Monday, December 31, 2012

Korihor and Alma go into a bar...

In the earliest days of the LDS Church, a large contingent of the membership came from the United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries like Sweden.  Brits and Swedes (and Danes) were a big reason why the church is what it is today.  And I believe, they are to become the catalysis of what the church will soon become.  It appears that Europeans are leading the way to vast changes which will be thrust upon the church as it reforms in the Internet age.   Some of this was seen in the recent Swedish Rescue and in the most recent Proclamation to the First Presidency by former bishops and stake presidents in the UK.

See these links for more details.

I believe these same groups have a second chapter to add to this reformation tale.  But before I get to that, I want to comment about...well, some of your comments to me.

In the past few weeks I have received many positive messages for the release of the Mission President’s Handbook, and particularly discussions on the way the church asks the presidents not to disclose the reimbursements.  However, several readers, some former close friends, have had some negative comments.  Some tell me that I revealed nothing new—that members have known the Mormon clergy receive “modest stipends” and “necessary living expenses”.  I was asked: How could I expect them to work full time in the church service and not be compensated for their living needs?  Some even told me that I have become such an anti-mormon that in fact, my acts are practically anti-christ.  One even called me a Korihor.

I looked up the Book of Mormon story in Alma 30, relating the verbal melee between the prophet Alma and his critic Korihor.  A few particular verses struck me (Alma 30:31-34)
“And [Korihor] did rise up in great swelling words before Alma, and did revile against the priests and teachers, accusing them of leading away the people after the silly traditions of their fathers, for the sake of glutting on the labors of the people.  Now Alma said unto him: Thou knowest that we do not glut ourselves upon the labors of this people; for behold I have labored even from the commencement of the reign of the judges until now, with mine own hands for my support, notwithstanding my many travels round about the land to declare the word of God unto my people.  And notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor; neither has any of my brethren, save it were in the judgment-seat; and then we have received only according to law for our time.  And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren?”

This is the test that the Book of Mormon creates for honest motivations of the clergy.  If they do it of their own, without compensation, then it what does it profit a prophet to spend his life declaring the truth?

Indeed.  If it is shown that the prophets, apostles, seventy or mission presidents are paid even one senine (whatever that is), would this mean they just might have ulterior motives?  Perhaps not.  What if they receive a million senines?  What about fancy homes in gated communities paid for by the corporation of the presiding bishopric?  Expensive automobiles with armored protection at the courtesy of LDS secret security?  What if the church pays their debts and gives their family forgivable loans?  If the top leadership were found engaged in criminal behavior, would that cause members to pay a little more attention to what Korihor had to say?  

In the coming weeks, Utah government may be presented with what some see as scandalous behavior by members of good standing in the highest places of their state offices.  (For a hint of the background, see and this Desnews article)  There are some members who may see the apparent illicit land-sell-off as unbecoming of a semi-high ranking Mormon.  What if the highest leaders of the church have engaged in highly questionable real-estate transfers for years?  The outrage coming for UT government leaders might be eclipsed when other revelations of the religious leaders are unveiled.  

Until then, however, we already know that in foreign countries, the kind of tax-evading behavior advocated in the Mission President’s Handbook is very likely illegal and may bring criminal charges against individual LDS leaders in the coming year.

On the one hand, the Catholic Church “received a generous early Christmas present from European Union chiefs with the announcement that illegal tax exemption (on Italian property tax) from 2006 to 2011, which saved the Catholic Church billions of euros, will not have to be paid back.” ( )  However, it was always known that the Vatican claimed these exemptions on its properties.  They, presumably, didn’t hide the information, they just disputed that they should be billed for the tax since they are a “church” even if the properties under question had established commercial enterprise.  The EU is taking a pragmatic view of what would be a very difficult collection operation if it were to force the Catholic Church into past compliance.  They forgave the past, but will be steadfast in collecting the taxes here out, if my understanding is correct.

On the other hand, the MP Handbook clearly outlines, in what is meant to be a secret guideline, that they will evade taxes by never disclosing the amount of money paid to the mission presidents, by using a church-controlled bank account, and relying on the MP to remain silent, even to tax advisers, about the pay outs.

There are at least two European countries where the tax law is very clear about reimbursements being taxable: The UK and Sweden.   The church is, apparently, not paying these (mission presidents are not filing these, believing the church does it for them, but the government filing records seem to be missing these incomes).

The UK collects income tax and payroll taxes.  The following UK Tax document ( outlines what can and what cannot be excluded from “ministry” taxes and income.  It lists “gifts and grants”, “stipends”, “Personal expenses paid for you, living accommodation, vouchers and credit cards”, and “Vicarage or manse expenses” among many other items in its 10 pages.  The latter “Vicarage or manse expenses” is listed as utilities, home (manse) costs, gardening, etc.  These are the very types of things listed by the MP Handbook as being reimbursed. 

In Sweden, the tax law requiring these reimbursements be taxed has been around for many years, but in 2012, the Jehovah Witnesses challenged the law (decision made by the Swedish Skatterättsnämnden  Court on 30 April 2012). The Supreme Administrative Court (Case No. 3330-11) established taxes to be paid on simple free housing, reimbursed meals and a small cash amount of SEK 1,000 per month to cover other private expenditures.  I’m told by a person who works with the Swedish Tax Authority that, regarding taxes, “the crucial point is that the person gives any kind of labor return to the religious organization who hand out the cash or benefits...The only time one can receive benefits or cash and not being taxable income is when one lives a simple monastery life without any labor return to the giver.”

At this time, a challenge is already placed with the UK HM Revenue & Customs authority. The church apparently has a UK company (or several of them) which states it acts for the US-based church on transactions for its missions.  Remember, however, all LDS businesses are owned under two sole-corporations: The Corporation of the President of the COJCOLDS, and The Corporation of the Presiding Bishopric of COJCOLDS.  If and when criminal tax evasion charges are made by the UKHMRC, it just may go to the prophet (or presiding bishop) himself, as sole corporate owner.  The same should happen in Sweden, where our fellow members may act on the same charges and tax rules.

