph and Emma regarding Alger.”  However rumors abound about Emma’s hostility toward Fanny, and Cowdery’s statement on his “dirty, nasty, filthy affair”. 

Admission:  Marriage of Zina Huntington Jacobs to Joseph Smith. “The women who united with Joseph Smith in plural marriage risked reputation and self-respect in being associated with a principle so foreign to their culture and so easily misunderstood by others. “I made a greater sacrifice than to give my life,” said Zina Huntington Jacobs, “for I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honorable woman.” ”

Essay also admits: “Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married. Neither these women nor Joseph explained much about these sealings, though several women said they were for eternity alone.”

Truth:  Zina Huntington Jacobs’ polygamous marriage to Joseph Smith was on October 27, 1841, when she was about 20 years old.  The essay omits directly that she had already married Henry B. Jacobs, almost six months before, on March 7, 1841.  Some reports say that Henry Jacobs knew of the plural marriage and believed that “whatever the Prophet did was right, without making the wisdom of God’s authorities bend to the reasoning of any man.”  Over the next few years, Henry was sent on several missions to Chicago, Western New York and Tennessee. 

Other than to say that Joseph was sealed to women already married, the essay does not name the other already-married, polyandrous wives of Joseph Smith, which include (not exclusively) Presendia Huntington Buell, Sylvia Sessions Lyon, Mary Rollins Lightner, Patty Bartlett Sessions, Marinda Johnson Hyde and more. 

The essay tried to excuse the practice of polyandry—marriage to married women—by justifying that, “These sealings may have provided a way to create an eternal bond or link between Joseph’s family and other families within the Church.” And that “several women said they were [sealed] for eternity alone.”  But then why would Zina fear an eternal sealing which would not have put her sexual relationship in jeopardy, keeping her alliance with Joseph Smith secret and claiming “I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honorable woman”?  The essay’s explanation seems hollow.

Claim: “The exact number of women to whom he was sealed in his lifetime is unknown because the evidence is fragmentary.” While it never offers a number, the essay does admit to the following plural wives of Joseph: Fanny Alger, Zina Huntington Jacobs, Louisa Beaman,  Fanny Young, and Helen Mar Kimball. 

Truth:  Regarding Helen Mar Kimball, the essay does admit that “the youngest was Helen Mar Kimball…who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday.”  But then it excuses it with this claim: “Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens.”

Truth:  If we are to judge Joseph Smith as having a lesser ("inappropriate") standard of moral character than we expect in "today's standards" then I hereby declare the LDS prophets, apostles and seventy members can no longer preach that people of modern times are a more wicked generation, running head-long into evil end-of-days destruction.

No, Mr. Monson and Mr. Oaks, you can't have a double standard.  Either Joseph gets a pass because today's standards know and view his inappropriateness and that means we are more righteous, or we're all evil and the Angel made us do it!

Truth:  Conservative estimates place the number of plural wives of Joseph Smith at around 25 and others go as high as 40.   Helen Mar Kimball was 14, and Joseph used coercive tactics to get her hand in marriage, saying to the teen girl, “it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father’s household & all of your kindred.” Helen felt that “this promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward. None but God & his angels could see my mother’s bleeding heart-when Joseph asked her if she was willing…”  After her marriage to Joseph, Helen, still a young teen, lamented that, “like a wild bird I longed for the freedom that was denied me; and thought myself  an abused child, and that it was pardonable if I did murmur.” 

Even though the essay raises none of Helen’s sadness, like a good patriarchal organization, it does mention her father’s strong emotional response.  Her father, Heber C. Kimball, agreed. “I never felt more sorrowful,” the essay tells us.

Admission: “The practice spread slowly at first. By June 1844, when Joseph died, approximately 29 men and 50 women had entered into plural marriage, in addition to Joseph and his wives.”

Truth:  If Joseph Smith had over 20 wives of his own by 1844, and only 50 women and 29 men had entered it, the other men scarcely had a second wife.  (Joseph’s harem was almost as large as the rest combined).  I don't understand how 29 men can be in polygamous relationships with 50 women when the ratio is less than 2:1.  Perhaps they don't include the first wives.  How perfectly thoughtfully sexist of them.

