“NO POWER OR INFLUENCE”:
THE MORMON CHURCH IN (SAME-SEX) POLITICS
By Robert J. Morris1
(Copyright 2015 by Robert J. Morris)
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned….”
The materials collected here in subtitled chapters or segments are provided in response to, and in anticipation of, the Mormon church’s amicus curiae brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of oral argument in the same-sex marriage cases, set for April 28, 2015. The materials are various consultation papers, speeches, lessons, legal opinions, and lectures that I have prepared, mostly by invitation, for individuals and groups over the years since the commencement of the “same-sex marriage movement” in Hawai‘i in 1993—the event that marked the beginning of my own involvement in these issues. My attempt in all of these has been to respond to official Mormon statements, pronouncements, and position—in their own words—regarding the issues surrounding same-sex marriage, and to do so, again in their own words, using official Mormon texts. The process of Mormon involvement in the politics of same-sex marriage has been what I would characterize as “disingenuous reification,” by which I mean the selective and manipulative use of text, doctrine, and history to create an image and forge an argument that (a) does not square with actual Mormon text, doctrine, and history, yet (b) sells well to the masses who are themselves unfamiliar with actual Mormon text, doctrine, and history. How to think about these problems, and how to redress them, is the burden of the materials collected here, as well as the materials shown in the lists of my published works on this subject noted on my Web page at .
Those wishing to come up to speed quickly on the essential Mormon position on same-sex marriage may wish to consult the materials about the church’s 2015 U.S. Supreme Court amicus curiae brief collected in the Salt Lake Tribune article, the church’s official media statement, and the brief itself linked in the official media statement, all respectively cited here:
It should be clear in the materials that follow that I deplore the church’s activism in politics to achieve an ecclesiastical end, and I think the apologetics offered to justify that activism are unpersuasive, particularly with regard to the assertion that the argument for “religious liberty” has nothing to do with animus, discrimination, or hostility. To my mind, this activism violates not only the “separation of church and state,” but it is unseemly and grubby—and filled with animus. The activism breaks from the traditions of 19th-century Mormonism, the teachings of Mormonism’s founding prophets (Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and their associates), and it violates traditional (and scriptural) Mormon teachings about the U.S. Constitution. The problem for church-state separation arises because the 2015 Mormon amicus brief repeatedly conflates what it calls “deeply held religious beliefs” on the one hand, with laws which have been enacted to codify and enforce upon other people those deeply held religious beliefs, on the other hand. Such muddled (and illegal) conflation can be seen in arguments such as this on page 29 of the 2015 amicus brief (emphases added):
Those injuries to religious liberty [as declaring bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional] are evident in this case. Laws reaffirming traditional marriage reflect longstanding beliefs, judgments, and ways of life, as we have explained. Placing those laws under the microscope of heightened scrutiny would render them—and the religious beliefs, judgments, and ways of life that have long animated them—constitutionally suspect. Demeaning our religious convictions about marriage in this manner would unfairly cast us “in the role of bigots or superstitious fools.” Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2718 (Alito, J., dissenting).
In this frightening picture, the law and religion—church and state—are one. They “reflect” each other. “Our religion is the law.” The law and the church speak with one voice. “We” are society, and “We” speak for everyone. In my view, wisdom and prudence would dictate that a church having a long history of both polygamy and what we once euphemistically called The Negro Priesthood Doctrine should not jump into the bramble bush of civil rights, the definition of marriage, race, sexism, women’s rights, and the like—unless it is to champion in increase of justice and equality, not to fight against them. If it does make that leap, it must be prepared for the scrutiny that will follow under the white-hot glare of the scholarship and the media. It must be prepared to have its behavior called out for what it is—hypocrisy. When the church argues, as it does on page 3 of the amicus brief, that—
because they [our beliefs and practices] are based on our understanding of truths that do not change, we cannot abandon them as vestiges of what some suppose to be a benighted past ….
They would have the uninformed ignore or forget that such abandonment did in fact occur with both The Negro Priesthood Doctrine and the practice of polygamy. Indeed, students of history will recall that Mormon polygamy was, along with slavery, widely condemned as one of the “twin relics of barbarism”—a benighted past. The church has recently owned up, at least in part, to the truth about its past on both counts—racism3 and polygamy.4 The histories of both Mormon polygamy and racism are powerful arguments against the modern deployment of anti-gay theology in law and politics. They cannot be disaggregated. The morass of bad logic combined with ironic nonsense to which this can lead is expressed in statements such as this in the Mormon amicus brief cited above: “Essentially, religious beliefs in traditional sexual morality could come to be equated with racism.” They could, they can, and they were—by the Mormons in the 19th Century. As if to reify the days of polygamy, the 2015 amicus brief argues disingenuously at pages 28-29:
Elevating sexual orientation to a suspect class would place the Constitution on a collision course with our beliefs. It would unleash powerful forces, including litigation, that would progressively equate religious distinctions based on sexual orientation with discrimination based on race. Religious beliefs in traditional sexual morality would in time be equated with racism: believers and religious institutions would be legally free to hold and express their beliefs (at least on their private properties and in public forums) but they would suffer the same opprobrium that we (rightly) heap on racist beliefs and speech.
