Since former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is running for President, more attention is being paid to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members, commonly called Mormons. Recently PBS broadcast two two-hour shows about Mormons, and people are using Romney’s religion to bash him.

I guess it’s time I wrote about polygamy and the Church, since it’s in the news again. At this point, I need to point out the obvious to the people in the back who are not paying attention — these are my opinions. I don’t presume to speak officially for the Church in the same way that I don’t speak officially for the company I work for. Now that the legalistic CYA is done–curse this litigious society–it’s on to our story. Drudge is reporting some quotes from a recent interview of Romney by Mike Wallace that will be broadcasted on 60 MINUTES this weekend. Here’s one paragraph from Drudge’s flash.

Romney acknowledges that voters may have a problem with his religion’s history of polygamy. “That’s part of the history of the church’s past that I understand is troubling to people,” he says. The practice, outlawed before 1900, is equally troubling to him. “I have a great-great grandfather. They were trying to build a generation out there in the desert and so he took additional wives as he was told to do. And I must admit, I can’t image [sic] anything more awful than polygamy,” he tells Wallace.

I don’t have a problem imagining something more awful than polygamy. Slavery is worse. Hutus and Tutsis machetteing each other is worse. A planet-killer asteroid wiping out all life on Earth would be worse. And I imagine being nibbled to death by ducks would be a real bummer, too.

But is there something intrinsically wrong with polygamy? I’d have to say no since the Bible records many people who were polygamists, and these weren’t bad people, either. Both Abraham and Jacob had multiple wives, and the Bible records them as being godly men. King David also had multiple wives, and when the prophet Nathan confronted David, he confirmed that the wives were given to David by God. It was in the killing of Uriah the Hittite and taking his wife where David sinned.

So if God gave these men multiple wives, how can it be wrong? The key is recognizing the difference between participating in polygamy because God commands it, and doing so because you want to. In the Book of Mormon, Jacob chastised the people because they were taking multiple wives and using the fact that David did so as their excuse.

Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none… For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

So marriage is defined as one man and one woman, unless God commands otherwise. It took a revelation from God to instruct Joseph Smith to start polygamy, and it took a revelation from God to finish it. That revelation came to Wilford Woodruff, the fourth president and prophet of the Church. And since the command to practice polygamy was rescinded at the end of the 19th century, the LDS Church has officially stopped supporting polygamy. Any member of the Church who advocates for or practices polygamy will be excommunicated from the Church. The Church even issued a press release back in 2005 about linking active polygamists with the Church.

Recent news reports regarding various issues related to the practice of polygamy, especially focusing on groups in Southern Utah, Arizona and Texas, have used terms such as “fundamentalist Mormons,” “Mormon sect” and “polygamous Mormons” to refer to those who practice polygamy.

There is no such thing as a “polygamous” Mormon. Mormon is a common name for a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church discontinued polygamy more than a century ago. No members of the Church today can enter into polygamy without being excommunicated. Polygamist groups in Utah, Arizona or Texas have nothing whatsoever to do with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Since it has been over a century since the practice of polygamy was stopped in the Church, why bring it up now? Every time someone in the a U.S. Army gets interviewed, are they asked about the Wounded Knee Massacre? Do reporters bring up the USS Maine explosion when Spain is mentioned? Is Jack the Ripper an issue discussed when London is in the news? The answer to these three examples is no, there is no need to bring up these events from a century past unless the subject is germane to the discussion. So why is polygamy a germane subject for Mitt Romney now? The simple answer is that the media doesn’t like Republicans in general and Romney in particular, so anything that could be brought up to tar him with past events is allowed.

What would be the response if President Bush were to claim, publicly, that Jews don’t believe in God? What would be the response if Rush Limbaugh stated on his show that Catholics don’t believe in God? In both cases, the media and liberal pundits would pitch a regular hissy-fit over the insensitivity, ignorance and religious bigotry reflected in the statement.

Enter Al Sharpton.

“And as for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyways. So don’t worry about that. That’s a temporary… that’s a temporary… uh… situation.”

Reads pretty cut-and-dried to me. Sharpton has tried to backpedal, but he’s just making it worse: “A Mormon, by definition, believes in God. They don’t believe in God the way I do, but by definition, they believe in God.” Then who are the people who really believe in God? According to what Sharpton said, they ain’t Mormons.

