Friday, May 29, 2009

[mormon-chronicles] Gay Rights Groups Take On Mormons

Excerpts of Gay Rights Groups Take On Mormons by Karl Vick.  ( 

As more states take up the debate on same-sex marriage, some advocates of legalization are taking a very specific lesson from California, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dominated both fundraising and door-knocking to pass a ballot initiative that barred such unions.

With the battle moving east, some advocates are shouting that fact in the streets, calculating that on an issue that eventually comes down to comfort levels, more people harbor apprehension about Mormons than about homosexuality.

"The Mormons are coming! The Mormons are coming!" warned ads placed on newspaper Web sites in three Eastern states last month. The ad was rejected by sites in three other states, including Maine, where the Kennebec Journal informed Californians Against Hate that the copy "borders on insulting and denigrating a whole set of people based on their religion."

"I'm not intending it to harm the religion. I think they do wonderful things. Nicest people," said Fred Karger, a former Republican campaign consultant who established Californians Against Hate. "My single goal is to get them out of the same-sex marriage business and back to helping hurricane victims."

The strategy carries risks for a movement grounded in the concept of tolerance. But the demographics tempt proponents of same-sex marriage: Mormons account for just 2 percent of the U.S. population, and they are scarce outside the West. Nearly eight in 10 Americans personally know or work with a gay person, according to a recent Newsweek survey. Only 48 percent, meanwhile, know a Mormon, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

Many Mormons also acknowledge a problematic public profile that could make it difficult for them to lead the fight against same-sex marriage. A 2008 poll by Gary C. Lawrence, author of "How Americans View Mormonism: Seven Steps to Improve Our Image," found that for every American who expresses a strong liking for Mormons, four express a strong dislike. Among the traits widely ascribed to Mormons in the poll were "narrow-minded" and "controlling."

"We're upside down on our image," said Lawrence, who organized Mormon volunteers in California, where on a typical Saturday 25,000 turned out to knock on doors. "People have misperceptions of us because of ignorance, because of the history of polygamy, and because we organize quickly, which scares some people."

Mormon officials have tried to stay out of the controversy that followed the California vote, when the church's prominent role in the marriage fight became clear. A spokeswoman in Salt Lake City declined to say whether the church is involved in debates going on in states such as New Jersey and New York, except to say that leaders remain intent on preserving the "divine institution" of marriage between man and woman. The faith holds that traditional marriage "transcends this world" and is necessary for "the fullness of joy in the next life."

"He is demonizing the opposition. It's Political Consulting 101," Lawrence said of Karger. "The average guy does not know the extent to which the Mormon Church was involved on Prop. 8."

A torrent of last-minute contributions from church members across the country financed well-framed TV ads in the final weekend of the campaign. Opponents' analysis of campaign-contribution reports indicated that Mormons contributed more than half of the campaign's $40 million war chest.

Rick Jacobs, director of the Courage Campaign, an advocacy group that produced a TV ad drawing attention to the Mormons' role in the campaign, said, "We have zero interest in demonizing anybody who believes in any religion."

In the spot, a pair of Mormon missionaries knock on the door of a lesbian couple, rifle their drawers and shred their marriage certificate in front of them.

Mormons "exist and flourish in this country because of the concept of equal protection," Jacob said, noting the persecution that drove members of the church to Utah in the 19th century. "I find it just an irreconcilable hypocrisy that a group that rightly thrives within the essence of the American system would seek to repress and deny rights to another. And it's even a little worse, because I certainly didn't choose to be gay. People make choices to be Mormons, or any other religion."

Suspicions that the church may be working behind the scenes in other states are encouraged by documents showing efforts by the church to cloak its participation in a late-1990s campaign that led to a ban on same-sex marriage in Hawaii.

"We have organized things so the Church contribution was used in an area of coalition activity that does not have to be reported," a senior Mormon official wrote in one document Karger posted on his Web site, and the church has not disputed.

Mormon headquarters contributed $400,000 in an effort to persuade Hawaiians against same-sex marriage but urged the Roman Catholics to take the lead in a group dubbed Hawaii's Future Today after polls showed that the other church had better public acceptance. A decade after the 1998 Hawaii vote against gay marriage, Lawrence wrote that the image problem remained: "The collection of negatives they are willing to apply to us suggests that they view us as a growing threat."

And favorability ratings declined for Mormons over the last year, Lawrence said, from 42 percent to 37.

"Is it fruitful to use the Mormon bogey?" said Mark Silk, a professor of religion and public life at Trinity College in Connecticut. "My sense is that there aren't great risks to it. Once a religious institution is going to inject itself into a public fight, which the LDS did in a straight-up way, then I think people are prepared to say, 'Well, okay, you're on that side and we're against you.'"

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Truman G. Madsen dies

Excerpts of Truman G. Madsen, LDS author and scholar, died Thursday at the Deseret News

Truman Grant Madsen, 82, emeritus professor of philosophy at Brigham Young University and former director of the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies in Jerusalem, died today, May 28, 2009.

Mr. Madsen was considered a philosopher, essayist, teacher and biographer. He held the Richard L. Evans Chair in Religious Studies at BYU and had been guest professor at Northeastern University, Haifa, and Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif.  Mr. Madsen had sponsored several symposia on comparative religions and was one of the editors and a contributor to the five-volume Macmillan Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Mr. Madsen's biography is published on his Web site,

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Opposing Lawyers In Bush V. Gore Team Up To Overturn California's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Excerpts of Strange Bedfellows In Prop 8 Fight

In choosing sides over the legality of gay marriage, two of the nation's top lawyers are saying, "I do."

Opposing attorneys in the 2000 election fight for Florida - David Boies, who represented Al Gore, and Ted Olson, George Bush's lawyer and later the U.S. Solicitor General - are teaming up to ask a federal court to throw out California's ban on same-sex marriage.

The two filed a lawsuit Friday on behalf of two gay men and two gay women, arguing that the marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process.

Olson said he hopes the case will wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This is a federal question," he said. "This is about the rights of individuals to be treated equally and not be stigmatized."

And they may go up against Ken Starr, the former prosecutor who almost got President Clinton removed from office over the Monica Lewinsky affair. Starr successfully argued before the California Supreme Court to uphold Proposition 8.

"Gay and lesbian kids are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight brothers and sisters, and four times more likely if they come from an unaccepting environment," Black said. "I tuned in and I was watching the pundits on either side, and I was listening to the pundits who were afraid of equality saying gay marriage hurts their family and children. It's the exact opposite; it's the homophobic thoughts that hurt the citizens."

Gay rights groups are starting work to gather the 700,000 signatures required to place a repeal of Proposition 8 before voters in November 2010.

Both Equality California and the Courage Campaign, a political action group based in Los Angeles, said they had polled their members in recent days and found overwhelming support for going back to voters next year instead of waiting until 2012.

But they may still find an uphill battle: A poll of 600 California voters by CBS Station KPIX said that 56 percent agree with the Court's decision to uphold Proposition 8, although 60 percent agreed with the Court's decision not to nullify the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed last year.

Earlier in the day, police arrested at least 175 protesters after a large crowd blocked a major intersection to protest the ruling.

In New York City, more than a thousand people marched from Sheridan Square to Union Square to rally support for same-sex marriage, reports CBS Station WCBS. New York state lawmakers are poised to make a decision on same-sex marriage legislation some time next month.

"Those who use anti-gay rhetoric in religion are practicing religious bigotry," said Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum.

"Children need families, people need to love and we need to move forward, not backward," Drew Barrymore said. "What defines a family? We do!"

Mormon church praises ruling on same-sex marriage

Excerpts of Mormon church praises ruling on same-sex marriage by Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press Writer

On Tuesday, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints praised the decision by the California Supreme Court to uphold a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

In a statement, the church said it "recognizes there are deeply held feelings on both sides, but strongly affirms its belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman."

The church said it believes marriage has profound implications for society that range from "what our children are taught in schools to individual and collective freedom of religious expression and practice."

Affirmation, an international support group for gay, lesbian and transgender Mormons, expressed regret over the ruling and the role that church played in Prop. 8.

"The church which preaches that family is to be valued above all else has squandered millions of dollars to tear our families apart," said David Melson of Silver Spring, Md., the organization's executive director.

"As much as people have tried to reach out during Proposition 8, we need to reach out even more now," said Laura Compton, a Mormon from Cupertino, Calif., who help create the Web site

"I think there will be a lot of Mormons who are going to feel like they've been righteously upheld, that the court decision is a sign that God is on their side," Compton said. "I hope it doesn't lead to a rash of 'I told you so's.'"

Linda Stay of St. George quit the church last fall over the gay marriage issue. Tuesday's ruling was bittersweet for her family, who have been Mormons for several generations. Two of her nine children are gay. Both live in California, but only one was married during the window when gay marriage was legal last summer.

The court ruling did not invalidate those marriages.

"We're grateful that my son and his returned (Mormon) missionary husband's marriage gets to stand, but for my daughter, who didn't have someone she was ready to marry at that time, it's heartbreaking," she said.

San Francisco graphic designer and lifetime Mormon Lisa Fahey said she hopes that her church services on Sunday will be free of righteous messaging. For now, she said she won't let the differences of opinion keep her from church and she'll keep fighting for equality.

"I'm an active faithful member of the church. Just because we have different views on gay marriage doesn't mean I'm any less a member," Fahey said. "I like to say I'm a missionary for the church. A missionary showing that not all Mormons are against gay marriage."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mormon History Association 2009

The annual Mormon History Association meeting occurred in Springfield, Ill this weekend.  Some very interesting papers were being presented there.  Here are a few links about the conference:

Mormon History Association Awards

  • Best Book: "Massacre at Mountain Meadows," (Oxford University Press) by Ronald W. Walker,  Richard E. Turley and Glen M. Leonard 
  • Steven F. Christensen Best Documentary Award: "The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Volume 1 1832-1839," (The Church Historians Press) compiled by Dean C. Jessee, Mark Ashurst-McGee and Richard L. Jensen of the Church History Department.
  • Smith-Petit Best First Book: "At Sword's Point: A Documentary History of the Utah War to 1858," (University of Oklahoma Press) by William P. MacKinnon.
  • Ella Larsen Turner -- Ella Ruth Turner Begera Best Biography Award: "Mormonism's Last Colonizer: The Live and Times of William H. Smart" (Utah State University Press) by William B. Smart
  • Ella Larsen Turner -- Ella Ruth Turner Begera Best Biography Award: "Leonard J. Arrington: A Historian's Life" (The Arthur H. Clark Co.) by Gary Topping.
  • Leonard J. Arrington Award for distinguished and meritorious service to Mormon History: Edward Leo Lyman, distinguished scholar of Western transportation and community history, specializing in Mormon politics and migrations.
  • Best Article Award: "An 'American Mahomet': Joseph Smith, Muhamed, and the Problem of Prophets in Antebellum America" by Spencer J. Fluhman (Journal of Mormon History).
  • Honorable mentions for published articles: Samuel Brown for "The Translator and the Ghostwriter: Joseph Smith and W. W. Phelps" (Journal of Mormon History) and Matthew Bowman for "The Crisis of Mormon Christology: History, Progress and Protestantism" (Fides Et Historia, Journal of the Conference on Faith and History).
  • Best Dissertation Award: Zion Rising: Joseph Smith's Early Social and Political Thought (Arizona State University) by Mark Ashurst-McGee.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

PBS show highlights Mormons & Proposition 8

California will rule on  challenges to Proposition 8 on Tuesday.  Observers believe Prop8 will likely withstand the challenge.