The essay concludes with, “The challenge of introducing a principle as controversial as plural marriage is almost impossible to overstate. A spiritual witness of its truthfulness allowed Joseph Smith and other Latter-day Saints to accept this principle.” 

Truth:  That spiritual witness?  An angel with a flaming sword.  However, the principle taught in the D&C (132) and as practiced by Smith are not one and the same.  The D&C explicitly states that the women should be virgins, should not have other husbands/men/lovers and the purpose was to have offspring.  Did Joseph Smith fulfil on this?  The essay admits he married already-married women even while it attempts to justify Joseph on the grounds that the marriages were most often for “eternity only” and not for “time” (“eternity-only sealings indicated relationships in the next life alone” and did not include sexual relations).

Joseph Smith seems to have utterly failed his own revelation on plural marriage, breaking every one of the requirements given in Section 132.  His real excuse seems to come down to:  "The angel made me do it!!"


Did Joseph's teen brides complain:  "Always a bride, never a maid!" ?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ordain Women Now

It's been shown, and admitted to by LDS church leaders, that their past prophets from the first to Kimball were wrong about not ordaining black men to their priesthood.

Interestingly, there is more reference in their scripture about certain races or people being denied the priesthood (in the book of Abraham, Book of Mormon) than there is about denying women the priesthood.

The LDS church's late 2013 essay on Race and the Priesthood tried to exempt Joseph Smith from the lineage of racist prophets by claiming, "there is no evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime."

It sounds to me as if the LDS church is proud of those leaders who were ahead of their time in ordaining minority males to the priesthood when they say the world view was against it.

Why wouldn't they say the same thing about Joseph Smith ordaining women? I won't expound on the events surrounding the history of Joseph Smith ordaining women, but D. Michael Quinn showed plenty on it.  There are many saying the LDS church is wrong to discriminate:  You should have a look at the Ordainwomen website to get more information.

What I want to challenge here is, why aren't there more active men who stand up and step forward for women, and Ordain Women Now?  Your prophet is a sexist, so stand up and go forward by ordaining Kate Kelly or any other Mormon woman who asks to be ordained. Don't be ashamed of your small support for females.  Be a large man and stand tall for women.  Lay your hands on them, give them the priesthood and report it to the world.  

If and when the LDS church leaders come after you with a disciplinary court, stand tall and lead.  Let the chips fall where they may.  You'll make history when the future church proclaims that it doesn't know how or when the ban on women started but is against all forms of sexism, past, present or future. And you can be listed among those brave LDS saints that stood for priesthood equality.


Ordain Women Now doesn't have to be a movement waiting for change. Just ordain women and make the change immediately.



Sit high, look forward to a bright, if uncertain future.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Priestcrafty



"Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the Welfare of Zion…. But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish" (2 Ne. 26:29, 31).

If you labored in Zion -- if you taught humility, obedience, paying tithes and offerings, remaining pure from alcohol/sex and other fun outside of the happiness the church designs for you -- and you were paid well for preaching this, would you want the members to know about your financial compensation?

What if you also sought investment income far more often than the welfare of humans, but preached as if you cared more about people than profits?

Preaching is a skill.  A skill is also a craft.  Being crafty is being deceptively ingenious so that your skill nets you unobserved gain.

Are the LDS apostles engaged in priestcraft? Do crafty church leaders keep secret their gains for laboring in Zion?  

FAIR has a page dedicated to help the questioning member decide that NO, the church leadership is not a priestcraft.  

FAIR, does admit that the church uses non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which is where the basis of financial opaqueness is founded. NDAs are to financial transparency what blackout curtains are to the sun. 

Keeping financial opaqueness, the LDS church refuses to disclose: 
1) complete or even basic tithing & offerings income, 
2) corporate income, 
3) church operating expenses, 
4) salaries of leaders and many church employees, 
5) the form and even existence of the non-disclosure agreements, 
6) source of investment monies (tithing?), 
7) investment gains/losses.  

There might be other factors I neglect here, but this suffices.  Remember, tithing comes entirely from the members but they have no accounting for it.  Also, NDAs in the LDS church might be a secret, but so many church employees have admitted to them at various levels, their existence is not really in question.