Interestingly enough, many of the sites that have quoted Sharpton are cleaning up his language. The actual quote is”those that really believe in God will defeat him anyways”, not “those who really believe in God will defeat him anyway.” And they clear up his stutter at the end. Just a minor nitpick.

Hugh Hewitt sums up the tin ear some people have displayed when it comes to Mormon bigotry:

I argue on a recent Stand To Reason radio broadcast that the American ear has been trained to hear and the American mind trained to condemn racial bigotry, and that that was a very good thing for a civil society to learn.

We have also been trained to hear and condemn anti-Semitism and, to a lesser extent, anti-Catholic bigotry. Again, very good things.

We are in the process of learning to distinguish between anti-Muslim rants and anti-jihadist commentary, and to rebuke the former and welcome the latter as any pluralistic society must.

But we are largely untrained in detecting anti-Mormon slurs like Sharpton’s, even though they are interchangeable with all other ethnic, racial, or religious slurs. See if Sharpton’s bigotry draws any condemnation from within the MSM, or any scrutiny at all.

I’m guessing there will be little to no condemnation coming from the MSM. There will be a few articles, but overall Sharpton will be given a pass by the Left and his comments will go down the memory hole. This is Al “Tawana Brawley” Sharpton, after all.

Why do I expect more from the mainstream press than what they are actually producing? Case in point: the poison pen of Robert Novak. He recently wrote an article trying to tar former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney with an event that occurred 150 years ago, the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Hugh Hewitt does a masterful job of taking Novak to task for his hit-piece:

There is no way to deal with religious bigotry that demands answers to questions that are not a candidate’s to answer. Robert Novak’s column today is just amazing in this regard. The estimable Mr. Novak writes a review of a new movie about the Mormon Massacre, and then casually asides:

Mitt Romney surely is not responsible for what kind of man Brigham Young was, but that question hurts his candidacy. Romney has been described by many Republican insiders as the perfect candidate: magnetic, smart and with an excellent record as an executive. His greatest liability has been religious bias against him. He has never seized this issue, thinking it so wrong-headed that it will go away.

Similarly, he has rejected efforts by the producers of September Dawn to reach out to him. I made three attempts without success to get his views of the movie. Neither watching it nor condemning it, he may just hope that Americans will not include this bloody tragedy in their spring and summer viewing.

Has Novak approached Giuliani on Urban VIII’s imprisonment of Galileo? What an incredibly absurd question and line of reasoning. On Monday the New York Times profiled Barack Obama’s relationship with the pastor who brought Senator Obama into his Christian faith, the controversial Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. This is a fascinating and appropriate subject to raise, as the Rev. Wright has many controversial views and is a significant figure in Obama’s life.

But the attempt to pin the Mountain Meadows Massacre on Romney is nothing short of the worst sort of prejudice–the assignment of guilt or at least the responsibility to explain a particular act of 150 years ago onto a candidate for the presidency in 2007? And when Novak writes that Romney has never seized this issue of religious bias against him, the reporter also reveals he hasn’t done much reporting as Romney has done so again and again –at length in my book, but also in profile after profile.

As I see it, Novak seized the chance to bash Romney and his candidacy over an event that Romney has neither any control over nor rightful blame for, but it’s a handy story to bash Mormon Mitt Romney, so on with the show! Of the declared Republican contenders, Romney is one of two with the executive experience that I see as necessary to being a good President. But whether you like Romney or not, Novak’s column reads more like an anti-Mormon hit-piece than like any serious journalism. I have to wonder why Novak sees fit to thump Romney about his Mormon faith when other Mormons serving in Congress are not asked the same question. Oh, heck, I know the answer to that–Romney is a Republican running for President, so it’s time for the media’s anal exam of anything and everything about him, and short of finding anything more recent or applicable, Novak resorts to using a 150-year-old horror to tar Romney. I figure if the media is willing to give Al Sharpton a pass over the Tawana Brawley fiasco, which Sharpton actually took part in, they should be just as forgiving of a piece of history for which Romney bears no blame.

But you and I both know the likelihood of that happening.

Orson Scott Card has weighed in on the Presidential candidacy of fellow Mormon Mitt Romney. Card’s article addresses six fears that are being raised about Romney becoming President. The first four are answered well:

  • Will Salt Lake City Tell Him What To Do As President?
  • Will Mitt Romney As President Make Mormonism Seem More Legitimate?
  • Mormons Aren’t Christians, Are They? Aren’t They a Cult?
  • What About Polygamy?