In the US, the situation is a little more difficult.  The IRS leaves well established churches alone.  However, if clear evidence of secretly funding of personal clergy (i.e., apostles) to the tune of millions in real-estate or other dealings were shown, then the IRS would have to take notice.  

Stay tuned.  2013 may be a new year for the Mormon moment.

The Disney-ish Polynesian Cultural Center, LDS owned amusement park 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Acting expeditiously

Quick post.  I think most of you understand the implication of this official, under penalty of perjury, expeditious letter.  The MP Handbook is confirmed authentic and is clearly dictating official policy of the LDS church.

Sorry so large, but I wanted the full resolution so it can be easily read.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Lord is Shredding it on his mountain!

One can bet after the last blog on revealing the Mission President's Handbook and more, the document shredders in hidden offices of SLC are burning through their paper mulching motors. Computers are being erased and other items lost to who knows where.  Why? Because the secrets are getting out.

First, I received an email from stating:

Access to the item at has been disabled following receipt by Internet Archive of a copyright claim issued on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints.
If you have questions about the claim or would like to review its verbiage, please let me know.
Ch**sto**er B****

The file of the MP Handbook is gone, and in its place is simply "The item is not available due to issues with the item's content."

Do not despair.  It is was linked here, but taken down due to the very official letter from LDS inc demanding it be removed. I believe it will be on wiki-leaks or other file-sharing sites soon enough.  The new file is a smaller, cleaner, higher quality copy than the poorly done one that LDSinc claimed copyright over to have removed.  Hydra is new and improved.  

That said, what we are learning along the way is getting more interesting.

Earlier I speculated that the salary of the top GAs can be inferred from corporate wikis and other documents.   Some Utah State documents have come to shine a light on the salary and benefits of the GAs.

Example:  Beneficial Life

The state of Utah examines insurance companies which provide coverage to state or other officers of the governments.  In this case, they examined Beneficial Life Insurance, owned by the LDS church corporation.

There may be many gems found within this, but by my unsophisticated glance, I see Beneficial has Stocks and Bonds as well as Real estate holdings, cash, etc that were worth about $3.5B at the start of 2008.  Also  a few GAs or family of GAs such as a Hales and Paul Evan Hill work in top leadership.

We also know that Hinckley and Monson at one time have served on the board of this (parent) company, per this video.

Another gem I believe taken from the Utah report is that the "Transactions with Affiliates" lists several offices of the GAs, including the first presidency who "indirectly controls the Company by virtue of its power to appoint the trustees..."

It is clear the board and officers would enjoy the benefits of the policies, which gives pay out at death to them by age of Half-Million dollars if under 81 years.  Usually these kind of benefits are tied with salary & compensation at the institution.

In fact an earlier Utah state report said just this.
From Page 7.

"Accident and Health: Limits:
General Authority (medical and dental) Unlimited
Senior Service Missionary Plan $1,000,000
College Student Plans (basic and catastrophic coverage combined) 120,000
Church Activity 15,000
l.i.A. Disability & Medical Coverage Based on salary
General Authority 266,000"

Based on salary, over a decade ago, the General Authorities of the church were receiving policies of more than a quarter million dollars. That policy was up to half-million in 2007, and one wonders what it is in 2012.  Their salaries are rising faster than CEO salaries...

It is interesting that the health of a GA was unlimited while the commoner member was covered by $15,000.00 for church activities.  The Haves and Have nots of Missionary Presidents and Missionaries is made clear again in the Have of GAs and incredibly lowered $15k for the average have-not member, including a bishop. This is how God sorts them in the celestial kingdom on earth.

Another aspect of the salary--oops, reimbursements--oops, forgiven loans that GAs are probably receiving and indicate how the tax laws could apply.  More than even Romney using the CRUT deferred tax shelter the "unpaid" and "forgiven" loans given to the directors and trustees of LDS Inc are another way for these spiritual LDS executives to go around, over, under and through the tax law in order to keep their money without rendering to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

These "loans", even if they could be detected by the IRS, would probably be taxable at the highest rate, and also if not properly documented, would be direct evidence of tax evasion (not to be confused with tax avoidance or a tax shelter). If this weren't a church, then individuals on a company board which offered stock publicly would have considerable legal problems for loaning money to executives.   If ever it is determined that the Apostles, for example, were "loaned" a million dollars the day they started their calling, and that money were to come from church companies or tithing, the IRS and membership hell they'd pay would come with bars on the windows.

I speculate that the Q12 is running scared at the thought.  But there are a few others they might want to think further about.

1) If there was a trail of evidence leading to this "loan" strategy being systematic (which is exactly what it is) then we can probably add to the tax fraud, racketeering and RICO penalties.

2) If what the MPres, GAs, Q12 receive as "reimbursements" can be qualified in other countries (and eventually in the US) as salary, then there will be gender discrimination with litigation to follow.
The church owned corporations has GAs/Q12 in top positions because of their patriarchal/male-dominated priesthood.  They can never consider a woman or others not fitting the lily wonder-bread whitehood of the patriarchy.

How could the IRS find this out?  Does the church get audited by the IRS?  Probably not. All major corporations retain services internally or on contract that specialize in avoiding paying taxes, through whatever loopholes they can find. If there is a tax on "widgets" then corporations that buy widgets would simply call them "waggits" and evade the tax. Especially if they know they'll never get audited.

The Washington Post reported that:
"...more than 60 nonprofit groups have spent at least $21 million lobbying Congress and the White House..."

If nonprofit organizations (NPOs) & churches focused considerably on creating business are willing and able to spend $21 million lobbying to preserve their tax benefits, it begs the questions:  what sort of charitable organizations are they really? Or are they merely highly politicized NPOs?  Are they really just businesses exploiting the tax-exemption of being a church?


