Christians v Pharisees: Choosing Sides And How To Fight For Them In The Mormon Civil War
EPISODE 5A - THIS IS YOUR PLACE IN THE PHARISEE FINANCIAL FEUDAL SYSTEM
- THE STOCKDALE PARADOX
- MAMMON MIA!
- THIS IS YOUR PLACE IN THE PHARISEE FINANCIAL FEUDAL SYSTEM
- THE SWORD OF VENGEANCE HANGETH OVER YOU
- SABBATH OR SOULS?
CHRISTIANS VS PHARISEES: CHOOSING SIDES AND HOW TO FIGHT FOR THEM IN THE MORMON CIVIL WAR
EPISODE 5A - This Is Your Place in the Pharisee Financial Feudal System
THE STOCKDALE PARADOX
Welcome intrepid listeners! Thankyou again for the overwhelming and very moving and encouraging feedback to these podcast episodes so far. It has really reassured me that what I am trying to communicate and make some sense of in them is accurately representing the concerns and experiences of the thousands of our dear friends in our families and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are experiencing deep trust and faith crises and are trying to decide what to do or think about it all, and the people who have concluded that they have to leave the Church for them and their families to be mentally and spiritually healthy, and the people who have concluded that the Church is incapable of making the changes needed to be safe to remain in or return to.
Many have kindly expressed deep gratitude that I am speaking up to communicate to anyone willing to listen WHY it is so many Church members are in this pain and facing these sometimes terrifying choices with enormous implications for their personal and family life, and that I am having a go at identifying what the potential solutions could be, or are simply going to have to be, for the Church to be healthier and survive. They appreciate that I am holding space for being completely honest about the problems and how very serious they are without underestimating them or making the usual lame excuses for things that are simply inexcusable. They appreciate that despite the demoralising scale of these problems I am also talking about the great good and huge potential of Mormonism to still become a significant world religion if we can live up to the Christian ingredients in our religion and can throw off what Dieter Uchtorf called in General Conference the MOUNTAIN of sediment of man-made ideas, programs and expectations that are crushing the flower of the real gospel in our Church.
He saw clearly the scale of our problems and spoke up about it. He was punished for this by being demoted from the First Presidency by a new regime who refuse to admit that there is anything wrong. We all know that ordinary Church members speaking publicly about these problems also risk being silenced or excommunicated and of course efforts have already been made to intimidate me into keeping quiet.
I am starting to hear that of course this speaking up and what I am talking about is spreading consternation among some Church members and their local leaders who have never heard about these problems and dysfunctions in the Church before and want me silenced because they are worried that I am harming testimonies by talking about these things.
My response to that is simply to reiterate that I am just one of many messengers. What I am talking about is all true and you can fact check it for yourself. You can’t make the truth go away by shooting all the people talking about it. No organisation ever saved itself by ignoring the truth about itself. The dangerous threat to their testimonies is not me or anyone else communicating them but the uncomfortable, embarrassing and disturbing truths themselves, which are NOT our fault. Responsibility for them lies with the senor Church leaders who for generations now have repeatedly and consciously chosen to lie or hide these truths, or mingle their lies with the truth. THEY are what trigger trust crisis. It’s the message not the messengers.
And even If I never said a word, you still need to have a major reality check. There are no secrets any more. As our scriptures have prophesied from ancient times and as we just studied in Doctrine and Covenants Section 1 in our first lesson of Come follow Me this year, the Church leaders’ sadly rather numerous “iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.” The internet has completely changed everything and as I documented in Episode 4 its arrival was the fundamental starting point of the crash we are experiencing in our active membership. Our Church more than any other has had its active membership decimated by the internet because OUR leaders were telling so many lies and hiding so many truths from us, about almost everything.
All of those people will encounter this information anyway at some point and it will rock their world. So surely it is much better that they hear it at Church from active members with an agenda to help them process it honestly and rationally and still see enough good in the Church, or potential for reforms to give them hope, than for them to hear it first from people who are quite happy for them to leave and never look back. I’m not saying leaving and never looking back is not a completely reasonable response to how much we have been lied to and in many ways harmed by what I am calling as a helpful catch-all term the ‘Pharisaical’ distortion of the truthful and healthy Christianity we could and should be prioritising, but once people find out about what has really been going on it is a VERY hard sell to convince them to stay. So we need to do a really good job of it instead of attacking and shooting down the people who are trying.
