Does the Second Anointing Explain Mormon Support for Trump?

by Johnny Townsend

I am baffled that so many Mormons support Donald Trump. At one point, the percentage of Mormon Trump supporters was the highest of any religion (61% according to a 2017 Gallup poll). While some Mormon opposition has existed from the start, the vast majority of Mormons heartily endorsed a man who admitted groping women, who mocked a disabled reporter, who called on followers to assault his opponents, and who, by anyone’s definition, was a great big creep.

I speak Italian, as a result of my time as a Mormon missionary in Rome, and I’ve studied French, Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, and American Sign Language. I also took a translation course in grad school. When I hear so many Mormons say, “No one’s perfect. But Trump has good policies,” I’m able to translate that pretty easily.

What they’re really saying is, “You can commit any sin as long as you are serving God while doing so.”

Almost all Mormons are fine with Nephi killing and robbing a drunk, sleeping Laban.

Too many Mormons are fine with covering up sexual abuse “to protect the name of the Church.”

And an uncomfortably large number are fine with a history of racist prophets because those prophets “were only human.”

While people in general have the capacity to excuse the abuse of others as long as they themselves aren’t abused, Mormon theology has a specific teaching that makes accepting bad behavior part of God’s plan. Once a person receives “the Second Anointing,” that person has their Calling and Election made sure and is guaranteed a spot in the Celestial Kingdom, no
matter what sins he or she may commit after that. They are like international diplomats who can’t be prosecuted for crimes they commit in other countries. They have permanent amnesty.

Mormons who’ve had the Second Anointing can literally get away with murder. Or with shooting someone on Fifth Avenue. They possess a “Get Out of Judgment Day Free” card.

Perhaps this also explains why two Mormons were among the top contributors to the U.S. military torture program.

Many Mormons in the U.S. honestly don’t care about any of Trump’s “personal” failings because, even if he isn’t a member of the Church, the principle is the same. He’s lowering taxes, he’s banning transgender folks from the military, and he’s Making America Great Again. That’s more than just a campaign slogan for Mormons, whose theology insists that America is the Promised Land, reserved for the righteous and the righteous alone. If Trump can get rid of some of the undesirables, he’s doing God’s bidding. If he must be cruel and oppressive and criminal to do it, well, they can live with that.

The Second Anointing basically teaches Mormons that those at the top are not subject to the same rules and laws that the rest of us must obey. So when Trump says he’s exempt from prosecution for absolutely anything, Mormons have been trained to accept that declaration as reasonable.

“Lying for the Lord” is a common Mormon practice, so why shouldn’t “Imprisoning Legal Asylum Seekers for the Lord” be an acceptable practice as well? And “Oppressing Workers for the Lord” and “Bankrupting Farmers for the Lord” and “Befriending Murderous Tyrants for the Lord”?

“Denying Healthcare to Millions for the Lord” and “Labeling the Free Press an Enemy of the People for the Lord” are just friendly fire casualties in the ultimate battle between Good and Evil.

When my mother was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 43, the doctor discussed the diagnosis with my father, and together, they decided not to tell my mother, deeming her too emotionally fragile to handle the news.

When a newly assigned nurse met my mother for the first time, she said cheerily, “Oh, you’re the leukemia patient.” When confronted about his deception, the doctor still refused to give my mother a prognosis, so she asked me to go to the library and report back to her.

The doctor and my father started my mother on chemotherapy without her consent or even her knowledge.

But they were able to form a “righteous” secret combination because their lies and plotting were all for my mother’s own good.

She was dead two and a half weeks later.

Far too many Mormons are okay with Trump as the nation’s doctor. They just offer their arms for the IVs and do what they’re told. After all, Trump’s only cleansing the country of people that Jesus would have to eliminate later anyway.

“We thank thee O God for a Second-Anointed One.”

Sing along!

With saints like these, who needs sinners?

Climate Crisis Threatens the Mormon Church

by Johnny Townsend

While the devastating effects of the climate crisis will help fulfill prophecies about the terrors of the “last days,” that’s about the only benefit the Mormon Church will receive from them. Virtually every other effect will weaken the Church.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often feel they are given special protection by Heavenly Father, despite scriptures claiming God is “no respecter of persons.” In almost every account of natural disaster, we hear about how “the chapel was miraculously spared,” “no missionary was harmed,” or some other such claim. The truth, though, is that Mormons are increasingly impacted by the effects of worldwide climate crisis, both at home and abroad.