And then comes the next objection: Only Dumb and Crazy People Believe Those Doctrines! Yeah, I’ve already seen that charge leveled against Romney, and Card does a great job of addressing it. Here’s part of his response:

Ah. Here’s where we come to the ugly part.

This is what that article about Mormon beliefs in The Week was really about — making Mitt Romney seem like an idiot for believing in Mormon doctrine.

In his book, Hugh Hewitt recounts some really offensive, outrageous attempts by opponents of Mitt Romney to try to force him, in press conferences, to answer questions about Mormon belief.

“Do you, personally, really believe in [insert wacko-sounding doctrine here]?”

Sometimes the people asking that question will be evangelical Christians out to “expose” how false and ridiculous Mormon doctrines are.

But when the press picks it up, it’ll be anti-religious people using a man’s religious faith as a reason to ridicule him so he can’t be elected President.

Do you think Mormons are the only people who can be treated that way?

If you’re a Catholic, would you appreciate some reporter asking a Catholic presidential candidate, “Do you really believe that when you take the communion wafer, it literally turns into human flesh in your mouth? Isn’t that cannibalism?”

If you’re a Baptist, would you think it was legitimate for a heckler at a press conference to ask a Baptist presidential candidate, “So you think that when Jesus comes again, you’re going to just rise right up into the air, no airplane, no jet pack, you’ll just fly? Or aren’t you a good enough Baptist to be in the Rapture?”

Everybody’s religious beliefs sound crazy when you talk about them scornfully.

The next time someone brings that complaint up online, I’ll quote that section of Card’s essay as a response and be done with it. Anti-Mormon bigots who choose to mock Mormons for their religious beliefs have already made up their minds, and nothing I could say — or quote — will change that, so I refuse to waste any more time with them.

But it is the final question Card poses that is the crux of the matter: Is Mitt Romney the Best Candidate? Card doesn’t know, and neither do I, but I can easily say that I’d rather have Romney for President than any Democrat I could name, other than Zell Miller.

Now do yourself a favor and go read the whole thing.

I’ve never tried to hide the fact that I am a Mormon, here or anywhere else. But I do my best not to be pushy with that information. Nor do I demand that other people espouse my particular religious beliefs, although I invite those who are interested to investigate and join my church. Notice, though, that I said “invite” and not “force.” My religion doesn’t allow me to force others to convert:

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. (Article of Faith 11)

Abstinence from alcohol is a fairly well-known tenet of my faith, but the fact that I and other Mormons are forbidden from drinking doesn’t mean that non-Mormons are likewise forbidden. Alcohol abstinence is required for practicing Mormons, but not for non-Mormons — just as eating kosher is required for observant Jews, but not for non-Jews. From my quick searches, it appears that Muslims, too, are required to abstain from certain substances:

“He has forbidden you only carrion, blood, the flesh of swine, and that over which name of other than God is invoked; yet whoso is constrained, not revolting nor exceeding limits, no sin is upon him; God is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Surah 2:173) [emphasis mine - ed]

If I understand this passage correctly, Muslims are forbidden to eat pork, but that constraint is directed specifically at believers, i.e. Muslims. The Qu’ran doesn’t seem to have any injunctions against non-believers who choose to eat pork. And interestingly enough, the commandment to abstain from pork doesn’t appear to be absolute. Sura 5:3 reiterates the forbidden status of pork (among other items), but ends with the following: “However, if any is constrained by hunger, without willfully inclining to sin, then God is Forgiving, Merciful.” So in times of hunger, Allah even allows Muslims to eat pork — as long as they don’t do it along the lines of, “Boy, I sure am hungry. Make mine a bacon cheeseburger with extra bacon.”

While I do not drink alcohol, there is no prohibition against my selling alcohol to others. For instance, I could be a waiter in a restaurant and pour wine for patrons without compromising my faith. I could even be a liquor store attendant or a bartender, although I personally wouldn’t choose these last two careers because I consider them incompatible with my espoused beliefs. How could I recommend a cocktail if I don’t drink? Likewise, in my admittedly quick search of the Qu’ran for information regarding “swine,” I did not come across a verse that forbids contact with pigs or pork products. But it appears that some Muslims in Minnesota have a problem with touching pork and transporting alcohol, to the point that it is affecting their ability to do their jobs.

