Introduction to A Mormon Story
November 11, 2012
Stephen Stone, RA President

Having presented, in excerpt form, all currently-written chapters of A Mormon Story (see the list below), we now include a final excerpt that consists of the book's three-part introduction.

These introductory elements were originally prepared after the main body was written, to provide an overview and a context for the rest of the book. We thought we'd save these introductory elements for last in our series, so the main chapters would stand on their own merits as excerpts.

Let's now consider what the book signifies, as discussed in these three introductory sections.

Read on.

Introduction
Most Americans would likely be appalled to learn that a powerful, wealthy American-based church — one "absolutely prohibited" under IRS rules from interfering with the American political process, given its tax-exempt status — had repeatedly intimidated a politically-active family for refusing to quit working for national conservative leader Alan Keyes, and then excommunicated the father for rejecting the church's demands.

But that's exactly what happened to the Stephen Stone family — in the course of a decade-long ordeal that reveals serious disregard for the American political system by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church).

This is the shocking story of the family's unconscionable persecution at the hands of church leaders, high and low.

It reveals a culture, and institution, inordinately concerned with appearance above reality — arguably due to the church's desire to make itself more acceptable in view of its early practice of polygamy, its history of racism, its seeming elitism, and its unique claims regarding doctrine — with the result that the church is inclined to gloss over its internal mistakes as it concentrates on managing its public image.

The church is so mindful of its resultant marketing scheme that no one seems to be minding the store, one might say, and things are literally not what they appear.

Among other things, the church's inordinate preoccupation with appearance over reality has led the church to feign reverence for the principle of self-governance while treating lightly the God-given rights of its own people, as our narrative suggests, and thus devalue the protection of those rights demanded by its own official rules and principles.

Such institutional behavior defies the words of Jesus:
    If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32)
This simple prescription for liberty would disallow any manipulation of the individual or collective mind by Christ's professed representatives for any intended purpose, no matter how seemingly noble or justifiable. It would also require any ecclesiastical entity to tell the whole truth about itself and its actions — nothing withheld from an inquiring public — no matter any "higher" requirement to withhold such information from the citizenry in the name of protecting God, or His children, from dissemination of the absolute truth.

Pretense in pursuit of religious objectives is anathema to God, of course, and is to be condemned by all who love Him and His word.

We're not talking here about the LDS church's need to put a positive or cheerful face on uncomfortable facts, as the church is entitled to do. All persons and institutions have a right to present an upbeat image that conforms with their "better self."

Unfortunately, the LDS church crosses the line of propriety and basic integrity, and seeks to control the response of members and observers by misrepresenting its virtues and covering its serious errors. That's not being true to Christ, His saving doctrine, or His laws.

The result is confusion and subservience, not liberty, as our story makes obvious.

Authoritarian disregard for the rule of law

Which leads us to an even more troubling fact revealed by the following account of the church's dealings with a dedicated political family: the church's wholesale disregard for the rule of law, itself — including not only purportedly divine law, but civic.

While it officially claims to honor the laws of God and the laws of the American republic, in reality its behavior displays a disturbing rejection of both such laws.

Routinely, the church's leadership will issue a public statement or policy regarding what it claims to do, allow, sanction, or believe — and then ignore, in practice, that assurance by its verifiable actions.

The church's decade-long persecution of the Stone family underscores this deeply entrenched tendency toward self-contradiction with disturbing clarity.

Ensuring such paradoxical behavior is the one weakness of the church that breeds it more than any other — a tendency wholly at odds with its professed purpose and mission: the church's extreme authoritarianism, starkly revealed by our story of officially-sanctioned mischief.

Everything in the institutional church — every official public announcement, every culturally-accepted precept, every dominating presumption and value — is centered in the need to obey human authority above the authority of God.

This misplaced emphasis begins with virtual worship of high church leaders as demigods, as we will illustrate, and trickles down to local leaders who see themselves as the chosen "prophet" for their "ward" or "stake" (areas of local jurisdiction).

On the undoctrinal premise that all church leaders are "called of God," members are taught to obey their leaders because they automatically speak for God by virtue of their calling — another undoctrinal notion. Both premises — neither of which can be found in the church's canon of scripture — are the undoing of the church, leading it unavoidably away from undiluted focus on Christ, and His saving laws and doctrines, to undue reliance on church authorities.

