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With the recent prominence of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney attention has inevitably been focused on his Mormon faith.  While his merits as a candidate are certainly questionable (a lackluster, one-term governor who spent most of his time bashing the very state that elected him), I wanted to take some time to examine his religious beliefs more closely.

Faith is always a touchy subject.  In the interest of full disclosure, I should start by saying that I am, if not an atheist, then at least an agnostic.  I can accept the possibility that there is something more to the universe than that which we currently understand, but I am extremely uncomfortable with most organized religions, and I am supremely confident that no one group's particular dogma is the Great Universal Truth.  That said, I usually strive to be respectful of other peoples' beliefs, particularly when those beliefs are coupled with a genuine determination to do good.  Call it "faith in good faith," perhaps.  To that end, I have frequently taken the position that liberals make a huge mistake by ignoring or marginalizing the religious vote.

But Mormonism is something else entirely.

As is well known, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or LDS, was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. in the 1820's and 1830's.  Briefly, Smith claimed to have been visited by an angel named Moroni, who directed him to the location of long-hidden golden plates, upon which were inscribed the "further adventures" of Jesus Christ, after the events in the New Testament.  These inscriptions were witten in an ancient language, but fortunately Mr. Smith had a magical stone which enabled him to translate it.  This story eventually was published as the Book of Mormon.  (These events are recounted with skill and wit in a recent episode of "South Park.")

If any of this sounds ridiculous to you -- it should.  Frankly, how Smith got anyone to believe him is a mystery to me.  Likely he preyed upon the weakest element, people with few personal connections, who were down on their luck, or who had psychological problems.  The same people who so easly fall victim to modern day cult leaders like David Koresh.  The only difference between Smith and Koresh is that Smith never had a run-in with the FBI, and his nonsense has been "legitimized" by the passage of time.

The truth is that Joseph Smith, Jr. was the scion of a family of con men and grifters, who were perpetrating their petty frauds for years before the "miraculous revealations" and subsequent founding of their "church."  The evidence for this is obvious in the historical record for anyone to find.  I have a particular interest in the matter because it involves some of my own ancestors, who were neighbors and acquaintances of the Smith family when they lived in the vicinity of Palmyra, New York, in the early 1800's.  The following are the sworn testimonies of my great-great-great-great grandfather, his son, and his brothers as to the founder of Mormonism and his relations.  Please excuse the 19th-century phrasing and wordiness, but I have copied these verbatim from the copies I have.  The originals are archived in the appropriate county records offices.

(Note: Joseph Smith, Sr., who is mentioned several times in the testomies, is the father of the founder of Mormonism.)

The testimony of William Stafford, my 4x-great grandfather:

I, William Stafford, having been called upon to give a true statement of my knowledge, concerning the character and conduct of the family of Smiths, known to the world as the founders of the Mormon sect, do say, that I first became acquainted with Joseph, Sen., and his family in the year 1820.  They lived, at that time, in Palmyra, about one mile and a half from my residence.  A great part of their time was devoted to digging for money: especially in the night time, when they said the money could be most easily obtained.  I have heard them tell marvellous tales, respecting the discoveries they had made in their peculiar occupation of money digging.  They would say, for instance, that in such a place, in such a hill, on a certain man's farm, there were deposited keys, barrels and hogsheads of coined silver and gold -- bars of gold, golden images, brass kettles filled with gold and silver -- gold candlesticks, swords, &c. &c.  They would say, also, that nearly all the hills in this part of New York, were thrown up by human hands, and in them were large caves, which Joseph, Jr., could see, by placing a stone of singular appearance in his hat, in such a manner as to exclude all light; at which time they pretended he could see all things within and under the earth, -- that he could see within the above mentioned caves, large gold bars and silver plates -- that he could also discover the spirits in whose charge these treasures were, clothed in ancient dress.  At certain times, thse treasures could be obtained very easily; at others, the obtaining of them was difficult.  The facility of approaching them, depended in a great measure on the state of the moon.  New moon and good Friday, I believe, were regarded as the most favorable times for obtaining these treasures.  These tales I regarded as visionary.  However, being prompted by curiosity, I at length accepted of their invitations, to join them in their nocturnal excursions.  I will now relate a few incidents attending these excursions.

Joseph Smith, Sen., came to me one night, and told me, that Joseph Jr. had been looking in his glass, and had seen, not many rods from his house, two or three kegs of gold and silver, some feet under the surface of the earth: and that none others but the elder Joseph and myself could get them.  I accordingly consented to go, and early in the evening repaired to the place of deposit.  Joseph, Sen. first made a circle, twelve or fourteen feet in diameter.  This circle, said he, contains the treasure.  He then stuck in the ground a row of witch hazel sticks, around the said circle, for the purpose of keeping off the evil spirits.  Within this circle he made another, of about eight or ten feet in diameter.  He walked around three times on the periphery of this last circle, muttering to himself something which I could not understand.  He next stuck a steel rod in the center of the circles, and then enjoined profound silence upon us, lest we should arouse the evil spirits who had the charge of these treasures.  After we had dug a trench about five feet in depth around the rod, the old man by signs and motions, asked leave of absence, and went to the house to inquire of young Joseph the cause of our disappointment.  He soon returned and said, that Joseph had remained all this time in the house, looking in his stone and watching the motions of the evil spirit -- that he saw the spirit come up to the ring and as soon as it beheld the cone which we had formed around the rod, it caused the money to sink.  We then went into the house, and the old man observed, that we had made a mistake in the commencement of the operation; if it had not been for that, said he, we should have got the money.

