MORMONISM UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
Our premises as we examine Mormonism
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Stephen Stone, RenewAmerica President
March 21, 2013

In logic, the most important element is our premises. The premises of our reasoning determine the reliability of our conclusions — no matter how valid our facts or logic may otherwise be.

It's self-evident that a perfectly consistent argument can be completely erroneous if its premises are faulty or factually incorrect. We see this phenomenon all the time in the often agenda-driven assertions of institutional science. Circular arguments favoring Darwinism, population-growth hysteria, and so-called "global warming" are obvious examples.

We also see it in the most contentious of realms: politics and religion.

This brings us to our series on Mormonism under the Microscope, in which we take a close, no-holds-barred look at the Mormon church from a politically-significant, human rights perspective.

How valid are our premises?

What our premises are not

Contrary to what some may erroneously assume, my personal motivation and basis for placing Mormonism under a reasonably objective microscope do not stem from a desire to damage or defame the church. No matter how unflattering these articles' characterization of the church may be, my only concern has been to establish the truth about a culture and institution that are virtually inscrutable to outsiders.

Only those with extensive experience on the inside who are willing to stand back and examine the church for what it is and what it does — not what it claims — have much hope of forming accurate conclusions about this enigmatic, public relations-minded entity, at least conclusions that are worth sharing with others.

The reason for this is that the church has almost no literal, immutable doctrine. Its doctrine is whatever is fashionable among the hierarchy, as well as the membership, at any particular time, evolving largely as a result of outside influences.

As an example, whereas the church's public and internal policies 25 years ago were strongly opposed to any notion that homosexuality was acceptable on any scale, or in any manner, the church's pronouncements and programs today are clearly sympathetic to the undoctrinal notion that homosexuality is inborn (resulting from a "gay gene" that makes it inevitable in its possessor), not merely culturally induced, and thus today's growing army of militant homosexuals deserve wide tolerance as a legitimate lifestyle and political movement. (See here, here, here, here, and here.)

Of course, many other faiths today are similarly inconstant. But more than most religious traditions, Mormonism relies largely on an "unwritten order" in which the thoughts, beliefs, and perspectives of presiding authorities esteemed to speak for God outweigh the written Word of God. This leaves the church's institutional beliefs doctrinally unanchored — and all but incomprehensible.

Nor is the basis for our series on Mormonism one that suggests that I am — by definition — an ill-informed, ill-motivated "apostate" because I have criticized the church. Unlike many who take it upon themselves to expose the church's weaknesses, often due to some slight they've suffered or some disagreement they've had with church authorities, my own motivation has more valid origins. I am writing about the church's verifiable tendencies and trends solely because I have no alternative means of persuading the church to end its decade-long persecution of the work of RenewAmerica, persecution that has significantly hindered and harmed that work.

Were the church to have left RenewAmerica alone from the outset of its forming and thereafter in its lawful mission, we wouldn't be having this discussion. I would have no cause to publish the truth — as I understand it — about the church's overbearing and illegal activities and traditions.

I frankly don't care about the church enough to want to "defame," "expose," or otherwise hold it up to public scrutiny. I have more pressing things to do. The fact that the church continues its intrusive damage to RenewAmerica is sufficient reason to write the truth about the church until the church stops its incredibly controlling behavior toward RA and those who lead it.

This whole silly controversy began in August 2000 with a demand from local LDS leaders that I and my family drop our work for outspoken pro-life activist (and presidential candidate) Alan Keyes, just after we began the groundwork for what became RenewAmerica. We understandably declined to be bullied into compliance with such unlawful interference with our political rights.

From there, the church has never let up — as local leaders enlisted the support and active cooperation of high church officers, including the governing First Presidency, all of whom collaborated in punishing us for doing nothing contrary to church or American law.

I think anyone with half a brain and a heart with any decency would stand up to such un-American authoritarianism with all their might, as I have done — to the extent of my limited time.

