Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: A Bad Year for the Mormons

Jan Shipps sums it up well, it was as has been often mentioned “A perfect storm”. The year started out appropriately enough (in a symbolic sense) with the death of Gordon B. Hinckley, the Church’s president and arguably the greatest public relations man in its history. Two months later, on the same weekend as the official sustaining of Hinckley’s successor, Thomas Monson as the Church’s 16th President, news broke of the government raid on a compound of the polygamist FLDS Church near El Dorado, Texas. It was an uncomfortable reminder of a past that the LDS Church’s public relations people, to put it mildly, wish to deemphasize.

Though it was by then only April the Church had already experienced one wake-up call, the humiliating and unexpectedly server trouncing of Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primaries. Coming into the race with perhaps the biggest fund raising advantage of any of the GOP contenders, Mitt Romney just had a heck of a time getting people to vote for him. This was particularly true of many evangelical Christians, who perhaps felt themselves saved from the existential angst of having to vote for a Mormon because he was the most socially conservative of the viables, by the appearance of the affable Baptist preacher/Frmr. Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (who himself may have engaged in some subtle anti-Mormon pandering).

In deed by late spring it was obvious that anti-Mormon feeling was very much alive in this country, and stronger then many Church members had previously appreciated. But then came proposition 8, and all that came before it would seem as nothing. Though the lashing the Church took for its role in the anti-gay marriage initiative in California (previously dealt with on this blog) no doubt earned the church some sympathy from Catholic and Protestant quarters, they still remain theological enemies, and weary culture war allies. But it was the response from the left, already no fan of Mormonism, that so thoroughly cast the Mormons as enemies of tolerance and that will have the biggest long term impact. The media I think will not by on the LDS side for a long time to come, and that panicle year of Mormon media kudos, 2002, now seems much more then just six years past. Now we know how George W. Bush feels.

As this year also closed with the death of another Church leader born in the 1910’s, there has been speculation in some limited quarters that the selection Elder Wirthlin’s replacement in the 12 could have a large public relations element. Perhaps now would be a good time for Latin American Apostle, as that is the part of the world in which the Church has been experiencing the most growth for the past 40 years. Or maybe someone like Marlin K. Jensen, a favorite of the Church left and sympathetic outsiders. Though most likely it will be another white, conservative, gray haired lawyer, educational administrator or former business man. It probably won’t do much to make 2009 a better year for the Mormons.

Sacred Marketing

I’m fascinated by Mormon nitch marketing, from come to Zion’s bank and open a mission savings account for your infant, to most anything pushed by Desert Book. In the Improvement Era, and other now defunct official or semi-official church publications you use to get adds for products like Postum, the then Church owned Beneficial Life Insurance company, and Salt Lake area hotels (where you and your family can stay when you visit to attend General Conference or go to the Temple). But I never thought I’d see adds like these (click here). I guess it makes since in an odd way, commerce and Mormonism became quite intertwined do to social and physical isolation from the larger world, only in recent decades has the Church thoroughly divested itself from most of its business holdings, though what it still controls now can hardly be called small.

The Garment ads are fascinating in that they showcase a parallel society, running just to the side of the rest of free market America, and surprisingly unconcerned with what they think. Well at least it was more that way back then, now we're much more concerned with what others think, but still pretty stubborn about having our own way in some areas. Garment sales were surprisingly unregulated until I believe the 1960’s, when it started to catch on that ‘Gentile’ tourists to Utah were buying the things as souvenirs of their visit to Mormon country, much as you would by a sombrero in Mexico. You shall not make light of sacred things, so the adds were pulled and one must now posses a temple recommend to buy a holy Mormon undergarment (unless one can find some on eBay).

Some Deaths in 2008 I Forgot to Mention

Normally I make a habit of mentioning the deaths of people who have some significance to me on my blogs. Typically actors, directors and the like on His Other Band (a.k.a. my movie blog) and others on The Great Accommodation (my Mormonism blog). To save space I’m going to mention them all here:

October 31st- Studs Terkel: A kind of Paul Harvey of the left (speaking of which Paul lost his wife Lynne Cooper Harvey this last May, she was the first producer entered into the Radio Hall of Fame). Terkel was also an oral historian and writer of note, host of his own weekday radio program from 1952-1997, and a major figure in the now largely forgotten Chicago school of television in the early 1950’s. He never learned to drive.

November 4th- Michael Crichton: One of the most successful writers of the later half of the 20th century, his works were particularly popular as movie source material in the 1990’s. He seemed to have become kind of crotchety and right wing in his later years.

December 5th- Nina Foch: I really only think of Nina from her role in one film, the loyal secretary in Executive Suite. It’s not a huge part but she leaves an impression of quite dignity that sticks with you.

December 12th-Van Johnson: Johnson had a pretty impressive and diverse career if you think about it, ranging from war films like A Guy Named Joe, to musicals such as Brigadoon. But my favorite Johnson role is his supporting part as Spike McManus, newspaper man turned political ‘advisor’ who is won over by the family of a dark horse presidential contender in Frank Capra’s State of the Union. He just makes that film for me.

December 18th- W. Mark Felt: It still astounds me that we actually found out who ‘Deep Throat’ was. One of the great mysterious of the 20th century, turns out he was a Jew from Idaho who had been the number two man at the FBI, and whose motivation for whistle blowing may well have been Nixon’s passing him over for the top job at the Bureau. It just makes so much sense.

Also December 18th- Majel Barrett: The actress and Rodenberry widow who attempted to heal the Star Trek/Babylon 5 fan divide.

December 20th- Robert Mulligan: He directed To Kill A Mockingbird, he must be mentioned.

December 25th- Eartha Kitt: I hate “Santa Baby”, but you got to admit its incredible she actually died on Christmas Day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

MORally MONStrous: A Response/Analysis to Bill Cope

Well here I go with one of those delayed response blogs I do on occasion. The subject matter in question, California’s Proposition 8, was really more immediate a month ago, but local columnist Bill Cope’s piece (the titular MORally MONStrous) didn’t appear in the Boise Weekly until its December 3-9 issue. In it the liberal Cope (whose political view point I mention simply for context and not as a judgment) laments the recent passage of California’s anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment. This amendment of course takes away the legally recognized marriage rights that became available to the states homosexuals this past summer, subsequent to a ruling from the state supreme court. As is well known many members of the LDS Church contributed time and money towards the campaign for Proposition 8, this at least partly do to the prodding of the Church hierarchy, though doubtless many Mormons would have done the same in the unlikely event that the Church had refused to comment on the issue. That the Church has incurred considerable public relations blow-back from Mormon involvement in Proposition 8, particularly from the homosexual community and the left, is also very well known; just do a YouTub search on the subject and you’ll see many a rainbow flag in front of many a Mormon Temple. Such indignation is not surprising, nor is it the part of this column that really got my interest. No what interested me about the column is best introduced in the following quotations there from:

“My opinion this week will upset many local people, I’m certain. It will bring responses about how bigoted I am. How intolerant I am. <> Specifically, it has to do with the Mormon Church, which swung its considerable clout to the travesty of denying gays the respectability and dignity that Mormons have spent well over a century trying to get for themselves. And which now, they themselves should be denied.

“ That’s right, you hear me. The Mormon Church has become a hateful bully and should be treated as such. Other people voted for Proposition 8, true, and much has been made of how black voters probably ensured its passage. But black voters aren’t a money-soaked, monolithic, corporatized, sanctimonious monstrosity that poured $20 million into the effort, are they?”

Mr. Cope recognizes, as again have many others, that it was the black vote (which went something like 70% in favor of prop 8) that was really the deciding factor, electoraly speaking, in the amendments passage. Yet he like many others refuses to place blame on that community, no doubt motivated in part by a kind of secular ecumenicalism, in which the left, the gay movement, etc. desires to have the nations blacks firmly within their big-ten coalition. Latter-day Saints however, are not desired as part of this collation, they have been given up on even before they were seriously considered, and not without plentiful reason. Mr. Cope is right, the Church is intolerant of opposing voices on this issue, it does seek to deny “gays the respectability and dignity” that the Church has spent most of its history attempting to gain for itself. In fact the parallels of the two movements long drives for ‘legitimacy’ are rather striking, which should only serve to cast further relief on the articles not even submerged, but rather blatant subtext. Again from Mr. Cope:

“We could challenge their tax exemptions and I would love it if someone asked some serious questions as to why there’s always a damn Mormon seminary within a stone’s throw of nearly every high school from here to Salt Lake City.

“But frankly, those o f us who grew up around the smug self-containment of our Mormon neighbors will realize none of that would work and, in fact, would probably only make them more smugly self-contained. The Mormon Church has always luxuriated in their history of being picked on.

“ Yet after this orchestrated disdain for the happiness and emotional well-being of their fellow citizens, my fear of saying what I really think of them (that variety of cowardice I spoke of earlier) is a thing of the past. I am now free to be as unaccepting of them as they are of gays.”

That for me is the key and reveling line: “My fear of saying what I really think of them is a thing of the past.” It says as much about life in large chunks of the Mountain West, where the Mormon/ “Gentile” divide is probably the most tense inter-group fissure; as it does about what is really an anti-Mormon bigotry held by many of the supposedly “enlightened”. “Yes the black vote is probably why Proposition 8 past, but I hate the Mormons anyway, lets vent our anger at them.” Mr. Cope would never equate being a Latino to being gang member, though many Latino’s doubtless are gang members, yet he seems more then willing to imply that Mormons are by nature bigoted. Yes many, even most Mormons (in this country at least) do have views about homosexuality that are decidedly retrograde by mainstream contemporary standards. Yet there are those who are decidedly not, such as Barbara GrahamYoung, Levi Peterson, and even Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. Mr. Cope should learn those names because they are undoubtably the kind of people he would like to see more Mormons become. Expressing unabashed hate will not help this happen, Cope admits this, but its just to satisfying to pass up. Not unlike the pleasure others get from gay-bashing.

