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July 18, 2012 9:34 AM   Subscribe

The most recent issue of Businessweek contains an article about How The Mormon Church Makes Its Billions. There has been a backlash, mostly over the cover.
posted by Fuzzy Monster (296 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. Great cover.
posted by dobbs at 9:37 AM on July 18, 2012 [16 favorites]


The cover is offensive, and if I were Mormon I'd be up in arms, too.

No magazine would ever run such a cover about the Catholic or Anglican churches, whose wealth is orders of magnitude higher.
posted by downing street memo at 9:39 AM on July 18, 2012


So that Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu is owned by the LDS? I suspected, but I never thought to look it up.

I mean, we didn't actually go inside, because we were really just looking for something to eat and it is practically the only thing on the north shore of Oahu except for a Subway and a hamburger stand (we ate at the hamburger stand).
posted by muddgirl at 9:39 AM on July 18, 2012


Offensive, my ass. And there have been plenty of satirical takes on other religions.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:40 AM on July 18, 2012 [40 favorites]


What secrets does the Mormon Church have to hide? Can we see their tax returns please?
posted by stbalbach at 9:40 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you had a photo of Moses telling Jews "Thou shalt own half of Hollywood, and thou shalt enter into the legal system in vast numbers..." - yeah, I don't think that would have gotten quite so far.

And yeah, the economic and cultural positions of Jews and Mormons aren't quite the same, but I'm gonna come down on the side of "legitimately offensive" this time.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:41 AM on July 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Enough with MormonFilter already.
posted by The World Famous at 9:41 AM on July 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


I can't wait for the Mohommed one.
posted by Optamystic at 9:42 AM on July 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Mormonism really is the Scientology of the 19th Century.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:42 AM on July 18, 2012 [42 favorites]


No magazine would ever run such a cover about the Catholic or Anglican churches

Time Magazine

Titanic, a satirical German magazine.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:43 AM on July 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


Mormonism really is the Scientology of the 19th Century.

Oh for crying out loud.
posted by The World Famous at 9:43 AM on July 18, 2012


...I'm gonna come down on the side of "legitimately offensive" this time.

Piffle. That cover isn't even Mormon-specific. It's an indictment of ALL rich religions.
posted by DU at 9:43 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Follow the money." - Deep Throat Jesus
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:43 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here, for a comparison, is the first page of a google image search for "catholic wealth magazine". Plenty of images from main-stream magazines in there, all of which make much the same point as this one about the Mormons.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:44 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


So that Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu is owned by the LDS? I suspected, but I never thought to look it up.

If you're driving around the North Shore, right before you get to the Polynesian Cultural Center, you'll see a sign for "BYU - Hawaii Campus." I strongly recommend stopping by; it's surreal.
posted by eugenen at 9:44 AM on July 18, 2012


It's an indictment of ALL rich religions with Jesus in them
posted by shakespeherian at 9:46 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Piffle. That cover isn't even Mormon-specific. It's an indictment of ALL rich religions.

The cover with a picture of John the Baptist conferring the Aaronic Priesthood authority on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery that has the great big headline "INSIDE THE MORMON EMPIRE" is "not even Mormon-specific?"
posted by The World Famous at 9:46 AM on July 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


“In the Mormon worldview, it’s as spiritual to give alms to the poor, as the old phrase goes in the Biblical sense, as it is to make a million dollars be a corporate raider.”  
posted by jeffburdges at 9:47 AM on July 18, 2012


"Mormonism really is the Scientology of the 19th Century. "

You can definitely draw some parallels with Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard.
posted by PJLandis at 9:47 AM on July 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Yeah, Jesus was pretty clear about wealth, so fair game.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:47 AM on July 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


Mormonism really is the Scientology of the 19th Century.

I've had this same theory for a while. Both religions reflect the zeitgeist prevalent during their creation. Mormonism is just the "city on a hill" american exceptionalism made literal, scientology is systematized 50's UFO paranoia.
posted by Chekhovian at 9:48 AM on July 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


You can definitely draw some parallels with Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard.

You can draw those same parallels with the founders of every other religion, including the dominant strains of Evangelical Christianity in America that were founded at almost exactly the same time as Mormonism.
posted by The World Famous at 9:48 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I actually just let my subscription to Catholic Wealth Magazine run out. Once you've seen one sceptre-and-mitre photo spread, you've sort of seen 'em all.
posted by gompa at 9:49 AM on July 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


The biggest issue with the cover is that it's ugly.
posted by OmieWise at 9:50 AM on July 18, 2012 [20 favorites]


(To be fair, all surviving popular religions reflect the zeitgeist present at their creation...Christianity is just jewish messianic stuff. The reason is probably Darwinian here. The religions that didn't couple well into their times just didn't survive.)
posted by Chekhovian at 9:50 AM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you had a photo of Moses telling Jews "Thou shalt own half of Hollywood, and thou shalt enter into the legal system in vast numbers..." - yeah, I don't think that would have gotten quite so far.

This is a poor analogy. The cover is a comment on the Mormon establishment. A better analogy would be a photo of Jesus telling Catholics "And though shalt protect the abusers of children". There's a difference between commenting on the LDS church and stereotyping Mormons themselves.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:50 AM on July 18, 2012 [25 favorites]


that Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu is owned by the LDS?

The Chuch does well in the Pacific Rim. One-quarter of all Tongans living in the US are located in Utah.*
posted by Egg Shen at 9:51 AM on July 18, 2012


1 Timothy 6:8 — With food to eat and clothes to wear billions of dollars and awesome multimedia systems for our megachurches; content we are in everything.
posted by deanklear at 9:52 AM on July 18, 2012


So...A Bloomberg publication going after the LDS? The timing is...interesting.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:53 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The biggest issue with the cover is that it's ugly

Yeah, it looks like a teenager was using a photocopier to whip up a zine cover.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:54 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


No magazine would ever run such a cover about the Catholic or Anglican churches, whose wealth is orders of magnitude higher.

Plenty would, and more should.
posted by enn at 9:54 AM on July 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


"You can draw those same parallels with the founders of every other religion, including the dominant strains of Evangelical Christianity in America that were founded at almost exactly the same time as Mormonism."

The problem is a lot of those details are lost to history, it's possible Jesus never even existed, whereas with Mormonism and Scientology they unfolded within recent history.
posted by PJLandis at 9:54 AM on July 18, 2012


All this stuff about parallels is pretty much a pointless derail that's been done to death.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:56 AM on July 18, 2012


“The worst fear I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution and be true. But my greatest fear is that they cannot stand wealth”

- Brigham Young
posted by The World Famous at 9:57 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mormonism is just the "city on a hill" american exceptionalism made literal, scientology is systematized 50's UFO paranoia.

Mormon's actually believe God lives on a planet in outer space too, you know, though I've known quite a few Mormons who didn't really want to talk about this article of their faith.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:57 AM on July 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


"scientology is systematized 50's UFO paranoia."

Scientology, if I understand it correctly, is more of a self-help or motivational religion; most people are very committed before anything about aliens comes into the picture.
posted by PJLandis at 9:58 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mormon's actually believe God lives on a planet in outer space too

Every religion that believes God created the Earth believes, by definition, that God is an extraterrestrial. Moreover, there's no such thing as living "on a planet in outer space." If you're on a planet, you're not in outer space, any more than I'm on a planet in outer space right now.
posted by The World Famous at 9:59 AM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's kind of fucked up that they did that, knowing the religion has a prohibition on depicting their prophet. Seems unnecessarily confrontational. Still, a law against it seems a little extreme.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:59 AM on July 18, 2012


But no, read the link. They literally believe there's a physical planet in space with God living on it. It's a very specific feature of Mormon theology.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:00 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


"All this stuff about parallels is pretty much a pointless derail that's been done to death."

Maybe for you, I've never heard about it before.
posted by PJLandis at 10:00 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can draw those same parallels with the founders of every other religion.

Atheists tend to agree with this statement.

I do think the early history of the Mormon church has some interesting parallels with the history of the Jewish diaspora, when it comes to being persecuted for attempting to exert local economic and political pressure. When it comes to the banking Jew trope, there are very specific historical reasons why the two became linked - in general terms, it was forbidden in Europe for Christians to engage in lending with interest (very similar, I understand, to current Islamic prohibitions agains the same). Kings and wealthy merchants often heavily relied on Jewish enclaves to prosper, but when the enclaves profited off such lending, the localities would often turn on the enclave, drive them out, and steal their wealth. The nastiness of that trope comes from the idea that we create a situation where we give a culture only one way to prosper, and then we persecute them for it.

My own understanding of Christ, from reading the Bible, is that he wouldn't be too happy with any modern Church which accumulates vast sums of wealth for the purposes of accumulating wealth (of course my understanding of Christ is that he, or his early church, believed that our time here would be very short). But I've been told before that I simply misunderstand what I read.
posted by muddgirl at 10:00 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Polynesian Cultural Center is owned by by the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and is on land owned by Brigham Young University–Hawaii, which is in turn owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Saying it's one of the ways the Mormon Church makes money is really not at all the same as saying that the "[Jews own] half of Hollywood."

(And I always thought of Laie as being on the Windward Side rather than the North Shore.)
posted by kyrademon at 10:01 AM on July 18, 2012


> Maybe for you, I've never heard about it before.

Even so, it's a textbook derail here, and perhaps if people could maybe not try going for the jugular just because they think they're clever, these threads would be more interesting.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:01 AM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I suspect the fact that the 'cover' link refers to the 'Church of Mormon' is far more offensive than the cover itself.

No magazine would ever run such a cover about the Catholic or Anglican churches, whose wealth is orders of magnitude higher.

I think, though, that the obvious difference is that everyone knows that, say, the Catholic Church is sitting on a pile of cash. They've only been collecting it for two thousand years, after all. Granted, I expect anyone with a brain to know the LDS Church is sitting on a massive pile of cash too, but it's a little less obvious.
posted by hoyland at 10:02 AM on July 18, 2012


So...A Bloomberg publication going after the LDS? The timing is...interesting.

LDS elite are powerful business owners and CEOs in the United States. They give millions — mostly secretly — to change laws and elect politicians in the United States. If there really is a conspiracy here, it isn't being lead by Mayor Bloomberg.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:03 AM on July 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


There's a magazine cover article about this topic literally every couple of years. I suspect that it's in every editor's go-to folder of ideas.
posted by The World Famous at 10:04 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


But no, read the link. They literally believe there's a physical planet in space with God living on it. It's a very specific feature of Mormon theology.

Those crazy guys, everyone knows he lives in the clouds or something. Or maybe on some mountains in Greece. Or across a rainbow bridge.

Really, what is your point?
posted by biffa at 10:04 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


"But I've been told before that I simply misunderstand what I read."

Plus your version is old, maybe there is some transcription errors, while the Book of Mormon is practically fresh of the golden plates.
posted by PJLandis at 10:05 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Even so, it's a textbook derail here

I think the missing parallel here how Scientology makes money. Adding up all the Thetan removal fees, does that average out to 10% of your income for an average Scientologist?
posted by Chekhovian at 10:05 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, in this whole Romney retirement thing, the one thing I've been wondering is why it was so important to bring the Olympic Games to SLC. I'm assuming it had to have made the LDS church and its corporate tentacles a good amount of money in peripheral businesses (all those people have to eat/sleep/buy crappy souvenirs somewhere), but is that all? Was there some ideological reason to do it?
posted by lily_bart at 10:06 AM on July 18, 2012


If Businessweek ever wants to do an article about how I made my billions they can put whatever cover on it they want. Quick, someone give me a couple billion.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:07 AM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, more on topic, then, Melaleuca founder and fellow Mormon Frank VanderSloot basically set up his Amway style-retail-pyramid scheme operation which boasts various kinds of "natural and organic" products to serve as a political slush fund to serve his support of the Romney campaign. There's a level of business savvy and a willingness to get cozy with the more material aspects of the world that seems characteristically Mormon, though also found in the newer forms of mass market prosperity gospel evangelism. Why isn't it fair game to lampoon that? I mean, assuming we don't think there's a direct immediate threat of inciting American Mormons (generally, a peaceful bunch) to violence?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:08 AM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I mean, we didn't actually go inside, because we were really just looking for something to eat and it is practically the only thing on the north shore of Oahu except for a Subway and a hamburger stand (we ate at the hamburger stand).

My ex and I went there during our honeymoon trip to Hawaii back in the late 90s. We had no idea it was LDS-related until we were already there since it wasn't mentioned in any of the literature.

Funny part of it was that we woke up to meet the tour bus a bit late, so rushed down without our accustomed morning coffees. During the long bus ride, fighting to stay awake and fearing caffeine headaches, we said, "Well, we'll just get something there."

After getting inside the park, we hunted down the nearest food stand and stared at the line of soda dispensers behind the counter, wondering woozily why they only had caffeine-free selections. Then it dawned on us.

We remembered seeing a convenience store across the street from the center's entrance, so we rushed back out the front gate and high-tailed it across to buy several Cokes, a few of which we smuggled inside my ex's purse for later consumption. We joked the store must do a ton of illicit business. :)
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:13 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Really, what is your point?

Exactly what I said. That Mormonism, like scientology, is unique in its acceptance of the possibility of real, literal alien life forms playing a role in our lives. I'm not mocking that idea. The ancient Sumerians (I'm informed by specious documentaries on Netflix) believed this as well. It's just a unique theological position among US religious traditions, and one I think that helps to put Mormonisms place as a relatively modern religious system alongside other systems like Scientology in perspective.

On the other hand, Krishna and various forms of Hinduism and Buddhism also accept the literal reality and spiritual significance of the existence of alien worlds and life. So maybe it's not so much a consequence of Mormonism's relative recent appearance on the religious scene.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:13 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


How weird that Meleleuca would come up... just yesterday a friend of mine started really flogging that stuff on Facebook, posting long excited testimonials about how great the cleaning products are and showing before and after pictures of the stains in her home that she'd never been able to remove before this miracle product came along, and oh, if you want some, contact my friend so-and-so and she'll hook you up, she's my "dealer"...

Didn't put two and two together until just now, but yeah, my friend's a practicing Mormon and of course so is her "dealer".

I think I'll stick to my current products, thanks.
posted by palomar at 10:13 AM on July 18, 2012


why it was so important to bring the Olympic Games to SLC?

I'm sure that the LDS Church did not have any reason for wanting to bring the games to SLC that the outfits in charge of any other city didn't have for wanting to bring the games there.

In practical terms, we got a lot of highway construction, a light-rail system, a new football stadium for the university, and a terrific public library out of it.
posted by Egg Shen at 10:13 AM on July 18, 2012


Why isn't it fair game to lampoon that?

Same reason it's not fair game to lampoon that when it comes to other minorities.

There are certainly contexts in which it's fair game to lampoon it. But there's a difference between lampooning on the one hand and suggesting that Mormons are characteristically this way or that way, suggesting that they're creepy or generally greedy or whatever. There's a line between a lampoon and discrimination. It's a line that gets discussed in the context of comedy all the time.

For whatever it's worth, I don't see any comedy in this thread.
posted by The World Famous at 10:14 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


But no, read the link. They literally believe there's a physical planet in space with God living on it. It's a very specific feature of Mormon theology.

I'm not a Mormon, but my understanding of Kolob's place in Mormon theology is that it does not specify anything about Kolob beyond "First creation" and "closest to the throne of God." Maybe this is literal, maybe it's metaphorical, maybe Kolob is a star and maybe it's a planet, but there's miles and miles of distance between "Kolob is nearest the Throne of God" and "It is the planet that God stands around on."

"Read the link" is not helpful when "the link" is not describing official Mormon canonical theology or even making sourced statements about the folk beliefs of members of the Church.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:15 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meleleuca

Hey, let's put Tea Tree oil in everything! Everything.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:15 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


A true blue Mormon (a "TBM" as they are referred to over at Reddit's ExMormon community) is expected to tithe 10% of their gross income. About a month ago there was a discussion about how the LDS church had added a disclaimer to their tithing forms. Another relevant item to this Businessweek article is that in New Zealand, they have to report their finances, and that half of the church's reported income over there goes towards salaries.
posted by Catblack at 10:17 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Most of us really hate Mormons.
posted by seasparrow at 10:18 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Same reason it's not fair game to lampoon that when it comes to other minorities.

Mormons are Christians, no? Christians are not a minority.
posted by muddgirl at 10:21 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you had a photo of Moses telling Jews "Thou shalt own half of Hollywood, and thou shalt enter into the legal system in vast numbers..." - yeah, I don't think that would have gotten quite so far.

That's because "Jews" isn't a single organization, so...
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:21 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


...in the US.
posted by muddgirl at 10:21 AM on July 18, 2012


"Read the link" is not helpful when "the link" is not describing official Mormon canonical theology or even making sourced statements about the folk beliefs of members of the Church.

Had another link to a Mormon blog discussing the implications of this point of Mormon theology all ready to go but lost it... Wait a minute. Here it is.

Still, this is getting to be a derail. Why are you defending against this idea more forcefully than any Mormon I've ever talked about it with (unless I miss my guess and you're Mormon). Most Mormon's I've talked to will freely admit they believe this literally.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:22 AM on July 18, 2012


A true blue Mormon (a "TBM" as they are referred to over at Reddit's ExMormon community) is expected to tithe 10% of their gross income.