& Ethics Newsweekly's next broadcast (Sunday, May 24, 6:30 AM, KBYU and KUED)  "covers the support of Proposition 8 by Mormon Church leaders" and can be viewed here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sacred Space Symposium

From  Kristine at By Common Consent

Sacred Space Symposium – 3 June, BYU

First Session: Hinckley Center Assembly Hall

9:15 Welcome: Cecil Samuelson, President, BYU

9:30-10:10 Terryl Givens, Professor of Literature and Religion,
James A. Bostwick Chair of English, University of Richmond
"Contexts for an LDS Temple Theology"
Chair: Emily Gray, Assistant Professor of
History, Norwich University, Vermont

10:20-11:00 Richard A. Cohen, Professor of Philosophy, Director
Institute of Jewish Thought & Heritage, U of Buffalo (SUNY)
"Place, Sacred Space, and Utopia"
Chair: Ralph Hancock, Associate Professor
of Political Science, BYU

11:10-11:50 Jeanne Halgren Kilde, Director of Religious Studies
Program, University of Minnesota
"Foregrounding the Background: Power and
Proximity in Christian Space"
Chair: Wade Hollingshaus, Assistant
Professor, Theatre and Media Arts, BYU

12:00-12:40 Hamid Mavani, Assistant Professor of Islamic
Studies, Claremont Graduate University
"The Prophet Muhammad: 'The Whole Earth is a
Mosque (masjid) and is Sacred'"
Chair: Doris Dant, Associate Teaching
Professor, Linguistics and English Language, BYU

12:45-2:00 Lunch

Second Session: Joseph F. Smith Building B192

2:00-2:40 Michael Fishbane, Nathan Cummings Professor of
Jewish Studies, Divinity School, University of Chicago
"Sacred Space and Divine Presence in the Hebrew Bible"
Chair: Brandie Siegfried, Associate
Professor of English, BYU

2:50-3:30 Steven Olsen, Managing Director, Church History
Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
"The Mormon Quest for Zion"
Chair: Richard N. Williams, Professor of
Psychology; Director, Wheatley Institution, BYU

3:40-4:20 Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Associate Professor of Religious
Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"The Clock and the Compass: Steering Toward Zion"
Chair: Reid Neilson, Assistant Professor
of Church History, BYU

5:30-7:00 Dinner

8:00-9:30 Panel discussion; Richard Bushman, moderator

2009 Mormon History Association Conference Papers

MHA CONFERENCE - MAY 21-24, 2009, Springfield, IL
Papers & Authors
  • An Introduction to The Book of Commandments and Revelation, Robert J. Woodford, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church History Department, Salt Lake City, UT
  • From Manuscript to Printed Page: An Analysis of the History of The Book of Commandments and Revelations, Robin Scott Jensen, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church History Department, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Insights on the Origins of Some Early LDS Revelations, Steven C. Harper, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • The Impact of The Book of Commandments and Revelations on Common Constructions of the Mormon Past, Grant Underwood, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • A Mission to Danger: Edward Hunter Snow and the Southern States Mission, 1886-1888, Thomas G. Alexander, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Nineteenth-Century Missiology of the Bedfordshire Conference, Ronald E. Bartholomew, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Closer to the Truth than All other Preachers: Missiological Analyses of the Turkish Mission, 1884-1895, Blair G. Van Dyke, Orem LDS Institute of Religion, Orem, UT
  • Historical and Geographical Beginnings of the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), R. Jean Addams, Woodinville, WA
  • The Theology of Confrontation: How the Identity of the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) Was Shaped by Its Responses to Other Latter Day Saints, Jason R. Smith, Duncan, OK
  • The RLDS Transformation, 1958-2008, William D. Russell, Graceland University, Lamoni, IA
  • Politics and the Nauvoo Conflict: Examining the Nauvoo Conflict Through a Sociological Lens, Jonathan J. Morgan, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Conflict during the Nauvoo Era: Examining How Unique Economic Conditions Produced Sociological, Implications Contributing to the Tension, James Phillips, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • The Nauvoo Economy: Unique or Just Another Western Boom Town?, Caye Wycoff, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • As Fire Shut Up in My Bones: The Publication of the 1840 Edition of the Book of Mormon, Kyle R. Walker, Brigham Young University-Idaho, Rexburg, ID
  • Mother Tongue: KJV Language in Smith Family Discourse, Lavina Fielding Anderson, Editor, Journal of Mormon History, Salt Lake City, UT
  • The Rise and Fall of Yelrome, Hancock County, Illinois: Isaac Morleys Pursuit of the Perfect Community, Douglas Major, Paso Robles, CA
  • Edmund Durfee, the Other Martyr, Jesse M. Richardson, Hesperia, CA
  • Virginia Race Records, Indian Identity, and Mormon Priesthood, Ruth Knight Bailey, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN
  • Is This Racial Freedom?: Student Perceptions of the Civil Rights Movement at Brigham Young University, Ardis Kay Smith, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Racial Folklore in McConkies Mormon Doctrine, 1958-2009: Exploring the Historical Context, Stirling Adams, Orem, UT
  • Mormon Connections to Lincoln-Era Springfield, Bryon C. Andreasen, Research Historian, Abraham Lincoln, Presidential Library, Springfield, IL
  • An Appraisal of Some Myths Surrounding the Trials of John D. Lee, 1875-1876, Robert H. Briggs, Fullerton, CA
  • Myths, Responsibility, and the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Lawrence Coates, Brigham Young University-Idaho, Rexburg, ID
  • The Bloodiest Drama Ever Perpetrated on American Soil: Staging the Mountain Meadows Massacre for, Entertainment, Melvin L. Bashore, LDS Church History Library, Salt Lake City, UT
  • LDS Growth Patterns in the Southern States Mission, 1890-1920, Mark Brown, Baton Rouge, LA
  • Mormon Missionaries in Southwest Texas, 1898-1915, Edward H. Jeter, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX
  • The Un-gathered: The Religious Lives of Mormons in the American South, 1875-1910, Christopher C. Jones, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • I Wanted with All My Heart to be Good: Nancy Tracys Conversion Process, Rachel Cope, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
  • Waiting for Her Children: Womens Conceptions of the Mother in Heaven, 1870-1920, Susanna Morrill, Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR
  • The Strange Case of the Browett Women: Four British Women on the Mormon Frontier, Amy Harris, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Your Second in an Affair of Honor: The Relationship of Brigham Young and Thomas L. Kane, Matthew J. Grow, University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, IN
  • Forging a Relationship: Young and Kane in the American Midwest, 1846, Ronald W. Walker, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Food Safe: Domestic Science, the Word of Wisdom, and Leah Widtsoes Campaign to Save Souls through, Proper Nutrition, Kate Holbrook, Boston University, Boston, MA
  • The Body Evil and the Body Celestial: Nineteenth-Century Shaker and Mormon Theologies of Embodiment, and Sacred Foodways, Stephen C. Taysom, Franklin College, Franklin, IN
  • Escaping the Destroying Angel: Immortality and the Word of Wisdom in Early Mormonism, Samuel Brown, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Tar and Feathers: American Mob Violence and Mormons, John Kimball Alexander, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Motives of the Carthage Mob, Debra J. Marsh, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Blaming the Jews: Revisioning Revisionist Accounts of the Mormon Expulsion from Nauvoo, Breck England, Bountiful, UT
  • Before the White City: Exhibiting Mormonism in America, 1830-1890, Reid L. Neilson, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Was Early Mormon Millennialism Politically Revolutionary?: A Comparison with Two Other Mid-Nineteenth Century, Millennial Religious Movements, Lawrence Foster, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA
  • Gentile Poetry and Songs of the Utah War, Kenneth L. Alford, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Mormonism in Arkansas, Then and Now: The Dawning of a Brighter Day, Gregory K. Armstrong, University of Arkansas-Ft. Smith, Van Buren, AR
  • Work Toward Reconciliation: A History of Efforts between Descendants Groups and the LDS Church, Barbara Jones Brown, South Jordan, UT
  • We Shall Contend Inch by Inch: A Mormon Rhetoric of Civil Disobedience, 1882-1887, David J. Pulsipher, Brigham Young University-Idaho, Rexburg, ID
  • Bickering Over Beck: Mormon Womens Petition Resistance to Julie B. Becks Mothers Who Know, Talk, Andrea G. Radke-Moss, Brigham Young University-Idaho, Rexburg, ID
  • Long Shall His Blood . . . Stain Illinois: Carthage Jail in Mormon Memory, Brian Q. Cannon, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Skulls and Crossed Bones?: A Forensic Analysis of the Remains of Hyrum and Joseph Smith, Curtis Weber, Orem, UT
  • Constructing an Identity: Latter-day Saint Architecture in Nineteenth-Century Illinois, Tiffany Taylor Bowles, Athens, IL
  • According to the Pattern: Expectations of Unified and Scriptural-Based Models in Nineteenth-Century, Mormon Architecture, Brad Westwood, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • The Great God, The OverSoul, and Pluralistic Pantheism: Orson Pratts Intelligent-Matter Theory and the, Gods of Emerson and James, Jordan T. Watkins, Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, CA
  • Rational Supernaturalism: Early Mormonism and Enlightened-Romantic Rhetoric, Benjamin E. Park, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Film Screening, Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons, Presenters: Margaret Blair Young and Darius Gray, Update on the Joseph Smith Papers and Website, Ronald K. Esplin, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church History Department, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Getting the Most Out of the Smith Papers, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church History Department, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Advances in LDS Geographical Research and Cartography at the Joseph Smith Papers Project, Richard L. Jensen, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church History Department, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Examining the FLDS Raid and Polygamy: Local and International ContextsPanel Discussion, Janet Bennion, Lyndon State College, Lyndonville, VT, Ken Driggs, Atlanta, GA, Gary Shepherd, Oakland University, Rochester, MI, Gordon Shepherd, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR, Arland Thornton, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Linda F. Smith, S. J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Josephites, Brighamites, and Illinois Officials: The Role of the Churches and the State in the Restoration of, Nauvoo, Benjamin C. Pykles, State University of New York, Potsdam, Potsdam, NY
  • Application of Ground-Penetrating Radar to Documenting the Nineteenth-Century Physical Environment of, Nauvoo: A Prospectus, John McBride, Brigham Young University Provo, UT
  • The Return: The LDS Churchs Transforming Nauvoo from a Site of Dispersion into One of Intersection, Scott C. Esplin, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Habeas Corpus in Early Nineteenth-Century Illinois: Uses or Abuses, Jeffrey N. Walker, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church History Department, Salt Lake City, UT
  • General Smith Goes to Springfield: Triumph amid a Gathering Storm, Morris A. Thurston, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • The Road to Martyrdom: The Expositor and Treason Cases, Joseph J. Bentley, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church History Department, Salt Lake City, UT
  • James Adams: The Link between Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Smith, Susan Easton Black, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Sangamo Journals Rebecca and the Democratic Pets: Abraham Lincolns Interaction with the Church of, Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mary Jane Woodger, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Pragmatic Lincoln and Moralistic Garfield: How LDS Ties before Their Presidencies Affected Their White, House Views of the Saints, Michael K. Winder, Utah Board of State History, West Valley City, UT
  • Ex-Apostle Lyman E. Johnson and the Nauvoo Mormons, Bill Shepard, Burlington, WI Mormons and the I & M Canal, Vickie Cleverley Speek, Minooka, IL
  • An Illinois Farmer in Utah Territory: A. J. Rynearsons Illinois Farming Heritage and Eventual Return to, His Peoria Roots as a Mormon Missionary, Gerald M. Haslam, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • The Mormons and Americas Empires, Walter T. K. Nugent, Andrew V. Tackles Professor Emeritus of History, Notre Dame University, Notre Dame, IN
  • Stephen A. Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Mormon Problem: The 1857, Springfield Debate, William P. MacKinnon, Independent historian, Santa Barbara, CA
  • The Forgotten Story of Nauvoo Celestial Marriage, George D. Smith, San Francisco, CA
  • Andrew Jenson and the Wives of Joseph Smith: Opening the Black Box, Don Bradley, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Unpacking the Box: New Insights into Joseph Smiths Polygamy, Brian C. Hales, Layton, UT
  • First Person Once Removed: The Pseudonymous Writings of Emmeline B. Wells, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Brigham Young University (emeritus), Salt Lake City, UT
  • Emmelines Nauvoo Novel and Her Outreach to East Coast Literary Lions, Cherry Bushman Silver, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Inside and Outside 1890s Mormondom with Cactus, Home Literature Writer, Michigan Medical Student, Lisa Olsen Tait, University of Houston, Houston, TX
  • Mary Ann Angell Youngs Nauvoo Experience, Jeffery O. Johnson, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church History Department, Salt Lake City, UT
  • The Nauvoo House, Alex D. Smith, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church History Department, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Mourning the Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo: Material Culture Surrounding Joseph Smiths Death in the, Context of 1840s Illinois, Mark L. Staker, LDS Church History Museum, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Consecrating a Community: Uses and Perceptions of Holy Oil, 1834-1955, Kristine Wright, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
  • No Uncommon Thing: Collaborative Male-Female Ritual Healing in Mormonism, Jonathan A. Stapley, Bellevue, WA
  • Making Sense of LDS Sealings: A Liturgical Analysis, Kathleen Flake, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
  • Alpheus Cutler at Nauvoo: Another Interpretation of His Experiences, Roles, and Activities, Danny L. Jorgensen, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
  • The Crucible: Lucius Nelson Scovils Nauvoo Experience, Kristine Wardle Frederickson, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Nauvoo, Illinois, Family and Local History Sources, Kip Sperry, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Authors and Book Titles, E. Leo Lyman, Amasa Mason Lyman, Mormon Apostle and Apostate: A Study in Dedication (Salt Lake City:, University of Utah Press, 2009), Matthew J. Grow, Liberty to the Downtrodden: Thomas L. Kane, Romantic, Reformer, (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2009)
  • Believing Blood in the Borderlands: Early Mormon and Protestant Missionary Efforts on the U.S.-Mexico, Border, Jared Tamez, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Red, White, and Mormon: Race and the Making of a Mormon-Indian Body, W. Paul Reeve, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Gathering the Scattered Children of Lehi: Constructions of Whiteness and Israelite Lineage in the Pacific, Islands Missions, Stanley J. Thayne, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Mormon Enigma, Emma Hale Smith Revisited: Twenty-Five Years LaterPanel Discussion, Jan Shipps, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (emeritus), Bloomington, Indiana, Paul M. Edwards, Center for the Study of the Korean War, Graceland University, Lamoni, Iowa, Linda King Newell, Co-author, Mormon Enigma, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Constructing Mormon Communities: A Theoretical Approach, An Approach to Mormon Worship, 1830-2008, Matthew Bowman, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
  • Framing Early Twentieth-Century Mormon Pilgrimage: Photography, Contestation, and the Kirtland Temple, David J. Howlett, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
  • Itinerant Mormons: Cultural and Religious Interlopers in Jacksonian-Era Illinois, Rick John Taylor, Urbana LDS Institute of Religion, Urbana, IL
  • Nauvoo in the Civil War, Kevin W. Bryant, Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL
  • Wilford C. Wood and the Nauvoo Masonic Hall, J. Taylor Hollist, State University of New York-Oneonta, Oneonta, NY
  • Garden Grove, Iowa: Analysis of a Mormon Way Station, 1846-52, Jill N. Crandell, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • 1852: The Traffic Jam Year on the Mormon Trail that Completed the Nauvoo Exodus, William G. Hartley, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • When the Saints Came Marching In: The Latter-day Saints in St. Louis, Fred E. Woods, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • Let Them Importune at the Feet of the President: Joseph Smiths Journey to Washington, Jeffrey G. Cannon, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church History Department, Salt Lake City, UT
  • John Wentworth and His Political Support for the Mormons, Richard K. Behrens, Midway, UT
  • Judge Popes Federal Courtroom: Scene of Joseph Smiths Hearing, December 1842-January 1843, Kathleen S. Thomas, Old State Capitol Foundation, Springfield, IL
  • Render unto Caesar: The Plight of Nineteenth-Century Polygamists, Kathryn M. Day