Only Christ can save

Since Christ — the Son of God — died for the sins of all, He alone has the right and authority to set the terms of salvation, all of which center in obedience and subjection to Him alone.

Since no human being — LDS church leaders included — has given his life for the sins of the world, in a transcendent sacrifice by a sinless soul, no human authority of any kind, called of God or not, can rightfully set the terms of salvation, or otherwise act in Christ's stead as an "authority." (See Matt. 20:25-28.)

Such reliance on man — no matter the issue at hand — is a form of idolatry, by definition. In Mormon scripture, it is nothing short of "priestcraft." (See 2 Ne. 26:23-24, 29-30, and 28:31, which forbid such authoritarianism.)

It is reminiscent of the behavior of the errant children of Israel in Exodus 20, right after Moses came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments. In verses 18 through 20, we read:
    And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.

    And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

    And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: For God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. (emphasis added)
Similarly, "Mormons" — who claim to have a "living prophet," and other leaders called of God — are reticent to follow God directly, and instead focus on following their leaders; they tend to worship not the saving message of Christ, but the messenger.

Such is the backdrop for the account that follows.

Meet the Stones
Stephen Stone is the President and Editor of RenewAmerica — a conservative media site dedicated to restoring respect for America's founding principles. This purpose includes not only respect for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but for the Creator and His laws.

From the time he was young, Stephen has considered himself a "born-again Christian," having experienced — he believes — what the scriptures call the "baptism [of] the Holy Ghost" (see Matt. 3:11 and Acts 1:4-5, 8 and 2:1-47). This conversion was very real to him, and unshakable. Since then, he has devoted his life to understanding the mind and will of God through studying His Word and seeking His Spirit, and has sought to overcome his frailties through the sanctification of the Spirit, and thereby conform more fully to the character of Christ.

As a result, Steve has become somewhat of a religious philosopher — one committed to defining the truth of any subject (as well as applying it) by the clear standards of God's Word.

His religious testimony can be found in "What does it mean to be converted to Jesus Christ?", a position statement he wrote for RenewAmerica.

Christ alone

Raised a member of the LDS church, Steve has long remained independent of the norms and traditions of the church — choosing instead to center his beliefs in an objective study of the scriptures. He therefore believes — as the Bible teaches — that salvation comes through relying alone on Jesus Christ, no matter one's professed religious affiliation.

God-centered education

Stephen's deeply-held faith in Christ led him years ago to become a strong advocate of moral conservatism, and an equally avid opponent of all forms and degrees of humanistic socialism. As an outgrowth of this commitment, he and his wife of 41 years, DeeAnn, homeschooled all eight of their children from birth to adulthood — through nurturing continual learning and dependence on God, utilizing an instructional approach Steve developed while working in tutorial education at Brigham Young University in the 1970's and 80's, where his immediate superior told him privately he was the school's foremost authority on tutorial education.

On the family's wall at home was the maxim "What is education? Self-education" — and all were taught they had a divine duty to learn from every opportunity they encountered and then share what they learned with others. Each child was taught to be responsible to help teach the next youngest.

To the Stones, there was no practical difference between the process of education and the religious pursuit of what the scriptures call "eternal life" — both centering in understanding God's truths and living them through faith in Him.

As part of his family's educational efforts, Steve has devoted countless hours to helping homeschool families who were threatened with legal action by overzealous local or state education officials, and as a result, he has become expert in Utah education law. When Utah's compulsory education statute was undergoing revision a number of years ago, he wrote vital language that was adopted by the legislature.

As pioneers in Utah's home education movement, Steve and DeeAnn presided early on over their county's homeschooling organization. During that time, they joined hands with a family who headed a similar organization in Salt Lake City and formed the basis of what became the Utah Home Education Association.

Later, Steve was asked to take the reins of an innovative private school called Family-Centered Learning, which he directed for many years.

Political activism

The family's homeschooling endeavors, and Steve's efforts to protect Utah families' rights under the law, led the Stones to become increasingly immersed in political activism — for which they found themselves well suited, and effective.

