Sunday, July 17, 2005

Response to Suzan Mazur

Suzan,

You open your latest article, Diebold and the Mormon Mason Handshake with the following statement:

“Diebold, the Ohio computer election systems manufacturer, remains under a cloud regarding irregularities in its tabulation of the 2004 US presidential vote, which led to the reinstalling of George W. Bush. So it may be productive to explore what appears to be a significant Diebold-Mormon link, as well as observe how the Mormons are jockeying for a major political role in America.”

Unless one has a predetermined anger toward the LDS Church, exploring any link between Diebold and the LDS Church would not even be a blip on the radar screen of curiosity. This paragraph would have more accurately been written “Because I can’t stand the LDS Church and all it represents, let’s see if we can find some way to implicate it in the Diebold voting systems irregularities.”

Referencing your article “Bush and the Mormons” you make a claim that there are 11 million Mormons, and that Mormons tend to vote republican, and that some how, this voting block pushed the win to the Bush team. First, of that 11 million (now exceeding 12 million) only 5 million are living in the US. Discount from that about 67 percent who are not active in the church, and you have a remainder of 1.7 million. Take from that the number who are under the age of 18, or about 1/3rd, and you have approximately 578,000 adult members of voting age. If trends hold true in the Church as they do out of the church, and in the last election turnout was 64 percent according to the US Census Bureau, only 370,000 Mormons voted in the last election. Of those, about 20 percent will live in Utah, which historically votes Republican regardless the candidate, so we can largely disregard them. Population-wise, California has the next largest population of LDS members, and California virtually always votes Democratic, so it can also be tossed out. Idaho and Arizona hold the next largest membership by population, both of which are typically republican, but of little consequence in the Electoral College. The remainder of the LDS membership resides in the balance of the 46 remaining states, but with numbers so small they are inconsequential.

The conclusion can therefore be drawn that the LDS Church membership has very little to do with voting outcomes in presidential races. Nor does the LDS Church as an organization have anything to do with the outcome. The Church is very clear and very careful not to endorse any candidate for any position in government.

It may be true that a number of members of the LDS Church have taken it upon themselves to run for and hold political office, yes. Mormons have been encouraged to be patriotic defenders of the constitution, the U S Government, and in sustaining the law of the land, regardless their country of origin. Does this somehow equate to a diabolical scheme to take over? Hardly. No more so than the sectarian left of the intellectual elite.

Your second implication seems to try and tie Walden O’Dell, CEO of Diebold, to the LDS Church, and surreptitiously the LDS Church to any campaigning that O’Dell might have done on behalf of Bush. Your statement “The LDS church has made no fanfare about Diebold CEO Walden O'Dell being a "Saint".” implies that O’Dell is a member, but that the Church makes no point of making it a public issue. But then you try and excuse this statement with the follow up sentence that of course O’Dell’s serving of alcohol indicates that he is not LDS- A little too little too late.

You go on to tie a statement that O’Dell made regarding his campaign efforts in the state of Ohio, of his desire to “deliver its electoral votes to the president”, and the company he leads, Diebold, as somehow being in cahoots with each other. A cursory reading would lead one to believe that O’Dell would, as the CEO of Diebold, ensure that the voting in Ohio would be a lock for Bush. While many have written scathing reports on some conspiratorial connection, I don’t recall ever seeing any indictments handed up substantiating these claims.

Next, you make the statement “It would be surprising if, as an African-American, Blackwell were Mormon.” Not unlike your opening statement, this is a statement made from whole cloth, fabricated on the desire you have to make connection where none exists. You then use this straw man argument to bring Tom Murphy into the picture. Why? Not to indict the LDS Church or Diebold in any form of conspiracy, but to indict the Book of Mormon and the fact that for a period of time, blacks were not allowed to hold the priesthood in the Church!

