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Censorship

Mormon Church Goes After WikiLeaks 1172

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the for-once-its-not-the-scientologists dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Mormon Church has instructed its lawyers to gag the Internet over WikiLeaks' release of the 1968 and 1999 versions of its confidential handbook for Church leaders. Apart from attacking WikiLeaks, legal demands were sent to Jimmy Wales of the WikiMedia foundation for a WikiNews article merely linking to the material, and scribd.com has also been censored. WikiLeaks has (of course) refused to remove the documents."
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Mormon Church Goes After WikiLeaks

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  • So what? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:10AM (#23401596)
    Like this manual really mentions anything disastrous or hurtful to the church? I don't see a single thing wrong with it, in fact it is far more likely helpful to church leaders who want answers to questions like this than harmful to the churches reputation
  • Re:Hey Mormons (Score:2, Informative)

    by bamwham (1211702) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:17AM (#23401688)
    Seriously: If this leak is so damning to God's one true church, won't he smite the site with the internet's version of fire and brimestone? Sit back and enjoy the (virtual) fireworks.

    Or is it more that the church is worried about the economic impact of this more than the spiritual one?

    It is to bad, after watching the PBS documentary a year ago on the Mormons I became aware of some of the good work they do through their charitable foundation. This cause me, who had long been strongly anti-Mormon (or more specifically anti-religous), to reconsider my opinion of their church. However it is moves like this that will reverse my opinion...
  • by Calmiche (531074) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:26AM (#23401788)
    Yah, but what is so sad is that the LDS church has a HUGE online presence, uses the internet on a frequent basis to distribute media and is an early adopter of a lot of technology.

    Secondly, these books aren't secret. Any member can walk into any LDS distribution center and pick up a copy. I've got a copy. 95% of the book is on how meetings run, proper activities for youth, how to distribute tithing and how to put in requisition forms for repairs.

    However, there are sections on church doctrine and rules. These are more solid rules than what is generally liked in the church. It gives hard and fast examples of improper conduct and what the church response is to them.

    The basic idea is that people should govern themselves. If you give them a hard and fast rule, some types of people will see how close they can get to that rule without breaking it. Not a good way to live a christian life.

    As a lifelong member of the LDS church, I'm extremely disappointed in how church lawyers and officials are handling this. It's not SECRET. It's PRIVATE. There's a big difference that some church members just don't seem to get.
  • Re:Cult. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bios_Hakr (68586) <xptical AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:36AM (#23401936) Homepage
    The book isn't exactly confidential. There is a distribution list. Every Church building has three copies. There are other copies for Temples and various other leaders.

    All in all, there are about 250k copies of this book provided for 10,000,000+ members.

    If a member wants to discuss a point of Church business (how is the opening song selected, can we use toasted rye bread for Sacrament, could I be excommunicated for having an abortion), the member can ask their leader to show them why and how.
  • by KnightMB (823876) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:40AM (#23401990)

    That would be as easy as pushing water uphill with a sharp stick :-)
    Especially since I just made a torrent for the file in question :-) Get the torrent here: http://torrents.thepiratebay.org/4187865/Mormon_Church_Handbook_of_Instructions_(1999).4187865.TPB.torrent [thepiratebay.org]
  • by PalmKiller (174161) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:42AM (#23402030) Homepage
    The html version here chi99.htm works better cause it has the hyperlinks, the pdf has link references to it. http://www.provocation.net/chi/chi99.htm [provocation.net]
  • by kmarshallbanana (1192023) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:42AM (#23402038)
    From wikipedia: Wikileaks is hosted by PRQ, an internet service provider in Sweden

    Also: Wikileaks information is distributed across many jurisdictions, organizations and individuals. [From: http://www.wikileaks.org/wiki/Wikileaks:About%5D [wikileaks.org]
  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mr.Intel (165870) <mrintel173NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:50AM (#23402148) Homepage Journal
    BZZZZT. Wrongo, Tex. The "Mormons" in El Dorado weren't the same religion as the "Mormons" in the OP. Get your facts straight before you start slinging mud around here. And speaking of which, "well-documented fraudster" is easy to say as an AC. What say you walk around that cloak of secrecy and provide some first hand accounts of Joseph Smith's fraud?
  • Re:Cult. (Score:3, Informative)

    by eck011219 (851729) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:00AM (#23402274)
    Some of the tenets are quite exclusionary -- if you're planning a transgender operation, for example, you may not be baptized.

    Perhaps "dark and unpleasant" was a careless choice of words -- maybe "restrictive and archaic" would be better. I was referring more to the strongly discouraged practices such as surrogate parenting, voluntary sterilization, and so on. I guess it's not significantly different from other churches, but I didn't dig too deeply through the rest of the document.

    I guess religions are, in part, inherently exclusionary (as is anything with members). So maybe I need to just let them do their thing. It's just that they and other religions keep so much from their members that the members may not realize what the elders are being instructed to do. I guess some call it faith, but I call it uneducated decision making.