The Huffington Post reports that:
"For the past three years, the Internal Revenue Service hasn't been investigating complaints of partisan political activity by churches, leaving religious groups who make direct or thinly veiled endorsements of political candidates unchallenged...attorneys who specialize in tax law for religious groups, as well as advocacy groups who monitor the cases, say they know of no IRS inquiries in the past three years into claims of partisanship by houses of worship. IRS church audits are confidential, but usually become public as the targeted religious groups fight to maintain their nonprofit status."

The LDS church has an ace (or is it arse?) up Washington DC's sleeve.  Orrin Hatch is the ranking member on the finance committee. He has some say in the fight.

He had held the role over charity rules in finance before he became the ranking member. LDSinc has a huge arrow in its quiver in this fight. I don't see them losing their exemption or it causing most members a problem. If anything, the church will lobby to get a loophole that suits the wealthiest donating members, as a compromise built by Hatch. It will be convoluted and confusing and only insiders will get it, so it will probably get overlooked.

In the United Kingdom, one can look up a lot of financial information about the LDS Church-Great Britain, by using charity # 242451 at the website: 

I was able to get this "financial details" chart for the LDS Church in Britain.

This shows that the LDS-U.K. church collected, on average, about £38 million pounds each year between 2007-2011, and a little under £200 million total.  The operating expense left only perhaps a few million pounds remaining.   That seems like good accounting.  However, in Canada, it's been shown that the largest bulk of the expenses are transferred to US funds through BYU.  Tax report for "THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS IN CANADA" filed with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) showed the following in this past tax year:

  • Cash, bank accounts, and short-term investments: $55,868,46
  • Long-term investments: $5,285,795
  • Land and buildings in Canada: $925,065,618
  • Accumulated amortization of capital assets: -$403,079,73

Total assets: $685,632,232 
Total amount received from other registered charities (branches and wards): $158,451,145

Total revenue: $180,203,856

  • Occupancy costs (of chapels/meetinghouses, presumably): $22,133,258
  • Total expenditure on all compensation: $20,240,679 (details are here)
  • Total cost of all purchased supplies and assets: $47,658,138
  • Amortization of capitalized assets: $27,831,780
  • Total expenditures before gifts to qualified donees: $129,930,777
  • Total expenditures on charitable programs: $129,542,118

Total amount of gifts made to all qualified donees (listed as Brigham Young University): $56,956,370

Total expenditures: $186,887,147

In other words, they transferred about $57 million (cda) to the US LDS owned university, and operated in Canada at about a $6 million loss.  Why would they transfer almost a third (~32%) of their donated Canadian revenue to the US and leave the Canadian members operating in loss?

Some kind of fraud is happening here.  

So what could be done, if one wanted, to hit the head of the tax-evading snake on the head?

Tom Phillips is the new managing editor at MormonThink, and had acted for many years as Financial Director for the Church’s U.K. corporate entities.   Tom has communicated the following to me.

" To report tax evasion to U.K. authorities go to
Reporting Tax Evasion to HMRC
To see that it is clear cut in the U.K. that ministers of religion are employees and all payments and benefits are taxable visit  HM Revenue & Customs - Ministers of religion: "

"It is very clear cut under U.K. tax law. The MPs are employees and the amounts paid to them or reimbursed to them as a 'living allowance' is a salary. Add to that the cash equivalent of the benefit of housing, cars, medical insurance, college fees, cook, family travel etc. This needs to be "grossed up" and tax and employee national insurance contributions paid on it.
    Also the church as employer has to pay National Insurance Contributions (like a payroll tax) on the gross less a "lower earnings limit" at 13.8%.
    They have 5 MPs in the U.K. and they used to have 8. There is no doubt this is tax evasion and has been going on for over 30 years. The amounts involved, plus interest and penalties will be in the millions of dollars.
    That's just the U.K. Think of all the other countries in which they are evading taxes, including the U.S., and you could be talking $100 million plus.
    This MP Handbook, if authentic, is very damning. It is prima facie evidence of tax evasion and certainly the U.K. tax authorities could demand full financial disclosure for those MPs in the U.K., whether American or British or whatever citizens.
    There will be financial evidence on the church's computers in the U.K. as a starting point. The HMRC can then gain further details from SLC as this is a criminal matter. "

We will see something come of this potential fraud and likely tax evasion in the coming  year.

Also, breaking last minute:
I received an email from a Dutch ex-mormon who runs told  me that he thinks it might be possible using, in part, the MP Handbook "to introduce legislation that would require any institution that gets tax breaks to publish their financial data; chances are good that we can get this done."

In the MP Handbook is this simply benign statement:

"Preserve the mission home as your family residence, and protect the family's privacy there. Teach your missionaries, including those serving in the office, that they should come to the home only by invitation or after calling ahead.

Tom Phillips wrote about the seemingly minor home-invasion clause:  
"This also clarifies the position regarding tax on benefits. If the church were to try to argue to the tax authorities the mission home is a 'business' or 'religious' premise, this quote states quite clearly it is a private family residence.  Quote "Preserve the mission home as your family residence, and protect the family's privacy there".  This is clearly a taxable benefit under U.K. tax law and, as most mission homes are worth $1 million or more, the taxable benefit is quite high."

I think the dike in Europe is breaking and the church hasn't the fingers there to plug them up.  When it bursts, the stream of financial transparency will flow to the US, and fines on their tax evasion will sail across the pond to America.  Soon enough, the fight will be on home-turf.  And probably even High Priest Orrin Hatch can't stop it.

Financial data won't be kept in for much longer

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pay Lay Missionary

Some of you recall my blog  “Pay Lay Clergy” in which I speculated on the incomes of general authorities primarily based on extraneous sources such as corporate wikis, county property appraisers and other statements made by church leaders.  Now I have some direct evidence supporting these claims.   (And a week after posting this disclosure, we have LDS Inc's stamp of validation on the following document.)

Recently, an anonymous source sent me a document called " the LDS Church's Mission President's Handbook " (©2006 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.).  The section on finances (Appendix B) is illuminating.  I'll quote some of the Handbook under the fair-use clause for educational purposes.

It begins with this statement:

“While you are serving as mission president, the Church reimburses the necessary living expenses for you, your wife, and your dependent children.”