BYU-I dissolves political party organizations

Excerpts of The dissolution of campus political parties by Nate Sunderland of the Rexburg Standard Journal.  Note that  BYU & BYU-Hawaii still maintain their political organizations.

But last semester (Winter 2009), the BYU-Idaho administration announced that both the College Republicans and the College Democrats, (both student-run political organizations), would be dissolved in an effort to comply with changes to the BYU-Idaho political neutrality policy.

"We are trying to ensure that BYU-Idaho is a politically neutral campus," said Andy Cargal, a BYU-Idaho public relations representative. "As a private institution and being affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we feel that it is in the best interest of our university to be politically neutral.

KBYU could loose "PBS" designation

Excerpts of PBS Weighs Separation Of Church & Stations by Paul Farhi of the Washington Post

PBS stations are debating the limits of one of public television's basic commandments: Thou shalt not broadcast religious programming. The discussion, some station managers fear, could lead to a ban on faith-oriented programs that have appeared on public stations for decades despite the prohibition.

The Public Broadcasting Service's board is to vote next month on a committee's recommendation to strip the affiliation of any station that carries "sectarian" content.

Under bylaws enacted in 1985, PBS stations are required to present programs that are noncommercial, nonpartisan and nonsectarian. The rules were put in place to ensure balance and fairness among PBS-affiliated stations.

The definition of "nonsectarian" programming has always been loosely interpreted, and the rule has never been strictly enforced, according to PBS officials.

The current proposal would deem "religious services of faith-based groups" as inappropriate. "The intent is for [PBS stations] to show editorial independence," Lawson said.

KBYU in Provo, Utah, for example, is operated by Brigham Young University, which in turn is affiliated with the Mormon Church. The station airs much of the usual PBS fare -- "Arthur," "Barney," "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" -- but also broadcasts two hours a day of "BYU Devotional," which includes lectures from leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Mormon Channel

The Mormon Channel is the official radio station of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The channel originates from Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah and broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Content for the station comes from the vast archives of the Church, along with several new series created specifically for this station. The Mormon Channel also features great programming from various partner organizations, including Deseret Book, Bonneville, the Deseret News, LDS Business College, and the campuses of Brigham Young University.

You can listen to the Mormon Channel live online anytime at There are also downloads and podcasts of content available at the same address.

More can be read here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Society for Mormon Philosophy & Theology conference

SMPT Conference - 21-23 May 2009

   Location: Claremont Graduate University,
   Claremont, California
   Held in cooperation with the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies and the Claremont Mormon Studies Student Association.

"Upon All Nations - Religious Pluralism"

Abstracts of presentations

Sharon Adams - Looking at Mormonism and Shambhala Buddhism Through the Lens of Religious Pluralism

   One way to approach the topic of religious pluralism from an LDS perspective is to focus on a comparative study between Mormonism and the teachings, sacred histories/texts and means of divine revelation from a different religious tradition. In this paper I will demonstrate how Shambhala Buddhism may offer, not only in its developmental historical trajectory but also in its core teachings, a clarifying and in some ways complementary reflection of certain aspects of Mormonism. In providing a comparison of how Mormonism and Shambhala Buddhism fits within their respective "western" and "eastern" traditions, I will focus on how each provides a type of "restoration" of Christ's and the Buddha's original and most sacred teachings. Implicit in this comparison is the role that Joseph Smith and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche played as prophet, seer, revelator, and tertön (treasure discoverer) in restoring the authoritative power and teachings in their respective traditions. Through my comparative analysis I attempt to bring forward aspects of both lineages that emphasize the need to move toward a more inclusive and ecumenical approach to the study of religion. I argue that efforts in exploring religious pluralism in such a manner will lead not only to greater understanding from the standpoint of each tradition, but it may also encourage greater opportunities for inter-religious dialogue.

Jacob Baker - "God With Us": Panentheism, Pansyntheism, and the Mormon Concept of God

   "Though originally developed over two centuries ago in Western thought, the concept of panentheism has become an increasingly popular alternative to traditional theism and pantheism. It seeks to avoid both isolating God from the world (the absolute transcendence of traditional theism) and identifying God with the world (the absolute immanence of pantheism), by seeking a middle position that asserts that the Being of God penetrates the whole universe, so that every part of it exists in him, but that His Being is yet more than the universe. Proponents of a panentheistic view of God argue that panentheism fulfills theology's central task of articulating the appropriate harmony between immanence and transcendence, as well as a satisfactory reconciliation with contemporary science. To date there has been no extended treatment of a comparison between the Mormon concept of God and panentheism. Such an exercise in comparative religion would serve to help insert the Mormon concept of God into contemporary scholarly discourse. This paper seeks to lay a groundwork for such a comparison. There are interesting parallels and dissimilarities between the two concepts, but I will ultimately argue that the Mormon concept of God does not fit comfortably into theistic, pantheistic, or even panentheistic categories. Instead, the Mormon concept of God might more accurately be described as "pansyntheistic," a term coined by theologian Ruth Page and closely related to panentheism."