Expected by whom? The church certainly doesn't expect it.

Metafilter: Most of us really hate Mormons.

The most disappointing thing for me about growing up has been going from a world where my friends all respect me to a world where I learn more and more that people whom I have respected for years harbor deep-seated ignorant hatred for me based on false assumptions and preconceived notions.

The only time I don't feel welcome on MetaFilter is when I see its hatred of me peeking through.

Mormons are Christians, no? Christians are not a minority.

All minorities are a subset of some larger classification, aren't they?
posted by The World Famous at 10:23 AM on July 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


Mormons are Christians, no?

There are a lot of people who will answer that with "No, they are not."
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:23 AM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why are you defending against this idea more forcefully than any Mormon I've ever talked about it with (unless I miss my guess and you're Mormon). Most Mormon's I've talked to will freely admit they believe this literally.

Believe what literally? The scripture that clearly does not say that God lives on a planet, or the folk belief that directly contradicts that scripture?
posted by The World Famous at 10:24 AM on July 18, 2012


The World Famous, c'mon. One of the chapters in their big book is called 'The Book of Moroni'.

And lo, it came to pass, they pretty much dug themselves a hole right there. And lo, it came to pass, writing a pastiche of the King James Bible was pretty easy. And lo, it came to pass, that it was even easier to make it look authentic if you added in 'And lo, it came to pass' as the start of every 5th or so sentence.


It's cruel to pick on minorities, I concur. When the minorities sell such utter bunk, such hole-riddled bunk, when they go out of their way to spread their mistruths - regardless of how much they believe it - I'm sorry, they deserve pulling on it. It's like the Phelps. You mock their hate and belief system, but if one person inside realises what's going on, and the mockery flicks a switch that causes them to question their reality, then, my god, that mock should be presented in full, unashamed and brazen. It is the mockery which will set them free.
posted by davemee at 10:25 AM on July 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Metafilter: Most of us really hate Mormons.

Some of the most decent people I've ever known are Mormon, so please exclude me from this generalization. I'll admit, I do hate the forces within the religious institutions of Mormonism that so often collude to exploit those good qualities.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:25 AM on July 18, 2012 [16 favorites]


The most disappointing thing for me about growing up has been going from a world where my friends all respect me to a world where I learn more and more that people whom I have respected for years harbor deep-seated ignorant hatred for me based on false assumptions and preconceived notions.

Just so you know, the person who wrote that tagline identifies as a Mormon. No one else said that they hate Mormons or used the word hate at all.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:27 AM on July 18, 2012


Mormonism really is the Scientology of the 19th Century.

Shit. Does that mean that Scientology will be the Mormonism of the 23rd century?
posted by Aizkolari at 10:27 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I also hate prosperity gospel, because it offend my own personal view of Christian faith in a way that I would consider blasphemy if I let myself be a fanatic about it.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:28 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wills top poking fun and condoning people poking fun at imaginary friends when people stop pretending these imaginary friends told them to get involved in real things like marriage equality and tax advantaged status.
posted by iamabot at 10:29 AM on July 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Why are you defending against this idea more forcefully than any Mormon I've ever talked about it with (unless I miss my guess and you're Mormon). Most Mormon's I've talked to will freely admit they believe this literally

Honestly? Because you made a statement which was backed up with nothing but a very wonky-looking link that stinks to high heaven of "LOOK AT THE CRAZY PEOPLE AND THEIR CRAZY RELIGION OF CRAZINESS" accusatory bullshit, rather than a calm and measured explanation of a deeply-held faith. And because bringing that up in this context seemed, and frankly still seems, like an attempt at a derail about How Crazy Those Mormons Are, rather than a discussion of the link.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:29 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is the mockery which will set them free.

Then at least mock what we actually believe. You don't make me question my beliefs by first telling me I believe something I don't and then telling me the thing I don't believe is stupid.
posted by The World Famous at 10:30 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Offensive, but not nearly as offensive as the painting of Jesus delivering the Constitution from Mt. Sinai painted by an LDS member.
posted by straight at 10:31 AM on July 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


i was mostly confused by the cover because i didn't think the dudes met jesus in the woods but that they met an angel. so it's like the cover is poking fun at a misconception anyways.
posted by sio42 at 10:33 AM on July 18, 2012


Then at least mock what we actually believe.

I went to a Mormon funeral once, for a very nice lady who had been a friend of my grandmother's. They sure did talk a lot in that service about the whole thing you're denying, that Mormons believe God lives in outer space and all that.

How nice that you're taking it upon yourself to speak for them.
posted by palomar at 10:33 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the cover is ridiculously inflammatory, which is unfortunate, because the article itself is not.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:34 AM on July 18, 2012


That's not Jesus. It's John the Baptist. He forgot his fur coat, apparently.
posted by The World Famous at 10:34 AM on July 18, 2012


[Folks. If you can't discuss this issue without getting screedy, you might want to come back when you can. Thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:34 AM on July 18, 2012


The World Famous, c'mon. One of the chapters in their big book is called 'The Book of Moroni'.

I find it fascinating that you keep saying "They" when you're speaking directly to at least one actual Mormon.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:35 AM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Would it be possible to talk about the LDS Church without like pointedly needling individual members of the Metafilter community?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:35 AM on July 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


No magazine would ever run such a cover about the Catholic or Anglican churches, whose wealth is orders of magnitude higher.

I wish somebody would take on the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury. That would be awesome.

Oh wait... there's Stephen Fry, Tim Minchin, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, etc.
posted by prepmonkey at 10:35 AM on July 18, 2012


Would it be possible to talk about the LDS Church without like pointedly needling individual members of the Metafilter community?

He's not being needled, he's taking on all comers. Willingly, it seems. Can we discuss the article?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:38 AM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


See, this is going to come across as a pro-LDS whitewash in a lot of places. I've met a bunch of evangelicals who refuse to buy Coke because they knew that Coca-Cola was owned by the Mormons.

If all they own is a mall, an amusement park, and a few shares of Burger King, why now they're not even as scary as that Roman Catholic "Institution."
posted by straight at 10:38 AM on July 18, 2012


The World Famous: "The only time I don't feel welcome on MetaFilter is when I see its hatred of me peeking through."

Yes, this. ^^^^^^ It's hard to express the shock that so many of my favorite mefites, about whom I feel such great things, turn into these slavering bigots when the Church is mentioned. I can only say that it seems like an episode of the Twilight Zone and suddenly the nice sweet doctor and nurse pull aside their human mask and there is the pig-monster raving beneath. For those of us (not just Mormons, but the whole minority who are active in traditional religion) who are thick-skinned enough to stay here and put up with it, it is a clear example of how the "best of the internet" and the "worst of the internet" are often combined in the same people we love. Good on you, The World Famous, for having the courage to consistently offer a rational, decent opposing view to the vocal majority. I know I don't have the energy to do it. This will likely be my last post in this thread. I just wanted to chime in and say that there many of us who are disappointed by the repeated assaults on people of faith. It would be pointless, I know, but sometimes I want to tell these people to look in the mirror and ask themselves why they feel it necessary and have such a need to mock others' beliefs.
posted by seasparrow at 10:39 AM on July 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


Mormons are Christians, no? Christians are not a minority.

Actually, until just a few decades ago, Mormons would be the first to tell you that they are not Christians.

I don't believe I have to wait until a majority of people follow a weird, idiotic and hateful religion in order to mock it. Fuck Mormonism.

I find this to be rather uncharitable. While I have serious theological disagreements with Mormonism, I do not see anything in their doctrine that encourages hatefulness. If such doctrine exists, this doctrine appears lost on the laity because they really seem to be loving their fellow human through international relief efforts.

The linked page shows 285 relief efforts in Africa alone for HIV/AIDS education, clean water, building schools, and health treatment. If this sort of behavior is hateful, there is no such thing as love.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:40 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyway, why is this cover more offensive than, say, Mormons baptizing Holocaust victims? Disrespecting the dead in that way seems a lot more offensive than a zine cover, honestly. Or buying laws to take away rights from the living, as was done in California? Why is this cover more offensive than making a certain group of Americans into second-class citizens?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:43 AM on July 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


It would be pointless, I know, but sometimes I want to tell these people to look in the mirror and ask themselves why they feel it necessary and have such a need to mock others' beliefs.

Honestly? Because many churches, but yours specifically, use its faith as justification to discriminate. If you tithe in the way you are expected, I guarantee you, your money has been used to fight against equal marriage rights for gay people.

If that's something you're comfortable with and something that you support, then I'm not sure what your beef is. If that's something you're not comfortable with and something that you do not support, then... what are you doing to change things?
posted by palomar at 10:44 AM on July 18, 2012 [40 favorites]


The World Famous: >A true blue Mormon (a "TBM" as they are referred to over at Reddit's ExMormon community) is expected to tithe 10% of their gross income.

Expected by whom? The church certainly doesn't expect it.


This point I would beg to differ. Would it be better for you if I used the word 'suggested' instead of 'expected'? I have been under the impression that tithing was one of the factors that is examined when a temple recommend is considered.
posted by Catblack at 10:45 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Offensive, but not nearly as offensive as the painting of Jesus delivering the Constitution from Mt. Sinai painted by an LDS member.

That painting did lead to the One Nation Under Cthulhu riff on it, though. So it's hard to be too offended.
posted by Drastic at 10:45 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Most of us really hate Mormons.


You know, I didn't used to.

I had Mormon friends when I was younger. An ex-girlfriend of mine was Mormon for several years. I never got the appeal, but I always felt sympathy rather than hatred. Most of the Mormons I've met are super-nice people, and it can't be an easy religion to be part of, so I always tried to be extra-nice to missionaries and random LDS folks I'd meet.

Then Prop 8 happened.

Fuck them.

I played nice for a long time. Now when missionaries come to my door I don't offer them a drink, I don't offer them cookies, I don't chat. I turn them away from behind a closed screen, and I tell them why.

These people need to know what embracing bigotry and segregation is costing them.
posted by Myca at 10:45 AM on July 18, 2012 [40 favorites]


If that's something you're comfortable with and something that you support, then I'm not sure what your beef is. If that's something you're not comfortable with and something that you do not support, then... what are you doing to change things?

I always specify on my tax returns that they aren't allowed to buy guns with my money.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:46 AM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Tanizaki: I do not see anything in their doctrine that encourages hatefulness.

Well, they are very active in politically denying LGBT people their civil rights. I think some people are going a little too far in their criticism of Mormonism, in here, but it's not entirely without reason. Most of us wouldn't care less about Mormonism, or any other religion, if they weren't so persistently spending untaxed money on political manipulation of our lives.
posted by gilrain at 10:47 AM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I always specify on my tax returns that they aren't allowed to buy guns with my money.

Paying US taxes is involuntary and completely different from tithing. That said, I know religious people (specifically, Quakers) who purposefully avoid making income that would require them to pay significant amounts of taxes. Instead they live in poverty or near-poverty.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:49 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know a fair amount of Mormons. They ALL claim to be against the things their leadership does to discriminate against gay people. And yet, they still tithe, knowing that their money pays for the things they claim to be against. They might have gay friends or relatives that they are friendly and kind to, they might donate to equal rights campaigns... but they still tithe. They still attend church and are extremely active in their church community, despite claiming to be against this very large, ugly campaign to deny others the rights they enjoy.

I honestly don't understand how that works, and would love an explanation from someone who considers themselves to be a devout Mormon, because I can't get any of the ones I know to answer, beyond blithely telling me that's just what they do, or they're following Heavenly Father's plan, et cetera.
posted by palomar at 10:49 AM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Anyway, why is this cover more offensive than, say, Mormons baptizing Holocaust victims? Disrespecting the dead in that way seems a lot more offensive than a zine cover, honestly. Or buying laws to take away rights from the living, as was done in California? Why is this cover more offensive than making a certain group of Americans into second-class citizens?

Who says it is? I'm Jewish. I find the LDS church's baptism of Holocaust survivors to be incredibly disgusting and offensive. I'm a strong supporter of equal rights for GLBT folks, and I find the LDS church's strong opposition to that to be pretty damn awful too. I see no contradiction between that, and still finding this cover offensive and gross.

After all, I'm infuriated by what I consider to be bigotry and inhumane attitudes toward Palestinians among Jews, and that doesn't change the fact that I also object to stereotypes of Jews as, say, money-hoarding subhuman monsters.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:50 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then Prop 8 happened.

Also the whole Boy Scout homophobia thing, which I may be blaming the LDS for unfairly.
posted by Myca at 10:52 AM on July 18, 2012


The Polynesian Cultural Center totally sucks. It's like a prison camp where the lobotomized island captives of the church are forced to publicly perform a completely non-authentic bastard version of their own heritage. It also hosts the worst luaus you can imagine, with factory food and no alcohol.
posted by w0mbat at 10:52 AM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


To the Mormons in this thread: While there are some unfortunate personal comments. I think the vast majority here aren't objecting to Mormons as individuals but to the church as an institution.

If you think you've been singled out, then take a look at how people have criticized the Catholic church for protecting pedophile priests. That magazine cover is trivia in comparison to what's been said about the Catholic hierarchy.

Additionally, while all religious doctrines seem a bit odd to non-believers, the Book of Mormon makes statements that are simply factually incorrect, e.g., about the ancestry of Native Americans. While the bible says similarly silly thing at times (three races descended from Noah), it has the advantage of a 2000 year entrenchment, and a substantial population, Southen Baptists excluded, that do not take the Bible literally.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:52 AM on July 18, 2012 [16 favorites]


The article, though, and the cover as I read it is meant to be specifically concerned with the formal Mormon Church and its political and business dealings, is it not? Not a mockery of the underlying faith, but a mockery of how the faith is abused in service to worldly interests that would seem in most people's eyes to run counter to the core of the faith? I'm assuming most Mormons are not part of the "Mormon Empire" being targeted in the same way someone like, say, Romney or VanderSloot is.

That said, I guess I can see how the cover art specifically might offend by seeming to target Mormonism generally. I don't think you have to see it that way, though, would be my last (weak) point in defense of Bloomberg.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:54 AM on July 18, 2012


This point I would beg to differ. Would it be better for you if I used the word 'suggested' instead of 'expected'?

If you could provide some cite to a suggestion by the church to that effect, sure.

I have been under the impression that tithing was one of the factors that is examined when a temple recommend is considered.

The temple recommend interview is simply "are you a full tithe payer?" with nothing about how much constitutes a full tithe, and no review of how much the member makes or pays. There is an annual tithing settlement meeting where each member can meet with the church leaders to look at the church's record of their tithing for the year and verify that all of their payments were properly received and recorded. But no one asks how much you make, what your income was, or whether you paid 10% on gross, net, or anything else. The only question is: Do you consider yourself to be a full tithe payer.

Anyway, why is this cover more offensive than, say, Mormons baptizing Holocaust victims? Disrespecting the dead in that way seems a lot more offensive than a zine cover, honestly. Or buying laws to take away rights from the living, as was done in California? Why is this cover more offensive than making a certain group of Americans into second-class citizens?

I don't think anyone has suggested that it is (other than you, by implication).

He's not being needled, he's taking on all comers. Willingly, it seems. Can we discuss the article?

All comers? Nah. Not even all of the ones who are needling me.

the Book of Mormon makes statements that are simply factually incorrect, e.g., about the ancestry of Native Americans

Can you point me to the specific passages in the text of the Book of Mormon itself that mention Native Americans? Joseph Smith certainly did believe that it was a history of the Indians in his region, but I know of nothing in the actual text of the book that mentions that at all.
posted by The World Famous at 10:57 AM on July 18, 2012


Who says it is?

Well, one person here seemed pretty offended. I just don't see a magazine cover mocking powerful rich people - a bit of free speech you can just move on and ignore - anywhere near as effectively hateful as codifying minority discrimination into law or deliberately fucking with concentration camp victims. Maybe others think these thing are equivalent, and you are welcome to make a case for it, but I just don't see the logic there. Some things in life are just not deserving of high dudgeon and, when you look at history, this seems one of them. Sorry.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:00 AM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, they are very active in politically denying LGBT people their civil rights

I anticipated a Prop 8 response to my comment. No matter their Prop 8 activities, that does not mean the LDS teach hate of anyone. The modern trend of describing just about any political opposition as "hate" is lamentable.

I see that there is an LDS charitable effort to support the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya. While I do not know for certain, I very strongly doubt that before giving a patient a wheelchair, they ask, "you're not gay, right?"
posted by Tanizaki at 11:02 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


This cover offends me deeply. This blasphemous desecration of Helvetica has no place on a newsstand. What is that font? IT'S NOT EVEN ARIAL.
posted by designbot at 11:02 AM on July 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Highlights (all direct quotes) for those unable or unwilling to read the article:
  • “We look to not only the spiritual but also the temporal, and we believe that a person who is impoverished temporally cannot blossom spiritually.”
  • It’s perhaps unsurprising that Mormonism, an indigenous American religion, would also adopt the country’s secular faith in money. What is remarkable is how varied the church’s business interests are and that so little is known about its financial interests.
  • "Traditional Christianity and Judaism make a clear distinction between what is spiritual and what is temporal, while Mormon theology specifically denies that there is such a distinction.”
  • The Mormon Church is owned and run by what is called the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This entity is a “corporation sole,” which is an obscure legal body owned entirely by one person.
  • Other than the unique pressures and joys of working for your spiritual leader, church executives say their enterprises aren’t so unusual. “Do we go around in frocks and pray all the time? The answer is no, we run these like businesses.”
  • In its early days, the church’s entrepreneurial rigor was fueled by necessity. Mormons, who clashed with neighbors and government authorities over practices such as polygamy, often had to fend for themselves.
  • Asked whether there’s any conflict of interest in having devout Mormons volunteer their services to for-profit enterprises, McMullin [No. 2 counselor in the church’s so-called Presiding Bishopric] says, “Oh, I surely don’t—no, not in the least. … When you look at what these companies do, they are for the purpose of lifting and strengthening people."
If there really is a conspiracy here, it isn't being lead by Mayor Bloomberg.