Note the term “necessary” prefixed to “living expenses”.

These “necessary” living expenses include: “food, clothing, household supplies, family activities, dry cleaning, personal long-distance calls to family, and modest gifts (for example, Christmas, birthdays, or anniversary).”  

Housing expenses include “rent (if leased), utilities, telephones, and Internet connection”;  “gardening and repair or replacement of household items” which includes hiring a gardener if needed for larger lots; “one part-time housekeeper-cook”;  “one mission automobile assigned exclusively to the mission president”;  and any assigned mission vehicle can be used by the wife or licensed dependents for “shopping, taking children to school, or other needs.”

The following “necessary” costs are also reimbursed (or provided directly in the mission home):  

  • Medical expenses (dental, eye care and medically necessary orthodontia)
  • Support for children serving full-time missions
  • One round trip fare for each child under age 26 to visit the parents’ mission
  • Elementary and secondary school expenses for tuition, fees, books, and materials
  • Undergraduate tuition at an accredited college or university (Tuition is waived at Church-owned schools.) 

I was not aware that tuition, paying for the child’s mission, modest Christmas gifts and more were “necessary living expenses”. Also note, mission presidents are requested not to pay tithing on funds (income) reimbursed by the church.

The handbook advises the mission president that “any funds reimbursed to you should be kept strictly confidential and should not be discussed with missionaries, other mission presidents, friends, or family members.”

Mission presidents are warned that they “should not open a local bank account for personal funds received from the Church . . . especially if the account would produce interest (and thus raise income tax questions).”  Instead of allowing mission president control over their personal funds, “a joint personal bank account at Church headquarters is established for you and your wife.” 

The tax issue raised is addressed more fully in the handbook.  The Church avoids tax issues by carefully defining the relationship between themselves and the mission president as a “volunteer religious service” so that “any funds reimbursed to you from the Church are not considered income for tax purposes; they are not reported to the government, and taxes are not withheld with regard to these funds.”

In order to keep quiet the situation, not only are the mission presidents told not to discuss any funds they receive with any member (as quoted above), but also to “not share information on funds you receive from the Church with those who help you with financial or tax matters.”  To “never represent in any way that you are paid for your service.” And “do not list any funds you receive from the Church, regardless of where you serve or where you hold citizenship.”

This secrecy listed in a secret handbook that was formerly only accessible to mission president and general authorities raises the question about the church’s lack of financial transparency.  First of all, if mission presidents get the benefit of all living expenses (necessary and beyond) paid by the Church, including highly expensive benefits like college tuition and gardeners, what do the Quorum of the 70 receive?  What do the 12 apostles earn?  

Secondly, the pretense that the mission presidents are unpaid volunteers is akin to saying the CEO’s of corporations aren’t millionaires when paid only a $200,000 salary but are gifted $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 bonuses and stock options.  What does the IRS say about such lucrative back-door payments (i.e., “reimbursements”)?  
IRS document states:
 “A minister who receives a housing allowance may exclude the allowance from gross income to the extent it is used to pay expenses in providing a home. Generally, those expenses include rent, mortgage interest, utilities, repairs, and other expenses directly relating to providing a home. The amount excluded cannot be more than the reasonable pay for the minister's services.” 
One has to question if gardeners, tuitions, dental plans, dry cleaning, Christmas gifts and more are included in the reasonable pay clause.  

Hold on, even though the mission presidents do receive a large allowance, they are told to never claim any pay, so there’s no gross income from which they can exclude these “reasonable” expenses.  Tricky tricky.  

The latest managing editor of Mormonthink “warned the church that payments to mission presidents should be reported to the UK tax authorities as they were 'employees' under UK tax law.”  We understood “it was discussed at a First Presidency meeting with the Presiding Bishopric and they decided to continue not reporting, and pay any fines when, and if, they were discovered.”

The disclosures found in the well-guarded Mission Presidents Handbook show that not only are the Pay Lay Missionary policies fraught with intentional concealment,  but give near direct evidence that the general authorities and apostles receive generous benefits and reimbursements for most of life’s “necessary” expenses.   Likewise, they wouldn't pay tithing on moneys given them by the church. That is, general authorities don't pay tithing (even though they regularly preach paying it to members.) Perhaps these are justifiable on some level.  If so, why wouldn’t the church acknowledge them and do more than barely meet the legal requirement rather than the acclaimed “obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law”?  

It depends on what "is" is and what "pay" you pay, I suppose.  Slick DC bureaucrats would be proud of Mormon leaders.

The LDS church claims to follow Christ when one of his primary missions was to take care of the poor. However, with ordinary missionaries having to be frugal, missionary couples having to pay for everything, members as free janitors cleaning toilets and them paying tithing when they can't afford their own mortgages, the LDS church by paying for GA's kids private schools, GA's gardeners and GA's up-scale homes has shown its priority to have the poorest members take care of the richest leaders.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Taming of the Shrewd

At the 2012 semiannual general conference on Oct 6, LDS corporate CEO Thomas Monson announced that effective immediately, young men may begin their full-time Mormon missionary service following their graduation from high school, even if they are only 18 at the time. And young women, who have not been eligible for full-time missionary service until age 21, may now begin their service at age 19.

The announcement was met among LDS members mostly with enthusiasm and glee.  No more waiting around for a year after high school, piddling with a job or at college.  It is expected to have a profound influence on college life across Utah, whose universities bid a temporary farewell each year to thousands of students answering the call of their church, coming at a time when Utah’s public universities are ramping up their efforts to retain students and improve graduation rates. 

The effect could divide the state’s youth into haves and have nots.  By have, I mean secular knowledge.  Many ex-mormons and some active members see the move as a way to plug the seepage that occurs with young adults after high school.  Grant Palmer recently told attendees at the ex-mormon foundation conference that along the Wasatch Front of Utah, only about 50% of worthy, eligible young LDS men go on a mission, presumably because many of them fall away the year after high school.  Lowering the age by a year (or two for young women) helps keep them from entering the world and learning secularism on campus before they can be fully indoctrinated on a mission.