Brian Birch - "Treasure them Up": Providence, Pluralism, and the Plan of Salvation

   As the LDS Church moves into a more inclusive phase of its development, questions of religious diversity will become increasingly relevant. A well-known maxim among Latter-day Saints is Joseph Smith's declaration that "we should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true 'Mormons.'" One important means of gathering and treasuring these principles is the effort to make theological sense of them. Questions thus emerge: What are possible candidates for these "principles"? Can Mormons declare as true a Hindu, Muslim, or Catholic principle? How tradition-specific can religious concepts be in order for it to possess this kind of truth-value? What concept of truth is required for this kind of inclusivism? This paper will explore these questions and examine some theological implications of a Mormon theology of religions.

Richard Bushman - On Being Ill at Ease in the World

   Mormonism, like every other American cultural system, is nestled in the midst of the great cultural systems dominating our time: science, democracy, and capitalism. With none of these is it perfectly at ease. Despite the efforts of individual Mormons to demonstrate compatibility with each one of these systems, Mormonism chides and chafes each one of them. Efforts to achieve perfect harmony not only lead to the idolatries of our era, they dilute Mormonism. Implicit in our belief is a potent critique of culture which it would be a mistake to dissipate in our eagerness to fit in. Our task is to make the most of the creative tensions with the ambient culture and to enjoy being ill at ease.

James Faulconer - The Secular and the Sacred

   Secularity is a necessary condition of contemporary democracy. One need know little history to know the horrors that a nonsecular government can wreak. Nevertheless, we are short-changed if secularism is not augmented by "prophets" in a broad sense, by the ethical intuitions of thosethrough whom at least the sacred and perhaps also the holy are revealed. Secularism seems to have no need of prophets. It cannot understand them because they stand outside the horizon of its possibilities. Yet it is precisely that position outside that makes the prophets valuable to secular society. Being outside, the prophets can bring the sacred into secularism, raising the question of justice and giving secularity a ground from which to make just decisions.

Alonzo Gaskill - Mormonism, Hagiography, and the Virgin Mary: A Look at the Role of Patron Saints in LDS Belief and Practice

   Throughout the church's history, Latter-day Saint leaders have occasionally publically expressed their discomfort with the place of patron saints in Roman Catholic worship and practice. It seems fair to say that such criticisms are, more often than not, the result of misunderstandings as to what the official teaching of the Roman Catholic church is on saints, their role and powers. This paper will seek to do two things: (1) establish what the official position of the Catholic church is on patron saints, and (2) show that Mormonism has their own patron saints that function in ways very similar to Catholic saints.

Farooq Hassan - Pluralistic practices in the life of prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

   The concept of pluralism and its dimensions promoted in Islam has been attested to by comments from the international community in various publications and fora. Islam is being labeled as the "enemy of the civilization," but the fact is that pluralism was a reality that Islam addressed at its very beginning 1400 years ago. Islam approves of tolerance among individuals, groups, states and family members. The teaching of the Quran and the transparent life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) prove the pluralistic approach and utmost tolerance in Islam at all levels in life with all human beings. Muhammad (PBUH) preached and practiced tolerance and acceptance towards non-Muslims in every walk of life. Islam can be properly understood by nonMuslims if projected theoretically as well as practically in the right spirit by Muslims in general and scholars in particular. Muslims and people of all other religions face common challenges and dilemmas which have to be understood. All of us have to share the planet Earth; no matter what religion we belong to. So why should we not do it gracefully—in the true, pluralistic way?

Blair Hodges - C. S. Lewis, Latter-day Saints, and the "Virtuous Unbeliever"

   "You ask me my religious views," an 18-year old C.S. Lewis responded to lifelong friend Arthur Greeves. "I believe in no religion. . . Superstition of course in every age has held the common people, but in every age the educated and thinking ones have stood outside it." Almost fifteen years later he confessed to Arthur, "How deep I am just now beginning to see: for I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ—in Christianity." Since the 1950s various Latter-day Saints have shown particular interest in Lewis's religious and fictional works. This paper will make use of Lewis's recently published collected letters to argue that Lewis's transition from atheism to Christianity led him to view conversion in general as a process of "coming home" to God by retaining good and rejecting evil. For Lewis and Latter-day Saints alike, various beliefs can be seen as stepping stones or signposts pointing to higher truths on the road home. Part of Lewis's wide appeal results from an ecumenical view of other religions that is similar to (though looser than) that of Latter-day Saints. Lewis sought for ways to hope for those not converted to Christianity during mortality—those whom he referred to as "virtuous unbelievers." Because Lewis never came close to joining the LDS Church, he raises interesting questions on the eternal status of non-LDS inspired voices; to Latter-day Saints, Lewis is the virtuous unbeliever. Often quoted by LDS General Authorities, teachers and authors, Lewis is representative of God"s inspiration which Latter-day Saints believe can (and does) exist apart from official LDS channels.

Jennifer Lane - I Am among You As One that Serveth

   The status of women in LDS doctrine and practice is currently vigorously debated. This paper briefly highlights points of doctrinal distinctiveness in relation to traditional Christianity, but argues that to emphasize these doctrines above the life and imitation of Christ is a profound misunderstanding of Church doctrine and the message of Christianity. Efforts to emphasize the divine identity and role of women are important, but must also be seen in light the radical demands of the imitation of Christ and the model of servanthood that he offers. This discipleship of service is, however, a path that each must freely embrace.

Jared Ludlow - Uniting All Peoples by the Gospel

   As an apostle, David O. McKay undertook a world mission tour in 1921. One of his stops was Laie, Hawaii, where he "witnessed a most impressive and inspiring sight" as 127 children from many nationalities participated in a U.S. flag raising ceremony. When President McKay later recalled the flag raising ceremony of 1921, he referred to it as a "melting pot." This paper explores McKay's vision of bringing together diverse ethnicities and backgrounds—taught in American principles (and even language), but especially unified under the gospel of Jesus Christ—and compares it with the concept of the "melting pot" which originated in an early 1900s Broadway play. In this play, actors in various ethnic costumes descended into a "melting pot" and then reemerged from the other side dressed as "Americans." Was this the international experience President McKay envisioned when using the term "melting pot"?

Paul Miller - Subjectivity and the Sovereignty of God: Engaging with Karl Barth on Revelation Theology

   While a propositional model of revelation is vital in developing doctrine and legitimizing priesthood authority, my paper focuses on the comparable need for an experiential model that clarifies how ordinary people receive and interpret divine revelation. As a theological ethicist, I am interested in the role of prudential judgment in discerning God's will for the present moment. In taking the reality of continuing revelation seriously, Latter-day Saints are well aware of the problems associated with spiritual discernment. Mormon leaders appeal to various principles to assist members in understanding the revelatory process, such as the claim that revelation applies to each person's stewardship and that God honors human agency. My paper seeks to clarify and evaluate these criteria by exploring the revelation theology of Karl Barth. I highlight his warnings against anthropocentrism, his central concern with acknowledging the freedom and sovereignty of God, and his views on the role of inspiration in transmitting canonized doctrine to succeeding generations.

Jason Monson - Mormonism and the Religious Other

   There are numerous reasons for Latter-day Saints to be interested in the 'religious other' and a variety of positions one can take in approaching them. These various positions are fully addressed in Schmidt-Leukel's theological typology which considers all logical possibilities of theological approaches to other faith traditions within the categories of exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism. The diversity of views in Latter-day Saint scriptures, and particularly in the words of LDS Church leaders, allow them to be used to justify each of these theological positions by placing emphasis on particular passages at the expense of others. Although the inclusivist position appears to be the most common in LDS teachings and the most widely accepted, exclusivist notions are still evident and the possibility remains for a form of 'Mormon Pluralism.'

Mark Olsen - On the Corruptibility of Matter: The Possibilities for a Material Version of an Immortal Soul

   Jan Erik Jones argues that Mormon materialism, together with certain assumptions about the corruptibility of matter, require the belief that the functional elements (or Lockean "nodes") of the soul are constantly transferred by God to other actual material constituents in the face of traumatic physical events. I argue in this paper that such a view of constant transfer of functional elements is not necessary, and that furthermore, it defies Mormon orthodoxy in insisting that matter is inherently corruptible. In the process of resolving, however, the problems raised by Jones's argument, I propose a view of matter that allows that some middle sized objects may be affected by radically traumatic physical events without dissolution.

Randall Paul - Sociality: Pluralism in the Experience and Thought of Joseph Smith, Jr.

   While Joseph Smith did not directly address the topic of religious pluralism in a systematic theory, he seemed to decry it in the First Vision but embrace it in Nauvoo when he made practical appeals for reciprocal religious acceptance. I will discuss how he negotiated this tension with his radical belief that the love of God could not be coerced and really be love—nor could God win a believing heart by any power other than persuasion. Religious freedom (which means religious pluralism) was a theological tenet of his religion based in the sociality of a God who desires loving unity and real difference. After detailing the theological structure of Mormon pluralism, the sociality of gods, I conclude by discussing how some of Joseph Smith's statements pertaining to religious pluralism and conflict might be useful for advocates of any tradition.

Chris Smith - Sibling Rivalry: Mormonism and Pentecostals

   Pentecostals and Mormons have more unfavorable views of each other than of other Christian groups. To a large degree, this animosity stems from their similarities rather than from their differences. The two groups sects share a common ancestry, similar maps of the universe, similar theologies and experiences, and similar missionary ambitions. Despite modest strides toward reconciliation in the United States, it is likely that mutual demonization will continue for the foreseeable future, especially as the two faiths compete for converts in the global south. Both groups must overcome significant theological and cultural obstacles to dialogue if they are to leave sibling rivalry behind in the spirit of Christian brotherhood.

Joseph Spencer - Omnipotent Weakness: Toward a Mormon Doctrine of God's Omnipotence

   John D. Caputo has, in The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event, argued that the traditional distinction between God as ontologically existent and God as ontologically non-existent should be deconstructed, making way for a third possibility—one might worship God as ontologically deferred. In the end, however, such a move can be revealed to be an essential politicization of God: the ontologically deferred God is the evental God of politics. Alain Badiou and Jean-Luc Marion provide a possible framework for making sense of what is ultimately at stake in Caputo's politicization of God, opening the possibility of there being a fourth category for God's essence. If orthodoxy regards God as ontologically strong (omnipotent), the critical tradition regards God as aesthetically weak (impotent), and the Derridean movement regards God as politically weak (potently impotent), Mormonism might be said to regard God as amorously weak, such that omnipotence is redefined as all-loving-ness. This, in the end, cannot be separated, however, from the Mormon idea that God is a gendered person.

Tyler Stoehr - Do Mormons Really Believe That?

