This week Mormons are in the news again, and not for something terribly flattering. A certain report about the US Government (particularly the CIA) torturing people hit the press, and two of the masterminds behind the torture are faithful Mormons. Noredseariver summed up the problem: “Human Rights Lawyer = Excommunicated; Architect of Brutal Torture Program = Bishop.”
Certainly Bybee was under tremendous pressure (and was possibly influenced by deceptive information) when he signed the memos. Certainly Jessen was hoping to help his country. Neither of these factors mitigate what they did, while they may contribute to our understanding of how they acted. The truth is they were asked by their superiors to find a way around the most basic human rights and they did.
If we create men who understand that torture is wrong in the abstract, but when faced with the pressure of keeping a job, the greed of potential government largesse, the opportunity to justify revenge and torture in the name of national security, they fold and authorize it, we are not doing a good job at creating good men. This should not be a position up for debate.
I think John C.’s post itself demonstrates that some faithful Mormons don’t hesitate to show moral courage and leadership. By contrast, check out Meg Stout’s post on M* where she suggests that maybe Mormons should introspect on the torture issue before somehow blaming this whole fiasco on the critics (“let us worry not so much about the beams in the eyes of others, but whatever might be in our own eye”), but stops short of explicitly condemning torture, and apparently can’t even discuss a criticism of Mormons without reminding us of what Joseph Smith suffered. And don’t forget Thomas Monson’s advice not to lose faith in the cos!
If you exmos and other types of Mos want to make amends for what your tribe has done, you can start here.
Coincidentally, I just got done writing a book review of a novel telling the tale of the young men who endured electric shock therapy at BYU for being gay. In other torture news, Glen Beck claimed that making fun of Jesus on Family Guy is worse than crucifying him. Perhaps related: the police brutality problem isn’t over.
Serious LDS topics include Andrew S’s meditation on how Mormonism doesn’t offer the theological and cultural tools to have a constructive discussion about race. Galdralag wrote a fascinating comparison of Muslim vs. Mormon polygamy. Tom Doggett gave some additional perspective on the The First Council of Nicea (for those of us who only know the LDS version of the story). Alan Rock Waterman uncovered more problems with the justification for modern tithing to the CoJCoL-dS — and he might just agree with Utah billionaire Jon Hunstman, Sr on the topic. And David Knowlton posted some interesting musings on ex-Mormons and the connection with Mormonism:
This un-named subject of Marshallâ€™s research exemplified how people find transcendence (the old stuff of religion) in the world around them, including in science and rationality. They find mystery and awe even in a God-less world.
For me this work raises other questions especially at this time when so many people seem troubled by the facts of Mormonismâ€™s past and the politics of its present as to whether that ex- of ex-Mormon means you can no longer define them as part of the experience of the Mormons as a people.
I had planned to open our award nominations today, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans… My apologies for last week — we had a major tech crisis at work (but, thanks to our planning and efforts, our clients apparently didn’t even notice, yay!). I had thought I’d do a week-and-a-half SiOB (as I do sometimes), but with all the stress, it was just one thing too many. I’d rather do SiOB on a pleasant, relaxed day like today.
It’s been a fun weekend here in Switzerland. We put up our Christmas tree yesterday, we’ve had friends visiting, and I still found time to make some good progress on the drawings for my comic book. I hope things are going well for you, too!