At another time, they devised a scheme, by which they might satiate their hunger, with the mutton of one of my sheep.  They had seen in my flock of sheep, a large, fat, black weather.  Old Joseph and one of the boys came to me one day, and said that Joseph Jr. had discovered some very remarkable and valuable treasures, which could be procured only in one way.  That way, was as follows: -- That a black sheep should be taken on to the ground where the treasures were concealed -- that after cutting its throat, it should be led around a circle while bleeding.  This being done, the wrath of the evil spirit would be appeased: the treasures could then be obtained, and my share of them was to be four fold.  To gratify my curiosity, I let them have a large fat sheep.  They afterwards informed me, that the sheep was killed pursuant to commandment; but as there was some mistake in the process, it did not have the desired effect.  This, I believe, is the only time they ever made money-digging a profitable business.  They, however, had around them constantly a worthless gang, whose employment it was to dig money nights, and who, day times, had more to do with mutton than money.

When they found that the people of this vicinity would no longer put any faith in their schemes of digging money, they then pretended to find a gold bible, of which, they said, the book of Mormon was only an introduction.  This latter book was at length fitted for the press.  No means were taken by any individual to suppress its publication: No one apprehended any danger from a book, originating with individuals who had neither influence, honesty or honor.  The two Josephs and Hiram, promised to show me the plates, after the book of Mormon was translated.  But, afterwards, they pretended to have received an express commandment, forbidding them to show the plates.  Respecting the manner of receiving and translating the book of Mormon, their statements were always discordant.  The elder Joseph would say that he had seen the plates, and that he knew them to be gold; at other times he would say that they looked like gold; and at other times he would say that he had not seen the plates at all.  I have thus briefly stated a few of the facts, in relation to the conduct and character of this family of Smiths; probably sufficient has been stated without my going into detail.

WILLIAM STAFFORD

State of New York, Wayne County, ss:
I certify, that on this 9th day of December, 1833, personally appeared before me, William Stafford, to me known, and made oath to the truth of the above statement, and signed the same.

TH. P. BALDWIN,
Judge of Wayne County Court

The testimony of Barton Stafford, son of William Stafford, my  4x-great uncle:

Being called upon to give a statement of the character of the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. as far as I know, I can state that I became acquainted with them in 1820, and knew them until 1831, when they left this neighborhood.  -- Joseph Smith, Sen. was a noted drunkard and most of the family followed his example, and Joseph, Jr. especially, who was very much addicted to intemperence.  In short, not one of the family had the least claims to respectability.  Even since he professed to be inspired of the Lord to translate the Book of Mormon, he one day while at work in my father's field, got quite drunk on a composition of cider, molasses and water.  Finding his legs to refuse their office he leaned upon the fence and hung for sometime; at length recovering again, he fell to scuffling with one of the workmen, who tore his shirt nearly off from him.  His wife who was at our house on a visit, appeared very much grieved at his conduct, and to protect his back from the rays of the sun, and conceal his nakedness, threw her shawl over his shoulders and in that plight escorted the Prophet home.  As an evidence of his piety and devotion, when intoxicated, he frequently made his religion the topic of conversation!!

BARTON STAFFORD

State of New York, Wayne County, ss:
I certify that on the 9th day of December 1833, personally appeared before me, the above named Barton Stafford, to me known, and solemnly affirmed according to law, to the truth of the above statement and subscribed the same.

THOS. P. BALDWIN,
a Judge of Wayne County Court

The testimony of Joshua Stafford, brother of William Stafford, my 5x-great uncle:

Manchester, Ontario County, Nov. 15th, 1833.

I, Joshua Stafford, became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. about the year 1819 or 20.  They then were laboring people, in low circumstances.  A short time after this, they commenced digging for hidden treasures, and soon after they became indolent, and told marvelous stories about ghosts, hob-goblins, caverns, and various other mysterious matters.  Joseph once showed me a piece of wood which he said he took from a box of money, and the reason he gave for not obtaining the box, was, that it moved.  At another time, he, (Joseph, Jr.) at a husking, called on me to become a security for a horse, and said he would reward me handsomely, for he had found a box of watches, and they were as large as his fist, and he put one of them to his ear, and he could hear it to "tick forty rods."  Since he could not dispose of them profitably at Canandaigua or Palmyra, he wished to go east with them.  He said if he did not return with the horse, I might take his life.  I replied, that he knew I would not do that.  Well, said he, I did not suppose you would, yet I would be willing that you should.  He was nearly intoxicated at the time of the above conversation.

JOSHUA STAFFORD

(Note: Why Joshua Stafford's testimony is not confirmed by a judge I do not know.)