   Although the LDS faith has enjoyed increased recognition in recent years, apparently its doctrinal message is still rather cloudy and obscure, as evidenced by the fact that Francis J. Beckwith, Carl Mosser, Paul Owen and Gregory C.V. Johnson have all recently been quoted as saying that "trying to figure out just what constitutes Mormon theology is like trying to nail Jell-O dipped in olive oil to the wall." In this paper I will argue that part of the explanation for this conclusion arises from the fact that when it comes to the LDS prophetic tradition, scholars (and perhaps even lay members), both within and without the Church, don't seem to be sure about the role said tradition is supposed to play when it comes to the interpretation and presentation of LDS doctrine. Furthermore, I will argue that in recent years LDS apologists have been trending towards a view of LDS doctrine that borders on sola scriptura, which has only served to contribute to the confusion already surrounding the LDS belief in continuing revelation and prophetic guidance. I will then assess recent attempts to approach this issue and argue that despite these efforts the LDS have yet to offer a consistent approach to their tradition. I will then offer a few suggestions for how this question might be approached.

Sheila Taylor - Doctrinal Development and Continuing Revelation

   In the nineteenth century, John Henry Newman proposed a model of doctrinal development as a way of understanding revelation in the church. In this process of development, one does not add new truths to the deposit of revelation, but continues over time to unpack and better articulate the truths contained therein. This kind of approach can also be seen in the work of twentieth-century Catholic theologian Karl Rahner, who distinguishes between original transcendental revelation and its categorical articulation. In this paper, I will look at these ideas in relation to the LDS notion of continuing revelation, and argue that the differences between contemporary LDS and Catholic approaches at least partially arise from different understandings of what revelation is. I will also consider the question of how much the models actually differ when it comes to practical application.

Margaret Toscano - The Jesus Rivals: Authority and Salvation in the Mormon-Protestant Debates

   Why does the position of Jesus continue to be the focal point in the debate over the Christianity of Mormons? In this paper, I suggest that the issue of authority is crucial for understanding this tension. And I take this in two different directions. First, I assert that each of the theological objections that evangelical Protestants have to the Mormon Jesus centers on the sovereignty of Christ and the Protestant rejection of an intermediary priesthood authority as necessary for salvation. Second, I link this theological question to the dynamics of the debate itself to explore the question of why LDS people want Protestant approval, especially that of evangelicals, and why Protestants won't fully give it. The crux of the issue is that Mormons can accept Protestants as Christians without giving up their authority; Protestants cannot. In both cases, Jesus is the emblem of that authority.

Miranda Wilcox - Teaching Religious Pluralism and Brigham Young University

   As violence perpetuated in the name of religious ideology escalates around the world, experts of comparative religions advocate that one of the most crucial, though neglected, ethical responsibilities of a contemporary world citizen is to develop religious literacy, literacy that promotes respectful communication rather than confrontation among people of faith. These experts suggest that religious literacy ought to be a component of every college and university curriculum. Such a goal seems particularly feasible at institutions, such as Brigham Young University, where religious education is already a fundamental aspect of the curriculum. However, BYU's comprehensive focus on the Mormon tradition discourages students from encountering and engaging with alternate religious perspectives and developing a deeper understanding of their own tradition by engaging dialectically with another. Students of Brigham Young University share the responsibility of being religiously literate in multiple traditions as ethical citizens, as charitable Christians, and as faithful Latter-day Saints. Nevertheless, specific complications arise when considering the pedagogical implications and possibilities of teaching religious pluralism to a homogenous student body living in a homogenous environment. This paper will consider theological implications and practical solutions to these questions.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Origin of Life Discovery?

Excerpts of Chemist Shows How RNA Can Be the Starting Point for Life   by Nicholas Wade of the New York Times.  This will have huge implications if this pans out.

An English chemist has found the hidden gateway to the RNA world, the chemical milieu from which the first forms of life are thought to have emerged on earth some 3.8 billion years ago.

He has solved a problem that for 20 years has thwarted researchers trying to understand the origin of life — how the building blocks of RNA, called nucleotides, could have spontaneously assembled themselves in the conditions of the primitive earth. The discovery, if correct, should set researchers on the right track to solving many other mysteries about the origin of life. It will also mean that for the first time a plausible explanation exists for how an information-carrying biological molecule could have emerged through natural processes from chemicals on the primitive earth.

The author, John D. Sutherland, a chemist at the University of Manchester, likened his work to a crossword puzzle in which doing the first clues makes the others easier. "Whether we've done one across is an open question," he said. "Our worry is that it may not be right."

Other researchers say they believe he has made a major advance in prebiotic chemistry, the study of the natural chemical reactions that preceded the first living cells.

The spontaneous appearance of such nucleotides on the primitive earth "would have been a near miracle," two leading researchers, Gerald Joyce and Leslie Orgel, wrote in 1999. Others were so despairing that they believed some other molecule must have preceded RNA and started looking for a pre-RNA world.

The miracle seems now to have been explained. In the article in Nature, Dr. Sutherland and his colleagues Matthew W. Powner and Béatrice Gerland report that they have taken the same starting chemicals used by others but have caused them to react in a different order and in different combinations than in previous experiments. they discovered their recipe, which is far from intuitive, after 10 years of working through every possible combination of starting chemicals.

"My assumption is that we are here on this planet as a fundamental consequence of organic chemistry," Dr. Sutherland said. "So it must be chemistry that wants to work."

Read the entire article here.
More can be found here or here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

2nd Issue of the International Journal of Mormon Studies

International Journal of Mormon Studies, Vol 2, No 1 (2009)
Articles (available online)
  • Joseph Smith as a Creative Interpreter of the Bible,  Heikki Räisänen
  • The Holy Spirit in Mormonism, Douglas J. Davies
  • Enlarging the Memory of Mormonism: Historian Andrew Jenson's Tales from the World Tour, 1895–1897. Enlarging the Memory of Mormonism: Historian Andrew Jenson's Tales from the World Tour, 1895–1897, Reid L. Neilson 
  • William Phelps's Paracletes, an Early Witness to Joseph Smith's Divine Anthropolog, Samuel Brown 
  • George Ramsden, the Guion Line, and the Mormon Immigration Connectio, Fred E. Woods 
  • The Mormon Factor in the Romney Presidential Campaign: European Perspective, Massimo Introvigne 
  • 19th Century Missiology of the LDS Bedfordshire Conference And its Interrelationship with other Christian Denomination, Ronald E. Bartholomew 
  • Reactions of Lutheran Clergy to Mormon Proselytizing in Finland, 1875–1889, Kim B. Östman 
  • Proclaiming The Message: A Comparison of Mormon Missionary Strategy with other Mainstream Christian Missions, Johnnie Glad 
  • The Martyrdoms at Ammonihah and the Foreknowledge of God, Graham St. John Stott 
  • The Experience of Mormon Children in English School-Based Religious Education and Collective Worship, Ronan James Head 
  • Justification, Theosis, and Grace in Early Christian, Lutheran, and Mormon Discourse, Grant Underwood 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New York Assembly Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

New York Assembly Passes Gay Marriage Bill

The State Assembly approved legislation on Tuesday night that would make New York the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage — a pivotal vote that shifts the debate to the State Senate, where gay rights advocates and conservative groups alike are redoubling their efforts.

In a sign of how opinion in Albany has shifted on the issue, several members of the Assembly who voted against the measure in 2007 voted in favor of it on Tuesday.

The final vote was 89 to 52, including the backing of five Republicans.

"The margin of victory and the balance of where the people come from who voted for this is broadening," said Daniel J. O'Donnell, a Democratic assemblyman from the Upper West Side who led the effort in the Assembly to gain support for the bill. "The state is demanding that we provide equality, and that's the message here."

Despite the conservative pressure, two Republicans spoke on Tuesday about why they dropped their opposition to granting same-sex couples the right to marry. Three Democrats who voted no in 2007 switched their votes to yes.

"There's that little voice inside of you that tells you when you've done something right, and when you've done something wrong," said Fred W. Thiele Jr., a Republican who represents the Hamptons. "That vote just never felt right to me. That little voice kept gnawing away at me."

Forthcoming: Post-Manifesto Polygamy, The 1899-1904 Correspondence of Helen, Owen, and Avery Woodruff

Life Writings of Frontier Women, vol 11

Post-Manifesto Polygamy

The 1899-1904 Correspondence of Helen, Owen, and Avery Woodruff

edited by Lu Ann Faylor Snyder and Phillip A. Snyder

These letters among two women and their husband offer a rare look into the personal dynamics of an LDS polygamous relationship. Abraham "Owen" Woodruff was a young polygamous Mormon apostle, and the son of LDS President Wilford Woodruff, who is remembered for the Woodruff Manifesto, a divinely-inspired call for the termination of plural marriage.

The Woodruff Manifesto eased a systematic federal judicial assault on Mormons and made Utah statehood possible. It did not end polygamy in the church. Some leaders continued to encourage and perform such marriages. Owen Woodruff, himself married to Helen May Winters, contracted a secretive second marriage to Avery Clark. Pressure on the LDS church revived with hearings regarding Reed Smoot’s seat in the U.S. Senate. After church president Joseph F. Smith issued the so-called Second Manifesto in 1904, polygamy and its more prominent advocates were mostly expunged from mainstream Mormonism.

Owen Woodruff had often been "on the underground," moving frequently, traveling under secret identities, and using code names in his letters to his wives, while still carrying out his administrative duties, which, in particular, involved supervision of the nascent Mormon colonies in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming. He was never excommunicated, as some of his apostolic colleagues were. Both he and his first wife, Helen, while living with Avery in Mexico and preparing for a mission to Germany, contracted smallpox and died suddenly in 1904. Avery later returned to Utah with her children along with those of Helen and Owen.

Forthcoming: Amasa Mason Lyman, Mormon Apostle and Apostate

Amasa Mason Lyman, Mormon Apostle and Apostate
A Study in Dedication
by Edward Leo Lyman

Amasa M Lyman.jpg

The early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is filled with fascinating characters, but few led a more tumultuous life than Amasa Lyman. Though he has been largely forgotten, this new biography provides a unique and revealing account of the early days of Mormonism and Lyman's role in creating that history. He served as a missionary in the "burned-over" district of upstate New York and in Ohio before moving to Kirtland, where he suffered in the infant church's financial crisis. He participated in the conflicts with hostile Missourians and emigrated to Nauvoo, Illinois. There, he became a leader in the church and a close associate of Joseph Smith. Lyman then led a company of pioneers across Iowa to Winter Quarters and on to the Salt Lake Valley. He was sent to the California gold fields and led the colonization of San Bernardino, where he became its first mayor, before returning to Utah, and he traveled to Europe as head of the church's European missions.

Having spent more than thirty years in the service of his church, Lyman began to move away from its teachings after a series of conflicts with its second leader, Brigham Young. Lyman was one of the first Mormons to criticize the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which led to his dismissal as an apostle. He was excommunicated in 1870 and became one of the foremost spokesmen of the Godbeite Church of Zion movement before his death in 1877. Author Edward Leo Lyman chronicles Amasa Lyman's life and interactions with Mormon history with an honesty true to his ancestor's freethinking spirit.

Church applies for Landmark status for Mountain Meadows

Landmark application progressing for Mountain Meadows massacre site by Jennifer Dobner of The Associated Press

A historian says the Mormon church is working diligently on an application to secure National Historic Landmark status for Mountain Meadows, the southern Utah site of a pioneer wagon train massacre.