To summarize the two links above, Muslim taxi drivers at the Minnesota airport have refused to transport people carrying alcohol or using guide dogs (dogs, like pigs, are considered unclean by Muslims), and in some Minnesota supermarkets, Muslim checkers refuse to swipe pork products like bacon. Either the customer must swipe the offending item past the bar-code readers, or another checker is called over to do the job. I have to wonder why Muslims have chosen these jobs if they see a fundamental conflict between carrying out their duties and obeying the tenets of their faith. As pointed out above, you’re not going to find too many Mormon bartenders because most Mormons would see philosophical conflicts between their beliefs and the job requirements. A cab driver’s job is to drive passengers from place to place, be safe and courteous, and collect a fare. If he believes his religion forbids him from picking up certain people even if they can pay the fare, why is he even in that business? Likewise, a cashier’s job is to ring up customers’ purchases. If she cannot or will not handle certain purchases because of religious constraints, why did she choose to take that job? If I’m hired to dig ditches, but I can’t perform the job requirements, why am I in that business? To quote Frank Waturi from Joe Versus the Volcano, “I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?” That’s pretty much the question every employer has to ask about a possible new hire. And if the answer is, “He can’t do the whole job because his religion forbids him from doing it,” why is that person even trying for the job?

If these Minnesota Muslim cabbies and checkers were refusing to serve because of some universal Muslim tenet of faith, I could better understand their commitment. However, based on the articles being written, these incidents appear to be happening only in Minnesota. Muslim cabbies and cashiers who live elsewhere seem to have no problem with transporting customers carrying alcohol or swiping pork-based items at the checkout stand. So what exactly is going on? I suspect it has something to do with the social practices of Muslim groups in Minnesota. Remember the “flying imams” who were kicked off their flight because of their peculiar behavior? That was in the Minnesota airport. The imams in question had just attended a gathering in Minneapolis, and I suspect their unusual actions in the airport were triggered by something that took place in that meeting.

This makes three separate incidents in the past few months where Muslims in Minnesota have kicked up a public fuss due to their religious beliefs. I can no longer believe they are merely coincidental. But the next obvious question is: why are they behaving this way? What is the purpose of demonstrating zero-tolerance, in-your-face Islam to non-Muslims? I’m not sure I have a definitive answer, but I do wonder whether we are seeing the first attempt to prepare the United States to accept Shari’a law. If so, the Muslims are taking actions that seem more coercive than persuasive.

UPDATE (4/17/2007 9:34:10 AM): Action is being taken in Minnesota to make sure taxi drivers actually do their job. Based on this report, the Metropolitan Airports Commission has voted for newer and stronger penalties for taxi drivers who refuse to take a fare. They are looking at a 30 day suspension for the first violation and two years for the second violation. Now comes the expected whine of violated rights.

“We see this as a penalty against a group of Americans only for practicing their faith,” said Hassan Mohamud, an imam and an adjunct professor at William Mitchell College of Law.

But Professor, if doing the job right is a violation of their faith, then why are they even taking the job?

Little Green Footballs pointed to a survey filled out by 307 American Muslims at the Islamic Society of North America’s convention held in Chicago at the beginning of September. In their own words, here is the purpose and the scope of this survey:

The purpose of the survey was to better understand the views of American Muslims on issues relating to Islam, Muslims, and American national security. It is important to let Muslims articulate their varied opinions on these issues in order to encourage dialogue within the Muslim community and with the rest of American society.

However, this was NOT a scientific survey, because ISNA Convention attendees who visited the Muslims For A Safe America booth are not necessarily representative of the American Muslim community as a whole.

So we can’t take the results of this survey as being true for every Muslim in the United States, whether a citizen or not, nor can we apply these results to non-U.S. citizens, whether here or abroad. But even with all those caveats, there is some interesting data from the survey. You can read the entire survey response at their website, but here are some that piqued my interest.

3. Is the American government at war with the religion of Islam?
YES 208
NO 79
UNDECIDED 20

Which is why there are are no mosques left standing in the United States now, and all Muslims have been rounded up and shipped out of the country. Wait, I guess we haven’t done that, have we. If the U.S. government is at war with the religion of Islam, we sure haven’t done much to fight that war. But this survey is not about reality; it is a look at the mind-set of the 307 participants of the survey.