You then go on to indict Gladys Knight as a “big tithe” for the Church. Again, nothing to do with Diebold and voting irregularities, just a good try at jabbing a fundamental doctrine of not only the Church, but of Christianity in general. I have noticed that tithing seems to be a focal point of the few articles I have read of yours. Why? Were you a one time contributor to the Church tithing fund, lost your way, and failed at some attempt to reclaim your monies? Why do you seem to care so much that I, and millions of other faithful members of the LDS Church freely give of our personal income to the Church?


Oh, I get it. Moving on we find the tie in. Diebold’s COO, Wesley Vance, is a member of the Church, a likely tithing payer, and no doubt steeped in the conspiracy of the voting irregularities. In your fertile mind, you must be seeing something like this- Vance, a member of the Church, gets marching orders from the Church to use his position with Diebold to buy Global Elections Systems, and use that new subsidiary to sew up the vote for Bush. After all, Bush and the Mormon Church, yada yada… Quite frankly, I am surprised that you didn’t somehow tie Vance’s untimely death to a cover up scheme hatched by J. W. Marriott. After all, Marriott once owned In-flight Services, and Vance died in a plane accident. Coincidence?

Then, to consider that of the 14,000 employees of Diebold, more than just Vance could be a member. Well, I work for a company of only 150 employees, and 3 of us are members. Not only that, but a number of the contractors we do business with are Mormon. Yet, I knew none of them prior to my hiring on, nor did it ever enter the conversation during my interview. Sure, of 14,000, it is likely that there are 1 or 2 that are members; a number equally proportionate to the number of members in Ohio at least. A conspiracy though?


We now jump clear across the country to Nevada. I am not sure the connection, but let’s see what we come up with.

First, you quote Denton and Morris as follows: ". . . the Mormon organization has a great deal in common with the Mafia . . . Strictly hierarchical. Great rewards for loyalty. Great rewards for keeping your word. They take care of their own."

What other organizations have such a common lot? How about Scoop.nz, for instance. If you are loyal, are you rewarded? If you keep your word, are you rewarded? In short, if you do as you are asked, and as you offer, you will be taken care of. Is Scoop.nz mafia-like? Virtually every employer I have ever worked for is the same. They take care of those who take care of them.

Somehow, however, you try and establish a link, or at least a common way of doing business, between the mafia, who delights in thievery, prostitution, gambling, murder, drugs, and the like, and the LDS Church, which delights in the exact opposite. What a shame that your hatred runs so deep as to be deceived like this.

You then go through a litany of Boston Mormons with money, such as Romney and Clark. You mention others, such as Pozen and the Johnsons, though nothing is mentioned as to their membership in the Church.

First, you make it seem as though having money is a crime punishable by death. Yes, there are prominent members of the LDS Church with money. So what? Does the name Teddy Kennedy or John Kerry mean anything? Both are substantially wealthy, both from Boston, both in politics, and both Catholic. So are you going to introduce the Catholic Conspiracy to take over government any time soon?

Next, let’s take a look at the picture you show. The caption under the picture states “Senate Investigation of Joseph Smith”. Your attempt here is to indict Joseph Smith, founder and the first president and prophet of the Church. However, a close reading of the caption within the picture indicates that it is Joseph F. Smith meeting with members of the senate. Joseph F. Smith, not Joseph Smith. Joseph F. Smith is the nephew of Joseph Smith, and son of Hyrum and Mary Smith. The least you could do is get your Smiths straight.

You state that the Church adopted the rites of Masonry. Nope, not so. You go on to say that Smith was gunned down while awaiting trial on polygamy. Nope, not so. You really should study your LDS history if you are going to speak with any measure of intelligence on the matter. However, I dare say that yours is not to get the facts straight, but merely to mislead the reader if you can into believing anything about the LDS Church but the truth.

As for Smith flashing the “Masonic distress signal” as he fell from the window, I must say that in my 46 years in the Church, this is the very first I have ever heard such a thing. Please, quote your source. By the way, he did not jump from the window, as you write. Rather, he took a musket ball which forced him out of the window. Minor technicality, I know.

