April 27, 2012

What Mormonism has spawned

Death on behalf of religious beliefs has killed millions around the globe, and on a statistical basis the Mormon Church doesn’t deserve much blame,  Nor can one expect Mitt Romney to take responsibility for things like the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre  or other historic violent excesses of his church.

But presidents are elected, not acquitted, and one would hope to find in their beliefs something that inspires or at least calms the spirit more than it raises questions. Romney has been a missionary, leader and donor of millions for a church that has, even in recent years, spawned groups and individuals who, though parting ways with their parent congregation, came originally out of it and subsequently practiced  sexual abuse and various other criminal activities including murder.

To be sure,  members of other religions commit crimes but it is rare to find a dissident Presbyterian extremist creating a cult in some mountain village or an out of control Unitarian murdering people in the name of purer non-conformity. Aside from Catholic priests abusing young boys, the LDS Church has probably been the birthplace of more strange and unpleasant religious practices than any major American religion – even though many of these practices are offensive to conventional Mormons as well.

Which raises the reasonable question: why has the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints spawned such an odd, and disturbing collection of violent and strange cults?

While the explanation for this is not easy to come by, examples are worth keeping in mind. Here are a few.

Wikipedia - The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is one of the largest Mormon fundamentalist denominations and one of the largest organizations in the United States whose members practice polygamy. The FLDS Church emerged in the early twentieth century when its founding members left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The split occurred largely because of the LDS Church's suspension of the practice of polygamy and its decision to excommunicate its members who would continue the practice.

The FLDS Church is estimated to have 10,000 members …Prior to November 20, 2007, the church was being led by Warren Jeffs, who succeeded his father, Rulon Jeffs, in 2002. For nearly two years, Warren Jeffs had been wanted on sex-crimes charges. From May 2006 until his arrest in August 2006, he was on the FBI's Ten Most-Wanted List. On September 25, 2007, Jeffs was found guilty of two counts of being an accomplice to rape and was sentenced to ten years to life in prison. This conviction was later overturned. On January 28, 2011, Jeffs again asserted his leadership of the denomination. Warren Jeffs has since been sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years along with a $10,000 fine after his conviction on aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault charges

Wikipedia Jeffrey Lundgren was a self-proclaimed prophet, former leader of a cult group, and convicted mass murderer of five people. He was married to Alice Keeler who was also convicted of conspiracy to commit mass murder.  Lundgren was born in Missouri and grew up as a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. According to his allegations (supported by some of his former neighbors) he was severely abused as a child, particularly by his father. While Lundgren was living in a church-owned home, located next to the Kirtland Temple, on Chillicothe Road, in Kirtland, Ohio, he volunteered as a tour guide of the historic Kirtland Temple, for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (since 2001, the Community of Christ). He began to teach the concept of "dividing the word," known as "chiastic interpretation" or "chiasmus," to interpret scriptures. Lundgren falsely claimed to have created chiastic interpretation. The foundation was that in everything created by God, the right side is a mirror image and, therefore, scripture had to be interpreted using that same method. …To apply this concept to scripture, one takes a sentence from scripture; if the sentences before and after are consistent, the center sentence is the "truth"; when the sentences before and after conflict, the center sentence is a lie. His teaching of scriptural interpretations attracted his followers. Lundgren claimed that he moved to Ohio from Missouri because the word, "OHIO" is "chiastic". About 1987, Lundgren was asked to leave the church-owned house and his job as tour guide was terminated due to suspicions of theft.

On April 23, 1988 a neighbor told Kirtland police officer Ron Andolsek that she suspected that a cult was living at the farm house and that Lundgren's son warned the neighbor's children that on May 15th the earth would open up and demons would emerge…
Lundgren began to offer Bible study services at his home. Lundgren would dominate the services himself and he would intimidate anyone who didn't agree with him. He would later encourage others to intimidate those who disagreed as well. He sought to convince his congregation that he was God's last prophet. He asked for money from his supporters, and some would give him their life's savings, which often were calculated to be thousands of dollars.

Lundgren then proclaimed he had received a call from God to move to Kirtland, Ohio, a Lake County suburb, located twenty miles east of Cleveland, Ohio. . .By this time, seven of Lundgren's 12 followers had moved into the family home. The remaining five were members of Dennis Avery's family. Lundgren felt that the Averys were committing a sin by not living in his house. 

