Category Archives: Politics

FairMormon Frameworks 7 : Patrick Mason War and Peace

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We interview Patrick Mason, one of the editors of the book “War & Peace In Our Time : Mormon Perspectives”.  We discuss War and Peace in the scriptures, in our LDS culture, and in our views within our Church community.  Patrick and I discuss how a Latter-Day Saint can be a faithful, active, participating Latter-Day Saint while one’s personal beliefs fall anywhere along the spectrum of believing in a “Just War” is condoned by God to the other extreme of being a pacifist. That in reflection there is plenty of room for faith within this issue once we grasp how to navigate our way through scriptures and what is Doctrine.

The opinions expressed in this podcast and in the referenced books, presentations, podcasts and articles do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or of FairMormon.

Patrick’s Book can be found here

War & Peace In Our Time : Mormon Perspectives

 

FairMormon Frameworks 6: Russell Stevenson and “Elijah Ables”

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RussellStevensonRussell discusses with us today his his research into the life of the first black priesthood holder in this dispensation, Elijah Ables. We also extend to talking about the Priesthood ban, it’s history and implications, and what it means for one struggling today. 

Russell Stevenson is the author of  “Black Mormon: The Story of Elijah Ables,” which is available on Amazon as an E-Book -Black Mormon: Story of Elijah Ables.

Benchmark Books – Story of Elijah Ables

Amazon – Hardcopy

 The opinions expressed in this podcast and in the referenced books, presentations, podcasts and articles do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or of FairMormon.

 

Understanding the Facts About Immigration

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A few weeks ago on a private message board that I participate on I had a bit of a meltdown, for lack of a better word. Let’s just say that my response to a fellow poster was less than Christian and leave it at that. I make no excuses; my response was “over the top” (as another fellow poster put it). However, in my defense I’ve only ever claimed to be Mormon and never claimed to be particular good at being a Mormon.

The topic which raised my ire was the question of the Church’s stance on immigration, and specifically illegal immigration. I will not rehash the Church’s stance here as it’s not really relevant to my post nor was it the focus of my ire on this particular equation. My problem came from the way another poster was talking about such immigrants and the “facts” that he cited in support of his claims.

Before I start this, I need to make a disclosure: I work and make my living as an immigration attorney. My practice focuses on the defense of immigrants, both legal and illegal, who are in removal (deportation) proceedings. I also practice a fair amount of criminal defense work trying to help immigrants who’ve had run-ins with the law in an attempt to salvage their immigration status. So, yes, I have some skin the game.

Let me, then, address a few issues immigration issues which are quite commonly misunderstood. Continue reading

The Mormon Moment: A Religion News Service Guide – Review

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Much has been said in popular media about the so-called “Mormon Moment”. The accuracy and fairness of recent media coverage of Mormonism has been a mixed bag, to say the least. It is sad to admit that there are plenty of media personalities who know next to nothing about Mormonism, and yet feel unconstrained to opine on this or that subject relating to Mormon doctrine or history. Unsurprisingly, those who are the most ignorant of Mormonism usually choose to write about the most complex and controversial aspects of Mormonism, such as polygamy, Mormon racial history, and esoteric aspects of Mormon belief and practice best left untouched by non-Mormon novices of Mormon history and doctrine. (Andrew Sullivan, I’m looking at you.)

Continue reading

Mormon FAIR-Cast 96: FAIR on the Radio Pt 1

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FAIR Board Chairman John Lynch and FAIR Member Stephen Smoot appeared on K-Talk radio, in Salt Lake City, Utah to discuss the mission of FAIR, its history and to take questions from callers. Some of the issues addressed were:

  • What are the core beliefs one must maintain in order to be considered an “orthodox” Mormon?
  • What is the distinction between knowledge and belief?
  • Why are there different versions of Joseph Smith’s first vision?
  • If Mitt Romney is elected President, will he be required to adopt the political positions of the Church?
  • Is the Church a racist or sexist organization?

John and Stephen also discussed the 2012 FAIR Conference that is being held in Utah on August 2 and 3 in Sandy, Utah.

This recording originally aired on June 27 and is posted here by permission of K-Talk Radio. The opinions expressed in this interview do not necessarily represent the views of FAIR or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Mormon FAIR-Cast 90: Mormons on the BBC

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This episode of the BBC World Service program, World Have Your Say, features members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The five-member panel answers questions from listeners from all over the world, including: Whether Mormons want to be recognized as a mainstream religion? What part of the Mormon faith is influenced by the Bible, and what part is influenced by the culture of its founders? Why is polygamy stereotypically linked to Mormonism? Would Mitt Romney be expected to spread the Mormon faith as a president? Why are Mormons secretive? Why are they not as open as other churches? What effect will the past ban on ordaining African Americans to the priesthood have on Mitt Romney’s ability to win over minority voters? What is the purpose of temples? What has generated the rapid spread of Mormonism? What would Christ think of a religion that teaches that it is the only true church? What is the Mormon view on the separation of church and state? What is it like to be a female member of the Church and a member of the Relief Society, the largest women’s organization in the world?