Will going on a mission really stop the seepage or will it just delay it a few years when the missionaries return and go to college?  To understand what kind of special indoctrination missionaries receive,  I revisited the current manual for missionary training & discussions.  The following comes from the LDS Missionary manual, which is found at this LDS.ORG link (pdf) (or this html version).

The manual is definitely chock-a-block filled with typical Ra Ra sales force psychology.  Do as your told, follow the recipe we give you, always be committing, don’t lose the spirit by not working hard, pray-obey-don’t-be-gay.  The manual is about taming young (at times wild) men.  But beyond the psychological conditioning of the missionaries themselves, the manual is also about training them into shrewd salesmen.  Okay, maybe not shrewd, but skilled in certain techniques.

What I found were instructions on how to manipulate others into joining.  Not just encouragement to teach or help persuade, but technique on emotional manipulation.

In the section titled, "Helping Others Make Commitments: The Door to Faith and Repentance" is this quote:
"Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: “The first thing you will do when an investigator tells you he or she had not read and prayed about the Book of Mormon is be devastated! . . . Much of the time we are just too casual about all of this. This is eternal life. This is the salvation of the children of God. Eternity hangs in the balance. . . . It is the most important path this investigator will ever walk. But if he or she doesn't know that, at least you do! . . . So take control of this situation. Teach with power and authority, and then be devastated if the first steps toward commandment-keeping and covenant-keeping have not been successfully begun” (“Making and Keeping Covenants,” missionary satellite broadcast, Apr. 1997). "

I want to emphasize: "...and then be devastated if the first steps toward commandment-keeping and covenant-keeping have not been successfully begun."  

Then in the "Follow Up" section is this quote:
 "Make frequent contact, daily if possible, to find out how people are progressing with their commitments... strengthen the spiritual feelings they felt as you taught them...This sustaining influence of the Spirit is vital...remind and encourage them to keep a commitment. Help investigators identify the blessings they have received as they have kept their commitments. Especially help them describe their feelings as the Spirit has testified of the truthfulness of the message. Compliment and encourage people who are succeeding in keeping commitments...Express concern and disappointment when people fail to keep their commitments and thus fail to experience the blessings. "

I emphasize: “Especially help them describe their feelings as the Spirit has testified of the truthfulness of the message.”
Help them describe their feelings as what you were asking them to test for themselves.  Then “Express concern and disappointment when people fail to keep their commitments. . .

Do you see the pattern?  Tell them whatever positive feeling they have is a witness of what you’re selling.  If they have a negative feeling about what you’re selling, express concern and disappointment and be devastated, and show them that devastation by taking control of the situation in power and authority.

Now, according to the manual, once you get them hooked, committed and baptized, some of the new-members will fall away back into old habits.  Some go back to drinking coffee, alcohol or even taking drugs.  Is that a good time to express disappointment?  Nope, they tell the missionary.

In the  "A Plan for Overcoming Addictive Behavior" Section  the church actually discourages manipulation.  Missionaries are told they “should not be shocked or discouraged” by the bad behavior.  In fact, missionaries are instructed: They should show confidence in the individual and not be judgmental if the person yields to an old craving. They should treat it as a temporary and understandable setback.”  Because “condemning. . .a new convert is never helpful and will likely lead to discouragement, failure, and inactivity.

See the pattern? Act devastated if the investigator doesn't do what you say before being baptized. After baptism, don't act devastated, be all understanding! 

Additionally, missionaries are continually told to seek the spirit, but not to discuss too many specifics.  Just seek it generally, point it out whenever the investigator has a positive experience or feeling.  But don’t share specific spiritual experiences.  In the section "A Word of Caution" missionaries are told:
“Revelation and spiritual experiences are sacred. They should be kept private and discussed only in appropriate situations. As a missionary, you may be more aware of spiritual experiences than you have been earlier in your life. Resist the temptation to talk freely about these experiences.”

Why would they want missionaries not to talk freely about these experiences when they all but start out discussion One with Joseph Smith’s first vision of God?  What they’re saying is, if you talk about all the religious craziness that happens in your head, people will be less likely to keep their commitments--we only accept a certain level of crazy; follow the prescribed plan.

The haves who go to college instead will be way ahead and can avoid being manipulated and learning to manipulate others through emotional trickery.  That’s not what the LDS corporation wants; they desire a 50,000 strong sales-force that is virtually cost-free labor.  

The Campus Life.  (Ann Arbor, 2006)


The brainwashed life.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Life is a test, only a test...

"We [the gods] will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them." (Abraham 3:24-25).

The above is one of the quintessential scriptures for Mormons on the meaning of this life.  Another is:

"[A]fter this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed." (Alma 34:33).

Particularly poignant is that "For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore—Eternal punishment is God’s punishment. Endless punishment is God’s punishment." (D&C 19:10-12).  In some kind of trick-wording, God is saying that punishment is to last forever in the way God (by his name) lasts forever.  

To Mormons, this life--from birth to resurrection & judgment--is primarily about proving our faith through obedience, and secondarily about learning/growing closer to God to become like him.  The reason most people fail (i.e., aren't mormons) is because they choose evil over righteousness.  And when they commit a finite crime of choosing momentary evil, they just might receive endless punishment, if it weren't for God's stepping in. Does eternal punishment for a finite 'crime' make sense?  This is an elaborate scheme for when we purposely choose evil.

But do we?  Does anyone actually willingly choose what they believe is outright evil?  Most of you have seen studies indicating that brain damage can coincide with onset of violent behavior, in what was a normal, passive, loving person prior to the damage.  Is biology the only source of violence?

LDS teachings hold that we have a thing called agency which allows each of us to choose between right and wrong. LDS doctrine on agency is fundamental to everything.  Without agency & choice, the entire plan of God would be frustrated (2 Nephi 2:11-13).  In fact, without the opposition that allows choice through agency, God would even cease to be God (2 Ne 2:13 & Alma 42:22-25). (It's not explained how God was God before there existed Satan.) 