I was not a supporter of Proposition 8, I would have voted against it for a number of reasons, just as I voted against Idaho’s anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment two years ago. I recognize the “smug self contentment” of many of my fellow Church members, it irritates me as well, I hope we as a people can overcome it. But I also think many outside the Church are to sensitive to the perceived slight of a people they claim not to care about anyway. Mostly I’m sick of intolerance, from whatever quarter, it’s so exhausting and I’ve had my full of it. Mr. Cope condescendingly offers to readmit the Mormons to American cultural pluralism once they “renounce the evil in their hierarchy and escape the sin of their dogma.” Perhaps Mr. Cope can come to recognize the extent to which he to suffers from exclusivity syndrom.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Joseph B. Wirthlin: 1917-2008

I was surprised to discover this morning that LDS apostle Joseph B Wirthlin had died on Monday. Very little has been written about this on the net as compared to other semi-recent apostolic passings such as Gordon B. Hinckley (Wirthlin’s second cousin incidentally) and James E Faust. I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me, when members are asked to name the current compliment of the Council of the 12 Wirthlin’s is typically one of the last to be remembered. He was an unassuming man, a decidedly non flashy, non controversial figure, who was probably the least dynamic speaker among the Twelve. But that’s why he was my favorite, a boring man to listen to, if you focused just on his delivery, but there was a tremendous humility, and a little bit of a sense of humor that always showed through for me. His stories about University of Utah football games from the 1930’s I always found uplifting, because you could tell how the lessons learned on the field still meant so much to him. While in some ways not as accomplished in the world as his much younger brother Dick Wirthlin, who was Ronald Reagan’s chief pollster, Elder Wurthlin’s life was well lived, and his quite presence I will miss.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

very creepy, disturbing children's cartoon, banned from TV

Belated Election Round Up

Introduction: Election Night

Well its long past time that I took a little time to comment on November 4th’s elections. I enjoyed the evenings network and cabal news coverage with two long time friends, Steven who is on the political left from me, and Rob who is on the right. I also as a guy known for his love of political talk got calls from several friends and relatives that evening to chat about the history making events of the night. Ah election night, it’s the political junkies Super Bowl.

The Presidential Election

This was by far the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in a ballot box. I liked both candidates despite their flaws, and as independent who considers himself fairly centrist, both were viable for me in terms of being individuals I could actually vote for. Ultimately though it was a decision that pitted two of my political articles of faith against each other, to make a decision one would have to lose out. As a man who believes in the pendulum theory of American politics, that its best for power to swing back and forth between the parties as neither left or right ideology is suited to all times and conditions, its was fairly clear that momentum pointed towards a vote for Obama. However as someone who fears putting to much power in the hands of any one group, John McCain seemed a sensible block on the Democrat’s power and possible legislative excesses. In the end I made my decision (with reservation) on the Wednesday before the election and voted early the next day so as to avoid scheduling and crowd issues that could have complicated my casting a ballot on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. My good friends now know how I voted, but I chose not to put that information on this blog at this time.

Idaho Races

We got rid of Bill Sali here in the first Congressional district, and after only one term too. Our departing congressman had a knack for offending people, wither it be attributing breast cancer to abortion or opposing a Mexican consulate in Boise because of illegal immigration, he was truly the heir to Helen Chenoweth’s seat. Sali won the Republican primary to replace then outgoing congressman (and in coming Governor) C. L. "Butch" Otter two years ago in a bitter five way race financed largely by out of state money from The Club for Growth. He then went on to defeat the (for Idaho) unusually good Democratic candidate Larry Grant with only 50% of the vote (Grant got 45% and 3rd party candidates the remaining 5, hay its Idaho). Sali lost this year in a squeaker (51 to 49%) to Democrat Walt Minnick, a businessman, outdoorsmen and former Nixon staffer who ran a very effective campaign as bluedog, I mean his slogan was Right for Idaho (Italics mine, but in effect his). Anyway a Republican congressman losing after only one term in Idaho says something pretty unflattering about the Republican. Walt Minick now becomes the first Democrat Idaho has sent to Congress since before the Republican revolution of 1994, the last Democrat being former 1st district congressman Larry LaRocco who coincidently that night lost his bid to replace the disgraced Larry Craig in the U.S. Senate to Republican Lt. Gov. Jim Risch. Which of course brings us to….

Proposition 8

Constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage passed in three states that night, including the Mormon heavy state of Arizona, however it was California that got all the attention. That’s because back in May the state supreme court there ruled that gays and lesbians had a right to marry, and such marriage certificates began issuing fourth from state courthouses around the first of July. The proposition to amend the state constitution to forbid such marriages passed 52 to 48%, with 70% of overwhelmingly Barak Obama supporting black voters voting in favor of the measure. But it is not the black community who is getting the brunt of the nation wide fallout over the propositions passing, negative energies are instead being vented out towards conservative white Christians, and for most among these Latter-day Saints (with Evangelicals and Catholic voters close behind).

The reason the Mormons are getting such a large share of the heat is that the Church has proven such a very successfully organizer and indirect fundraiser for ‘traditional marriage’ legislation throughout the country, starting with the nations first gay marriage referendum in Hawaii in the mid 1990’s. This gift of organizing is a well known trait of the LDS, and its effectiveness has been well demonstrated in the political arena before, as a very strong case can be made that its was the late LDS Church president Spencer W. Kimball who is largely responsible for the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The mobilization of Mormons to the cause was not limited to the state of California, indeed members in states like Idaho and Utah were recruited to man phone lines and donate time and money to influence the out come of this Golden state ballot measure. However some of the overt out of state prodding by the Church was lessened or dropped as the election came near and such meddling might prove an at worst legal and at best PR problem for the extremely image aware faith.

In the end things got pretty heated and continue to remain so. Proposition 8 has been appealed to the state supreme court who will rule on the constitutionality of this constitutional amendment, a process I find legally dubious (how can a part of the constitution be unconstitutional?). I have no doubt that homosexual marriage will eventually be the law of the land in California and in the nation as a whole, its only a matter of how much time that will take to come about. If the state supreme court upholds proposition 8, then in 2 or 4 years, or at the most 8, a ballot measure to repeal the ’traditional marriage amendment’ form the state constitution will pass, and the now voided homosexual marriages and many more will come to be recognized by the state.

I myself would not have voted for proposition 8, you will find very few insistences in which I would consider voting to change a state constitution, those things in my opinion are not to be lightly messed with, especially for what will ultimately prove faddy legislation like a gay marriage ban or prohibition, that will just have to be repelled in the future and result in potently embarrassing and awkward legislative situations: A good example of which occurred in Idaho in the early 80’s when the long unenforced measures in the states 1890 constitution limiting the political rights of Mormons were just barley repelled with nearly a third of Idaho voters desiring to at lest rhetorically continue the disenfranchisement of the states Latter-day Saints (the Mormon/Gentile gap remains the primary ethnic-type fissure in Idaho). Despite my opposition to proposition 8 the behavior of some of the laws opponents is just as offensive to me as the intolerance and short sightedness of its more vocal advocates. For example this commercial really does make me kind of uncomfortable.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Two Good Mormon News Sites

Mormon Times

LDS Today
Famous Mormons- I thought about making this subject a recuring feature on this blog and may yet still do so, however I thought some might find this rather lengthy and sometimes suprising list of interest.
Does Personal Experience Prove God's Existence? (3 min) Thoughts? A good sight for information on both sides of various arguments for the legitimacy of various Mormon beliefs. A warning though, most of this stuff is rather well researched, and those who don’t want to encounter potentially faith damaging information should probably avoid this site. I'm sorry if that sounds simplistic.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Three Recent Reviews

Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater (2006)

Documentary on landmark political figure Barry Goldwater, produced and narrated by his granddaughter C.C. Goldwater. In addition to covering the man’s storied political career, and his central role in the birth of the modern conservative movement, the film also explores Barrys many hobbies and interests, such as photography, flying, and the Hopi Indians. The sections covering Barry and his family relationships, including interviews with three of his four children, and his then 95 year old brother, were to me the most interesting parts of the film, as they revel a man very much devoted and caring for his family, but who had a difficult time expressing that love verbally and physically, and whose lone wolf streak resulted in a well maintained aura of distance from them.

Other things that caught me about Goldwater from this documentary was his very charming personality, and how despite his downright unfair demonization in the 1964 presidential campaign (1), was almost universally loved and respected on both sides of the isle in the Senate. Also quite interesting is what is sometimes referred to as Goldwater’s 'political evolution'. Pro-choice and gay friendly Barry would seem out of place among those politicians we call conservative today. But Goldwater would no doubt consider that a category error, and rightly so, his conservatism was about limited government interference in all aspects of peoples sovereign lives, not the imposition of religious or political orthodoxy upon them. In the arc of his strongly held convictions played out against a changing national political conversation, he is reminiscent to me of William Jennings Bryan, who started out as the great progressive championing bimetallism and women’s suffrage, but at the end of his life time seemed regressive do to his outspoken biblical literalism and involvement in Tennessee’s famous Scopes Monkey Trial. Goldwater, as he says of himself in archival footage, started out his career in the Senate opposing the exercise of undo influence on the government by unions, and ended it opposing the same from the Churches. Here is a figure just awaiting a proper contextual re-discovery, one who while in life dubbed Mr. Conservative, might today stand for the vast center of American political thought. 4 out of 5

1. Though Johnson had practically no chance of losing that race to Goldwater, the sitting President authorized a series of hateful and scorching political adds that would insight widespread furor if used today.