    Which is probably why I'm a Unitarian. And even we have our questionable practices (if anything ever gets out of committee).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:01AM (#23402286)
    I was pretty deep into Mormonism for a while. I served a Mormon
    mission, graduated from the church-run BYU, and was appointed to
    various leadership positions (with 6:00am Sunday meetings to talk
    about other peoples' sex lives and all). I left the Mormon institution a
    few years ago, and based on discussions I have read on various
    Mormon-themed web forums, the main interest in the church's handbook
    of instructions relates to how people can just get the hell out.

    From the handbook:

    > Name Removal and Church Discipline
    >
    > If a member requests name removal and a bishop or stake president
    > has evidence of transgression that warrants convening a disciplinary
    > council, he should not act on the request until Church discipline
    > has been imposed or he has concluded that no disciplinary council
    > will be held. Name removal should not be used as a substitute for or
    > alternative to Church discipline. If a member requests name removal
    > and a bishop or stake president suspects transgression but lacks
    > sufficient evidence to convene a disciplinary council, the request
    > for name removal may be approved. Any evidence of unresolved
    > transgressions should be noted on the Report of Administrative
    > Action form so priesthood leaders may resolve such matters if the
    > individual applies for readmission into the Church.

    I should emphasize that this is pure bullshit, but a lot of people who
    are trying to leave the Mormon institution get caught up in these
    sorts of games. For someone who was indoctrinated into Mormonism as a
    child, this really is a fantastic mind-fuck.

    The trick is not to request name removal, but to submit a formal
    letter of resignation. There is an entire web site devoted to helping
    people in the Mormon institution do just that:

    http://www.mormonnomore.com/ [mormonnomore.com]

    The lesson from the handbook is that if you just request name removal,
    if the church hierarchy determines that you are somehow sinning, they
    will still try to humiliate you by putting you through their kangaroo
    court. The truth is, you have a legal right to simply resign from the
    church at any time, and from the instant your letter lands in the
    hands of the local bishop of your church, you are *out*. They
    absolutely cannot hold these disciplinary proceedings for you, since
    you have legally resigned and are longer a member.

    By having access to this handbook, people trying to leave the Mormon
    intitution can learn a lot about what to expect from the leaders in
    the institution when they try to leave, and they can be prepared ahead
    of time to react in a way that serves their own best interests.
  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alpha830RulZ (939527) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:14AM (#23402486)
    Joseph Smith's background is pretty well documented. See this [amazon.com] for a good writeup. He was a con man and a thief, who (one can reasonably conjecture from the documented history) came up with a polygamist philosophy because he was also one randy goat.
  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by KutuluWare (791333) <`gro.ulutuk' `ta' `ulutuk'> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:14AM (#23402490) Homepage
    Wow. So many things to clarify. So, first of all, just to get this out of the way:

    No it does not beg the question. Seriously, you'd think that seeing us yell about this every time someone uses that phrase wrong [begthequestion.info] on /. would annoy people enough to just stop using it, but no.

    Anyway, Mormonism: Their origins are a bit flaky, but only because they happened in the 1800s and not 1800 BC. Just about every major, currently active religion started out with one guy who claimed some special knowledge that only he could know, and was tasked him with spreading that knowledge to the world. See: Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Gautama Buddha. The fact that people thousands of years ago didn't blink an eye when people made claims like this doesn't make the claim any more or less crazy. And like most other mainstream religions, as time went on Mormonism has tended to shed the most bizarre or "out-there" claims and stick with the basics of preaching their ideas of morality. Granted, Mormon morality is a good bit more strict than most other religions, putting it closer to the "crazy" end of the mainstream spectrum, but their current teachings aren't much different from Catholics, and their rules and restrictions aren't any more or less odd than, save, Jehovah's Witnesses or Seventh Day Adventists.

    And, to specifically illustrate the point:

    And perhaps you've heard on the news about the Mormon polygamist compound in Texas that was recently raided?
    Awesome job changing the subject completely there, since we were talking about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, LDS, right up until that sentence. The LDS Church stopped allowing polygamy among its members years ago. Part of this was simple political expedience - they were starting to piss off the non-Mormons in Utah - but part of it was the very process I just described, shedding their more bizarre beliefs and focusing on a more core sense of morality. The group running the compound in Texas is the "Fundamentalist LDS" cult, a bunch of people who were kicked out of the Mormon church precisely because they wouldn't stop doing the crap they've been caught doing. The LDS church is pretty vocal in objecting to even calling that religion Mormon, though they still, in theory, follow the Book of Mormon, so they still refer to themselves as Mormons. This was a big bone of contention with the Mormon church and the cable TV show "Big Love", which was forced to start each show with a disclaimer explicitly stating that the family depicted on the show were not Mormon, they were FLDS. Painting all of Mormonism as somehow wrong because of one fringe group is like claiming all of Christianity is tainted because of those psycho pricks in the Westboro Baptist Church.
  • Re:Cult. (Score:3, Informative)

