When it comes to LDS scripture, it seems that many people in power have forgotten that there are those in Utah who have just as much right to disbelieve as believe.
There are three prominent religions other than Judaism – Islam, Catholicism and Mormonism – that claim to be the only religion the biblical god recognizes. According to Verse 7 of the 132nd Section of the Doctrine & Covenants there can only be one prophet at a time, but interestingly there are several individuals who claim to be the “one and only” prophet.
A belief in a prophet, sect or doctrine can become so very important that it causes pompous true believers to demand that their symbols and beliefs are so sacred that they should be held above scrutiny. We have seen in Islamic countries where Muslims are so offended, no matter how slight, that they swarm into the streets demonstrating, shouting, threatening and burning effigies, sometimes for days, demanding respect. Mormon fundamentalists can be just as pontifical over Mormon plural marriage.
This exaggerated penchant to take offense has the tendency for non believers to tread lightly out of fear of being accused of persecution or labeled a bigot. This reaction is particularly true among public officials whose political careers are affected by public opinion.
This tendency towards magnified sensitivity may result in a sect dictating how skeptics and non believer must view the offended sect. We see this in Islam where fundamentalists use religion as a justification for terrorism. A case in point is a masked assassin shouting, “God is great,” just before he lops off the head of a helplessly bound victim. In spite of the terroristic acts by Islamic fundamentalists the politically correct assessment of Islam is that it is basically a peaceable religion. The same contradicting rationalization is applied to Mormonism. In spite of the many murders committed by Mormon fundamentalists, the abuse of women and children, the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, and the outright thefts committed by polygamist leaders, Mormon fundamentalism, which is synonymous with Mormon polygamy, demands and receives respect – at least in Utah and Arizona where there are large Mormon populations.
Mormon fundamentalists are using intimidating tactics similar to those used by offended Muslims to obtain respect, of course to a much lesser degree. As I will demonstrate, their exaggerated show of sensitivity and offense has been successful in discouraging justified scrutiny and deserved criticism. The last thing fundamentalists want is an objective word for word, concept by concept, examination of their so-called “sacred” beliefs.
It would appear that nearly every person or institution in Utah, including the newspapers and courts, by their tone, defense and lack of opposition have conceded that Mormon polygamy is a religious tenet that should be respected. When Utah and Arizona authorities finally brought before the criminal courts a few Mormon polygamists who had married underage girls, the polygamists were quick to scream “religious persecution,” and the authorities were just as quick to counter, “the prosecutions are not about religion or polygamy, but about sex with underage girls.”
In an article dated November 20, 2006, Salt Lake Tribune reporter, Brooke Adams, stated that Wally Burgden, one of Jeffs’ defense attorneys, said “his client was a victim of religious persecution and that the case against Jeffs amounts to the state ‘condemning a culturally different religion.’” Adams then went on to quote other lawyers, one of which suggested that Warren Jeffs was only “advancing the religious principles” as he knew it.
In spite of these defense lawyers alleging religious persecution, the courts have generally held that religion is not a defense for a criminal act. The 1878 U S Supreme Court case, Reynolds v. United States, ruled that a religious duty is not always a defense for a criminal act.
In reading Reynolds it would seem that the courts do not consider bigamy as being a religious act. As the court pointed out in the Reynolds ruling, bigamy has always been considered a crime against society going as far back as “Jolly Old” England.
But in our liberal climate our attitudes seem to be changing. It seems that prosecutors and district courts our deliberately shying away from what does and does not constitutes a religious tenet, and to avoid controversy, behave as if Mormon polygamy has a religious foundation. Consider the following:
In a Desert Morning News article dated August 30, 2006, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff was quoted as saying the charges against Warren Jeffs were “not about the FLDS Church or polygamy.”
In a Salt Lake Tribune, September 1, 2006, article, Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap was quoted as saying the victim involved in the arrest of Warren Jeffs wanted the public to know the charges were not about religion or polygamy but about the abuse of power and authority.