Religulous (2008)

I like Bill Maher, I even liked him when I hated him. He fills something of the role of a loyal opposition to the conventional wisdom, an important if not often well received avocation in this country, and the world at large. Maher’s new film, often labeled a documentary, though he prefers “unscripted comedy”, (a categorization that fits all the more well given that its directed by Larry Charles of Borat fame) is about religion, and how its... ridiculous. Or at least that’s what Maher, and as much as 16% of the country feel about the subject of religion now. In fact its that 16% to whom this film is mostly addressed, not just for that constituencies entertainment, but also to call for their mobilization. The film points out how atheists, agnostics, and the religiously uninterested represent the great untaped special interest group in American politics (only 1 of the 535 members of congress will admit to a lack of belief in God). Maher wants these people to rise up and assert their influence, noting how homosexuals and NRA members have done so quite effectively, and there only 3 and 1.2% of the population respectively. I have no doubt we will see more atheistic influence in this country as we become more like Europe in many of our collective sensibilities, and this will be quite helpful in quailing many of the political excesses of the religious right, though doubtless not without its own fallouts. Anyway I digress.

Religulous can be approach two ways, for its polemics, many of which have great merits, and for its entertainment value. For blogging comment safety purposes I’ll limit myself largely to the entertainment aspects. This movie is funny. It is also smart. Some of the great moments come simply from Maher’s facial expressions following any of a number of interview subjects making particularly incredulous statements. Maher stacks his film with religious persons whom it is easy not to take seriously, the Rabbi who is a militant anti-Zionist and once exchanged hugs with Iran’s president at a Holocaust deniers conference (one desperately wants to see that guy mocked), an ex R & B singer turned pastor fond of $2000 suits, a Muslim rap artist whose attempts at being insightful and nuanced only make him look foolish, and even tolerant of murder. True a handful of well educated religious people appear in the film, most notably two decidedly unorthodox seeming Catholic priests, but they seem mostly if not exclusively on Maher’s side (what’s the old joke about all Bishops in the Church of England being atheists). But as one reviewer said of the film, maybe its best just to ignore the parts about your own religion in the film (in my case Mormons get about 4 or 5 minutes of air time), and enjoy the skewering of everybody else’s. In a religiously charged world there can be some value to channeled venting, the 2 minutes or so spent watching audiences cheer the re-enacted beatings and lashings of Christ at a Bible themed amusement park, pretty much sums up most of my criticisms of Evangelical Christianity. This is provocative humor and social commentary of almost rare rawness, and thusly a joyous blessing to behold for those who have the stomach for it. I’m glade I was able to rush from my Tuesday night Doctrines of the Gospel class in time to see it. 4 out of 5.

Henry Poole is Here (2008)

A ‘Christian’ themed movie staring Luke Wilson, yes I was skeptical to when I first saw the televison adds. But Henry Poole is Here is better then the typical ‘Christian’ fair, in large part I’m sure do to the fact that its director Mark Pellington (The Mothman Prophecies, among others) has roots in film making beyond the particular ‘nich market’ one associates with the works of Kirk Cameron (and Wilsons a level or two above him as an actor to boot). Poole is the story of man diagnosed with an unspecified but rare terminal illness (this news broken by Richard Benjamin in a cameo role that makes you realize just how long its been since you saw Richard Benjamin in a movie) who buys a house on the street were he spent his troubled boyhood, with the intent to die there, quietly, alone, and most likely drunk. However the self imposed exile of this “sad and angry” atheist is not to be. You see his over enthusiastic real estate agent (Cheryl Hines) thought she got a good deal on a new stucco job for the house, but it left behind a water stain that very Catholic neighbor lady Adriana Barraza is just sure to be the face of Christ, and by extension a good candidate for official miracle statues. Poole fights this intrusion on his solace, and the well intentioned but unwanted concern of a number of acquittances, while simultaneously developing an affection for the beautiful single mother next door Radha Mitchell and her emotionally troubled young daughter Millie Morgan Lilly (Who from her first moment on screen, doe eyed and clutching the tap recorder she uses to capture the conversations of those around her, you just know is going to break your heart).

There’s a maturity here about human suffering that to me evoked Six Feet Under. At first I didn’t fully understand why, though this is a more sobber then typical ‘Christian film’, it certainty didn’t approach the darkness and vulgarity of the late HBO series. Upon reflection I think that what I was picking up on is how both works took what are often stereotypes we’ve seen before (Here the angry atheist, hot signal mom, latina catholic, Under, ageing ladies man, repressed housewife, arty teen) and presented them to us in a deeper, more honest way. I also liked the ambiguity of much of the film, and the fact that the atheist often has the strongest argument. I’d say I was 90% with this movie, it decided to give us something of a connect-the- dots happy ending, and I understand why, though that diluted the piece a little bit for me. Still a surprisingly strong film, that has genuine merit. This could easily end up on MySpace top 20 films I saw this year list. 4 out 5.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Winter Light (1962)

Ingmar Bergman’s study of a pastors crises of faith is brilliant. I have watched this movie three times in the week since it arrived via Netflix, and I continue to get something more out of it each time. It is a complicated, layered, even ambiguous film, and intentionally so. The performances of the actors and interrelations of the characters are complex and deeply human. The snowy setting in the north of Sweden, in the winter time no-less, adds to the strained and alienated subtext of the characters. The cinematography distant, the dialog often sparse, but an intensity permeates throughout. This is the first Bergman film I’ve seen with a contemporary setting, and I felt that helped me relate to it more directly then The Seventh Sign or The Virgin Spring; yet Winter Light must be called timeless as well. I could talk about this film for a long time with you in conversation, but I find that writing about it almost seems futile at this point. You need to see this film to appreciate it. I appreciated it so much that I’ve orderd up the two other chapters of Bergmans ‘Faith Trilogy’, Through a glass Darkly , and The Silence, and shall see those both real soon. I may write a longer post about all three films in the future. Again, I love this movie. Five out of Five.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sheen Gems: The Best of Fulton J. Sheen (2005), His Irish Wit and Wisdom: Fulton Sheen (2006)

Respectively highlights from, and three complete episodes of, the long running television programs of Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979). A Bishop in the Roman Catholic Church, Illinois native Sheen was a philosophy professor and the author of 73 books. Bountifully blessed as a communicator, Sheen was a broadcasting natural, possessed of a rare magnetism that draws the viewer in, as well as a slight penchant for theatricality (watch how he uses his robe). I myself was utterly captivated by the man with in minutes, of course I was a communications major so I’m perhaps extra appreciative of fine speechmanship. Sheen seemed a kindly and warm hearted man, with a mischievous smile and excellent mental recall, yet when aroused by some moral issue he could speedily transform his soothing vocal into a thundering roar of conviction and moral indignation. In short a very dynamic, and fascinating gentleman, who had he pursued another course in life could have been a great politician, news, or entertainment personality (and no doubt he was all of those to some extent in his life). Bishop Sheen is currently being considered by the Catholic Church as a candidate for Sainthood. So if you know little or nothing about this man, I recommend you check out some of his material, you should be dully impressed by his performance and deliver if nothing else (though his messages are largely non-denominational). 4 and 3 out of 5 respectively.

Here's an example: Bishop Sheen Condemns Communists

Trivia: The actor Martin Sheen adopted his current last name in honor of the good Bishop.

Monday, September 1, 2008

What you will find when you step inside a Mormon Chapel- I thought this would be an apropos companion piece to my last entry.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Twin Falls Temple Open House

Introduction and Background

Despite being the second most Mormon state in the union by percentage of the population (24.1% to Utah’s 66.4% as of the 2000 Census) Idaho’s temple history is surprisingly sparse. The states first temple was dedicated in Idaho Falls, Idaho on September 23rd 1945, about a month after Japans surrender and the end of the Second World War. In fact the war greatly delayed the construction of that temple, for while the exterior was completed in 1941 (construction began in 1939), material shortages kept the interior unfinished untill the summer of 45. At the time of the Idaho Falls Temples dedication, Utah already had four operating temples.

Idaho did not get another temple until 1984 (Utah then had seven working temples), when one was dedicated in Boise, Idaho. This temple was built to small for regional needs and had to be expanded and re-dedicated in 1987. Then it was not until earlier this year that Idaho got its third working temple, this one in Rexburg, Idaho, home to Church run Brigham Young University- Idaho. It was dedicated on February 10th by newly ordained Church President Thomas S. Monson, only two weeks after the death of his predecessor Gordon B. Hinckley. On August the 24th President Monson is scheduled to dedicated Idaho’s fourth temple, this one in Twin Falls. Interestingly this will also be Presidents Monson’s fourth temple dedication as Church President, in addition to Rexburg he has since dedicated a Temple in Curitiba, Brazil, and is set to dedicate another in Panamá City, Panama' August 9th. The state of Utah by the way currently has eleven operating temples, with two more under construction. By further way of comparison the state of Arizona has five temples with I think four in the works, and California has seven with I believe a few more on the way as well. California by the way is the second most Mormon state in terms of shear numbers with 529,575 members to Idaho’s 311,425, again as of the 2000 census. While Rhode Island is the lest Mormon state with only 3,578 members. In a last bit of trivia the state of Texas has four temples as well.