My understanding is that Michael Bloomberg has no managerial input into Bloomberg L.P., so bingo.
posted by psoas at 11:02 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I anticipated a Prop 8 response to my comment. No matter their Prop 8 activities, that does not mean the LDS teach hate of anyone.

I disagree. Legal discrimination is hatred instantiated.
posted by Myca at 11:05 AM on July 18, 2012 [21 favorites]


The modern trend of describing just about any political opposition as "hate" is lamentable.


The comment you're replying to specifically said " they are very active in politically denying LGBT people their civil rights". Is that true or not? If so, why are you trying to quibble about vocabulary? Is it okay to try to deny people their civil rights as long as you don't "hate" them?
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:05 AM on July 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


I anticipated a Prop 8 response to my comment. No matter their Prop 8 activities, that does not mean the LDS teach hate of anyone. The modern trend of describing just about any political opposition as "hate" is lamentable.

If you don't like 'hate', how about 'willfully interfering in the harmless lives of others and falsely claiming they harm children and society'? There's no way to describe LDS actions around Prop 8 in a way that paraphrases to 'nice and respectful of others'.
posted by hoyland at 11:06 AM on July 18, 2012 [17 favorites]


Tanizaki: I anticipated a Prop 8 response to my comment. No matter their Prop 8 activities, that does not mean the LDS teach hate of anyone.

I disagree. The othering of a group of people leads directly to their being hated. It's human psychology. And yes, the denial of civil rights is absolutely othering: this group of "normal" people can have this right, but this other group of "different" people can't.
posted by gilrain at 11:07 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]



There's no way to describe LDS actions around Prop 8 in a way that paraphrases to 'nice and respectful of others'.


Agreed.
posted by The World Famous at 11:08 AM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


No matter their Prop 8 activities, that does not mean the LDS teach hate of anyone.

So you're saying that the LDS church actively campaigns to deny equal rights, but... that doesn't mean that they hate anyone?

Believing that would take a complete lack of awareness of what it means to spend millions of dollars to keep a certain group of people from having the same rights as you, because you think they're sinners. That sure doesn't read as loving kindness, from over here in Secular America.
posted by palomar at 11:08 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


"We don't hate gays, we just don't think they should have the same rights as the rest of us!" *smiles brightly*
posted by entropicamericana at 11:10 AM on July 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


Believing that would take a complete lack of awareness of what it means to spend millions of dollars to keep a certain group of people from having the same rights as you, because you think they're sinners.

Bingo. Exactly. Hit the nail right on the head.
posted by The World Famous at 11:10 AM on July 18, 2012


Tanizaki has made some really weird comments about homosexuals. I'm not sure they're a decent interlocutor on the subject, although they do seem to voice their strange opinions on the subject pretty frequently.
posted by OmieWise at 11:11 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


"are you a full tithe payer?"

And you don't consider that question by your church to be a suggestion? (Complete with a yearly meeting with one's local Bishop?) I can't see how you have done anything but prove my point. It's not hard to imagine the social pressure that one would be under as a member of your church. (And I'm also still on the rolls, so it's also technically my church too.)

Here's a sourced summation of the LDS Church's history of tithing that's well worth the read.
posted by Catblack at 11:12 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I disagree. Legal discrimination is hatred instantiated.

I do not think "instantiate" means what you think it means, but legal discrimination does exist. According to you, does the FAA hate old pilots because of mandatory retirement at 65?

The othering of a group of people leads directly to their being hated. It's human psychology.

Care to support this statement? Belgians are "others" to Americans. Do Americans hate Belgians?

To the various Prop 8 comments, the LDS and other opponents of same-sex marriage do not think they are violating anyone's civil rights because they think the right to same-sex marriage does not exist.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:13 AM on July 18, 2012


While there's been criticism of Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity, there is zero chance this type of cover would have been approved if it had featured Judaism. It's offensive, full stop.
posted by desjardins at 11:14 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know, I really wasn't kidding around or being facetious when I said I'd love to hear an explanation from a Mormon about how they deal with the fact that their tithing money helps finance anti-equality campaigns. Just more agreements that, yeah, denying others equal rights is a bad thing.

Seriously. Someone please explain how you can be a Mormon who tithes and who also claims to support gay rights.
posted by palomar at 11:14 AM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


You know, I really wasn't kidding around or being facetious when I said I'd love to hear an explanation from a Mormon about how they deal with the fact that their tithing money helps finance anti-equality campaigns. Just more agreements that, yeah, denying others equal rights is a bad thing.

Seriously. Someone please explain how you can be a Mormon who tithes and who also claims to support gay rights.


Maybe because this is a derail and this thread is not a goddamned referendum on Mormonism and especially not one on Mormon users here.
posted by Snyder at 11:17 AM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Tanizaki has made some really weird comments about homosexuals.

Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the
issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site.

I haven't said anything about homosexuals. I have only defended the LDS (of which I am not a member) from comments that I think are uncharitable. I think there is something very wrong about an environment where people can comfortably declare that they "hate Mormons", and there is something very wrong with someone who proclaims their hate for anyone. Please forgive me.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:18 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


According to you, does the FAA hate old pilots because of mandatory retirement at 65?

I like the analogy of Mormons being Blade Runners, trying to 'retire' me for my own benefit.

It's almost as ridiculous as the outrage over this magazine cover. Almost.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:19 AM on July 18, 2012


Actually, since this is a thread about an article discussing how the LDS church makes their money, and one of the big ways they make money is by tithing, I think you're dead wrong there. But hey, please feel free to go on the offensive. That's always very helpful.
posted by palomar at 11:20 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will probably never understand why people need to be threatened with eternal torment and enticed with infinite bliss JUST TO BE NICE TO EACH OTHER.
posted by LordSludge at 11:20 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know. Personally, I think religious organizations in the US should be taxed on any income that goes beyond a reasonable cost to run actual religious services. Religious economists can decide what that "reasonable cost" is. This is not an indictment of the Church of LDS, but on all religions; working in a Catholic rectory as a teen, I saw our parish priests living pretty high hog for our working class neighborhood. That bothered me a lot because I knew kids in our parish who were hungry. That these establishments are pulling in large amounts of cash and are actively participating in civic life? Time to get taxed.

I think the magazine cover is a weak attempt at satirizing what many (perhaps incorrectly, given how unfamiliar many of us are with actual LDS dogma) feel are conflicting values: commercial enterprise and religious doctrine.
posted by smirkette at 11:22 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tanizaki: Care to support this statement? Belgians are "others" to Americans. Do Americans hate Belgians?

Americans would be less likely to trust a European than another American, yes. However, since they are both relatively similar cultures with similar demographics, the effect is not pronounced.

I thought about delving into Google Scholar for you, but no. Othering is a very well established contributor to, for instance, hate crimes. I don't feel my statement needs much defense.
posted by gilrain at 11:24 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, I really wasn't kidding around or being facetious when I said I'd love to hear an explanation from a Mormon about how they deal with the fact that their tithing money helps finance anti-equality campaigns.

I tirelessly work to change the church from within, including voicing my opposition to those efforts directly to church leaders and, using channels available to me, to the highest levels of church leadership. And I pray about it, pleading with God to help me to understand his will and doctrines as they should be understood, and to guide our leaders to greater light and knowledge, as has been done in the past with other, equally troubling issues.

I hope that at least partially answers your question, palomar.

I will probably never understand why people need to be threatened with eternal torment and enticed with infinite bliss JUST TO BE NICE TO EACH OTHER.

Eternal torment isn't really much of a thing in Mormonism, if it's a thing at all.
posted by The World Famous at 11:24 AM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think there is something very wrong about an environment where people can comfortably declare that they "hate Mormons",

THE ONLY PERSON WHO SAID THIS IS A MORMON. I repeat, the only person who said this is a Mormon who was summarizing the rest of the thread in an immensely uncharitable and inflammatory way,
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:24 AM on July 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


Thank you for your answer, The World Famous. It doesn't really answer much, to be frank, but I appreciate that you took the time.
posted by palomar at 11:26 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


>I will probably never understand why people need to be threatened with eternal torment and enticed with infinite bliss JUST TO BE NICE TO EACH OTHER.

Go pray for guidance on a hill somewhere LordSludge, and maybe you'll get a visit from the archangel Jessamyn.
posted by Catblack at 11:26 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't speak for an LDS people, but this is the sort of cartoon I would happily draw about leaders of my own church as a way of asking ourselves whether or not we've got our priorities straight.

It's a little different coming from outsiders, but personally, I'd welcome that sort of critique coming from anyone.

(Of course, I'd probably carry on happily spending most of my money on myself, but who knows what God might use to open my eyes and my heart and my fist a little more...)
posted by straight at 11:26 AM on July 18, 2012


THE ONLY PERSON WHO SAID THIS IS A MORMON. I repeat, the only person who said this is a Mormon who was summarizing the rest of the thread in an immensely uncharitable and inflammatory way,

Are you referring to me? I didn't realize that I was being immensely uncharitable and inflammatory when I characterized "Fuck Mormonism" and "Fuck them," as well as the other comments here, as hateful. My mistake.
posted by The World Famous at 11:26 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you for your answer, The World Famous. It doesn't really answer much, to be frank, but I appreciate that you took the time.

What else do you want to know?
posted by The World Famous at 11:27 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah crap. Mormons are a great bunch, except for their politics. I guess the Book of Mormon hasn't told them to render unto Ceasar the way Jews and Christians are instructed to do by their Bible. Also, some of them are homophobes. Um...wait...Jews and Christians don't pay any attention to that rendering unto Ceasar stuff, either--and some of their homophobes are gay. You can't make this stuff up.

You can't pick on everybody all the time, and I guess it's Mormon season, so I say have at it. Try not to forget that they all are not all of them assholes. I say the BY story is as much pile of crap as the Christian and Jewish version of the cosmos, but the Book of Morman suffers from bad writing.

I like that transparency idea. Can we actually figure out how to tax a church properly? Christ on a crutch, that would be grand, eh? Think of all the money we could get.

Let's go for the Scientologists next--make them tell you how that E-meter really works. After that I want to see Billy Graham's crew get their feet held to the fire for practicing medicine without a license.
posted by mule98J at 11:29 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Let's be really clear, this thread is not a referendum on what The World Famous thinks about this article, or anything. While I appreciate that they are taking the time to answer questions, it would be nice if this thread and any threads about Mormonism didn't go down this road. TWF has MeMail. Metatalk is, as usual, your option.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:29 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the article:
According to U.S. law, religions have no obligation to open their books to the public, and the LDS Church officially stopped reporting any finances in the early 1960s.
I knew churches had tax emeptions, but I didn't realize they didn't have to file 990s (though "religious organizations" do according to the IRS). I've never agreed with church tax exemptions, but I would entertain a proposal to let them keep (at least part of) their exemption so long as they had to file disclosures.

As for the issue of why the focus on Mormons, I'm unconvinced by the article's claim:
The Mormon Church is hardly the only religious institution to be less than forthcoming about its wealth; the Catholic Church has been equally opaque throughout history. On the other hand, says historian D. Michael Quinn, who is working on a book about the LDS Church’s finances and businesses, “The Mormon Church is very different than any other church. … Traditional Christianity and Judaism make a clear distinction between what is spiritual and what is temporal..."
As the great American philosopher Yogi Berra is supposed to have said, "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is." I suppose some doctrinal differences regarding money can be sketched out between LDS and other religions, but it seems to me that any human organization, once it attains a certain amount of power and wealth, is likely to encounter problems with secrecy and unwise application of wealth and power.
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:30 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I will probably never understand why people need to be threatened with eternal torment and enticed with infinite bliss JUST TO BE NICE TO EACH OTHER.

I think a pretty good summary of the Christian gospel is that such threats don't work and something more drastic is needed.
posted by straight at 11:34 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am not anti-LDS in general, although I disagree with certain things, but the statement that a tithe could be anything seems disingenuous unless the church has made a giant departure there. Every non-LDS church I've been to, liberal or conservative, has said that to tithe technically is a tenth of income, and to make it another number, or a tenth of net (net of what?) would seem to require some justification.

Most of those churches don't ask people if they do, though. Which might honestly be why mine has trouble keeping the lights on. I wonder about how there seems to be so little middle ground between swimming in cash and impassioned debates about the cost of heating the sanctuary.
posted by gracedissolved at 11:34 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the links: "Mormon leaders responded with a lengthy statement on Thursday, saying that comparing their church to a business misses the mark"

Because yeah, they aren't Scientology, widely regarded as a business disguised as a cultish religion. They are a church. But I do find it strange to say it "misses the mark" when the church owns so many business interests.

In my mind, churches should be tax exempt. But the second they either attempt to influence the political process (example: donating large sums of cash to support or defeat specific items of legislation) or take ownership of a business venture (examples in the FPP), then they ought to lose that tax-exempt status.

I don't know, throw in a clause allowing direct costs of day-to-day church infrastructure/management as tax-free if that's what it takes. Make them set up a corporation for non-qualified financial stuff (Buddhists Conglomerated, Catholicism LLC, Latter Day Saints Inc, etc. etc.) if need be and do all the PAC donations and business operations from there. But every cent of it gets taxed.

It sickens me to see this or any other church abuse the tax-exempt status - Scientology, mansion-dwelling pastors of megachurches with ATMs in the lobby, televangelists shilling for Jesus on TV, all of them - there's a line you cross somewhere, and we need to make them pay taxes if they are meddling with the political process of a secular government or acting like a for-profit business.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:35 AM on July 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


If you had a photo of Moses telling Jews "Thou shalt own half of Hollywood, and thou shalt enter into the legal system in vast numbers..." - yeah, I don't think that would have gotten quite so far.

Not even close to the same type of thing.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:36 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will probably never understand why people need to be threatened with eternal torment and enticed with infinite bliss JUST TO BE NICE TO EACH OTHER.

You will understand when you learn that in the theology, it is not a threat but a description of cause and effect. "Be merciful or you will receive no mercy" is no more a threat than "wear a helmet or your head will be smeared on the pavement in a motorcycle crash" is a threat.

Regarding the afterlife, the teaching is that everyone will receive the fullness of God's love and mercy, but how we experience it is based on the disposition of our hearts. Either we will have merciful hearts that will make us crave God's mercy, or we will have unmerciful hearts that will be tormented by it.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:39 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I support all mockery of religions that teach hatred and bigotry, attempt to deny groups their civil rights, and exploit people financially, including Mormonism, Catholicism, etc.

These religious organizations might not technically warrant the title "hate groups", but that's only because they've more effective measures of pursuing their despicable objectives.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:47 AM on July 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


You will understand when you learn that in the theology, it is not a threat but a description of cause and effect.

You will understand that when the entity making the threat is the same entity who invented that cause and effect, there's no difference.

It's like Kim Jong Il putting people in prison for not saluting him (or whatever). "Gosh, it's not my fault. Dude broke the law. He knew the consequences."
posted by Myca at 11:55 AM on July 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


No magazine would ever run such a cover about the Catholic or Anglican churches, whose wealth is orders of magnitude higher.

Regarding the Anglican church: I would like to see evidence for this claim. For example, the Church of England (which receives no government funding) has assets of about 7 billion USD, which would seem to be much less than the LDS church.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:58 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't hate Mormons, I just don't think they should be allowed to marry. My personal feeling is that they're descendants of Cain, who are "despised among all people", and by dint of that should not be allowed to hold government positions either. Individually Mormons are probably very nice people, but this is God's policy, not mine, and I don't have a say in determining policy- just enforcing it.
posted by Challahtronix at 12:04 PM on July 18, 2012 [29 favorites]


knew churches had tax emeptions, but I didn't realize they didn't have to file 990s (though "religious organizations" do according to the IRS).

They are required to file 990s, but they don't have to make them available to the public, anymore than you have to make your 1040 available to your neighbors.
posted by Mojojojo at 12:10 PM on July 18, 2012


My understanding is that Michael Bloomberg has no managerial input into Bloomberg L.P.

Does the mind not rebel at the notion that a man might own 88% of a company and have no say in how it is run?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:15 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't wait until a Scientologist runs for president!
posted by Brocktoon at 12:16 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


seasparrow: I can only say that it seems like an episode of the Twilight Zone and suddenly the nice sweet doctor and nurse pull aside their human mask and there is the pig-monster raving beneath.