Scientists have determined that as global temperatures rise, so does sea level. Storms become more frequent, and because upper level steering currents are disrupted by climate change, even small storms can linger over an area and cause widespread devastation. In 2017, flooding impacted roughly 1400 Peruvian Latter-day Saints.

That same year, Hurricane Harvey dumped over five feet of rain and flooded six LDS meetinghouses in the Houston area, causing minor damage to another twenty. 800 homes of church members were damaged, with 2800 members displaced. Even the Houston temple was flooded.

In 2018, Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas flooded the homes of 20 members. Cyclone Gita seriously damaged a ward meetinghouse in Tonga as well as the Liahona high school there. Over in Samoa and American Samoa, Gita flooded the LDS Service Center and damaged the stake center in Pago Pago.

Just a few years earlier, Typhoon Haiyan destroyed the homes of hundreds of church members. According to the Deseret News, “In one Mormon congregation alone, 95 percent of the members saw their homes destroyed. Scores had lost family members, many carried out to sea with the current, never to return.”

At least two ward meetinghouses were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Many displaced members in Louisiana and Mississippi moved out of the area permanently.

In 2016, an LDS stake center in Denham Springs, Louisiana was submerged when a storm stalled over the Baton Rouge area for days.

In 2008, Nauvoo was threatened by floods in the American Midwest. In 2019, the town was flooded. The Mormon Bridge connecting Nebraska and Iowa was washed away.

Extreme weather events caused by global warming are becoming more common around the world. They affect everyone, and since Mormons are part of “everyone,” they affect members of the Church as well. Even those who don’t lose their homes (or their lives) are impacted when FEMA and other government agencies use billions in taxpayer dollars to address disaster after disaster after disaster.

In 2017, members of the Mormon Church lost 150 homes in 16 California wildfires in Santa Rosa, Napa, Ukiah, Auburn, and Coffey Park. A mission home, a meetinghouse, and an Institute building were threatened. They survived the fires that year, but the Church will need to deal with more and more losses as wildfires in the west worsen in the coming years.

In 2018, 20 member families lost homes in the Carr fire near Redding, California. One can look up stark images of wildfires burning behind the Payson temple in Utah.

And who can forget the devastation wreaked upon members in Paradise that year? Two meetinghouses burned to the ground, the fire so intense that a metal beam supporting the roof of one of them melted. Almost every member in town, over 60 families, lost their homes.

These are no longer isolated incidents. This is the future of life on Earth as the climate crisis worsens and we continue to refuse addressing it.

It bears remembering that all these disasters also impact the missionaries serving there at the time and disrupt missionary work in the area for years afterward.

Of course, nothing is all bad. Even climate crisis has a silver lining for Mormons. Temple work, in those temples that survive, will receive a boost, given the increased opportunity to perform baptisms for the dead.

Kinda gives “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam” a rather different meaning, doesn’t it?

Woe unto Them That Are with Child

by Johnny Townsend

If you were a Jewish couple in 1938 Berlin, would you choose to bring a child into the world?

Groups like Conceivable Future and Birthstrike are among several that have formed recently as more and more young people watching weather reports every day face a question most people in the U.S. have not had to ask themselves before. It’s a touchy subject for couples who chose to have children before they fully understood the seriousness of the climate crisis or for those who want to be parents anyway.

Many Christian religions forbid contraception. It was common in my hometown of New Orleans to ask a new acquaintance with six or seven siblings, “I take it you’re Catholic?” When my Mormon aunt and uncle lived in South Carolina and people would comment on their large family (three children at the time), they’d smile and say, “We’re practically newlyweds. We’re just getting started.”

Mormons have a particular theology that adds reproductive pressure on couples. They believe they were assigned a quota in the “Pre-existence” committing them to producing a minimum number of bodies for spirits waiting for their chance to come to Earth.

While working as a Mormon missionary in Rome, I became good friends with an Italian sister missionary, Nicla. We wrote regularly after we returned home, and when I came back to Italy to study in Florence, she caught the train from southern Puglia to spend some time with me. A month later, we were engaged.

In Mormon culture, engagements often last only a few weeks, at most a few months. Ours lasted three years. Part of the issue was my decision to wait until I’d graduated college before marrying. Another was to wait until I’d finally managed to stop being gay.