5. Did Muslims hijack planes and fly them into buildings on 9/11?
YES 117
NO 139
UNDECIDED 51

6. Did the U.S. government have advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, and allow the attacks to occur?
YES 200

NO 70
UNDECIDED 37

7. Did the U.S. government organize the 9/11 attacks?
YES 106
NO 151
UNDECIDED 50

Thank you, moonbat left and crazy professors, for making many of these American Muslims believe that the U.S. knew and/or caused the 9/11 attacks.

12. Is Al Qaeda a real organization, operated by Muslims who are trying to attack America?
YES 149

NO 109
UNDECIDED 49

13. Is Al Qaeda attacking America because Al Qaeda hates American freedoms?
YES 17
NO 269
UNDECIDED 21

14. Is Al Qaeda attacking America because Al Qaeda hates American involvement in the Muslim world?
YES 228

NO 54
UNDECIDED 25

If only 149 of the participants answered #12 as Yes, Al Qaeda exists and is run by Muslims who are trying to attack America, then how did 228 answer Yes to #14, that Al Qaeda is attacking the U.S. because they hate our involvement in the Muslim world? The two answers can’t both be accurate because they contradict each other.

24. Should American troops leave Iraq immediately, or stay there until the Iraqi government and Iraqi military are stronger?
LEAVE NOW 199
LEAVE LATER 86

UNDECIDED 22

If the U.S. and allied forces were to pull out of Iraq immediately, the way the majority of these participants want, the result would be a horrific blood-bath among the Iraqi people as different factions there and in neighboring countries would compete to fill the power vacuum. How compassionate are these people if they are willing to see fellow Muslims die in the thousands and possible hundreds of thousands just so they can have the pleasure of seeing American soldiers run away from the fighting in Iraq?

26. Is violence by Muslims against American civilians acceptable, in retaliation for the American government’s actions in the Muslim world?
YES 23
NO 274

UNDECIDED 10

Those 23 people scare me, but they should scare the other 284 Muslims more. Do they really want to see an American war against the religion of Islam? If so, they need to do nothing while their co-religionists kill fellow Americans.

30. If you learned about a plot by Muslims to attack targets inside America, would you tell law enforcement authorities?
YES 234
NO 39

UNDECIDED 34

And this is another scary number. 39 of the people who answered the survey would not tell the police if they learned of a plot to kill people and break things. And if the 23 people who answered No to the earlier question were among the 39 who answered Yes to this one, I can see why they might not want to say anything.

2. Do you consider yourself to be a Muslim first, an American first, or both equally?
MUSLIM FIRST 214
AMERICAN FIRST 4

BOTH EQUALLY 86
UNDECIDED 3

Initially, I was shocked by the answers to this question, but after I thought about it, I had to agree with the 214 people who said they were Muslims first. If my country and my religion were in conflict, I would also choose my faith first. I just don’t see much of a conflict now between my faith and my country, but that hasn’t always been the case. After being driven out of Missouri and Illinois, the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints moved westward out of the United States into the territory that is now Utah and the surrounding states. Shortly after the Mormons moved west, the U.S. annexed the land they were living in from Mexico. So I can see how my country and my faith could be at odds, but historically when it has happened, the opposition from my faith has been peaceful.

That’s probably why you don’t often hear of Mormon suicide bombers screaming “BYU rocks!” before exploding in crowded surroundings.

Here’s the scene — on the fifth anniversary of the attack of Sept. 11th, 2001, George “Brother Jed” Smock, a Christian preacher, stood holding a Bible in one hand and a Koran in the other at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus. He was denouncing Islam as violent and calling Allah a false god. According to the Minnesota Daily newspaper, an unidentified Muslim woman took offense at his words and tried to take the Koran from him. When he refused, she hit and kicked him. She succeeded in breaking his glasses, and she tried to choke him with his own tie.

When the University police arrived, they arrested the woman for assault and battery. Yeah, right. Maybe in another parallel universe, but not here. There is no report of the Muslim woman being arrested for her physical abuse of the street preacher. But Smock was warned (read: threatened) that if he didn’t stop preaching, he could be arrested for disorderly conduct.