Assistant Church Historian Richard Turley says initial feedback from National Parks Service staff to a summary proposal has been positive. The final proposal will be submitted to a U.S. Interior Department committee.

In 1857, 120 men, women and children from an Arkansas wagon train were murdered at Mountain Meadows by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Mountain Meadows is already on the National Register of Historic Places. Landmark status would guarantee public access to the land, most of which is owned by the church.

Monday, May 11, 2009

FBI Special Agent -- W. CLEON SKOUSEN: His Suspect Credentials as an "Expert" on Communism

From pshornyguy <> ---
The Mythology Surrounding His FBI Career
Back in March 2007, I wrote a preliminary article concerning former FBI Special Agent W. Cleon Skousen after I had received the first 400 pages of his personnel file from the FBI. I have now received the remainder of Skousen’s personnel file [HQ 67-69602] along with a separate file consisting of public source material and correspondence received by the Bureau concerning Skousen’s activities [HQ 94-47468].
I will be quoting extensively from documents in his personnel file pertaining to his career, but first some general biographical information which appears on two of his employment applications. [The following details are from HQ 67-69602, #65; 5/29/40 Skousen Application For Appointment as Special Agent, and HQ 67-69602, #1; 7/22/35 Skousen Application for Appointment as Typist or Messenger.] For additional biographical information, see:
Willard Cleon Skousen was born in Raymond, Alberta, Canada on January 20, 1913. His mother and father (Roy and Rita Bentley Skousen) were born in the United States. Cleon lived in the United States starting in 1923. He had 7 brothers and sisters and after marrying his wife, Jewel Pitcher in August 1936, they had 8 children. [Incidentally, one of his brothers, Leroy B. Skousen, was also an FBI Agent from 1941-1954.]
Educational Background:
From 1919 to 1925 he attended elementary schools in Canada and in Torrance, California. From 1925 to 1926 he attended Sturgess Junior High School in San Bernardino CA and, subsequently, he attended Juarez Stake Academy in Mexico (1926-1928) and then San Bernardino High School in San Bernardino CA where he graduated in 1930. From 1933 to 1935, Cleon attended San Bernardino Junior College and received his Associate of Arts degree. He then attended George Washington University, majoring in political science, with a minor in history, and he received his law degree in June 1940.
Employment History – Prior to the FBI
For 3 years he worked in road construction as a foreman in his father’s business. He also worked for 3 years as a teletype operator and 2 years as a switchboard operator and 2 years as a missionary for the Church of Latter Days Saints (Mormon) in England and Ireland.
FBI Employment
He entered on duty October 24, 1935 as a messenger. At the beginning of December of that year he became a Clerk. In August 1937 he became Night Supervisor in the Communications Section and on February 16, 1939 he became Chief of the Communications Section. During this entire period, his annual efficiency ratings were “excellent”. His salary during this time started at $1260 annually and progressed to $2100 by July 1939.
Cleon became an FBI Special Agent on June 17, 1940 at an annual salary of $3200. By the time of his retirement in October 1951 he was earning $7600 annually. His last performance rating was “satisfactory”.
After becoming a Special Agent, he attended standard FBI training classes and then was assigned on August 6, 1940 to the Omaha field office. After a short period in Omaha, he was assigned as follows:
12/15/40 = Kansas City field office
04/04/41 = Administrative Division, FBI HQ
06/25/41 = Records and Communications Division, FBI HQ
06/05/45 = Los Angeles field office
10/05/51 = retired
As details below will demonstrate, during his FBI career Skousen had no significant investigatory experience. His FBI assignments were primarily administrative in nature. I will be quoting extensively below from a 14-page summary of his performance evaluations which cover his assignments from 1940 thru retirement.
Even more significantly, he had no special exposure to investigations concerning communism in the United States.
Skousen’s Post-FBI Employment and Activities
After retiring from the Bureau in October 1951, Skousen became an Administrative Assistant to the President of Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City.
In June 1956, he became Chief of Police in Salt Lake City, but he was fired by Mayor J. Bracken Lee in March 1960. Significantly, J. Bracken Lee shared Cleon’s political philosophy. They both were ultra-conservative and they both endorsed the John Birch Society. J. Bracken Lee also served 6 two-year terms as Mayor of Price, Utah and then 8 years as Governor of Utah.
Thus, Mayor Lee’s firing of Skousen caused a major shock within conservative political circles – both in Utah and nationally. [For a detailed discussion of the Lee-Skousen feud, see “Political Feud in Salt Lake City: J. Bracken Lee and the Firing of W. Cleon Skousen”, by Dennis L. Lythgoe, Utah Historical Quarterly, Fall 1974, or see Lythgoe’s subsequent book, Let 'Em Holler: A Political Biography of J. Bracken Lee - Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1982.]
In August 1960, Mayor Lee wrote a letter to Mrs. Elizabeth Laine of Arcadia, CA in which he made the following comments:
“To further explain my position, let me say this, that while Mr. Skousen has written a book and talks against Communism, actually he conducted his office as Chief of Police in exactly the same manner in which the Communists operate their government. The man is also a master of half-truths. In at least three instances I have proved him to be a liar before the City Commissioners and the newspaper reporters. To me, he is a very dangerous man because he preaches one thing, practices another, does not tell the truth, and cannot be relied upon. He also was one of the greatest spenders of public funds of anyone who ever served in any capacity in Salt Lake City government.” [HQ 67-69602, #286; 8/8/60 letter from J. Bracken Lee to Mrs. Elizabeth Laine, Arcadia CA]
When the Educational News Service of Fullerton, CA ran a favorable article about Skousen in its March 31, 1960 issue, Mayor Lee sent them a blistering 3-page response (with copies to 13 other individuals who served on the Board of Directors of the News Service). Among the accusations made by Lee are the following comments concerning Skousen’s 1958 book, The Naked Communist:
“Your article further states that my charge that Mr. Skousen had been using City Police secretarial assistance in the writing of this book was without foundation. The records will show to the satisfaction of anyone that he did use City Policemen and secretaries both to compile, typewrite, and assemble his notes on this book. While I certainly do not object to the writing of a book in opposition to Communism, I do not think it is right that City funds and personnel be used to write a book which resulted in personal gain to that writer.” [HQ 67-69602, #290; 8/16/60 letter by J. Bracken Lee to Mr. Edward T. Price, President, Education Information Inc of Fullerton CA.]
After termination as Police Chief, Skousen then ran for the Republican nomination for Governor of Utah and his campaign literature included the phrase, “Served his country in the FBI 16 years, 4 of them as Administrative Assistant to J. Edgar Hoover during World War II, a top assignment.” [HQ 67-69602, #287; Bureau file copy notation on outgoing 1/12/61 letter to Mrs. Norman Hartnett, Bakersfield CA mentions his campaign literature.]
The John Birch Society inflated Skousen’s credentials even further. See discussion at the end of this article. During my debates with JBS members and sympathizers, some have even claimed that Skousen was “third in command” inside the FBI or that he was an “Assistant Director” – both of which are absurd falsehoods.
The Bureau received numerous inquiries about Skousen’s description of himself and it immediately declared there was no such position within the Bureau as “Administrative Assistant” to Hoover.
Nor is there one particle of evidence in his FBI records to suggest that he was a “top aide” to Hoover. He had a supervisory position within the Communications Section but he had no direct contact with Hoover. The names of Bureau employees who actually were “top aides” to Hoover, appeared on Bureau route slips and they also were stamped on internal memos and correspondence so that important material could be routed to them for review and comment. Skousen’s name does NOT appear on either the route slips or the stamped list of names.
Utah Republican Congressman Henry A. Nixon contacted the Bureau about this matter and his administrative assistant (Mark Cannon) received a telephone call from a senior Bureau official (Robert E. Wick) who pointed out that:
“Wick impressed upon Cannon the fact that the FBI has no control over former Agents; they are not connected with the FBI; and it would appear here that frankly Mr. Skousen is attempting to trade on his former Bureau connection. Wick told him that again very frankly Mr. Hoover and the entire FBI does not appreciate this sort of thing and it is simply unfair to inject the FBI into a political matter of this nature.” … [HQ 94-47468, serial number illegible; 7/28/60 memo from C.D. DeLoach to Mr. Mohr re “Administrative Assistant”; Also see HQ 94-47468, #88; 8/22/68 memo from G.E. Malmfeldt to Mr. Bishop re comment in John Birch Society Bulletin which falsely described Skousen as a “top aide” to Hoover.]
Subsequent to his campaign for the Republican nomination for Utah Governor, Skousen became the Editorial Director of the police journal “Law and Order”, and he also associated himself with Fred Schwarz’s Christian Anti-Communism Crusade (CACC) as a frequent speaker at “anti-communism schools” around the country.
The Bureau was not impressed by Schwarz or his anti-communism “schools”. The Bureau’s Chief Inspector (their expert on communist matters), made the following observations about Schwarz:
“As we know, Dr. Schwarz is an opportunist and we are not having anything to do with him and his activities. It might be added that such people as Dr. Schwarz are largely responsible for misinforming people and stirring them up emotionally to the point that when FBI lecturers present the truth, it becomes very difficult for the misinformed to accept it. In my opinion, Schwarz and others like him can only do the country and the anticommunist work of the Bureau harm.” [HQ 62-69602, #297; 3/13/61 memo from FBI Chief Inspector W.C. Sullivan to A.H. Belmont]. The Bureau frequently described Schwarz with the epithet “professional anticommunist – and they also included Billy James Hargis (Christian Crusade), former FBI Special Agent Dan Smoot and Edgar C. Bundy (Church League of America).
Skousen was described by the CACC as a “faculty member”. One such school was named “Project Alert” and it featured Skousen speeches from October thru December 1961 in Wisconsin. The promotional brochure for the school described “faculty member” Skousen as follows:
“Skousen entered the FBI in 1935 and served in various parts of the U.S. for a period of 16 years. During World War II he served as an administrative supervisor under J. Edgar Hoover in Washington D.C…Mr. Skousen was recently appointed the Field Director for the American Security Council. The most outstanding speaker to graduate from the FBI, he averages 350 speeches a year.”
Not surprisingly, the FBI received hundreds of inquiries concerning Skousen’s background and, in particular, his claims to expertise regarding communism.
By October 1961, the Bureau received so many inquiries that Associate Director Clyde Tolson (the #2 official in the Bureau hierarchy) asked subordinates to check Skousen’s personnel file “in an effort to determine what contact he may have had with the subject of communism in connection with his assignments while working for the FBI.”
The resulting 3-page summary memo contained the following observations:
“Skousen entered on duty 10-24-35 in a clerical position and as an Agent on 6-17-40. He resigned while assigned to the Los Angeles Office on 10-5-51…When he first came to the Bureau as a clerical employee in 1935, he was a messenger. On 8-1-37 he became a night supervisor in the Communications Section and on 2-16-39 he became chief of the Communications Section, his work for the most part being connected with the Teletype Unit.“
“He entered Agents’ Training School on 6-17-40. There is no definite indication in his personnel file that he had any contact with the subject of communism other than the fact that in his first office, which was Omaha, an efficiency report indicated that he handled all types of cases except bank robbery and antitrust. He was assigned to the Omaha Office from August 1940, to December 1940, when he transferred to the Kansas City Office.”