FAIR argues that NDAs are not a sign of deception or priestcraft: "One problem with an NDA is that in order to get relief the injured party must sue. And in suing, the contract itself would become part of the court case, and potentially available for public scrutiny."

They argue that NDAs don't solve the secrecy problem.  They do, however, create a great excuse for GAs at the top who don't want to be forced to disclose their compensations.  The NDA is a cover for the top, and a way to keep internal records sequestered so that all but a few mid-level staff don't see the compensation of the higher ups.

FAIR: "This would only be some sort of problem if the church was trying to hide something. And so if the church is trying to hide payments to general authorities, then the whole process of having a NDA creates far more problems than it would solve. "

Ok, then by FAIR's reasoning, there is no need for a non-profit, charity-church based corporation to have NDAs. If they would forego their self-mandated NDAs (they are The LDS Executives, after all) and just produce financial transparency, it would clear it up.  They have nothing to hide, right?

But they do.  The Mission President Handbook, which FAIR has not addressed, shows they absolutely have things to hide regarding tax liabilities if "stipends" or reimbursed packages were defined as income.

Removing the NDA would create more problems than it solves in the case where publishing the GA compensation packages would upset the proletariat members. And again, the MP Handbook tells the mission presidents not to disclose their compensation packages. Not even to family or other MPs.  Why?  Because the compensation includes Christmas gifts, gardeners, tuition, maids and more.  Items the average member would find on the edge of moral responsibility for their own church.

On GA compensation, FAIR quotes Hinckley, former prophet, as saying:
“... the living allowances given the General Authorities, which are very modest in comparison with executive compensation in industry and the professions, come from this business income and not from the tithing of the people.”

This tells us two things:  
1) GAs make “modest” executive compensation.  He didn’t say salary.  He said executive compensation.  
2) GA compensation is tied to LDS business income.

Compensation tied to business income can be very healthy, especially if your companies have billions to invest in a lot of real-estate and other ventures.  For the LDS church, everything they own, hold or build derived originally from tithing.  Even Hinckley says, "the combined income from all of these business interests is relatively small."  However he defines small, it's on the scale of having enough cash on hand to build billion-dollar malls, hundred million dollar condo high-rises, industrial parks and more, year after year.  If that is small, tithing income must be huge!

If your personal yearly compensation were dependent on how much money the corporation had for investments (likely from invested excess tithing) and how efficiently the monies are used, you would try to get all the free labor  you could.  You would ask members to pay for their own sales-position as missionaries.  You would ask them to clean the chapels.  You would ask them to work for free at storehouses, farms and temples.  You would ask them to do a lot of work to benefit the LDS corporate bottom line, like advertise and lobby for the LDS full-length motion movie advertisment to get put in theaters nation-wide.

Free sales force. Free janitors.  Free storehouse workers.  Free farm labor.  Free this and free that.  Bottom line savings from tithing goes to business investments and is tied to executive compensation.

I’ve blogged about apostles heading up positions on LDS corporations previously—such as Monson simultaneously holding positions as Chairman (CEO) of the Corporation of COJCOLDS, Chairman of LDS Business College, Director of BYU-I; as Holland being Director of Farmland Reserve, etc.  The LDS Corporations are valued conservatively by Business Week at $40 Billion, with a church-wide gross (and mostly tax-free) income between tithing and return on investments coming in about $6-8 billion annually.  It's estimated that about 20% of their income (or $2B) is their annual consolidated income, used as investment seed to build cash for building projects like malls and condo complexes.  This net income is the level of a mid-latitude Fortune 500 company, such as Target Corp, whose post-tax consolidated net income is $2-3B per year.  What does a CEO/Chairman or Director of a such a corporation make? 

While it is an apples/oranges comparison of sorts, in 2012, Target Corp Chairman, Gregg W Steinhafel’s compensation package was $20,647,464. (Target’s listed VPs earned $5-7M). The median CEO salary, according to an Associated Press/Equilar pay study, is around $10 million.  

So a "modest" compensation "living allowance" compared with the equivalent Target CEO, at 5% would be $1,032,373 for Monson.  However, Monson had three jobs, two of them as Chairman, and one as Director.  His modest tri-job package could be...well, we really don’t know.  We can’t.  There are NDAs to protect such things.

