Sunday, October 29, 2006

Why Mormons should vote Democratic

This seems like a no-brainer to anybody who knows what's going on. "Social issues" voters vote for anti-gay, anti-choice policies, but these never come to pass. Instead they get

From The Salt Lake Tribune.

By Fred Voros
"Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of all major political parties," declared the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is certainly true of the Democratic Party.
Mormon descriptions of a just social order read like a Democratic manifesto. The Book of Mormon decries a society in which every man prospers according to his genius, and every man conquers according to his strength (Alma 30:17). It condemns those who ignore the plight of the hungry, needy, naked and sick (Mormon 8:39).
This brother's-keeper principle animates government programs pioneered by Democrats. In 1937, Franklin Delano Roosevelt saw "one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished" and acted. Read the rest.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why There (Almost) Certainly Is No God

Ol' Professor Dawkins is at it again. Unlike some people and organizations, he's willing to say "almost." From The Huffington Post.

And as he has been known to do recently, he makes mention to the His Holiness The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

America, founded in secularism as a beacon of eighteenth century enlightenment, is becoming the victim of religious politics, a circumstance that would have horrified the Founding Fathers. The political ascendancy today values embryonic cells over adult people. It obsesses about gay marriage, ahead of genuinely important issues that actually make a difference to the world. It gains crucial electoral support from a religious constituency whose grip on reality is so tenuous that they expect to be 'raptured' up to heaven, leaving their clothes as empty as their minds. More extreme specimens actually long for a world war, which they identify as the 'Armageddon' that is to presage the Second Coming. Read On, Christian Soldiers!!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Faith and fertility: Data show large families, religiosity connected

Religiousity=Big Family. Big surprise!! Bring those babies down, down, down from heaven.

From the Deseret Morning News.

Utah has long had a higher fertility rate than the rest of the United States, though it is declining along with the nation's. In 1960, Utah had a fertility rate of 4.3 compared to the nation's 3.1. In 2004, Utah had a fertility rate of 2.5 compared to the nation's 2.0, said Pamela Perlich, senior research economist at the University of Utah's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.
Perlich said Utah has followed the national trend of decreasing fertility rates and smaller households since the baby boom following World War II. Part of that trend has to do with people living longer, so there are more retirees in households of one or two people, she said.
"It's a downward slope, but Utah is above the nation," she said. "It does not just have to do with the fertility rate; it also has to do with people living longer."
However, unlike the nation, Utah still has a fertility rate above replacement levels, and it experienced an acceleration in the 1980s. Read on. . .
.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

New novel explores Mormonism and Schizophrenia

From Catalyst Magazine:

Mormon civilization and its schizophrenic discontents: A review of Brian Evanson's new novel, "The Open Curtain."
by Scott Abbott:

Evenson's new book (following "Altmann's Tongue," "The Din of Celestial Birds," "Father of Lies," "Contagion," "Dark Property" and "The Wavering Knife") is a rigorously realistic novel about a young man who comes to manifest many of the symptoms of classical schizophrenia. It is harrowing to be inside the mind of Rudd Theurer in the first part of the novel, "Rudd, Parsed," as he develops what must be hallucinations (neither he nor the reader is able definitively to distinguish between what is real and what he sees as real). It is doubly harrowing in the second part, "Lyndi, Adrift," to witness Rudd from the perspective of the young woman who takes him in, marries him in the LDS Temple, and then experiences his ritual-stoked delusions on her own body. And it is triply harrowing in "Hooper Amuck" to be again inside Rudd/ Hooper's mind as he tries repeatedly to make sense of his surroundings: "It took him a long moment to understand where he was. . . . It took him a moment to understand where he was. . . . For a moment he was not certain where he was" (sections 1 and 1 and 1 of part three). Read More. . .

Friday, October 20, 2006

Why can't the Native American Indians be connected to Israel?

Joseph Smith claimed that the Native American Indians were decendants of the Lamanites talked about in the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Mormon claims that the Lamanites came from Israel. So why is it that Native American Indian DNA don't have any connection with Israel or the Hebrews?

Simon Southerton addresses this very issue in his book called "Losing A Tribe."
Recently Simon Southerton responded to critics (mostly with connections to the LDS church) rebuttal of his book. His responses can be viewed at http://www.irr.org/MIT/southerton-response.html.

For more information about Simon Southerton and his book go to http://www.signaturebooks.com/Losing.htm.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The LDS Church responds to Globe article

From The National Journal. The LDS Church responds:

October 19, 2006

LDS Church Responds To Boston Globe, Romney

An official of the LDS Church sent us a response to this morning's Boston Globe article on Gov. Mitt Romney's meetings with church officials in Salt Lake City.