I can feel badly for the Muslim. I’m sure she wasn’t used to the fact that people have freedom of speech in the United States, and they can use it to attack other religions. Smock did exactly that when he was bad-mouthing Islam. Trey Parker and Matt Stone routinely bash and mock religions in their television cartoon, South Park. And artists like Madonna and Andres Serrano create Christian-themed art and media that are seen as objectionable, even blasphemous, to many Christians. Either Christians are too wimpy to stand up for their beliefs, or they are mature enough that they don’t need to lash out at their detractors like a five-year-old in a snit. I believe it is the latter.

In Muslim nations, insulting Islam, attempting to convert someone away from Islam, or choosing to convert to another faith are punishable acts. So I can understand why the woman tried to physically restrain Smock from saying what he did. But this is the United States, and we still have our First Amendment rights, even if that Amendment is under assault. You can tell that this isn’t a common understanding in Islam. Consider Batool Al-Alawi, a Kuwaiti student who confronted Smock and another preacher at Indiana State University at Terre Haute. According to the Indiana Statesman, Al-Alawi charged the steps where Smock was preaching and told him, “You have no right.” Well, sorry, Ms. Al-Alawi, but he does have the right, no matter how much you might dislike it.

I’ve noticed recently that not everyone is treated the same way when religion and freedom of speech come together. Every six months, the followers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather for a conference in Salt Lake City to receive teachings from their leaders. This gathering also attracts many people who object to the LDS Church and its teachings, and some of their demonstrations and actions can be deeply insulting to church members. One notorious street preacher paraded before the long lines of faithful Mormons waiting to enter the Conference Center, dragging Mormon scriptures along the ground and using Mormon religious vestments to mime wiping his rear end. To make this relevant to other religions, imagine someone using a Jewish prayer shawl or a Catholic Bishop’s stole in like manner. Most LDS members, knowing that they were being taunted, ignored the antics of these street preachers, but one person lost his temper and tried to take the religious garment from the preacher. The police promptly arrested the Mormon and allowed the preacher to continue doing his thing. Strangely, this is the polar opposite of what happened to Smock and his fellow preachers, who were forced off campus by police at both ISU and the University of Minnesota.

Why the difference between Mormons and Muslims? Muslims are treated differently because they are now part of a protected minority here in the States. You can’t treat them as Christians are treated, because the Council for American Islamic Relations would scream “hate crime” if you did.

And I can’t help but think there is another reason why Christians are punished, but Muslims are treated with kid gloves. Christians, as a rule, don’t riot in the streets and issue fatwas calling for people’s deaths. That’s reserved for the followers of Islam, who collectively display the maturity of a five-year-old in a snit.

UPDATE (9/22/2006 1:48:29 PM): This article has been corrected from its original format; there were two separate incidents involving “Brother Jed” Smock, which were accidentally compressed into one in the original article. –TPK

Since I’m sure not everyone is familiar with the history behind the events I’m about to cite, let me set the stage with a little background information.

It all began when the settlers moved in. They arrived from many different places, gathering together in the land that had become the center of their faith. The concept of Zion was of utmost importance to them. This land, they said, had been given to them by God, and no one had the right to take it from them. But whenever you have a small group surrounded by a larger, hostile populace that does not share their religious beliefs, you have a formula for trouble. It wasn’t long before there were armed conflicts between the settlers and their neighbors.

But religion alone wasn’t the only reason for friction between the settlers and the others. The fact is, the settlers were a devout, hard-working, industrious people who supported each other in their endeavors. They worked the land they had taken, made it productive, made it bloom. In the process, they also became very prosperous–often far more prosperous than their neighbors. And with the blossoming of the settlers’ land, there was likewise a poisonous flowering of the neighbors’ jealousy and resentment.

Over time, this jealousy caused the others to spread rumors about the settlers–about their habits, their beliefs, the things they did in their religious rituals. Much as with the blood libels of the Middle Ages, there were terrible falsehoods spread under the label of “the truth.” Honorable people who had no stake in the conflict were influenced by these rumors. In some cases they grew to distrust, even hate, the settlers–although in truth, the outsiders knew very little about them or their faith. Many came to believe that the settlers were the aggressors, in open defiance of the laws, and the instigators of a war upon their guiltless neighbors. In the end, officials decided that the settlers would have to abandon the land which they claimed God had given them. If not, they would be exterminated.