The basic thrust of the church’s amicus brief seems to be their discomfort with the Disruptive nature of same-sex marriage and its legal recognition. Yet the quintessential nature of the movement which Joseph Smith founded in 1830 is disruptive. It was his stated intention and his life’s work to disrupt the doctrines and practices of received Christendom. Mormonism since its inception has been one of the most subversive and disruptive movements in American history.
Most discussions of the question of church-and-state begin at one of several familiar points. For example, “the American founders were (or were not) all faithful, dedicated Christians who founded a Christian nation.” Or, “the ‘wall of separation between church and state’ is (or is not) a one-way wall.” Or, “the Constitution does not (or does) exclude religion from the public square.” For any one or a combination or variation of these points the argument usually proceeds along familiar lines which all ultimately come down to the same question: What is the proper role of religion in politics? This book shifts the ground by asking a different question: Why should religion want or need to seek any role in politics at all? If religion claims to be the “power of God unto salvation,” then it should not need or want any other earthly power—politics, law, or the public square—to potentiate it. It should actively eschew such linkages. Indeed, when religion does seek to assimilate itself to such earthly power, it admits that it is not the “power of God unto salvation” and that it has failed in its ecclesiastical mission. This dichotomy may be seen to pivot on the axis of the specifically Mormon concepts of compulsion versus agency—an axis that allows an analytical shift apart from the more problematic church-and-state (or “wall of separation”) axis. This is a study of axes and divides—and the things they divide.
At the beginning of the 21st Century, these issues often intersect in multiple ways with questions of sex: gender, sexuality, abortion, marriage, intercourse, and so on. This makes the Mormon church a uniquely appropriate subject for study because it, probably more than any other American religious establishment, has a history and doctrine grounded in all these ramifications of sex. The social, legal, and political aspects of Mormon polygamy (“plural marriage”) alone demonstrate this. A forensic study of official Mormon pronouncements in the 19th Century reveals a world-view that stands in sharp contrast to its modern position—and in fact would today express the views of those people and groups it attacks (such as homosexuals, advocates of same-sex marriage, feminists, artists, and intellectuals). The church’s self-image(s) and self-definition(s) in this regard reveal a pattern of shifting situational, expedient, and utilitarian concerns rather than immutable and “eternal” doctrinal principles. These amount to a heavy involvement of the church in the state and implicate several crucial points of Constitutional law and scriptural mandate. Perhaps more than any other single entity, the polygamous Mormon presence in the American body politic has demonstrated the validity of the maxim exceptio probat regulam—the exception tests/challenges the rule. The church asserts that presence with increasing bombast.
Chapter 1: The “Theopolitik” of Fear and Loathing
Chapter 2: Two Seminal Documents: The “Proclamation and the “Statement
Chapter 3: Basic Constitutional Doctrine: The Separation of Powers
Chapter 4: The Meanings of Law & Faith
Chapter 5: The Secret Combinations of Babylon
Chapter 6: Mormonism: The “Stone Cut Out Without Hands”
Chapter 7: The Book of Mormon a Profoundly Political Text
Chapter 8: Penile Correctness and “Knowing Where It Goes”
Chapter 9: The Nature of Mormon Faith & Obedience
Chapter 10: Electioneering on “Morals and Values”: The Gadianton Robbers
Chapter 11: Dangers & Consequences: False Ecumenism
Chapter 12: Schismogenesis & Bombast
Chapter 13: The Mormon Church: Sect Turned Political Faction
Chapter 14: The Conflict in Mormon Doctrine
I will briefly tell the story of two books that caused me a lot of trouble and provided some goading.