Michael Otterson, the LDS's director of media relations, also said that the church sent a letter to its stakes and wards last week reminding them of their obligation to be politically neutral. Otterson said the letter was a standard election-year communication.

In its edition of October 19, 2006, the Boston Globe ran two lengthy stories relating to Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and what it described as actions of some of his supporters in seeking financial and organizational help from members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In its reports, the Globe failed to make the significant distinction that Church members are found across the political spectrum and are entitled as citizens to support any candidate of their choice, from any party, and to act and vote accordingly and even to raise money if they wish. This is no way contravenes the institutional neutrality of the Church itself in party politics, and the Church's avoidance of anything that looks like an endorsement.

The Globe several times refers to "documents" which it never describes or explains. Despite the Church's request that the Globe be forthcoming and allow the Church to respond to issues raised in the documents, the Globe would not provide them. Nevertheless, the newspaper makes frequent references to these non-attributed documents as the source for its stories.

In its communications with the Globe, the Church public affairs office emphasized these points:

The First Presidency of the Church has no connection or involvement whatever with the campaign or activities of any politician or candidate.

A meeting in the office of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Council of Twelve and three supporters of Governor Romney was a routine response of a Church leader to a request for a courtesy visit, and not a meeting to decide fund-raising tactics for a candidate. There had been no prior discussion of an agenda. It should be noted that there is a continual stream of visitors to Church headquarters. Church leaders hold many courtesy visits with representatives of different parts of the community.

In the meeting in question, Elder Holland reiterated the well-known Church policy of party political neutrality. (That policy has again been reiterated as recently as today, following the Globe article).

Both the Church and Brigham Young University act under strict guidelines of remaining neutral in party political matters. A letter sent by leaders of the BYU Management Society was counter to these guidelines and was promptly dealt with by the university when it became known. This matter had already been corrected before the Boston Globe began its inquiries with the Church and Brigham Young University.

The Church goes to considerable lengths to emphasize to its members the institutional neutrality of the Church on partisan matters, including sending out a letter to be read from every pulpit before elections.

Party-political neutrality does not preclude the Church from speaking out as it feels necessary on public issues, such as pornography and gambling, or from expressing a view on such topics as same-gender marriage.

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IRS goes after religions who endorse candidates

From The Boston Globe:

IRS officials stepping up enforcement


Alarmed by an increase in political activity by religious organizations, the IRS pledged earlier this year to crack down on violators.

The agency issued a memo in February warning that churches and other tax-exempt organizations ``are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office."'

The agency says such organizations risk losing tax-exempt status if they endorse candidates, distribute statements for or against candidates, raise funds for or donate to candidates, or become involved in any activity that would either be supportive or opposed to a candidate. They are also prohibited from allowing a candidate to use their assets or facilities, if other candidates are not given the same opportunity.

The IRS said it discovered a surprising level of political activity among churches and other tax-exempt organizations in the 2004 elections. Out of 82 investigations of tax-exempt organizations completed by February, the IRS found political violations in 59 cases. In 56 cases, the organizations were issued warning letters or ordered to pay taxes. In three cases, they were stripped of their tax-exempt status. In 18 cases, no violation was found, and in five cases, violations not related to politics were discovered, the agency said.

``While the vast majority of charities and churches do not engage in politicking, an increasing number did take part in prohibited activities in the 2004 election cycle," IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson said in a June statement. ``The rule against political campaign intervention by charities and churches is long established. We are stepping up our efforts to enforce it."

Mormons, like individuals in many religions, have a long history of political activity. Joseph Smith, who founded what is formally known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ran for president in 1844. But the Mormon church espouses a policy of political neutrality, as a way to protect its core mission, to spread the Gospel, from the vagaries of politics.

This year, the church reaffirmed its neutrality in a statement released by the church's top three leaders, a group known collectively as the First Presidency, which they asked to be read aloud in all congregations in the United States.

``In this election year Church members are again reminded to exercise their right to study the issues and candidates, and then vote for those they believe will most nearly carry out their ideas of good government," the statement says. ``While affirming its constitutional right of expression on political and social issues, the Church reaffirms its long-standing policy of neutrality and does not endorse candidates for political office. Church facilities and membership data are not to be used for political purposes."

The church has been active, however, in high-profile social issues. The IRS prohibition only affects advocacy on behalf of particular politicians or political causes.

