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>First Amendment = Wall of Separation<
This seems ineluctable. This unitary understanding is required by the next portion of the same participial sentence in which Jefferson then uses the plural demonstrative pronoun “those” to refer to other or all “sentiments” relating to “natural rights” thus:
“Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”
The precision of this juxtaposition of pronouns in the same sentence cannot be taken as casual or careless. Jefferson means what he says and says what he means. It must follow, then, that taking Jefferson whole except for the “wall of separation,” or parsing the “wall of separation” from the First Amendment, is akin to “wresting the scriptures”839 and cannot be supported from the plain text of the Danbury letter itself. Taking Reynolds whole, but arguing that its introduction of the “wall of separation” into Supreme Court jurisprudence was incidental, is disingenuous. Both are examples of special pleading. In Reynolds, it is, rather, obvious that Chief Justice Waite purposely raised the “wall” as a straw man so that he could neutralize it.840 By the time Reynolds was decided in 1878, the Supreme Court was well down the road on cementing judicial review, as were the nation’s politicians and religionists on stamping out Mormon polygamy. Given the power of the latter, it would have been dangerous for the former to leave Jefferson’s metaphor lurking in the shadows. When the Mormons were uniformly vilifying Reynolds for destroying their freedom of religion, they should rather have extolled Jefferson’s metaphor and attacked the Supreme Court for not applying it. If the Court had done its job as John Marshall said it should, to “apply the rule to particular cases, [and] of necessity expound and interpret that rule,” the decision would have protected the Mormons. Jefferson would have been their savior, and they could have been his. That they did not grasp that and expand upon it is one of the greatest lapses, if not one of the greatest ironies, of 19th-Century Mormon theology. The Mormons could have “fought the good fight” and “kept the faith”841 for the First Amendment. They could have taken the lead, to use their own metaphor, in their divine destiny of stepping forth to save the Constitution when it was “hanging by a thread” and “stitching it back together.” Instead, as Claude Burtenshaw has pointed out: “For sixty years the Mormon church collided with the U.S. political system from top to bottom and marked the beginning of the national government’s state/church encounter.”842 For better or worse, whether intended or not, the Mormon church—and it alone—was the primary efficient cause of, and set the precedent for, the long process that today is the much-contested modern “separation of church and state” and all the contentions and divisions that it includes. With the putative abolition of polygamy—
“Congress admitted the State of Utah with a state constitution that excluded all religion from Utah politics. Mormonism’s confrontational threat to the secular Constitutional system ended. The church lost in every arena. All this happened fifty or so years before the nationalization and definition of the ‘Establishment’ and the ‘Free Exercise’ clauses of the First Amendment [via the Fourteenth Amendment]. Constitutional supremacy and secularity came to Mormonism and Utah long before the other states.”843
Of course, today when the church has joined its “coalition of churches” in order to breach the wall in the opposite direction, that would be a difficult precedent to explain. It would constitute the second greatest irony. This lapse may indeed have been the defining moment for the Mormons’ gradual loss of their self-perceived status as a “peculiar people.” We now turn our attention to that coalition of churches and examine some of the issues surrounding its so-called ecumenism.

Chapter 11: Dangers & Consequences: False Ecumenism

As the churches, i.e., Christendom at large, increasingly map onto the state and become contiguous with it, several things are lost sight of or misapprehended in addition to the fusion of church and state and the creation of a state religion and a religious state. First, it is forgotten that Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”844 Second, a little-taught but singular statement in the Book of Mormon is ignored: “I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few… I beheld…the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God… and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small….”845 Third, the concomitant increase of power, prestige, and influence in the world is mistaken for the power of the Word of God and of the priesthood—the sword (political, governmental, military) is substituted for the Word846, the hurricane for the still small voice847, exultation for exaltation. “And now, as the preaching of the word [of God] had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.”848

Law, argumentation, and especially politics carry with them the hot rush of emotion, the blaze of victory and defeat, the rapture of feeling powerful and therefore “good” and “right.” But Joseph Smith taught that the “first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence.”849 James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson a cautious warning on this subject:
“The inefficacy of this restraint [religious belief] on individuals is well known. The conduct of every popular assembly, acting on oath, the strongest of religious ties, shews that individuals join without remorse in acts against which their consciences would revolt, if proposed to them, separately, in their closets. When, indeed, Religion is kindled into enthusiasm, its force, like that of other passions, is increased by the sympathy of a multitude. But enthusiasm is only a temporary state of Religion, and whilst it lasts will hardly be seen with pleasure at the helm. Even in its coolest state, it has been much oftener a motive to oppression than a restraint from it.”850
It is well at this point to recall that Joseph Smith saw and characterized himself as a literal heir and namesake of the biblical Joseph, son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt by his brothers.851 The romantic and dramatic story of the ancient Joseph captivates the imagination.852 The persecuted “kid brother” with his “coat of many colors” is placed in a pit to die, then sold as a slave by his wicked brothers. He comes into Potiphar’s house, where Potiphar’s wife tempts him sexually, yet he resists, is accused again, goes to prison, find favor there, and eventually comes to the attention of Pharaoh through the providence of God. Pharaoh makes him governor over all the land with plenary power to rule in all things, and Joseph, through wisdom and prudence, saves Egypt from starvation. Eventually, he brings his whole family to Egypt to save them from famine—a governmental welfare plan. Joseph lives to old age surrounded by his now humbled family and his sons, the most prominent of whom for Mormons is Ephraim, from whose lineage most of them claim to be descended. Brigham Young taught that Joseph Smith “was a pure Ephraimite.”853 Hence, Mormons claim to be “of the House of Israel” because Israel was the new name given to Jacob, the father of Joseph.854

Many who tell or remember the story end it there. But the story of Joseph does not end there but much later with the “exodus” of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt and another Pharaoh when Moses led them to the “promised land” through a long series of heavenly interventions—plagues, pillars of fire, the parting of oceans—to undo the entanglement. They took the bones of Joseph with them to bury them at Shechem.855 So bitter had been their enslavement in Egypt that they wished to leave no remnant of themselves there—not even the bones of their founder.




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