MORMONISM UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
Alms for the poor...
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Stephen Stone, RenewAmerica President
April 15, 2013

Now we're getting somewhere.

In recent weeks, I've received a handful of interesting emails — in part due to our Mormonism under the Microscope series at RenewAmerica.

The most notable was a response from a writer/researcher for an LDS apologetics group who said he "agreed somewhat" with the "institutional views" I hold about the church, including the fact many Mormons have become "so institutionalized" — in his words — "they wind up worshipping the structure instead of Him who created them."

Such worship of the institutional Mormon church "is not the gospel of Jesus Christ," he added.

He then said, "Your case seems to be one that needs correction. If you could supply me your Church council information I will personally see that it is investigated and any and all corrections are made."

Since the information he requested is highly personal, I wrote back and asked to know more about him, in particular his role and influence in singularly elitist LDS culture, but I haven't heard back.

Unfortunately, this fair-minded man would appear to have little authority to help, not being a high-level church official, to my knowledge. Bear in mind that years ago, two influential church authorities to whom I appealed for fairness each said they couldn't help unless "specifically assigned" to do so by the governing First Presidency. We might note that Mormons' "institutional" concept of duty discourages members from taking initiative outside their assigned "stewardship" (much as the priests in the parable of the Good Samaritan ignored the man in need). Ironically, this phenomenon can result — as it did in our case — in the tail of local leaders wagging the dog of preoccupied higher-ups.

But this generous man's good-faith interest in our decade-long ordeal was heartening. We'll see what comes of it (if he's not offended that I've shared this little bit of encouraging information about his entreaty).

About the same time, another member with the very "Mormon" name of Smith asked to see a private letter I've mentioned in my articles in support of our family's claims. As with the above request, I'm hesitant to release such communication to a stranger. At the right time, in the right context, I plan to make public that private letter, which I received from a former stake president. But for now, it's noteworthy simply that this inquirer's request suggests our family's claims are at least being taken seriously.

Reinforcing these two emails was an unusually positive comment from a supporter of RenewAmerica, who wrote,
    Though I've written to you in the past, let me take the opportunity to say, again, how very much I appreciate the site, and the folks you have writing for you! Your site is far and away the best of its sort that I've seen since seeking out such sites. Thank you for the time and effort that is daily put into this. I'm more grateful than I can tell you.
By contrast...

Then there was an email from a Utah doctor who's published numerous peer-reviewed articles, and who last year penned a political editorial for the influential Salt Lake Tribune.

This LDS apologist, a state Republican delegate, wrote to disparage my criticism of unlawful actions by the Mormon church toward RenewAmerica and the Stone family. He said,
    I have been a subscriber to your newsletter for a number of years. I have always enjoyed it until I discovered you are using the site as a personal crusade in your vendetta against the Mormon church.... I have [personally] never had one iota of persecution from fellow Mormons or church leaders. Your accusations do not appear credible in the least. You simply appear an angry and bitter man who has become a law into himself. (emphasis mine)
Obviously, the man hadn't read our series on Mormonism with much care, or he wouldn't have so sweepingly mischaracterized the substance of the articles. They're about the unlawful, still-continuing persecution of the Stone family and RenewAmerica at the hands of the LDS church, and their stated purpose is to persuade the church to stop.

Nor would he have used such empty phrases as he did to discredit me personally, had he truly familiarized himself with the facts cited in the articles.

I frequently receive messages like this that suggest the writer has read only a few lines of what I've gone to great lengths to document and was simply too angry to read further.

The phenomenon is comparable to the response we often see among many adherents of Islam — to whom any criticism of the culture is angrily condemned as ill-intended and evil, no matter any valid facts to the contrary.

Among Mormons, such behavior is an outgrowth of the defensiveness LDS leaders often pass on to their followers, who tend to mimic and multiply the paranoia. The result is self-righteous rejection of any serious investigation of LDS institutional or cultural behavior, arguably out of fear of accountability by members and leaders to outsiders.

Since such indignant, often incoherent emails are standard fare in response to my articles on Mormonism under the Microscope, I usually ignore them.