However, as is discussed (sometimes argued) in other sects of Christianity, while we are free to act, are we really free in our choice?  Do you have free will? 

At this point you probably "phht!" me and sigh in frustration.  How could anyone question whether we are free to choose?  We feel it deeply, deeper than our bones; that we are authoring most of our life.

But I didn't say free to choose.  I said free in our choice.  I am not talking about freedom of choice.  There is a subtle difference that I think many people don't make. 

A robot can be programmed to choose when it reaches a fork in its path.  Its choice is conditional and the parameters are based on its programming.  The robot makes a choice.    Unless a subroutine blocks other code, we can say it is free to make a choice when it comes to a fork.  It doesn't create the fork.  It doesn't even create its own internal conditions ("desires" that push it one direction over another).  If its programming blocks that choice under certain circumstances or if its programming does not have the conditions or information needed to make a choice, it will hover and pace at the fork not knowing what to do until conditions change or it flips a virtual coin (assuming its programming includes the option of random choice whenever no other conditions are met).

Where did the robot obtain the ability to choose?  Duh!  From its programmers!

Where did humans get the ability to choose?  We have will--the freedom of choice. But can we will our will?  Can we create the desires, conditions and programming behind our choices? Where do those come from, if not the brain, genetics and environment?   Mormon teaching by some prophets explain the fundamental will to choose--agency--is a co-eternal property of children of God, something we have in common with him and always will have.

But is this agency different than a robot's programming to choose?  Free will is more than the ability to choose (that's called "freedom" here).  Free will is the independent source of choice, free of external (divine or other) influencers.  Without that independence, could there be a true test of God's children?

Think about it this way, if you could rewind the universe and re-watch it play, would an intelligent person choose differently, given everything material (brain, environment, etc) is equivalent? If so, what is it that would be choosing differently since it wouldn't be the brain or different conditions? Remember, you didn't choose the structure of your brain at birth, the genetics you received or the environment you were born into.

Many will argue that the difference between a robot with programming to choose and us is our consciousness.  We feel we make choices. The robot is not conscious.  True.  If we are just moist robots, our programming sure makes us feel special anyway. Could we be confusing warm fuzzy special feelings with something more magical?

What is consciousness?  Does it make the choice?  In fact, there are data showing strong evidence that conscious choice is an illusion [1-3 footnotes].  That choice happens, according to readings from EEG & fMRI sensors, 100s of milliseconds to seconds before we are conscious of it. It happens first in the subconscious mind even before the conscious mind is aware a choice is made.  In other words, the choice happens first and then you are aware of it, only to think that your awareness mean you chose.  Is our conscious self the one deciding or is it coming from an uncontrollable subconscious program?  According to latest evidence, it is subconsciously primed and actuated.

Mormons believe that there is a part of us that is pre-ordinate to our genes and birth/earth environment. They call this "intelligences", and this is the agent that has free will (even eternal and separate from God).  But one has to wonder how the intelligence agent chooses when everything else that influences choice--genetics, environment, the intelligence (or lack thereof) of others around us, God, Satan--all the other factors beyond our control cannot truly choose.  We cannot change our genetics, we cannot change God or Satan or really even forcibly alter the mind of others (not without really good pharmaceutics or waterboarding).  Nor did we choose the environment in which we were born.  And every decision you've made from that moment is dependent on the environmentally evolving brain, step-by-step ad-naseum until you are what you are, where you are, and how you are today.  What in all of that did you really choose that is independent of all those steps over which you truly had no control?

"Our intelligence/soul," you may answer.  An agent such as a soul or the Mormon intelligence that is proposed to act will by necessity follow rules (or be undetermined & random).  Where did those rules (programming) come from?  Did you choose to be a particular flavor of intelligence?  No.  If it exists, it is still something that either is what it is or it was organized by God into a soul for you. Every other factor that made the conditions of what you are is outside of your control.  And neither are you in control of the very core of yourself that might be "co-eternal".

Let me be more specific, the Mormon intelligences argument moves the mystery-miracle to a more abstract level that is harder to see unless you examine it more carefully. In the end, it has the same problems as the genes+environment causation. An irreducible intelligence agent must, by definition, follow rules, otherwise it is randomness and meaningless. Those rules are not self-imposed because either the agent is immortal (and rules are eternal from God) or they are emergent (and dependent on intial conditions (like "spirit genes") and environment). Therefore, the rules just exit or just emerge, and do not convey any individual responisbilty of choice outside of existence (spirit genes) or emergence (environment). According to Mormonism, all other attributes added to the intelligence agent were given by God through organization into a spirit, placed in a body with god-allocated physical genetics and birth environment, and all emergence thereafter based upon these factors outside of the intelligence agent's control. 

But the choices you make are based on this (hypothetical) core soul, the genetics, your birth environment and the subsequent infinitely complex evolving interaction of your genetics/brain with the changing environment. 

A summary of the initiating forces behind choice are:

1. Genetic Endowment

2. Pre-natal chemical environment

3. Post-natal chemical environment

4. Pavlovian Conditioning-stimulus-stimulus-response

5. Skinnerian Conditioning-stimulus-response-consequence

6. Traumatic factors

Behavior is determined by an evolutionary history, environmental history and the current situation, including conditioning in the Pavlovian and Skinnerian senses, as well as sudden traumatic factors.  Perhaps dreams can come under a minor influence too.

I didn't include "soul" or "intelligences" in my list. I've stated above, the intelligence/soul follows rules which make it not idependent from a structure beyond itself and thus is essentially the same as genetics or environment. Besides, according to Mormonism, God said in LDS scripture, "Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning." (D&C 93:38).

So if you in fact also started with a clean slate, then there were no differences between each of us before we arrived on mother earth. If that is true doctrine, then what is the test?  To see if we will execute the wetware inside our moist robotic brains?  What is God really judging us for?  Our most base/core level programming (intelligences) is not our doing.  The organization of our spirit bodies was God's act.  Our genetics were just dumped on us. We were born whereever we were born and we get whatever family we get.