…On April 10, 1989 in Kirtland, Ohio, Lundgren ordered two of his followers to dig a pit in the barn, in anticipation of burying the Averys' bodies there…According to followers' admissions, Lundgren later went inside the barn, with a church member named Ron Luff luring Dennis Avery into a place where the other men awaited by asking him for help with equipment for the camping trip. Luff attempted to render Avery unconscious with a stun gun, but due to a malfunction a stun bullet struck Avery but did not knock him out.
Avery then was gagged and dragged to the place where Lundgren awaited. He was shot twice in the chest, dying almost instantly. To mask the sound of the gun, a chainsaw was left running. Luff then told Avery's wife, Cheryl, that her husband needed help. She was gagged, like her husband, but also had duct tape put over her eyes, and dragged to Lundgren. She was shot three times, twice in the breasts and once in the abdomen. Her body lay next to her husband's. The Averys' 15-year-old daughter, Trina, was shot twice in the head. The first shot missed, but the second killed her instantly. Thirteen year old Becky Avery was shot twice and left to die, while six-year-old Karen Avery was shot in the chest and head. Both died.

Wikipedia- Ervil Morrell LeBaron (1925 –1981) was the leader of a polygamous Mormon fundamentalist group who ordered the killings of many of his opponents, using the religious doctrine of blood atonement to justify the murders. He was sentenced to prison for orchestrating the murder of an opponent, and died in prison. He had at least 13 wives in a plural marriage, several of whom he married while they were still underage, and several of whom were involved in the murders. 

- John W. Bryant (born 1946) was the founder and first leader of a Mormon fundamentalist sect that is today known as the Church of the New Covenant in Christ and is headquartered near Salem, Oregon…Beginning in 1974, Bryant began to state that he was receiving revelations from Jesus. He claimed that "John the Beloved" had visited him as an angel and instructed him to form an "Order of the Ancients". In 1975 he was taken in vision to the City of Enoch, where AUB founder Joseph White Musser and Latter Day Saint movement founder Joseph Smith, Jr. ordained him to the presidency of the church and the high priesthood. .. During his time as a leader of the group, Bryant had six wives and taught his sect about drug experimentation and heterosexual and homosexual group sex. According to sources, sect members had sexual relations during the group's temple ceremonies. In 1981, the group lost the Fair Haven Ranch when they were unable to keep up on mortgage payments. As a result, Bryant, five of his six wives, and some of the members of the group relocated to Marion County, Oregon, near Salem.

And not the least interesting aspect of all this is the fact that the attorneys general of Utah and Arizona last year published a booklet entitled The Primer: A Guidebook for Law Enforcement and Human Services Agencies Who Offer Assistance to Fundamentalist Mormon Families. It noted that “a recent, informal survey indicated there are approximately 38,000 people (residing primarily in the Rocky Mountain region) who consider themselves to be Fundamental­ist Mormons. This means they adhere to the religious doctrines of early Mormonism which include polygamy or “plural marriage”, sometimes called “The Principle”. Today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“LDS” or Mormon Church) excom­municates known practitioners and advocates of polygamy.”

The primer, which lists over a dozen different cults, also notes some of the problems that can be expected be found:

·       Child Abuse
·       Lack of safe housing
·       Lack of income/pronounced poverty—no personal assets
·       Lack of job training
·       Distrust of government, including the criminal justice system
·       Distrust of outsiders
·       Strong belief that family issues are private matters
·       A powerful “collective conscience” where community shares same values/beliefs
·       Leaving the abuser may mean leaving the community and loss of support network
·       Leaving the abuser could mean leaving children behind
·       Belief that divorce/leaving is wrong
·       Perpetrator’s violence and control
.     Belief that leaving will mean eternal damnation
·       Belief that it is her duty as a wife to remain or as a parent to protect children from abuse

The primer also notes various forms of abuse including spiritual, which includes “using the scriptures to justify, manipulate, or control; spiritual pressure to not access medical care; pressure to be perfect, obedient; unselfish or faithful to husband or leaders; not being allowed to have own spirituality.”

Mitt Romney’s church is not one of those cited, but every one of them that is had their roots in the religion that has meant so much to him yet that he is so reluctant to tell us about.


Anonymous said...

It sounds to me like God has a hard time getting his story straight.

Anonymous said...

When you get this critical of the adherents of Judaism, Sam, I'll be impressed. Until then it just looks like you're getting cheap shots in at an unpopular cult.

Anonymous said...

It seems to this long-time reader that Sam has addressed the aberrant expressions of Judaism, as well as those associated with Christianity.
The fundamentalist sects that have emerged in relatively recent years have distorted and convoluted the essential truths and tenets of these great religions.
Is Mormonism a legitimate form of Christianity?---the question should be asked. The same question applies to many of the Evangelical and Pentecostal sects. "Be careful of false prophets who come to you in lamb's clothing, but within they are ravening wolves. You will know them by their fruits...So every good tree bears good fruit; but a bad tree bears bad fruit...Thus by their fruit you will know them." --Matt 7:15,16,17,20
What are their fruits?

Anonymous said...

A few of the Catholics and Protestants are Christians, but none of the Sunnis or Shiites are Muslims.

Anonymous said...

I guess we'll need a Federal agency to divine which religions are legit. You're going down a stupid road, Sam.

Anonymous said...