Elder Ballard said we need to ‘inoculate’ our members to be able to process this information without it killing their testimony. Telling people to ignore it and put it on a shelf to deal with one day is not inoculation. Hiding it from people is not inoculation. Telling people to pray for a warm fuzzy feeling is not inoculation. Inoculation means, as we are all learning now in the Covid pandemic, being exposed to the potentially fatal virus or the truth and supporting a person to understand it and live with it so they become stronger and it is no longer a dangerous threat to fear.
A heroically good man my age who I grew up around in the youth of my stake who is now a councillor in the stake presidency recently shared an insight I wasn’t aware of in a stake Zoom fireside about self reliance. It is the Stockdale Paradox. Admiral James Stockdale was an American pilot in the Vietnam War whose plane was shot down over North Vietnam and spent many years as a prisoner of war there in brutal conditions. When asked by a researcher into the psychology of survival what personality traits led to some of his fellow prisoners burning out and giving up and dying before they were eventually released, he paradoxically said it was the optimists who were doomed. They kept having unrealistic expectations that their imprisonment couldn’t possibly last much longer, but as each new short-term expected deadline they set themselves like next Christmas or Easter passed they sank into despair.
His advice to us all was “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end - which you can never afford to lose - with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” That really spoke to me about what I am seeing going on all around me in the Church as we face what is rapidly turning into its worst ever crisis, which is saying something when you have studied its early history when existential crises came thick and fast. I have faith that it has the potential to prevail in the long run but I'm trying to be brutally realistic in analysing what those threats to its survival are, and I am surrounded by completely unrealistic optimists who think it cannot possibly be wiped from the face of the earth and that our global leaders are doing a fantastic job. Then when they do realise things are getting pretty terrible as their children and congregations run screaming from the building, they are passively waiting for some kind of miraculous intervention to make it all OK like the second coming of Jesus Christ or the prophet to have a revelatory brainwave that will bring them all back. But I can also see the despair setting in. Their mojo is fading and my peers who are now the leadership class at ward and stake level seem to have lost the energy and spark they once had as they cannot ignore any more the accelerating decline of everything we have invested so much of our hearts and souls into.
I really hope that my speaking up does not lead to Church discipline and that all the priesthood leaders who are currently mulling over whether to make that mistake will have the integrity to look past their fearful conditioned responses to anyone critically analysing our Church and make the effort to listen and understand what I and all the other people telling them the same things are actually saying. I hope they will be honest with themselves about whether these concerns are valid, and whether they are offering any better analysis or solutions.
The reason deeply concerned and committed members of the Church keep reaching the tipping point of becoming vocal critical analysts of the problems driving our loved ones out of the Church in public forums is because generations of international and local leaders have repeatedly failed to recognise these problems or do anything much at all about them. They sooth their ruffled feathers by blaming the people who left for being lazy or never really having a proper testimony or understanding enough or wanting to sin. Because the Church has conditioned them to think it impossible that people who have had all the knowledge they have, all the spiritual experiences, all the experience in ministering and leadership, and are expert scriptorians with a robust prayer life could actually still have completely valid reasons to become catastrophically disillusioned with the LDS Church and go, that have nothing whatsoever to do with a lack of knowledge, experience or religiosity or wanting to have a drug fuelled orgy or a cup of tea.
To take just one example, you international and local leaders have been sitting on the Gospel Topics Essays for 7 years now and most of you have done nothing whatsoever to understand or educate your ward and stake members about what is in them and ensure that all our teachers and members know them “Like the back of your hand” as M Russell Ballard told us all to in his speech to the Church Education System Staff on 26 February 2016 that you can watch on the Church website called “The Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES Teachers in the 21st Century” and reemphaised to all the Church members when that address was published in the December 2016 Ensign. You have been cowards or just too busy with other priorities like memorising the minutii of the new Handbook of Instructions to bother keeping up with the fact that the Church just flipped the carpet from under the feet of several of our fundamental and foundational truth claims in an effort to be a bit more truthful, and it has upended almost everyone who has read them.
You have not noticed or taken responsibility for the fact that these Essays do NOT resolve or fix ANYTHING. They are nuclear weapons destroying people’s testimonies all over the place because they basically admit on behalf of the First Presidency that authorised them that a LOT of things we were all taught were fundamental truth claims of our Church about its origins, doctrines, scriptures and history were lies, and then people do a bit more investigating and quickly discover that the Apostles lying to us about them KNEW they were lies. The trust is destroyed, or severely battered.