In a Salt Lake Tribune, September 3, 2006, article about a law suit where Warren Jeffs is accused of abusing some teenagers the lawyer representing the teens is alleged to have said, “this is not about sincerely held religious beliefs.”
In a Salt Lake Tribune, August 3, 2006, article Arizona Judge Steven F. Conn, in sentencing Kelly Fischer, age 39, for having sex with his 16-year-old plural wife, is credited with saying, “My attitude and perception has been that polygamy in Colorado City is something that is by example acceptable to the governmental agencies in this area .” I presume the Judge came to that conclusion due to the lack of enforcement by local authorities.
Judge Conn said he believed Fischer was acting out of a “sincere religious belief,” but added he considered it “abominable” and “very hard to accept [that] someone can subscribe to a religion that allows them to have multiple wives at the same time.”
I understand that the courts cannot be put into a position of ruling on what is religious and what is not, and have bent over backwards to not become embroiled in the controversy. In the criminal non support and child rape prosecutions of Tom Green, under subpoena, I testified for both Tom and the prosecution. In that case the court prohibited Tom of using religion as a defense. But there is no law preventing me or Tapestry Against Polygamy from taking the issue of polygamy before the court of public opinion. As far as I’m concerned every time a polygamist is put on trial for a criminal act like sex with little girls his faith, Section 132, is also on trial, because what kind of a religion would permit such disgusting behavior? The answer is Mormonism, stemming from Section 132. So with that understanding I will continue my argument as to why Mormon polygamy does not deserve respect.
After I retired from the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office in 1982, I became active in Apostolic United Brethren. Like so many others today, I had accepted plural marriage as a religious tenet and made the distinction between good and bad polygamists. But it didn’t take long for me to realize I had been mistaken. I know many Mormon fundamentalists who try to be good, but after intense scrutiny, it is my firm opinion that Section 132 reveals itself to be bad, and instructs adherents to do bad things.
If I am right, and I’m confident that I am, we have good people trying to be good while complying with a bad doctrine; and we have bad people doing bad things that a bad doctrine allows. It is because Section 132 is inherently a bad doctrine, both by instructing and allowing people to do bad things, that Mormon polygamy does not deserve respect. Because Section 132 induces people to commit illegal acts, the crime of bigamy should not be decriminalized. In Chapter 2, I will explain why Section 132 is a nocuous doctrine.
My becoming a polygamist was wrong. Nevertheless, what I observed and learned as a Mormon fundamentalist, coupled with my investigative background, has made me uniquely qualified to write this thesis. As a demonstration of penance I am devoting the best use of the rest of my life in exposing the deception, crime and corruption ingrained in Mormon fundamentalism.
But why now? Why this moment in time to challenge Mormonism’s most sacred belief? Because polygamy as an acceptable lifestyle is making a comeback in Utah. Two movements advocating the decriminalization of polygamy have evolved and garnered both regional and national attention. Both movements have the appearance of being headed by former and practicing polygamist women. The former polygamist wives call themselves Principle Voices. The other group of women are located in the polygamist community of Centennial Park, an offshoot of the infamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (FLDS).
Both pro-polygamy groups have been politically courted by Utah Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff. Although the Attorney General talks tough when it comes to Warren Jeffs, his refusal to use the bigamy statute to prosecute a known polygamist predator [see Polygamy’s Rape of Rachael Strong], his attempts to “break down barriers and build bridges” between the polygamists, government and society, and his Town Meetings that have been used by pro polygamists as a forum for decriminalizing polygamy, has done more in my opinion to further the cause of Mormon polygamy than discourage it.
The pro polygamists maintain that the doctrine and lifestyle that evolved from Section 132 is righteous and clean, that it is only individuals that are wicked – men like James D. Harmston and Warren Jeffs – who are exceptions and do not characterize the subculture. I admit, I once thought as they do. But after listening to story after story of women and children being neglected and abused, all my optimism had faded away. I am now convinced that Section 132 was a human invention with the express purpose of providing unscrupulous men the means to do wicked things. With that said, before proving my allegation, let’s examine the notion that all things purporting to be religious should automatically be respected.