The testimony of David Stafford, brother of William and Joshua Stafford, my 5x-great uncle:

I have been acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith Sen. for several years, and I know him to be a drunkard and a liar, and to be much in the habit of gambling.  He and his boys were truly a lazy set of fellows, and more particularly Joseph, who, very aptly followed his father's example, and in some respects was worse.  When intoxicated he was very quarrelsome.  Previous to his going to Pennsylvania to get married, we worked together making a coal-pit.  While at work one time, a disput arose between us, (he having drinked a little too freely) and some hard words passed between us, and as usual with him at such times, was for fighting.  He got the advantage of me in the scuffle, and a gentleman by the name of Ford interfered, when Joseph turned to fighting him.  We both entered a complaint against him and he was fined for the breach of the Peace.  It is well known, that the general employment of the Smith family was money digging and fortune-telling.  They kept around them constantly, a gang of worthless fellows who dug for money nights, and were idle in the day time.  It was a mystery to their neighbors how they got their living.  I will mention some circumstances and the public may judge for themselves.  At different times I have seen them come from the woods early in the morning, bringing meat which looked like mutton.  I went into the woods one morning very early, shooting partridges and found Joseph Smith Sen. in company with two other men, with hoes, shovels and meat that looked like mutton.  On seeing me they run like wil men to get out of sight.  -- Seeing the old man a few days afterwards, I asked him why he run so the other day in the woods, ah, said he, you know that circumstances alter cases; it will not do to be seen at all time.

I can also state, that Oliver Cowdrey proved himself to be a worthless person and not to be trusted or believed when he taught school in this neighborhood.  After his going into the ministry, while officiating in performing the ordinance of baptism in a brook, William Smith, (brother of Joseph Smith) seeing a young man writing down what was said on a piece of board, was quite offended and attempted to take it from him, kicked at him and clinched for a scuffle.  -- Such was the conduct of these pretended Disciples of the Lord.

DAVID STAFFORD

On the 12th day of December, 1833, the said David Stafford appeared before me, and made oath that the foregoing statement, by him subscribed, is true.

FRED'K. SMITH,
Justice of the Peace of Wayne Co. N.Y.

So why is any of this relevant?  Why does it matter if Mormonism was founded by an obvious liar and con man?  What difference does it make, when it happened over 150 years ago, so long as today's Mormons lead upright, socially responsible lives?  What does all of this have to do with Mitt Romney?

It matters.  It matters because Mitt Romney believes that the Book of Mormon, despite the extremely questionable nature of its so-called "discoverer," is true.  He believes the lies of a 19th-century con man -- and not even a very good con man, at that.  He believes it, word for word.  Is that the kind of judgment we want in a President of the United States?

Originally posted to Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 07:41 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  From what I know of the early Mormons.... (8+ / 0-)

      they were driven out of more than one town before they headed West.

      When I lived in Elmira, NY in the late 60's we had to lock our doors to keep their missionaries from setting up housekeeping with you if they got their foot in the door.

      I rarely hear reference to the massacre of other settlers by the Mormons when they came into Mormon territory.

      The whole poligamy thing sounds like a real con job to me.  The elders got to pick and choose among the young women, while younger men were left without wives or driven from the community on some moral charge. It wasn't that long ago that members of the King family were prosecuted for forcing a 14 year old niece to marry her uncle.  When she objected, she was beaten and forced to marry him anyway.

      Even though poligamy has been renounced by the church, it is still widely practiced without much hassle from the church or from the state.  They have spread now into southwestern Colorado and other adjacent states by buying large "ranches" to keep their families on.

      The problem I have with them now, is that they operate as a theocracy.  I had friends who moved to Utah with the husband's corporation.  They were back in Seattle within a year.  The wife told us that because they weren't Mormon they couldn't gain any traction in the community.

      Mitt Romney's 23 million dollars in the 1st quarter came primarily from Mormon's who want a Mormon in the WH.  This would give them credibility they have not been able to achieve. I'm not ready for that, and I don't think the rest of the country is either.

      The most hopeful thing I've heard lately is the current mayor of SLC.  

    •  a tip for interesting new (for me) (0+ / 0-)

      information. See my more lengthy post below...

    •  I'm curious (0+ / 0-)

      what event(s) gave rise to this flurry of affidavits? Quite unusual for that time period.

      Politicians and diapers need to be changed frequently -- often for the same reason.

      by KnowVox on Wed May 16, 2007 at 09:17:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't know (0+ / 0-)

        Family mythology has it that the prominence of the Mormons prompted the multi-great g-'rents to act, but that seems like a stretch to me.  I've wondered if maybe somebody came asking.

        "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

        by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 10:03:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  PBS (8+ / 0-)

    Here is some interesting history:

    http://www.pbs.org/...

    Quite good program.

    "I have a dream" King Jr.

    "I have a book deal" Perves Musharraf

    by allmost liberal european on Wed May 16, 2007 at 07:34:06 AM PDT

  •  In all fairness, (5+ / 0-)

    I'm not sure that any religion was ever founded by characters any more savory than Joseph Smith.

    If ever we go Christofascist and I'm forced to declare a religion, I'll go Peace Mission.  The strict separation of sexes guarantees a certain degree of possible furtive happiness--if the looks I got from the male elevator operators in the Divine Tracy were any indication . . . ;-)

    •  True enough (6+ / 0-)

      But at least religions like Christianity and Islam were founded long enough ago that we don't have any documentary evidence of the fact that their founders were con men!  The Mormonism thing is so ridiculous to me because the history is so recent -- how can people take it seriously?

      To put it in SAT wod-analogy form:

      "Mormonism" is to "Christianity" as "Scientology" is to "science."

      And does anyone other than Tom Cruise and company take scientology seriously?