Any competent, sympathetic lawyers, by the way, who happen to know the intricate ins and outs of the LDS church are certainly welcome to lend their expertise to this effort. We have no money, but the defendant in any envisioned lawsuit in this matter certainly does, reputedly a veritable fortune.

What our premises are

Upon the central premise that everything I have said above is true and verifiable, let me now identify additional vital premises (call them "biases" if you will) that undergird and guide our series on Mormonism.

I think any reasonable mind will find these premises — which are based on a lifetime of careful study, observation, and experience — entirely understandable and defensible.

Premise #1: The church's adopted canon is the only reliable standard for understanding official LDS doctrine. In a sense, the canon is the church, and everything taught or done in the church should conform to the canon, as the canon itself stipulates (see D&C 42:59-60).

Because things contrary to the canon are routinely misrepresented as legitimate church doctrine — both in and out of the church — nailing down exactly what the church is and believes has always been inordinately problematic, leading to unnecessary controversy and confusion.

In looking at the LDS church through our publicly-offered "microscope," my sole intent has been to compare the church with its official canon. I have not challenged or belittled the canon itself (although some parts are clearly nutty, even entirely out of character with the rest of the canon — for example, D&C 132, the self-contradictory "revelation" establishing polygamy).*

As long as the canon — which has been adopted by a vote of the membership and is therefore binding on them — exists, it reigns supreme in all matters of LDS doctrine.

Premise #2: LDS culture — as well as the institutional church, which unavoidably reflects the culture — is at odds with the LDS canon, as the canon makes clear (see D&C 84:54-60).

In most cases, it is the culture, not the canon-based doctrine, that is the most offensive or detrimental problem of the church. Most members themselves do not even know the doctrine, because they are illiterate regarding the canon due to over-reliance on church authorities to inform them. In turn, they pass this ignorance on to similarly-uninformed outsiders, resulting in the widely disseminated caricature known as "Mormonism."

Premise #3: The church cannot be allowed to violate U.S. law (or IRS rules) with impunity as it has regarding my family's political activism, which is focused on maintaining and strengthening RenewAmerica, and in turn protecting our nation. The church must be held accountable for overstepping its prerogatives as a tax-exempt nonprofit entity, for the good of our country and in the interest of preserving the fragile integrity of the American political system.

I will continue our Mormonism under the Microscope series until the church drops its longstanding interference with RenewAmerica and makes correction.

Premise #4: The church's definitive 1907 "Address to the World" provides a reliable, official public relations document (approved by unanimous vote of the membership) that can be used to gauge the church's institutional and cultural behavior.

On the basis of the Address's own words, a case can be made that the church is guilty of gross misrepresentation of its traditions and controlling nature, and could reasonably — by the standards set by the church in the Address — be termed a "tyranny and a menace" for its still-uncorrected tendencies and detrimental influence, particularly in regard to members' right to dissent, choose their employment, and engage in lawful political activism.

This is what the Address itself actually suggests, not me. (See here, here, and here.)

Premise #5: The church's claimed reverence for the God-ordained family is rendered meaningless by its actions toward those who put obedience to God above obedience to church leaders. This is evident in the church's universal requirement that to enter church "temples," or attend temple weddings of loved ones, members must vote in favor of all church authorities, local and general, during routine "sustainings," and cannot oppose even the most derelict presiding officers without sanction.

Such inherent contradiction of members' divine "franchise" under the canon's Law of Common Consent militates against any pretense by the church that it supports marriage and family, since the family in the church revolves around temple rituals (a fact in conflict with itself during the nearly 150 years black families were barred from temples).

Additionally, the church's disregard for the traditional family is evident in its increasingly gay-friendly posture in recent years — arguably a reflection of the pioneer-era polygamous culture of the early LDS church, which was widely considered an affront to family values.

Premise #6: The church's claim that it is God's "true" church must yield to the canon's clear emphasis on individual conversion to Christ as a prerequisite to "membership" in the body of Christ in a way acceptable to God. (See Ezra Taft Benson's discussion of this scriptural doctrine in "A Mighty Change of Heart," Oct. 1989 Ensign, cited here.)