Metafilter: No change! No change at all!
posted by dr_dank at 12:20 PM on July 18, 2012


Metafilter: Most of us really hate Mormons.
posted by seasparrow at 10:18 AM on July 18 [2 favorites +] [!]


Ok, look. This is stupid. I'm an atheist and was raised atheist by the children of atheists. If anyone can be said to hate Christianity and all of its deformed offspring (in the way that I hate all beliefs-based-on-nothing, including my own), it's me. And yet, the love of my life is (well, was when I met her) a Christian, raised by the Children of Christians. My sister is a born-again Christian. Many of my aunts and uncles are Christian. Clearly, I don't these people, so what gives?

It's cowardly and intellectually dishonest to confuse the hatred and mockery of a system with the hatred and mockery of the people who live under it voluntarily. It reminds me of my days in Hicktown, where I'd be repeatedly accused of being "racist against racists." If you choose to believe something stupid, then accept the fact that people will take delight in pointing out that it's stupid.
posted by klanawa at 12:22 PM on July 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


They are required to file 990s, but they don't have to make them available to the public, anymore than you have to make your 1040 available to your neighbors.

I'd like to see the IRS documentation on this, if you have it. My quick googling brought me to this [pdf] from irs.gov that says churches don't file 990s (there are different 990 forms I guess?).

At any event, I disagree with the secrecy. Tax exemption should be based on performing work that benefits the public, and the only way we can tell if organizations are doing such work is by examining their books. Simply declaring an organization a church is not sufficient evidence that it is worthy of tax-exempt status, especially when its income and expenditures can't be examined. Not to mention the arguable assumption that churches do good works simply by being churches.

I'm puzzled by the reference to my household tax filings. In what ways are individuals equivalent to organizations purportedly worthy of tax exemption? How could confidentiality for both be justified on the same grounds? I am not tax exempt, nor do I want tax exemption. I do want exempt organizations to be open to public scrutiny to determine if the cost in lost revenue to the national treasury is worth the alleged benefits provided by the organizations.
posted by audi alteram partem at 1:05 PM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you choose to believe something stupid, then accept the fact that people will take delight in pointing out that it's stupid.

Please forgive me, but I do not think it is stupid to believe that we should be long-suffering, feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted, forgive others without condition, and avoid anger. Maybe it is stupid to delight in pointing out what you perceive to be another's failings?
posted by Tanizaki at 1:07 PM on July 18, 2012


I can't wait until a Scientologist runs for president!

I was kind of astonished to discover that a former Moonie who had taken part in that mass wedding held in Madison Square Garden in 1982 is a Nevada state rep.

Actually The Unification Church is probably the 20th century equivalent to the Mormon church-- a cult founded by one man in 1954 that has grown to be a well established religion with 7 million members world wide. I have no idea what they are worth, but I do know that they have a vast economic empire which includes 9000 sushi restaurants in America and the only car manufacturing plant in North Korea.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:09 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]



I'd like to see the IRS documentation on this, if you have it. My quick googling brought me to this [pdf] from irs.gov that says churches don't file 990s (there are different 990 forms I guess?).


Indeed, I was wrong; Mea Culpa.

I have no idea why churches get away with not reporting their revenue and expenses. I can understand not having to issue the info to the public, but not reporting to the government?
posted by Mojojojo at 1:21 PM on July 18, 2012


I have no idea why churches get away with not reporting their revenue and expenses. I can understand not having to issue the info to the public, but not reporting to the government?


Freedom of religion is freedom covers a lot when your religion is money.
posted by iamabot at 1:24 PM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Argh, extra "is freedom" in there.
posted by iamabot at 1:24 PM on July 18, 2012


Please forgive me, but I do not think it is stupid to believe that we should be long-suffering, feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted, forgive others without condition, and avoid anger. Maybe it is stupid to delight in pointing out what you perceive to be another's failings?

If only it were possible to believe such things without religion and all-too-human hierarchies making billions of dollars!
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:25 PM on July 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


how does "comfort the afflicted" and "forgive others without condition" square with "denying people civil rights because you think they are sinners"?
posted by ambrosia at 1:31 PM on July 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Metafilter: delight in pointing out what you perceive to be another's failings.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:33 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


If only it were possible to believe such things without religion and all-too-human hierarchies making billions of dollars

Well, I certainly believe that it is possible. I do not doubt that there are atheists who are closer to the kingdom of heaven than I am because they are really loving their fellow person by clothing the naked, visiting prisoners, and feeding the hungry. The problem is that everyone doesn't do so.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:40 PM on July 18, 2012


Tanizaki: The problem is that everyone doesn't do so.

The weird part comes next, which is: therefore, let's adopt a system which is apparently no better than the null hypothesis, and also comes with baggage like discrimination against homosexuality and other types of perceived sinners.
posted by gilrain at 1:49 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Tanizaki: "Please forgive me, but I do not think it is stupid to believe that we should be long-suffering, feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted, forgive others without condition, and avoid anger. Maybe it is stupid to delight in pointing out what you perceive to be another's failings?"

None of these traits are exclusive to religious people, and many religious people exhibit none of these traits. The thing that is exclusive to religion is the belief in things that demonstrably untrue, or things for which there is no supporting evidence. Those are failings and ought to be singled out as such.
posted by klanawa at 1:49 PM on July 18, 2012


how does "comfort the afflicted" and "forgive others without condition" square with "denying people civil rights because you think they are sinners"?

I am not LDS and I am not here to defend the LDS or its positions as to Prop 8, but I imagine they would say one has nothing to do with the other because:

1. Gay people are not afflicted. They aren't sick. If they do get sick, you should visit them.
2. Gay people are not unforgiven. They should be forgiven just as anyone else would be.
3. Everyone in the LDS is a sinner. A gay non-LDS member is no more a sinner than a straight LDS member.

Again, I am not LDS so perhaps my statements are incorrect regarding LDS theology. You should probably address your questions to a theologically literate LDS member who supported Prop 8.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:49 PM on July 18, 2012


The thing that is exclusive to religion is the belief in things that demonstrably untrue, or things for which there is no supporting evidence.

I am surprised to learn that no atheist believes in homeopathy.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:51 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


None of these traits are exclusive to religious people, and many religious people exhibit none of these traits.

Correct on both counts. You seem to have missed where I said, "I do not doubt that there are atheists who are closer to the kingdom of heaven than I am".
posted by Tanizaki at 1:52 PM on July 18, 2012


[Tanizaki, please stop threadsitting and making this thread about you. Other folks, you are more than welcome to carry on these discussions over MeMail but please stop doing it here. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:56 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


At any event, I disagree with the secrecy. Tax exemption should be based on performing work that benefits the public, and the only way we can tell if organizations are doing such work is by examining their books. Simply declaring an organization a church is not sufficient evidence that it is worthy of tax-exempt status, especially when its income and expenditures can't be examined. Not to mention the arguable assumption that churches do good works simply by being churches.

The IRS is basically too terrified of the Religious Right (and Federal Judges installed by the Right) to pursue enforcement, and enforcement actions amout to a slam on the wrist anyway. They stopped church audits entirely in 2009, unless they've since restarted.

"According to IRS tallies made public after each election, the majority of the PACI complaints were upheld and settled with a warning that the organization comply with the ban on political activity."
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:59 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tanizaki: "I am surprised to learn that no atheist believes in homeopathy."

It's depressingly common, but all humans have a remarkable ability to compartmentalize. And yes, atheists who believe in homeopathy will just have to learn to live with the scorn and ridicule that homeopathy deserves.
posted by klanawa at 2:01 PM on July 18, 2012 [7 favorites]



No magazine would ever run such a cover about the Catholic or Anglican churches, whose wealth is orders of magnitude higher.


Wrong!


But no magazine would likely want to insult Islamic fundamentalists.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 2:04 PM on July 18, 2012


Here's the thing, klanawa, privilege is transparent to those who have it. You wrote, "It's cowardly and intellectually dishonest to confuse the hatred and mockery of a system with the hatred and mockery of the people who live under it voluntarily." This gives the impression that you are oblivious to the vitriol and bile directed towards Mormons and other religious people by yourself and others every day. The people who are receiving the numerous "Fuck and you stupid religion" remarks every day-- or maybe just today and yesterday-- going back for years in a consistent pattern-- justifiably become concerned when their dissenting viewpoints continue to be shouted down. For those of us who enjoy metafilter and won't be run out of town on a rail, we will continue to participate here in the polite and civil manner that I take to be the true spirit of this community. I was just asking for people to consider the proposition that metafilter and many of its most vocal members have an established history of hostility towards the Mormon and other churches. For that, you label me stupid, a coward, and intellectually dishonest. (Gee, thanks!) Sounds like my message didn't get through. So let me offer another alternative suggestion: Jessamyn is an example of someone with well-known dislike for the Mormon church who still manages to discuss things (and indeed, shape the whole tone of the site) in a way that doesn't come across as hostile or prejudicial to people who believe differently. Or, to put it a third way, myself and others who believe differently from you will not be scolded into changing our beliefs.
posted by seasparrow at 2:10 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]




But no magazine would likely want to insult Islamic fundamentalists.

Really? If I were to put together a ranked list of "groups that mainstream media in America goes out of their way not to offend", Islamic fundamentalists would be bringing up the rear. Still ahead of child molesters and neo-Nazis, but not by much.
posted by kagredon at 2:21 PM on July 18, 2012


"This gives the impression that you are oblivious to the vitriol and bile directed towards Mormons and other religious people by yourself and others every day."

So expressing your religious beliefs results in more disparaging remarks than identifying yourself as an atheist? Maybe you've got some privilege that's transparent.
posted by PJLandis at 2:21 PM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


seasparrow: Or, to put it a third way, myself and others who believe differently from you will not be scolded into changing our beliefs.

I know nothing of you, personally... I assume you're awesome. That's my default stance. Your church, however... well, let's just say most of us would be delighted if LGBT people were only scolded by your church, rather than having legislation passed against them.
posted by gilrain at 2:22 PM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


"So expressing your religious beliefs results in more disparaging remarks than identifying yourself as an atheist? Maybe you've got some privilege that's transparent"

It certainly does here on metafilter. But to answer your second question, Don't we all, PJLandis? I mean, isn't that the very definition of privilege? That we all have it, and that it is invisible to us.

I feel bad that I broke my earlier promise not to post here again. My apologies. This time, I mean it. I'm out of here! Thanks for a great night, everyone. Please, try the veal, it's fantastic, and don't forget to tip your waiter or waitress. You've all been great! Thank you very much!!
posted by seasparrow at 2:32 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thinking more about the matter of timing and Bloomberg LP, there is a long-term campaign being waged by the Mormon Church to reinvent their image, and the timing is related to a prominent Mormon running for the highest political office in the US.

One front involves an orchestrated media campaign to present themselves as everyday people ("I am Mormon.org"), and the second front involves elites within the Church giving Romney financial and logistical support. Another front involves walking in GLBT pride parades and posing as inclusive, if not harmless. The Church is a big PR, political and culture-war machine with a lot of moving parts. Running all of that takes millions of dollars, which comes from tithing by Mormon followers — money which also comes from elites who hold prominent positions in American businesses.

The end goal is to normalize public perception of the LDS (and, by extension, a man like Romney), when Mormonism comes across as foreign to a good number of Americans. The LDS wishes to remake themselves into people that can be trusted — and, by extension, their figurehead in Romney should be trusted, too.

And by trust, we're not just talking about people that some Americans can be confident to be inclusive (which is what the promotion of pride march footage and minority figures in we-are-mormon.org advertisements try to suggest), but, conversely, oddly, to other Americans, to present themselves as bigots that can be trusted to run the country, by simultaneously buying laws and continuing to wage political advocacy that effectively counters that (admittedly weak) message of inclusion.

In an election year the Mormon Church (and, by extension, its public representative, Mitt Romney) finds itself trying to gird its public-facing image, allowing some middle-of-the-road voters who aren't Mormon to still feel comfortable voting for Romney, while the Church can maintain the same reprehensible behaviors that allow more "discriminating" voters to remain comfortable supporting the Church's political and cultural missions.

Politically-focused PR campaigns take time and money. The Mormon Church as a business organization has the cash, as this article shows. We'll see if they have time left to fool the public into voting for their man.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:13 PM on July 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


That's one hell of a conspiracy theory, alright. Not as good as others that have been advanced about the Mormons over the years, but pretty good. Maybe if it gets enough traction, we can have hearings again to determine whether Mormons should be allowed to participate in US public life. It didn't quite work for keeping Reed Smoot out, but maybe this can be the second wave of ridiculous anti-Mormon conspiracy theory panic in the US.
posted by The World Famous at 3:21 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]




That's one hell of a conspiracy theory, alright.

I like coincidence theory, better. It's an interesting coincidence that the same people who prop up Romney's campaign are the same folks who decide that the last two years have been the right time to initiate a massive public relations campaign, something no other organized religion has ever really done, at least to the extent we are seeing here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:25 PM on July 18, 2012


Are they the same folks? Who, specifically, are you talking about?
posted by The World Famous at 3:27 PM on July 18, 2012


Blazecock, I'm pretty sure that the people marching in the pride parade were not doing so anywhere close to officially. Straight allies exist all over the place, and it's not at all uncommon, especially in more conservative places, for a portion of that support to come from people saying, "It's okay to be a Christian and not hate gay people," as a message not just to LGBT people, but also to other Christians. If it's happening in SLC, of course it's going to be Mormons. If it happened in other cities, it would look pretty similar.
posted by gracedissolved at 3:33 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mormonism really is the Scientology of the 19th Century.

Where Mormonism meets Scientology
posted by homunculus at 3:52 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are they the same folks? Who, specifically, are you talking about?

I don't know if they are the same people down to a man*, but unless the Church stopped being a patriarchy, it seems reasonable to posit that the same multiple-generation families that help bankroll political advocacy also have a hand in determining policy in other operational aspects (such as the PR campaign I mentioned). But if there's one thing I've learned from being here, it's that I'm wrong about everything, so maybe this isn't just a set of interesting coincidences, where random events simply happened to line up in time and space.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:59 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's pretty tough to ridicule something as inherently implausible as a religion to good effect, and at worst you run the risk of engendering sympathy to your opponent when your satire falls flat. Best to pick concrete battles you can win to good effect. Taxation would be a helluva place to start.

Americans of a civil mindset should be really worried about electing someone in November who subscribes to a church that espouses these beliefs around race and orientation, and THAT should be the big discussion right now. (Maybe it is; I'm in Canada)
posted by biochemicle at 4:01 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blazecock, for what it's worth, I subscribe to the leadership of the LDS church being a rather evil cabal theory myself. Far too much revisionism in it's long history for me to think otherwise.
posted by Catblack at 4:03 PM on July 18, 2012


Why is Romney the de facto representative for the LDS church? Can't he just be a guy who happens to be Mormon and is running for president? Is Obama the de facto representative of Protestants?
posted by shakespeherian at 4:06 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is there data on bloc voting by religious group? I would bet that LDS is blockier than the big religions.
posted by biochemicle at 4:09 PM on July 18, 2012


Is Obama the de facto representative of Protestants?

Fair question. I don't know. Is there an entity that embodies the Protestant church as a monolithic entity, which has ties to Obama's family that span generations and which provides financial and logistical support to his campaign in the same way? If so, there might well be a stronger case for saying that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:13 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why is Romney the de facto representative for the LDS church? Is Obama the de facto representative of Protestants?

Did everyone forget the months we spent talking about Reverend Wright? The religion of our politicians tell us stuff about them. Romney holds a more prominent position of leadership in his church than Obama ever has in his. Talking about all of that is legit.
posted by Myca at 4:31 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is there an entity that embodies the Protestant church as a monolithic entity, which has ties to Obama's family that span generations and which provides financial and logistical support to his campaign in the same way?

Who, specifically, are you referring to in the current leadership of the Mormon church who has ties to Romney's family, and what, exactly, are those ties?

You're crafting a conspiracy theory from loose, vague speculation and I'd like to know exactly what it is you think is going on, and between whom.

The church has been running ad campaigns since at least the 1980s, so I think it's preposterous to suggest that the latest ads in that long line of ads are part of some far-reaching conspiracy to get Romney elected. Then again, the last person named Romney to be a Mormon apostle died in 1988, so maybe he started the conspiracy way back then, right?
posted by The World Famous at 4:32 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Romney holds a more prominent position of leadership in his church than Obama ever has in his.

Romney does not hold any leadership position at all in the Mormon church.
posted by The World Famous at 4:32 PM on July 18, 2012


I have a few words for anyone who feels inclined to complain that the cover is offensive and shouldn't have been published. This is going to seem unrelated to the issue at hand, but bear with me here: you people are the reason that the right-wing has been getting away with this unprecedented assault on reproductive rights. I know that some people don't like harshly criticizing religion, and frankly seeing as how Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are two of the biggest figures in anti-religious thought I can honestly kind of understand why people wouldn't want to associate with a movement like that...but ANYWAY, this is how religions get away with murder (sometimes literally). "Oh, they're good people who sincerely believe these things, don't be too hard on them". Bullshit. They will not ever, ever respect your rights or your freedoms until you completely capitulate to whatever kooky piece of bullshit they're pushing on the rest of us. Hey, you know what's offensive to me? PROP 8.
posted by MattMangels at 4:36 PM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Bullshit. They will not ever, ever respect your rights or your freedoms until you completely capitulate to whatever kooky piece of bullshit they're pushing on the rest of us.