    by just_forget_it (947275) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:15AM (#23402500)
    A religion doesn't have to physically prevent you from leaving in order to be a cult. I was a Jehovah's Witness for the first 20-odd years of my life. They use the threat of cutting off your friends and family to keep you in line. Since the church requires all relationships to be within the organization, they force you to wrap your entire life into it. It becomes your life. If you leave, you have nothing. In many cases, the families of people who have left won't even speak a word to them.
  • by RationalRoot (746945) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:16AM (#23402520) Homepage
    Wander down to Saudi or any African Islamic region and see what happens to Apostates.
    "While the traditional holy writings of both Judaism (Deuteronomy 13:6-10) and Islam (al-Bukhari, Diyat, bab 6) demand the death penalty for apostates."
  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Azar (56604) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:29AM (#23402748) Homepage
    "Mormons" (more correctly Latter-day Saints, at times abbreviated "LDS") practiced polygamy in the 1800's. The practice was outlawed by the LDS church in order for Utah to achieve statehood, which it did some years later in 1896. There are no Mormon polygamists anymore because any practicing polygamists are excommunicated. The nutjobs in Arizona / Texas are Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints (or "FLDS") church members.

    FLDS != LDS

    It is similar in name only, because given this free country, the founders of the FLDS church were free to do so when naming it. Which just leads to a common source of confusion. It's very likely you were just trolling, but it's worth pointing out for those who genuinely confuse FLDS with LDS.
  • "Secret" hardly... (Score:2, Informative)

    by VirtualGathis (1289244) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:29AM (#23402758)
    I find it interesting that the leadership is taking such effort to suppress this. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and I already know the information in this article without being given the guide. I know it simply because I have asked the questions. The missionaries and leaders answered without reservation or hesitation. This information isn't secret. It is the publication that is confidential specifically because without the history and knowledge given beforehand it is easy to take it out of context and receive the wrong impression. The guides purpose is to assist leaders in assisting members not to create a "secret" leadership. These leaders are chosen from worthy members not a secret elite.
  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mr.Intel (165870) <mrintel173NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:30AM (#23402764) Homepage Journal

    Being a Christian (and pretty well educated about the origin of the LDS) I very much commend them for the work they do, but pity them for the screwed up nature of their beliefs. Make no mistake, LDS/Mormans are not Christians. Similar values, though. There is a lot of easy to obtain info and such if you're interested. I'm not trying to flame or troll. Ask one, they don't typically associate themselves with your 'typical' Christians.

    This [lds.org] and this [lds.org] are pretty good writeups on how the LDS church is and is not "Christian". The LDS church maintains that it follows the teachings of Jesus Christ and is therefore, Christian. It also believes that it is not aligned with so-called "mainstream" Christianity because of the "screwed up nature of [our] beliefs". While you and I probably don't agree on the nature of the trinity (as one example) it doesn't make you a Christian and me not. It just means we have a different idea of what being a Christian means.

  • Re:Cult. (Score:5, Informative)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:45AM (#23403048) Homepage Journal
    As far as transgender operations one of the basic beliefs has to do with gender identity. I was shocked more by the fact that someone that had the operation could be baptized. So if you are undecided about your gender you must wait until you decide before you are baptized.
    Parenthood and children and families are very important in the church doctrine so I can understand the the surrogate parenting thing as well. Adoption is HIGHLY encouraged. Voluntary sterilization? Last time I checked that was changed. I believe that Bishops are now instructed that it is between the husband and wife. I could be wrong but even under the old manual it is just a recommendation. If you get a vasectomy that is really up to you.
    To be honest I am a member and I have not been a Bishop. I know several of them in my ward. Most wards will have several members that have been bishop so this isn't some secret. That book isn't a big secret and everything listed was stuff I knew except one.
    I didn't know that the church would allow someone that had a sex change be baptized. I feel that is a good thing.
    As far these ideas being backward or strange? Well some of our ideas are rather old. Like sending 10,000 people to help with the clean up after Katrina. Here is some of what they have been doing lately.
    http://www.lds.org/ldsfoundation/welfare/welcome/0,7133,1325-1-9,00.html [lds.org]

  • Re:Please explain (Score:2, Informative)

    by Schlage (195535) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:00AM (#23403262)
    This is blowing the entire thing out of proportion, not to mention a distortion/mischaracterization of the material at hand. This is an administrative manual, not a litururgical text, which involves policies and procedures. Nothing directly dealing with doctrine, as such, despite the frequent sciptural references that made to provide for the doctrinal underpinnings of the policy.
  • Re:Silly Lawyers... (Score:3, Informative)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:01AM (#23403294) Homepage Journal
    The larger issue is organizations enjoying tax exempt status have secret documents.
    Frankly, I consider this more of a 'civil disobedience' to bring light to a much larger issue.
  • by ruggerboy (553525) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:26AM (#23403654)
    this just makes me want to convert to LDS (if I had a gun to my head and was forced to choose a religion):
    One of the stake presidency's most important responsibilities is...emphasizing the importance of the family, helping members prepare to receive all essential...providing opportunities to serve...and showing love by ministering to members individually. Members of the stake presidency set an example in temporal welfare by striving to become selfreliant and by caring for the poor and needy. They also encourage members in these efforts.