      "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

      by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 07:44:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I understand your argument, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        keirdubois, slksfca

        but I can't accept it.  If the central mystery of Christianity (the "mysterium fidei," as the Catholics call it) is a cannibalism ritual established by a guy who made husbands leave their wives for him, why should I take it seriously either?

        •  Maybe you shouldn't (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Catte Nappe, JeffW

          I am in no way defending any of Christian dogma or belief.  What I am saying is that the passage of time has made these matters hazy.  In fact, historical documentation of Jesus Christ the man is virtually nonexistent.

          No, by all means -- disbelieve!  I just wanted to discuss the Mormonism issue specifically because there is documentation, and that documentation, to my reading, so vividly points to a deliberate fraud.

          "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

          by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 07:57:38 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  As was detemined many centuries afterward (0+ / 0-)

          although there is some who would say that the whole concept was bastardized to it's current form.  It would suffice to say that Bush et al are not the first who practiced historical revisonism.

      •  Uh-oh (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jon Stafford, slksfca

        And does anyone other than Tom Cruise and company take scientology seriously?

        I'm guessing you don't live in Los Angeles.

        "Why, Tom, we're the people that live. They ain't gonna wipe us out. Why, we're the people--we go on." Ma Joad, The Grapes of Wrath

        by rocketito on Wed May 16, 2007 at 09:31:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  As opposed to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jon Stafford, Spoc42, dennisl

    the judgment of the current occupant, you mean?

  •  I prefer to oppose Mitt (7+ / 0-)

    Because he's a republicon, and their deeply flawed policies have nearly bankrupted our nation.

    It's time for a president to to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war -- John Edwards

    by ThirstyGator on Wed May 16, 2007 at 07:44:36 AM PDT

    •  HIS deeply flawed policies... (5+ / 0-)

      HAVE bankrupted the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Ask our new governor, Deval Patrick.

      But I agree with you.  Like I said, Mitt is flawed on many levels.  The Mormonism fraud is something I've wanted to discuss for quite some time, and I felt that Romney's being a Mormon was a good segue into the topic.

      "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

      by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 07:47:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  just goes to show (11+ / 0-)

    you should be nice to that odd neighbor down the street, you never know when they're up and gonna found a religion that holds sway in at least one US state and a few regions around the world.

    Honestly, as someone who doesn't believe in organized religion, this story is no more surprising than that coming from a bunch of folks who claimed 2000 years ago that this unemployed carpenter walked on water and -- get this -- rose from the dead after being hung on a cross.

    Blogatha! The political, the personal. Not necessarily in that order.

    by ksh01 on Wed May 16, 2007 at 07:53:40 AM PDT

  •  really great diary (8+ / 0-)

    thanks for this. "forest for the trees" and all that.

    i'll pile on to what corvo said, though (no surprise). many folks are born into religion, and i believe most religions are cults, not only a few. it's your family- it's how you organize things.

    it's possible for the mormon church to grow and leave behind much of its nonsensical foundation. mormonism is a tightly knit cult with an admirable spirit in terms of helping those among it less fortunate.

    but if we're going to deal with romney as a mormon we're going to have o kick his tires in terms of race. long after many knowledgable mormons understood smith was probably a lunatic, the mormon church practiced a very sordid form of instituional racism.

    and, a separate but relagted issue concerns the separation of church and state. prominent "federalists" have a different notion of the separation of church and state than do most of us, in particular, prominent federalists believe a state like utah has the consitutional right to establish a state church (the mormon one there, of course). these federalists acually believe it is constitutional for utah to require state officeholders be mormons, for instance. romney needs to be grilled hard on this- he must be forced to directly repudiate these federalists and to promise no such would ever be appointed to the federal bench.

    •  consitutional right to establish a state church? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jon Stafford

      Would love a link or two, if you have such handy.

      Revolutionary words start revolutions

      by Catte Nappe on Wed May 16, 2007 at 08:19:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  well, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe

        i asked the question of lino graglia, in a public forum, and he stated emphatically that the constitution does not prevent states from establishing state churches. i followed up with the example of utah, mormonism, and holding statewide elected office, and he claimed such a provision in utah's state constitution would not violate the US constitution. graglia is an icon in the federalist society and is a pea in the same pod as scalia, et al, and i have no doubts whatsoever that scalia holds the same opinionn.

        you can read:

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

        and here on graglia:

        http://www.ratical.org/...

        •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

          "i asked the question of lino graglia, in a public forum, and he stated emphatically that the constitution does not prevent states from establishing state churches."

          And he's right . . . as long as he ignores the Fourteenth Amendment.  I suppose Graglia is arguing that the first article of that Amendment was not meant to make the First Amendment binding upon the states, although this was in fact its intention.  

          Ah, the selectivity with which some folks are "strict constructionists"!

          •  graglia on the 14th (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            corvo

            is some scary shit. alluded to at length in the PAW analysis linked to above.

            if we lived in a just country, each of the republicna candidates would be compelled to address this issue, since the little nazi bastards all turn to the federalist society for their judicial appointees.

        •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

          It's all kind of "read between the lines", though.

          I was hoping that somewhere there was  a nice, clear, flat out statement from somebody (or several somebodies). As it stands, most people I know who would be appalled at the idea are going to "glaze over" before they ever get through a treatise with various cites and pointers and indicators.

          The lack of interest in getting beyond sound-bites and really delving into what is going on with our country and Constitution is such an obstacle. Meanwhile, there are so many who would find the thought of a religious test for public office absolutely delightful - certain that their religion would qualify.