I keep hoping someone will say something serious in defense of the church, something more than name-calling or slanderous insult. I would genuinely be inclined to give any serious rebuttal of my articles a thoughtful, reasoned response. In fact, I welcome the opportunity.

Enter the LDS doctor a second time

Which brings me to a second message I received from the above politically-active Utah doctor — this one with some substance.

Although the message, like so many others I get, is somewhat irrational and in-your-face, it at least attempts a plausible defense of the church — one reminiscent of that invoked by an attorney for the church years ago:

The Stone family didn't have the resources at the outset to be engaged in politics, and benevolent LDS leaders were thus simply trying to spare the Stones from financial failure when the church intruded into their livelihood in violation of law — both when the controversy began and incessantly afterward.


That's a polite recasting of the doctor's (and implicitly the attorney's) less-than-polite summations.

And even though the writer's simplistic scenario is more serious-minded than the often-hysterical emails I receive, not a word of it is accurate.

Since this error-plagued email is the first "real" attempt by anyone to rebut my articles about the LDS church in ways that amount to more than mere ranting, I've taken the time to respond to its allegations and presumptions.

I've waited months for something to come along that justified some kind of response, and I feel compelled to address it.

Here's what the good doctor speciously wrote:
    I finally figured part of why you are so bitter Mr. Stone. You were receiving financial assistance from the Bishop. You were spending all of your time working feverishly for Mr. Keyes and collecting very little money. In essence, the Church was helping to finance this endeavor as you were not making enough money from the campaign to meet your families financial obligations. The Bishop wisely told you that you had to get a real job and that it was not the Church's obligation to help finance your personal political work no matter how noble it was.

    You became upset because the Bishop simply did not understand how important your work was to the saving of our country and refused to continue to finance your family when you were perfectly capable of getting a paying job which you refused to do. It all went downhill from there. Your description of the actions of the Bishop and Stake President would be comical if it weren't so tragically obvious that it was from point of view of someone who is convinced he has been wronged despite all the evidence to the contrary. (emphasis added)
On its face, the explanation would appear credible — to the uninformed. But it's not true, in any particular (nor did it include any supporting evidence).

For the record:
  • Not once have I or my family ever received "financial assistance" from the LDS church — not at the time we started working for Dr. Keyes, or any time before or after.

    The opposite, in fact, would be more accurate: Like countless LDS members, our family has donated many thousands of dollars in "financial assistance" to the church during our lifetimes — as well as donated similar numbers of service hours to its institutional programs. While the above doctor clearly meant to discredit us by alleging our receipt of money from the church, in actuality it's the institutional church that is in our debt, financially and service-wise, not the reverse.

    We might note that "donating" money and time to the church is in fact required by the church if a member is to be considered in good stead, and we dutifully gave our fair share. That alone wouldn't be a concern if the money, at least, weren't used for such things as supporting Brigham Young University's liberal political science department (which reputedly has one token conservative), or the de facto atheism of the school's biological sciences.

    What a misuse of "sacred" funds.

    But such hypocrisy aside: our family has never received as much as a penny in "financial assistance" from the church.

  • For our considerable expenditure of time and effort in behalf of Dr. Keyes' candidacy for president in 2000, we were paid substantially — more in fact than I was paid from any other prior endeavor, including teaching English at church-owned BYU for a number of years (before the unique program I worked in was shut down).

    Any claim that we were other than well paid by the Keyes campaign, as the above email asserts, is untruthful, and in the context, defamatory.

  • Completely lacking in the email's scenario is the fact that our family (five of whom were legal adults) was doing all we could to succeed financially in ways that suited our entrepreneurial spirit and independence of mind. These included a private school, a small farm, an income property, a music business, an editing business, and other ventures that were only marginally successful, despite our dedicated efforts and long hours over many years as we innovated, sacrificed, and battled "city hall" (as well as monopolistic practices) at every turn.

    In fact, it was incredible how often things we attempted that would normally be considered routine in earlier America were blocked by bureaucrats standing athwart history yelling "stop."