The Essays on the Church website are still whitewashed propaganda, but they contain a lot more honesty about the Church’s racism, polygamy, how the Books of Mormon and Abraham were really created and suchlike than ever before in official Church publications. .
YOU international and local leaders have totally failed to provide the essential pastoral care needed to then guide Church members reading them to process the implications of what the Essays reveal. There is nothing within the Essays that justifies or advises members about how to process the realisation that we were all lied to and still feel able to relate to the Church or our religion in a relationship of trust. That has to come from informed and empathetic leaders who are not in denial about the scale of this pain, and who have some helpful ideas to offer about how to navigate it all. In nearly every case you bishoprics and stake presidencies have totally dropped that ball and done nothing except hope with your fingers crossed that noone reads them or talks about them. And that has been the scenario so far in just that one of a very long list of crises impacting our members today.
So until you get your own acts together and stop ignoring and failing to prepare or protect your family and your congregation members from this information, these inconvenient TRUTHS that are all always just a click away on the internet, how dare you criticise or try to silence or excommunicate the people trying to fill the vacuum of information, offer support and take the responsibility that you have so spectacularly failed to do your duty and provide? It’s shameful hypocrisy. Where are your podcasts? Where are your firesides and lessons addressing these issues destroying your wards? Where are you making it safe to talk about ANY of these things in lessons or talks or even private conversations on a Sunday? With very rare exceptions, you aren’t doing ANY of that are you. So in the absence of you taking responsibility and choosing to waste your ministering time on trivia while giant great White Sharks of truth come and devour your congregation, some of the rest of is are getting on with being realistic about them and how exactly we are going to have to equip our people with the knowledge and strategies they will need to live safely and peacefully with the sharks. The sharks of truth aren’t going away. The Elephants in the room are multiplying. The Wombats of Doom and the Okapis of Oblivion are approaching.
On a more conciliatory and hopeful note I hope you can somehow resist the urge to excommunicate me, or resist the phonecalls you will probably be getting from the thought police of the Strengthening Church Members Committee in Salt Lake who will at some point be sending you their file of the naughty truths I’ve said in public and instructing you to excommunicate me, or to cordially invite me to resign my membership and leave without an embarrassing public scene, which is their new tactic with people being too vocal with the truth. I hope you will remember that they are not allowed to do that because Church discipline should be initiated by stake presidents, not anyone higher up the ranks. And I hope you will hold the line and make a safe space inside your stake for truth, and for being able to talk about the truth without paranoia even if it makes you uncomfortable.
Because it is that fear and refusal to even talk about these things or acknowledge these problems that make it so catastrophic and final when members inevitably encounter them. Because they did not hear about all this from YOU first. YOU helped to hide it from them or silenced the people trying to inform them about and help them to handle the truth. Perhaps with the very best of intentions, you became part of the problem not the solution. And the fruits of that fundamental and negligent strategic error by nearly all of our leaders at every level is that we are now down to less than 15% of our members active in the UK and falling fast.
I’m here to help. Massive communities online have got on with talking about all these things for years while you did nothing and frankly we are way ahead of you. We’ve already worked it out and identified precisely the causes and the solutions for all these difficult challenges. Even the people who have left and despise the Church for what it did to them will happily tell you what to do to stop hurting more people like they were hurt. And they really know what they are talking about. So I invite you to listen and learn. I offer myself to come and speak to your ward or stake leaders and get them up to speed in person or online. I am more than willing to engage in dialogue with anyone. I promise it will not be boring and you will find it useful and ultimately encouraging.
Please don’t whisper and worry behind my back. I’m a big boy. I won’t take anything personally. Talk to me. I love this Church and I love this religion and I really want it to still be here in 20 years. At the moment it’s not going to be is it. Why not give it a try and see if I or others like me can help you to catch up and cope with this disaster unfolding in your wards and stakes which you must be worried sick about, and show you what you have been missing all along. And if you prefer someone more local to you to do that, I might be able to put you in touch with someone else who can help if you are up for it.
We have got to stop fearing and fighting and silencing the Latter-day Saints who are actually facing up to the uncomfortable truths and really harmful behaviours we have normalised in the Church. I’m a bit long winded as you may have noticed so I’m working on a snappy mantra for Mormon reality check and hope. So far it goes something like this: ‘There are no justifications for the current state of the LDS Church being OK. We deserve better. We can do better. We have nearly run out of time to do better.’ …It needs some work!