As is standard procedure when the Church prepares to dedicate a new ’House of the Lord’ (as we hold our temples to be) an open house is being held for the general public, the Twin Falls Temple will thusly be open for tours from the 11th of July until August 15th. While I have been in about a half dozen dedicated LDS temples and have participated in most of the different types of ceremonies performed there, I had never been to an open house and was fairly curious as to how the temple would be presented. Temple worship is in many ways the pinnacle of LDS doctrine and practice, it is the ‘meat’ to the ’milk’ that is generally the subject of our chapel services, General Conference addresses, and official publications. In other words, what we do there is kind of deep and involved, it varies even markedly form the rest of traditional Mormon ceremonial practice, and is something which church members generally prefer to speak about in only the vaguest of terms, in fact that is expected of us. This is why I was so excited for the opportunity to go and attend the Twin Falls Temple open house with my Boise singles congregation on Saturday the 2nd of August.

The Trip and Pre-Tour

That morning members of the ward gathered at the parking lot of the University Stake Center (1). We had prayer, then split up among probably a dozen or so vehicles for the roughly two hour drive to Twin Falls. Joe F., Alyson, Katie C., Suzanne and I traveled up together, enjoying some interesting conversation, and stopped briefly in Kimberly, Idaho to visit Alyson’s sister-in-law and her kids before making our way to the temple. There we were greeted by a man in a straw-type cowboy hat protesting the non-Christianity of Mormonism. Such ’Anti-Mormon’ protesters show up at virtually all high profile LDS events, and while this guy was providing counter point solo, there had been more protesters there earlier in the open house (click here).

Upon arrival we stowed electronic items (cell phones, camera's) per policy, and headed up to the church building that conjoins the temple grounds (it is common practice for the Church to place a Stake Center next to a Temple). There we were all ushered into the chapel to await our tour. While waiting I got to speak with a member of the incoming Temple Presidency (A body of three that serve as the temples administrating executives), who told me that as of closing the previous day, 85, 000 people had toured the Temple since the open house began, resulting in 265 referrals, and three baptisms. Also while waiting Joe’s mom showed up, in an unplanned but pleasant surprise; I myself saw a distant cousin.

After some time waiting our group was filed out of the chapel, down the hall, and into one of the classrooms, where we were shown a introductory video. The video presentation was part general, and part local, highlighting some basics of Mormon belief, the concept of the temple, and Church history in the Twin Falls area. The latter connection was of particular resonance to our good Bishop, who grew up in the area and whose grandmother would always tell him as a boy that some day there would be a temple there (2). It was also in this room that we meet a few non-LDS visitors, whose reactions I would try to keep an eye on throughout the tour. They consisted of a couple from Ogden, Utah who came because "We’ve never been inside of one of these before", and a one’s sister from Tennessee, as well as a couple of young children (3).

After the video an elderly man introduced himself to us as our tour guide, like all those assisting at the open house he was a volunteer from a local Stake, and while he lacked charisma in his presentation, was doubtless sincere. We were lead out of the church building onto the temple grounds (which by the way are bigger then Boise’s), which consisted of a well manicured lawn, some pathways, benches and a fountain. We had to stop several times waiting for earler groups to procced as we wound around the structures west side, we could dimly hear the afformentioned street preacher attempting to dissuade us, but mostly we kept in conversation among ourselves. Eventually we made it to the front entrance, were some local youth put little ‘booties’ on our feet, so the heavy traffic wouldn’t muff up the temple.

The Temple Tour: First Floor

The first room in the temple was a kind of Fourier, with a nice waiting room to one side, but it was ropped off. After squeezing our group of around 40-to-50 into the Fourier, the tour guide spoke to us. From here on out I’m going to omit that the tour guide spoke to us, which he did at every stop, and simply explain the purpose of the rooms we visited. The Fourier to start with has a little desk at the end, this is where in a dedicated temple one would present one’s recommend to gain access to the other parts of the building. Non-recommend holders can enter a dedicated temple, but are restricted to the Fourier and waiting area.

From the Fourier we went through a little hall way that opened out to one side of a large staircase. This staircase constituted one end of a large central room, that spans the length of the temples first floor, and slightly contracts at a few places to divide sections of this ‘great hall’ into 'effective' rooms. The first of these subrooms was an additional waiting area for recommend holders, followed by a slightly down slopped ‘hall’ that lead into the baptistry, which of course is not completely separated from the rest of the ‘great hall’ (4).

The baptistry opens up a little from the rest of the hall, it’s a room with a couple of benches facing the baptismal font. Like all the rooms in the temple it is of course nicely decorated, I think some plants, nice furniture and pots by the walls, paintings both religious and of local nature scenes. The baptismal font is per tradition actually located underground, hence the sloop in getting there. So basically you have this room with a large square indentation within it, going down say 6 or 8 feet (I’m guessing), in which sits the baptismal font. The font looks like something between a bowl and a gravy boat, and sits upon the back of twelve sculpted oxen who represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Every active LDS temple has one of these, though the styles may very (some are bronze, this a white stone-like material). Something similar to the font was among the acrutrements of ancient Israel’s traveling Tabernacle.

In this room Church members participate in proxy baptisms for the deceased, sometimes direct ancestors, sometimes not. This practice is the major impetus behind the Churches well known involvement in genealogical research. Mormons do not believe that such proxy baptisms force anything on the deceased, we hold that the dead still have agency and may chose to accept or deny any ordinance performed on their behalf. This of course gets us well into the area of Mormon beliefs as regards the after-life, which are much more involved then those held by most Christians. I will not attempt to get into any real detail at this point, but if anyone would like more information on this topic, I would be happy to write another post, or at least point you in the right direction for further enlightenment on the subject.

From the baptistry we were lead back through the great hall into the women’s locker room along the east side of the building (the mens locker room is basically a parallel space along the west side, as it would have been redundant to visit it, we didn’t). In the locker room members change from there outside clothing (typically suits and dresses, the kinds of nice outfits Latter-day Saints traditionally wear to Sunday services), into pure white variants there of, as well as other ceremonial vestments, depending on the ritual one has come to participate in. Not far from this room, though we were not shown it, would be the space were members get the names they will participate in proxy rituals for, and the area were the initiatory ordinances, also known as the ‘washing and anointing’ are preformed, again I will not get into any real detail on the specifics of these ordinances. We were then lead out of the locker room, passed the bridal room (were a bride to be changes into her wedding dress) in which we were allowed to look, and back into the members waiting area, then up the main stairs.

The Temple Tour: Second Floor

Unlike the first floor the second level of the temple was not primarily a long hall. The stairwell had a brief landing half way up, then (if I remember correctly) split into two to finish the accent. Once on the second floor we were lead to the east hall and then into the first of the Endowment rooms. The Endowment is probably the most unique of Mormon religious rituals. There is no real corollary in other faiths that I can think of, though its similarities to Masonic rituals are often employed as a point of reference and comparison (5). Again Mormons do not like to speak of rituals such as this in any real detail outside the temple, not even to others members. I will only go so far in my description of the ceremony as I have heard and read other Mormons, such as the late Apostle Bruce R. McConkie go. In short the Endowment is a symbolic teaching and covenant making ritual that consists both of a depiction of the creation of this Earth, as well as a narrative focused on Adam & Eve. While the ritual has not remained word-for-word consistent since its inauguration, it could be said that it remains the same in its essentials.

The mode for the presentation of the Endowment has also changed some over time. While both the Salt Lake and Manti, Utah Temples continue to offer the presentation with an entirely live ‘cast’, all other temples employ a video presentation as part of the ceremony. The ceremony can be done in a very small space, or spread out through a series of rooms to mark progression through the ritual. In the Salt Lake Temple for example the Endowment progresses through four rooms, in the Boise Temple only two. In the Twin Falls Temple the ceremony is cared out through a total of three rooms. The first such room in this temple contains a beautiful mural across all walls of the Shoshone Falls area prior to the limited human development there. It was painted by the son of the well known LDS artist Del Parsons, though I find that I prefer the sons work to the fathers. From this first Endowment room we go into the second, another room full of seats and a presentation area, but minus a mural and video screen. This second room has curtains that mark the entrance to the Celestial Room, which is a beautiful white-motifed space, were upon compilation of the Endowment the participants go to mediate, or perhaps enjoy a few reflective moments with family and friends. It’s a beautiful room, I can’t really do it justice, though I can say that some Mormons have referred to Celestial Room’s as "God’s living room".

After some moments in the Celestial Room we were lead down the west hallway and into the largest of the three Sealing Rooms. A Sealing Room is were a temple marriage is performed, it is also were ordinances uniting families not previously sealed are conducted; like all Mormon ceremonies this ritual may be performed on behalf of either the living, or in proxy for the dead.(6) The Sealing room contains chairs for the guests, and in the center a large padded ‘alter’ at which the bride and the groom kneel facing each other, as well as large parallel wall mounted mirrors that create a fittingly symbolic infinity effect.