Skipping over the imagined link between Steve Jonas and Abraham Jonas, and all of the rhetoric about Mormons and Masons, let’s move on to the subject of the temple. Again, mind you, I have no idea what this has to do with Diebold and Bush getting re-elected, but what the heck.

Having been through the temple ceremony personally, an experience I am certain you have not enjoyed, I can tell you that what you write is straight forward crap. Nothing in your writing, or your quoting, comes anywhere near describing the rites of the temple. But again, why let facts get in the way of a good story?

You write from the works of J.H. Beadle from a book he published in 1882. He claims that his sources were individuals who had actually passed through the ceremony. First, if one has been through the ceremony, one takes and oath to protect the knowledge one has gained. It is not one of secrecy, for anyone who wished to conform to the requirements of entrance to the temple may gain the same knowledge. However, the scruples of one who takes such an oath, only to then break that oath by divulging one’s knowledge, can hardly be trusted for what he might say.

Second, you recite that “Mormons all became masons…till they reached Nauvoo”. It is true that Masonry was practiced in Nauvoo. However, to my knowledge, masonry was unknown to the Church prior to their introduction to it by individuals in Illinois hoping to gain votes from the Mormons, thus offering them membership in masonry.


Taking another huge leap, you move back to the matter of tithing, making the following statement: “The financial grip of the LDS behemoth on America is profound. The church, which takes tithes from its members, no-questions-asked, established Zions Bancorp, for instance, in 1873.” The only question I have ever been asked by anyone regarding my payment of tithing is whether or not I declare that I pay a full tithe. No one has EVER usurped any power over me, demanding that I tithe, checking my pay stub to see that I pay in full, or any other form of coercion. Again, though, why let the truth stand in the way of a good story?

You somehow tie the Eccles family to the “mob’s bank”. Do you really, even for a nano-second, believe that a chairman of the Federal Reserve would go without any form of scrutiny, investigation, or punishment, if he had even the remotest ties to mafia money? Really?

You again quote Denton and Morris as saying that millions of dollars earned and tithed left Las Vegas every Monday in a private plane bound for the LDS treasury in Salt Lake City. Did you ever look into their source for confirmation of this? If you had, you would have realized how false the statement is on the face of it. First, all banking of “millions of dollars” would be done electronically, even in the 1950’s. Money would be deposited in one bank, and then transferred by wire to another. What a bogus statement. Besides, if the LDS Church is so diabolical, do you believe that they would be as stupid as to ship cash, as Denton and Morris want to claim? How absurd!

You write: “Directly or indirectly, the use of LDS (Latter-day Saints) church money or simply the funds of predominantly Mormon family and business depositors to finance Las Vegas gambling -- to say nothing of aid and stimulation for an international criminal network -- would have been a fateful revelation then and later.” Clever writing. This is like my saying that “if Scoop.nz ever found out that Suzan Mazur beats her children every night when she comes home from work, it would be a fateful revelation.” There is not a shred of evidence that it is true, but the mere stating of it raises questions in the minds of the weak.

As for the 8 men indicted in Arizona and Utah- They were actually indicted not for plural marriage, but for forced sexual conduct with minors. Again, facts….

While it is true that the LDS Church at one time had about 1 percent of its membership practicing plural marriage, it is no longer the case. The FLDS church to which you refer is a rogue organization that does not share membership or any other “ship” with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Really, Suzan, I wish you would just say what it is that makes you so angry with the Church. Perhaps you have been excommunicated, or a bad marriage to a man who is a member, or I don’t know what. But wouldn’t it be great therapy for you to write an article that is cohesive, coherent, and convincing of what your actual angst is toward the Church?

Regards,

Kelly Knight

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Mormon Answer Man is back...

Years ago, I took the opportunity to spend several months responding to questions and the like from non-Mormons and anti-Mormons. A thread on the "Times and Seasons" website reminded me of this, and I have decided to have another go at it. Quite frankly, the digging and searching, reading and pondering, really bolstered my testimony, increased my knowledge, and strengthened my resolve to be a faithful, and faith-full, Latter-day Saint.