In the 1970s, the church worked to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, proposed to guarantee equal rights for women. The church's current president and prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, then an apostle in the church, advocated keeping the church's role covert, issuing a statement saying Mormon-led groups working to defeat the amendment ``should not use LDS in title of organizations," D. Michael Quinn, a former BYU history professor and a specialist on Mormonism, wrote in a 2005 anthology on Utah politics.

In recent years, Mormon leaders have advocated for bans on gay marriage and fought efforts to expand gambling.

Prominent politicians who are Mormons include Senate minority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, and Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah.

James E. Faust, a member of the First Presidency, was asked at a commemoration event in March 2005 whether the country was ready to elect a Mormon president. He answered by pointing out that John F. Kennedy won in 1960 despite prevalent anti-Catholic sentiment at the time.

``But that day came," Faust said. ``I expect that day will come for a Mormon."


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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Mo's Contribute to Booming Birthrate

Who whoulda thought? This from the Daily Herald:

WELCOME TO USA: Pop. 300 million

Sometime this week, most likely today, the 300 millionth person will enter the United States. It's not known if it will be by birth or immigration, legal or illegal. With its high birth rate, low death rate and growing immigrant population, Utah County is a near-perfect snapshot of what makes our country grow and the impacts we face because of it. -- Daily Herald staff

The rising birthrate

There's a reason land keeps disappearing in Utah County. Consider this: In 2005, 11,295 babies were born in Utah. In the same time, 1,716 people died, according to the Utah Department of Health's 2005 annual report. That's less than one-sixth of the number of births. Statewide, 51,301 babies were born and 13,120 people died, a difference of almost four to one. Read On

Utah Repubs Side with Rapist Fathers

Again, self-proclaimed conservatives talk the talk about family values and protecting children, but in this piece by Joshua Zeitz on Alternet where lots of members of the GOP (Greedy Old Perverts) and a few spineless and/or heartless Dems voted to protect fathers who rape their underage daughters.

Our two ultra right-wing reps from Utah, Chris Cannon, and (former teacher) Rob Bishop sided with the rapist fathers.

245 Votes Against Protecting Children

If Democrats are looking to make hay of the Foley fiasco, they needn't look too far. While House Republicans talk a good game about protecting children, last year a whopping 94 percent of them cast a despicable vote to legally empower fathers who rape their underage daughters. Read On

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Are Evangelicals (and other conservative religious people such as Mormons) Over?

As a post-Mormon, I always scratched my head at why religious people have allowed themselves to be duped into carrying water for a politcal party that it so hostile towards real Christian values (taking care of widows/orphans, feeding the poor, turning the other cheek, etc.) Now they are "coming out of the closet", and we see the GOP (Greedy Old Perverts) for who they really are.

From Alternet

Are Evangelicals Over?

By Alan Wolfe, Comment Is Free
Posted on October 17, 2006, Printed on October 17, 2006
http://www.alternet.org/story/43092/

American elections in which no president is chosen are usually hum-drum affairs interesting only to policy wonks. Not 2006. Though not on any ballot, the question voters will be answering is: Has the religious right peaked?

Barring some miracle, it has. I am just back from a two-day visit to Regent University, founded by the evangelist Pat Robertson, a key figure in the religious right. "What you need to understand," a Robertson supporter told me, "is that Pat opposed the war in Iraq from the start." I responded that according to the Lancet, some 600,000 Iraqis have died since the war began. If Robertson had publicly opposed the war, I told them, his influential voice might have spared those lives. "But," one of them answered back, "Pat is a Republican who would not openly oppose the president." Read on

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Monday, October 16, 2006

LDS Church: First Security Building Must Go

More concerning the new SLC downtown:

LDS Church: First Security Building Must Go

SALT LAKE CITY Amid cries for its preservation, the LDS church says a historic building cannot be incorporated into the church’s plan to renovate several downtown blocks.

The historic First Security building’s design makes it difficult to modernize and is not suitable for office or residential use, church spokesman Dale Bills said Wednesday.

“Architects, engineers and planners on our redevelopment team have spent 24 months carefully evaluating all options for this building,” Bills said. “Even after a seismic retrofit costing tens of millions of dollars, the building still could not adequately accommodate office or residential tenants in a competitive downtown marketplace. The high costs of restoration could not be recouped.”

On Oct. 3, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced its plans to renovate several downtown blocks it owns into the City Creek Center – a development with office, residential, retail and open space.

As part of the $1 billion plan, the church said some downtown landmarks including the building, also known as the Deseret Building, would have to go.

Kirk Huffaker of the Utah Heritage Foundation acknowledged the obstacles the church says stand in the way of preserving the building, but said he hopes some agreement can be reached to spare it.