Why should I or anyone for that matter respect Mormon polygamy? Because it is politically correct?
When Mormons say plural marriage is “sacred” does that automatically make it sacred – and place it above scrutiny? Not if we really live in an open society where we are allowed to doubt and ask questions. And from a scholastic point view, if we as a people are in search of truth, we are encouraged to doubt. For example, where would science be today if it were not for doubt? Would we still think the earth was flat, or that the sun revolves around the earth?
Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion, put it most adeptly when he said:
[There is] A widespread assumption, which nearly everybody in our society accepts – the non-religious included – is that religious faith is especially vulnerable to offence and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect, in a different class from the respect that any human being should pay to any other.
Dawkins, who is an outspoken atheist quotes from his late friend, Douglas Adams who said, paraphrased, we are programmed to accept religion as something scared we are not suppose to criticize. He said that somehow we have agreed among us that we are not supposed to say anything bad about religion.
It was Dawkins who pioneered the idea of the “meme,” but he wasn’t necessarily the first to question the idea of a supernatural being who is concerned with life on earth. As science progressed skepticism became more prevalent. Consequently a few scientists and scholars have lead the way in questioning religious motivation and a belief in the existence of a “Christian god. One such scholar is Daniel C. Dennett, professor of philosophy, and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University.
In Dennett’s Breaking The Spell, Religion As A Natural Phenomenon, on page 9 he defines religion “as a social system whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought.” On the next page he tells us that we may have to acknowledge that some religions may have turned into things that are no longer religious. Then on page 12 he gets closer to what I find important, “religious belief isn’t always belief.”
He is referring to unholy alliances with Satan or Black Magic. His next thoughts are profound and germane to my thesis.
“Those thoughts I believe are shared by many of us who give the religious person the benefit of the doubt and give respect to his religion because there is a commonly held sense “that those who are religious are well intentioned, trying to lead morally good lives,” and genuinely try not to do evil things and repent of their transgressions.”
Dennett then went on to say that there were foolish people who attempted “to make a pact with evil supernatural agents in order to get [their] way in the world,” I found that thought particularly provoking. I mulled the phrase over and over in my mind as if something was missing. And then it dawned on me as I pondered: “Have there been men so bold as to pretend to make a pact with a god, like the Christian god, that has a reputation for good, in order to get their way in the world?” Let me rephrase it. Do you know of a man so cunning that he has convinced a god-hungry people that God approached him and established a pact in the form of a religion so that he, acting as a surrogate god, could get his way in the world?
But it was when Dennett proposed that some things may no longer be religious, I thought, “Wow! Did Dennett have Mormon polygamy in mind when he made that statement?” I couldn’t help thinking, “Out of all the people in the world, God chose Joseph Smith to reintroduce the restored gospel.” When people started believing he was a prophet, it made him a pretty important person. But it was Section 132 that gave him ‘license’ to have his way with the women of the world.
Before moving along, let’s see what some pundits have to say about religion in general, particularly Christianity so we can compare it with Section 132.
What is religion? Dennett tells us that Sloan Wilson, author of Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, hypothesized that religion is an evolutionary phenomenon that improves cooperation “within (not among) human groups.” Expanding on that thought, on page103 of Breaking The Spell, Dennett tells us there are three purposes for religion: comfort, explanation and cooperation. The fear of death is softened by comfort, we need an explanation for the unexplainable, religion tends to do that, and we need the cooperation of others in facing “trials and enemies.”
I believe the above are commonly held ideas about religion. As we progress in this thesis let see if these ideas are congruent with Mormon polygamy.
Dawkins is one of an “increasing number of biologists who see religion as a by-product of something else.” He suggests that religion was once useful for mankind’s protection and well-being. In other words, from an evolutionary view, it had something to do with survival.