So, with that said, I would welcome any and all questions regarding the gospel. If there is something in your personal scripture study that is bugging you, and you can't get the answers from your Sunday School class, or you have been asked by a non-member friend a question you simply don't know the answer to, or you are a non-member interested in the Church, knock yourself out. Virtually any question related to the Church or it's doctrine will be entertained. If I don't know the answer, or can't find the answer, I will point you to a methodology that may allow you to find it on your own.

Looking forward...

Kelly

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

FAIR, Lighthouse Ministry DON'T reach detente

Article Last Updated: 04/26/2005 12:51:12 AM

Ministry files suit over Web sitesLighthouse: The group says a pro-LDS foundation is infringing on its trademarks By Pamela Manson The Salt Lake Tribune

A Salt Lake City organization that is critical of the LDS Church filed suit Monday accusing a pro-Mormon foundation of trademark infringement and unfair competition. The suit by Utah Lighthouse Ministry Inc. accuses The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR) of registering 13 Internet domain names associated with UTLM, including those of founders Jerald and Sandra Tanner, to create confusion. The Tanners are former members and longtime critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while FAIR says it is "dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of LDS [Mormon] doctrine, belief and practice."

The alleged cybersquatting - the practice of registering or using Internet domain names with the intent of profiting from the good will associated with someone else's trademark - takes visitors looking for UTLM publications to a selection of hyperlinks to articles posted on FAIR's Web site instead, the suit contends. In addition, it says, these Internet sites "bear a remarkable resemblance of 'look and feel' to the UTLM Web site." The ministry's site is utlm.org; FAIR has been using the names fairlds.org and blacklds.org. The names in dispute include utahlighthouseministry.com, utahlighthouseministry.org, sandratanner.com and gerald tanner.com.

The suit, filed in U.S. Advertisement document.writeln(AAMB6); District Court, names as defendants FAIR, which has addresses in New York City and Mesa, Ariz.; FAIR president Scott Gordon of Davis, Calif.; Discovery Computing Inc. of Mesa, which provides Web services to FAIR; and Discovery officers Allen L. Wyatt and Debra M. Wyatt. The legal action seeks transfer to UTLM of the 13 domain names, which were registered in 2003 and 2004 by Allen Wyatt, and triple the unspecified monetary damages suffered by the ministry. Wyatt said he has not seen the suit, but contended that viewers could tell the difference between the FAIR and UTLM sites.

"There's no confusion as to whether it's her [Sandra Tanner's] organization or not," he said. "I just grabbed the names because they were available." However, he acknowledged that he disagrees with the Tanners' position and said taking the domain names is a valid free speech exercise.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Mormons, Gays reach detente...

This is what can happen when opposites come together. Good job and kudos’ to all involved.

Mormon, gay advocates compromise on Hawaii housing discrimination bill

Tara Godvin- THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

HONOLULU -- When local gay rights activists decided they needed to put through a law this year protecting the housing rights of gay and transsexual people, they looked for help from an unexpected source -- the Mormon church's Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

"They wanted to see if we could reach a compromise. And we thought that would be a great thing if we could do that," said Steve Hoag, who participated in the unprecedented negotiations as an attorney representing the church school.

The measure first introduced in 1998 passed the Legislature last week. It amends an existing law to include sexual orientation and gender identity among the criteria that can't be used as the basis for denying housing.

Another bill passed by lawmakers adds gender identity to a law banning discrimination in the work place.

While the bills still need to be reviewed by the administration, Gov. Linda Lingle has said in the past that she supports anything that reduces discrimination and is likely to support the bills, said her spokesman, Russell Pang.

BYU had consistently opposed the housing measure because it felt it could be used by residents of its dormitories to challenge the code of conduct signed by every student proscribing sexual activity outside marriage.