Hinckley also said, quoted by FAIR, that:
 Merchandising interests are an outgrowth of the cooperative movement which existed among our people in pioneer times. The Church has maintained certain real estate holdings.”

It’s interesting that he used the word “merchandising” when one considers the merchandise of Porsche Design, Rolex and Tiffany’s at LDS owned City Creek Mall.  And interesting also because New Testament Peter said to his flock to beware of “false prophets” who “through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.” (2 Peter 2:3)  That is, they will make money off of their flocks by flattering them.

The NDAs are crafty, for a bunch of high priests and apostles.


Uchtdorf's two, $700,000+ homes come decades after retiring. Because the GAs sign non-disclosure agreements, we can't know how, for example, Boyd Packer as a BYU Religion Teacher ends up with just under $2M in property in Utah alone. Or how Monson, retired from advertising at Deseret Book and Deseret News apparently at 36 years of age (two years from 31-33 as a Mission President), ends up with over $1M in property.  
If they would forego their self-mandated NDAs (they are the executives, after all) and just produce financial transparency, it would clear it up.  A lot of Fortune 500 CEOs, ExVPs publish their compensation packages.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Challenge to Neil Andersen

What will you ask the man?


Neil L. Andersen, an LDS Apostle, said at the Oct 4, 2014 LDS General Conference
“How should we respond to a sincere inquirer who is concerned about negative comments he or her has heard or read about the prophet Joseph Smith? Of course we always welcome honest and genuine questions.”

Do you really welcome honest and genuine questions?  

I challenge Neil L. Andersen to put his money where his mouth is.  There are a lot of questions out there that LDS Apostles have not answered. They’ve been there for decades. 

So, Mr. Andersen, here’s the challenge—go pick up Fawn Brodie’s “No Man Knows My History” or even the pages on Joseph Smith at Mormonthink.com and show us the half-truths in these documents.  Otherwise, your words in the talk claiming to “offer kindness to those who criticize Joseph Smith” are in vain.

From the other side of his mouth, Mr. Andersen also said:
"We are especially saddened when someone who once revered Joseph retreats from his or her conviction and then maligns the prophet. “Studying the church through the eyes of its defectors,” Elder Neil A. Maxwell once said, “is like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus.  Defectors always tell us more about themselves than about that which they have departed.” "

In one mouth Andersen offers critics kindness. In the other mouth he is branding “defectors” as betrayers akin to “Judas”—who LDS members recognize as a son of perdition—residing with Satan.  This kind of labelling is not kindness, Elder Andersen.  This is tantamount to creating a barrier between “defectors” and their active-Mormon family. (We know the LDS church indirectly encourages shunning of apostates in its policies.  Andersen just repeats it from the global pulpit.)


Andersen also said: 
“We might remind the inquirer that some information about Joseph, while true, may be presented completely out of context to his own day and situation.”
Later:
“The negative commentary about the prophet Joseph Smith will increase as we move toward the second coming of the savior. The half-truths and subtle deceptions will not diminish. There will be family members and friends who need your help.”

On the one hand Andersen wants to excuse Joseph Smith by using the context of his day and situation, so that we don’t scrutinize him by our higher standards on a 37 year old Joseph Smith, the prophet, marrying a 14-15 year old teen girl. On the other hand Andersen, knowing the Internet is revealing the true character of Joseph Smith that they could formerly hide, calls on the idea that immorality increases and is more rampant in the latter days as we move toward the end-times.  

Andersen wants Joseph to eat his teen cake and have his slice of latter-day wickedness too.  

Sorry, Mr. Andersen, you can’t have it both ways. Either we excuse the unacceptable dalliances by our more modern strict views on pedophilia, or dismiss your view that modern culture is more sexually perverse than Smith was.  To cherry-pick your moral codes by era and give Joseph a pass while condemning those who view pedophilia as evil is just plain irrational and backwards.  Give credit to critics who decry pedophilia no matter where they see it--whether in Warren Jeffs or in Joseph Smith. Be honest and willing to admit your leader had some sick behaviors.

