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One of Mitt Romney's problems is the fact that he believes in a pre-Youtube ethic of being able to say things to one audience that he wouldn't say to another. Now, one could argue that that's because he's an old-school politician. Or one could say that he's steeped in a culture of lying endemic to the leadership of the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

Consider the story of Ken Clark, former Latter Day Saints bishop and coordinator for the Church Education System:

I began this list when I was a full time employee of the LDS Church Education System (CES). I worked as a Seminary Principal/teacher, Institute teacher/Director, and Stake CES Coordinator from 1975 - 2002. My last assignment was brief. I signed a Letter of Agreement with CES to serve as the Director of the Pullman, Washington LDS Institute of Religion adjacent to Washington State University in July 2002. I resigned from CES a month later. I carry fond memories of the students, ward leaders and others I grew to respect in the LDS Church. I started this list in an effort to defend the church from its detractors. I was insulted that critics accused LDS church leaders of dishonesty. I "knew" the criticisms could not be true...

Evidence presented in this essay establishes that when the church image or its leaders needed protection it was and is, okay to fib, deceive, distort, inflate, minimize, exaggerate, prevaricate or lie. You will read quotations by church leaders who admitted that deception is a useful tool to protect the church and its leaders "when they are in a tight spot," or "to beat the devil at his own game." They admit engaging in moral gymnastics; that God approves of deception - if it's done to protect the "Lord's Church" or "the brethren" as the leaders are called...

D. Michael Quinn called the use of deception by LDS church leaders, "theocratic ethics." (The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, page 112) Smith lied to protect himself or the church; which was an extension of himself. Dan Vogel in his excellent work, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, described Smith's viewpoint; he was a pious deceiver. Smith used deception if in his mind; it resulted in a good outcome. Smith had Moroni, an ancient American prophet and custodian of the gold plates declare, "And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. ( Moroni 4:11-12). Translation: if deception was necessary to do good, or bring a soul to Christ, then it was worth it, as long as God approves. Smith believed he knew when God approved of lying.

Clark lists over a hundred examples of baldfaced lies knowingly told by the church hierarchy, justified because they believe it serves the greater good. It is a cultural ethic deeply embedded in the LDS system. Consider the way Latter Day Saints missionaries are trained:

As John Aravosis points out regarding these lies and the common (and secretive) LDS practice of posthumous baptisms for countless individuals, including Anne Frank and Adolf Hitler:

It's ghoulish to be sure, but it's neither rare nor a mistake. It's what the Mormons do. And when they get caught, they lie about it, just as they're lying to our President today, and just as they've been lying to the Jews for over a decade.

Why does this matter? Because the Mormons are "the" bankers of the religious right. Last fall, the Mormons dropped $20 million into California and singlehandedly turned a losing battle into the successful repeal of marriage rights for gay couples in that state. The Mormons have bankrolled hate initiatives in Alaska and Hawaii and across the northwest and midwest for the past decade. They are not some fringe "religion" to be shrugged off. The new anti-gay marriage coalition, National Organization for Marriage, keeps finding, seemingly out of nowhere, $1.5m for this ad campaign, then another $1.5m for that ad campaign. Where are they finding this sudden infusion of cash? Inquiring minds want to know.

This isn't just a broadside on Mitt Romney's religion. It's important to remember that Mitt Romney has a very important and prominent position in the LDS hierarchy as a stake president:
In ticking off his credentials on the campaign trail — management consultant, businessman, governor — Mitt Romney omits what may have been his most distinctive post: Mormon lay leader, offering pastoral guidance on all manner of human affairs from marriage to divorce, abortion, adoption, addiction, unemployment and even business disputes...

From 1981 through 1994, he was a powerful figure in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is run almost entirely by volunteers beyond its headquarters in Salt Lake City.

First as bishop of his own congregation, and later as Boston “stake president,” overseeing a region akin to a Roman Catholic diocese, he operated as clergyman, organization man and defender of the faith, guiding the church through a tumultuous period of rapid growth.

He confronted anti-Mormon sentiment and management challenges, supervising youth programs, the church’s social welfare system, missionary training and outreach to Hispanic, Portuguese and Southeast Asian converts, including Cambodian and Laotian refugees whose teenagers were joining the church in droves.

Later, when his official duties were complete, he contributed handsomely to the construction of the grand — and controversial — Boston Temple, high on a hilltop in Belmont, its steeple topped by a golden angel, just minutes from the Romney home. “Mitt’s Temple,” some local residents called it derisively.

It's critically important to remember that Romney's lies aren't just a feature of his personality. They're a feature of his cultural and religious training.

The only difference is that he's switched from serving a religious Lord to serving Mammon and our modern-day plutocratic House of Lords.