I eventually realized the latter was never going to happen. While it was a moderate loss for me to realize I’d never have any children, it was emotionally devastating for Nicla. We managed to remain friends for the next few decades until her death from breast cancer. She regularly worried she wouldn’t be able to marry in time to have children of her own. I remember once quoting Matthew 24:19. “Woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!”

While not the comforting message I’d hoped it would be, I think it’s a message every Mormon alive today must consider.

June of 2019 was the hottest June ever recorded by humans. Every day, higher record highs are recorded around the planet. It’s hardly even relevant anymore to mention “breaking records,” as the new records stand for such a short time. Who knew that temperature readings were only going to have fifteen minutes of fame?

If you knew your child would face Huntington disease or another serious genetic disorder, would you willingly bring that child into the world?

Whatever our religious beliefs, we all have a genetic imperative to reproduce. It’s difficult to choose childlessness no matter what extenuating circumstances might suggest it’s the better decision.

But wouldn’t we be performing a greater service to mankind, to the children already here who face a devastating future, if we devoted the time, energy, and carbon emissions necessary to raise children into addressing the climate crisis instead? If such a decision led to a precipitous decline in human population to a mere one billion, we could always encourage people to start procreating again.

Nicla married in the temple after her childbearing capacity was over and enjoyed an intimate, loving relationship the last years of her life. She died with the comforting belief that when she was resurrected during the Millennium, she’d have an opportunity to bear children then.

Some Mormon politicians, like Senator Mike Lee, claim that the solution to global warming is to have more kids. But that’s like saying Paradise, California is blessedly immune from wildfires for the foreseeable future.

The doctrine of many religions allows for the choice of childlessness, or at least the choice of limiting the number of babies we bring into the world. Perhaps a more righteous and caring decision is to work as hard as we can to make life conceivable for all those impatient spirits still waiting for their turn on Earth.

Or at least postpone childbearing until Jesus takes care of it himself.

A War on Religion

by Johnny Townsend

Religious conservatives often accuse secular or inclusive people of conducting a “War on Christmas!” or “War on Religion!” or “War on God!” I would rephrase that. I and many others are anxiously engaged in conducting a war against ignorance, a war against bigotry and selfishness and greed and short-sightedness, a war against oppression and cruelty. I’ve certainly never protested altruism and compassion and love. If religious conservatives feel threatened by the sins I do address, hiding behind the name of God is like hiding inside a Trojan horse.

“Onward, Christian Soldiers” certainly takes on a different meaning in that light.

I admit that religious conservatives and I see the same actions quite differently, and this is unfortunately the biggest part of the problem. As a Mormon missionary working to convert apostate Catholics in Rome, I was taught (and therefore believed) I was “helping” people.

It wasn’t until I returned home and learned about Baptist missionaries trying to convert unsaved Mormons in Salt Lake that I began to understand the concept of cultural imperialism and different points of view. I resisted my heathen professors at the University of New Orleans as they tried to pry my mind open with their liberal, decadent ideas. But—“Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!”—some of those ideas did eventually seep in.

Why did I care if someone chose not to have children? The species was hardly at risk of disappearing through lack of reproduction.

Why did I care if someone chose not to marry?

Why did I care if someone preferred watching a movie over going to church? If they liked tea or coffee? If they wanted a tattoo?

What did I care if someone chose a different course of study, a different style of clothes, a different career, a different life?

The more I thought about it, the more diversity of thought and action I did want.

If Mormons could moan, “What would happen if everyone were gay?” I could just as easily ask, “What would happen if everyone sold insurance? What would happen if everyone became an apostle?”

Society could not function with that kind of homogeneity.

Even as a die-hard, faithful Mormon, I spoke up for gays. If they were sinning, they had every right to do so. When a friend in Elders’ Quorum said he thought gays should be put in prison for sodomy, I asked, “And what do you think they’ll do there?”

Even as a dedicated Sabbath-day observer, I thought it wrong to enact “blue laws” that forbid businesses to remain open on Sunday. That meant Jews couldn’t do any shopping on Saturday, their Sabbath, and were also denied the opportunity to shop on my Sabbath. Same for Seventh-Day Adventist Christians.