When I was in my final year of studies at law school, a new book entitled Carthage Conspiracy was published by a young law professor and his co-author at the University of Chicago.5 Reading it changed my life. It confirmed my belief in the law, the rule of law, and evidence as the heart of the law. It contained the kind of meticulous research and reasoning—the kind of real evidence—that appealed to my mind. In it the author set about to challenge an earlier book entitled, The Fate of the Persecutors of the Prophet Joseph Smith.6 The earlier book had been widely circulated and read in Mormon circles primarily because it was “faith-promoting.” It told the story of how the major persecutors of the Mormon founder had all suffered ignominious fates as a result of their actions (“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”7). It was a neat cause-and-effect morality tale—a warning to the church’s enemies that was deeply satisfying to the Mormon psyche: God will smite the wicked—“Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, and I will repay.”8 The problem was that it was not the truth. With meticulous research, Carthage Conspiracy demonstrated that in fact many of the enemies of the prophet went on to prosperity. In modern parlance, they “got away with it.” The author wrote:
”A persistent Utah myth holds that some of the murderers of Joseph and [his brother] Hyrum Smith met fittingly gruesome deaths—that Providence intervened to dispense the justice denied in the Carthage[, Illinois,] trial. But the five defendants who went to trial, including men who had been shown to be leaders in the murder plot and others associated with them, enjoyed notably successful careers.”9
Hence, the morality play of Lundwall became, in the hands of the legal author, a much more significant tale of justice denied and of the rule of law frustrated—and ultimately even more than that. It became a tale of the law’s search for truth. To my young mind, the truth was much more satisfying than the faith-promoting myth, but it put me out of touch with the ways of orthodoxy because it contained these lessons: There are desiderata greater than promoting faith. Just because something is said or done or published by the church or a churchman does not mean you must take it at face value. You are entitled to research it for yourself. That is scriptural: “You must study it out in your mind.”10 If your researches lead you to find that the truth is something other than the official line, you are entitled to say so—to publish your findings for all to read in the public square. Indeed, you must say so because the law of the Book of Mormon enjoins you to “bear down in pure testimony” against falsehood and error.11 John Mortimer captures the idea beautifully in these words that he gives to his barrister Horace Rumpole:
“We can’t decide guilt or innocence. That’s not for us…. That’s for twelve puzzled old darlings pulled off the street for three boring days with a safe blower. But we can make sure they’re not lied to, not deceived, not tricked by some smiling copper who wants to take away their decision from them by a few conjuring tricks in a dark cell.”12
The co-author of Carthage Conspiracy was Dallin H. Oaks. He later became president of Brigham Young University, its law school’s first dean, a justice on the Utah Supreme Court, and then, in his current role, a Mormon apostle. His works and words appear frequently in the study that follows, including his 1963 anthology, The Wall of Separation Between Church and State, also published when he was at Chicago. There he appears along with many other of his fellow general authorities as I attempt to construct an argument using as much as possible the actual words of Mormon leaders instead of words written about them. I single Oaks out here for his one crucial paradigm in Carthage Conspiracy—that error must be corrected and truth spoken to power in the public square by the tools of research and reason. That is emphatically the province of the law. It saddens me that, as the study demonstrates, Oaks has these days become one of the Mormon church’s leading anti-gay voices. I find it hard to reconcile that position with the enlightened views of his early (pre-churchman) days, and I am disappointed in him. As someone who has felt the sting of his church’s persecution, a vengeful part of me (for which I must repent) secretly hopes for him and his church the “fate” visited upon Lundwall’s persecutors rather than Oaks’s. Nevertheless, I hope this work lives up to the scholarly standard Oaks set in his early book.
But on that point I take a word of caution from another early book that helped to shape my thinking. It was called, Man: His Origin and Destiny. It was an attempt to counter the rapidly growing body of evidence in the disciplines of evolutionary science. In his introduction to that work, the author wrote:
“For a long time I have wished that someone more capable than I would write a defense of the fundamental principles of the Gospel for the benefit of our youth who are confronted in their studies in high schools and universities with the modern theories of so-called science and philosophy which are in conflict with the revealed doctrines of the Church.”13
If “the evolutionary theory” is true, he said, “then the Bible is fiction”—meaning both the Old and New Testaments.14 “There is no middle ground!” If there was no “fall of Adam” and recorded in Genesis, then there was no Redeemer Jesus Christ, and “the Christian faith would be false.”15 Not to believe in Adam was not to believe in Jesus.16 “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all made alive.”17 In Mormon theology, Adam lived and worked in what is now the American state of Missouri,18 and is a living being in the spirit world.19 Adam is Michael, the Archangel, the prince, the father of all, the “ancient of days”20—the victorious leader of the angels in the “was in heaven” against Satan21—the deliverer of quintessential keys and powers to Joseph Smith.22 The God who spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden was himself once a man. His name is Man of Holiness, hence the name of Jesus is Son of Man (capital M).23 As the Mormon aphorism, spoken by Mormon apostle and church president Lorenzo Snow, has it, “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.”24 In perhaps his most famous sermon, Joseph Smith taught that God is “an exalted man.”25 Hence, for Mormons even more than for the rest of Christendom, the loss of the Genesis creation story would be the total loss of God, Man, Son of Man, and Mankind themselves.