    Just don't eff up with the rest of the rules, or you'll be cast out and end up in Vegas on the pole.
  • She's the 14 year old girl who Joseph Smith bullied into marrying him by claiming that it would ensure the salvation of her family. There's plenty of more examples of fraud, but as long as the topic is El Dorado that one seems to be the most poignant. Todd Compton's book has references to primary sources for her and about thirty others of Smith's wives, if you'd like to check that out. Be aware that Compton is still a believing Mormon and so some bias shows through; for example when he quotes Helen's sorrow at finding out that her marriage wasn't just "for eternity", he suggests that that must just mean that Smith wasn't letting her date, rather than that Smith was using her for what his "revelation" on polygamy [lds.org] said his "plural wives" were for.

    You're right that the FLDS Mormons aren't the same religion as the LDS Mormons, but that's because the FLDS sect is the one that still believes in the doctrines that the LDS were smart enough to back away from.
  • by The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:46AM (#23403976)
    Just to be clear, the FLDS isn't a part of the regular Mormons. Mainstream LDS doesn't do the polygamy / marry your 12-year-old cousin thing. They're still about as out there as Scientologists, but at least they're not kiddie-diddlers...
  • by ittybad (896498) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @11:01AM (#23404290) Homepage
    I believe the point of this article was to leak "secret documents" and show the secrecy of the "cult" we know as the LDS church. In regards to its secrecy, read the first few pages. To those you have not, RTA and STB (scan the book). To show the absurdity of asserting some veil of secrecy, here are some quotes: "However, other stake and ward leaders may have access to this information as needed for reference." "This publication is bound as a single book for stake presidencies, bishoprics, high priests group leaders, elders quorum presidents, and auxiliary presidents. Individual sections are published for leaders who do not need the entire book" "However, the stake president or bishop may authorize portions to be duplicated for high councilors and others as needed." The book and/or the book's content are available to many, many people in the church. In fact, if you look at that last line, it is available to "others as needed." I would imagine this means any ward member. There is no veil of secrecy here, and the copyrights violation suit, I feel, makes sense. It is their document and it doesn't show any illegal activities. If they want to keep it mostly internal, so be it. Nothing in there, from what I could tell, looks damning. Much of the same stuff you see in other Christian denominations. To get a good feel for the book real quick, do a search for "ward member" and read the sentences around that search throughout the book. Good things abound.
  • Mormon != Christian (Score:3, Informative)

    by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @11:05AM (#23404376)
    I've posted similar articles countless times before, but here's [bcmmin.org] another example. Mormon's are not Christian. They may claim to be Christian, but they are not. I can claim to be a Buddhist, Mormon and Catholic but that doesn't make me all three. They have mutually exclusive doctrines which prevent you from being all of them. Similarly, Mormon doctrine directly conflicts with the most basic tenants of Christianity (outlined in aforementioned link).
  • by Nethead (1563) <joe@nethead.com> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @11:17AM (#23404620) Homepage Journal
    Sikh men wear "funny underwear" too. Kaccha is a pair of shorts. This is special, slightly longer type of underwear and is symbolic of continence and a high moral character. Like breeches, Kaccha can be worn on their own without causing embarrassment. Thus it is quite useful in hot weather, swimming and sports activities. It also reminds the Sikh of the need for self-restrain over passions and desires. They are worn with a knotted string that takes a few moments to untie. This gives the Sikh a moment to reflect on why he is taking his pants off. Google the term "Kakkar" for more information.
  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @11:22AM (#23404716)

    "Mormons" (more correctly Latter-day Saints, at times abbreviated "LDS") practiced polygamy in the 1800's. The practice was outlawed by the LDS church in order for Utah to achieve statehood, which it did some years later in 1896. .
    Actually gaining statehood was only one enticement. (It was a significant one because it got rid of the federally appointed territorial authorities, who were what just what you would expect of third tier federal appointees...)

    The larger issue was that the church was finding it very difficult to perform its mission with most of its leaders either living underground or in prison, with all of the church's assets (including churches and temples as well as funds) confiscated, and with the majority of its members (even those who had never practiced polygamy) denied the right to vote or serve on juries.

    Basically the church tried civil disobedience to defy what it saw as an unconstitutional law and willingly suffered the consequences until it had exhausted all legal recourse and it became obvious that they could either submit, or fail in their greater mission.

  • It's boring (Score:3, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @11:41AM (#23405114) Homepage

    Being against censorship, I had to read the thing. It's an operating manual for an organization, and a reasonably sensible one. Far more embarrassing policy documents [bishop-acc...bility.org] have emerged from Catholic abuse scandals. This manual has a child abuse section on page 157; it says to report it by calling a toll-free number.