The End of the Tour and After

From the Sealing Room we were lead back down stars, down the east hall passed the administrative offices and back outside (through the fire exit). Our shoe coverings were removed by volunteers, and we then progressed back across the temple grounds, into the regular church building, down a hall, and into the central gym area (known to Mormons as a ‘cultural hall’), a multi-purpose room located directly behind the chapel area used for conventional Sunday services. Here there were professionally done displays on the history of temple worship, Jesus Christ, and the Churchs temples around the world. There were also cookies and drinks, and nice furniture store-like mock living roomlike arraignments, in which to sit, eat, and discuss. Missionaries were also on hand, and visitors could sign up to get more information about the Church.

After a short time in the cultural hall we departed for a pic-nic near Shoshone Falls (beautiful, I’d never been there before) and an uneventful trip home. That in long was our temple tour trip. Anyway I think I’ve been verbose enough, but I wanted to give a complete depiction of the experience, and maybe shed a little light on what goes on inside an LDS temple for the benefit of non-Mormon readers. Any comments or questions, please leave them.

(1) Like a mini-deices a Stake generally consists of from half a dozen to fifteen or so wards and/or branches (read: congregations). The Stake Center is the chapel that serves as a sort of ’seat’ of the stake, generally stake offices are located at or near there (though there are exceptions) and bi-annual Stake Conferences are held there. The Boise Institute University Stake, is attached (as it were) to the Boise State Institute, which its self offers supplementary religious instruction and social activities for young Latter-day Saints and interested others attending Boise State University, or of the ages (say 18 to 30) that generally would. The University stake has congregations for both married and single young adults, and one does not have to be enrolled at either the University or the Institute to attend.

(2) Such stories are fairly common the world around for Mormons, as they express a very central hope for many members. Yet until the recent surge in temple building, which by the most generous stretch could only be dated back to around the 1980's, such hopes were not unlike the old Jewish saying "Next year in Jerusalem", perhaps comforting, but not very likely to happen.

(3) The husband was mostly stoic, perhaps trying to figure out how to take what was being presented to him. The women looked uncomfortable at a couple of junctures, but one really lit up upon entrance to the Celestial Room. Her little boy was a big fan of the large chandelier.

(4) ‘Great Hall’ is not an official Mormon designation for this space, just something I’m using to describe it with. By the way I really loved the use of space in this building, very open and airy, as contrast to the temple I’m most familiar with (Boise’s), that feels perhaps a little closterphobic and has much shorter ceilings.

(5) In fact the Idaho Historical Museum has a rather well done exhibit on Masonry running into September. The exhibit includes information on Mormonism and Masonry, including the fact that a long standing ban on Mormons joining the fraternity was not lifted until 1984. As a side note to this I just read in Sunstone the other day that Utahan Glen Cook has just been elected the first Mormon Grand Master Mason since the ban was lifted. Getting back to the exhibit, those familiar with certain aspects of Mormon temple worship will recognize there in both symbolic and others parallels shared with the Masons.

(6) The fact that members of the LDS Church will preform their most sacred religious ordinances on behalf of deceased non-Mormons, is well, controversial. The fact of this makes some people quite uncomfortable, it is often taken as offensive, and tends to make the Mormons seem just weird. However it should be noted that Mormons intentions in these rituals are to benefit the deceased in the afterlife, and can thus be liken to Roman Catholic or traditional Buddhist prayers for the dead, neither of which seem to generate this same level of negative feeling.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Idaho State Constitution Party Convention

This last weekend I attended part of my state’s Constitution Party convention at a hotel near the airport. I had heard on the radio that the parties V.P. Candidate, Darrell Castle would be the key-note speaker. I arrived just before 1 PM, which is when I understood Castle would be speaking. There was probably about thirty people there, one of home was a friend from an old singles ward I used to attend, he was there with his wife. The state party chairman, a short black man, unusual for Idaho, started the meeting by showing us a couple of YouTube clips of the parties presidential candidate, Chuck Baldwin (an ordained Baptist minister and radio-talk show host) laying out his platform, at what appers to be a Barns & Nobel bookstore. That platform was small government, out of Iraq, anti-abortion, ect. Ect. In short the Constitution party is basically and overtly Christian version of the Libertarian party. In fact later, when I asked a member of the party why they weren’t simply part of the Libertarian party he replied by saying: “Because we acknowledge God and they don’t”.

After the YouTube clips my friend handed me a copy of the conventions schedule, from which I learned that Castle wasn’t scheduled to speak for another hour and half. There were to be two other speakers before Castle, a former Reagan aid turned organic farmer, and the lone Constitution party member of Montana’s state legislature. Not practically interested in either speaker, I zipped over to spend an hour with my brother and his family who live near by. I returned in time to catch a fair amount of the Montana state rep’s speech, which ultimately went about a half hour over. Apparently other members of the Montana state house find him annoying, and he loves to tell stories about that.

Anyway finally came Castle’s turn, and he spoke about all the radio interviews he does, and foreign policy, and small government ect ect. He seemed a comparatively reasonable guy, not showy like the previous speaker. Attendance had increased some by the time he started his address, with the audience consisting primarily of older people, and the overall feeling I got from the crowed was defiantly one of resentment at the political power structure, and that the country had been corrupted and needed to be ’reclaimed’. When I got up to leave prior to Castle finishing his address (things had gotten off schedule and I had other plans for the Five O’clock hour) a member of the party intercepted me and tired essentially to recruit me. We had a somewhat awkward roughly 15 minute long conversation which eventually turned toward religion and in which I defiantly held my punches. Attending was an interesting little curio of an experience, but I don’t anticipate much if any further involvement with America’s fifth biggest political party. By way of short political analysis, considering Bob Barr has pretty strong credentials among the base that might vote for the Constitution party candidate, I think if those voters want to send a statement, it might more effectively be sent by voting Libertarian in November.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"LDS Prophets warn us of the dangers facing America"

I suppose you could call this a kind of conservative Mormon propaganda piece, and a competently produced one at that. A recent clip of current LDS Church president Thomas S. Monson is used as a hook or tie-in with a 1965 speech by then Apostle and later Church president Ezra Taft Benson. A John Birch society espousing paleo-conservative Republican, Benson arguably moderated some from his arch-conservatism during his 1985-1994 presidency (he was in his late 80’s when he came to the office), but here he is in right-wing glory. He was certainly a man of strong and deeply felt conviction, and agree with him or not he spoke his mind honestly and firmly. Ezra Taft Benson was influential in ushering in the Church membership more fully into the Republican column politically.

Many Mormonism's: The Latter Day Church of Christ

This is the first of what may turn out to be a recurring series on this blog profiling other Mormon denominations. Many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (including many in the leadership) tend to act as though they have exclusive hold on the term ‘Mormon’, which is ironic in that they are simultaneously not fully comfortable with that term. This possessiveness of the term ‘Mormon’ owes mostly I think to a fear of the LDS Church being confused with some of the offshoots, most notably the polygamist ones. However in all fairness any Church that traces itself back to Joseph Smith, or holds the Book of Mormon as scripture, is legitimately Mormon.

One of the most recent Mormon Church’s to come into existence is The Latter Day Church of Christ. This faith is unlike most smaller Mormon bodies in that it is 1) not Polygamist, and 2) based outside of North America, in this case the UK. Rejecting most of post Joseph Smith Mormon history as a period of apostasy, this group claims Matthew Philip Gill as the prophets first legitimate successor. Gill’s claims rest mostly on his supposed translation of a Book-of- Mormon-like ancient record called the Book of Jeraneck, which is supposed to be the history of ancient British Christians. This small Church communicates to the world via blogspot, and I provide a link to their page for the curious: Anyway I find this group to be both odd and kind of amusing. It’s desire to copy the narrative of the early Church is particularly fascinating. Pursuing the blogs video contents I almost wonder if this is all a joke?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

FAIR, Sunstone Confrences this week
Recent President Monson fluff story on Salt Lake CBS affiliate. The thing I find interesting about this clip is just how casual Monson is in it, he's an odd kind of none-pulsed that I've never seen before. I think this may be as close to his 'real' (for lack of a better word) personality as we may ever get on tape. What's with the peace sign?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Shooting at Knoxville Unitarian Universalists Fellowship

I include a link to an article on the recent shooting in Knoxville for two reasons, one because this ‘Church’ (Unitarians prefer the term ‘Fellowship’) is located within about a five minute walk of the Knoxville LDS mission home, mission offices, and the local stake center (thusly I passed it numerous times). The second reason is because I have an old mission companion who is pretty sure he had a long discussion with this guy in the West Hills area, a discussion he remembers because of the man’s hostility and a-typical religious hang-ups. This whole thing is truly a tragedy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I orignally posted this on an LDS discussion group about a year ago, I came across it again while sorting through some files and was impressed by how relevant it still is, so I provide it here for your perusal and comment:

On issues of politics I take it that many here have concerns in regards the upcoming presidential election, of the incoming commander-in-chief and the congress pushing social or other reforms found threatening to the established order, such as gay-marriage, or retaining current practices that you might frown upon like legal abortions. However an article by Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute in the June 25th 2007 issue of National Review causes some room to doubt about a common conservative strain of thought. I quote:

“In past decades conservatives imagined that only through maintaining specific social practices and arrangements could order and the values of a free society be preserved. Some thought, in the years before 1964, that disenfranchisement of blacks in the South was necessary to prevent catastrophic misrule. They were wrong. Others thought family life could not survive the exodus of women into the workforce. Wrong again. And others believed that only a revival of faith in Christianity could stave off social breakdown. Once more, with feeling--wrong.