I already do respect your rights and your freedoms. No need to capitulate to anything.

Hey, you know what's offensive to me? PROP 8.

It's offensive to me, too.

Maybe I'm not one of the "they" you were talking about. Would you care to carefully define that "they" so I can tell whether or not you're telling lies about me?
posted by The World Famous at 4:41 PM on July 18, 2012


Romney does not hold any leadership position at all in the Mormon church.

He's not a bishop anymore? When did that happen?
posted by palomar at 4:43 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


God I'm so sick of this attitude. "Well, just because the organization I belong to and possible give money to on a regular basis has all these backwards attitudes and beliefs they forcibly advocate for, doesn't mean I believe that". Well, that's correct, it doesn't. But then what the hell are you doing as a part of such an organization in the first place?

I think it would be best if I left this thread. It's getting me too riled up.
posted by MattMangels at 4:45 PM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


He's not a bishop anymore? When did that happen?

He was released from that position in 1986.

He then served as a Stake President from 1986 to 1994.

He hasn't held a leadership position in the Mormon Church for nearly twenty years.
posted by The World Famous at 4:51 PM on July 18, 2012


Did everyone forget the months we spent talking about Reverend Wright?

I remember that. Specifically, I remember it being bullshit.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:51 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


He hasn't held a leadership position in the Mormon Church for nearly twenty years.

Ah, my bad. Let me rephrase.

Romney has held several prominent leadership positions within his church, including, "the highest priesthood office of the Aaronic priesthood."
Obama has never held an equivalent position in his church, whether as clergy or laity.

Better?
posted by Myca at 5:19 PM on July 18, 2012


Romney has held several prominent leadership positions within his church, including, "the highest priesthood office of the Aaronic priesthood."
Obama has never held an equivalent position in his church, whether as clergy or laity.

Better?


I'm not sure I'd consider 2 to constitute "several." And I don't think I'd call them "prominent," either.

As long as it's understood that the Aaronic Priesthood is conferred on virtually all male members of the church when they turn 12 years old and that they advance to the Melchisedek Priesthood when they turn 18 or finish high school, sure.

Which is not to minimize the importance of a Bishop or the key role he plays as the direct leader of a congregation - or "ward" - in the church, including overseeing the church welfare program for that ward, handling the ward's finances, overseeing all ward meetings and functions, etc. It's just that the "highest priesthood office of the Aaronic Priesthood" thing is not really an indication of much when it comes to the hierarchy.

His calling as Stake President was higher up the totem pole than a Bishop, as the Stake President (along with the rest of the Stake High Council) oversees several wards, though they do not have the sort of financial and welfare responsibility that a Bishop has, nor do they have the same kind of direct role in church meetings and callings.

But the Mormon Church has, for the most part, a totally lay leadership structure. You can't be an active Mormon without being called to various positions of responsibility in the church. If Obama were a Mormon, he would certainly have been called to similar positions, as well.

And, in case anyone is thinking that a Bishop or Stake President carries some sort of clout with Salt Lake in terms of, I don't know, orchestrating complex conspiracies that include vast PR video campaigns and getting people to march in gay pride marches for alleged nefarious purposes (honestly, I can't even support gay rights now without Blazecock Pileon assuming it's part of a conspiracy?), it's probably important to note that there are 11,289 Bishops and 1,438 Stake Presidents in the United States alone (as of 2009).
posted by The World Famous at 5:57 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it would be best if I left this thread. It's getting me too riled up.

Thank you.
posted by zarq at 5:58 PM on July 18, 2012


God I'm so sick of this attitude. "Well, just because the organization I belong to and possible give money to on a regular basis has all these backwards attitudes and beliefs they forcibly advocate for, doesn't mean I believe that". Well, that's correct, it doesn't. But then what the hell are you doing as a part of such an organization in the first place?

Familiar with the focus illusion?

One likely answer is that there's much more to Mormonism than TWFs problems with it. Probably than yours or much of Metafilter's too.
posted by weston at 6:41 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


What I find astonishing is the expectation that you not only can but should be taken at all seriously while actually believing in Joseph Smith's hocus pocus.

It's just all far too silly, and that's the bottom line.

Really not all that sorry if this sounds disrespectful, because why should an absurd belief command respect simply because it's attached to a religious organization? Doubly so when it is an organization that pours huge resources into bigoted political movements.

Stop playing the victim.
posted by moorooka at 7:40 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


What I find astonishing is the expectation that you not only can but should be taken at all seriously while actually believing in Joseph Smith's hocus pocus.

What I find astonishing is how quick people are to believe anything they read or hear about a religion before they jump to the conclusion that someone they don't know should not be taken at all seriously.

I guess we can both be astonished. But I'll give you credit and take you seriously, even if you decide, without knowing me or what I believe in, not to extend me that same courtesy.

And I guess we can each form our own opinion about whether we're basing our various beliefs on incomplete information, unexamined sources of information, and factual assertions for which there is no supporting evidence. I have no illusions about which parts of my personal belief system require leaps of faith. How about you? Can you acknowledge that it requires a massive leap of faith for you to decide that you should not take me at all seriously?
posted by The World Famous at 7:48 PM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I can take you seriously as an individual, but frankly I cannot take your demands that your religion be respected very seriously. when your religion is at the vanguard of efforts to institutionalize discrimination in law then it becomes even more difficult.

I am assuming that you have been willing to make particular leaps of faith regarding seer stones and hats, for example. Perhaps my assumptions are incorrect, but I don't think that my assumption that you believe your religion to be actually true requires anywhere near the same 'leap of faith' as does your belief that your religion is actually true.
posted by moorooka at 8:08 PM on July 18, 2012


What I find astonishing is the expectation that you not only can but should be taken at all seriously while actually believing in Joseph Smith's hocus pocus.

It looks like you're arguing:

(a) specifically that no believing Mormon has anything to contribute to a serious discussion of Mormonism

(b) generally that if someone holds an incorrect belief that they're necessarily incapable of making correct contributions to any discussion.
posted by weston at 8:16 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can take you seriously as an individual,

I appreciate that.

but frankly I cannot take your demands that your religion be respected very seriously.

I don't think I've made any such demand. I do request - but do not demand - that people try as much as possible to base their judgments on actual evidence and a thorough analysis of whether the sources they're relying on are actually reliable. I don't see people do that very often in discussions about Mormonism.

I am assuming that you have been willing to make particular leaps of faith regarding seer stones and hats, for example.

Oddly enough, it's been my experience that the vast majority of Mormons are not even aware of the seer stones and the hat, let alone believe in that particular account (it's hard to believe in something you don't know about, after all). It's certainly not a necessary part of Mormon belief, given, again, that most Mormons don't even seem to know about it, let alone believe in it.

This is one of those interesting instances where people often make a huge leap of faith in assuming that, because they've read something about something that was said or written a hundred or so years ago (or less) by some leader of the Mormon Church, all current members of the Church must necessarily believe in that thing and that it must be an important or indispensable part of their personal belief system. It's aggravating that people think that Mormon beliefs consist of every single thing that any leader of the church has ever said about any topic - as if every statement was authoritative and as if the beliefs never evolve, change or are overturned or clarified. It's aggravating because it's a) not fair, and b) as someone above in this thread put it so eloquently, "belief in things that demonstrably untrue, or things for which there is no supporting evidence."

As far as my own religious belief on this particular topic, I don't think I make any leaps of faith regarding seer stones and hats. I believe, conditionally and tentatively, in the conclusions reached by historians and people analyzing the available historic accounts, that the process that Joseph Smith claimed constituted "translation" of the alleged golden plates included the use of stones that some people referred to as "seer stones," as well as his hat. I believe, again, based on my personal research of scholarship on the matter, that there are purported eyewitness accounts of him using the stones and the hat. including at least one eyewitness who was opposed to Joseph Smith and did not believe he was a prophet as he claimed.

So I don't think there's any genuine dispute that Joseph Smith did, in fact, have a stone or stones that he referred to as seer stones, and that he did, in fact, put them in a hat on more than one occasion when he purported to dictate the text of the Book of Mormon.

Beyond that, I don't know. I don't think there's any compelling reason for me, as a Mormon, to have any particular belief on that topic, and I see no compelling evidence for much of a belief beyond what's supported by the available historic records. Do you have some belief about that topic that is more detailed than what is supported by the available historic records? If so, it's you who has made a leap of faith - not me.

Perhaps my assumptions are incorrect, but I don't think that my assumption that you believe your religion to be actually true requires anywhere near the same 'leap of faith' as does your belief that your religion is actually true.

Your assumptions about what you think it means for someone to believe that my religion is actually true requires not only a leap of faith, but a leap of faith that is demonstrably unjustified.
posted by The World Famous at 8:28 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not at all. They are certainly able to contribute! The point I'm making is that they should not demand that patently absurd beliefs be 'respected' by others simply because they are of a religious nature. Nor should they feign unfair persecution when 'respect' for such beliefs are not forthcoming. Religion has no inherent right to be respected. And a homophobic political-religious-commercial institution has even less right to be respected.
posted by moorooka at 8:29 PM on July 18, 2012


the above was in response to weston
posted by moorooka at 8:30 PM on July 18, 2012


The most disappointing thing for me about growing up has been going from a world where my friends all respect me to a world where I learn more and more that people whom I have respected for years harbor deep-seated ignorant hatred for me based on false assumptions and preconceived notions.

i bet there's a lot of homosexual couples in california that feel the same way
posted by p3on at 8:36 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've skipped ahead about 100 comments to say this, so maybe it's already been done (or maybe it's moot at this point), but I want to go on record as saying that The World Famous was very much on the decent side of the Prop 8 debate while it was going on. Go back through the old threads and you'll see it.

Independent of my feelings about the church or the article in the FPP, I wanted to make sure this was said.

Now I'll go a few hours back and see if this has already been addressed.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:39 PM on July 18, 2012


So I don't think there's any genuine dispute that Joseph Smith did, in fact, have a stone or stones that he referred to as seer stones, and that he did, in fact, put them in a hat on more than one occasion when he purported to dictate the text of the Book of Mormon.

Beyond that, I don't know. I don't think there's any compelling reason for me, as a Mormon, to have any particular belief on that topic, and I see no compelling evidence for much of a belief beyond what's supported by the available historic records. Do you have some belief about that topic that is more detailed than what is supported by the available historic records? If so, it's you who has made a leap of faith - not me.
Thank you for your detailed response, TWF. You claim that most Mormons have not heard of the seer stones. I think it says something that the majority of Mormons are ignorant of the details regarding the foundation of their faith. Perhaps this information would make them question the rest of it, and it is for this reason that the Church doesn't draw attention to it. That leaves it up to others.

As for my own beliefs: I believe that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon without divine inspiration, and that he did not, in fact, "translate" it from a "Reformed Egyptian" source that was given to him by one "Moroni". You, presumably, believe otherwise. Are you saying that it is my beliefs that require a leap of faith here?
posted by moorooka at 8:42 PM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think there is compelling historical evidence that Smith made up the Book of Mormon.

First, Smith translated, a certain portion of text and then when it was taken away he could not repeat the text. It's certainly strange that he felt is important to translate that particular piece of text first, but once it was out of his sight decided not to re-translate. If this occurred today, in front of you, I can't see how it wouldn't be seen as evidence of fraud.

Second, his translation of the Book of Abraham (not core canon) is a well established fraud. The original papyrus still exists, and it's not even close to what Smith translated. So,Smith certainly wasn't incapable of producing bogus translations.

And I don't understand how the question of whether he truly interpreted golden plates from an angel or made it all up could not be important to a Mormon. It's like an Evangelical being ambivalent about whether Jesus really died on the cross.
posted by PJLandis at 8:43 PM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Your assumptions about what you think it means for someone to believe that my religion is actually true requires not only a leap of faith, but a leap of faith that is demonstrably unjustified.
Can you believe that Mormonism is true, and also that Joseph Smith made all that shit up himself?
posted by moorooka at 8:45 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


On behalf of all non-Mormons, I'm severely embarrassed by how many people seem to have gotten all their information from a fucking South Park episode.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:46 PM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've skipped ahead about 100 comments to say this, so maybe it's already been done (or maybe it's moot at this point), but I want to go on record as saying that The World Famous was very much on the decent side of the Prop 8 debate while it was going on. Go back through the old threads and you'll see it.

Seconding this. TWF has been incredibly patient, calm and helpful in threads involving Mormons and the LDS Church -- usually when people have been (justifiably) pissed off about something the Church has done that we find offensive, and have taken it out on him as one of our resident Mormons. He's been a steady voice of sanity against religion-promoted hatred on MeFi.

For whatever it's worth, I respect him very, very highly for that. Please consider that people who follow a particular religious faith may not hold every single belief that faith espouses, and may in fact agree with you on certain issues. All Mormons are not of a piece.
posted by zarq at 8:51 PM on July 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Me too. He deserves a good bit of respect here. (One gay's seal of approval for his contributions, for what it's worth.) Thanks, Zarq.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:56 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would like to apologize for people who apologize on behalf of other people.
posted by PJLandis at 8:56 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


On behalf of all non-Mormons, I'm severely embarrassed by how many people seem to have gotten all their information from a fucking South Park episode.

Well, be as embarrassed as you like. I won't deny loving that episode. But actually, I had heard of this stuff before then. Unlike the majority of Mormons, it seems!

And I'm not attacking Mormons in general. I'm sure there are rational atheist "Mormons" who stick around for community and family reasons. I'm just attacking the pervasive expectation that we all be respectful of things that are truly ridiculous, just "because Religion!".
posted by moorooka at 8:57 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The point I'm making is that they should not demand that patently absurd beliefs be 'respected' by others simply because they are of a religious nature.

I don't think anyone is doing that here.

Nor should they feign unfair persecution when 'respect' for such beliefs are not forthcoming.

I don't see that happening here, either.

Thank you for your detailed response, TWF. You claim that most Mormons have not heard of the seer stones. I think it says something that the majority of Mormons are ignorant of the details regarding the foundation of their faith. Perhaps this information would make them question the rest of it, and it is for this reason that the Church doesn't draw attention to it. That leaves it up to others.

For whatever it's worth, what most Mormons actually believe with regard to the translation of the Book of Mormon is just as ridiculous and implausible as the seer stones and the hat. They're just believing in a different absurd allegation than the one that was originally advanced.

But now you're moving on from disrespecting someone because of their beliefs to disrespecting them because they do not believe something that you think they should know about so that they can start not believing in it.

As for my own beliefs: I believe that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon

What evidence is there that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon? I propose that your belief in this regard is unsupported by the evidence and that it is a leap of faith. In my opinion, based on my admittedly and necessarily incomplete study of the available records and commentary, if the Book of Mormon is not what it purports to be, then it was certainly written by someone other than Joseph Smith. I'm not convinced that it was Sidney Rigdon, either. But I've never seen anything that would even approach reliable evidence to support anything more than a hunch that Smith wrote it.

without divine inspiration, and that he did not, in fact, "translate" it from a "Reformed Egyptian" source that was given to him by one "Moroni".

That's fine. Rejecting a proposed belief is fine, and doesn't require a leap of faith.

You, presumably, believe otherwise. Are you saying that it is my beliefs that require a leap of faith here?

Your belief as to who, exactly, was the author of the Book of Mormon most definitely requires a leap of faith. It doesn't take a leap of faith to reject the alleged origin. It takes a leap of faith to believe, without evidence, that Joseph Smith was the author. Obviously, if you have some compelling evidence that Joseph Smith was the author, rather than just that the alleged origin story can't possibly be true, I'd love to see it.

I think there is compelling historical evidence that Smith made up the Book of Mormon.

Can you present some of that evidence here, perhaps with some corroborating scholarly sources that reach that same conclusion?

And I don't understand how the question of whether he truly interpreted golden plates from an angel or made it all up could not be important to a Mormon.

It is certainly important to me.

Can you believe that Mormonism is true, and also that Joseph Smith made all that shit up himself?

I don't think so. On the other hand, if you believe that Joseph Smith made it all up himself, I think you're taking a leap of faith that is unsupported by evidence.
posted by The World Famous at 8:58 PM on July 18, 2012


"I think there is compelling historical evidence that Smith made up the Book of Mormon"

Are either of those points incorrect?
The failure to re-translate (I thought you noted this above) and the Book of Abraham translation?

"if you believe that Joseph Smith made it all up himself, I think you're taking a leap of faith that is unsupported by evidence."
If that requires a leap of faith, then I guess that is was divinely inspired is the default assumption?
posted by PJLandis at 9:03 PM on July 18, 2012


I'm just attacking the pervasive expectation that we all be respectful of things that are truly ridiculous, just "because Religion!".

Could you please cite specific comments in this thread where The World Famous is giving voice to that expectation? Perhaps I've missed them, but I don't believe I've seen him do so, and as a result, my impression is that you're creating a strawman.
posted by zarq at 9:04 PM on July 18, 2012


What evidence is there that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon? I propose that your belief in this regard is unsupported by the evidence and that it is a leap of faith.

It could plausibly have been written by another mortal.

But certainly not a pre-Colombian ocean-crosser from the Levant.