“On 4-4-41, he reported to the Chief Clerk’s Office here at the Bureau and was transferred to the Records and Communications Division on 6-25-41. On 6-5-45 he was transferred to the Los Angeles Office. Efficiency reports indicate that he was primarily concerned with criminal, selective service, and applicant work in his field office assignments. During the period he was in the Los Angeles Office, in addition to some criminal work, he was primarily assigned to police training schools and spoke on the subjects of juvenile delinquency, police administration and public relations. Files indicate that he was a notable speaker and was used extensively on speeches beginning in his first office of assignment as an Agent. In the early 1940s Skousen spoke several times on the subjects of sabotage, national defense and subversive groups; however, due to the fact that this was the period leading up to and beginning World War II, the subversive groups to which he had referred were undoubtedly German or Axis powers.”
“During his tenure at the Seat of Government [Washington DC] as an Agent, he was a supervisor in the Chief Clerk’s Office in the Communications Section and later was assigned to what is now known as the Crime Research Section. A review of articles and statements on which Agents of the Crime Research Section conducted research at that time has been checked and there is nothing to indicate that he did any research on the subject of communism; however, he did research for several articles on sabotage.” …
“A brief check of abstracts under Skousen’s name revealed that between 1941 and 1946 he handled a limited number of investigations or wrote reports or memoranda on internal security and espionage classifications, and from 1947 until he resigned there were no abstracts under his name for either the internal security or espionage classifications. Inasmuch as there was no mention in his personnel file of his having anything to do with communist matters, the fact that abstracts indicate he did some internal security and espionage work back in the early 1940s is undoubtedly insignificant, but rather every indication is that he was primarily associated with criminal work.” [HQ 67-69602, #214; 10/12/61 memo from M.A. Jones to Mr. DeLoach].
IMPORTANT NOTE: I have obtained the personnel files of many former FBI Special Agents---including several whose service was during the same time period as Skousen’s. Typically, when an Agent had specific experience with “communist matters”, or the Agent was considered to have developed any expertise in that area, their annual efficiency reports routinely mentioned such accomplishments during the discussion of their overall performance rating. Significantly, Skousen’s performance evaluations DO NOT mention such experience or expertise --- as will be seen below.
In March 1960 Skousen was added to the FBI’s “Special Correspondents List” [SCL]. Persons considered friendly toward Bureau interests were added to the SCL and they were sent FBI publications such as the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, or FBI Uniform Crime Reports, or general data to present the Bureau point of view. Often, correspondence and inquiries from persons on the SCL received expedited attention.
Skousen was added to the SCL because of his previous position as Police Chief in Salt Lake City, as well as him becoming editor of a national law enforcement journal, plus his work as a field representative of the American Security Council in Chicago.
Several senior officials of the ASC were former FBI employees, including former Inspector Lee Pennington. Pennington also served on the Americanism Commission of the American Legion. (See below for additional information regarding Skousen and ASC).
However, in September 1961 as the Bureau grew more concerned about “right-wing extremists” around the country, FBI Associate Director Clyde Tolson inquired if Cleon Skousen, or former Special Agent Dan Smoot, or Fred Schwarz (Christian Anti-Communism Crusade) were on any Bureau mailing lists.
The answer for Smoot and Schwarz was “no”, but when Tolson learned that Skousen was on the Bureau’s SCL, he instructed that he be removed immediately. J. Edgar Hoover handwrote “Right” on the bottom of the memo discussing the matter. [HQ 94-47468, no serial number; 9/8/61 memo from C.D. DeLoach to Mr. Tolson.]
In April 1962, former FBI Inspector Lee Pennington called the Bureau and spoke to Special Agent Joseph Sizoo. The Bureau memo on this call reports:
“Former Inspector Lee Pennington who is now associated with the American Security Council called Monday in connection with another matter and advised that Skousen had been dropped by the ASC. He had previously represented them in connection with certain speaking commitments, but Pennington said ASC people thought he had ‘gone off the deep end’ and his services had been discontinued.” [HQ 67-69602, #329; 4/11/62 memo from J.A. Sizoo to W.C. Sullivan.]
Retired Admiral Chester Ward was a member of the National Strategy Committee of the American Security Council and his concerns about Skousen were transmitted to the Bureau in January 1963, after Norman H. McCabe (a former FBI Special-Agent-In-Charge), contacted the Bureau.
McCabe brought the attention of the Bureau to Skousen’s proposed participation in a course on communism being sponsored by the ASC. The course was to consist of 65 one-half-hour TV programs featuring Skousen and other alleged authorities on communism.
The Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy (Rear Admiral William C. Mott) contacted FBI Chief Inspector William Sullivan to report his concerns about Skousen’s participation. Sullivan then observed:
“Mott stated that he recently had talked with Admiral Chester Ward, the retired former Judge Advocate General, who told him that he, Ward, had been contacted by Skousen to see if he would be a participating member in the program. Ward told Mott that Skousen impressed him as an ‘unprincipled racketeer in anticommunism’ who is ‘money mad’ and who is doing anything and everything to exploit the subject. Ward told Mott that he intended to have absolutely nothing to do with Skousen in this or any other of his money-making ventures in this field since he feels that Skousen is totally unqualified and is interested solely in furthering his own personal ends.”
“As you know, we frequently receive inquiries from the public regarding Skousen’s qualifications to speak with authority on the subject of communism. In view of his obvious efforts to capitalize on his former Bureau association, I feel that it would be well for us to take positive measures to clarify the Bureau’s position in regard to Skousen whenever we receive public inquiries concerning him. I feel, for example, that in addition to stating that his views are his own, that we should also add in correspondence concerning him that he was not regarded as any authority on communism while employed with the FBI. That is certainly a true statement and it might serve in some measure to prevent Skousen from using the FBI’s name for his own personal gain.” [HQ 67-69602, #338; 1/2/63 memo from W.C. Sullivan to A.H. Belmont.]
Interesting footnote: the writings of both Admiral Chester Ward and Cleon Skousen were recommended and sold by the John Birch Society. Skousen spoke under the auspices of the JBS Speakers Bureau and he authored a 1963 pamphlet entitled, “The Communist Attack On The John Birch Society” which may be seen here:
Sometimes, other former FBI Special Agents contacted the Bureau to report adverse evaluations of Skousen’s appearances around the country. For example, in April 1962, former FBI Special Agent Robert Dellwo sent a letter to FBI Chief Inspector W.C. Sullivan. As Sullivan reports:
“Reference is made to the enclosed letter to me from the above-captioned person, a former FBI Agent who remains a very intelligent and staunch supporter of the Bureau. In this letter, he asks if I could lecture on communism to a gathering of some 7500 people whom he thinks it is possible to organize in Spokane, Washington…Further, it is to be noted that this event would be held as a counter to a similar affair held just recently in Spokane where the principal speakers were extreme right-wingers such as Cleon Skousen.” …
“I think it is of interest to the Bureau to note what Mr. Dellwo has to say about Skousen:
‘Skousen generally keeping the people scared and then at the end of his talk enunciated what he termed an extremely simple solution to the whole problem…His general approach was that on the left was totalitarianism. On the right was anarchy. Along side totalitarianism was international communism, next to it was fascism, next to it were the socialists, then the social democrats, and in the middle were wings one and two of the conservatives and liberals of the United States.’ [HQ 94-47468, #52; 4/24/62 memo from W.C. Sullivan to A.H. Belmont].
Skousen’s speeches around the country were often heard by many thousands of persons who attended Fred Schwarz’s “anti communism schools”. His comments were often so inflammatory that J. Edgar Hoover received numerous letters asking for details concerning Skousen’s FBI employment.
One of the standard Hoover replies was sent to Sister Mary Shaun of Notre Dame Convent. Hoover stated:
“I welcome the opportunity to make it perfectly clear that former Special Agents of the FBI are not necessarily experts on communism. Some of them have sought to capitalize on their former employment with this Bureau for the purpose of establishing themselves as such authorities. I am firmly convinced there are too many self-styled experts on communism, without valid credentials and without any access whatsoever to classified, factual data, who are engaging in rumormongering and hurling false and wholly unsubstantiated allegations against people whose views differ from their own. This makes more difficult the task of the professional investigator.”
“Mr. W. Cleon Skousen entered on duty with the FBI as a clerk on October 24, 1935, in which capacity he served until June 17, 1940, when he became a Special Agent. He voluntarily resigned the latter position on October 5, 1951. Mr. Skousen is no longer associated with the FBI and his opinions are strictly his own and do not represent this Bureau in any way.” [HQ 94-47468, #49; 4/17/62 J. Edgar Hoover reply to Sister Mary Shaun, Notre Dame Convent, Trenton, NJ.]
By contrast, the Birch Society’s Speakers Bureau publicity release on Skousen describes him inaccurately as follows: “He entered the FBI in 1935, serving first as a special agent and later in a supervisory administrative position at FBI headquarters.”
A July 1961 memo from the FBI’s Chief Inspector, W.C. Sullivan, to A.H. Belmont discusses a report in a San Antonio TX newspaper which mentioned that Skousen was planning to write a textbook on communism. Sullivan confirms yet again that Skousen developed no particular expertise regarding communist matters while in the Bureau:
“As we know, Skousen, when he was in the FBI, did not concentrate in the field of communism. However, he has been giving lectures on the subject around the country, and during the past year has affiliated himself with the extreme right-wing groups under the leadership of Frederick Schwartz [sic] of Texas. The above, to me, is another example of why a sound, scholarly textbook on communism by the Director is urgently and badly needed.” [HQ 67-69602, #311; 7/29/61 memo from Sullivan to Belmont.]
In September 1964, the John Birch Society magazine, American Opinion, published a summary about J. Edgar Hoover’s career which was written by Skousen and the magazine’s front cover featured a painting of Hoover by Daniel Michael Canavan. Senior FBI officials debated whether or not to acknowledge Skousen’s favorable article about Hoover. The Bureau memo on the matter observes:
“The activities of Skousen are well known to the Bureau…In recent years he has been aligned closely with the extreme right-wing such as the John Birch Society and has been characterized as an ‘unprincipled racketeer in anticommunism’ who is ‘money mad’ and who is doing everything and anything to exploit the subject of anticommunism. Bureau files reveal Skousen has always been a strong supporter of the Bureau and the Director; however, he has not hesitated to trade on his former association with the Bureau in order to achieve stature as a writer and lecturer on anticommunism. In view of this, it is not felt we should acknowledge his favorable comments about Mr. Hoover. Bufiles reflect that in 1951 the Bureau conducted a Departmental applicant investigation on a Daniel Michael Canavan of New York City. This investigation revealed that Canavan had been discharged from the Army in 1946 because of ‘schizophrenic reaction, paranoid type’. A later name check form on Canavan reflected that he was self-employed as a commercial artist.” HQ 62-104401, #2280; 10/8/64 memo from M.A. Jones to Mr. DeLoach.]