Their notable activities in the political arena include the following:
  • In 1979, Steve testified before a joint committee of the legislature and helped persuade them to drop proposed restrictions on homeschooling families and private schools — citing Supreme Court language that declared the interest of the state in the education of children must yield to the right of parents to choose alternatives to public instruction.

  • A few years later, he extemporaneously debated the state's governor — during a buffet luncheon — over the inadvisability of the governor's plan to raise taxes for public education by the largest increase in state history. Still working in tutorial education at BYU at the time, he apprised the governor of the cost-effectiveness of the self-instructional learning model he was using at BYU.

  • In the late 80's, Steve led the fight to overturn an oppressive 40-acre zoning requirement in his county — persuading public officials to adopt a 5-acre zone in the county's unincorporated area that gave farmers reasonable control of their property and resulted in the creation of a fast-growing major city called Eagle Mountain (the third largest in the state based on land area).

  • During much of the next decade, Steve spent considerable energy successfully blocking efforts by the Planning Commission to halt construction in the unincorporated county through unrealistic development standards. He also persuaded county officials to add explicit language to the first page of its General Plan specifically guaranteeing the right of private property.

  • Shortly after the above zone change, Steve and a colleague wrote the initial brochure for a newcomer to politics who was seeking a vacant seat on the County Commission. That candidate (who won, by the way, and who over the years has become a close friend in the political arena) is now the governor of Utah.

  • Steve and daughter Stefani have both served on the state GOP's Central Committee and, along with DeeAnn, been delegates several times to county and state conventions.

  • During the 2000 presidential election, Steve and his family ran the Utah campaign of Alan Keyes, and after helping Keyes gain his best showing of the GOP primaries — 21.3 percent in Utah — joined the candidate's national staff. Steve and Stefani represented Keyes at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia that year.

  • Steve founded RenewAmerica in 2002 to lend support to Keyes' live MSNBC-TV show Alan Keyes Is Making Sense — and RenewAmerica.com has since grown to over a hundred contributing writers and been named by the New York Times Company's About.com2 as one of the top ten conservative political websites in the U.S.

  • Stefani was serving as chair of the Utah Young Republicans when RenewAmerica was launched, and in that position was also a member of the state GOP's Executive Committee. Soon afterward, she ran for Vice Chair of the state party, and her candidacy helped pave the way for a strong conservative associate to win over the establishment favorite under new "instant runoff" rules.

  • The Stone family did the website for conservative congressional candidate John Swallow in 2002 — who lost to the Democrat incumbent by only 1604 votes, after the Stones brought Alan Keyes to stump for Swallow in the final days of the campaign, succeeding in exposing in the media the incumbent's pro-abortion voting record in Congress.

  • From 2002 to 2004, the family ran a gubernatorial campaign for a conservative candidate who lost to eventual winner Jon Huntsman, Jr., at the state convention.

  • In an ironic twist, since the Stones' gubernatorial candidate had limited funds, much of their work on the campaign was counted as "in kind" donation under state rules. When their candidate submitted his campaign's financial report to election officials, the Stones were therefore listed as having donated over $130,000 to the campaign (after deducting what the candidate paid them). As a result, Steve was included among the top ten political contributors in Utah that election — right behind billionaire donor Jon Huntsman, Sr.

  • In 2004, the Stones created Alan Keyes' website (and did extensive writing and research) when Keyes ran against Barack Obama for the U.S. Senate from Illinois that year. This gave them a close-up view of the notorious "Chicago political machine" that ensured Keyes received only 27% of the vote in a state where even Republican Party leaders rejected his pro-life, pro-family emphasis.

  • In 2005, the Stones designed and ran the website of California congressional candidate and Minuteman co-founder Jim Gilchrist, during a special off-year election in Orange County.

  • In 2007 and 2008, Steve was CEO of Keyes' 2008 presidential committee — overseeing such things as the campaign's finances, logistics, organizing, and website. Members of the family traveled with Keyes throughout the country; worked endlessly to get him on state ballots; handled correspondence and media inquiries; helped mobilize supporters; and disbursed the campaign's funds.