          Revolutionary words start revolutions

          by Catte Nappe on Wed May 16, 2007 at 09:19:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Fascinating stuff, really... (6+ / 0-)

    The fact that these tablets were written by native Americans (who had no written language) in gold (when the native Americans didn't mine gold) and translated by means of a "magic" stone (which promptly disappeared along with the gold tablets) would seem to be one of those "quack like a duck" frauds.

    But still, the missionaries come knocking at my door. Very nice kids. I politely turn them away.

    The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it -- GB Shaw

    by kmiddle on Wed May 16, 2007 at 08:00:57 AM PDT

    •  Actually, the Book of Mormon (10+ / 0-)

      tells of a Bronze Age civilization in North America, complete with cities, armies, horses, elephants, and chariots.  This civilization supposedly dated from about 3000 years ago.

      In the 1830's very little was known about the origin and history of the Native Americans.  This lack of historical knowledge opened the door for fanciful proposals about their past.  One popular theory claimed that they were the "Lost Tribe of Israel".

      Of course now we know that the Native Americans came from Asia approximately 30,000 years ago.  We can date permanent settlements of wood lodges and stone tools in New York and Pennsylvania from at least 10,000 years ago until colonial times. There is no archeological evidence of any civilization in North America as described by the Book of Mormon.

      •  And despite... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jon Stafford

        the complete lack of archeological evidence, the religion is as robust as ever...

        Maybe all the evidence was transmuted into heaven...

        The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it -- GB Shaw

        by kmiddle on Wed May 16, 2007 at 08:28:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Mormon Religion dictates (7+ / 0-)

    That black people and all people of color are inferior and were made that way by god.  Of course there are a number of Mormon Democrats out there too so....

    Btw, why do people think Mitt Romney is good looking?  The right wing media loves to gush over him but I do not see it.  I mean, he could be good looking....in a Ted Bundy sort of way.

    Obama-Villaraigosa 08'!

    by SoCalLiberal on Wed May 16, 2007 at 08:02:08 AM PDT

    •  Mitt being good-looking (6+ / 0-)

      Mitt is good looking in an almost frighteningly bland sort of way.  There's a commercial on TV now, for Geek Squad I think, which features a malfunctioning "mandroid."  Mitt Romney to me looks like a mandroid -- blank look, proportionate features that lack character, perfect hair circa 1955.  That's Mitt.

      But remember, these people all thought Dan Quayle was pretty, too.

      "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

      by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 08:06:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think it's a desire of the (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        importer, DCDemocrat, Ahianne, mango, JeffW

        Republican dominated media to have Republicans be attractive.  Right now, Republicans definately have a deficit in the looks department.  Look at Fred Thompson, the heralded savior of the current GOP, for example.  The man is UGLY.  And that's an understatement.  With his conservative and hateful views (on constant display on Law and Order), he's ugly inside and out.  The Democrats on the other hand are an attractive bunch.  Take Obama or Edwards or Clark for example.  Or any number of georgous Democrats who are in Congress or governors.  

        Of course I don't think that being good looking should be a prerequisite for public office.  If that were the case, we wouldn't have Henry Waxman around.  But I am tired of all the stories on Romney's good looks.  

        Obama-Villaraigosa 08'!

        by SoCalLiberal on Wed May 16, 2007 at 08:26:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Remember when the Repubs... (5+ / 0-)

          tried to float the balloon that Rummie was sexy?

          There is something in their fevered brains that insists that these fruitcakes are somehow attractive.  I doubt even their wives can stand them.

          •  power may be sexy, (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            importer, DCDemocrat, JeffW

            but certainly there are limits . . .

            •  It's a legacy (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              SoCalLiberal

              That extends in more recent times from Carol Burnett singing "I Made a Fool of Myself over John Foster Dulles" through that murdering bastard Kissinger through Quayle up to Captain Codpiece... yeah, what a bunch of dream-boats.

              the blue sea seethes with reason

              by howth of murph on Wed May 16, 2007 at 10:11:18 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well, Quayle probably was kind of cute (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Wee Mama

                while in his twenties.  Not bad-looking in middle age either, as middle-aged men go (or, as Quayle would have it, "goe"), but sadly, cute rarely ages well.  Miraculously, his kids were even better looking, which is doubly strange when you consider that his genes had to cooperate with Marilyn's on them.

                Jeb's sons (well, one of them at least) are just plain hot.

                Now before you ask whether I have this thing about Republicans, I should note that I'd trade 'em all in for a dream date with the collegiate-aged Howard Dean.  Now there's a guy who could've had a Playgirl spread if he'd ever wanted one . . .

    •  Good-looking criminals (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      corvo, SoCalLiberal

      If Hillary Clinton wins, the Democratic Party wins.

      by DCDemocrat on Wed May 16, 2007 at 10:31:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well at least they're not getting off easy (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DCDemocrat

        because of their tall stature.....or maybe they are....lol.  :)  I think I would be a judge who would hand down very lenient sentences (for minor crimes, not for murder or rape).  I disdain the Judge Judy style of law.  She's bad on her show but you should see the footage from when she ran the New York juvenile courts.  It was awful.  Taunting people in court and making fun of them is not just mean and rude but in very poor form for an officer of the court.  I think our system of punishment in this country is too heavy handed.  I think we need prison reform, an end to mandatory minimum sentencing, reformed juvenile detention, and rehabilitation and treatment (not prison) for drug offenders.  