Even as a believing, active Latter-day Saint, I assured a young woman in the Single Adults group that her decision to pursue medical school and marry a man who preferred to stay home and take care of their children was a perfectly good decision and not to let priesthood leaders tell her otherwise. As if she needed me or any other man to validate this or any other decision in the first place.

Once I left the Church in my mid-twenties, my views shifted dramatically, and my former “open-mindedness” proved insufficient to the task of battling oppression in all its cultural, physical, financial, and religious forms.

When my ex-Mormon husband became a Trotsky socialist, I resisted many of the ideas he brought home. I still do.

But one thing is clear—some form of socialism is necessary not only for relieving the oppression waged against billions of humans but also for preserving life itself as we face the ultimate global battle for survival.

As a missionary, I learned to take good wherever I found it. Some aspects of Neapolitan culture were good and some bad. Some aspects of Roman culture were good and some bad. When adding the good I found in Italy to the good I found in New Orleans culture, in rural Mississippi culture, in Mormon culture, in gay culture, I surrounded myself with the best set of ethics I could.

I find some good in Jesuit culture, in the culture of Reform Judaism, in Buddhism, in liberation theology, in the Unitarian philosophy, and elsewhere in religious traditions from around the world.

But when religious conservatives leave our “salvation” to an invisible god, they not only give up their own obligation to act but also impede others from acting as well. They are, in effect, conducting a “War on Humanity,” a “War on Climate,” a “War on Life Itself.” When they continue to promote behaviors resulting in an accelerated progression of the current mass extinction event, they have chosen a position I can’t ignore.

Yes, this is war, a devastating civil war, where we end up fighting lifelong friends and beloved aunts and nephews, our favorite bishops, sometimes even employers and leaders of our own political parties.

But it’s essential that those of us fighting oppression and exploitation prevail. Let’s not shy away from labels like “Liberal!” “Socialist!” “Godless!” or anything else religious conservatives might throw at us. We cannot abdicate our duty, our responsibility, and our opportunity.

The Book of Mormon tells us that starting a war is never justified. So let’s remember—we didn’t start this war. Religious conservatives did.

In the Mishnah, Rabbi Tarfon tells us that, “It is not [our] responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but [we] are not free to desist from it either.” But the stakes are higher now than perhaps ever before in the history of our species. We cannot accept slow, incremental change. If the side of reason and compassion doesn’t prevail, both sides of this religious war will lose.

Eyes in the Back of My Head

by Johnny Townsend

In the life of every atheist raised in a religious household, there comes a moment when we encounter our first question that can’t be answered. For me, it was when as a young Mormon teen reading lots of science fiction novels, I encountered aliens with amazing abilities. I’d think, “Wouldn’t it be great if humans had that feature?” Nature programs added non-fiction traits other species already had, species inferior to God—according to God—yet obviously superior in some of their physical attributes. If God was the ultimate being, how could that be?

Why, for instance, didn’t humans display more attractive coloring? Blue, red, green, purple? We were mostly drab beiges and browns. We colored our hair and tattooed ourselves and wore flashy clothes because we understood the need to improve upon nature.

Often when I was trying to nail or tape or cut something, I’d think, “Boy, wouldn’t it be great to have an extra arm or two?” What if we could tell ourselves, “Put your finger there so I can tie this”?

When bullies crept up behind me at school, how could I not wonder why humans, made in the image of a perfect God, didn’t have eyes in the back of our head?

Why did we have unprotected shins?

If shivering generated heat when we were cold, why did people who still had adequate stores of fat freeze to death before burning up their reserves?

Why couldn’t we breathe in both air and water?

Why couldn’t we fly?

Why couldn’t we regenerate lost appendages?

Why didn’t we have a mouth on the end of some new appendage that we could manipulate more freely than we could move our head?

I had lots of questions, but the biggest was why a being that clearly didn’t have the best of all possible bodies was still able to label itself the Supreme Being in the universe. And if we as Mormons had the opportunity to become gods ourselves, with the same bodies we had on Earth, only “perfected,” wasn’t it a bit unfair that we beat out other species that scored so much higher on any objective evaluation of overall traits?

Something wasn’t right.

Of course, I would eventually decide that the issue of physical attributes was the least of the problems most theologians created.

Why, for instance, did other animals and insects need to suffer when their moral character wasn’t being tested to determine if they qualified for godhood? They just suffered.