  • In addition to RenewAmerica and other projects, the family currently maintains the websites of Jerome Corsi, a WorldNetDaily investigative writer credited with derailing the 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry through the best-selling book Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry; national conservative leader Larry Klayman, founder of Freedom Watch and Judicial Watch who is well-known for his dogged legal challenges of corrupt public officials and oppressive liberal schemes; and TeaParty.org.

  • The family is also currently doing work on several websites connected to Alan Keyes.

  • Interspersed throughout their political activism has been an ongoing series of influential events the family has staged for candidates and causes. They've sponsored GOP candidate debates and meet-the-candidate nights, a number of major rallies, important political speeches and press conferences, and similar gatherings to promote representative government — usually well attended and widely covered by the media.

  • On the basis of their respected activism, a Utah congressman once told Stefani the Stone family "has done more for the Republican Party in Utah than any family [he] could name."
Additional facts

Because of his deep interest in the scriptures, Steve has long been respected by LDS friends and acquaintances for his doctrinal knowledge. He made it a rule in his life years ago not to believe or do anything that was not harmonious with God's Word in the scriptures (for a Mormon, that would include the LDS canon, which Steve knows inside and out, and views from a unique perspective).

At one point early in his life, he served briefly as a religious educator, and before that, as a bread delivery man, his first "real job."

He's never worked in the public sector (except when he was a teenager working on a summer street crew in his home town) — and he characterizes socialism as little more than "everyone working for government," something he believes should be carefully avoided in any form that goes beyond selfless public service.

Over the years, the Stones have undertaken a variety of challenging entrepreneurial pursuits in seeking the American dream of liberty, independence, and personal responsibility, and they have succeeded in building a home by themselves on a farm they own debt-free.

A glimpse into the LDS church
To most people, the Mormon church is an enigma.

On the one hand, the simple story of its origins — the one Mormon missionaries recite on porches and in living rooms — appears too incredible for most listeners to appreciate, and too unorthodox for most mainstream Christians to believe.

On the other hand, the inner workings of the church are kept so secretive and controlling — with regular members, for example, denied access to the church's "unpublished" Handbook, by which their actions are often judged; with church curriculum deliberately cleansed of the need to rely solely upon God through knowing the scriptures firsthand; with countless euphemistic words and phrases routinely employed by church officials to cover the reality of what goes on — that most members themselves typically have little understanding of the church's actual doctrines and policies.

As a result, both members and nonmembers alike are left with distorted — often naïve or wholly exaggerated — notions of what the church actually is, and does.

The way to judge

The premise of the following account of the church's surprisingly insensitive mistreatment of a self-sacrificing family for over a decade is that the only way to understand the church accurately is to gauge its beliefs and behavior against its own official canon of doctrine — its so-called "standard works," officially adopted by a vote of the church membership — then see how these things compare with accepted standards of biblical Christianity and Western culture.

In the American political system — to which the church has certain obligations — this also means comparing the church's civic assurances with its actions.

This approach to examining the church — that is, holding the church up to its own official rules as a starting point, and then going from there — is consistent with the clear imperative set forth in the "law of the church" (as Section 42 of the Doctrine & Covenants is called), which states,
    Thou shalt take the things which thou hast received, which have been given unto thee in my scriptures for a law, to be my law to govern the church. (verse 59; see also verse 60)
In other words, what the church officially claims to be, or believe, begins — and ends — with its official canon set forth in its standard works, no matter what anyone in or out of the church might say about such things.

In harmony with the above passage, former LDS church president Harold B. Lee repeatedly taught:
    All that we teach in this church ought to be couched in the scriptures. It ought to be found in the scriptures. We ought to choose our texts from the scriptures. If we want to measure truth, we should measure it by the four standard works, regardless of who writes it. If it is not in the standard works, we may well assume that it is speculation, man's own personal opinion; and if it contradicts what is in the scriptures, it is not true. This is the standard by which we measure all truth. ("Using the Scriptures in Our Church Assignments," Improvement Era, January 1969, pp. 12-14, emphasis added)
On such an authoritative basis — emphasizing authentic church doctrine, not mere cultural notions or evolving tradition — it's possible to make reliable judgments regarding how well the church fulfills its claims, as well as the legitimacy of those claims themselves. Using this as the starting point, and constant backdrop, avoids needless judgments based on mistaken or naïve perceptions of the church.