At this point I will quote extensively from a detailed 14-page summary of Skousen’s performance reports which was prepared in 1961. As will be seen below, there are repeated references to his assignments being primarily administrative. And when commendations are discussed, it usually pertains to matters concerning Skousen’s research, speeches, and activities concerning juvenile delinquency and police school instruction.
The November 3, 2006 issue of the Birch Society magazine, The New American, contains an article about Skousen by Warren Mass entitled “He Definitely Made A Difference”.
That article includes this outrageous falsehood:
“Given that during his tenure as an FBI Agent Skousen was closely associated with J. Edgar Hoover [Skousen was one of two FBI agents authorized to speak about communism if Hoover could not address the topic himself], it is not surprising that Skousen became knowledgeable about the subversive communist threat, knowledge that led him to publish The Naked Communist in 1958.”
As the data above (and below) reveals:
  1. Skousen was never “closely associated with J. Edgar Hoover”.
  1. Skousen was NOT “one of two FBI agents authorized to speak about communism”. On sensitive subjects such as communism or internal security matters, the Bureau almost always authorized as a speaker either the FBI Chief Inspector (their expert on communist matters) OR somebody who worked within their Domestic Intelligence Division (DID) – usually a Supervisor or Section Chief. Skousen never worked in DID and he never had significant exposure to data concerning communist matters --- as his performance review comments below demonstrate. His expertise was primarily administrative (which is why you will see so many references below to his participation in FBI Field Office inspections).
  1. And, as the summary presented to Associate Director Tolson (quoted above) points out, “from 1947 until he resigned there were no abstracts under his name for either the internal security or espionage classifications.”
The references below to “SAC” refer to the Special-Agent-in-Charge who wrote Skousen’s performance evaluations:
OMAHA FIELD OFFICE (August to December 1940)
“SAC Stein reported he [Skousen] was very promising material, was mature beyond his years and exercised very good judgment, was well acquainted with Bureau policy and was above average in intelligence, industry and comprehension of the Bureau’s work, had handled all types of cases in that office except bankruptcy and antitrust with very good results…had made numerous speeches and several persons had informed he made a very good talk and was a fine representative of the Bureau, it was believed he possessed both administrative and executive ability…”
KANSAS CITY FIELD OFFICE (December 1940 to April 1941)
“SAC Brantley reported he had a rather comprehensive knowledge of the duties of a Special Agent for one so new in the service…the U.S. Attorney had commented favorably upon his work, got along well with peace officers and his work among confidential informants had been satisfactory as well as his participation in the American Legion program.”
“On 4-4-41 he was transferred to the Seat of Government where he was assigned to the Chief Clerk’s Office as a supervisor. By memorandum dated 4-14-41, Mr. Clegg said from interviewing re-trainees he had learned that this Agent had done some remarkably fine work as an instructor and that repeated statements had been made concerning his recent delivery of lectures before police groups…Mr. Glavin reported this Agent had been assigned to the duties of interviewing clerical applicants and the manner in which he had been performing his duties was particularly pleasing, his memoranda had been very concise and yet complete…in connection with his interview, had briefed a number of files during his assignment and he had handled miscellaneous Congressional inquiries.
FBI HQ – COMMUNICATIONS SECTION (June 1941 – August 1944)
“On 6-25-41 he was placed in charge of the Communications Section. Mr. Nichols reported he had done excellent work in the training of new Messengers and new employees, had imagination, could think problems through, followed details thoroughly…his work had been very satisfactory…By letter dated 10-14-41, the Director advised he was pleased to note the fine compliment which had been paid to this Agent as a Bureau representative when he addressed the Missouri Press Association. By memorandum dated 11-28-41 Mr. Nichols expressed his dissatisfaction with the manner in which this Agent handled a telephone call with Howard Hiatt. As a result of the mishandling of two radiograms, this Agent was censured by letter dated 1-30-42 for not properly instructing all employees in the Communication Section. On the 1942 annual efficiency rating he was rated as excellent by Mr. Nichols…In January 1943, Mr. Nichols reported this Agent had developed considerably during the past year, definitely had administrative ability, handled personnel very well and the morale in his section was among the highest in the Bureau…On 6-7-43 he was designated Personnel Assistant of the Communications and Records Division. In a memorandum to the Director dated 9-2-43, Mr. Laughlin said this Agent was made available to the Staff of the House Appropriations Committee to conduct a survey and inquiry into the central switchboard and teletype facilities operated by the Central Administrative Services of the Office for Emergency Management for the use of the various war agencies…On 1-11-44, Mr. Hicks said based on observations made by representatives of the Training Division during the past year, this Agent was considered a better than average lecturer…By letter dated 3-31-44, this Agent was advised the failure of one of the employees of the Mail Review and Dispatch Unit to carry out specific instructions in connection with the mailing of a letter which was to receive special handling in the Washington Field Office reflected upon the administration of his office. On the 1944 annual efficiency rating, he was rated excellent by Mr. Nichols. Beginning March 27, 1944 this Agent was assigned to the Washington Field Office for a period of two weeks. SAC Hottel reported that during the first week he was assigned to general investigations…During the second week he was engaged in security matter investigations, spending one day of the week in the operation of a technical surveillance. On 6-22-44, SAC Abbaticchio commended the talk that Agent Skousen gave at the Rotary Club, Birmingham AL on 6-21-44. On 8-1-44 he was assigned to Crime Records Section.
FBI HQ – CRIME RECORDS SECTION (August 1944 to June 1945)
“On 10-19-44 Mr. Nichols rated him excellent…Since his assignment in Crime Records he had general supervision over the preparation of ‘FBI This Week’ and ‘The Investigator’ and had done a very good job on each. At the present time he was being quite successful in improving each publication and in creating additional interest in the magazines on the part of Bureau personnel. He had handled several assignments involving original writing and had done a uniformly good job on each. He had also handled a number of very special tours in a very creditable manner. He had likewise filled several speaking engagements and the response from each had been uniformly good…By letter dated 3-3-45 he was commended for the fine comments received concerning his recent address at a Parent Teachers Association meeting. On 3-31-45 Mr. Nichols rated him excellent and said he had an excellent appearance, a winning personality, and an abundance of enthusiasm. He had had general supervision over The Investigator and FBI This Week since his assignment in the section and had done an outstanding job on each…He had developed two of the girls of the section to the point where they could handle much of the work on these two publications. He was one of the best speakers in the Bureau and had given a number of speeches in Washington and vicinity during the past year…In addition he had taken quite a number of special visitors through the Bureau on tours and his work in this regard was outstanding…On 5-24-45 Mr. H.H. Clegg advised that Skousen was afforded training as an Inspector’s assistant on 5-21 and 22, 1945 and it was believed he was qualified to assist in the course of field office inspections…On 6-5-45 he was transferred to the Los Angeles Office due to his ill health and his headquarters was also at San Bernardino.”
LOS ANGELES FIELD OFFICE (June 1945 – thru retirement 10/5/51)
On 8-13-45 SAC Hood rated him excellent and said since arriving in the Los Angeles Office he had been assigned to Selective Service investigation and recently was assigned to a special squad investigating black market activities…On 11-28-45, Mr. Gurnea advised the Bureau that Agent Skousen assisted him during the inspection of the Portland office…He had an excellent knowledge of the Bureau’s rules and regulations and required a minimum amount of supervision after his assignments were made…In January 1946 he was recommended for possible development as an SAC…On 3-31-46 SAC Hood rated him excellent and said he made a splendid personal appearance…He organized his work well, proceeded on his own responsibility and by application of initiative and good judgment was successful in bringing cases to a logical conclusion…He had been assigned to Selective Service matters where he had performed an average volume of work. He had also worked on Black Market activities in the field office and did a commendable job. He had made numerous speeches during his assignment here for which he had received letters of commendation…It was believed he definitely possessed supervisory or administrative ability…On 4-3-46 his SAC was advised that Skousen recently completed a specialized course in juvenile control at the Seat of Government and was now qualified as an instructor in Juvenile control. He was also qualified as a general police instructor. On 5-23-46 the SAC of the Portland Office advised that Skousen handled the subjects of ‘Public Relations’ and ‘Juvenile Delinquency’ at the statewide school of Police Administration held in Portland March 6th to 9th…By letter dated 8-28-46 he was commended for the excellent manner in which he conducted an interview with Mr. John M. Zook, Los Angeles County Probation officer…On 3-31-47 SAC Hood rated him excellent…He was an outstanding representative of the Bureau before law enforcement officers…His SAC had occasion to commend him on numerous occasions for speeches made before local groups…He had a good knowledge of the techniques involved in physical and technical surveillances…It is to be noted during an inspection of the Los Angeles Office in February 1947, Inspector Gurnea advised he was attached to the general criminal squad. In addition, he assisted in police school work…In April 1947 Mr. O.C. Smith, Chief of Police of Whittier CA commended this Agent and others for the training the officers of his department received in gunnery and various phases of police investigation from these Agents…On 1-29-48 Mr. Gurnea advised Agent Skousen assisted him during the inspection of the Phoenix office and he was particularly familiar with office administrative devices when compared with other Agents…On 3-31-48 SAC Hood rated him excellent…He was assigned to the general criminal investigative squad and had the responsibility of writing the Crime Survey and also Interesting Case Write-Ups. During this period the majority of his time had been used as a police instructor. He also was used as an Inspector’s Aide and gave numerous Bureau speeches…He was outstanding in research matters, he spent considerable time doing research on police administration and supervision, juvenile matters, crime conditions and allied matters…On 12-21-48 Inspector Gurnea advised that Agent Skousen assisted him during the Butte and Salt Lake City inspections.”
All the subsequent remarks repeat the same type observations as reported above. The comments praise all the work Skousen did with respect to writing manuscripts pertaining to juvenile delinquency and his participation at police school training classes. In May 1950, for example: “It is to be noted on 5-3-50 the SAC of the San Diego Office stated that Agent Skousen was primarily responsible for the organization and handling of a Juvenile Crime Control School at San Diego California, April 25-27th…On 7-11-50…he had been most outstanding as a police instructor during the past year in the office, having devoted considerable personal time to the preparation of material for his lectures…On 9-15-51, SAC Hood rated him satisfactory and stated he had served exclusively in handling police schools, making speeches, and instructing moot court procedure.”
The last entry on this summary concerns his speeches after leaving the FBI:
“Memorandum to Mr. Belmont dated 3-1-61, reflected that Mr. Skousen had spoken on Communism and his recent speeches in this field were beginning to border on the verge of rabble rousing.” [HQ 62-69602, #334; 5/23/61 summary memo by C.R. Davidson to Mr. Callahan, captioned “W. Cleon Skousen – Former Special Agent”.]