Why was suffering the only method for helping humans progress to the next level? The most intelligent being in the entire universe couldn’t come up with anything better than that? If God himself is bound by “natural” laws, who made up those laws? Atoms and molecules did that all by themselves?

The questions didn’t stop there. After reaching a certain threshold, though, there wasn’t much point even asking anything else.

Despite the dangers of unregulated genetic manipulation, I now accept that our fate is in our own hands, and we have to be proactive in ensuring our advancement. Perhaps soon we can create features to turn us into the superior beings we want to be. More intelligent, more compassionate, more altruistic. Maybe we’ll be able to individually choose specific genes for ourselves. On the issue of sex alone, I can think of quite a few improvements I could make to my body.

Don’t tell me you don’t have a fantasy wish list, too.

The possibilities are as endless as the number of people out there.

But no, we’re stuck with two eyes, two arms, two legs, and—sadly—just the one penis.

If God is the most intelligent, most powerful being in the universe, why can’t he figure out safe genetic engineering?

I don’t need Noah’s flood to make me doubt. I don’t need anachronisms in the Book of Mormon. I don’t need any of the vast multitude of theological issues debated regularly to open my eyes to the implausibility of God’s existence. The eyes in the front of my head are enough for that.

A Mormon By Any Other Name

by Johnny Townsend

A Mormon by any other name would smell as sweet. Or, more accurately, a Mormon by any other name would smell as saccharine.

I don’t mean to sound offensive. That’s always the trick, isn’t it? Not sounding offensive.

It’s perfectly okay to be offensive, though, right? “I love you but I hate your sin of homosexuality, so you can’t bring your ‘friend’ to dinner.”

Granted, we should be happy when Mormons use the word “homosexuality.” Just as they tend to bristle when people label their religion a “cult,” gays and lesbians don’t like being called “people suffering from same-sex attraction.”

LGBTQ folk shouldn’t feel singled out, however. Black skin used to be “the mark of Cain.” For over 150 years, “pure and delightsome” characters in the Book of Mormon were described as “white and delightsome.” That particular book of scripture used to be a record of the Lamanites, indigenous people known by most others as Native Americans. And it used to be about all Native Americans, but now Lamanites are considered to be “among” the original inhabitants of the Americas, and the book is definitely no longer a “history.”

Speaking of scriptural adjustments, the Book of Abraham until recently was a “translation” of the papyri Joseph Smith purchased. Now, with evidence that the actual translation is vastly different, Church leaders say Joseph’s version was merely “inspired” by the Egyptian funerary text.

Words matter. That’s President Nelson’s reason for insisting we no longer use the word “Mormon.” What used to be a proud nickname embraced by the “I’m a Mormon!” campaign, and reflected in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,, Mormon Newsroom, and countless other official Church terminology, is now a “slur.”

It’s that insistence on “correct” usage that is so maddening both for Mormons and those who interact with them regularly. When a Disciplinary Council is labeled a Court of Love, when enabling sexual predators is described as “protecting the name of the Church,” when gender discrimination is explained as “we all have different roles,” people are not fooled.

“I say people. You say apostate.” Come on, sing along.

After “anti-Mormon lies” are verified, Mormons change their claim to, “The Church has always taught that.” When embarrassing facts are hidden on the Church’s website, often only decipherable if one looks up the references in the footnotes to see the actual information, Mormons call this “transparency.”

Words matter. They can be used to illuminate. They can be used to obfuscate. And they can be used to oppress.

Kicking out one’s gay child isn’t “tough love.” It’s heartless cruelty. Keeping non- member family away from a temple wedding isn’t a matter of “worthiness.” It’s both a form of punishment and a means of control.

The list of deceptive and manipulative terms used by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could go on and on. The “Church,” by the way, is actually a corporation. That’s not a slur. It’s a fact. Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Some people like roses. Others like Shakespearean plays. And some prefer Bible fan fiction.

That’s all fine. People like what they like. They believe what they believe. But let’s call a spade a spade. Mormonism by any other name would smell like nutrient-rich fertilizer. Oh, who the frack are we kidding? You know what it smells like.

Gerrymandered Out of Church

by Johnny Townsend

My mom had few friends in her life. As a kid, I watched her interact with neighbors just twice. My parents never hosted parties, never invited anyone over for dinner, rarely let my sister or me bring any of our own friends over. Once, on a visit back to Mom’s hometown in Mississippi, we ran into an old school friend of hers, and I watched, fascinated to see her so energized and happy. But after we returned to New Orleans, life returned to “normal.”