The same is true for the patriarch Noah, who in Mormon theology is reified to stand second to Adam in authority.26 Noah is the angel Gabriel27 who appeared to Mary in the New Testament nativity story to announce the miraculous birth of Jesus.28 Mormon scripture confirms the flood and the ark, which are part of the Noah story and which preserved the living creation of the Adamic garden, as being literally true.29 Noah is part of the royal priesthood lineage, and was seen in vision within the “vast congregation of the righteous” in church president Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the redemption of the dead.30
This absolutist approach to Genesis, and its inextricable linkage with the New Testament as well as Mormon scripture, was stated in the church’s early “The Origin of Man” in 1909 and reissued in 2002,31 an official response to the growing awareness of the “problem” of evolution science. Not to believe in Adam also meant not to believe in Eve and the God-created dichotomy of male and female32—or rather the essentialized Platonic ideals of Male and Female. Mormonism reifies this essential nexus by adding to the canon its own Fourth Gospel (the book of “Third Nephi” in the Book of Mormon) and its own Genesis (the “Book of Moses” in the Pearl of Great Price).33 Not to believe in the Genesis myth meant not to believe in the privilege of patriarchy that came with it. As Mormon apostle Boyd K. Packer asserted:
”How the transformation of the Fall occurred, I do not know. I do know it resulted from choice, and law, and accountability, and consequence. The separate creation of man in the image of God and his subsequent fall were essential if the condition of mortality were to exist and the plan proceed. If man is but an animal, then logic favors freedom without accountability or consequence. Had man evolved from animals, there could have been no fall, no law broken, no penalty, no need for a mediator. The ordinance of baptism would be an empty gesture since it is for a remission of sins. Many who perceive organic evolution to be law rather than theory do not realize they forsake the Atonement in the process.”34
For who but the patriarchs are the judges, masters, keepers, and administrators of this law, accountability, consequence, penalty, and remission of sins? They are the churchmen, who without Genesis would be out of a job. Genesis is the grand filter and director. The stakes in the gain or loss of Genesis (or Geneses) could not be higher, for the entire modern religious and essentialist establishments of sexuality, patriarchy, church-and-state, and marriage depend not upon Jesus Christ “the chief corner stone,”35 as Christians pretend, nor even upon the New Testament as a whole, but upon the creation, marriage, and fall-of-man narrative of Genesis which necessitated the provision of a “redeemer” in the first place. There would be no Satan, and mankind could say scientifically, “there is no hell, and no devil.”36 The rise and progress of mankind and nature would not be the result of any agent acting through the forces of “good” and “evil” but of “natural selection.” The presumption that Adam and Eve were homo sapiens could no longer be indulged. Alexander Pope wrote, “Know then thyself, / presume not God to scan, / The proper study of mankind is man.”37 If that is true, then the control of that study is the task of tasks. Genesis (and its Mormon cognate, “The Book of Moses”) is actually the chief cornerstone. Control of the rules for knowing oneself, the scanning (or not) of God, and the study of mankind—indeed the very definitions of self, God, and mankind—become vital to the patriarchal project. As the Mormon First Presidency stated in 1909:
“Man, by searching, cannot find out God. Never, unaided, will he discover the truth about the beginning of human life. The Lord must reveal Himself or remain unrevealed; and the same is true of the facts relating to the origin of Adam’s race—God alone can reveal them. Some of these facts, however, are already known, and what has been made known it is our duty to receive and retain.”38
I caught a glimmer at that moment of the Christian, and especially the Mormon, desperation to appropriate the Old Testament Partiarchs beginning with Adam down to Abraham—especially Abraham—as Christians, as not only recipients of the Christian gospel39 but also as exponents of it from “the beginning.”40 For if Darwin was right, this old world had proceeded quite well for millennia before the Christian gospel was ever invented.41 The loss of Genesis would mean the loss of description, prescription, and patriarchal determinism and essentialization—and increase of individual freedom and agency. In the evolutionary view of life, as Richard Dawkins points out, there is no “essence” of anything.42 Accepting this view would mean no more Mosaic Law, for it was Moses who wrote Genesis and who, in Leviticus, proscribed male-male sex. If “the Bible is fiction,” so also is the Book of Mormon, along with Joseph’s Smith prophetic calling, and the entire “American church,” for in Mormon theology all these are predicted in the Bible. So, also, is the scriptural view of subjects such as marriage and sexuality, including homosexuality.43 Sex is a tenet of religion. If all the various expressions of sexuality were naturally selected, then the patriarchal proscriptions and essentializations of sex were rendered meaningless. The entire “body of Christ” would dissolve because then each of its parts could say to the head, “I have no need of thee.”44
Homosexuality vis-à-vis evolution presented a double bind. If the stubborn persistence of homosexuality in the human population could demonstrate that “natural selection” primarily as a successful evolutionary reproductive process was false, then it could be argued that this was persuasive evidence of the falsity of evolution—but that would be admitting the goodness of evolution as a weapon to prove it. On the other hand, if homosexuality were for some reason a successful evolutionary adaptation despite its largely nonreproductive function, then it could be argued that this was persuasive evidence of the badness of evolution—but that would be admitting the goodness of homosexuality as a weapon to prove it. The dilemma was obvious: “sin” alone had to be pressed into service. The coincidence was also obvious: This was the precisely the period when the very first Mormon pronouncements against homosexuality began to emerge.45 Hence, the stakes could not have been higher in keeping religion in the public schools and God in the public square.