    This document doesn't appear to be much of a secret. It can be ordered through LDS Distribution Services [ldscatalog.com], and the registration system doesn't seem to even ask if you're a Mormon. Sections of it are on the LDS main site.

    Other than as a copyright issue, there's not much to get excited about here.

  • by The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @11:42AM (#23405146)
    > Nowhere in the Mormon canon and/or official doctrine does it say anything about dark skin.

    It was official doctrine that black people couldn't hold the priesthood, though. That pretty much reads like punishment to me.

    (disclaimer: I'm an ex-Mormon, but I'm perfectly happy to let people practice whatever faith they choose. I have *no* intention of starting a religious flamewar, but I really thought that that point needed to be made.)
  • Hate to tell you... The Church of LDS is weird. :shrug:

    You think Christianity in the time of Christ wasn't weird? All new religions are weird. Weird is just a way of saying "different from the norm".

    I don't mind people considering the religion weird, but I do wish they'd be a bit better informed about it.

    Portraying NA as a lost tribe of Israel

    Not a part of Mormonism. The Book of Mormon is a history of a small group of people that emmigrated from Jerusalem to NA. It's not a history of the entire Americas and everyone that has ever lived on it. Or even a majority. Or even a significant minority.

    the Garden of Eden and the new Jerusalem in Jackson County Missouri

    Yup, that's weird.

    history of polygamy in Western society as a central tenet of faith (followed by denouncing that practice)

    It wasn't really a central tenet of the faith, although it was a defining cultural distinction. And, in any case, the very first reference to polygamy comes from the Book of Mormon (published in 1830) and predates any practice of polygamy by any Mormon. And in that instance polygamy is explicitly banned with a caveat that God might, from time to time, institute the practice.

    the tiering of the "Celestial Kingdom"

    There's plenty of basis for that in the NT.

    the structure and demands of the church is weird.

    The structure is also straight out of the NT. President (e.g. Peter), Quorum of the 12, the 70, etc. The demands - tithing, etc. - are also totally biblical.

    I suppose they may be weird in contrast to mainstream Christian denominations, but they certainly aren't weird in contrast to the Biblical tradition all Christians honor.

    I didn't take what you wrote as an attack. But I do think that you're not very well informed. Like I said originally, I'm happy to be identified as weird for what I believe as long as the things I'm purported to believe are things I actually do believe.
  • It is not the 'underwear' part that is weird, it is the 'magic' part.

    The 'magic' part is pure invention. Look, there are a lot of Mormons. Maybe some random Mormon somewhere has said something wacky about their garments. In fact, I'm sure some have. Mormons are wacky people.

    But I don't think it's right to hold the religion responsible for the wackiest of its adherents. What religion, or what group of any kind, can withstand that kind of scrutiny?

    Mormon's believe garments are a sacred symbol of covenants made with God. They are not magic. Nowhere does the word "magic" appear in Mormon belief about garments. Nor do we apply any magical beliefs to them. They will not protect you from demons or vampires of bullets or fires. They do not repel temptation, except that insofar as when you're taking them off you might hesitate to think about why.

    There's nothing magical about them.

    "Anyone thinking their clothing has properties outside the laws of physics is weird."

    Symbols are not physical. But symbols can be powerful. Other than as a symbol, I don't really know that garments have any non-physical properties at all.
  • by Pendersempai (625351) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:20PM (#23407036)

    Mormonism involves supernatural occurrences. This doesn't make it more or less stupid than any other religion. It just happens to be 170 years old instead of 1,700 years old.

    I'm not trying to troll, and I actually agree that all religion is pretty stupid, but I do think it's more stupid to believe in miracles that happened 170 years ago -- when we understood much of nature, the scientific method, modern archeology, and kept accurate records of everything -- than 2000-4000 years ago, when humanity was ignorant of all of those things and essentially had no written language.

    If you found someone who had no modern education or understanding of natural phenomena but was nevertheless intelligent and rational, and you told him that thunder is the raging of an angry god, he might well believe you. But even very stupid people with a modern education would laugh at you. This is the fundamental difference between believing in supernatural occurrences 2000 years ago and believing in them 170 years ago.

    Your religion teaches that there was an advanced civilization of white people in America before the Native Americans. Archeology shows us that that claim is false. This is not a matter of opinion or even honest belief; the science is quite clear that there was no such civilization. Your religion is premised on taking the word of a convicted con man that he could read ancient inscriptions off of gold plates, even though (1) no one ever saw the gold plates, (2) he could not reproduce the readings even when challenged, and (3) he enjoyed enormous personal gain when people believed him.

    This critique covers only the positive claims of the religion. It does not address what I think are the many enormously unethical positions the Church holds, from its persecution of gays to the many ways it subjugates women to its relentless torment of people who leave the religion.