In other words, no institution can save anyone, no matter how good it is (and the LDS church is far from "good," in my estimation). Only Christ can save, as each redeemed person becomes converted to Him, and not to any imperfect institution.

Premise #7: The church, at least by virtue of its own canon, may be able uniquely to claim God's "authority" to teach and minister, but all authority to act for God is conditioned on personal righteousness, not "office" or "calling," according to the canon. Even if church leaders and members can plausibly assert possession of God's "priesthood," the "rights" and prerogatives of such authority "are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven [that is, the operations of the Holy Ghost], and cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness" (see D&C 121:34-36).

The fact that this plain prerequisite for "exercising" priesthood was not included in the canon until 1876 — more that 45 years after the church's founding — explains why it has never entirely caught on in highly authoritarian LDS culture.

Today's LDS canon is reasonably clear: All authority to act for God is dependent on the possession of the Holy Ghost, no matter any claim to on-paper "authority"; and no person who professes to have "priesthood" is authorized by God to act, in any manner, by virtue of that delegated "authority" alone. (See D&C 121:41-46.)

Nephi, esteemed as a prophetic figure in the LDS canon, teaches,
    And the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I should speak these things, and deny them not. (1 Nephi 10:22, emphasis added)
That's the pattern for all righteous influence — "priesthood"-based or not — of the sort God will accept. All other human action is unauthorized by Him, never mind any possession of "priesthood."

Were such canon-based doctrine ever to predominate LDS culture, Mormonism's most egregious ills and errors would evaporate.

Premise #8: If the LDS church is truly "led" by Jesus Christ, as claimed by church leaders and members, then Jesus is a fallible man no better than LDS leaders themselves — in view of the folly that pervades the church, including repudiation by the whole membership of the "new covenant" that is Christ's gospel. (See D&C 84:54-60.)

The fact that the church denies — or at best ignores — the very doctrine of Christ taught by the Bible and the other books of the LDS canon is persuasive evidence, of course, that the church is not so led, that Jesus in fact has little influence on the church, and that He would not claim the church today. (For a discussion of this issue, click here.)

Other express and implied premises

A careful perusal of the articles published in our Mormonism under the Microscope series would reveal further vital premises upon which the series is based. The above premises should suffice for now, however, to explain "where we're coming from" in our series.

Are the premises valid? You be the judge. If indeed they hold up under open-minded, informed scrutiny, then the conclusions suggested by our articles deserve serious consideration. No question, the premises color and guide these conclusions — regardless the merit of our arguments and facts. The place to begin in evaluating our series is with our foundational assumptions, themselves the product of verifiable facts and testimony.

If our premises are fair and reasonable, our series might be as well.

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*Our main issue with Section 132 of the Doctrine & Covenants is that it appears to supplant the simple saving gospel of Jesus Christ — called the "new covenant" in scripture — with an adulterated version of that sacred ideal. Whereas the scriptural new covenant centers in conversion to Christ and the resultant rebirth made possible by His atonement, Section 132 redefines the gospel around polygamous premises and practices, in ways inconsistent with the Bible and the rest of the LDS canon.

Needless to say, such recasting of the gospel is undoctrinal.

This whole section of the D&C — which was added to the LDS canon in 1876, four decades after polygamy began — could be omitted from the canon and not missed. It's out of place as modern "scripture," and irreconcilably problematic on countless levels. In early church history, it fueled the already excessive authoritarianism of LDS culture (as men of high rank took the married wives of those with lesser authority), and evidently spawned such practices as demanding that all local church authorities take polygamous wives or be released from their positions. (See here and here.)


STEPHEN STONE, RA PRESIDENT — As the gay agenda rolls forth unchecked in fulfillment of its published goals and tactics — dragging Western Civilization down more predictably than the Muslim Brotherhood is likely ever to do — rational Americans need to come to grips with one of the most damnable frauds in the world's history: the belief that there is such a thing as "being gay."... (more)
© Stephen Stone

 


They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. —Isaiah 40:31