This thinking was the incipience, half a century ago, of what today has become the desperate attempt to install “creation science” and “intelligent design” in the public schools.46 Of course, all of these pronouncements and certainties were published (1954) right at the end of one era and on the cusp of another—the advent of the double-helix (1953) and DNA47—almost exactly 100 years after Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859. Both were “Galileo events” of the first magnitude, which not even a century of Mormon prophets, seers, and revelators had seen coming (nor did I), and today Mormon thinkers and apologists spill much ink back-pedaling from the church’s absolutist pre-DNA position.48 The bulk of the official Mormon sources cited in this study come from that pre-DNA world. The great wall of separation (or perhaps we should say, the great K/T Boundary) that divides that pre-DNA era and today is absolute. Genesis has become genetics. Textual criticism and theology aside, at issue now is our very human identity. The Mormon scripture says that the “spirit and the body are the soul of man,”49 and Mormons have always alleged that their Gospel—as found in their scriptures and the pronouncements of their leaders—answers the fundamental questions of life—Who am I?, Where did I come from?, Where am I going? In today’s post-DNA era, these questions are being interrogated anew with scientific evidence—hence the battle in politics and the schools.
The author of Man used his platform to attack the banning of religion from the public schools and its replacement with evolution, and grounded the analysis of that problem in what Mormons call “The Great Apostasy”—the amalgamation of the official Church of Rome with both paganism and the civil authority beginning with the death of the original apostles. It was specifically the fusion of church and state that set the stage for these modern ills:
“In speaking of Christianity, reference is generally made to the Roman Church, partly because the demands are the most pretentious, and partly because it has commonly sought to enforce those demands by the civil power. None of the Protestant Churches has ever occupied a position so imperious—none has ever had such widespread political influence.”50
Thus, God and the Bible are banned from American schools, and godless evolution is taught instead, because many centuries ago an apostate Roman Church abandoned the true teachings of Jesus and the apostles, then assimilated itself to the political power of the day. As this power grew over the centuries, it infected the world with a profound “depth of intellectual degradation.” Hence, the true “doctrine of God” has been lost so much so that in modern times, both the “worshipers in their churches and the scientists in their laboratory have rejected the real anthropomorphic God and in their writings have ridiculed Him. Both teach that such an idea as that God has a physical body after which man was formed is a ‘primitive’ doctrine harking back to ‘primitive man.’”51 Therefore, religion is not respected in the public schools, and textbooks boldly and impudently contradict the doctrines in the Bible and its history.”52
All of this grows out of a religious war between the Catholic church and the Mormon church that was at its peak when Man: His Origin and Destiny was published in 1954. Using language from the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, the Mormons have traditionally referred to the Catholic Church as “the great and abominable church of the devil” and the “whore of Babylon,” among other epithets.53 But aside from the Mormon antipathy toward Catholics, the greater point here, made for me by this author’s book, was that the amalgamation of church and state always—always—leads to hegemony, conflict, and schism. Always the religion in power is viewed by the religion out of power as “apostate.” The only difference today is that the “religion” seeking political control is not a single sect but a “coalition of churches”—a mega-sect. The pretext for the war may be any subject—the poverty of Jesus, evolution, same-sex marriage, Luther’s theses, or angels on the head of a pin—but at bottom the struggle is really about power: which religion will “enforce its demands by the civil power”? And always that conflict militates against the ideal of “a more perfect Union.”54
While I disagreed profoundly with the book then, as I do now, those introductory words—“someone more capable that I”—were an arresting disclaimer. They expressed what I suppose is a common wish of many authors when they undertake a long and controversial work—that somebody else would shoulder the burden. The author was a specialist on Mormon theology but not on evolutionary science. He was Mormon apostle Joseph Fielding Smith, the son of church president Joseph F. Smith and, later, himself church president.55 He wrote many volumes of exposition on Mormon doctrine and is considered by many to be the church’s pre-eminent scripturalists. His official Web page states: “He became President of the Church on January 23, 1970, at the age of 93. As one of the Church's most prolific writers, Joseph Fielding Smith's numerous books and articles helped educate generations of Latter-day Saints about the history and doctrine of the Church.”56 He is quoted there as saying, “Our mission is to preach the doctrines of salvation in plainness and simplicity as they are revealed and recorded in the scriptures.” Man: His Origin and Destiny is an example of that and of what I will later refer to as “bombastic redescription,” in which the combatants redescribe their old familiar arguments and phrases in ever-more complex and seemingly profound terms.57 It did not make any attempt to answer science with science or even to provide new revelation. Instead, written out of fear, it merely recast science as “theories” and nothing more58, then quoted lengthy passages of Mormon scripture (“the great plan of salvation”59) with the purpose of asserting the patriarchal position that this is the truth because God and we say it is (“It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us”60), and threatening judgment if the bombastic redescription were not heeded. This is a key point, for Mormonism, like, I suppose, other revealed faiths with prophet figures and holy texts, the words are the evidence. To say it is to makes it so. “By the word of my power have I created them.”61 The creation story needs no other proof than this.