Then we converted to Mormonism, and suddenly, my mother had adult friends for the first time. Even as a self-absorbed child, I couldn’t help but notice how much happier having the new social network made both my parents.

Then our congregation—Jefferson Ward—split. We lived on the far outer edge of Metairie, a middle class suburb of New Orleans. To our immediate west lay Kenner, a town consisting largely of working class folks. Church leaders made the practical decision to loop our neighborhood into the Kenner Ward to provide the new congregation with more middle class men who could function as leaders.

All of Mom’s friends lived in what was now the Metairie Ward. LDS policy mandates that members attend the ward they have been assigned to. No shopping around for a different congregation is allowed. My mother, who lived only a few blocks from the friends she loved, was cut off from them almost completely.

Granted, there was no real reason these women couldn’t have continued socializing together outside of church. They all had their own cars. They had telephones. They could have met for lunch, gone to see a matinee. But an unfortunate aspect of Mormon friendship is how dependent it is on church. My mother may as well have moved out of state.

Now, I don’t know what other issues my mother may have had with Mormonism. She died of leukemia at the age of forty-three, a few months after I returned from my mission. We had very little time together as adults. It’s possible gerrymandering was her only “problem” with the Church, but it’s just as possible it was simply the final blow to her testimony.

My mother only attended church three more times in the remaining eight years of her life.

Mormons often say that those who “fall away” do so because they were “offended,” the implication being that members leave over trivial issues. But it isn’t trivial to discover that your best friends were never really your friends at all, just pleasant work acquaintances.

Mormons often speak rapturously about the benefits of LDS community. If it is really that great, then it is no small thing to rearrange random blocks of people. Even devout Mormon women aren’t Stepford Wives, interchangeable, with no personalities of their own.

My mom’s friends all came to her funeral. They pulled me aside and told me what a loss it was that she’d died so young.

They may indeed have felt loss, and I know I did, but even then, still a true believer, I knew that the person who’d suffered the greatest loss was the woman who’d died friendless.

Moral Tyranny

by Johnny Townsend

Elder Boyd K. Packer, as president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church, said back in the April 2013 conference what many of us had long understood and what is still true today. For Mormons, it is a sin to be tolerant. Packer describes tolerance of “legalized immorality,” clearly referring to same-sex marriage, as both a “vice” and a “trap.”

Mormons have given millions upon millions of dollars to fight equality for gays and lesbians, and are still working hard behind the scenes in the National Organization for Marriage and other groups to promote fear and hatred. But while these things might seem bad at first to the sensitive observer, they’re really done out of love. And even more importantly, they’re done out of righteousness.

A central Mormon teaching is that in the beginning, God was presented with two plans, one by his son Jesus, who said, “People will make mistakes, but I’ll go down and atone for them.” Another son said, “I’ll go down and force them to do right so there will be no mistakes.” God chose the first plan, the second son rebelled and was cast out as Satan, and the rest is history.

I find it intriguing that Mormons, and fundamentalists in general, seem more willing to emulate Satan’s example when making laws of the land for all people of all faiths. We’ll make them obey our superior spiritual laws whether they like it or not. The reasoning, of course, is rather convoluted. As righteous people, we have the right to make laws for everyone because we are, after all, superior and right. And we know we’re right because our religion says so. And we know our religion is right because God said so. And we know God said so because I can feel it inside. And I know that feeling is right even though other people claim to feel the same thing because I’m me and I know what I feel and I know it must be more real than what those other people feel because I’m not them and I can’t feel what they’re feeling. And if all these other people would only live the way I’m telling them to, they’d feel it, too. They won’t live that way unless I make them, so I’ll make them do it, for their own good, because I really care about them. And if by some chance they still don’t feel the way they are supposed to and obey all the spiritual rules of my church, then we should kick them out of our society and maybe even put them in jail.

Forcing people to comply not only goes against Jesus’ example, but it also contradicts other basic Mormon principles, that only a gift freely given is really a gift, and whatever negative thoughts we feel in our heart are in fact who we truly are, regardless of what positive acts we might perform. So if we force a gay teen to pretend he is heterosexual, we have in no way saved his soul, and we have certainly damaged ours in the process.