    Again, this is not a troll. There has to be room in our discourse for legitimate condemnation of a farcical set of claims, and having its adherents insist that it is a religion does not immunize it from criticism.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:20PM (#23407052)

    The LDS manual in question instructs leaders to call Church Headquarters in cases of abuse.

    One of my children was abused by a relative, so I've been through this process. In nearly all cases church headquarters instructs leaders to contact the authorities. In my child's case the offender was both juvenile and mentally impaired, and the families had addressed the problem by controlling contact, so the intervention of the authorities was arguably unnecessary, but the church required it.

  • by ShatteredArm (1123533) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:35PM (#23407332)
    (a) I think it's the Pearl of Great Price you're referring to, and (b) it says "mark." Brigham Young was the one who described it as black skin, and that book predates his leadership in the church.

    But doing research is only for people who think logically.
  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Enigma2175 (179646) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:40PM (#23407402) Homepage Journal

    "hearsay and other stuff not admissible in any court of law"
    Huh? Joseph Smith's "treasure hunting" activities were quite well documented, and in fact he DID stand trial and was convicted. From The Salt Lake City Messenger [utlm.org]

    "The first part and conclusion of the alleged court record published by Bishop Tuttle is here reproduced, which indicates that young Joseph admitted to using his seer stone to search for lost property, buried coins, hidden treasures, and gold mines:

                    People of State of New York vs. Joseph Smith. Warrant issued upon oath of Peter G. Bridgman, who informed that one Joseph Smith of Bainbridge was a disorderly person and an imposter. Prisoner brought into court March 20 (1826). Prisoner examined. Says that he came from town of Palmyra, and had been at the house of Josiah Stowell in Bainbridge most of time since; had small part of time been employed in looking for mines, but the major part had been employed by said Stowell on his farm, and going to school; that he had a certain stone, which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were; that he professed to tell in this manner where gold-mines were a distance under ground, and had looked for Mr. Stowell several times, and informed him where he could find those treasures, and Mr. Stowell had been engaged in digging for them; that at Palmyra he pretended to tell, by looking at this stone, where coined money was buried in Pennsylvania, and while at Palmyra he had frequently ascertained in that way where lost property was, of various kinds; that he has occasionally been in the habit of looking through this stone to find lost property for three years, but of late had pretty much given it up on account its injuring his health, especially his eyes--made them sore; that he did not solicit business of this kind, and had always rather declined having anything to do with this business....

    And thereupon the Court finds the defendant guilty.
  • I do think it's more stupid to believe in miracles that happened 170 years ago

    If you mean that it's more stupid for people in 1830 to believe in the supernatural then I think you have a valid point. If you think it's more stupid to believe supernatural things happened in 1830 vs. 1030 than I think you don't. So I'm guessing you meant the former, but I'm not sure.

    Your religion teaches that there was an advanced civilization of white people in America before the Native Americans.

    Actually it teaches no such thing. They were neither "white" in any conventional sense nor were they the first inhabitants in the Americas.

    "Your religion is premised on taking the word of a convicted con man"

    Joseph Smith, while in jail in violation of double jeopardy, was shot and killed by a mob of over 100 people. So it's also historical fact that people hated the man. The governor of Illinois issued a famous "extermination proclamation" that all Mormons had to leave the state or they would be executed. So it's obvious that this hatred extended to government officials acting in their capacity as such. Given these historical facts, do you really think it's significant that he was found guilty of a crime?

    no one ever saw the gold plates,

    11 people did. All swore to this testimony. Non recanted. Not that I think you'll be any more persuaded by 12 people than by 1 person.

    he could not reproduce the readings even when challenged

    Given the inaccuracy above, it's pretty easy to see that (intentionally or not) you're reading off an anti-Mormon web-site/book. This is a reference to the infamous lost 116 pages. Here are the facts:

    Joseph translated 116 pages. He gave the pages to Martin Harrison. Martin Harrison lost the pages. Joseph Smith believed that they had been altered so that if he retranslated them the re translation would not match the original. Thus he did not retranslate them.

    Was it because he couldn't? Or because he was legitimately avoiding a trap? It seems silly to say "he couldn't" because it makes no sense to say he was somehow less capable of translating non-existent plates the second time than the first time.

    So this is really not a coherent argument at all, but just a clever bit of slander. Whether or not Joseph Smith was an impostor, the case is not strengthened or harmed by the fact that he refused to retranslate once the original text was out of his control.

    he enjoyed enormous personal gain when people believed him.

    This is utter rubbish. Joseph Smith enjoyed nothing but deprivation and persecution as a result of his claims. He lived in poverty virtually his entire life. He may have enjoyed some brief measure of comfort in Nauvoo in the years before he was killed, but the fact is that if he wanted to make a bunch of cash it would have been trivial to do so, given his talents, without going through all the trouble of getting himself driven out of several states and eventually shot to death.