In that last statement, Andersen decried critics of Joseph Smith as perpetuating half-truths and subtle deceptions while never honestly and fully explaining exactly what he meant.   He can bad-mouth all he wants, but he needs to give the data and explain it or it looks completely ad-hominem.


The challenge remains, Mr. Andersen, please step up and answer the honest questions about Joseph Smith’s pedophilia.  Once you’ve done that, we have a long list of sincere questions about Smith’s involvement in many other questionable ventures, that seen even through the context lens of Smith's 19th century situation would be troubling.  After all, there was a lot of anger towards Joseph Smith by the non-Mormons of his day.  Oh, that’s right, you would like members to believe that anger stemmed from his testimony of the Book of Mormon, not his dalliances, his destruction of presses, of bank note fraud and more.

Will Mr. Andersen actually discuss in detail the honestly questionable aspects of Joseph Smith’s life?  If his conference talk is an indicator, probably not. One of the very few examples Andersen did relate about Joseph Smith wasn’t actually about Joseph Smith.  He related the story of the Salamander letter, which Kimball, Hinckley and other prophet-apostles bought from forger Mark Hofmann, and of which Dallin Oaks even defended as legitimate, until Hofmann later admitted to the forgery.  Andersen said that members whose faith failed because of the letter “left too early.”  

However, Andersen did not divulge that LDS Prophets were deceived by Hofmann as well, indicating their claims to prophetic vision were undermined severely by the episode.  Andersen would have you believe that leaving the church over documents showing Joseph Smith used a stone in a hat to produce the text of the Book of Mormon, or that Smith practiced polygamy with teenaged girls when in  his late 30s and early 40s is too premature.  However, the awareness of these—the stone and hat and polygamy—have been in books for over 50 years.  LDS church apostles have decried such information as anti-mormon until only this past year when they began acknowledging the same facts in their Topic Essays.  

When the Hofmann forgeries were eagerly purchased for $10s of thousands of dollars by Kimball and Hinckley, Mormon critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner actually issued caution that the documents LDS leaders were buying looked fake.  Critics were not touting the documents as evidence against Joseph Smith.  Hofmann, a lone forger and money-hungry “faithful” LDS member did that.  Andersen has fault in his implication that anti-mormon critics created this dilemma over which members left too early.  Had members listened to the critics, the Tanners, they would have suspected the documents. But LDS leadership failed their own members when they ignored the critics, to buy AND defend the forged Salamander Letter.

Mr. Andersen, come clean about your own words and tell the complete, honest, sincere answer to the humble questions many members do ask.  We challenge you.

I'll be listing some questions here, collected from honest, sincere inquirers.

Of course, we can expect that Neil Andersen will rather attack the questioner than to answer questions he doesn't like.  It's practically LDS policy to attack the questioner now.








Another meme from general conference:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

More Connection Between FAIR and LDS Corporation

Almost a year ago, Sept 2013, I disclosed that the More Good Foundation received money directly from LDS owned organizations and apparently funneled money to the apologetic organization FAIR.  The charter at FAIR states that they are a separate, unaffiliated organization from the LDS church and corporations.

However, some new evidence comes to light showing links.  In an email sent by Steve Densley, VP at FAIR, in July to advertise their upcoming FAIRMormon conference (Held the first week in Aug), he explained:

"The Church will also be creating a webpage for seminary and institute teachers that includes a link to the FairMormon website. Furthermore, the Church has notified all seminary and institute teachers of the FairMormon conference, the Church is giving them a vacation day in order to attend and FairMormon is waiving the fee for seminary and institute teachers."
This appears a fairly substantial backing by the LDS church of the FAIR organization and their apologetic conference.  While they didn't directly fund FAIR, they support FAIR to waive conference fees for their employees.  And even more, the LDS Church is paying the educators on church salary for a day's time to attend.


To wit, here is the email FAIR sent out.



---


From:  Steve Densley <sdensley@g***.com>
Sent: Sunday,  Jul 6, 2014, at 9:02 AM
Subject:  FairMormon Conference


As most of you all know, I am the vice president of FairMormon, a group that exists in order to respond to criticisms of the Church and to help people to resolve their doubts. As I have been involved in FairMormon, one of the most frustrating things is to find people who have left the Church due to questions or concerns they had about Church history or doctrine, when there are good answers to those questions. However, once they have committed themselves to leaving, they are not as open to considering the answer we offer. It seems that we would be much more effective if people were aware of us earlier.