        Obama-Villaraigosa 08'!

        by SoCalLiberal on Wed May 16, 2007 at 12:03:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  No real surprises... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    importer, corvo, dennisl, marmar

    Sounds about as rational as the Judeo-Christian-islamic holy books and mythologies.

    In fact, no religions mythologies stand up well to the light of reason, and few even come close to believable.

    If we apply this to Romney and Mormonism, we pretty much have to apply the same standard to the rest of the field (both sides) as well.

    As far as I know, there are no admitted agnostics, or members of dogma-less religions which do not require an adherence to irrational beliefs.

    If this DQ's Mitt, it DQ's Clinton, Obama, Edwards... and the rest.

    It might leave just DK untouched , I haven't heard him doing any thumpin' lately.

    DK for Pres, anyone?

    TFYQA - think For Yourself, Question Authority

    by Niniane on Wed May 16, 2007 at 08:02:59 AM PDT

    •  Heh, beat me to it. n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      corvo

      What's the biggest factor for terrorists? Convenience, of course!

      by dennisl on Wed May 16, 2007 at 08:06:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Right. My point... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snoopydawg

      ...is just that we can prove Mormonism is a fraud through documentary evidence.  That's all.

      "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

      by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 08:08:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Nope (5+ / 0-)

        Can't prove anything...

        Correlation is not causation.

        Just because we know The Mormon Church was founded by con-artists (if indeed this is to be believed), doesn't mean that they were not divinely inspired con-artists.

        While the above testimonies are compelling, the fact is the credibility of such statements is still suspect. They are all family members, it would have been too easy to conspire before giving testimony.
        Why? The usual, at the time, jealosy, feuds, etc... In fact the descriptions sound a bit like witchcraft accusations. And we all know the very dubious history of the Witch trials and such.

        I'm not doubting the veracity of these accounts... But "proof" they are not.

        Not if you subject them to the same standards as you do the religion anyway.

        Again, Mormonism is no more fantastic or unbelievable than any other "religion of the book".

        We, as free-thinkers and rationalists, need to dispose of anti-Mormonism A.S.A.F.P.  
        Those kinds of prejudices should belong to those "other" guys.

        TFYQA - think For Yourself, Question Authority

        by Niniane on Wed May 16, 2007 at 08:21:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "Divinely inspired con artists" (0+ / 0-)

          What a great turn of phrase!

          I didn't mean that what I've presented here is the ONLy proof -- but I suppose you're right, all we really have is proof he was a con man, not proof that he wasn't a con man with a direct line to the heavens.

          But, jeez, it's just so RIDICULOUS...

          "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

          by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 08:56:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I have to agree with you there (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            corvo

            And I too have had my private little snickers at Mormon Theology and history.

            But I get the giggles from the rest of them too.

            If we can only get them all to understand it's just metaphor, we can take them seriously again.

            TFYQA - think For Yourself, Question Authority

            by Niniane on Wed May 16, 2007 at 10:25:16 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  The same can be said (0+ / 0-)

      about athiestic theories about the origin of the universe.

      In fact, no religions mythologies stand up well to the light of reason, and few even come close to believable.

      Politicians and diapers need to be changed frequently -- often for the same reason.

      by KnowVox on Wed May 16, 2007 at 09:20:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Huh? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Niniane

        The Big Bang theory sounds perfectly reasonable, at least to me (a layman).  At the very least atheistic ideas about universal origins try to base their conclusions on evidence -- scant as that evidence may be.  And they evolve and change as new information becomes available.  And they don't dogmatically say "this is what happened," instead they say, "this is what might have happened."  That certainly stands up to the light of reason.

        "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

        by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 10:07:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Nope. (0+ / 0-)

        Scientific theories must agree with our best understanding of the phenomena in question. When facts (experiential or directly observed) conflict with a theory, the theory is disgarded or revised to fit.

        While the "unknowable" cannot be conclusively positively proven, theories (or mythologies) can conclusively be disproven.

        A scientific theory is simply our best guess at a point in time that best fits with observed data, that hasn't been disproven yet.

        That cannot be said of religion.

        Christian "theories" are based on wishful thinking of relatively primitive peoples that haven't fit with observable reality for over a thousand years.

        To the layman, that means proven false.

        That cannot be said of religion.

        TFYQA - think For Yourself, Question Authority

        by Niniane on Wed May 16, 2007 at 10:41:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I, too, share your scepticism that (8+ / 0-)

    Mormonism has any basis in anything other than deluded people.

    I have a few good friends who are "men of the cloth" - a Congregationalist minister, a couple of ministers of the Metropolitan Community Church, and an Episcopal priest.

    Without hesitation, I can say that the majority of their time is taken up by poor souls who are quite convinced of their worthlessness and their desperate need to "get into heaven."  Living right by others is far down the list.

    I do not say this to disparage people in need of spiritual comfort. Simply put, there are people who are extraordinarily needy and who seek constant reassurance.  These do not include the truly ill, the broken hearted or the poor who appreciate visits, counsel and consolation.  These are the well-of-body, but endless depths of needy spirits that are few in number, but a bottomless void of want. In truth, they are almost stalkers of church leaders.

    It can only be through a group of similarly needy and desperate people, attracted to the "golden plates" story, that the Mormon church came to be.

