Torture & Mormonism

[On the 18th of October] we learn that Bruce Jessen who was critical in designing US torture techniques was appointed a bishop per this news release. Yes its official, you can apparently support and aid a torture regime, in fact help design the very torture techniques, used on thousands and be called a bishop. Smoking, beer, nope. Torture, yeah! Disheartening and maddening. [Below are this commentators] thoughts on torture from the third print issue of the Mormon Worker:

Don’t Torture in My Name

On September 13, 2003, Alyssa Peterson tragically ended her life. The third female soldier to die in Iraq since the invasion, Alyssa was a devout Mormon who had served a mission in the Netherlands. Shortly after her religious service, Alyssa volunteered to serve in the military. She was adept at learning languages and was sent to Arabic training school. Alyssa later volunteered to go to Iraq in place of another who did not want to go.
It was about this time in a conference room at the Pentagon that Donald Rumsfeld, frustrated from a lack of good intel, ordered the military to “gitmo-ize the situation” in Abu Ghraib and Iraq. Results of which we have all seen in the photos and videos that emerged from Abu Ghraib. It was in this situation that Alyssa Peterson, then serving in Tal-Afar, Iraq, found herself shortly before her death. We know that “Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed. …” After a confrontation with superiors, she was put on suicide watch and assigned to guard a gate. Alyssa “avoided eating with her interrogation team and spent time reading at her desk when she did not have other assignments.” Shortly thereafter, Alyssa was found dead in a field with her service rifle in the grass next to her.

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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in War & Peace


Would Jesus Fit In?

HawkGrrrl asks some questions about whether Jesus might fit into the modern Mormon mold:

Some folks have developed some weird notions about Jesus that in fact differ greatly from the Jesus represented in the books of the Bible (which were written many years after his death anyway). The Jesus I hear people talking about is feminized and sometimes even, dare I say, Republican. As Mormon Heretic pointed out yesterday, Jesus’ behaviour was often much edgier than we tend to think; he would suffer the little children to come unto him, even if there was no other adult present to chaperone them. He would talk to women one on one without making a big deal out of it or wetting himself out of fear of what people might think.

When I read about Jesus in the Bible, it’s hard to imagine a version of that person attending church. What would a modern Mormon Jesus look like? I picture Daniel Faraday from LOST, a skinny, edgy, nervous guy who is the smartest person in the room and unfathomable to the rest of us but with kind, soulful, discerning eyes. Or so I imagine. Of course, if he’s attending an LDS church, he will also have to be dressed and groomed like an Eisenhower era federal agent, and my imagination simply isn’t that good. So Daniel Faraday in a white shirt with a skinny black tie is the closest I can get.

What would Jesus do if he were attending a Mormon church? Based on what’s written about him, here are a few things I think we should expect:

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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in History, Scripture


Skousen Unmasked

The author of the Religion for Mormons blog doesn’t pull any punches when sharing his views on Cleon Skousen:

I’ve been responding a bit to several other blogs centered around W Cleon Skousen’s sophomoric ramblings about the “Atonement,” and other “deep” or “advanced” folk-doctrines still being hailed as his masterworks. I’ll just summarize my response to these claims briefly:

First of all, we have his highly exaggerated FBI “experience,” which consisted almost exclusively of shuffling papers in the outback with no security access to anything of world or national importance. The fact that he was a rabid anti-Communist and J Edgar may have given him a short offhand nod according to Skousen’s camp or that at his death somebody somewhere asked him to give a speech commemorating Hoover’s service to the country, amounts to nothing. In the world of mindless, foaming anti-Communists, there are enough loons to go around that somebody connected somehow to Hoover would end up looking like, or would be made to look like they endorsed W Cleon Skousen. The fact remains that the FBI officially condemned and divorced themselves from his efforts, his ramblings, his writings, his speechmaking, and the official FBI position on Willy Skousen was that he was doing more harm than good, and actually obfuscated, confused, and inhibited the serious work of sorting out credible risks to national security. As for the recurring claims of his devotees that he was fired as chief of police by a lawless Salt Lake mayor who hated the way he enforced the law equally and fairly, and wouldn’t look the other way when the bigwigs had a game of cards–the overwhelming assessment of his stint as Top Cop in Salt Lake City was that his approach to law enforcement was a combination of Barney Fife and Joe Stalin.

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Posted by on August 11, 2012 in Uncategorized


His Image in your Wardrobe

Hawkgrrrl over at Wheat & Tares gave us some of her insights into the expected LDS Church Sunday form of dress:

Have ye received his image in your wardrobe?

As the military understands very well, there is little to instill unity like a uniform.  The word uniform literally means “always the same,” “consistent,” or even “identical.”  Doctrine & Covenants 38: 27 says:  “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”

What is our church uniform?  It’s mostly an unwritten code to define “Sunday best.”  Here are some cultural do’s and don’t’s:


  • DO wear:  white shirt, tie, dark conservative suit.
  • DON’T wear:  long hair, visible tattoos, earrings, facial hair, colored shirt, wild tie, khaki pants, anything not conservative, jeans, shorts.