The Church has started to address some of the big issues that cause concern for many people by posting articles on LDS.org in the Gospel Topics section. The Church will also be creating a webpage for seminary and institute teachers that includes a link to the FairMormon website. Furthermore, the Church has notified all seminary and institute teachers of the FairMormon conference, the Church is giving them a vacation day in order to attend and FairMormon is waiving the fee for seminary and institute teachers.

Bishops, stake presidents and relief society presidents also sometimes find themselves in circumstances where they are counseling with members who have questions, concerns and doubts. Therefore, we at FairMormon also want to extend an invitation to stake presidents, bishops and relief society presidents to attend the FairMormon Conference for free.

The conference is on August 7 & 8 at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo. If you are unable to attend in person, you can also listen to a live steam of the conference over the internet, and the stream will be available for a few weeks afterward, so you can still listen even if you were not able to on August 7 & 8.

We have a special link for Church leaders to use to sign up: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/12HsX8kZfDuW1dF1bSvjKfDQYHocw32f_QeSvnE9QoaQ/viewform

For more information about the conference, you can contact me, or visit this page: http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2014-fairmormon-conference

For more information about FairMormon in general, you can review the following article in the Church News and the subsequent links to the FairMormon website:





I hope you can join us in Provo on August 7 & 8, and if not, I hope you will find time to listen to the conference on line and explore the resources FairMormon has to offer.

Steve Densley
Vice President
FairMormon


---


Unfortunately, I received this email after the conference and was unable to directly access the google doc to acquire the form the LDS church leaders used to pay for their attendance fees at FAIR.  I would ask Steve Densley to confirm or deny this is accurate.

What does this mean?  FAIR seems to get more direct support from the LDS Church than either the church or the apologists would like to admit.



The connection may not be black and white, but it's still quite clear.





Monday, September 15, 2014

Articles of Incorporation Archive


I have obtained scans of the LDS Articles of Incorporation. For more information about these, see this blog post and this blog post.

Interestingly, there are several new amendments made by Monson, about ten in all from 2009 - 2014.   These amendments are the first ones since the 1973 amendment made by Harold Lee.  The 2014 amendment, given below, is essentially the same as most of them, with the exception of the June 2013 amendment (shown also below).


To wit, here are the scans for posterity. Click on any image to get the large view.

November 1923 original articles of incorporation:
1923, p1

1923, p2

The second article is most interesting.  It allows LDS inc to give property to any member they wish.

"The object of this corporation shall be to acquire, hold and dispose of such real and personal property as may be conveyed to or acquired by said corporation for the benefit of the members ...this corporation shall have power, without any authority or authorization from the members of said Church or religious society, to grant, sell, convey, rent, mortgage, exchange, or otherwise dispose of any part or all of such property."

Did you catch that?  The sole owner can convey in any manner they want any of the property or wealth held by the LDS corporation sole.  



June 1940, fourth article:
1940

This article mostly ensures the continuance of the ownership at the death of the current president.



November 1973, fifth article (on the dissolution of the LDS corporation):
1973, p1

1973, p2

Here's the pertinent quote:
"Upon the winding up and dissolution of this corporation, after paying or adequately providing for the debts and obligations of the corporation, the remaining assets shall be distributed to a nonprofit fund, foundation or corporation, which is organized and operated exclusively for charitable, educational, or religious and/or scientific purposes and which has established its tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code."

The LDS Corporate Sole considerable wealth, property and ownership of businesses could be disposed of to any  non-profit "fund" in the form of a "corporation" organized for "charitable, educational, religious or scientific purposes". That covers a lot of possibilities.


EDIT: A corporate lawyer (friend), informs me that this fifth article is a standard provision required by IRS Publication 557 to appear in any 501(c)(3) non-profit to maintain its charter, to ensure that the organization assets are "permanently dedicated to an exempt purpose" in case of dissolution.  