    In a former job, I had a boss who was fascinated by Mormonism. Not disrespectful, not for ridicule, but he truly tried to understand all the strange facets of belief: the holy undergarments, the golden calf in the temple, the monitoring of members by local groups, the practice of excommunication being such a common threat, the travels of Jesus Christ throughout the Americas.  He could tell you more about Mormonism than most followers of the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints.  He was seeking an understanding of how people could follow these tenets, from the perspective of one who had been taught all his life that most of these things were the precise opposite of Christianity. He never found a solid explanation.

    Mormonism is a religion followed by millions of people. It hurts no one for others to study, analyze and examine the foundation of that religion and the tenets practiced.

    All that said, and it's quite a bit more wordy than your 19th Century ancestors, to me, the logic does not follow:

    A:  Religion was founded via fraud.
    B:  Candidate is a member of that religion.
    C:  Therefore Candidate has poor judgment.

    "A" & "B" does not equal "C."  There's nothing showing that the Candidate has actually ever been concerned with the foundation of his religion. As with most people, we have the religion of our parents and never question its beginnings.

    You could argue "A" about nearly every religion. As you say, in the case of Mormonism, the evidence is close at hand.  I don't want Romney for President, but I think the path to follow is revelation and repudiation of his actions as governor and his obvious lack of character and honesty, which even Mormonism promotes as positive values.

    And then, there's the holy underwear....
    <medium snark>

    •  oops....left out one: (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      importer, Ahianne, Wee Mama, corvo

      ... the baptising of ancestors, to move their souls from purgatory* or hell (I forget) into Heaven.   Hence, the excellent geneological records available through the Mormon Church.  After all, you cannot get your relatives into heaven with you, if you don't know who they are.

      _____________________________________
      *I get confused - someone will know:  Where do the Mormon ancestors wait to be baptized by their progeny?  Purgatory? Or is that too Catholic?  The Wyoming Flats? A coffee plantation in Guatemala?  Seriously, I'm being goofy, but where do they wait?  I used to know...

      •  They've already sealed a bunch of my ancestors... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rocketito, YucatanMan

        and I'll bet money they weren't Mormon...They'll go all the way back thru "lines" and "seal" all the ancestors in the church.

        The whole search for ancestors thing is that Mormons will get "land" in heaven based on the numbers of their families......Interesting concept.

        I do appreciate all the geneology work they have put on line, they are also making a fortune from Ancestory and a number of other subscription sites.

        •  I'm torn about the post-mortem baptism (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          importer, YucatanMan

          From my Mormon friends, my understanding is that without baptizing and sealing families, those people will not get to the same level of heaven as baptized and sealed Mormons will.  So they will never be around after their death if they're not baptized.  I've never heard of the idea of getting more land, but that could be true, I don't know.

          To me there is something so disrespectful about baptizing people you've never known without their consent.  Someone baptized my great-grandfather (not a family member, as none of us is LDS) and I know he would be in a rage about that.  It seems the height of arrogance; I've had Catholic ancestors baptized, Episcopal ancestors baptized, etc.  For a faith that demands respect, it gives little in this practice.

          On the other hand, how meaningful is it to baptize dead people en masse just in case you'll want to know them when you're dead.  I doubt it's going to hurt my great-grandfather as much as it annoys his descendants.

          And it's true that LDS has previously put genealogical data out there, but now they're pulling in that data in favor of getting people to pay for Ancestry.com, a site which I loathe.  

          "Why, Tom, we're the people that live. They ain't gonna wipe us out. Why, we're the people--we go on." Ma Joad, The Grapes of Wrath

          by rocketito on Wed May 16, 2007 at 09:43:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Plus... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rocketito

            ...couldn't some asshole posthumously baptize Attila the Hun, or Ivan the Terrible, or Hitler?  Do we really want those guys in Heaven?  Would it even be Heaven then?

            "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

            by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 10:09:51 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Wait, so Sting was right? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        greasymadness, YucatanMan

        We ARE spirits in the material world?

        "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

        by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 09:12:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  But wait... they're dead... (0+ / 0-)

        so we are....    ???

    •  I agree that... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      YucatanMan, mango

      ...there are many, many reasons to oppose Mitt Romney.  As someone who lived under his absentee regime for four years in Massachusetts, I know only too well what an opportunistic bottom-feeder he is.

      But I also believe that someone's faith can be an issue, particularly if that faith is so patently ridiculous.  I've heard the "all religions are ridiculous" argument, and I don't disagree.  But to me, Mormonism is egregiously ridiculous, and belief in it calls into question the judgment, even the rationality, of the believer.  Sort of like believing Lindsay Lohan is a good actress -- CRAZINESS!

      "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

      by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 08:37:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  An account of being excommunicated (9+ / 0-)

    Teresa Nielsen Hayden (currently a science fiction book editor in NYC) has written an interesting essay about being excommunicated from the Mormon church in the late 70's because of her opposition to their stand on the ERA. She also gives an interesting account of what the Book of Mormon actually says.