Episode 6 will be about the ways the current First Presidency and Church Universities are trying to control everyone by telling them to stop using their own minds, and Episode 7 will be a celebration and exploration of the amazing ideas and opportunities that Christian Mormonism should and could be totally winning the 21st Century with. But this episode is all about the MONEY! And it’s a wild ride. Strap in!
Money can be tricky to talk about in a religious context. As soon as you complain about the Church taking your money it is easy to come across as selfish and putting money before God and you immediately lose credibility. I fell for this when my sister’s Cornish Bishop Stephen Bloor lost his trust in the Church, triggered by finding out about Joseph Smith’s predatory polygamy of his teenage housemaids, teenage foster daughters and friends’ teenage daughters, while he was serving as Bishop. He was excommunicated in a somewhat dodgy process of panic and paranoia, and became a vocal critic of the Church online. He then teamed up with another prominent British dissident, once stake President Tom Phillips who has been one of the few contemporary Mormons who have spoken publicly about the Second Annointing ritual in the temple administered to General Authorities and faithful local leaders they trust guaranteeing them exaltation in the eternities whatever sins they commit thereafter, including rape and murder and lying for the Lord presumably, except for blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, because apparently the General Authorities and their local buddies are better judges of a person’s fitness for eternal exaltation than Jesus and they can’t wait for the Almighty to do the job Himself on judgment day. I wish they’d been that impatient to get rid of racism in the Church! Or those CTR rings that used to really pinch.
Phillips and Bloor lodged a legal claim for financial compensation from President Thomas S Monson as head of the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the two holding companies that are the overall corporate overseers of the Church as a financial entity. The next level down includes the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop.
Between these two corporations they oversee the many for-profit tax paying investments and companies owned by the Church including media companies like the Deseret News and radio and TV stations, the Beneficial Life Insurance company, banks, hotels and restaurants, real estate, forestry, mining, the hundreds of millions of dollars stake in the City Creek Mall in Salt Lake City, Deseret Books and more. The Corporation of the Presiding Bishop primarily holds the Church’s non-profit tax exempt enterprises such as educational institutions and charities, the Ensign Peak Advisors investment portfolio worth over $100 billion and the global management of the Church’s religious buildings and grounds.
The Corporation of the President owns 2% of Florida, including the world’s largest beef cattle ranch, which they are planning to build enough towns on to house half a million residents.
This particular news had me in stitches because the radicalised fanatical end-time Mormons who are to be found in most of our congregations are expecting any minute now to have to load up their food storage and their guns and head to Missouri to await the return of resurrected Adam to his Garden there and live in tents at their own expense like the impoverished but noble original Mormon pioneers. The Church has taken from them and hoarded more than enough money to build them all luxury hotels with an army of servants and personal chefs in Missouri! Adam-Ondi-Ahman could already be a massive holiday resort prepped and ready to welcome us when the crucial moment comes. If that’s really where all the Mormons are going to have to end up living, why aren’t they building cities THERE instead of in flat Florida which will probably be among the first bits of real estate to disappear under the sea when the rains come down or the icecaps melt and the floods come up? Why not invest in land and property in the one place that definitely WON’T be destroyed at the second Coming of Jesus? What’s the point of teaching everyone about Adam-Ondi-Ahman for 2 centuries already if you don’t conduct your business as if you actually believe it, instead of spending billions of widows’ mites where it will DEFINITELY go up in smoke in the stock market or drown in Florida real estate as soon as the prophesied ‘last days’ environmental and political catastrophes occur?
…I’ve really gone down a rabbit hole there haven’t I, but I’m making a serious point. Let’s all really start paying attention to the difference between what is believed and done by the most fanatical and faithful Mormons, or at least the ones who think they are the most faithful and righteous and virtue signal about that constantly, and what the actual Apostles they are kidding themselves to assume are on the same page as them REALLY believe and do with the money they hand over and their flipflopping on policies and doctrines. There is almost nothing in what those leaders are actually doing that is in harmony with the assumptions of the super-self-righteous fanatical Mormons constantly fretting that the end is nigh.