Perhaps not nefarious, but it sure is to the advantage of LDS Inc. either way.  The "charitable, educational, religious or scientific purposes" seems to have widen the door the IRS opened for them.


Amendment in June 2013, giving designee Robert W. Cantwell a lot of powers to administer to the LDS Corporate Sole:
2013

July 2014, amendment giving deisgnees Robert Cantwell, Douglas Martin and Steven Penrose powers to execute stock and establish trading accounts:
2014




There's a possible big red flag here.  Robert Cantwell, now CFO for the LDS Church, has been the church auditor for years.  I'm investigating it.  Although, according to Cantwell's linked in bio, he stopped acting as the managing director of auditing in June 2013.  Then again, the IRS might find it interesting too that a former auditor goes to managing the funds he formerly audited. (IRS Whistleblower page)

For more info on the other two, see Doug Martin the treasurer at LDS Church and Steve Penrose, the Global Financial Reporting Manager at LDS Church. (Kevin Jergensen is the new managing auditor.)

See these images:


What is interesting here is how many (10) amendments have been made recently.  It could reflect a change in Utah law, requiring designees assigned each year and a change in the presidency (Hinckley to Monson in 2009).  However, I wonder if there isn't something strange afoot with regard to the significant change in designees in 2014.  

Could it be Monson's health is failing?  Could it be the LDS corporations are about to exercise the fifth article of the dissolution and are preparing all necessary powers and accounts?  Or it just could be standard operating principles.  However, there hasn't been an amendment filed like these for previous administrations.  Before Monson, there hasn't been an amendment filed since 1973, that I can find.  I can't understand why, if it is just standard operation to name your designees and officers. 



Now all that said, a little tongue-n-cheek bit:  The IRS Warned us about "Corporate Soles" being a tax evasion shelter.
These corporate vehicles are used by individuals to get exemption from federal income taxes as an organization described in Section 501(c)(3).  

"This scheme shamelessly tries to take advantage of special tax benefits available to legitimate religious groups and church leaders," said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson.  The IRS also warned that "the scam could be starting to spread with multiple cases seen recently in states such as Utah and Washington."

UTAH!!!

Of course, the LDS Church was there first.  The LDS Church holds 501(c)(3) status AND owns a big chunk of the fashionable City Creek Center (even if it is paying taxes on its profits) I think its legitimacy as a church and "charity" are questionable.  But again, it was there first! UTAH!!!  This is the most prophetic thing to come out of Mormonism ever.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Untold Plates



It’s been almost 9 months since the LDS History Dept released the topic essay on the Book of Mormon Translation, in which they admit that "Joseph placed the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument."   I joked at the time that God made “Reformed English” appear from the “Reformed Egytpian” written on the plates because the original manuscript was so chock-a-block with mistakes (4000+) that God needs remedial lessons in the English language.  

Little did I know that Daniel C Peterson would take that “Reformed English” idea so serious.  Peterson  claimed and quoted others that the Book of Mormon doesn’t use “the Modern English that we typically use today… It clearly draws on a wide array of … language forms and syntax from the Early Modern English period, some of them obscure and inaccessible to virtually everyone 200 years ago.” And, "The original English Book of Mormon is... “in large part” an Early Modern English text, “even reaching back in time to the transition period” from late Middle English into Early Modern English."

Apparently there is growing consensus in what critics have been claiming for decades:  The gold plates were not needed at all to produce the Early Modern (or late Middle) English text of the Book of Mormon.  It all appeared in a vision (or the mind) of Joseph Smith when he stared into darkness. Amazing? Probably not as much as Peterson would like.

Still Will Hamblin, another regarded LDS Apologist, released photos on his blog recently showing gold plates that existed in ancient Italy (ca. 2500 years ago) that resemble the descriptions Joseph Smith gave. 



Witnesses, Smith’s wife and a few others still contended that there were actual plates, even if Smith did not need them proximate to envision the Book of Mormon words floating inside a hat.  

So, were there plates or not? 

Some thoughtful analysis says no way, because gold plates of the size he claimed would have weighed perhaps over 100 lbs--enough that his story of running with them under arm, fending off would be thieves, could not have happen. 