    Among "reasonable" financial ventures we undertook against considerable opposition were these (involving our exercise of property rights):

    1. Developing our small farm in ways adjacent properties were allowed to be developed, but not ours. Because we were unjustly prevented from normal use of our farm by an oppressive zoning statute, I was forced to spend three years, and thousands of hours, pursuing a countywide zone change — a change which, after its adoption, led to the creation of the third largest city in Utah in terms of land mass.

    2. Separating off a less desirable portion of our farm to sell as a building lot, to help us fund construction of a farm home. This innocuous undertaking required me to sue the county (which I did without an attorney, devoting many tense months to paperwork and negotiations), and I won.

    3. Building a house on our farm by ourselves, while enduring unwarranted, even illegal, interference from county zoning officials. Because of resentment voiced against me by these officials as a result of the zone change, I was unreasonably impeded for years in completing our family's home — even sued at one point by its attorney, who misapplied a statute, a suit that resulted largely in a draw.

      I was also forced to spend countless hours fighting attempts by the Planning Commission and a county commissioner to undo the above zone change. (I ultimately succeeded in getting the hostile head of the Planning Commission — who threw me out of two public hearings for opposing her — replaced.)

      We finally moved into our home last year, by the way, but only after a veritable nightmare at the last minute dealing with county officials, in particular the above corrupt lawyer.

    4. Dividing our unusually large property in Provo (where we were living) to create another building lot — after the right to do so was arbitrarily stripped from us by the city at the time we developed the property years earlier (a consequence of the Assistant Community Development Director's promise that he would block the original development, despite the City Attorney's approval of the project).

      The city's refusal to correct this error when we sought relief cost us fair and reasonable financial opportunity. At one point, we were forced to move a unique modular structure we'd been renovating in a commercial zone as an income property to another town far away (even though the structure otherwise qualified for our location under Provo zoning statutes). The venture ultimately failed.

    5. Utilizing a commercial building near our Provo home as a private school. The city imposed so many unreasonable conditions on our unique plan, we gave up and went another — less promising — direction, one that never really succeeded.

    6. And a handful of other undertakings stifled by excessive regulation, but nonetheless highly instructive to anyone intent on doing things for himself. By learning to overcome such oppressive bureaucratic obstacles early on, we at least succeeded in obtaining our large Provo property and our small farm ultimately for free (on paper); but we were inordinately restricted from using them in customary ways — at least without enormous cost in time and effort.

      We encountered similar "UnAmerican" trends in the educational marketplace (I'm primarily a teacher) and other sectors of ever-more monopolistic American society, as we exerted our God-given rights, while looking out for those of all citizens, as well.

    Not meaning to bore anyone, but you get the picture: the American Dream is open to some more than others. Unfortunately, most of us are content just to fit in and take what we're given — rather than rattle bureaucratic cages in increasingly monolithic America.

    Not us.

    Because we had just lost $20,000 from one of these ventures and were thus struggling back in 2000, the timely opportunity with the Keyes organization was a godsend. Again, by leaving out mention of our business pursuits in the context of that opportunity, the writer's formulation was slanderous, and misleading at best.

  • Regarding the doctor's claim of "financial support" from the church, it's true that local leaders (at their insistence) offered us commodities donated by members from the church's extensive "bishop's storehouse" system in exchange for our contracted labor as we struggled with our businesses — but this contractual basis never involved money or a "handout," and we worked twice as many hours as we contracted to perform for the commodities offered.

    Giving value for value in a way that far exceeded our contractual obligation was an honorable exchange — no different, in principle, than purposely overpaying for groceries as a gesture of good will. There was no shame in accepting such commodities when we worked for them at more than the agreed-upon rate.

    Even so, no funds were involved — only commodities donated by church members through the storehouse system and "paid" for by our labor.