The only real test seems to be: did God organize the intelligences into spirits and match them with the right genetics and environment?  The test is on God, not us.  That is, if you believe in LDS scripture and place a little thought into it.

This life is a test.  How would you grade God so far?

Don't put the cart before the horse on Free Will or Free to act. Which is which?

[1] I. Fried, R. Mukamel, & G. Kreiman, 2011. Internally generated preactivation of single neurons in human medial frontal cortex predicts volition. Neuron, 69: 548– 562

[2] J. D. Haynes, 2011. Decoding and predicting intentions. Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 1224(1): 9–21.

[3] P. Haggard, 2011. Decision time for free will. Neuron, 69: 404–406.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Storing up treasure in heaven? Try deferred tax-exempt savings accounts

There are two stories out about how Mitt used the LDS Church's tax exemption to defer taxes and earn investment income (tax free?).  This "trust" account (ironic term, huh?) earned Mitt a load of cash.


When Mitt refused to disclose his financial/tax information, he said (around the end of August), "Our church doesn't publish how much people have given...One of the downsides of releasing one's financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known." ( )

I wrote that "This underscores a pattern of secrecy that he likely learned as a member of the LDS church." I discussed this on the blog and in an MT article on Sept 12.
It was Sept 16 when I was hauled into the stake president's office because I was "reported to be in apostasy".
These leaders had never met me, and they told me to stop writing my blog and articles, of which the Romney pieces were the latest writings I had put up. I saw the timing as suspicious. No, there was no direct admission by the church that it was over my Romney articles that they applied pressure. A lot of media speculation went around and around.

Now that we know Mitt 'rented' the church's tax exemption to defer his own taxes, we see he was doing some very shading dealing, and apparently with church approval. When I wrote, in the article/blog that "Hiding financials is a lesson Mitt may have learned early in life as a young Mormon" I didn't realize how close Mitt was to the heart of the problem and how the church is mixed up in it.

The LDS church does something similar to Mitt, I believe. They take tithing, invest it for a period and accrue investment interest earnings. They take those earnings and then use them to build malls and develop land. They claim that technically no tithing/donations are used for profit. They defer using the donations for ecclesiastical (i.e., "LDS charitable") purposes and use the earnings for profit. This is almost just what Mitt has been doing.

I repeat: Hiding financials is a lesson Mitt may have learned early in life as a young Mormon. Or maybe recently as a Mormon leader.  Recall, he has been a stake president and a bishop.  Less than 1% of the claimed 14 million Mormon membership can "brag" about serving as high up as Mitt has.  There's no doubting he has had and could have plenty of face time with the highest ecclesiastical authority as well.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Churches have no Laboratories

When Einstein published his complete theory of general relativity in 1916, he proposed three tests of general relativity, one of which was the deflection of light by the sun. Science could already predict the timing of eclipses, and knew that one would occur in a few years where the darkened sun would allow them to test Einstein's prediction that the sun deflected light. In 1919, an expedition set out to observe the deflection of light by the sun during an eclipse, in to the west African island of Principe. The expedition leader was British astronomer Arthur Eddington who acquired photograph negatives showing the deflection of light of stars that were near the sun. 

The resulting observation precisely matched Einstein’s predictions.  That is, Einstein had made a precise prophecy about the future down to meters of precision and within seconds of accurate timing.  This is the kind of accuracy in prophetic ability one never sees in religion.

Religion, speaking for God, seems to have enjoyed a monopoly of claimant powers; that is did, until science and technology caught up with and now surpasses its predictive and miracle claiming abilities. Science has gone a long way to eradicating famine, if not turning one loaf into thousands in terms of farmland efficiency. Medical science finds cures for plagues, mends the lame and gives sight to the blind, with numerical healings that far far exceed the onesy-twosy healing claims of ancient priesthood holders. Claims, I repeat, because in modern times, faith healing has never been truly verified, while modern science healing is verified daily in tens of thousands of hospitals and clinics. These days, the prophets seem silent and science vociferous in predicting all kinds of future events--from the gender of unborn children to eclipses and tsunami, and even general trends in climate change. Science is beginning to look forward in ways only God was once claimed to do.

Carl Sagan once wrote the following: "...if you want to really be able to predict the future -- not in everything, but in some areas -- there's only one regime of human scholarship...that really delivers the goods, and that's science. Religions would give their eyeteeth to be able to predict anything like that well. Think of how much mileage they would make if they ever could do predictions comparably unambiguous and precise."

We don't really have to imagine, though, do we? When white European conquerors of ancient America were received as gods with their guns and eclipse predictions, they abused the power by controlling whole civilizations and fetching gold and slaves from the subordinate worshipping masses. If modern religions had the power of modern science (while hiding the source of their power), we'd hardly have to imagine the outcome.

But herein lays one difference between science and religion: religions cloud the source of their acclaimed powers in obscure passages and murky definitions of God. Science openly reports, competitively referees and carefully accredits each advancement to the whole world (if the world would but take the time to read the publications). Again, Sagan explains that while the scientist is human, science as a whole attempts to be objective and available to all:"Science has built-in error-correcting mechanisms -- because science recognizes that scientists, like everybody else, are fallible...Scientists do not trust what is intuitively obvious, because intuitively obvious gets you nowhere."

Another interesting difference between science and religion: churches have no laboratories. What I mean is that if a scientist has a clever thought (hypothesis), before he turns it into a belief (theory), he will comb the journals to see if it was already out there and tested. If not tested, he will go to the lab and painstakingly experiment until he has validated or--most often--eliminated the idea. It is in the lab where good ideas and bad ones are sorted out. Churches have no laboratories. Just belief systems.

(Ok, church do have laVatories of white porcelain thrones, which in the Mormon-brand, members must clean.)

Furthermore, the scientific methodology requires that any good finding should be re-found (repeatedly) and verified (openly) before it can be said to support hypothesis. Scientists pride themselves to be published in refereed journals, where honors go to those that can disprove findings or hypotheses with new findings--as Einstein did of Newton. It's a hard career at times--hard on the ego and personal life--but rewarding because of its unparalleled consistency and trustworthiness.