Huffaker said his group is studying how buildings nationwide have overcome functionality issues and expects to offer alternatives to demolition before the Planning Commission and church planners.

City permits authorizing the demolition of a building do not consider a building’s historic status unless it is on the city’s historic registry. The First Security building is not.

The building has stood at the corner of 100 South and Main Street in Salt Lake City since 1919.

Church officials have previously said they might be able to save just the building’s facade, which is adorned with lions’ heads, elaborate Indian and buffalo head medallions and classical columns.

Panel of moms describes LDS woes

Wow! This in the church's own Deseret Morning News:

Panel of moms describes LDS woes

Those who aren't 'ideal' aren't supported, they say

By Carrie A. Moore
Deseret Morning News

Though LDS doctrine and rhetoric exalt the role of mothers, the day-to-day reality for many is that they don't find support within the faith unless they live the "ideal" of staying home with their children, a panel of mothers said.
Some see the disconnect as deliberate, while others view it as more a lack of localized adaptation within church programs, according to panelists at the annual Mormon Women's Forum. They addressed the topic "How Well Does the LDS Church Support Real Mothers," at the University of Utah on Saturday.
The four panelists were all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, professional women with children, whose wide variety of life experience underscored their various perspectives on the issue.
Jennifer Moore, a senior attorney with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Salt Lake City, said she enjoyed married life within the LDS Church while living in New York City — until her husband acknowledged he is gay.
She was newly pregnant, and the revelation — and subsequent futile prayers for his change of orientation — shattered her world, she said. As a result of dealing with life as a single mother, she said she believes the church supports mothers, "but not all mothers."
After she and her husband had felt pressured by fellow members to have children, she was further devastated when her stake president at the time suggested she consider putting their child up for adoption.
She said she felt support in her desire to remarry, but the church was of no help "for single parents trying to find a new spouse," she said, adding that she felt so marginalized as a single mother that it became easier to go to the park on Sunday than to attend church.
She finally married a man who didn't know anything about Utah or Latter-day Saints and said she is frustrated by the attitude that women must simply depend on their husbands for financial support. She was able to provide for her family alone, but noted many LDS women who find themselves single parents don't have that option because they've been encouraged to stay at home with their children.
Such women "are blessed" by support and acceptance, "but the majority who must hold real wage-earning jobs" are treated as less than ideal.
Kristy Finlayson, a mother of three, said she grew up with the LDS ideal of being a stay-at-home mother but found herself asking questions about why she couldn't exercise authority to bless her children or her friends. The concept of a heavenly mother being intimately involved with her children is one she said is subdued and largely ignored in LDS doctrine and practice.
"There's a disparity between what church leaders say about motherhood and any identity of mother in heaven," she said.
When she told her husband she planned to give their daughter a mother's blessing following her baptism, he told her she had gone too far.
The church teaches that a mother's constant care and nurturing is critical to her children's development and that there is no acceptable surrogate for a mother. Yet by failing to talk about a heavenly mother, the church fails to give women the same kind of spiritual identity that talking about a Heavenly Father gives to men, she said.
"Until we find her definition, we will struggle to define ourselves," she said.
Sarah Ray Allred is working to balance motherhood with two small children along with post-doctoral work in neurobiology. She said while top church leaders laud motherhood as sacred, the practicality of daily life at home, within her ward and with her LDS friends is where the faith's talk of support for mothers either does or doesn't happen.
She sees that daily interaction and efforts in some wards to truly meet the needs of mothers with a variety of different special interest groups, like book clubs, as the key to finding support for motherhood, despite difference in age, employment and marital status.
Her ward in Seattle was full of such activity while a subsequent ward in Washington, D.C., offered no formal opportunities for such supporting activities outside the weekly Relief Society meetings.
When she and two other young mothers decided to meet at the church weekly because their apartments were too small, the bishop nixed the arrangement because a priesthood leader couldn't be present during their meetings.
Some LDS institute programs are "mother-friendly" because they help facilitate child care, while others are just the opposite, she said. Consequently, women need to look beyond formal church programs and reach out to others with the same interest and needs.
Marguerite Driessen, a mother of five who resigned as a law professor at Brigham Young University in August, said she believes the core of the gospel and LDS theology outpace the ability of church members to truly live by its principles when it comes to diversity, non-traditional roles and unknowns like a heavenly mother.
As a black woman working full time at an LDS Church-owned university, she found a discrepancy in practice between what the church teaches about developing oneself personally and motherhood being a woman's most important responsibility.
Though the school seeks a diverse faculty, "I was told if I wanted to make tenure that I would have to demonstrate that I had reliable child care," she said. "In my mind, that's telling me I need to choose between being a law professor and being a mother, and that was an easy choice."
She's now a full-time mother and wonders how long it will take for such attitudes to shift.
She's heard all kinds of theories about why blacks were denied the priesthood until 1978, but after much research has come to believe those explanations were simply the inventions of men uncomfortable with changing the status quo. That's the price people have always paid for living in a fallen world, she said.
"I can either choose to talk about all the progress in race relations, or about the stuff I'm still having to deal with," she said. "It's the same thing, both in the church and without."