Apologists have re-countered saying that the plates were not pure gold, just golden in appearance.  They find in South America evidence that Amerindians worked in a gold alloy called Tumbaga, which is primarily copper with some gold mixed in.  

Other critics believe Joseph Smith made mock plates, perhaps of tin, because he wasn't rich enough to own any gold.  Let’s assess the data…
  
If the plates actually existed, then they weighed around 50-60lbs according to those that hefted them (in the box or under cloth). The dimensions that "witnesses" offer of the box or the plates under the cloth, of 6x8x6 inches (or just under 300 cubic inches in volume).  The plates were about as thin as "common tin" or ~0.5-1mm thick. See this wiki entry.  Apologists agree with these values.  (See https://www.lds.org/ensign/1986/12/i-have-a-question  for example.)

If these are accepted, then pure gold plates would have a weight of between 100-210lbs (the upper weight if the volume were pure gold without spaces), more than double what witnesses claim.  (The calculation is based on gold's density of 0.7 lbs/cubed-inch X 300 cubed-inches ~= 210lbs solid mass, and 100 lbs for 50% empty space.)

Critics have contended that if he had actual plates (a big question) they were likely tin, because that would be financially accessible and workable by frontier folk like Smith.  http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no105.htm

I doubt either gold or tin.  Tin is not the right color. Though, it has a density of 0.26 lbs/cubed-inch and as such would have a volume weight for the plates around 40-80lbs.  Tumbaga, as apologists claim, of mostly copper would fit the story if the plates had been from ancient American sources.  Still, copper is about the right weight, with a density of 0.32 lbs/cubed-inch giving it a volume weight of around 50-90lbs.

My proposal is that IF the plates ever existed, we can assume that Smith simply thought of a book, but knowing paper couldn't endure thousands of years, proposed the ear-catching golden plates.  And he could have easily made a forgery set of plates from brass-plated copper.  It would be cheap, engravable, the correct weight and gold in color.  Copper plates were used regularly (and for hundreds of years before Smith) by printshops. Most cheap copper plates were right around 1mm thick, though some expensive ones are thicker. Copper printing plates were tossed away or re-used.  Plates the size of a book page (6x8 inches) would be quite accessible in the bins outside a printshop.   


Historical copper plate

The only problem is, copper is not gold in color.  That is easily remedied by brass-plating them, which even a novice apprentice-blacksmith could do simply using zinc powder and lye (sodium hydroxide).  This trick is done in elementary school science classes, using pennies.  

  
Interestingly, Oliver Cowdery had apprenticed as a blacksmith and was adequately good at it before turning to teaching.  See the 1890 (google scanned) book History of Utah: 1540-1886 By Hubert Howe Bancroft, Alfred Bates




Also this 1884 book.  


And this 1913 book.


Once you have gold-colored plates, all that was needed was to scratch some "caractors" (characters that may have come from the Detroit manuscript with latin short-hand script) into the surface of the plates (engraving copper plates are made just for that purpose).


 

One can also imagine that it's far too much work to scratch a whole novel of made-up "caractors" into dozens of plates.  Used printer plates would have engravings on at least one side and it would be apparent what they were on very close inspection.  Cursory glances of a few unused blank plates ontop and used plates under them would suffice to "prove" the claims Smith made.  The rest of the throw-away printer-engraven plates could be fastened together in a sealed portion, to make it look much more involved and real, without the risk of exposing the trick.  Hence the sealed portion. And the reason the plates were not needed for translation, nor allowed to be seen except by a few witnesses who were family and already believers. 

Of course, even at 50-60lbs, running with these fabricated plates would still prove very challenging, as exhibited by this fun test.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08wRRff8x0k

The LDS History dept and apologists are the ones who are running with a heavy burden.  They are burdened with an antiquated story full of holes about the founding of their religious organization.  The Apostles are out of breath, Running with the Olden Plates


Interestingly, Joseph Smith may have conned others with forged plates, but he himself was conned with other forged plates.  These are the famed Kinderhook plates, which scientist analyzed and found to be 19th century forgeries.  Plate forgery in the mid 19th century was easy enough and fooled many, at least good enough to trick the LDS church into the 20th century (~1980).  Faithful frontier witnesses of plates surely were as gullible.