As a former Mormon--who happily believed in modern prophecy--I used to wonder why the prophets are so reluctant to predict as they did only a hundred-fifty years back. Why have miracles become no more than rumors and subtle coincidences visible only to the chosen faithful? By comparison, technology and science deliver health and happiness in brightly printed packages available to all regardless of faith, creed, race or nationality. It would seem that the prophets have privately given into science. I believe it is because they know they haven't a chance to be so successful when science has been so wonderfully accurate. A smart man doesn't claim to be guided by the supreme intelligence and give predictions that could so easily be countered by lab-coated scientists whose probability calculations are greater than 90% correct.

Okay, yes, it would seem I am giving far too much credit to science. It can't heal everything nor correctly predict many things--from tomorrow's weather to next week's stock market. Yes, science is still dealing poor predictions often enough. But in comparison to latter-day seers and apostles, it is uncannily and openly predictive.

Happy Halloween, all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To Salt Lake With Indifference

The following is the resignation letter I sent to SLC on Friday, Oct 19, at the Exmormon Foundation.  I read the first part aloud and sent it live in the conference.  I've been told there is an audio recording and I have a video of it, but the audio is nearly impossible to hear.

Greg Dodge/Admininistrator
Member Records 
50 E North Temple, Room 1372 
SLC UT 84150-5310

Mr. Dodge or current resignation processor:

I have a feeling you know my name, as managing editor of (MT).

Let me spare you and Mitt Romney all a load of more embarrassing media fallout and having to fire stake president Allan Pratt (you know, the star of the little-boyd-factory self abuse missionary video at by foregoing your kangaroo courts of love.

First though, I want to thank church leaders and especially Scott Gordon (head apologetic cheese) for their skulking me and previously the site founder at MT. This produced the unintended but welcome ten-fold increase of traffic to MT.  With its balanced approach to looking at church history from all sides, MT is many times more popular than FAIR and its one-sided approach. For now, the Orwellian tactics using guilt and ”discipline” boosted our rankings. A dozen more active LDS have asked to contribute to MT to show a more balanced view of Church history.  MT, with its full disclosure approach, is stronger than ever with millions of hits each month.

Attempts at general conference to make MormonThink forbidden fruit have only shown curious members that "it is very desirable and delicious to the taste" as they bite into the fruit of knowledge. (BTW, can I get the new hottite temple Eve's phone number?)
While the aim of MT has been to objectively examine the history and doctrine of the LDS church, we understand that the latest actions by SLC has upset some members and caused increased resignations. By confronting truth-givers, the church has caused problems among its own ranks. Perhaps the church could avoid this if it started to disclose to its members and investigators the full truth of its historical foundations instead of hiding its history. At least it's unlikely church leaders will go after future editors with impunity now that they know what happens when they try to manipulate. Our Rolodex currently overflows with high level media contacts. Thanks for the help! 

If you’d like to help further, please by all means, excommunicate the next editor at Mormonthink.  Have leaders of the strengthening members committee stalk us.  Even better, send in the Danites! That should propel MT popularity into orbit around Kolob.

All loud laughter and evil speaking of the Lord's annoyed aside, the details you need to process my resignation are below.

My full name is David Twede; my date of birth __.  I was baptized on __. My membership record number is 000-XXXX-YYYY.  My residence address is __ ___ ___, Orlando, FL , residing in the Hunters Creek ward & stake of Orlando.

This letter is my formal resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it is effective immediately. I hereby withdraw my consent to being treated as a member and I withdraw my consent to being subject to church rules, policies, beliefs and 'discipline'. As I am no longer a member, I want my name permanently and completely removed from the membership rolls of the church.  All of this is to be done immediately and on the date and time given in the header of this email/letter.

I have given this matter considerable thought. I understand what you consider the 'seriousness' and the 'consequences' of my actions. I am aware that the church handbook says that my resignation "cancels the effects of baptism and confirmation, withdraws the priesthood held by a male member and revokes temple blessings" I also understand that I will be "readmitted to the church by baptism only after a thorough interview". (Quotes from the current Church Handbook of Instructions.)

My resignation should be processed immediately, without any 'waiting periods'. I am not going to be dissuaded and I am not going to change my mind.

I expect this matter to be handled promptly, with respect and with full confidentiality.

After today, the only contact I want from the church is a single letter of confirmation to let me know that I am no longer listed as a member of the church.

It is my understanding that you are required to indicate on your form my "reason for leaving." Please state the reason as "At member's request" or "Doctrinal reasons," since that is, in fact, the reason. I insist that you should not put there any reason which may be derogatory to me. I wish to assure you that I am not leaving the church because of some personal slight or insult, or because I have "sinned" or am unable to "keep the commandments." I have simply come to the very sad realization that the church is not what it claims to be, that its doctrine is false, and that the LDS church is not where I wish to be.

If the request is not made effective immediately and you still feel the need to contact local authorities, delaying my resignation against my wishes, then I request that my name removal request be forwarded without delay to the stake president (assuming Allan Pratt hasn't been released for his bungling efforts ” in my behalf”) in accordance with the Church Handbook of Instructions. I will check with you in one week if you have not already notified me by then that it has been forwarded to the stake president.

If the request is not made effective immediately, please inform the stake president that I waive the thirty-day waiting period during which the stake president may hold the request in order to give me the opportunity to rescind. Rather, I request him to process it without delay. Please ask the stake president to notify me when he has forwarded my request to church headquarters. If I do not hear from him, I will contact him to make sure that my request is being honored without delay.

I will consider any unnecessary delay to be a violation of my rights of free association and freedom of religion as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

I consider this matter to be confidential to me and those I personally wish to share with, and I insist that no church representative discuss my resignation with any persons other than those church officers who are processing my name removal or those who must be informed to carry out their church duties; that if any church official speaks of this matter outside of official channels, I will consider it a violation of confidence, a violation of church regulations (CHI p. 150), and seek legal redress.

Thank you for your courtesy in honoring my request without delay.
Dave Twede
Managing Editor