    (By the way, had we actually been given money by the church in exchange for our contracted labor, the term normally applied to such an arrangement is a "job" — nothing out of the ordinary. The labor-for-commodities arrangement in our case would usually be called a "barter." I might stress that the church official who oversaw the regional "bishop's storehouse" told us we were a rarity in the church: a family who actually worked for what they received from the storehouse system.)
Needless to say, of course, when the Keyes opportunity came along, we jumped at the chance to have a promising livelihood that suited our talents — and rather than quit as the church demanded, we stayed connected with the Keyes organization and grew a political consulting business that has kept us afloat ever since. This, despite nonstop intrusion and harassment by the LDS church that have significantly damaged our efforts, hurt the candidacies and causes we've assisted, and harmed us financially.

From the moment this whole absurd controversy with the church began in August 2000 (just after we were offered long-term affiliation with the Keyes organization), we have never looked back, nor have we accepted church commodities that were offered us since. We've been independent of any material connection with the church from that time forward.

That hasn't stopped the church's distracting persecution, however — precipitated by our refusal to "quit working for Alan Keyes" in the beginning.

Not about "money"

The main fallacy in the doctor's message is his false premise that the church's attempts to control me and my family throughout this controversy had anything actually to do with "money." Again, we were being well paid when the church told us to drop our work for Alan Keyes; and it is demonstrable that the church has continually interfered with our work from that time on no matter our financial circumstances.

Clearly, the causes for such intrusion by the church center entirely in other things — as I've maintained throughout this contest of wills. The "money angle" is just something church leaders try to hide behind to cover the real issue: I refuse to do what I'm told by a church that has little respect for the God-given rights of its members.

Based on the LDS canon itself, I believe I have no duty to obey overzealous church authorities, no matter the issue at hand, and I have a corresponding divine right to obey only God — and this rankles prideful, self-important Mormon leaders, who presume they are called of God and are entitled, therefore, to "impose their will on others."

This whole matter is about control — and falsely-defined "obedience" to pretended authority — and I simply refuse to bow before these errant authoritarians who have perverted the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, which centers in obedience to Him alone.

The most that can be said about the Stones' financial circumstances is that those circumstances amount merely to a pretext for church leaders to justify violating federal and state law regarding the Stone family's choice of employment.

Despite such false diversions, the church's harassment of our family's political activism did in fact happen, and continues even to this day, no matter its root causes. Was the root cause our family's alleged receipt of little or no compensation for our Keyes-related work, as the above doctor claims? Of course not.

The doctor either made that up, himself — or more likely, ran into one of the principal malefactors in the church leadership who has misrepresented the facts throughout this controversy, and who filled the doctor with false or misleading notions, in an effort to insulate the church from the verifiable truth.

My response to the doctor

Because the doctor's claims, and my response, merit more than passing examination, I'm including an open letter I've written to the man. He is welcome to respond, and I will consider posting that response if it is factual and relevant (not defamatory), along with any appropriate commentary or clarification I might wish to add of my own.

Here's my response:
Open letter to a politically-active Utah medical doctor
Stephen Stone
President, RenewAmerica
April 15, 2013
Before I respond to your two emails dated March 18 and March 21, let me point out that my 22-year-old son Callan has asked to see any significant feedback I occasionally receive — both pro and con — in response to my RenewAmerica series regarding the LDS church.

Callan, the survivor of a freeway accident in September that nearly took his life, is a no-nonsense, perceptive young man who is familiar with the facts in the LDS church controversy, being a firsthand witness to many of them.

I might add that in our previous LDS stake — the one that initiated the church's unlawful interference with our family's political work — this son suffered indescribable cruelty at the hands of church leaders and members due to this particular stake's bigoted culture.

In fact, as the "church problem" escalated, his bishop never talked to him and never shook his hand, and this young man sat week after week depressed in church meetings from being treated like a nonentity. Given the premises in your emails, I suppose you would blame him, or us as a family, for such censure. From our perspective, given the fact the church initiated the controversy at the heart of this matter, the church is without excuse for its mistreatment of this young man.