I’m sure you all know what happened next. The settlers had been driven out of their land, their Zion, their homes, so they fled to a new location. In a short three years, they had turned an unwanted swamp into one of the largest and most beautiful cities in the region. But again, fear of religious differences and envy of their prosperity stirred up the neighboring people to drive them out. After all, other people had been successful in driving these settlers out of their homes before; why not again? So the settlers gathered up their remaining belongings and left their land again in search of a new home. This time they chose to leave the nation that had failed to support and protect them, striking out for a territory that no one else wanted — a barren desert beside a vast, inland salt sea.

But enough about the experiences of the Mormons in America in the 1830s and 1840s. Let’s talk about Gaza.

It is remarkable to note the many parallels between the current Israeli settlers in Gaza, and the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in places like Missouri and Illinois in the 19th century. Both groups believe their land was given them by God. Both were hated by the people who surrounded them because of their faith. Both were removed from their lands by government fiat. Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs actually issued an executive order that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace.” This Extermination Order wasn’t rescinded until almost 140 years later. Now the Jewish settlers in Gaza are being pulled from their homes by their own government. There is no official order to exterminate the Jews, as was made against the Mormons in Missouri, but the surrounding Arab people have made it clear that they consider it their duty to drive out or kill the Jewish people.

Rabbi Marc Gellman posed a very interesting question in Newsweek: “Why can 1 million Arabs live in peace within Israel but 9,000 Jews can’t live in peace in Palestine?” This is a key question that must be answered to understand what is happening in Israel. Rabbi Gellman answered his own question when he made the observation that “Arabs cannot live with Jews but Jews can live with Arabs.” Why should this be so?

To give a little perspective, here is a map showing the state of Israel in blue and surrounded by Arab League states in green. Notice that the tiny sliver of blue is the thorn in the larger Arabic side. The Arabs won’t be happy as long as tiny Israel continues to exist. There are many Arabic states in the world, but there is only one Jewish state on Earth, and the Arabs say that it must be destroyed.

A speck of blue in a sea of green

Jealousy of Jewish prosperity is one reason why Arabs hate the Jews; another reason stems from the age-old issues of religious differences between the Jewish and Arabic people. Both these people have a common ancestor, Abraham, but there has been bad blood between these cousins since the beginning. In the years since the creation of Israel as a Jewish state, Jews and Arabs have clashed multiple times, and there is no indication that this conflict will cease in the future.

If the pullout of the Israelis from Gaza follows the Mormon example, withdrawal will not solve the problem. Once the Mormons were forced out of Missouri, it didn’t take long for hostile people to force them out of Illinois as well. The Mormons solved the problem by choosing to leave the United States entirely, heading for the barren and unwanted valley next to the Great Salt Lake, and founding what is now Utah. But if the Israelis are forced completely out of the one Jewish nation on earth, where could they go? Antarctica? Mars?

Here I will prove that I cannot foretell the future, but I’ll try anyway. Unfortunately, the pullout from Gaza and a few settlements in the West Bank will not stop the hatred and attacks. It will only add fuel to the Arabs’ burning desire to remove all the Jews from Israel. The pullout will be decried as not being enough, and Israel will be asked to do more. Next, the Palestinians will demand full control of the West Bank and the removal of all Jewish settlements in the area. There will be no end to the amount of space and land the Palestinians will demand from the Israelis. When the Israelis finally put their foot down and refuse to give up more land, the Palestinians will complain that they can’t possibly live in peace and happiness unless Israel funds the construction of new buildings and other development in Palestine. Whether they would use these funds to improve their land, or to purchase weaponry with which to further attack the Israelis, remains to be seen.

The Mormons had to wait almost 140 years before the Missouri Extermination Order was rescinded. When will the desire to exterminate the Jews be rescinded by the Arabs?

This past Sunday a man of God spoke in sleepy Cedar City, Utah. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke to a large group of church members there. During this gathering, Elder Oaks admonished single and married members alike to “Flee pornography. It frightens me when I see the terrible influence of the adversary. It’s now available in the bedrooms of teenagers with a few taps of the keyboard.”.