The belief that Smith wrote it is a much smaller leap than that.

The belief that Smith was an occultist charlatan requires an even smaller leap.
posted by moorooka at 9:06 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Could you please cite specific comments in this thread where The World Famous is giving voice to that expectation?

TWF compares "lampooning" Mormonism with lampooning "other minorities". Minorities, like, you know, blacks, or gays. I think the comparison is completely invalid. Especially considering Mormonism's history as it relates to such minorities.
posted by moorooka at 9:11 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I'm not attacking Mormons in general. I'm sure there are rational atheist "Mormons" who stick around for community and family reasons. I'm just attacking the pervasive expectation that we all be respectful of things that are truly ridiculous, just "because Religion!".

No one is doing that. So you win! Go get some ice cream now, thanks.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:17 PM on July 18, 2012


I first read about Mormonism via an article about archeaology
http://mormonstories.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Dialogue_V08N02_42-1.pdf

That's where I first encountered the story of the Book of Abaraham.
Here's the Wiki, parts of the papyrus are with the LDS church and others with the "Metropolitan Museum of Art." I found it through other sources, but there are plenty of scholarly resources in the references section. The gist is that Smith translated it before the Rosetta Stone, even before the papyrus pieces were found questions were raised by the drawings he transcribed but every scholarly review of the original pieces indicates it's a common burial text.

As for the first one I mentioned, about translation, I got that story originally from missionaries.

I can guess the translation isn't definite proof, but it certainly supports a view that he wasn't truly translating from anything; at least not something that translated the same way twice. And the Book of Abraham, that's clear evidence that Smith lied about something he translated.

"if you believe that Joseph Smith made it all up himself, I think you're taking a leap of faith that is unsupported by evidence."
If we weren't talking about the patriarch of your faith, you're saying that if this happened last week if would be a leap of faith unsupported by evidence, or reasoning, that the texts weren't divine?
posted by PJLandis at 9:18 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're apologizing for a disrespectful episode of South Park.
posted by moorooka at 9:19 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, how about that giant ass mall the church built eh?
posted by iamabot at 9:20 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's what he said:
Why isn't it fair game to lampoon that?

"Same reason it's not fair game to lampoon that when it comes to other minorities.

There are certainly contexts in which it's fair game to lampoon it. But there's a difference between lampooning on the one hand and suggesting that Mormons are characteristically this way or that way, suggesting that they're creepy or generally greedy or whatever. There's a line between a lampoon and discrimination. It's a line that gets discussed in the context of comedy all the time.

For whatever it's worth, I don't see any comedy in this thread."
posted by The World Famous at 1:14 PM on July 18 [1 favorite +] [!]
He was clearly referring to speaking about Mormons, not Mormonism as characteristically this way or that way. Criticizing Mormons for being a particular way, as opposed to criticizing their religion.

Do you have any other cites that actually, you know, apply? Because that one doesn't.
posted by zarq at 9:20 PM on July 18, 2012


Are either of those points incorrect?
The failure to re-translate (I thought you noted this above) and the Book of Abraham translation?


Whether or not they are correct is irrelevant. They are not evidence that Joseph Smith is the author of the Book of Mormon.

If that requires a leap of faith, then I guess that is was divinely inspired is the default assumption?

That's exactly the opposite of what I'm saying. If you insist on never holding any belief that is not supported by evidence, then the best you're going to do is that we presently have no idea who actually wrote the Book of Mormon.

It could plausibly have been written by another mortal.

Could it plausibly have been written by Joseph Smith? When you answer, please provide your evidence.

But certainly not a pre-Colombian ocean-crosser from the Levant.

This is interesting. Now you're contending that the alleged origin story is not only not true, not only not supported by evidence, but even implausible. That's a much bigger assertion, and one that I'm afraid I cannot accept unless you can flesh it out with evidence.

The belief that Smith wrote it is a much smaller leap than that.

Again, if you're going to get into relative levels of plausibility in terms of speculation (since both of those assertions are speculative), you're going to have to either take a leap of faith or weigh evidence on both sides.

The belief that Smith was an occultist charlatan requires an even smaller leap.

That's an interesting one, too, since it, too requires evidence. What evidence, specifically, leads you to believe that Joseph Smith was an occultist?
You're professing factual beliefs here that you're not supporting with any evidence. I will respect them anyway, though.

TWF compares "lampooning" Mormonism with lampooning "other minorities". Minorities, like, you know, blacks, or gays.

Any minority, really. Why are you restricting it to those when that's not what I said?

I think the comparison is completely invalid. Especially considering Mormonism's history as it relates to such minorities.

Ah, now I see why. Can you explain to me why, logically speaking, the Mormon church's institutionalized racism that ended in 1978 and its ongoing persecution of gays (two practices that I wholeheartedly oppose) affects the validity of my comparison of lampooning Mormonism with the lampooning of other minorities? Please quote the entirety of my comment on that subject, as well, since you seem to have completely missed the point.

PJLandis: If we weren't talking about the patriarch of your faith, you're saying that if this happened last week if would be a leap of faith unsupported by evidence, or reasoning, that the texts weren't divine?

No, I'm not saying it's a leap of faith that the texts were not divine. I'm saying it's a leap of faith to believe that Joseph Smith wrote the book, given the absence of evidence that he was the author.
posted by The World Famous at 9:22 PM on July 18, 2012


"I'm saying it's a leap of faith to believe that Joseph Smith wrote the book, given the absence of evidence that he was the author."

He spoke the words, someone wrote them down. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's what I call evidence that he is the author.
posted by PJLandis at 9:28 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, how about that giant ass mall the church built eh?

I've only driven past, but I've heard that it's a very nice mall. I'm not about to go all the way to Utah just to shop there, but it's a lot nicer than the terrible mall that was there before. I can't imagine anyone really wants the old mall back.

I've also noticed that the statue of Brigham Young in downtown Salt Lake is positioned so that his back is to the Temple and his hand is outstretched to the bank across the street. That's my second favorite unintentional symbol in Salt Lake.
posted by The World Famous at 9:28 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought the Mormon South Park episode was very respectful, they certainly portrayed Mormons themselves as nice, kind, helpful people. I may be mis-remembering it though, and I can't speak to it's doctrinal accuracy.
posted by PJLandis at 9:30 PM on July 18, 2012


This whole discussion makes my head hurt.

It doesn't take a "leap of faith" to question the tenets of any religion, it takes a lack of faith.

I think the discussion of Romney's religion is a lot like the issue of JFKs religion when he ran for president. People worried that as a catholic his first allegiance was to the Pope and would bend to the edicts of the church. The head of the Mormon church speaks directly to God so how much influence would that have on Romney? Would he publicly go against his church if needed? I don't know, but it's a fair question.

I am skeptical of any religion that does not fully disclose all of the teachings of the religion. If the seer stones are real then every Mormon should be aware and in awe of the wonder. I am skeptical of any religion that has levels of salvation. I can't imagine having to apply for the ability to enter a house of worship. It would be especially dubious if I might need to verify my financial support to be considered.

To be fair, I was raised Southern Baptist, and when you wanted to join the church it was a public demonstration and a cursory (at least in my experience) vote to admit.

I'm not Mormon, but Mormons deserve the right to live their lives as they please. I'm not gay, but gays have the right to live their lives as they please. The Mormon church opened a deep wound with Prop 8. If you didn't live here during that campaign then you really don't know what it was like. It was sad.
posted by whatever at 9:39 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


[Folks, knock it seriously off. No more interrogating The World Famous. The World Famous, quit holding court here. You can go to MetaTalk or you can discuss something that is loosely on topic of this thread, otherwise this is everyone's thread, don't bogart it.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:40 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ok.
posted by The World Famous at 9:42 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess the articles make me uncomfortable because I don't like thinking about how much these churches make with their exploitation of tax loopholes, but I really have the same problem with a lot of things along these lines (politicians, tax havens, etc) - it's more of a generic problem with tax policy than it is me caring about people living their lives however they choose to, whether I think religions are hokey bullshit or not.
posted by iamabot at 9:47 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I really like that that admonition involved the use of the word "bogart". +1

Back to the article, I found this little bit to be really interesting:
we believe that a person who is impoverished temporally cannot blossom spiritually

Its very true that if you drink the koolaid, the church will help you a lot. And the contacts you make will help you as well. Its like a "honors" frat in college in a sense. But the price you pay...TINSTAAFL, as it were.

That quote also highlights the nonexistence of the Social Conservative but Economic Progressive crowd. While I loathe the former part of that agenda, it would be a nice change of pace from the last 30 years of social conservative, economic conservative BS.
posted by Chekhovian at 10:35 PM on July 18, 2012


I think it says something that the majority of Mormons are ignorant of the details regarding the foundation of their faith.

That hardly separates Mormons from American Christians in general. And probably Christians in general.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:41 AM on July 19, 2012


That hardly separates Mormons from American Christians in general. And probably Christians in general.

Or religious believers in general. Or non-believers in general.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:32 AM on July 19, 2012


I've already voiced my distaste for undisclosed church tax exemptions, but I don't expect those laws will change anytime soon. One would think, though, that organizations that benefit from such exemptions would quietly enjoy their benefits, but the LDS seem to want it both ways (and I suspect similar quotes could be found from other churches). From the "backlash" HuffPost article:
"On occasion someone will try to estimate the Church's income and determine how much of that is used to care for the poor and needy," the LDS church said in a statement. "Again, they rarely capture the whole picture."
People wouldn't have to estimate if churches made the same disclosures that other tax-exempt organizations made. Churches can either disclose their numbers to justify their tax exemptions, or they can let the public speculate, perhaps incorrectly, as to what is hidden in their undisclosed numbers.
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:38 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's disappointing in threads like these is less the intolerance and ignorance and more the fact that your average MetaFilter member can't follow a chain of logic that has more than two steps to it. It's great that people have taught themselves logic but they still suffer from a peculiar Argument ADD.

It's possible to simultaneously understand that:

1. Religion is equal parts community-gathering and faith in a higher power;
2. That faith is usually expressed through myth,
2a. which sometimes uses factual untruth-slash-bewilderingly-out-there-ness in its message,
2b. yet which is fundamentally about some deeper message or truth regarding the human experience;
3. And that these deeper truths are what the community gathers around, which is why religions remain so frustratingly popular despite us literal-minded types yelling THATS NOT TRUE WHAT IS WITH YOU PEOPLE

Religions take something that's very difficult for anybody, even people who make a career of struggling with it, and encode it in interesting stories which contain significant truths. The physical artifacts are crucial, because that's what people on completely different wavelengths can come around and find unity. Thus far, most of these encodings are heavy on the myth, though Taoism has their shit sounding almost practical, and people gather around the popular religions in part because they find the myths more soothing than, y'know, direct deep thought would be.

The problem arises when religions become dominated by corporations, as Mormonism seems to be, and when people start caring more about the myths and dogmas than they care about the underlying truths. And I want to be careful about how I phrase this, but I think there's a greater risk of this in religions which emphasize tradition and certain ways of behavior that roundly exclude other approaches to life. Rigidly well-defined systems work for individuals within them but maybe are problematic when dealing with factors the system isn't designed to handle. But even that might be a stretch of an assumption.

In any case, I do think it's fair to ask practicing Mormons if they're okay with where their tithes go, and maybe to ask if there's a way they can donate to a local community fund instead of to the national interest which pumps money into political campaigns with hateful beliefs. But it's really stupid and really shitty to somehow act like the weirdness of Mormon myth is responsible for the intolerant actions of the church, or to pretend that insulting the Mormon faith for its myth is going to convince Mormons that they've picked the wrong religion.

Here's what I think nonbelievers, including myself, routinely get wrong about faith. Having faith doesn't mean believing in something that doesn't exist, unless you're talking about the twelve-year-old Sunday School version of faith, and many (most? lots? some? I honestly don't know) grow past that as they grow older. The faith you hold isn't that God is some dude living on Mars, it's that there're some underlying truths to the world which can't be expressed directly because they don't exist as simple tidbits of communicable information, and that your chosen faith points you reliably to these truths. And not just you personally, but your entire community, so that you and your culture can be joined by some deeper understanding of the human condition, which your particular religious faith helps point you to.

As an atheist I see no reason why differing faiths can't hook up and find this togetherness in ALL the myths, rather than in one arbitrary subset, which is why the more I fall in love with religious teachings the more certain I am of my atheism. But I also think contemporary culture hasn't created a set of teachings which are aimed to get at this same human understanding. Science helps us understand the universe, and even talks about why we behave like we behave, but it's not a personal study in that it doesn't teach us to better understand ourselves and find solidarity with one another. There's no replacement for the big religions yet which is both accessible and popular. Maybe this millennium needs a procedurally generative religion which adapts its truths as closely as possible to the diversity of the human race and its evolving understanding of the universe, but that would be a trip and a half to design.

Anyway, that all said I don't find this cover offensive. A bit over-obvious, but whatever. It's not like saying "Jews control Hollywood" because it's talking about specific Mormon business concerns which actually do exist and are very specifically Mormon, and also because as far as I know "Mormons are money-grubbers" isn't a stereotype which has existed for thousands and thousands of years or even at all really.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:54 AM on July 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


I see no reason why differing faiths can't hook up and find this togetherness in ALL the myths

Why can't we all just be Unitarians?
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:11 AM on July 19, 2012


The massive disadvantage Mormons have when it comes to origins of the faith is that the fantastical bits are taking place in recent history. Moses wandering off and coming back with the Ten Commandments is not objectively less silly than Joseph Smith digging up some gold plates. But Moses did so in some sort of ahistorical past and there's plenty of room for the assumption that the story is allegorical or has some totally rational explanation that wasn't apparent to the writers of the Old Testament. The gold plates defy rational explanation, but those events are taking place in such a recent past that the wiggle room the Old Testament gets doesn't exist.

Islam suffers from the same difficulty of having its origins recent enough to have a clear historical record, though it generally lacks hard-to-believe events presented as historical fact. The closest I can think of is Muhammed's night journey, but I'm not sure how it's generally understood. (There's a very obvious divine dream interpretation, but I don't know whether that's an actual theological position.)

Or non-believers in general.

I'm pretty sure non-believers are clear. The existence of non-belief is fairly tautological.
posted by hoyland at 6:45 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And that these deeper truths are what the community gathers around, which is why religions remain so frustratingly popular despite us literal-minded types yelling THATS NOT TRUE WHAT IS WITH YOU PEOPLE

While I hope I don't fall into the camp you're describing, I think part of what folks with that perspective are trying to argue is that these "deeper truths" that communities are led by their religious leaders to organize around are at their best often little more than universally accepted but ultimately trivial spiritual platitudes that can be found in almost any serious religious tradition. These core good ideas then seem to be used as a kind of spiritual bait in a confidence game whose ultimate purpose is to serve the worldly, material interests of church leaders more than the spiritual needs of the faithful.

The devil is in the details. Literally. In all the various social control measures different religious institutions adopt in order to form and preserve a coherent group around themselves and in order to sustain themselves as un-taxable corporate entities with revenue streams and political influence their leaders can use according to their own personal judgments and interests (which in fact are just as merely human and "temporal," and so, as subject to human frailty as those of the lowliest members of the congregation).

It's not that these critics don't get that religious faith can provide some of the spiritual comfort and sense of belonging to a caring community that people really need. It's that it's hideous to see these otherwise noble ends used to prop up power-seeking opportunists--and in the current social climate, often to reinforce and serve the interests of those who already enjoy the most privileged positions in society. Whatever social services the church might provide to those who actually need them ultimately seem to be self-serving in the interest of expanding the church's influence and increasing the dependence of the needy on the church as an institution from that POV. And it's hard not to be cynical about that.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:36 AM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't particularly care that Mormons believe some weird-ass shit (and yes, Mormons, you believe some weird-ass shit). I think most religions believe some weird-ass shit, and the Mormons are no better or worse in this. And hey, I've dated pagans, so who am I to judge?

Religious origin stories are goofy and illogical. It's in their nature. I also think that, as religion is the heartfelt belief in something implausible, illogical, and probably untrue, it's sort of missing the point to argue that the tenants and origin story of the Mormons is implausible, illogical, and probably untrue. I mean ... yeah, it's a religion.

Mormons: You guys are doubly looked down on. You're looked down on by other Christian religions because your weird shit is of a newer and less traditional vintage than their weird shit, and you're looked down on by atheists because your weird shit is laughably goofy. Once again ... I don't think that 'god lives on an alien planet' or 'magic eyeglasses' or 'funny underwear' is less plausible than 'the virgin birth' or 'the resurrection,' so I want to be clear that I think it's an unfair double standard that's why you're mocked so much around this.

So yeah. None of that is my gripe with you. I think that you are legitimately discriminated against in an unfair way. I don't care what your theology says, and I think that that shit is your business and nobody else's.

But here's the thing: I care what you do. Or what your church, which the majority of your are supporting financially, does. And, especially around gay rights issues, what your church does is evil and immoral. Supporting these actions of your church is evil and immoral. I don't care about their reasons, and (once again) I don't care about the theology. I care about what happens in the world. And right now, in the world, your church is promoting discrimination against people who are discriminated against way fucking more than you.