This program is posted here by permission of the BBC. The opinions expressed in this podcast do not necessarily represent the opinions of FAIR or of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint.

Dispelling the Myth of the “Curse of Cain”

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In connection with Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, the priesthood ban is getting a lot of attention from the media again.

The most recent turn comes from The Washington Post, where reporter Jason Horowitz interviews Darius Gray and other black Latter-day Saints about their experience with and feelings about the ban. Searching for a theological explanation for the ban, Horowitz contacted BYU associate professor Randy Bott. Horowitz paraphrases Bott:

According to Mormon scriptures, the descendants of Cain, who slew his brother Abel, “were black.” One of Cain’s descendants was Egyptus, a woman Mormons believe was the namesake of Egypt. She married Ham, whose descendants were themselves cursed and, in the view of many Mormons, barred from the priesthood by his father, Noah. Bott points to the Mormon holy text, the Book of Abraham, as suggesting that all of the descendents of Ham and Egyptus were thus black and barred from the priesthood.

Professor Bott’s explanation is an example of how doctrinal folklore continues to be taught by well-meaning members of the Church. Ironically, the dubious “folk doctrine” in question is no longer even relevant, since it was created to explain a Church policy that was reversed nearly thirty-four years ago. Continue reading

FAIR Issues 24: The cure for an intellectual apostasy

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“The cure for an intellectual apostasy is enlarging both one’s spiritual and intellectual knowledge.” One important thing to know is the way in which God works through prophets. “[T]he Lord doesn’t typically drop revelation into the minds of prophets. More often than not, the Lord grants revelation according to petitions for help or understanding.” Some examples of this are given in this article.

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FAIR Bookstore.

Tell your friends about the Mormon FAIR-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon FAIR-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.

Ms. Erickson and CNN Redux.

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Earlier last month I wrote a few words concerning an interview conducted by CNN of Tricia Erickson, a rabid ex-Mormon who exhibited an almost paranoid fear of the prospect of a Mormon being elected as president of the United States. I found her bigoted and offensive ranting far below the journalistic standards of CNN, and hoped that the entire episode would quickly be forgotten.

Unfortunately, Ms. Erickson has been given yet more air time on CNN to prattle away on the nefarious machinations of the “Mormon Church” and Mitt Romney, the prominent Mormon candidate for the presidency. Fortunately, a voice of reason, in the embodiment of CNN Belief-Blog co-editor Eric Marrapodi, was allowed to participate in the discussion between Erickson and Tim Foreman, who challenged Erickson to show a single example of a Mormon making a negative political policy choice on the basis of his commitment to Mormonism. (Not surprisingly, Erickson failed to provide any such example.)

One of the arguments Ms. Erickson used in her assault on the faith of the Saints and Governor Romney was the claim that Mormons are on a campaign to dominate the world (why else are there any Mormons who hold political offices?) and that according to Mormon doctrine the second coming of Jesus will include the establishing of a Mormon totalitarian regime based out of Jackson County, Missouri. And if that isn’t enough to disqualify Romney or any other Mormon from being president, also remember that Mormons, including Romney, believe they will become gods and have their own planet! I was especially offended at this misrepresentation of my faith. Only one planet? Egoistical/self-aggrandizeing Mormon that I am, I am not shooting low for only one planet but a universe of endless worlds to populate through endless Celestial sex with my many goddess wives. Or at least that is what Ed Decker has repeated told me through his sensationalistic video The God Makers. Considering that Ed Decker is one of Ms. Erickson’s primary sources on Mormonism, I am surprised that she conservatively restricted Mormon aspirations of godly dominion to only one planet in the hereafter. Get your facts straight, Ms. Erickson!

This is the second time that CNN, a respected news agency, has provided precious air time for a crank to spout off nonsense against the Church of Jesus Christ. Hopefully Ms. Erickson has finally exhausted her time with CNN. We need less sensationalism and more serious journalism on the relationship between religion and modern politics. And we need it now especially with this upcoming election, wherein we have not one, but two potential Mormon candidates for the presidency. If ever there was a time when we as a people should look at the interplay between religious values and political policy that time is now. Ms. Erickson has now demonstrated twice that she cannot provide that nuanced and informed investigation. As such, we are compelled to look to others to answer this pertinent question.