“What’s the last thing you remember about you and your husband,” Harrison Ford asks Kristin Scott Thomas in Random Hearts, “that you know is true? I gotta find out how far back I have to go to do that.”62 The movie is the story of a man whose wife and a woman whose husband are having a secret affair and are found out only because the plane on which they are flying together for a tryst crashes. Ford’s question is a profound one that works for any relationship, including one with a church or a doctrine, a scientific theory or a law. At what point did you begin to believe it was a hoax? How far back do you have to go to find something you actually believed was true? If something turns out to be false, is everything related to it falsified in retrospect? Are you falsified?
When I was very young, perhaps in high school or early university, I read Ernest Hemingway’s book, A Moveable Feast. Published posthumously in 1964, it is the autobiography of his years as a young writer in 1920s Paris. In those idealistic and naïve days, Hemingway was one of my favorite authors. I wanted to be a great writer like Hemingway. I thought I had the talent for writing great stories like him (I didn’t). Hemingway came under the influence of the great Russian writers like Dostoyevsky. He read many of his important books, including The Brothers Karamazov, as translated into English by Constance Garnett (1861-1946). She was the first English translator to render Dostoyevsky into English, and her translations were the only ones available to Hemingway. They were widely read and made Dostoyevsky avaiIable to a huge audience. I was especially taken by this statement in A Moveable Feast:
In Dostoyevsky there were things believable and not to be believed, but some so true they changed you as you read them….63
That idea in that sentence changed my life—even as I read it. Ideas and writing so great they changed you even as you read them! I wanted everyone to have that kind of experience one way or another—with a book, a movie, a poem, music—to pass though an experience and come out at the end a different person from the person we were at the beginning.
Over a period of more than twenty years, I taught that idea to my students. I told them, “Always try to associate yourself with the greatest minds, the greatest writings, the greatest music—things that change you as you experience them. Never settle for anything that is petty, paltry, and pedestrian.” I also began to try to live that idea in my own life. I thought, What if I could write something that would change someone else even as s/he read it? Being the best is, of course, “high as a mountain and harder to climb,” but it is worth the effort. Follow your bliss, and find your excellence! Do everything you can to distinguish yourself from all the others. Keep climbing! Keep moving toward excellence! I had my students read Hemingway, and together we read that sentence in A Moveable Feast together.
Then one day late in 1990, I read a review of a new translation of Dostoyevsky’s book.64 The book review, written by Andrei Navrozov in the New York Times Book Review, praised the new translation and was highly critical of Constance Garnett and her translations of Dostoyevsky—the translations Hemingway had read and said they “changed you as you read them.” Her translations, Navrozov said, were lies, emendations, rewritings, camouflage, without music. In other words, phonies. This new information devastated me: Hemingway had based his great statement—the one that changed my life—on a falsehood. Therefore, what I had believed and taught my students was based on a falsehood, or a series of falsehoods—both Garnett’s and Hemingway’s—Garnett’s intentional, Hemingway’s perhaps unknowing.65 A whole chain of communication, thought, teaching, and analysis over a period of several decades, was suddenly without a basis in truth.66 It was an existential crisis.
Constance Garnett died in 1946. Ernest Hemingway died in 1961. We would soon come to have the revelations of the frauds that created the Piltdown Man67 and the heavy bowdlerization of the beloved Diary of Anne Frank.68 I was tired of being lied to, and of being susceptible of being lied to. What should I do, if anything? What could I do, if anything?