As I mentioned before, I'm trying not to judge beliefs extra harshly because they're implausible religious beliefs ... but I also obviously don't cut beliefs any extra slack because they're religious beliefs. I judge actions, and the actions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have made it my enemy.

Nothing made your church leadership take this stance, and nothing is compelling them to continue to take this stance. Even if the theology remains changeless (and historically, it hasn't), there's nothing compelling your church leadership to continue to spend money in the political realm to push an agenda of immoral discrimination. As long as they are pushing that agenda, though, I'm not going to think of your church as materially different than Focus on the Family, NOM, or any one of a hundred other organizations dedicated to degrading the human condition.

I'm on one side. You're (or your church is) on the other. Your church put itself there. It didn't have to. I feel zero sympathy.
posted by Myca at 7:37 AM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Aww. *tenets. Dammit.
posted by Myca at 7:52 AM on July 19, 2012


Myca, I agree with a lot of your comment and I'm trying to stay out of this thread for the most part. I do have one request, though:

I don't think that 'god lives on an alien planet' or 'magic eyeglasses' or 'funny underwear' is less plausible than 'the virgin birth' or 'the resurrection,'

Can I request, then, respectfully, that you not refer to them by using unfair, false, jokey caricatures? You didn't make the resurrection or the virgin birth into jokey caricatures. And, by the way, the resurrection and virgin birth are far more important parts of Mormon theology than those other things you referenced by way of caricature.

'god lives on an alien planet': If God has a physical body and an actual location (as Mormonism contends), and if God created the Earth (as Mormonism contends), then God cannot possibly be from Earth and it makes no sense to posit that he just sort of floats around in space somewhere. "God lives on an alien planet" is a caricature of Mormon belief that I don't think is fair to what the belief actually is.

'magic eyeglasses': This is referring, presumably, to Urim and Thummim, which are a) part of Judeo-Christian theology going back thousands of years, b) not eyeglasses, and c) not magic.

'funny underwear' I suppose "funny" is subjective, but honestly, they're just boxer briefs and a cotton t-shirt. It's not funny. And it's not magic or enchanted or whatever, either. It's symbolic.

Finally, I would point out that much of Evangelical Christian theology was invented around the same time as Mormonism or even more recently, particularly stuff like the Rapture (invented in 1830 and popularized in the U.S. in the early 20th Century) and other things that people like to mock. Mormonism is hardly the only Christian sect that emerged in the last two hundred years, and every time its age, relative to other Christian sects gets trotted out by an atheist (even the really educated ones!) or someone of another religion , it just makes me wonder how much of that person's conclusions are based on false assumptions.

Anyway, again, I agree with a lot of your comment, and I'm not trying to argue. Thanks.
posted by The World Famous at 8:09 AM on July 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sure, that makes sense ... my sincere apologies for coming off as mocking, when my point was just that the implausible stuff you believe is no better or worse than the implausible stuff other religions believe. The difference between "God is an all-powerful space alien" and "God has a physical form, and doesn't live here, so thus, of course he's on another planet" doesn't man much to me, but I can see how it would to you. Mainstream Christians don't like it when I call God the invisible sky daddy, so.

My wife grew up Jehovah's Witness (founded in the last 200 years), and they believe plenty of goofy shit too ... but they have the wisdom to mostly leave the rest of us out of it, which means that I've got no beef with them apart from a personal one, around how they treated her when she left. I'm really fine leaving people to their own beliefs. It's when they're not fine with that that the trouble starts.

You know what I think about the LDS? I think they should be allowed to marry who they choose, adopt children, and teach in our schools. I think that when a member of the LDS runs for political office, I will judge him based on his political stances rather than his church membership. (Harry Reid good! Mitt Romney bad!) Once your church and their leadership extend the same basic human decency to gay and lesbian folks, I will stop having a problem with them.

Until then, they're immoral jerks, and fuck them.
posted by Myca at 8:25 AM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure non-believers are clear. The existence of non-belief is fairly tautological.

You misunderstand. I was referring to "ignorant of the details regarding the foundation of their faith" where "their faith" is the faith of the believers, not the atheists. Which is to say, I have found it to be a rare occurrence where an atheist's objection to a particular religion are based on serious theological concerns concerning what theologians have actually said. It can be like having an evolution debate against someone who says, "Darwin says people come from monkeys!"

This phenomenon is not limited to atheists. I often hear wrong comments about Muslim theology from Christians, Catholic theology from Protestants, and so on.

Of course, if one is an atheist simply because one thinks there is no such thing as the supernatural, these comments don't apply. When they come into play is when the discussion is about specific theological concepts. Frankly, it hard to blame atheists in this respect because there are so many false theological concepts floating around e.g. that God sends unbaptized babies to hell; I might have been one myself if I thought that were a teaching.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:26 AM on July 19, 2012


People get hung up on the space-related elements of both Mormonism and Scientology because, hur hur, science fiction. Which is funny because classical religious iconography is filled with many-eyed angels and talking bushes and various things that are right out of fairy tales.

As a strong agnostic, I'm both fascinated by these stories and perpetually amazed in humanity's ability to believe such things are literally true. And sure, not everyone thinks biblical texts--Mormon or otherwise--are literally true. It's not necessarily a point of superiority that I literally can't believe the bible happened anymore than the works of JRR Tolkien. Because you know what? People get a lot of comfort out of these myths. They are probably happier than I am in their beliefs.

Of course, the flip side being that hateful things come out of religion too--impacting mostly not the believers themselves but those in unfortunate geographic vicinity. Prop 8 and all that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:33 AM on July 19, 2012


Finally, I would point out that much of Evangelical Christian theology was invented around the same time as Mormonism or even more recently, particularly stuff like the Rapture (invented in 1830 and popularized in the U.S. in the early 20th Century) and other things that people like to mock.

Mmm... but most of the stuff that dates from the Second Great Awakening is the theological offspring of the Reformation in a way that I don't think Mormonism can claim to be because it's such a serious departure from what was around before. (Nor, as far as I know, does Mormonism make that sort of claim.) For instance, Adventism dates to the Second Great Awakening, but it's pretty clearly a product of Protestantism dating back to the Reformation. (If there were ever a prize for plugging a giant hole in your religion's worldview, the Adventists would be in the running.)
posted by hoyland at 9:26 AM on July 19, 2012


"an atheist's objection to a particular religion are based on serious theological concerns concerning what theologians have actually said."

Often what "serious theologians" say and what the greater part of the congregation believes are radically different. And in the case of religion, I think that difference really matters; aren't the beliefs of the laity more representative of the religion than a theologian's ideas, if not isn't the congregation practicing a different religion?
posted by PJLandis at 9:32 AM on July 19, 2012


In my mind, churches should be tax exempt. But the second they either attempt to influence the political process (example: donating large sums of cash to support or defeat specific items of legislation) or take ownership of a business venture (examples in the FPP), then they ought to lose that tax-exempt status.

Why should churches be tax exempt? Nonprofit public benefit work should be tax exempt, regardless of who organizes it or the origins of their motivations. But I don't see how encouraging people to keep their religious beliefs separate from their political action is in the public interest (and it's also incredibly unrealistic).
posted by Salamandrous at 11:06 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why should churches be tax exempt?

The original idea was that if they weren't, the state would come depend on certain larger churches tax revenue too much and would thus be influenced to design more favorable policy for the churches to increase that source of revenue. The original idea of separation of church and state was pretty rigid. And the aim was to prevent religious influence on the operations of the state because, historically, that led to the development of de facto shadow states like the Catholic church.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:44 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Saulgoodman, thanks for explaining. That is fascinating. Not to benefit the churches then but to benefit the government. It makes it seem like appropriate response to religious political action then has to be something slightly more nuanced than making them pay taxes. Maybe they pay the equivalent of taxes that goes straight into international disaster relief aid, or something else like that that doesn't benefit the government?
posted by Salamandrous at 3:26 PM on July 19, 2012


Maybe they pay the equivalent of taxes that goes straight into international disaster relief aid, or something else like that that doesn't benefit the government?


That's something lots of churches already do, fairly extensively.
posted by The World Famous at 3:35 PM on July 19, 2012


The original idea of separation of church and state was pretty rigid. And the aim was to prevent religious influence on the operations of the state because, historically, that led to the development of de facto shadow states like the Catholic church.

Do you have a citation for this? Or more detail, anyway? On the one hand, it makes sense, but on the other hand, it doesn't quite make sense. Has the Catholic Church ever paid taxes anywhere? Early in US history, were there any churches that were large enough institutions for this to be a legitimate concern? The people who wrote the First Amendment weren't the most imaginative--they dropped a reference to conscientious objection from the Second Amendment on the grounds there would never be a standing army in the US, making objection irrelevant. (Actually, that such a reference was even floated suggests Quakers were wielding a fair amount of power at the time.)
posted by hoyland at 3:47 PM on July 19, 2012


taxthechurches.org
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:28 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's something lots of churches already do, fairly extensively.

That's fine, good even. At least per saulgoodman, I don't think the point is that it has to be something objectionable to churches (which would be an impossible and miserable game). The point is that American secular governments shouldn't financially benefit from the church's economic situation. If the money went to local schools or hospitals, that would free up money for the local government and effectively be a boon. So international disaster relief was just an idea of something where the the local government would not have an incentive to favor (or disfavor) religious organizations for fiscal reasons, but the church taxes would still be going to good (and hopefully relatively uncontroversial) use.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:34 PM on July 19, 2012


The original idea was that if they weren't, the state would come depend on certain larger churches tax revenue too much and would thus be influenced to design more favorable policy for the churches to increase that source of revenue.

There are a couple counterarguments to this. First, the neutrality standard set in place by the First Amendment would serve to curb any undue influence, even in the face of substantial monetary pressures. We've had and continue to have substantial cultural pressures for government to favor certain religious practices over others that the courts have managed on the balance to resist. I'm far from the biggest fan of the Supreme Court's establishment clause rulings, but I think the government manages more often than not to be neutral in its dealings regarding religion.

Second, as Justice Douglas said in his lone dissent in Walz v Tax Commission of the City of New York, instead of being seen as ensuring neutrality, tax subsidies can be seen as betraying government favoritism toward religious institutions by acting as a subsidy. Douglas offers the alternative of providing tax exemption to church-run organizations that do provide public services (just as any other non-profit warrants tax exemption), but says that "Direct financial aid to churches or tax exemptions to the church qua church is not, in my view, even arguably permitted."

Whether or not churches deserve tax exemption is one question, and what to do about churches that engage in politicking is another. I'm also interested in hearing arguments about a third question: why church tax exemptions should also be exempt from both public and government scrutiny. If other non-profits have to file public 990s to prove they are doing good works that justify their tax exemption, why shouldn't churches also have to file 990s?
posted by audi alteram partem at 4:37 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, in many countries - including ones that are usually thought of as far more secular than the United States - the government forces its citizens to pay a tax that is used to fund specific churches, rather than the other way around. So I guess we should be grateful that the U.S. Government doesn't force us to pay tithing like it does in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Iceland, and Italy.
posted by The World Famous at 4:42 PM on July 19, 2012


If other non-profits have to file public 990s to prove they are doing good works that justify their tax exemption, why shouldn't churches also have to file 990s?

The inevitable civil and criminal repercussions for well-connected religious figures would lead to scrutiny of relationships with their political friends, which would lead to embarrassment all around. And nobody in charge wants that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:11 PM on July 19, 2012


I am grateful for the human wisdom behind the free exercise and establishment clauses, such as that exhibited by James Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, which ensures that US citizens don't subsidize religious organizations through taxes. It is on account of my abiding respect for Madisonian and Jeffersonian state-church ideas that I ask whether we should consider the subsidy provided by church tax exemptions to be as much a violation of religious liberty as levying taxes to support worship. Madison, for what it's worth, thought exemptions were wrong (see his "Detached Memoranda" on "Monopolies Perpetuities Corporations Ecclesiastical Endowments").
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:41 PM on July 19, 2012




Do you have a citation for this? Or more detail, anyway? On the one hand, it makes sense, but on the other hand, it doesn't quite make sense. Has the Catholic Church ever paid taxes anywhere?

I'll look for a cite, but you're right to doubt the point about the Catholic church, specifically. I got sloppy and muddled the point there a bit: the Catholic church is definitely an example of a church that has at various times grown to be a de facto shadow state--but not because it generated tax revenue for some host state. It's possible I'm miss-remembering the source of that argument, and it wasn't specifically proposed by the founders, but it's an argument that's been around for some time.

Though I don't have time right now to find a cite for that argument, there's a good primer on the history of the Separation of Church and State that might cover it somewhere... Ironically, Christian leaders were among the earliest advocates for the separation of Church and State (because in the old world, state and religion had so often been disastrously united to the detriment of both the spiritual and the material needs of ordinary people), and it was America's first baptist, Roger Williams who championed the idea there must be a "wall of separation" between church and state, on the grounds that it would degrade the Christian faith to allow itself to become entangled in the worldly affairs of the state.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:36 PM on July 19, 2012


the Catholic church is definitely an example of a church that has at various times grown to be a de facto shadow state

The Papal States were more than just shadow states, and they were around for longer than the USA has been.
posted by The World Famous at 8:41 PM on July 19, 2012


That's a better way to put it, TWF. Really, for a lot of European history, the state and the church were effectively identical (even beyond the obvious example of the Anglican church and its predecessor). Many of the early American revolutionaries radically opposed any blurring of the boundaries between church and state because they regarded the unity of church and state (correctly in my opinion) as one of the chief contributing factors to the intolerable living conditions many early Americans hoped to escape in the so-called new world.

Throughout European history, State + Religion = Pogroms, Crusades and Inquisitions.

My own ancestors on the German side were Huguenots who fled France and settled in Germany to escape religious persecution; religious pogroms were fairly routine affairs in the Old Country. The fact there are now powerful economic elites in the US who wax nostalgic for the reunification of Church and State really viscerally frightens me.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:14 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


A few thoughts:

Science helps us understand the universe, and even talks about why we behave like we behave, but it's not a personal study in that it doesn't teach us to better understand ourselves and find solidarity with one another.

I've found that the more I learn about how things really work, the more easily I understand my weaknesses (rather than fearing I'm falling for a Satanic lure), improve my life (by looking for evidence-supported methods of change) and have compassion for others because I see our shared primal origins instead of the surface differences and don't think a benevolent being will make things ok in the end. But yeah, my own small sample aside, science has yet to develop a branch that satisfies the more nebulous needs people have.

... if one is an atheist simply because one thinks there is no such thing as the supernatural, these comments don't apply.

What other reason would there be for being an atheist? I've never met one with a different reason.

re: the relative oddness of Mormon beliefs:
As an atheist, I don't think Mormon beliefs are any odder than the rest, but the religion's reputation does suffer from coming up with a new holy book within the timeframe of well-recorded history. The cloak of allegory and metaphor used by ancient religions is harder to throw over things when the founder of the religion has a well-documented life and so do all of the early leaders. As noted above, there were plenty of new sects formed during the Second Great Awakening, but very few of them presented such a big addition to the theology. I often think a lot of them are like the People's Reformed Front of Judea vs Reformed Judean Front of the People, while Mormonism has a distinct cultural and theological basis.

My own gut feeling is that Mormonism therefore relies too heavily on secrecy to maintain the respect given to other religions, but that's a double-edged sword. It's open to abuse by church officials, and makes it easy for mockery and misinformation to fill the gaps. That doesn't help when it comes to the financial issues raised in the FPP.
posted by harriet vane at 8:25 AM on July 20, 2012


My own gut feeling is that Mormonism therefore relies too heavily on secrecy to maintain the respect given to other religions

I don't understand this. Aside from not opening up its finances to the public (which I don't like, but it's not particularly secretive, frankly), what is there of any consequence that Mormonism keeping secret? From the public availability of the complete Joseph Smith papers to the church's website's incredible breadth and depth of searchable archives, to a detailed cutaway model and photographs of the interior of the Salt Lake Temple, I just am not seeing much basis for a reasonable argument that Mormonism is secretive relative to any other major religion, corporation, or government.

But maybe that's just an incomplete knee-jerk reaction on my part, so I really would like to know - in what way do you think Mormonism relies on secrecy to maintain respect given to other religions?
posted by The World Famous at 8:34 AM on July 20, 2012


But maybe that's just an incomplete knee-jerk reaction on my part, so I really would like to know - in what way do you think Mormonism relies on secrecy to maintain respect given to other religions?

Temple access. Offhand, I can't think of another religion that bars access like that.
posted by hoyland at 8:38 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Temple access.

First, it is trivially easy to find multiple, detailed descriptions of everything that goes on in Mormon Temples, including comparisons of the changes that have happened over the years to the various ceremonies. Second, the church publishes many photos of the interiors of its temples and opens them to the public prior to dedication and whenever they are renovated. I don't see how restricting access to the temple while it's used for temple rites can be considered secretive in the context of all that disclosure. Restricing physical access to a building is not the same thing as keeping a secret.

What is it, specifically, that you want to know about the interior of the Temple that is impossible to learn from publicly available sources, either from the Church itself or from some other source?

Offhand, I can't think of another religion that bars access like that.

Does the Holy See count?