Related to the by-product theory is an evolutionary psychology ‘theory of mind’ called “dualism.” Dawkins says “we humans and especially children are natural born dualists.”
According to Dawkins a dualist draws a “distinction between matter and mind” where as a monist accepts the mind as a “manifestation” of the brain. A dualist believes the mind is independent of the body and continues to exist after the body dies.
Dawkins quotes psychologists Paul Bloom and Deborah Keleman who advance the dualism theory by suggesting that dualism is built into the brain which predisposes us to “embrace religious ideas.” And then he introduces us to an interesting theory, teleology, which is the tendency to assign purpose to everything, whether it be clouds, rocks, earthquakes or tornadoes. He asserts that “native dualism and “native teleology” predisposes us, given the right conditions, to religion.
Both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young made good use of “teleology.” Joseph was able to discern that many of the ancient “Indian” mounds and human bones they encountered were the work or remains of important Nephites or Lamanites. Natural phenomenon was often interpreted as “spiritual” omens. During the exodus from Nauvoo to Winter Quarters and then on to the Great Basin the Mormons suffered many hardships from scurvy, disease, and in many cases outright starvation. As a leader, Brigham Young was highly proficient in keeping the Saints unified and their spirits elevated so that they could deal with the hardships. In this endeavor teleology played an important part. The Saints were Israelites, Brigham was Moses, their destination was Zion, another promised land preordained by God. Unexpected food, be it quail, buffalo or sage hens were blessings from heaven. Brigham saw God’s handiwork in everything from storms, groves of trees to buffalo chips and it helped lift the spirits of the Saints knowing that God was watching over them.
The idea of a God or Creator is so pervasive that one man, Dr. Dean Hamer, a preeminent geneticist, proposes that we humans have an inclination towards spiritual faith. In his book, The God Gene, he suggests religion, or belief in a supernatural essence, offers “evolutionary advantage,” provides “courage and purpose,” and an “increased chance for survival and reproduction.”
Hamer’s theory is controversial and not accepted by all scientists; nevertheless, if it helps explain human behavior it has merit. When I first read about The God Gene in a newspaper article I thought that the various Christian religions would jump on Hamer’s theory, but after reading the book I can see why churches have not attempted to capitalize on a god gene.
Hamer makes the distinction between “spirituality” and “religion.” According to Hamer, spirituality is a feeling of “oneness” with the universe or a great essence that maintains universal order such as Nature. He argues that a person can be spiritual without being religious, making the distinction that spirituality is genetically induced where as religion is a cultural phenomenon. Nor does he assert that a genetic proclivity towards spirituality confirms the existence of a god in the same sense as the God of the Bible.
Hamer is a scientist who in observing human behavior has apparently concluded that in the evolutionary process mankind found that belief in a spiritual essence makes survival easier, and as a result this proclivity has been passed on [genetically] through the millenniums.
There is no scientific evidence, for example, that Islam, Judaism, Mormonism or Catholicism is genetically passed on, or that the God that these religions embrace is real. In as much as these religions are in competition with each other, the reality of a god gene does them no good.
The message I hope I’m conveying is that before we concede respect to Mormon polygamy because it is the politically correct thing to do, we should doubt its authenticity and examine it from stem to stern before giving respect where it may not be deserved. After living it, I personally cannot see where it, Section 132, merits any special respect that could be counted as sacred; and I cannot see where true believers living the “principle” deserve any special respect. Many Mormon fundamentalists behave as if they are living “higher laws” and thus are entitled to higher considerations.
They are not “fertilizing” anyone. The living of it is all secular, an earthly undertaking that involves food, shelter, occupation and nurturing. Why should a lifestyle that is designed to demean women, that is limit them respect, receive political, cultural and religious respect?
Joseph Smith used scripture to promote his cause. I can do likewise. Consider the following:
43. For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
44. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
This thesis is about the fruit spawned by Section 132. By its fruit you shall know it.