Religious fundamentalists use “freedom of religion” to force their views, and then they use that freedom as a shield against debate, yet all the while crossing over that line between the separation of church and state themselves. But religious freedom is guaranteed so that we can have control over our own religious lives, not so we can control the moral choices of others.

If Mormons don’t want to perform same-sex marriages, they don’t have to. They have that right. But they think they also have the right to tell an Anglican priest that he can’t perform one. They think they have the right to tell a Reform rabbi that she can’t do it, either. The same for the atheist Justice of the Peace. Mormons think they have the right to tell all people that they must shape their lives according to Mormon rules. They insist that anyone who doesn’t agree with their religious views be required by law to act as if they did. The same attitude prevails in their fight against legalizing marijuana in Utah. It prevails in punishing women for reporting rape. It prevails in virtually every aspect of life because Mormons feel that “free agency” really means their agency to make someone else’s decisions.

This is not morality. It is theocracy and tyranny. And while Mormons may be afraid of tolerance, I believe there is a lot more to fear from tyranny. What Mormons don’t understand is that there are a great many other fundamentalists out there who believe that their ideas should rule the land. Lots of other people want the power to compel everyone to live according to their own religious beliefs. When those beliefs collide, as they surely will, whose belief wins out then? The one with the most followers? Mormons will be crying out at that point how unfair it is to let these other groups make rules Mormons must obey.

The only way out of this trap is to practice tolerance, and let people make up their own minds about what is or isn’t right for them. But as long as Mormon leaders preach that tolerance is a sin, this makes both political process and equality under the law very difficult ideas for the Mormon people.

Yet this attitude of intolerance can’t only be blamed on the leaders. Followers must make the choice to follow as well. They can’t pass off their actions and blame them on others. Some have commented on the moral pain Mormons must feel, being taught to hate but actually feeling the urge to love. I don’t feel much sympathy for them, however. The dissonance they experience is easily resolved. Choose to love. Think for yourself. Stop following hateful doctrine.

Use the free agency that God gave you and do the right thing. There’s a reason Heavenly Father didn’t choose Satan’s plan. Mormons believe they chose the right plan in the Pre-Existence. If Earth life is our ultimate, final test, we are certainly capable of doing it now when it matters most.

Inasmuch As Ye Have Done It Unto One of the Least of These My Brethren, It Matters Not to Me

by Johnny Townsend

Mormons (and others claiming to be Christian) seem to routinely ignore Matthew 25:40, one of the most profound statements from the New Testament. No one is perfect, and human nature is what it is, but it seems many people are able to ignore this verse without feeling the slightest bit guilty about it. Mormons, of course, are good at feeling guilty for all the many things they’re supposed to do yet often cannot, but they don’t appear stressed over this central point. In fact, they almost seem to glory in their disregard for “the least of these.”

Is it because of the wiggle room in the statement? When people do or say things that make life harder for addicts, do they say, “Well, that verse doesn’t apply here. Jesus would never be an addict”? When they ban gays from marrying, do they say, “That verse doesn’t apply. Jesus would never be gay”? When they ignore homeless people, do they say, “That doesn’t apply. Jesus would never be a bum who couldn’t hold a job”? When they refuse to guarantee health care, do they say, “That verse doesn’t apply. Jesus could always just heal himself”?

There’s no need to be compassionate to those who need medical marijuana. Jesus would never use marijuana. There’s no need to be understanding of doubters. Jesus never would have doubted. There’s no need to stop shunning ex-Mormons. Jesus would never have left the Church. It seems easy to justify any oppression or lack of compassion for all those people we don’t like because the verse doesn’t really apply. Jesus would never be any of these horrible, lazy, unrighteous people, so Mormons (and other Christians) simply can’t make themselves treat these “others” appropriately. They would never treat Jesus badly, of course, but these other people actually deserve to be treated badly because they’re nothing like Jesus.

If your ward chorister was anything like mine, when he or she directed the congregation to sing “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” you were forced to sing every last verse. (I don’t even need to tell you how many verses there are, do I? You know.) And what do we learn from that hymn?

We must feed the hungry without asking anything in return.
We must provide water to those who thirst without asking anything in return.
We must help the homeless without asking anything in return.
We must provide medical care without asking anything in return.
We must be compassionate to those in prison without asking anything in return.