Saturday, October 14, 2006

LDS Church reveals plan for Downtown SLC takeover

Recently, the LDS Church revealed their $1 billion plan to revamp downtown SLC. Most people in the local media seem to be OK with the Church extending its power in Salt Lake City, where active Mormons are now in the minority. Some, however, question the move, and rightly so. See the following article by Tom Goldsmith, minister of the Salt Lake First Unitarian Church:

Having moved the early part of summer I finally called the county
office to learn where I’m supposed to go vote. After making sure she had
my new address correctly identified, the clerk said: “You’ll be voting at
the Zion um…Zion um…” I broke in on her awkward silence to help
her out, try to fill in the blank, and asked: “Bank? I’m voting at a bank?”
“No” she replied, “it’s a church. But I’m not sure I’m going to pronounce
it right.” I thought this was going to be interesting and I should leave her
alone in her articulation struggles. Finally she said, “I think it’s the
Zion Lutheran Church.” I thanked her and commended her on
pronouncing Lutheran correctly.

This harmless incident lasted less than a minute and obviously
was just an isolated case of someone having trouble recognizing
another kind of religion. She was perfectly lovely and cordial
and gave it her best, and I probably would have enjoyed lunch
with her sometime at The Lion House. We can all tell similar
stories, bearing witness to the unusual religious orientations of
the city we call home.

Equally lovely and nice was last week’s unveiling of the church’s
plan for downtown. The model for redesigning twenty acres in
the heart of downtown life, abutting Temple Square from the
south, was presented by Bishop Burton to the LDS City Council
members to the sound of massive approval. The estimated $1
billion price tag furthered the appreciation since the church was
going to pay for it themselves forcing a feeling of indebtedness
to the ecclesiastical caretakers of our city.

Newspapers reported and commentators commented, and
nowhere did I glean a hint of discomfort that religious authorities
from one faith alone designed urban space for an increasingly
diverse population. Everyone addressed the model while no one
questioned the premise of a religious organization dictating the
future look and feel of Salt Lake which ostensibly prides itself as
an international city. What’s wrong with this picture?
I have no intention of exacerbating the religious divide; in fact I
am working diligently to repair it. But the dominant church may
want to ask what provokes a divide in the first place. Yes they
own the real estate, but are we once again facing the issue of
property rights vs. freedom of speech? The church believes that
since it owns the property it can therefore dictate the behavior and
the tenor of an urban environment. Regardless how graciously
the LDS leadership discloses their imprint on the city, the divide
results from an egregious unbalance of power. Mormon design
and aesthetics do not reflect the sensibilities of the majority non-
Mormon population. And yet we stand helplessly by because
church pioneers from 160 years ago got here first and church
leaders today still insist it’s their city alone, even as we move
well into the 21st century. That’s where questions about the
divide need to begin.
By the church’s own admission, the new model is intended to
serve as a buffer for Temple Square. Against whom, I wonder…
those Lutherans? The design calls for an extension of the
tranquility created by the Main Street Plaza. But why assume that
it’s tranquility we seek downtown? Tearing down Hotel Utah for
the Joseph Smith Memorial Building signaled the beginning of
an ill-conceived future for downtown. Turning a bustling Main
Street into a pretty park with reflecting pool and flowers signaled
a wrong turn for any thriving urban life.
The plan for downtown resembles a set design for Our Town. A
tranquil setting with faux creek hardly increases my pulse rate.
It’s nice that a supermarket is going in, but I had hoped for Whole
Foods rather than Harmons. Whatever happened to House of
Blues coming to downtown? Is there any low and middle income
housing? Imagine creating a downtown from a clean slate with
no stunning architecture, no galleries, no pubs, no effort to attract
a nightlife or cultural life or anything or anyone that doesn’t
resemble calm. I’d feel out of place if I wore black.
Any genuine effort to tackle the religious divide must begin with
the plans for downtown. And we’ll need to get beyond nice and
cordial. It’s all about wielding power, even when the face of
power is smiling.