So Callan has strong feelings about what the church has done to us. Here's what he told me about your two emails:

"There's a contrast between these emails and the things RenewAmerica has published about the church. The emails are nasty and contentious [pardon the candor, but those are his words], and lack the details to back them up. They're presumptuous and heartless, the opposite of RA's articles about the church."

As a professional with some degree of influence, you might consider the possibility he may be right. I don't say that to disparage you; I just think you should consider the presumptuous nature of the words you wrote regarding an exemplary family — all of whom have been involved in our dedicated political work, and all of whom, not just me, were told at the outset to quit, but refused.

Bear in mind there were nine of us at home when we started working for Alan Keyes — five of whom were adults who immersed themselves full-time in our family's consulting business in support of Dr. Keyes.

Your imagined facts

Since you claim to have "figured out," at least in part, why I am "so bitter" toward the church for its nonstop abuse of my family, I'd be interested to know your sources. Nothing you wrote is accurate — including the suggestion of "bitterness." I hold no ill will toward the church or those in the leadership who've abused us.

As my latest article emphasizes, I'm writing these articles for lack of any other means of ending the church's persecution of RenewAmerica.

As far as the notion that our family "collected very little money" from the Keyes organization back in 2000 when this controversy began (when we were serving as national Keyes staffers) and I was thus allegedly neglecting my family, that is a serious fabrication — one that is libelous if you disseminate it. As we can readily show, we as a family were being paid more by the Keyes organization when this controversy began than any other employment I'd personally ever had — including teaching English at BYU for several years at one point, and serving fulltime as a seminary teacher prior to that.

The fact that we were struggling with a number of entrepreneurial endeavors at the time the Keyes opportunity came along (as I point out in A Mormon Story) makes that opportunity a timely blessing, not the "unworthy" employment our local leaders dismissed it as.

The reasons for the church's interference with our Keyes work had nothing ultimately to do with "money," of course, since that remuneration was substantial. Rather, the interference was just part and parcel of longstanding abuse toward us for our view as a family regarding LDS doctrine and duty as a whole — a view premised in the actual canon, not the nutty authoritarianism that permeates LDS culture, as I take to task in my writings.

Relevant facts you ignore

The truth is, no matter how the church misrepresents this controversy, it has no plausible or rational defense for its continued violation of IRS rules in its harassment of our family and our work. For an accurate account of what the church has done to us, please take some time and carefully read A Mormon Story — all basic facts of which are true and verifiable.

Among those facts are these:
  • The bishop who replaced the bishop you refer to was assigned by the Area President in 2003 to investigate our family's charges against that earlier bishop of abusive behavior, lying, false doctrine, and apostasy. Despite repeated interference by the stake president (who'd collaborated with the earlier bishop), the new bishop nonetheless determined — just before he left the ward — that our family had "proven our case" against the man. He told our family this four times during his last weeks as bishop.

    The fact that this fair-minded bishop was acting as a duly-appointed "judge in Israel" under church law makes his conclusions valid and significant. Yet they were dismissed out of hand by those in the church hierarchy who were involved in the church's unfounded persecution. The Assistant Secretary to the First President (now the Secretary) — someone not sustained as a "judge" in such matters — called our bishop "an apostate" for siding with us.

    Such highly irregular disrespect for the church's own canon by the Office of the First Presidency suggests a church adrift in lawlessness. (See D&C 42:59-60.) I should point out that on another occasion, this same influential official told me, "The First Presidency can do whatever it wants." Of course, the LDS canon grants no human beings such authority, no matter who they are, or profess to be. It's rank apostasy even to think in such terms as this official — who assists with the most important business of the church — characterized the unchecked power of the church's presiding authorities. (See D&C 3:1-20, D&C 107:81-84, and D&C 121:34-36, 41-42.)

    It's not God-sanctioned "rule of law," that's for sure.

  • The stake president at issue was himself on two occasions approved by the church's presiding authorities to be tried for his own membership for behavior similar to that of the initial bishop — approval witnessed by several members of our family. His first counselor, I might add, later testified in my behalf that he was personally aware of the first instance, since he was designated to preside. The president evaded these two disciplinary councils by manipulating the general authorities and lying about his provably false behavior.