“It turns out that the core middle-class values that sustain a free society can survive---- indeed, they can thrive--- even as various historically contingent embellishments are dropped along the way. Look, for example, at blue-state New England today, where the most pronounced sort of cultural liberalism coexists with of the highest incomes per head and lowest levels of social dysfunction (crime, divorce, illegitimacy, ect.) in the country”

Perhaps this matter is only tangentially related to the topics discussed in this forum, however I think it hits upon a common way of thinking espoused by many socially conservative Mormons and other Christians. I’d like to hear others takes on this, how important is it (if at all) for ‘our families’ to fight social changes in the broader society, particularly as they relate to matters of law.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hollywood's Lapsed Mormon Renaissance

Hollywood has a long tradition of holding certain religions in vogue, during the golden era it was Christian Science, today its Scientology and Kabala. Despite sharing a certain esoteric element with those faiths, I think its safe to say that Mormonism will never be a popular religion among the Hollywood stars, it’s both to demanding and to middle American. Now there has always been a Mormon presence in Hollywood, though admittedly characters actors like Moroni Olsen or Priscilla Lane statues leading lady’s like Larraine Day (see Foreign Correspondent, sadly forgotten Hitchcock film) were never among the who’s who in town. However lapsed Mormons (as a group) have apparently never had a problem succeeding in Hollywood, and now may just be their golden age.

Notable Hollywood lapsed Mormons of an earlier time include John Gilbert, the silent screen leading man who had a very public romance with Greta Garbo. The great love of Rudolph Valinteno’s life, Natacha Rambova, an actress and fashion designer who cultivated a foreign mystique, was actually one Winifred Shaughnessy, a product of Mormon polygamy by way of her great-grandfather Church leader Heber C. Kimball. Robert Walker was the son of an editor of the Church owned Desert News, he made a stock and trade out of playing earnest young solders during the World War II era, and was even briefly married to Jennifer Jones. A career resurgence was in the works after Walker gave a impressive performance cast against type as the villain in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, only the poor guy died of an apparent prescription drug overdose the same year the film was released. Harold and Maude director Hal Ashby also came from a broken LDS home.

Today’s lapsed Mormons of Hollywood are A list, starting with current it girl Amy Adams (whom I love). Raised a Mormon in Colorado until here parents split when she was 11, Adams burst on the scene last year with the lead in Disney’s Enchanted and a supporting part in Charlie Wilson’s War, though she had previously been Oscar nominated for Junebug. Aaron Eckhart is a BYU graduate who has been in loads of high profile Hollywood movies including Erin Brockovich, The Pledge, and Thank You For Smoking in which he played the lead. He will appear as Harvey Dent in this summers Batman movie. Eckhart has expressed a certain affection in interviews for his time as a practicing Mormon, but such religious devotion is not currently central to his everyday living. Interestingly Eckhart is often cast in films by another lapsed Mormon, director Neil LaBute (Nurse Betty, The Wicker Man).

Ryan Gosling was launched to stardoom in 2004 with the female favorite The Notebook, and is apparently dating his co-star and fellow Canadian Rachel McAdams. He was Oscar nominated for Half Nelson, and probably should have been for Lars and the Real Girl. Lastly I’d like to mention Katherine Heigl, who was recently voted the most desirable women in the world by the website AskMen. Heigl took awhile to make it to the front ranks, laboring in TV movies and the sci-fi teen drama Roswell. Now with both a mega successful TV series in Gray’s Anatomy and near top teir movie statues after Aptow’s Knocked-Up, she seems pretty set for the time being. Heigl’s family are converts to the Church from Connecticut, joining in the aftermath of her brothers tragic death in 1986. Her family still practice, and I belive she even has a sister who was recently married in the temple.

I could also mention lesser lights including Buffy the Vampire Slayers Eliza Dushku, and Paul Walker of Fast and the Furious fame. Matthew Modine’s activity statues is unknown to me.
So it’s a good time to be a lapsed Mormon in Hollywood. If your successful in the industry it appears adhering to a restrictive religious tradition can come to be unimportant, if it hasn’t become so already. Anyway you always have the option of exchanging Joseph Smith for L. Ron Hubbard.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Some Mormon Political Dynasty's

Congressman Chris Cannon recently lost his parties primary and will thus not be running for a seventh term in the general election. This is the second major set back for a Mormon political dynasty this year, the first being the primary defate of Mitt Romney, latest headman for the Pratt-Romney dynasty. Most Mormon political dynastys tend to be Republican, thought the Udall family is mostly Democratic, with member Gordon Smith being a moderate Republican Senator from Oregan. The Cannon family is of particular interest to me as for roughly eight months I’ve contemplated writing a biography of Frank J. Cannon.

I read an essay about Frank J. Cannon late last year in a book on non-conformist Mormons. The shear verity of things he did with his life, editor, lecture circuit, ghost-writer, finical deal maker, U. S. Senator, aborted third-party co-founder, made him seem interesting enough to spend the years it would take to write the book. Most of his archival material is in Utah and Colorado, so it would be roughly accessible, though trips to Washington D.C. and San Francisco (where he briefly edited a paper) would also probably be necessary. In addition he’s such an incredibly flawed man, liquor, adultery, a father complex, in addition to some warranted feelings of slight and underapriction, he’d be dramatically interesting. Plus he’s never had a book length treatment written about him, and well he’s important and interesting enough to deserve one. Anyway someday I may get to that. As far as the Cannon political, or Romeny political dynasty’s goes, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of either, same with the Udall’s.

Frank J. Cannon:

Project Gutenberg

Utah History Encyclopedia

Under the Prophet in Utah

The LDS Church on Illegal Immigration

What are the polices and positions of the LDS Church in regards to matters of illegal immigration? With the widespread Mormon identification with the Republican right in this country, one would think that the LDS Church would be very much on the ‘law and order’ end of things when it comes to illegal immigration. Now when your dealing with the average American member of the Church you would probably be right, but the official Church position is a kind of neutrality, but can in fact be argued to fall on the side of the illegal immigrants. Take for instance the issue of temple recommends, small cards that grant members who meet certain requirements of ‘righteousness’ entrance into the Churches temples. While the Church stresses obedience to civil law, members who have come into this country illegally are permitted to have temple recommends if they meet the same requirements as native born American members, mainly fidelity to the Church, tithing payments, and abstaining from serious sin (adultery, robbery, abuse, ect.). Analogy may be made to the Roman Catholic Church, which like the LDS faith has a strong presence in Latin America. Some critics claim that the Church’s ‘neutrality’ on this issue is a concession to this base of membership (more Mormons speak Spanish then English), though it should also be pointed out that to think Mormons globally resemble Utahan’s in there politics is a mistake.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Friends of God: A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi (2007)

Alexandra Pelosi, the daughter of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and maker of the delightful documentary Journeys With George, now turns her attention to the American Evangelical community. Friends of God is as its subtitle informs us a road trip, Pelosi and a small crew travel across the United States, primary in the south, to take a look at the goings on among the countries Evangelicals, with a particular emphasis on politics. All of the expected area’s of interest are covered, anti-evolution activism, the pro-life movement, opposition to same sex marriage, Republican political canvassing, road side crosses, youth outreach groups, even the Christian Wrestling Federation. It’s a good primer, and Pelosi manages to seem non judgmental despite our knowing full well what her politics are. Pelosi is less front and center in this film then in George, but her ability to be disarming is on full display, she gets full access to both rank and file evangelicals and their promanite leaders, including the now late Jerry Falwell, and now discredited Ted Haggard. Worth your 56 minute if you are at all interested in this area. Three and a half out of Five.

See Also: Jesus Camp (2006)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Brigham Young and Simple Testimony

This has always been one of my favorite Church produced vignettes. I think it captures the Mormon view of the simplicity of the faith, despite all the things that hang onto it, the history, the controversies, to the average Mormon this is what their faith is about a simple sweet testimony, a feeling from whence comes knowledge. The merits of such a conception of God or truth are doubtless debatable, but the spirit of this little film is the spirit of Mormonism at its simple, populist/egalitarian best.
Celebrity Atheist List

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Emma Smith: My Story (2008)

The figure of Emma Hale Smith, the first and only legally recognized wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith, is a difficult figure for mainline Mormons to grapple with. While intensely loyal to her husband she was vehemently opposed to polygamy, actively worked against it in Nauvoo. During the difficult succession crises following Joesph’s death Emma sided not with the pro-polygamy Brigham Young, but rather with the monogamy supporting Sidney Rigdon. She would go one to"poison" her children against the mainline Church, lending her support, if not terribly proactively, to the RLDS movement under her son Joseph III. She would even have a twenty year marriage to a non-Mormon Major who ended up cheating on her, and whose son by a mistress she would raise as her own. It is perhaps no wonder that her most well known biography is titled Mormon Enigma.

The complicated character of Emma Smith made me particularly intrigued to see how she would be rendered in a mainstream Mormon film like this one. I had not high expectations, and perhaps that’s why the film surprised me so much. I was in fact so impressed immediately after viewing that I could probably have raved about the thing, yet I held back and gave myself time to ruminate on the proceedings, knowing full well that if I thought about it awhile my enthusiasm was likely to moderate. It did. This not to say that I came to view this as a bad film, it is in fact a good film, with an engaging narrative and satisfactorily inspiring to mainline Mormons. Neither is it a historically inaccurate one, I myself noticed only one out and out inaccuracy.(1) However it is a carefully framed film, in which the events of Emma’s life are carefully culled to present a faith promoting picture fit for a Relief Society class. Any difficulties in the Smith marriage (of which we know there were a number) are completely neglected, save for polygamy (which would have been THE ISSUE of the final two or so years of the marriage) which is dealt away with in a mere sixty seconds of dialog, in which an elderly Emma tells her daughter Julia the she "will not speak of it".(2) In short the marriage comes across as though it were something out of Jane Austin.