My experiences with these books, Man and Carthage, plus many other similar experiences, taught me that my received certainties were not certain at all. Everything (and everybody) could and should be interrogated. As Dean Walter Oberer told us the first day of law school: “I hope the law will make of you skeptics but not cynics.” Received knowledge and received wisdom and received truth are merely that—received, not proved. It also taught me to try always to stick with “what the words will bear” in reading and interpretation.69 The same goes for what the evidence will bear: make-weight arguments are generally light-weight arguments. And evidence is the key. As I grow older, I continue to see the world as a divide—a “wall of separation” if you will—between what counts for evidence on the side of law and science and scholarship, as opposed or separated from what counts as evidence on the side of faith and religion and magic. Probably the most pithy statement of “evidence” on the latter side is that of St. Paul: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”70 To the faithful mind on one side of the wall, that makes perfect sense—faith is all about things “hoped for” and “not seen.” The “witness of the spirit” is all-sufficient.71 But to the rational mind on the other side of the wall, it is nonsense. Things merely “hoped for” have no substance, and things “not seen” cannot be evidence because seeing is part of evidence. The only witness that counts is the percipient witness. This divide is reified in many ways in the church-and-state controversy, usually in the bombast over exactly where the line of separation between them is to be drawn.
I hope that what follows is more than bombast. It is interrogation. The legal scholar John Henry Wigmore famously said that cross-examination “is beyond doubt the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”72 I have always taken this as the law’s counterpart to the scientific method. I have been meticulous in footnoting everything, and like Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley: I stand by my footnotes.73 Even so, in the Appendix I have suggested ten crucial Mormon sermons that should be read in full for the points they discuss on the subject of this book.
Chapter 1: Introduction & Background—The “Theopolitik” of Fear & Loathing
“… never, no never! no never!! again drag Priesthood into a Political gentile warfare.”74
The advent of Mitt Romney in the 2007-2008 US presidential campaign, and the prominence of other Mormon public figures in American politics, plus the decision of the California Supreme Court in May 2008 upholding same-sex marriage75 (SSM) and the reaction of the Mormon church to that decision and in support of Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage in California76, and similar measures in other states77, are seminal events that have brought Mormonism fully into the American political arena and national political consciousness.78 It is to be expected that the visibility of Mormons and Mormonism in politics will escalate in the foreseeable future. It is therefore appropriate to examine Mormon doctrine and practice, or rather the disjunctions between the two, with regard to the question of church and state79 and the growing participation and intrusion of the Mormon church80 with the increasing general presence of church activists and activist churches (“coalitions of churches”) in the United States. Why marriage especially is such a modern flash-point for contention and political intermeddling must be inquired into with some forensic analysis, particularly when traditional Christian dogma (but not Mormonism) teaches that “in the resurrection there is no marriage.”81
The thesis of this study is that whenever Christendom—but especially Mormondom82—attempts to assimilate itself to the earthly power of law, government, and politics, to court the state and influence the state’s law and policy, indeed to become part of the state apparatus—what Kevin Phillips calls the “twinning” of religion and politics83—it denies the power of faith by admitting that it has neither power nor faith.84 It admits as fact that neither the power of God nor the tithes in the storehouse have ever been sufficient to fund or empower the corporate-political church. It therefore seeks to create a universal evangelization by law by creating what I call The Political-Ecclesiastical Complex which creates an ecclesiastical mob to execute its fiat. Such an assimilation asks the question of Psalm 94:20: “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?” It is patriarchal priesthood with power in the state but without power in the priesthood. It recognizes that the “peaceable things of the kingdom” spoken of by Jesus in Mormon scripture,85 on the one hand, and the “blood sport” nature of politics on the other, are, like God and Mammon,86 incompatible and mutually exclusive. Justice William O. Douglas of the US Supreme Court famously said that the Constitution was written in order to “keep the government off the backs of the people.”87 Today, activist religionists seek not only to marry with government to get themselves onto the backs of the people, but also to protect their faiths and churches, not from government, but from a growing faithlessness and disillusionment among the people. But if the faithful honestly believe that the “gospel of Christ…is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth”;88 if they truly believe in God’s power and “grace, all sufficient,”89 then why should the faithful even need or desire to cling to the power of the state? What gap in “all sufficient” is it intended to fill? Surely a God who can part the great waters,90 cause the earth to speak,91 walk on water,92 make stones glow in the dark,93 instantly provide guardian angels,94 and reveal himself at will,95 does not need the puny power of man’s law and government to accomplish his purposes. This idea is captured nicely in a speech by Mormon apostle Moses Thatcher given in 1885—the very nadir of persecution against the Mormons for their practice of polygamy. In a context that extolled the virtues of the Biblical Abraham as a polygamist, plus the democratic values of the American founders Washington, Jefferson, and Adams, Thatcher said:
“Men, communities of men, governments, nations, powers, and principalities have never yet been able to build walls so strong, or make iron doors so thick as to prevent the prayers of a righteous man ascending unto his God, hence every man and every women who keep the commandments of the Lord can have a light and lamp for their feet, and those who have oil in their lamps will not be uncertain as to the course they should pursue. The revelations of the Lord will inspire them and direct them in the ways of truth and right.”96
The same idea was expressed neatly a century earlier by Benjamin Franklin, who helped draft and who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. In a discussion of the subject of “religious tests” and the inclusion of a religious test oath (“So help me, God”) in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, Franklin wrote:
“If Christian Preachers had continued to teach as Christ and his Apostles did, without Salaries, and as the Quakers now do, I imagine Tests would never have existed; for I think they were invented, not so much to secure Religion itself, as the Emoluments of it. When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig'd to call for the help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.97
To understand this “call for the help of the civil power” and the reasons why the churches, particularly the Mormon church, so pervasively do it is the core of this study. These views and questions as discussed here constitute a somewhat different approach from the usual debate over whether, and to what extent, religion and religious people shall have a place “in the public square.” It is, rather, as Franklin said, why the “Professors are oblig’d” to do it at all. Franklin’s use of the word “emolument” is special interest for it signifies much more than just a salary for a government office. It is, rather, the entire compensation package, all the “goodies” and “perks” that go with the office itself, including often the “insolence of office”98 that it allows. Emolument comes from the Latin molumentum, which means “gain” and in that it echoes the frequent warning in Mormon scriptures against churches that are “built up to get gain.”99 Indeed, to “get gain” in the Book of Mormon means to be a church that is—
“built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake….”100
It would be difficult to imagine a better description of what the present coalition of churches doing in and why. “Power over the flesh” is the very purpose of the law in its coercive force. “Popularity in the eyes of the world” and lust for the things of the world is today won on the backs of, among others, gay people. The “kingdom of the devil” is simply another name for the world itself, of which the devil, it is said, is the Prince.101 These are the “emoluments” that flow if the church can amalgamate itself with the power of the state.
There are those who argue that any involvement by the churches is an intrusion upon church-state separation and a breach of the “wall of separation between church and state,” and there are those who argue that any denial of such involvement is a denial of their civil and human rights that are inherent in a democracy.102 Certainly in the context of marriage, there is a huge interplay between church and state.103 Indeed, probably more than anything else, marriage combines religious and legal institutions. It already is, and has long since been, the most fundamental breach of the separation of church and state. This debate—whether there even is a “wall” and if there is, where to draw its line—is an ever-wobbling pivot with which Mormonism has sadly become entangled, but I do not propose to try to solve it here. Instead, I wish to shift the ground of the inquiry by asking a fundamentally different question: Why would Mormonism (which defines itself as the “only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth,”104), or any other faith-based institution which claims to know the supremacy of God, even want to project its influence into the public square at all? Why would any people who believe in an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God who overrules all; who believe that no earthly “power shall stay the heavens”105; who hold that the very purpose of their existence is “that faith might…increase in the earth”106; who believe that such a God will fight their battles; and who believe that the works of God “cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught”107—why would such a people ever think of trusting or uniting with a human government and its political power? Even if there is no legal or constitutional right to freedom from religion, why should not such a people assume such a freedom to exist naturally and theologically? I answer that they do not make this assumption because they do not in fact possess the faith they profess—and they tacitly admit this by their actions. While the faithfulness of the residents of the “household of faith” is supposed to be “stronger than the cords of death,”108 in fact they go to law and politics precisely because their “faithfulness,” such as it is, is the image of weakness itself—it is in fact faithlessness. They are what Jesus called a “faithless and perverse generation.”109 While generally they will not recognize or admit it, they go to law and politics because of the “wickedness of the church”110 itself. In many ways the demand for the monogamous marriage of church and state mirrors the demand for the monogamous marriage of man and woman, and is often grounded in the fear of faithlessness. This is remarkable in any faith-based church or religion that professes belief in the principles that, “In God I have put my trust: I will not be afraid of what man can do unto me,”111 and “ye shall not be afraid of the face of man.”112 Mormon scripture is replete with admonitions that its members must not “fear what man can do” because God is with them always,113 and because “perfect love casteth out all fear.”114 A Mormon hymn—actually an old Protestant hymn—reflects this view
Do what is right; be faithful and fearless.
Onward, press onward, the goal is in sight.
Eyes that are wet now, ere long will be tearless.
Blessings await you in doing what’s right!
Do what is right; let the consequence follow.
Battle for freedom in spirit and might;
And with stout hearts look ye forth till tomorrow.
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