    God and I

    Myself, I got hauled up in front of an ecclesiastical court this summer and formally excommunicated. Really. A genuine heretic, anathematized by the grace of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. (By the way, if you are a Mormon and are reading this, I should warn you that I've touched all the pages in this issue of Telos and the paper is probably crawling with heretic-microbes. Don't let me stop you, but if you suddenly go weak in the knees and develop an irresistible craving to vote the straight Socialist Workers' Party ticket while drinking a cup of coffee and praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary in a swimming pool on Sunday, you'll know what's happened to you. Sorry.) I could wish, just for the sake of completeness, that they had dashed the candles to the ground and all, gone the whole route, and that if I were to die without a reconciliation they would hunt up an unsanctified crossroads to bury me under; but what actually happened--well, what happened comes in the proper course of this story. So let me maunder on for a while and then I'll explain how the deed was done, along with other mysteries like the Holy Underwear of God and the Book of Ether.

    I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies..

    by lesliet on Wed May 16, 2007 at 08:12:47 AM PDT

  •  Fascinating primary sources - thanks for sharing (5+ / 0-)
  •  I concur that Mormonism (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greasymadness, slksfca

    some strange facets.

    However, I have lived amongst many LDS families for the past 12 years here in WA. Four of the dozen homes on my cul de sac are LDS, many more in the rest of my development. We often socialize, I've watched their kids grow up with mine.

    These families are the nicest people and the best neighbors a person could ask for. The kids are well-mannered, respectful and tend to stay out of trouble. They have never pushed their religion. I have come to greatly admire their strong family values and their kindness. The LDS families are quite a contrast to the conservative, bigoted, anti-gay, anti-everyone, evangelical Christians on my block. Barf.

    So when I see the frequent Mormon-bashing, it pains me that my friends and neighbors undergo this assault so often. I've seen some really ugly stuff.

    And as a agnostic/atheist, I find it ironic that it's so often people of another religious faith (mostly die-hard Christians) who pick apart the Mormons for their "kooky" religion. Since, in my view virtually ALL religions are kooky. Read the bible lately?

  •  Please post scanned images of those documents (0+ / 0-)

    ...

    Something more than typed words.

    I'd love to print out the originals and show them to my Mormon wife.  :)

    •  I don't have the originals (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      slksfca

      They are archived in Wayne County.  But I believe my cousin may have scans or copies -- I'll try to find out!

      "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

      by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 10:10:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marmar, Cassandra Waites

    I'm an ex-Mormon, and I have no love for some of the church's doctrines. But I fail to see how labelling members of the church as 'the weakest element, people with few personal connections, who were down on their luck, or who had psychological problems' adds anything helpful to a rational debate. And, frankly, I find it insulting to members of my own LDS family who are none of those things.

    Why can't we base our judgments on what people do rather than on what they believe? ('By their works ye shall know them.') And is there any valid reason why Mormons should be held to a different standard from believers in any other religion?

    There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. -Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

    by slksfca on Wed May 16, 2007 at 09:53:38 AM PDT

    •  I was talking... (0+ / 0-)

      ...about the original followers of Joseph Smith, Jr. (in the context of him being a David Koresh- or Jim Jones-like cult leader), not today's Mormons necessarily.

      "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

      by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 10:25:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I appreciate the distinction. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jon Stafford

        And thank you for the response. But some of those 'original followers' were also members of my family. My discomfort with your assertion remains.

        Having said that, I want you to know that I always enjoy seeing your name at the top of a diary (or beneath a comment), even though I occasionally disagree with you. Thanks, again,

        -Scott

        There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. -Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

        by slksfca on Wed May 16, 2007 at 11:24:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Wow. Thanks. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          slksfca

          If it makes you feel any better -- some of my family were Nazis, including an SS-Scharführer.  So for families worthy of being badmouthed, you can't get much worse than mine!  I'd be very grateful if the worst I had in the lineage were some possibly questionable cult followers!

          "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

          by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 03:41:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  All true and valid points (0+ / 0-)

    And certainly well reasoned.  I have no dispute with any of it.  All I was trying to say is that there is some line between what is generally accepted as a "valid" religion and what is not.  Judaism, for example, is generally accepted to be a "valid" religion.  Branch Davidianism, by contrast, is not.

    Now, I fully understand that we can debate forever about what is "valid."  Just because society has said it is so, doesn't make it so.  But I also firmly believe that at the end of that debate there would be some kind of widespread consensus as to what was most assuredly NOT a valid religion -- for example, the consensus would probably agree that, say, the worship of Oreo cookies is not a valid religion (not that they aren't delicious!).  Where the consensus would fall apart would be in determining what IS valid.  I'm not taking any stance on what IS valid, but I feel pretty strongly that Mormonism is NOT.  I think the preponderance of the evidence indicates that it is nothing more than a con man's attempt at self aggrandizement.  The evidence for this is simply, in my view, too strong too ignore.

    So no, I'm not looking for a candidate who follows an evidence-based religion (that's called "science").  At least not yet.  There aren't any.  Or, if they are, they know better than to say so in this society.  What I am looking for is 1) someone who doesn't believe in what is a patent lie, and 2) someone who doesn't let their religion's dogma inform their thinking on public policy to the exclusion of all else.  I have no doubt that Barack Obama, John Edwards, et al are followers of a faith -- but I also have confidence that their decisions are not beholden to that faith, even when it contradicts reason.  I have no such confidence in Mitt Romney.  Nor, for that matter, in most of the GOP field.

    "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

    by Jon Stafford on Wed May 16, 2007 at 10:23:32 AM PDT

  •  This is an incredibly assholish diary John (0+ / 0-)

    Please delete this bigotry.

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