So where is that wiggle room now? Poor Blacks in Flint, Michigan are the Savior. People whose water is polluted by fracking are the Savior. People who can’t afford to pay their heating bill are the Savior. Homeless people who disgust you are the Savior. Syrian refugees are the Savior. Palestinians are the Savior. Roma “gypsies” are the Savior. Climate change refugees are the Savior. That crazy person ranting on the bus is the Savior.

President Nelson and the rest of the LDS leadership need to speak plainly and frequently on the need for Mormons to help these specific people so the members aren’t able to emotionally wiggle out of their moral obligation to help the suffering.

Until they do, the vast majority of members of the Church will continue to feel justified not only in refusing to help but also in heaping additional oppression onto these groups.

Do LDS leaders think that’s really what the Savior would have wanted? Are they telling us that the teachings of Jesus from the New Testament are no longer relevant? Is the Jesus we all studied while growing up outdated?

Many people already think Mormons are not Christians. If they’re right, perhaps it’s time to update the name of the Church to something more accurate.

Is “The Church of If You Need Help You’re Clearly Not Worthy of Being Helped by Latter-day Saints” too bulky?

Well, I’m sure with the direct conduit to Jesus 2.0 (New and Improved!) which LDS General Authorities enjoy, they can come up with something better.

Breaking News—LDS Church Finds Another Group to Marginalize

SALT LAKE CITY— An audio recording of a conversation between members of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and members of the Quorum of the Twelve was recently obtained by Main Street News. The audio, acquired from an unnamed source in the Russia Moscow mission, has no accompanying video, making it difficult to determine with 100% accuracy which leader made which comment. We present the transcript here without specific attributions.

“We need some better PR. We’re getting slammed in the fake news lately.”
“Maybe we could issue a public apology?”
[General laughter.]
“How about a new common enemy? That usually unites people.”
“Hey, maybe you’re onto something there.”
“But who’s left? We’ve pretty much marginalized everyone already.”
“Who deserves to be knocked down a peg?”
[Brief moment of silence.]
“How about moderate Republicans?”
[General laughter.]
“No one would buy that. And we need to keep stringing the damn moderates along if we want to win the culture war. But good thinking outside the box.”
“Anyone else have a suggestion? Surely, the Lord has kept someone in reserve for us to use in the Last Days. But who?”
[Brief period of silence, followed by what sounds like a hand slapping a table.]
“We’re in the Holy of Holies, aren’t we? Let’s meditate for a moment and come up with something definitive. The welfare of the saints depends on us.”
[Long period of silence, interrupted occasionally with random coughs and once with a tapping sound.]
“Anyone got an idea?…Anyone?…Anyone?”
[Brief period of silence.]
“Yes! I’ve got it!”
“Oh, my goodness gracious! Don’t jump up in my face like that! I’m not a young man anymore.”
“But you have something?”
“I was reading about work the Fistula Foundation does in Africa.”
“Africa? That sounds intriguing, but we have to be careful. We’re getting most of our converts there now.”
“Well, I can’t see why that matters. We’ll be going after non-Mormon Africans. Our Blacks there won’t have any trouble discriminating against other Blacks any more than white Mormons have trouble discriminating against white non-Mormons anywhere else.”
“Fair enough. So what’s this Fistfulla Foundation?”
“Fistula. Apparently, when women give birth without the care of a physician, sometimes they can develop a tear in their tissues. This can make urine leak, and these women smell just awful.”
“So? Who cares about them?”
“Nobody. That’s my point! The Fistula Foundation advocates for funding for repair surgery for these women, some of whom had children out of wedlock.”
“We could organize a counter advocacy to protect men against any financial responsibility. We say obstetric fistulas are Heavenly Father’s curse on women.”
“Aha, like menstation.”
“So, what do you think?”
“Give me a moment.”
[Brief period of silence.]
“You know, I think this might work. With this one campaign, we can marginalize women and Blacks and poor people.”
“All right then. Let’s each fast for twenty-four hours, check our polling data, and meet back here tomorrow to confirm whether this will be revelation or merely new policy.”
[General laughter.]
“Oh, my heck! You’re killing m—!”
[Audio ends abruptly.]

When called upon for comment, LDS Church spokesperson Rayleen Bright responded, “What the Brethren meant to say was that obstetric fistulas aren’t Heavenly Father’s curse on women.” Minutes later, Bright contacted the News again with further clarification. “The Brethren are planning to bring back Road Shows, and this was simply a rehearsal.”