But the same ethic rules regardless.

Cross-posted from Digby's Hullabaloo

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Comment Preferences

  •  If a church is lying for their Lord (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, Gorette

    then it's not the Lord Christians pray to.

    It's the other guy.

  •  This stinks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Garrett, kurt

    We ought not to cast such broad nets. Some Mormons are dishonest, so all Mormons are dishonest? Seems like there's plenty of real bonafide disqualifications about Mitt himself, that maybe we don't need to slide quite so low in the mud.

    I'm no Mormon, and I'm no fan of Mormons, but this is the worst kind of "blame by association". There's no place for this nonsense.

    -5.38, -2.97
    It's too big a world to be in competition with everyone. The only person who I have to be better than is myself. - Sherman T. Potter

    by ChuckInReno on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 04:31:56 PM PDT

  •  I'm confused by this. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Willard obviously lies, dissembles, changes stories, etc. That's a given. And it's documented. That makes him a liar and a terrible politician, and it makes his campaign for president a dangerous joke.

    Why does it matter in this narrative that certain Mormans also lie to prevent embarassment to their faith?  Catholics have lied to prevent discovery of child abuse. Many preachers have lied to prevent discovery of their extramarital and/or gay relationships.  

    I'm not just not getting the connection you're making. Surely it's not that Willard's lying because he's a Morman. Or the erroneous sylogism that Mormans lie, and Mitt's a mormon, etc.

    Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

    by davidseth on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 05:03:59 PM PDT

  •  No, a Stake President is NOT important (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    A stake is merely a small area - a very very small piece of the church.  Our nearest Mormon church building is the meeting place for 4 or 5 different stakes.  One stake is assigned a certain time for Sunday services and another stake is assigned a different time -- so that they don't overcrowd the smallish church building.  They have one bishop for the local church (and ONLY the local church) and he serves in that position for a short period of time, about one or so years.

    A stake president is NOT important in the hierarchy of the overall LDS church.  It is a nice thing to have been and it looks great on your church resume for good deeds, etc. - but NO it is not a national or worldwide big deal.

    I'm not a member of the LDS church - but I have a good number of friends who are and I have spent a great deal of time in the past years asking many questions directly and getting answers.

    You are really over-blowing the importance of that 'title'.

    Lying for their church -- yeah, I can see that.   I can see that easily.   But getting some very basic facts wrong is really making a mockery of the rest of your argument.

    •  Tell that to David Twede who is in the process (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      of being excommunicated by LDS for his writing on Mitt and the Church at Mormon Think:

      On Sunday, Twede says his bishop, stake president, and two church executives brought him into Florida Mormon church offices in Orlando and interrogated him for nearly an hour about his writings, telling him, "Cease and desist, Brother Twede."

      Mormon leaders have scheduled an excommunication "for apostasy" on Sept. 30. A spokesman for the church told The Daily Beast that the church would not be commenting for this story. [bolding mine. source.]

      I'm surprised you would suggest the SP isn't important.

      202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

      by cany on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 09:29:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm sorry. (0+ / 0-)

    I can't even put that in the dishonest category. It is entirely straight forward persuasion, sure. But it is not saying to lie about what Mormons believe. It is saying that you need, sometimes, to start where people are at if you want to make your argument.

    We can argue whether religion should be a sales pitch, but, to some extent, it is. It can be hard or soft, but even I, in my quiet, never try to convert people way hope that my influence and my life open folks up to considering Christianity doesn't suck. And I suppose in the long term I hope they might come to agree and join with me.

    I don't like the hard pitch. I'm not likely to join the LDS. But that seems a reach to categorize as lying. It's just not sharing the complicated out of gate.

    If someone is still back at Obama is a communist because of his health care plan, I'm not going to go into a treatise on what communism is. I'm going to try to explain why the health care plan makes sense.

    Does it make me a liar that I answer the question they should have asked? That's basic marketing.

    And again, we can debate whether religions should market, but then we could debate that about lots of things.

    by Magenta on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 11:56:45 PM PDT

  •  Didn't realize it was more than personality (0+ / 0-)

    failing of pathological lying.

    I suppose if you are raised with this as a child and it is ingrained then there is not much of a dividing line if at all between personality and training.

    Curious. I wonder if there are other cultures that teach lying as a moral virtue.... anyone know?

    Thanks for educating me. I suppose this is why he's gotten so good at it. Except, we all know it when he's lying; still he convinced a lot of people. This just makes so much sense in understanding him.

    Romney's lies aren't just a feature of his personality. They're a feature of his cultural and religious training.

    "extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy.... the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake." Paul Krugman

    by Gorette on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 10:40:57 AM PDT

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