    It does not address what I think are the many enormously unethical positions the Church holds, from its persecution of gays to the many ways it subjugates women to its relentless torment of people who leave the religion.

    Where are you getting this stuff? The Church does not "persecute" gays. Do you know what persecution looks like? Because Mormons do. They sort of got murdered, raped, chased out of several states, and lost their homes and property. Mormonism simply holds that homosexual relations are a sin. This isn't persecution and it's not even unique to their religion.

    I further don't buy that it "subjugates" women.

    "LDS women are more likely to graduate from college than Catholic or Protestant women, but less likely than Jewish or nonaffiliated women. For graduate education the pattern was similarâ"a higher percentage of LDS than Catholic or Protestant women have received graduate education."

    "LDS women are more likely to be employ
  • by roystgnr (4015) <roystgnr@ticam.ut[ ]s.edu ['exa' in gap]> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:50PM (#23407610) Homepage
    The Book of Mormon is a history of a small group of people that emmigrated from Jerusalem to NA. It's not a history of the entire Americas and everyone that has ever lived on it. Or even a majority. Or even a significant minority.

    The canonized History of Joseph Smith claims that an angel told him the Book of Mormon was "an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from which they sprang." Not "one of the sources", or "some of the former inhabitants" - in fact the Book of Mormon itself describes populations in the millions, which "did cover the whole face of the land, both on the northward and on the southward, from the sea west to the sea east." Smith also described the Book of Mormon as one in which "the history of America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."

    This is why Smith also confidently claimed to find artifacts like Nephite writings in New York, Nephite altars in Missouri, and Lamanite graves of men who were famous from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic. It's why his D&C revelations refer to North American Indian tribes as "Lamanites". If you've invented a different set of religious beliefs that are more compatible with real archeology, good for you, but you're going to have to do a lot more twisting to get it to fit the original claims of Mormonism.
  • Believing Joesph Smith today even though he refused to submit to the methods of proof well known and available at the time of his revelations in 1826-30 is much stupider than believing in Jesus today

    I think you're over-estimating the level of scientific sophistication in the backwoods of New York state. Maybe if Joseph Smith had been college educated and lived in Boston you'd have a stronger case. But he had no formal education and spent his life on the frontier.

    Whatever. The whiteness and firstness parts aren't important; the important part is that they were a non-Native Americans with an advanced civilization that predated the thirteen colonies. Again, archeology demonstrates that this is false.

    This is patently absurd. Archeology can not, and never will be able to prove that such an advanced civilization did not exist. First of all, there's nothing more advanced in those people than the S. American civilizations that we know. It's not like we're talking gun powder and light bulbs. And secondly the Book of Mormon narrative can easily be confined to a small (100 miles X 100 miles) region that ended at least 1600 years ago. Are you honestly going to tell me we know *every* such civilization that has existed?

    Archeology has certainly not proved the Book of Mormon true, but it is not one step closer to proving it false.

    Yes, since the conviction predated all the religious stuff for which he was hated.

    If you're referring to the 1826 trial, Joseph Smith was not convicted. The sole complainant actually defended him at the trial (for whatever reason) and so Joseph Smith was acquitted. Then there was a lawsuit in 1827 involving the lost 116 pages (so clearly involving Mormonism) and then the next trial didn't come about until after the BOok of Mormon was published.

    http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2006_Legal_Trials_of_Joseph_Smith.html [fairlds.org]

    This is some seriously weak sauce, and pretty convenient if he was a fraud. If he seriously thought Harrison altered his translations, he could have found a trusted third party and then translated the documents several times with the third party vouching for the similarity or dissimilarity of these subsequent translations.

    Sure. A neutral third party. In upstate New York. About a claim involving angels and gold plates. You think that's likely? There weren't a whole lot of neutral parties to be found.

    And as far as "weak sauce" goes, I don't see why either version is preferable to the other. The only facts we know are that he translated 116 pages, they were lost or stolen, and he refused to translate them again. Either he was less capable of faking something twice than once or he was afraid of being framed.

    I really don't think you have a strong case for the former, and my only point is that the latter is just as plausible.

    Um, he was the leader of a religion of over ten thousand by the time he was assassinated.

    You really don't know very much about Mormon history. First of all, most of these 10,000 were destitute. Secondly, his followers were constantly leaving the Church and attacking him and then rejoining the Church. They were anything but obedient sheep. The Nauvoo Expositor, which led to the eventual martyrdom, was run by ex-Mormons. And regardless of how many followers he had, he didn't live in wealth. That's just a fact.

    I mean between the tarring and feathering, being imprisoned in Liberty Jail for months, losing newborn children due to exposure from when the mob broke in to tar and feather hims some more, a bank failure, etc. you think he did this for money? You're crazy.