Mitt Romney, Fox News, and the Mormon Question: A Few Questions for Discussion

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Christian, adjective: of, relating to, or professing Christianity or its teachings : the Christian Church.

informal having or showing qualities associated with Christians, esp. those of decency, kindness, and fairness.

noun a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.[1]

A few weeks ago CNN published an interview with Tricia Erickson, a dedicated Evangelical critic of Mormonism, wherein it was repeatedly affirmed that neither Mitt Romney nor the Church he belongs to is authentically Christian. On Sunday, July 17, 2011 the Deseret News printed an article that reported how “‘Fox & Friends’ co-host Ainsley Earhardt said Mitt Romney was not a Christian during her program this morning.” The pertinent statement by Ms. Earhardt, as reported by the Deseret News, is as follows:

“Can (Gov. Rick Perry) get in and raise money with Mitt Romney? That I don’t know,” said host Dave Briggs.

“There are a lot of Republicans who think he can’t,” replied co-host Clayton Morris.

“Well the Christian coalition — I think (Perry) can get a lot of money from that base because (of) Romney obviously not being a Christian,” said co-host Earhardt. “Rick Perry, he’s always on talk shows — on Christian talk shows — he has days of prayer in Texas.”

I am puzzled by this statement. What is it that is so “obvious” that proves Mitt Romney is not a Christian? Presumably Ms. Earhardt has in mind the fact that Romney is a Latter-day Saint and because Latter-day Saints are not Christians ergo Mitt Romney is not a Christian.

This of course brings up the question as to whether or not Mormons are Christians. As Professor Stephen E. Robinson has written[2], there are typically six categories that the arguments of excluding Mormons from being Christian fall under, viz.,

1. The Exclusion by Definition (Mormons are excluded from being Christian because of ad hoc idiosyncratic definitions of “Christian” and “Christianity” offered by sectarians who deviate from the standard English lexical definition.)

2. The Exclusion by Misrepresentation (“Latter-day Saints… [are] judged to be non-Christian for things they do not believe, whether these things are fabrications, distortions, or anomalies.”[3])

3. The Exclusion by Name-Calling (Hurling unsavory epithets such as “cult” at the Church in an attempt to alienate or estrange outsiders and shock members. As with the “Exclusion by Definition”, in most cases the epithets are idiosyncratic definitions that go beyond the accepted standard English definition.)

4. The Historical or Traditional Exclusion (Mormons do not accept certain “historical” or “traditional” Christian beliefs or practices, and thus are not Christian.)

5. The Canonical or Biblical Exclusion (Mormons have an open canon of scripture, and accept additional books as canonical which are not accepted by other Christian denominations. Thus, Mormons are not Christian.)

6. The Doctrinal Exclusion (Mormons do not accept “orthodox” Christian doctrines, and hold to “heretical” views of the nature of God and scripture, to name only two. Therefore, Mormons are not Christian.)

The question as to whether or not Mormons are Christians is a horse that has been beaten mercilessly in recent years, and so I do not wish to launch into a full exploration at this point. Suffice it to say that the Latter-day Saints are positively appalled at this accusation, and have responded vigorously to critical arguments[4]. However, I do wish to ask a few questions for discussion that I feel are pertinent to this debate.

1. First and foremost, what is “Christianity” and who therefore can rightly be called “Christian”?  On what basis/criteria does one define these terms?

1. Who is allowed to define who is Christian and who isn’t? By what authority or on what grounds does this individual/group/Church, etc., claim the right to be the final arbiters in deciding who and who isn’t Christian?

2. Mormons are accused of not being Christian because they do not accept “orthodox” beliefs. What is “orthodoxy” and who is allowed to define “orthodoxy”? On what basis was this definition of “orthodoxy” established?

3. Mormon doctrine is often alleged to be contrary to “biblical teaching”. Who has the right to establish what “biblical doctrine” is? By what authority is such established? What methodological and/or exegetical tools were employed to establish this standard?

4. Is doctrinal difference enough to exclude Mormons from being Christians? What about Jesus’ teaching that his true disciples [i.e. Christians] are those who keep his commandments and love their neighbors (John 13:34-35)? In other words, is any weight to be given to Jesus’ criteria for true and false prophets (or, in this case, disciples) as found in Matthew 7:15-20 when it comes to evaluating who is a Christian and who isn’t?

5. If Mormons are to be excluded from being Christian because they do not conform to “traditional” or “historic” Christianity, then what of those disciples of Christ who antedate the arrival of these “traditional” doctrines (eg. Nicene Trinitarianism, creatio ex nihilo, etc.)? Are they likewise not Christian? [Hint: This is a question about maintaining consistent standards in evaluating who is and who isn't a Christian]

These are some questions that I put forth for discussion. Those who wish to exclude the Latter-day Saints as being Christian must, I contend, first adequately answer these questions.

Notes:

[1]: Oxford American Dictionary, s.v. Christian.

[2] Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christian? (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1991).

[3]: Robinson, Are Mormons Christians?, 21, emphasis in original.

[4]: See especially Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Words Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1992). This wonderful text is available online at the website of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. See here.