The result of the discussions between the advocates and BYU was an antidiscrimination law with a fairly narrow exemption for accommodations owned or operated by a religious institution or religiously affiliated higher education housing program.

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia already ban sexual orientation-based discrimination in housing, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

And it is not unusual for civil rights laws, including those that don't mention sexual orientation or gender identity, to exempt religious institutions.

What is different about Hawaii's proposed housing law is the dialogue that happened between gay rights groups and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Matt Forman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The Mormon church, along with the Roman Catholic church and some evangelical Protestant congregations, have led the opposition to same-sex marriage nationwide, including Hawaii.

Discussions on the topic have been heated for each side.
"That is what I think is the most remarkable part of the story -- not so much the outcome but that in fact ... there was a genuine attempt on both sides to reach out and have a genuine human dialogue. That is something that we rarely experience," Forman said.

It was the bill's sponsor, Rep. Blake Oshiro, D-Aiea-Halawa, who suggested that rights groups sit down with BYU, said Ken Miller, executive director of The Center, an advocacy group in Honolulu.

"And once we started to go through this process we realized, 'OK. It was valid, their concerns,"' said Miller, one of a core group of about six people who advocated for the bill.

Though in an ideal world no exemptions would ever be necessary, the current bill was something its champions decided they could live with, he said.

Testimony during last year's hearing on a similar bill was contentious, so sitting down this year to talk was a happy surprise for everyone, Hoag said.

"It was nice to bury the hatchet and to work together," the lawyer said of the process of devising language each side could accept.

Protecting the First Amendment, including the expression of one's religious beliefs, is what has held the United States together for 200 years, said Steve Baines, senior organizer for religious affairs with the First Amendment advocacy group People for the American Way.

The government should not force local houses of worship to accept gay and transgender issues, said Baines, a Baptist minister.

So the effort in Hawaii would seem to be something that should be encouraged elsewhere, he said.

"I'm not naive enough to believe that we can clear all hurdles with one state's example. But I would like to be able to think that other states and ... federal elected officials would be able to say, 'This is a way, a model of which we can move nondiscrimination legislation forward in our country," Baines said.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page D3.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Mason's Luck

This has nothing to do with anything LDS, but it gave me a good chuckle and I thought I would pass it along.

Subject: Accident Report Possibly the funniest story in a long while. This is a bricklayer's accident report, which was printed in the newsletter of the Australian equivalent of the Workers' Compensation board. This is a true story.
Had this guy died, he'd have received a Darwin Award for sure...
Dear Sir "I am writing in response to your request for additional information in Block 3 of the accident report form. I put "poor planning" as the cause of my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation and I trust the following details will be sufficient.

I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six story building. When I completed my work, I found that I had some bricks left over which, when weighed later were found to be slightly in excess of 500 lbs Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley, which was attached to the side of the building on the sixth floor. Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to ensure a slow descent of the bricks. You will note in Block 11 of the accident report form that I weigh 135 lbs. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building.

In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel which was now proceeding downward at an equal, impressive speed. This explained the fractured skull, minor abrasions and the broken collar bone, as listed in section 3 of the accident report form. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley. Fortunately by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope, in spite of beginning to experience pain.
At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Now devoid of the weight of the bricks, that barrel weighed approximately 50 lbs. I refer you again to my weight. As you can imagine, I began a rapid descent, down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, broken tooth and several lacerations of my legs and lower body. Here my luck began to change slightly. The encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of bricks and fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked. I am sorry to report, however, as I lay there on the pile of bricks, in pain, unable to move, I again lost my composure and presence of mind and let go of the rope and I lay there watching the empty barrel begin its journey back down onto me. This explains the two broken legs.