  • DO wear:  knee length or longer skirts, blouses, jackets, full garment coverage even if not endowed.  Some of the older church members (as well as the church office building) include pantyhose in this list.
  • DON’T wear:  flip flops, pants, anything that shows cleavage, anything above the knee or sleeveless, more than one earring per ear, visible tattoos, shorts, jeans.

Those who flaunt the unwritten Mormon dress code may be greeted with clucking tongues and wagging heads in some wards or a “meh” in others.  In any case, some people report feeling judged or even considered unworthy and rebellious for not dressing like everyone else.

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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Uncategorized


Should the Church get out of the History Business?

Richard Bushman was interviewed by John Dehlin back in 2007. Bushman advocated the position that Church history should be left to the professionals, and the Church should avoid entanglements with history.

John Dehlin, “Did you know Leonard Arrington, Lowell Bennion, and T. Edgar Lyon? Can you talk a little bit about about (1) what you felt or experienced during what many call the Camelot years of church history, (2) how you got hooked up to help Leonard Arrington to work on the sesquicentennial series that he was hoping to write, and then (3) and (4) how you felt when that got cancelled and how you felt about the way that that era sort of concluded?”

Bushman, “Well, I didn’t know T. Edgar Lyon very well. I knew his son very well, he was a bishop in the same building where I was. We both had a young singles ward in Cambridge. I knew Lowell Bennion only late in life. I didn’t come up to that university of Utah pattern, but Leonard I knew pretty well. My first job was at BYU, and when I arrived, somehow he had gotten wind of it and knew I was a Ph.D. in history from Harvard, and he wrote me a personal letter welcoming me to the state and the historical profession.

I realized that this is a person that takes responsibility for the whole direction of Mormon historiography, and that really was his style. He was sort of the grandfather and dean of the whole operation, not just at USU, not just at the church, but everywhere. Then I worked with him closely thereafter when my wife got started working with the Boston women on the pink issue of Dialogue, and founding Exponent II, he got wind of it and sent those women a small grant, 1000 bucks or so to help put out Mormon Sisters. It was just a gesture those housewives needed. They didn’t know if they could do it. They were just amateurs. Of course among them was Laurel Ulrich, a very skilled amateur, but they were not historians, and he knew that a little something would sort of confirm their hopes for this book, so I just felt like he was an encompassing figure of great personal magnitude. I really loved him. I would say he was one of the men I really loved during my life.”
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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in History


Communalism and the Foreign Past of Mormonism

Benjamin Park of Patheos looks at the early community focused nature of Mormonism:

“You didn’t build that.” This one-line quip of Barack Obama has received plenty of attention. The topic of pundit television shows, talk radio, and a plethora of made-for-Facebook posters, that brief sentence has struck a nerve amongst the American ideal, based on the myths of Andrew Carnegie and Donald Trump, of self-made man. In this country, our national myth declares, one’s potential is only limited by desire and effort. This is a narrative founded by Benjamin Franklin, sacralized by the Transcendentalists, and crystalized by Henry Ford. This particularly “American” mind-set has also been adopted as a core of Mormon culture in the 20th and 21st centuries: the hard-working, forward-moving, and success-attaining image so poignantly represented in Mitt Romney.

Yet such an individualistic refrain has an unusually communal religious pedigree. The verses quoted in the epigraph, which represent a large thrust of Joseph Smith’s expanded scripture, were part of a revelation Smith received in March of 1832. Prior to that, he had previously received a handful of revelations outlining an economic worldview hinged upon communal sharing, principles that were referred to as the Law of Consecration. The basic premise was simple: all possessions, talents, and any other form of ownership are due to divine appointment, and all humans were mere stewards working toward communal stability. To believe in private ownership was to overlook the hand of Providence, and to assume personal precedence over communal need was a severe sin.

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Posted by on August 5, 2012 in History, Scripture


A Mormon – Not a Christian

David V. Mason, an associate professor of theater at Rhodes College, and the author of “My Mormonism: A Primer for Non-Mormons and Mormons, Alike.” wrote the following explanation about why he doesn’t mind not being accepted as a mainstream Christian:

Thanks to Mitt Romney, a Broadway hit and a relentless marketing campaign by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormons seem to be everywhere.

This is the so-called Mormon Moment: a strange convergence of developments offering Mormons hope that the Christian nation that persecuted, banished or killed them in the 19th century will finally love them as fellow Christians.

I want to be on record about this. I’m about as genuine a Mormon as you’ll find — a templegoer with a Utah pedigree and an administrative position in a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am also emphatically not a Christian.

For the curious, the dispute can be reduced to Jesus. Mormons assert that because they believe Jesus is divine, they are Christians by default. Christians respond that because Mormons don’t believe — in accordance with the Nicene Creed promulgated in the fourth century — that Jesus is also the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Jesus that Mormons have in mind is someone else altogether. The Mormon reaction is incredulity. The Christian retort is exasperation. Rinse and repeat.

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Posted by on August 3, 2012 in Uncategorized