But the story of Emma was ultimately a sad one and the movie does capture a good bit of that, the constant moving and persecution, her estrangement from her fathers family, the deaths of a number of her and Joseph’s children, Joseph’s death, and Major Biedman’s subsequent betrayal, all ending in a death from cancer in 1879. She bore it nobly I think, this movie certainly wants to make that point. The film however does not deal with its subject figure in the fullness of her identity but rather gives us a sympathetic and faith promoting construct, a mythology that will provide for the believing Mormon an acceptable model for approaching Emma Smith. But what more could one expect, nor how much better or more complete could her life be rendered, we have no way of knowing for sure what went on behind those walls in Harmony, Manchester, Hiram, De Witt and Nauvoo. Indeed it is as true of Emma as it is of Joseph, no man knows her history. Three out Five.

1. The publishing of the early (in fact the first) anti-Mormon book: Mormonism Unveiled, is implied to be around 1832, when in fact it was published in 1834.

2. Such dialog is in itself not at all a stretch, as Emma didn’t like to speak of plural marriage and throughout her life insisted to her children that their father never practiced polygamy, but rather that such arraignments had been introduced to the Church by Brigham Young and others, something she knew to be false.

Tim Russert: 1950-2008

I was of course both shocked and saddened to hear yesterday of the sudden passing of Tim Russert. If I was awake on time on Sunday mornings chances are I was watching him on Meet the Press (and on particularly slow Saturdays would watch his cable show). He was eminently fair and gracious, yet asked the tough questions and did his research admirably. He was the best interviewer on television and by all accounts a stand up guy, a truly remarkable person who I’d have loved to have a conversation with. I have never seen this kind of out poring of emotions from a mans peers in broadcasting. Tim Russert will be missed.
Unity and Gratitude Emphasized at 30th Anniversary of Priesthood Revelation

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

President Bush meets with First Presidency

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (2008)

The big ‘liberal’ documentaries (Fahrenheit 9/11, An Inconvenient Truth) get all the media love and attention, while the ‘conservative’ ones are ignored. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is the only documentary I can think of, with such an obvious built in audience of religious conservatives, to achieve wid-spread or semi wid-spread theatrical distribution. As I generally make a point of seeing films, especially documentary’s, that are ‘controversial’ and hence good conversation and blog fodder, I caught this one on its last night at the local Reel.

Hosted by that one of a kind showmen Ben Stein, simply put this is a film about the concept of Intelligent Design and how it is excluded from serious consideration by the scientific and academic ‘establishment’. Now Intelligent Design is a concept that requires a little unpacking, these are vague words especially when used in combination, and could really mean any number of things. Generally as discussed in the media ‘ID’ is treated as a code word for literalistic Biblical creationism, something one would call teaching Genesis in schools, if one didn’t want to admit to (or deal with the legal ramifications of) teaching Genesis in schools. This definition is certainly what is meant by some Intelligent Design advocates, but it is neither the exclusive nor even the most accurate summation of ID.

Intelligent Design could be most basically rendered as the idea or theory that life, in its great complexity was not arrived at by chance, but rather bears the imprint of some intelligent originator. The traditional sky God who came down and made the Earth and everything on it out of nothing, would be but one example of an intelligent designer, however one for which specific evidence is not found, as far as objective evidence is scientifically understood to be. Intelligent Design simply questions the old Darwin understanding of life coming about and evolving through shear chance, random genetic mutations simply improving on one another, increasing complexity derived not through any kind of direction, but via what could only be described as luck, and luck of only the most insanely minuscule of mathematical probabilitys to occur.

The film sites, via expert and cheesy illustrative cartoon, how the most basic form of life would require at minium 265 proteins coming together in an exact sequence and working in concert. This is likened to getting a floor of slot machines to all pay out there total holdings one after another, with just one turn at each machine. It’s not very likely, indeed exceedingly not likely, and indeed apparently even less likely then the example given to occur. In addition to which the doc points out that there is no scientific agreement on how life first started on this planet to begin with. The old stand by, which I learned from science class and Star Trek, is that lightening struck a boiling mud puddle some where a billion years ago, causing some amino acids to bond together and create life. In effect this is a variation on the spontaneous generation theory once popular in ancient Greece, and now so much discredited that I remember disproving it as a class exercise in elementary school. The other most prominent theories are that life started on the backs of crystals, which are prone to variation and mutation, and on which simple proteins and acids would have been piggybacked into odd formations that eventually resulted in life. The other theory is that aliens ‘seeded’ life here, (again with the Star Trek) which is in fact a form of intelligent design, though then you get the question of from whence the Aliens, which is basically the same as the from whence God question, so there you go.

Given the inherent limitations of any theory as to the origin and progression of life, it would seem appropriate for the scientific community to reflect the zeitgeist and be open to a variety of explanations. However, as the film painstakingly and perhaps overly documents, qualified scientists who undertake to work on or publish anything that takes the idea of intelligent design even remotely seriously, tend to lose there jobs or at lest not get tenure. For more information on this you can reference Seattle’s Discovery Institute, which seems to be the scientific hub for the pro ID vestiges of academia, and apparently catalogs such horror stories.

But why would the scientific establishment be adverse to even considering ID, especially given the limitations of the theories so far expounded? This is because, says the doc, ID challenges the dogmatic assumptions of many scientists in the same why that evolution challenges those of the religious fundamentalist. Darwinism is an article of faith, codified and hallowed, enshrined as a unquestionably basic componit of the universe. Stein takes us to the home of Charles Darwin, now meticulously kept and preserved as a museum. You see old papers and specimen jars, bones and scientific equipment. There is a Victorian sitting room where you can just picture Charles and a close circle of associates siting and conversing, challenging assumptions, and unintentionally creating a new dogmatism. This holding of Darwin and his thinking as essentially the religion of the secularist scientist is further brought home by an eerily life like statue of the man in the museum presumable adjoining his old residence. He sits like Lincoln in his monument, inscrutable, mystifying, yet of a great presence, like an old Catholic icon, there for the veneration of the faithful and the subtle existential angst of the unbeliever. The place is a scientific Vatican, Jerusalem, Mecca or Temple Square.

Like the more virulent defenders, apologist, and unrelenting zealots of the old religions, this scientific establishment has sponded its own aggressive front lines. Surely there is a fear that if something as basic as Darwinian evolution is effectively challenged that other things will follow, an unraveling of authority, a domino theory of what could diminish science and its prestige. For that reason there is little coloring outside the lines allowed in ‘the establishment’. 2006 was a banner year for those most pointedly desiring to fight back against the tied of anti-scientism, which they believe (and from there point of view perfectly rightly) to be wedded to ‘religion’ especially of the conservative variety, but actually encompassing anything that accepts the sky god (or any anthropomorphized god) of tradition. Christopher Hitchins, Richard Harris, and Richard Dawkins all had best selling Scientific Atheist Verses That Evil and Debilitating Superstition of Religion books that year, quite an accomplishment, and indeed a possibly foreboding sea changing for America.

Of this triumvirate Dawkins serves as the films intended straw man, and the object of the confrontational climax with Stein, a conceit apparently now required of popular documentaries. Stein doesn’t defeat Dawkins, he holds his own, and in fact seems to go out of his way to be generous to his interviewer/ would-be assailer, something which the film attempts to take advantage of. When asked how such a proof of Intelligent Design would come about, were it to come about, Dawkins indulges in the intellectual exercise and paints a scenario, which the film construes to be Dawkins admittance that such an event could still in fact be possible. That’s a low blow, but Michael Moore has been guilty of worse, though his have generally been better executed.

I admire this film for the assumptions it questions, for putting a microscope to its subject matter and critically evaluating it. Though far from perfect in its execution it does a good job of prompting discussion and for that should receive accolades. Some could say it strays a bit in the militancy of its metaphors, such as the Berlin Wall of science, but it is intended to be a confrontational work. The time taken to point out that Darwinism was a major building block for Eugenics and hence the Nazi’s holocaust is well taken, but extreme and unthinking devotion to any set of principle yields bastard children, wether they be Catholics or Communists. The image that I most carry from the film was an aw inspiring CG animation of the workings of an animal cell. It is a machine, I can’t really buy that that happened by chance, in that way I am at least Deist. I don’t know a lot about science, I think I know a little more about religion, but mostly I like to think about these important questions of where we came from and what life means, and this movie was an aid to that. My expectations were far exceeded. Four out of Five, a plus for issues tackled, a minus for polemical elements in the presentation.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

J.R. Simplot: 1909-2008

J.R. Simplot, formerly the worlds oldest and Idaho’s only billionaire has died at the age of 99, his funeral is tomorrow. Simplot was an irascible fellow, a self made man who had a remarkable ability to anticipate and take advantage of economic change. He provided Potato’s for the armed forces during the second world war, and after the war was a pioneer in frozen foods. His contract to provide tatters for McDonalds of course proved extremely profitable. J.R. even got in on the tech boom by investing in Micron Technology back during the Carter years, Micron is now Idaho’s largest private employer (my dad works for them). Simplot was also an avowed atheist, which I think makes him just that much more interesting. He was also in great health for his age, on the day he died he had scheduled a Gin game with friends.