I just can't understand how anyone can contend in good faith that the Mormon church is even marginally secretive compared to Rome. I mean come on, now.
posted by The World Famous at 9:08 AM on July 20, 2012


What is it, specifically, that you want to know about the interior of the Temple that is impossible to learn from publicly available sources, either from the Church itself or from some other source?

My partner's sister married a Mormon, and her daughter is now getting married within the Church. My partner's parents, straight people but non-Mormon, cannot attend their own granddaughter's wedding ceremony because it is being held in one of these facilities, and they aren't part of the team.

Personally, I don't give a damn what goes on inside these temples, but I can see why others have feelings about being locked out of their own major family events. Being gay, I expect to run into that kind of discrimination myself, even in the year 2012, but I'm a bit shocked that it would be done to a pair of harmless 70+ year-olds (one near the end of his life) whose only crime is that they aren't on your team. That's messed up. That's sad.

I don't know if Mormonism is a cult, but the secrecy isn't helping with presenting any kind of message of welcoming or inclusivity.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:22 AM on July 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I completely agree, 100%, with every single word in your comment, Blazecock Pileon. But that's the church being unfairly exclusionary, not secretive.
posted by The World Famous at 9:26 AM on July 20, 2012


But that's the church being unfairly exclusionary, not secretive.

That's mincing words to the point where they no longer function properly. It's a secret ceremony, run by a secretive entity. Other religions have learned not to generally behave in this way.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:42 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's mincing words to the point where they no longer function properly.

No it's not. When a club's bouncer won't let me in, I don't say "why are you keeping secrets from me??"

It's a secret ceremony, run by a secretive entity.

That tautology hurts my brain. What's secret about the ceremony? It's an exclusionary ceremony, like a joint Senate/House conference committee meeting.

I'm asking what's secretive about the entity, and the response I'm getting is that the evidence of its secretiveness is that it has rites that are secret by virtue of the fact that the entity is secretive.

Other religions have learned not to generally behave in this way.

Honestly, have you never heard of the Roman Catholic church?
posted by The World Famous at 9:51 AM on July 20, 2012


(Again, I will readily concede that the church's policy of excluding from temple wedding ceremonies those who are not temple recommend holders seems unfairly exclusionary. But the difference between secretive on the one hand and exclusionary on the other is non-trivial, particularly when it comes to the oft-repeated allegation that the Mormon church is "secretive," intoned pretty much always in such a way as to either imply or expressly contend that the church is some sort of shady secret society doing secret stuff behind closed doors and preventing people from knowing what the church is really all about, which is just not the case.)
posted by The World Famous at 9:58 AM on July 20, 2012


When a club's bouncer won't let me in, I don't say "why are you keeping secrets from me??"

That's nice. Let us know when they hold wedding ceremonies in night clubs, I guess.

I'm asking what's secretive about the entity

And I gave you an example that you apparently agree with, semantics aside, so you have an answer.

Honestly, have you never heard of the Roman Catholic church?

I'm not Catholic, but I have never been barred entrance to any of its churches for my friends' wedding ceremonies. Even for the cardinal sin of having relations with another dude.

I am sorely tempted to dig up my old, long and well-detailed comment in Metatalk about why Scientology is cult, just so I can line up all those aspects — including and especially in the levels of secrecy it maintains, compared with other more established faith-like entities — with how the Moemon Church conducts its business and other affairs. The more pushback I get on this, the more I wonder how cult-like Mormonism really is in the year 2012.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:05 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's nice. Let us know when they hold wedding ceremonies in night clubs, I guess.
I don't see how this comment is even slightly relevant. It reinforces a point on which I agree with you completely. It's cute snark, but if it's directed at me, what's the point? I agree with you.

I'm not Catholic, but I have never been barred entrance to any of its churches for my friends' wedding ceremonies. Even for the cardinal sin of having relations with another dude.

You're correct that the Catholic church is not exclusionary in exactly the same ways as the Mormon church.

The more pushback I get on this, the more I wonder how cult-like Mormonism really is in the year 2012.

I'm not pushing back at all. I'm completely agreeing with you 100%, without question, as to what you're actually saying here.

The contention was made that the Mormon church is more secretive than any other religion in the world. I see nothing to support that contention, particularly in light of the level of secrecy and exclusion in the world's largest Christian church, which is demonstrably far, far more secretive than the Mormon church.

Does the Mormon church disallow non-Mormons from attending the wedding ceremony held in the temple? Yes. Is that fair? I agree with you that it is not.
posted by The World Famous at 10:14 AM on July 20, 2012


Does the Mormon church disallow non-Mormons from attending the wedding ceremony held in the temple? Yes.

Do established religions make their wedding and other similar social rituals secretive in the same way? No.

A wedding is a social event that involves the community (or at least friends and extended family). Mormons don't seem to think much about what community means, or at least not in the same way established religions seem understand the term. Your church took a common community ritual and made it secretive, by (among other things) restricting access to the building in which the ritual is performed. That's not something established religions generally do. It is, however, something that cults and cult-like entities tend to do.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:26 AM on July 20, 2012


[Hi! I just got on shift and discovered y'all have been completely ignoring Jessamyn's request. Please take side discussions with/interrogations of The World Famous to Memail. Seriously. For real. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 10:35 AM on July 20, 2012


Thinking about it some more, what bugs me the most, still, is this comment:

What is it, specifically, that you want to know about the interior of the Temple that is impossible to learn from publicly available sources, either from the Church itself or from some other source?

Like redirecting a dying old man to the equivalent of a Wikipedia page is the equivalent of seeing his granddaughter married off. I mean, I try to understand the kind of mentality that says this is a reasonable compromise in the year 2012, and I just cannot. Sorry.

On preview, I'll leave it at that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:40 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does the Holy See count?

Apples and oranges, I think. (Plus the Holy See is technically the patch of land that you can wander in and out of at will.) You can have a wander round St Peter's to your heart's content. You could go to mass if you felt like it. You (The World Famous) "couldn't" take communion.* Okay, you (general) can't go in the papal apartments or the the pope's secret headquarters. But this is where the apples and oranges thing starts--I don't think you can wander into the secret HQ of the LDS president either.

I just can't understand how anyone can contend in good faith that the Mormon church is even marginally secretive compared to Rome. I mean come on, now.

This is a bait and switch, I think. I'm sure there's all manner of stuff the Church is keeping quiet. But none of what Catholics actually do in their religious practice takes place behind closed doors, hidden from non-Catholics.

[I have no idea if I'm breaking the mod's admonishment.]

*My mother started refusing to go to mass after my dad/the priest told my not Catholic grandma she couldn't take communion. I'm not totally sure what happened--if my dad objected or my dad pushed the saying no onto the priest. But, honestly, that's likely the only time I or anyone I know will hear of someone being stopped from taking communion because they weren't Catholic. But as a matter of politeness, one shouldn't.
posted by hoyland at 4:02 PM on July 20, 2012


My mother started refusing to go to mass after my dad/the priest told my not Catholic grandma she couldn't take communion...But, honestly, that's likely the only time I or anyone I know will hear of someone being stopped from taking communion because they weren't Catholic. But as a matter of politeness, one shouldn't.

I am no longer a Roman Catholic, but I do not understand this objection. The priest does not deny the Eucharist from non-Catholics to be mean. The reason is because that receiving communion is a demonstration of unity with the faith, not a means by which it is achieved. It frankly does not make sense for a non-member to receive the Eucharist. What do they think it is for?

The Eastern Orthodox, of which I am a member, are the same. The Eucharist is only for Orthodox who are properly prepared to receive it. If one attends a Catholic or Orthodox service, one will notice that some of the laity will not approach to receive communion. It is not because they are not members, but because they are members who are not properly prepared. This is not to be mean, but to the contrary, to protect because it is taught that it is very damaging to receive the Eucharist unworthily and without discernment.

What's secret about the ceremony?

The entire ceremony is secret. As a non-Mormon, I cannot attend. I understand that the words and tokens that are exemplified in the ceremony are taken from the Masonic degrees. (I am worshipful master of a Masonic lodge)

Of course, there is nothing wrong with secrecy in itself, so I do not think it is fair to criticize the LDS for secrecy alone. Most people keep their SS numbers secret, for example.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:08 PM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The reason is because that receiving communion is a demonstration of unity with the faith, not a means by which it is achieved. It frankly does not make sense for a non-member to receive the Eucharist. What do they think it is for?

You obviously don't know my mother, but the fact that my dad can go into an Anglican church and take communion (allowable from both the Anglican and Catholic perspective), but my grandma couldn't do the reverse is precisely the sort of thing that would outrage her. So somehow they're in communion (excuse the horrible pun, but there's no other word) enough for one direction, but not the other, which is, frankly, a bit weird.*

Of course, there is nothing wrong with secrecy in itself, so I do not think it is fair to criticize the LDS for secrecy alone. Most people keep their SS numbers secret, for example.

On what planet is a religious ritual like a social security number?

*Unless it's part of the Church's super secret plan to undermine Anglicanism. Which is totally possible. The pope's forever trying to meddle with the Church of England to try and get the priests still pissed about allowing women priests (never mind the gays! quelle horreur!) to jump ship.
posted by hoyland at 6:34 PM on July 20, 2012


Since I'm the one that brought up the secrecy thing, I'll say that I don't think their financial secrecy is any worse than any other church, which doesn't excuse it in the least. But the rituals and temple itself are kept mysterious in ways no other religion does, and they're happy to buy up historical documents that make them look dodgy. That's what I was referring to really. A website and photos of the Temple aren't much by comparison to being able to attend rituals.

I'm not sure if your average Mormon-in-the-street is aware of how open other religions are about their ceremonies by comparison (and why would they be? very few people pay attention to anyone else's religion in detail). Most religions are so keen for new members they'll try anything to get you in there, and are happy to proselytise their beliefs all over the place, answer any question no matter how dumb it sounds, etc. I've visited a synagogue and a mosque, attended baptisms and weddings and funerals from other sects of Christianity, etc. The way in which Mormons are often deliberately vague about the details is unusual. I don't think it's a bad thing in itself, it's just that the church can't then turn around and complain about misinformation or people making things up to fill in the gaps.
posted by harriet vane at 12:21 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


You guys are persistently missing the distinction between secretive and exclusionary.

The Roman Catholic Church excludes people who aren't members from taking communion, but they're not being secretive about it, they're not trying to hide something. They're just saying "this is for members only."

The LDS excludes people who aren't members from marriage ceremonies, but they're not being secretive about it, they're not trying to hide something. They're just saying, "this is for members only."

The World Famous is agreeing with all of you who think it sucks to be excluded from a family member's wedding because you don't belong to the church. But he's rightly pointing out that this is not an example of the LDS trying to hide some (sinister? embarrassing?) secret about their wedding ceremonies, as some try to claim. It's not the same as Scientologists trying to prevent people from knowing about some of their practices and doctrines. Photos of the LDS temples and details of what happens in a LDS wedding are all available to anyone who is interested. You're just not allowed to attend if you're not a member.
posted by straight at 11:27 AM on July 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Photos of the LDS temples and details of what happens in a LDS wedding are all available to anyone who is interested. You're just not allowed to attend if you're not a member.

So, I was curious about this "If you want to know what goes in a temple, Google it" thing and the bit quoted above turns out to be kind of false. It turns out, the people most interested in telling you are ex-Mormons. Which is, uh, not exactly indicative of open-ness. But what is open, however, is the Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple manual. I'll admit I haven't read all of it--the writing is atrocious. (As a side note, by the time I finished writing this comment, I'd googled the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is really dry, but better written. It is, however, really badly formatted on the Vatican website.) There were two particularly interesting bits near the beginning:
We do not discuss the temple ordinances outside the temples. It was never intended that knowledge of these temple ceremonies would be limited to a select few who would be obliged to ensure that others never learn of them. It is quite the opposite, in fact. With great effort we urge every soul to qualify and prepare for the temple experience.
I assume the second sentence is the official line. Note, however, that it implies that said knowledge is limited to a select few. Anyway, onwards.
The ordinances and ceremonies of the temple are simple. They are beautiful. They are sacred. They are kept confidential lest they be given to those who are unprepared. Curiosity is not a preparation. Deep interest itself is not a preparation.
Again, here's an explicit instruction not to tell the 'unworthy' or whatever what goes on. Oh, and there's an instruction about what to say about weddings:
We do not quote the words of the sealing ordinance outside of the temple, but we may describe the sealing room as being beautiful in its appointment, quiet and serene in spirit, and hallowed by the sacred work that is performed there.
Having read this much, I think it's seriously disingenuous to suggest that the fact I can find out what goes on in a temple is the same as it being 'not secret'. I'll grant you a badly kept secret, but not not a secret. The LDS Church is telling people to keep it confidential!

I'm the one who brought communion into this. The difference is pretty darn obvious to me. For a start, suppose you wanted to know happens and you didn't have an hour to spend to sit through mass. Well, off you go to Google. Turns out, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has a handy PDF with the entire order of the mass. That's kind of hard to read (there are a lot of options), but some dude has reformatted it for you so you can see the choices. (Not a PDF--though, small disclaimer, that's the old missal. He's done the new missal, but in PDF format.) Note that the word 'confidential' does not appear.
posted by hoyland at 6:06 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I assume the second sentence is the official line.

Just realised this wasn't that clear. I mean that it's what gets pointed to to argue that it's not secret.
posted by hoyland at 7:22 PM on July 21, 2012


There's a bunch of official LDS websites with pictures inside the temples and descriptions of the various ceremonies: Inside the LDS Temple, What Goes on in Mormon Temples?

Yeah, it seems weird to me that they don't publish the texts of their liturgies, but the whole thing is a lot more open than I was led to believe by people ranting about the LDS.
posted by straight at 8:20 PM on July 21, 2012


I have to agree with hoyland. I fully expect to be excluded from religious rituals in churches I'm not a member of, and am completely unoffended by this. But the quotes hoyland found even tell Mormons how they should describe the room. Excommunication is a penalty (I assume the most severe, for the worst of cases, with other lesser penalties starting with being given a stern look by a Bishop) for telling non-Mormons things that have been deemed confidential.

Let's try Catholic confession as an example: it's a private ritual between the priest and a church member. The member may confess to secrets they'd prefer others not to know, and trusts that the priest will maintain confidentiality. At its best it's an intensely personal experience that you wouldn't want anyone to witness. But any Catholic would be happy for you to sit in the church while confessions are taking place and people are doing penance afterwards; and could give you details of the logistics, explain what they believe takes place in a religious sense, and what the symbolic bits represent in a religious sense. Some could probably tell you the history of the ritual as well. And it's all on the web too. As long as you're not actually listening in to someone's individual instance of confession, there's nothing you can't learn. And honestly, the priests I know wouldn't turn someone away for not being Catholic if they felt that person would genuinely benefit from doing the ritual and wasn't just being a tourist. I don't know if that's 'proper' or not, but there it is.

Again, I don't have a problem with Mormons keeping details of their rituals secret, there's no value judgement here (although I'm sure others have used it as a reason for prejudice). I just think it has consequences they don't like, and that's just the price they've decided to pay for the benefits they feel they get from it.
posted by harriet vane at 8:27 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


You obviously don't know my mother, but the fact that my dad can go into an Anglican church and take communion (allowable from both the Anglican and Catholic perspective), but my grandma couldn't do the reverse is precisely the sort of thing that would outrage her. So somehow they're in communion (excuse the horrible pun, but there's no other word) enough for one direction, but not the other, which is, frankly, a bit weird.

Actually, Canon 844(2) of the Code of Canon Law is clear that a Catholic may not receive the Eucharist from a non-Catholic minister except in exceptional circumstances such as being near death, and then only from a non-Catholic minister who is deemed to be the member of a "valid" priesthood such as Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox (Copts). The Vatican does not consider the Anglicans to have a valid priesthood, so a Catholic should not accept an Anglican sacrament. (this also goes the other way in that a Catholic priest may administer certain sacraments to non-Catholics in cases of emergency)

So, your mother's and grandmother's outrage is misplaced.

On what planet is a religious ritual like a social security number?


What does it matter. The point is that secrecy, in itself, is not a problem. Isn't that the point of the right to privacy?
posted by Tanizaki at 11:35 AM on July 23, 2012


FWIW, this comment reminded me of this discussion about whether Mormonism is the only religion that restricts access to its temples and temple rites to adherents of the faith.
posted by The World Famous at 10:36 AM on August 6, 2012


New Yorker: I, Nephi
A lot of this is standard minority-faith stuff, including the perceived power of popular entertainment to validate a whole group. (Recall how Nathan Zuckerman’s father swells with pride when the Andrews Sisters sing “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen.”) It’s only later in the cycle of integration that the group comes banging on the door—as Jews and Catholics did, in the nineteen-fifties—for more general admission, not as cardboard stage-ethnic types good at one or two things but as people available to do everything, just like the ruling Wasps. That’s when everyone starts asking what it is these people really believe.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:54 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's a good point about the temple visit, The World Famous. It's still quite unusual for western nations though. And I can't blame anyone running such a busy temple (people waiting over 24 hours in line!) if they do anything they can to reduce the number of people trying to get in, especially rubber-necking tourists who don't even believe when there are so many of the faithful who don't get a chance. It must be insanely difficult to manage so many people, I don't envy them.
posted by harriet vane at 3:28 AM on August 7, 2012


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