    I should note that the above ignorant Assistant Secretary to the First Presidency defiantly denied that the stake president was ever approved by the "Brethren" to be tried for his membership. Not only was the president so approved, but also the initial bishop — twice like the president — as we can reliably show.

  • In 2002, I was disfellowshipped solely for refusing to quit working for Alan Keyes — as a signed letter from the stake president verifies. That action was overturned upon appeal by the First Presidency for lack of grounds, an action that "angered" the president, according to his first counselor.

    As my book describes in detail, the president has in fact acted irrationally and contrary to church doctrine and law throughout this matter. He has been anything but honest, impartial, or mentally stable — hence our family's many votes against him during routine "sustainings"; and he has induced many others to collude with him in his mischief.

  • I was ultimately excommunicated for repeatedly voting, when invited to do so, against the several leaders who persisted in persecuting our family. The sole accuser and witness at my disciplinary council was the bishop who replaced the one who found our allegations of misconduct by the initial bishop true. This latest bishop was prejudiced against us by the above stake president, and bore false witness against me at the council.

    Two weeks after this action, I might point out, our ward was dissolved due to the damage this same dishonest bishop had done to the ward, which caused attendance to fall beneath acceptable levels. His predecessor had no such problems, and the ward thrived under that man's Christ-centered leadership.

  • The slanderous "income" issues you allege notwithstanding, the LDS church has clearly violated national and state laws regarding our family's political rights by its interference. Shockingly, an attorney for the church dismissed this unlawful conduct in writing by claiming the church was within its rights because we as a family were "unpaid volunteers" in our national staff positions with the Keyes organization.

    Not only was this claim preposterous regarding our income, but our nation's political laws do not permit aggressors to interfere with the political process on the irrelevant pretext that "some activists may not be sufficiently paid."

    The attorney based this ill-advised "defense" of the church's actions on false witness against us by local church officers. As this became apparent, this same attorney said at one point we might possibly have reasonable grounds for suing the church for slander — but changed his view after being instructed by a high Mormon official to back down.

  • The sole reason the First Presidency and other high church authorities believed the self-justifying lies and distortions of our local leaders over our own clarifications is that the church has a readily provable, but undoctrinal, tradition that church leaders are, as a rule, chosen by God Himself and therefore speak for Him. This apostate tradition — unsupported by the LDS canon — is ultimately what caused this whole absurd, unlawful problem of institutional persecution of our family in the first place.

    One effect of this interference by the church has been tangible, considerable damage to our livelihood, to RenewAmerica, and to those causes and candidates we've assisted over the years. The issue, therefore, is not how could the Stones be so foolish as to continue their political employment in the face of church demands to quit, but how could the church justify incessantly intruding into that work and irreparably damaging it in the face of our family's repeated appeals for relief?

    That's one for the lawyers to sort out at some point, it would seem obvious.
And so on. The church has no basis on which to stand in this controversy.

Reliable witnesses

Please keep an open mind about our family's account of the very real abuse we've endured at the hands of church officials, including those at the highest levels. All family members (with the exception of a few of the youngest, who were not as directly involved) have signed detailed statements affirming the truth of our claims, and have provided compelling testimony on numerous occasions. The youngest, as well, can bear reliable testimony of those crucial events they've witnessed.

In addition, two former bishops and a stake high counselor have signed statements supporting our fundamental facts. A counselor to the former bishop who initiated the controversy told me he believes a number of church leaders "have hell to pay" for what they've done to us.

We're telling the truth — I swear to you as God is my witness — and the church has in fact behaved badly in this unnecessary controversy of its own making.

Cordially,

Stephen Stone

P.S. As a postscript to the above open letter, I thought it might help you and the reader put things into perspective if I suggest you read a brief background piece I published at RenewAmerica in Feb. 2012 when I first launched my book A Mormon Story.

The piece, titled Background about A Mormon Story, is worth considering by anyone interested in accurately understanding the origins of my articles and writings about the LDS church, as well as evaluating the behavior of the church itself.


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