It's important to note at the outset that Mormons themselves tend not to be well-versed in their own canon of doctrine — being led by many church leaders, contrary to that canon, to rely unduly on their leaders for knowledge and guidance. As a result, Mormons tend to adopt countless myths prevalent in the church that represent old "pioneer" traditions, rather than verifiable doctrine or legitimate church law.

Regarding this phenomenon of undue dependency on human authority, early church president Joseph F. Smith, son of church founder Joseph Smith's brother Hyrum, observed,
    One fault to be avoided by the Saints, young and old, is the tendency to live on borrowed light. . . .

    Men and women should become settled in the truth, and founded in the knowledge of the gospel, depending upon no person for borrowed or reflected light, but trusting only upon the Holy Spirit. . . . They will then have light everlasting which cannot be obscured. By its shining in their lives, they shall cause others to glorify God. (Gospel Doctrine, 1975 ed., pp. 87-88, emphasis added.)
Being settled in the truth — of course — comes only from knowing firsthand what the scriptures teach about salvation and the commandments of God, knowledge no person can give another. Likewise, understanding the church itself requires the same kind of firsthand familiarity with the church's own "standard works," and avoiding the authoritarian trap of dependency.

The same president of the church, Joseph F. Smith, told his Mormon followers that —
    I want no man to lean upon me nor to follow me, only so far as I am a consistent follower in the footsteps of the Master. (Gospel Doctrine, p. 4)
and —
    I may tell you what I know, but that is not knowledge to you. If I have learned something through prayer, supplication, and perseverance in seeking to know the truth, and I tell it to you, it will not be knowledge unto you. I can tell you how to obtain it, but I cannot give it to you. (Gospel Doctrine, p. 52, emphasis added)
Such sentiments underscore the obvious reality that no person can expect to attain salvation, or otherwise please God, without knowing for themselves the saving doctrine of Christ as taught consistently in the scriptures.

But they also reveal the only reliable way to understand illusive "Mormonism."

We cite these definitive statements to underscore that any person — Mormon or non-Mormon — who might wish to evaluate accurately the doctrinal core, membership duties, and institutional behavior of the LDS church must do so in the context of the church's own officially-adopted canon. That's the reference point for all reliable assessment of the church — and for appreciating what you are about to read.

Our purpose

That said —

Our purpose in laying out the brief history that follows of shocking mischief by the LDS church toward a God-fearing, politically-active family is not to diminish the church's authentic doctrines or practices — most of which are sound and commendable, as well as largely misunderstood, both in and out of the church. Rather, our sole purpose is to tell patriotic, decent Americans a story that deserves to be told — because of its far-reaching implications for America's political system.

There's also the compelling fact that the following account happens to be true.

The fact that the story may be unflattering to the church is but a reflection of the church's own choice to engage repeatedly in unlawful, un-American behavior toward the dedicated family at the heart of the controversy — despite ten years of earnest pleas by the family for relief.

If the church wanted to avoid having this story told, it could easily have ceased its unwarranted persecution years ago.

Instead, church officials at every level, acting as though they were unaccountable to anyone, refused to stop — and in fact escalated their threats and intimidation until they felt justified in exacting the church's most extreme punishment — in direct consequence of the family's efforts to end the conflict the church initiated over the family's political livelihood.

That's not the American way. Nor is it the way of Christ.

It's widely understood that Americans have a unique opportunity in the 2012 election to learn about the LDS church due to the candidacies of two "Mormons" — Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, Jr. Never before in our nation's history have Americans been virtually forced to come to grips with the seemingly inscrutable culture and institution called "Mormonism."

The time has come, therefore, for the true story to be told of the church's interference with the Stone family — interference that has deprived the electorate of much of their right to be informed and inspired, in a free and open electoral process, by a family known for their skill in advocating the conservative message.

The narrative consists of three parts. Part 1 centers in Stephen's initial disfellowshipment, which was eventually overturned on appeal by the church's governing First Presidency. Part 2 describes events leading to Stephen's ultimate excommunication. And Part 3 looks at the aftermath of the ordeal and its meaning.

Read on.

[With that, we end our introductory elements of A Mormon Story. The remainder of the book can be accessed by clicking on its excerpts.]
 


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