My major memory of Simplot occurred in elementary school. It was 1990 and all us local grade school students were bused down to the BSU for a major guest speaker. That speaker was to have been then president George H. W. Bush, but as this was the run-up period to the first Gulf War and he ended up canceling last minute. J.R. Simplot stepped in an gave a rambling talk which for some reason really stuck with me. I wasn’t doing very well in school at the time and the fact the Simplot, who never graduated High School, could become a Billionaire really gave me hope. For the record though J.R. didn’t recommend his course action to the youth, but rather advocated getting a good education.

Fun Fact: Simplot donated his famous house, situated atop ‘Simplot Hill’ a popular ice blocking location, to the state as its new Governors mansion. The ironic thing is that the first Governor to inhabit it (when renovations are finished) will be Butch Otter, his ex-son in law.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Most Important Mormons of the 20th Century

The Folks over at By Common Consent attempt to whittle down the ten most important Mormons of the 20th Century. Of course this list is confined to LDS Mormon, so influential folks in other Mormon communities like paradigm changing RLDS President W. Wallace Smith, and popularizer of Polygamist Fundamentalism Joseph White Musser are left out. However the list complied I would have to agree with. If forced to I’d list James E. Talamage as the most influential Mormon of the 1st half of the Twentieth Century and Harold B. Lee as the most important of the second. Both where systemizes who codified church doctrinal (Talamage) and organizational (Lee) structures. The most important Mormon of the 20th Century overall was probably Church President David O. McKay, who put a face on Mormonism that broke firmly from the “19th Century Weirdness" and saw Church membership increase two fold during his roughly 19 years as President. I'd put Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie in second place for most influential Mormons of the 1st and 2nd half of the 20th Century respectively. But hey those are my opinions, I encourage you to take a look at the list.

Mormons and Presidents: Lincoln - A. Johnson

#16 Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)

Winders book contains loads of information regarding Lincoln’s unusually long association with the Saints (see pages 105-109 for a summary there of), an association brought about largely by the fact that Lincoln hailed from Illinois (1). Lincoln wrote of the Mormons arrival in Illinois during the winter of 1838-1839. Sometime prior to March 1st 1840 the future president meet Joseph Smith, most likely on one of the formers trips to the state capital of Springfield, where Abe was a lawyer and sometimes state legislator (2). Lincoln voted for the ratification of the liberal Nauvoo City charter (3) in December of 1840, though according to historian Larry Schweikart in his paper "The Mormon Connection: Lincoln, the Saints, and the Crises of Equality", Lincoln "Helped cites like Nauvoo as a matter of course."(4) John C. Bennett, the first mayor of Nauvoo and one of the more notorious characters in Mormon history (5), wrote the following in the local paper Times and Seasons around the time of the ratification of the charter:

" ... and here I should not forget to mention that Lincoln... had the magnanimity to vote for our act, and came forward after the final vote to the bar of the House and congratulated me on its passage." (6)

Lincoln lived in the same Springfield boarding house that Apostle Willard Richards briefly lived in during the winter of 1842, it is likely that they dinned and conversed together during that time. Mary Todd Lincoln attended an extradition hearing for Joseph Smith during January 1843, it was held in the Tinsley Buildling, the same building were Lincoln’s law office was then housed.

After the Mormons largely evacuated Illinois in the mid 1840's, Lincoln would have little occasion for interaction with, or presumably discussion about, the Mormons until 1857 and his historic run against Stephan Douglas for a seat in the U. S. Senate. Negative feels towards the Latter-day Saints still prevailed among many in the state, and the candidates attitudes towards them undoubtedly became an issue. Douglas had been friendly towards the Mormons during his service as a judge in the 1840's, Joseph Smith even had him as a dinner guest at his private residence and there uttered what Latter-day Saints regard as a prophecy, here paraphrased from memory: "Mr. Douglas, you will one day aspire for high public office, even that of the President of the United States; but if you ever turn your back against this people, the light of the Lord will be withdrawn from you and you will lose." Which of course Douglas did, losing to Lincoln when he ran as the Northern Democratic candidate in the contentious, four way race of 1860. Many Mormons regard Douglas loss of the presidency as being sealed by his criticismof the Saints during the 1857 Senate race, which ironically he won. Lincoln tired to tie his oponite to the Mormons by arguing that if Douglas supported the concept of popular sovergnty in regards to slavery, he should logically do the same in regards to polygamy.

In 1860 Apostle Wilford Woodruff records in his diary Brigham Young mentioning his desire that Lincoln win the election. While President Lincoln would routinely bypass the governor of Utah Territory and deal directly with President Young in regards to affairs related to the region. This included 1862 instructions for Young to raise a small "calvary" to protect the telegraph lines from the Indians after federal troops were withdrawn from the territory to fight in the Civil War. Lincoln would also head the petitions of the Saints, presumably through Young, to remove hostile territorial Governor Stephan S. Harding from office in 1863, he was replaced by the more "discreet" Governor James Duane Doty. After Lincoln’s assassination a day of morning would be declared in Salt Lake City, with local businesses closed and a memorial service held in the "Old Tabernacle" (7).

Lincoln’s policy however were not abashidly "pro-Mormon" though by any means. He refused to take a strong position on Utah statehood, and signed into law America’s first major piece of anti-polygamy legislation, The Morrill Act of 1862, though he generally declined to actively enforce it (8). Lincoln’s policy toward the Mormons was however largely well received by the group. It was sometimes dubbed Lincoln’s "Three Word Policy": "Let Them Alone". The socially prominent Mormon T. B. H. Stenhouse records in a letter to Brigham Young, Lincoln’ sharing the following, oft quoted anticdot with him during a meeting in 1863:

"Stenhouse, when I was a boy on the farm in Illinois there was a great deal of timber on the farm which we had to clear away. Occasionally we would come to a log which had fallen down. It was too hard to split, too wet to burn, and too heavy to move, so we plowed around it. You go back and tell Brigham Young that if he will let me alone I will let him alone." (9)

In closing Apostle George Q. Cannon offers the following observations on Lincoln, with whom he had an audience (as a representative of the Utah territory) in Washington D.C. in 1862:

"The President has a plain, but shrewd and rather pleasant face. He is very tall, probably 6 feet 4 inches high, and is rather awkwardly built, heightened by this want of flesh. He looks much better than I had expected he would do from my knowledge of the cares and labors of his position, and is quite humorous, scarcely permitting a visit to pass without uttering some joke. He received us very kindly and without formality. Conversed some little upon Utah affairs and other matters." (10)

In short, Mormons pretty much like Lincoln, like most Americans. (11)

Fun Facts:

Lincoln once checked out a copy The Book of Mormon from the Library of Congress.

The President has been cited over 200 times in General Conference Addresses.

During the nations bicentennial in 1976 the LDS First Presidency encouraged Church members
to read Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation: "God Rules in the Affairs of Men".

On what would have been his 100th Birthday in 1909, President Lincoln had the sealing ordinance performed for him by former Apostle Matthias Cowley, he was sealed both to his wife Mary Todd, and in a node to Mormon polygamy, his "former sweetheart" Ann Mayes Rutledge, who had died before the two could get married. (12)

Andrew Johnson (1865-1869)

This President had virtually no interaction with the Mormons while in office, though he received some as visitors (including John W. Young, a son of Brigham’ and future councilor in the First Presidency), and was regarded by Utah’s territorial representative at the time, William H. Hooper, as of a friendly disposition towards the saints. (13)

1. President Lincoln was born in Kentucky but spent much of his life in Illinois.

2. Lincoln mentions this in a letter to a political associate, in which he advocates courting the Mormon vote.

3. The Nauvoo City character of 1840 gave the Mormon dominated local government sweeping powers and a great deal of autonomy, to the point that the city during Joseph’s life time has been compared to a veritable city state.

4. Winder pg. 110.

5. Bennett was the Church’s chief lobbyist on the matter of the Nauvoo charter. An outsider who quickly gained the trust of Joseph Smith and rose to prominence in the local community both civically and ecclesasticly. Bennett would later be involved in an apparent assassination attempt on Joseph Smith. He is also credited with introducing the term "spiritual wifery" in Mormon discourse, as a kind of code for his understanding of polygamy, and was accused of, among other things, being a bisexual and abandoning a wife and child back east. Bennett would turn against the Mormons and write and lecture against them, though for a brief time he reassociated himself with the movement, in the form of James Strang’s splinter sect which arouse, and briefly flourished, following the martyrdom of Joseph Smith in 1844.

6. Cited in Winder page 110, from Times and Seasons 2:267, in turn quoted from Nibley’s Brigham Young: The Man and His Work.

7. Predecessor to the famed domed tabernacle of today, which was completed a short time later.
8. I think it safe to say Lincoln had bigger things on his plate.

9. This quote can be found in Arrington and Bitton’s The Mormon Experience, the Ostlings Mormon America, and various other places.

10. Found in Bitton’s biography George Q. Cannon.

11. To find ‘modern’ Americans who don’t much care for Lincoln, simply flip through the pages of Southern Partisan Magazine.

12. This is ironic because the whole reason Cowley was a "former Apostle" was his dogmatic insistence on the centrality of polygamy in Mormon doctrine and practice, at a time when the Church was trying to move beyond much of its "19th Century Weirdness", into something more compatible with the American mainstream.

13. On my LDS mission to eastern Tennessee I once visited the Andrew Johnson historical park in Greenville, listened to a short Fred Thompson narrated documentary and visited the Presidents grave.