To be honest, I wasn’t at the meeting, but I heard about it for 20 minutes as I was driving home from work. Since my car is a cell-phone-free zone, I was stuck talking to the radio. I realized that there must be something wrong with my radio because the host, Bob Lonsberry, never heard me. Next time I’ll talk louder over the traffic noise. Lonsberry was commenting on Elder Oaks’ conference and was asking the audience to come up with explanations why pornography is bad for married couples. Several callers offered some good ideas, but nobody came up with the two ideas that Bob had in mind. His two reasons were: first, God doesn’t want people to use pornography; second, since pornography is mainly a solo activity, it short-circuits the normal sexual pathways and generates a monosexual or solosexual attitude toward sexual pleasure.

Since Bob didn’t acknowledge my ranting, I’m using this forum, and since it’s my site, I can type what I want, so neener. Anyway, the first reason I came up with to explain why people should avoid pornography is the way it changes the pornographee dirty little pervert’s attitude. When a DLP spends his time looking at nekkid pictures of women, he stops seeing the women he encounters as people and starts to view them as objects. And since they are objects, he will begin to treat them as such. Does he have to worry about their feelings? Not at all! Thanks to porn, he has come to think of sex as a solo act, so he doesn’t have to bother with the niceties of talking with and relating to the females around him. (Then again, since the typical DLP is a pimply-faced wimp who gets his vitamin D from the cheery glow of his computer screen, it’s probably a good thing that he fails to relate with women. We can only hope he won’t breed.)

My second idea is that viewing pornography warps the expectations of sex. Unless you marry a Claudia Schiffer or a Brad Pitt, your spouse/loved one/significant other isn’t going to measure up physically to the images on the computer and television screen. These days it is pretty trivial to digitally edit images, erasing the normal blemishes and flaws that make us human, and the people who work in the porn industry are already on the extreme end of the physical human spectrum. The DLP spends his hours dwelling on these airbrushed images or silicon-boosted babes. Since he is a pimply-faced wimp, he is not going to encounter a supermodel who will fall in love with him. His mental image of the “average woman” is far from reality; he will either fail to find anyone who meets his unrealistic physical standards, or he will “settle for” and look down on a woman who doesn’t measure up to the images on the computer. He cannot fully give his heart to his wife when his lust is tied up with the glow of his screen.

When Christ spoke his Sermon on the Mount, He stated that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” And what is pornography but lusting after a woman? (If you haven’t clued in yet, I’m writing this from my point of view as a heterosexual male.) If the DLP is married, he spends his time lusting after the images of women who are not his wife. How can he become one in mind, soul, and body with his wife when the longings of his mind, the desires of his soul, and the lusts of his body are tied to the images on the screen? This is the recipe for a failed and broken marriage.

A woman called Bob Lonsberry’s show and said that she and her significant other like to buy pornography and watch it together. She claimed they bought porn to give them insight into “sexual techniques” and not for titillation. Fat chance, lady! If you really want to learn sexual techniques, you will do better buying The Joy of Sex or other how-to books rather than buying pornography when the “sexual techniques” are buried in a paper-thin plot and cheesy ’70s soundtrack. A how-to book would be a much better use of this couple’s money than the porn they purchase. Bob asked her if she felt poorly because her sweetheart wanted to look at pornography rather than being involved solely with her. She said that she didn’t, but if she ever caught him looking at porn without her, I suspect it would put the lie to her protestations.

After moving into our new home, we looked in the attic and noticed that someone had left some items there. We left the cheesy lamp and rolled-up carpets, but we pulled down a nice-looking suitcase. Inside we found boxed sets of Oz and Winnie-the-Pooh books, and a practically unused day planner. There were also some well-used videotapes with titles like “Debbie Does Dishes.” We called the previous occupants of the home (day planners with cell-phone numbers are great things) and said we had found a suitcase. The woman who answered the phone was very happy to hear that we had found her suitcase, since she had missed her books. She sent her brand-new husband over to pick up the suitcase, and he came with a friend. When he arrived, he asked us hesitantly if we had noticed anything else in the suitcase. When we mentioned the videotapes, his face went ashen. If he didn’t toss those tapes on the way home, I have no doubt they found a new hiding place at his buddy’s house. How strong do you think this new marriage will be if the husband continues to view porn and hide it from his wife?

I have learned a few things in almost eleven years of marriage. One is not to anger your wife if she owns a pirate cutlass. (If my wife reads this, I’m only kidding.) Another thing I’ve learned is to listen when an apostle of the Lord tells you how God wants you to live.