    He had numerous wives, including one whom he married when she was 14

    The obvious implication is that Joseph Smith had a harem. The interesting thing is that Joseph Smith had 36 or 37 wives. I forget how many. His first wife, Emma Smith, becam
  • Re:Cult. (Score:2, Informative)

    by benhattman (1258918) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:31PM (#23409230)

    Christianity was a cult when it first started, but over the years it integrated more into society to the point that it isn't considered a cult now.
    This is really confusion due to a misnomer. Any religious beliefs that elevate a human to god-like status is a cult by definition. Yes, this includes worshiping Jesus or Mohammad. What you are referring to is how fringe religious groups are also called cults.

    So in short, every new religion is a cult. Christianity (so long as it worships a Christ) is a cult. Modern Judaism is probably not a cult, so long as they believe only in a God which no idol can display. Meanwhile, the deistic beliefs held by many thinkers (Einstein for instance) and many of the framers of the US of A would generally not be considered a cult.

    cheers
  • by roystgnr (4015) <roystgnr@ticam.ut[ ]s.edu ['exa' in gap]> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:22PM (#23410880) Homepage
    (a) I think he's probably just slightly misremembering Book of Mormon passages like these:

    Nephi 5:21 - "And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people, the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them."

    Alma 3:6 - "And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men."

    Nothing to do with Cain or African Blacks, but even after changing the "white and delightsome" passages, the Book of Mormon is still pretty clear in stating that God sometimes curses evil people by darkening their skin and their descendants' skin.

    I'll assume that your failure to mention such relevant passages to PitaBred was just an honest mistake, but you should still apologize to him for insulting his research abilities while you were simultaneously telling him misleading half-truths.

    (b) You are correct in identifying Brigham Young as one of the worst proponents of Mormonism's Curse of Cain interpretation. However, Young claimed to not be it's originator. He claimed that even the worst parts of it came from God: "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God is death on the spot. This will always be so." And he claimed that the explanation for it came from Joseph Smith: "Joseph Smith had declared that the Negroes were not neutral in heaven, for all the spirits took sides, but 'the posterity of Cain are black because he (Cain) committed murder. He killed Abel and God set a mark upon his posterity'"

    In particular, the first interpretation of the Curse of Cain in LDS scripture comes directly from Joseph Smith, in what he claimed was a revelation directly from God:

    Moses 7:22 - "And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them"

    I'm sorry if you've been told untruths about what your religious leaders believed, but that doesn't make it okay for you to spread those untruths to others. Assuming it was honest mistake, your punishment is this: now you have to decide whether those noxious beliefs themselves are true, or whether the leaders whose revelations you have been taught to trust were just telling more untruths in God's name. Good luck in coming to the right decision.

    Also, moderators? Please don't mod ShatteredArm down, but in the future do remember that "+1, Informative" is intended for correct information only.
  • That ought (Score:3, Informative)

    by roystgnr (4015) <roystgnr@ticam.ut[ ]s.edu ['exa' in gap]> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @07:58PM (#23412502) Homepage
    So your doctrines don't include racism, they just include the belief that skin color has been used to set apart the righteous from the unrighteous? What's your definition of racism, if a correlation between righteousness and inherited skin color doesn't qualify? A corpse flower by any other name would smell as awful, to make an old analogy a bit more direct.

    As for Joseph Smith's actions, they didn't reflect on any principles that weren't subject to revision at whim. That's why he could preach monogamy in public and polygamy in private, preach in favor of abolitionism in the North and against it in the South. If he liked a black man enough to ordain him after writing scriptures forbidding it, that doesn't mean anything more than when he started plural marriage after quoting scriptures forbidding it or when he added already-married women to his "plural wives" after writing D&C 132:61. Smith simply felt that he controlled the rules, not vice versa. Of course that would leave his successors to decide whether to "do as I say, not as I do"; you can blame Brigham Young for taking a bad idea even farther, but not for coming up with it in the first place, not when he and the Mormon subgroup he was trying to lead had already been taught that it was part of God-revealed scripture.

    But back to that "internal consistency": you seem to be arguing that because Joseph Smith's behavior wasn't always consistent with his scriptures, yours doesn't need to be consistent either. Do you think that claim refutes PitaBred's (admittedly too rudely expressed) point, or just strengthens it?

    Good luck finding someone without cognitive bias; there's no such person. For myself, it wasn't until I was investigating Mormonism that I could take a less biased look at my own religion. "Those are really weak apologetics when you aren't already biased to believe their conclusions" tends to lead to "What would an objective outsider think of my own apologetics?" all too easily. Perhaps if you were to investigate the FLDS claims (or the Jehovah's Witnesses, whatever) you'd get some of the same perspective? But I doubt that that's a guarantee. I was stunned when hearing a local Mormon leader rail against the idea of raising children to choose their religious beliefs for themselves after growing up, because he thought that would be likely to lose many children to Mormonism altogether. Even if someone realizes that their beliefs aren't likely to appeal to an unbiased adult, that's still not necessarily enough to lead to the obvious corollary.

Riches: A gift from Heaven signifying, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." -- John D. Rockefeller, (slander by Ambrose Bierce)

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