"I hope this answers your inquiry."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Jews, Mormons tackle 'proxy baptism'

From the Jerusalem Post:

Jewish and Mormon leaders avoided a potential crisis in relations after a meeting this week over the practice of proxy baptisms for deceased Jews. Although the meeting produced little in the way of practical results, participants from both sides told The Jerusalem Post that the meeting was deeply emotional and ultimately fruitful, with both sides coming away with a deeper understanding of the other.
Representatives of Holocaust survivor groups and Jewish genealogical societies have been at odds with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), the official name of the Mormon church, ever since the discovery over a decade ago of hundreds of thousands of Holocaust victims' names in the church's baptism database.
In the proxy baptisms, church members stand in for the deceased non-Mormons, a ritual the church says is required for the dead to reach heaven. Even beyond the grave, the church believes, individuals have the ability to choose their religion.
The Mormons call the ritual "a gift of love." But not everyone sees it that way.
Rabbi Ernest Michel, an Auschwitz survivor and the chairman of the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, has been the most outspoken critic of the practice and a leading member of delegations to the church.
In 1995, Michel and other Jewish leaders signed an agreement with the Mormon leadership which called for an immediate halt to unwanted proxy baptisms. After evidence was found in the church's massive International Genealogical Index that the baptisms for many Jews – including Anne Frank, David Ben-Gurion and Albert Einstein – continued, the agreement was reaffirmed in 2002.
However, recent evidence that thousands of Holocaust victims were still in the baptism lists reignited the controversy, bringing Michel and others to the church's headquarters in Salt Lake City for another meeting this week.
As a result of that meeting, the church has reaffirmed its commitment to the 1995 agreement, and vowed to enforce church president Gordon B. Hinckley's directive to members to limit their submissions for proxy baptisms to people in their own family lines. Also, the sides agreed to establish a joint oversight committee to be convened in roughly 60-90 days to explore reasons why the names keep popping up on the IGI list.
Gary Mokotoff, the past president of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies who will head the Jewish side of the joint commission, said that individual church members had managed to circumvent the current monitoring process by misspelling names.
"There's guaranteed to be a trickle going through the screen," he said, "but it's been very embarrassing for the Mormons."
Mike Otterson, director of media relations for the church, told the Post that the church was working on creating a mechanism to prevent "overzealous members" from violating the agreement.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson – a member of the church's Presidency of the Seventy – added that the church could not practice any sort of "unbaptism rite" to undo unwanted proxy baptisms, but he said that the church would "remove from public view any reminder that that was ever done in the past."
Throughout the past decade, Mormons have been wary of Jewish criticism because of their history of persecution at the hands of other Christian groups and American officials over their religious beliefs. Likewise, the Jewish groups that have complained about the posthumous baptisms have been extremely sensitive about the memory of their forefathers and their own history of religious persecution.
"Everyone walked into the meeting with such anxiety, with a feeling of being victimized by the other," said David Elcott, US director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, who served as a mediator for the meeting. "The Jews felt that the 1995 agreement was being ignored, and the Mormon church felt that it was being attacked and impugned for its beliefs."
The Mormons were also deeply concerned, Elcott said, "about the way the Jewish community politicizes issues, using political power to try to get our way."
Mormons are generally very supportive of Jews and Israel, a fact that Jewish leaders have recognized in their dealings with the church.
Mokotoff said he had gone to Salt Lake City to convey how important the issue was to Jews, and to make the point that "we won't allow it to simply go away." But he was impressed, he said, at the sincerity shown by the high-level Mormon delegates.
"Most Christians dismiss Mormons as heretics," said Elcott. "So what I tried to explain to them was that we had come there because we take them seriously. And because of that, this issue means something for us."
After the church leaders heard that, Elcott said, "then they took us seriously."
"Part of our meeting was to define understanding," said Christofferson, "not just to define consensus, but to understand.
"The fact that we're both minorities and that we both have experienced persecution... makes us more open to each other," added Otterson. "There's work to do yet, and we'll be continuing our talks. But I feel [our relationship] is on a sound footing."
"The whole reason we're in this," concluded Christofferson, "is because of the sensitivity we have for Jews."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Mormons, Jews reach detente

More dialogue on baptisms for the dead between Jews and Mormons. Come back and share your thoughts.