You know who those are – they are the Mormons who are the first to shut down anyone challenging their outdated and inaccurate McConkie Mormonism narrative by daring to suggest in a Sunday lesson that maybe Noah’s flood didn’t actually happen in 4000 BC and entirely reboot the human race on earth to one family. The ones who jump defensively to bear their testimony if anyone dares to criticise or disagree with or suggest a different way to look at a particular policy or interpretation of doctrine to theirs. The Mormons who get uncomfortable… and then irate if the lesson strays at all from just being an exercise in reciting the same answers they were taught to give in Primary or Seminary as a self soothing exercise in comforting certainty rather than actually being an EDUCATIONAL experience. An educational experience HAS to involve challenging people to revisit and question and improve on their previous certainties, and to actually learn something new that they didn’t know before. The smug pharisees sucking all the interest and fun and mental challenge out of our amazing religion and eventually wearing out the patience and hope of the people more interested in progressing until they just stop attending the lessons, or any of Church any more, because it is so dull and pointless and frustrating. They think they know it all when they know so little about their own religion’s doctrinal complexity and journey as that evolved, so little about what their leaders are really up to and how they exercise power and control over them, and so little about the Church’s real history. They are trapped in a narcissistic feedback loop gazing at a reflection of their own righteousness and certainties, and repeating the same boring answers to the same boring questions over and over and mistakenly thinking that they are learning and being educated. They have been made very easy to manipulate and exploit.
Stephen Bloor and Tom Phillips accused President Thomas S Monson of fraudulently extorting tithing donations from them on the basis of demonstrably inaccurate beliefs like the earth being 6,000 years old and that the Book of Abraham was directly translate from an ancient Egyptian papyrus which has turned out to be a typical burial text of the Egyptian religion and nothing at all to do with the content of the Book of Abraham.
They were obviously never going to win, although the case surprised everyone by initially resulting in a magistrate in London issuing a summons for President Monson to appear in court to address the charges till a higher court threw it out. Watching from afar and only hearing snippets of what was going on I found it embarrassing and futile and made sarcastic comments about the Billy Connolly film “The Man Who Sued God” at the time. For me the credibility of Phillips and Bloor was toast. We are so conditioned that it suddenly becomes a credibility-breaker when a person criticising the Church’s corruptions refers to how much of their money the Church took. Their motivation and integrity don’t seem so sincere any more and it is too easy to accuse them of being selfish and only caring about the money. The same accusation is levelled at podcasters like John Dehlin at Mormon Stories who receive a salary from their projects in order to be able to do it full time and feed their children. At least they are transparent about their finances, which the Church is not at all. So let’s get real here and take the venom out of that sting of complaining about having paid a lot of money to the Church meaning you have no integrity and are worldly and selfish.
It is one of the actual 10 commandments not to steal money from people. Resisting the urge to rob everyone you meet is a spiritual test. And Jesus was very specific that the Pharisees impoverishing widows on false religious or charitable pretences were heading for a very unpleasant hell. If He was Jehovah He taught this through Isaiah 10 in the Old Testament, and in Mark 12:40 he condemns Church leaders “Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation."
He specifically condemned them for making money more important than spiritual integrity and godliness when he said in Matthew 23, which I focused on in Episode 3, that they regarded an oath made in association with the money in the temple as much more significant than an oath or covenant related to the temple itself.
So let’s not be squeamish about discussing money and fraud as if that’s somehow out of bounds. Being upset about being robbed and financial corruption is just as spiritually valid a being upset about other doctrines and behaviours and commandment-breaking. Jesus talked about money a lot. And if people are breaking the 8th commandment to not steal, and also breaking the 9th commandment by lying to do it, this is definitely a legitimate concern that is not beneath the dignity and integrity of Mormons of the highest calibre to be concerned about and talk about. In court if necessary.
After all, on her world tour accompanied by her husband the Prophet Russell M Nelson, his plural wife Wendy repeatedly declared that she had had two profound miraculous spiritual witnesses that convinced her beyond all doubt that he IS God’s prophet on the earth today and used to hang with his homies Isaiah and Nephi in the preexistence as they planned for his glorious reign in our super-special time that was SO personal and sacred that she couldn’t possibly share it with us mere peasants….. but she could swear to it in a court of law… and her implication was she would WIN and prove her case if she did it would be so convincing.
“There’s an old saying that the wife is the last to know. The Lord intervened so that she was not the last to know. She had a distinctive experience engraven on her heart and seared into her mind. This experience was repeated two days later. She won’t share the experience with us, because of its nature, but she can testify that President Nelson is called to be a prophet today. Etc…..”
So according to the First Family of Pharisee Mormonism, a court of law is actually an even holier place to discuss sacred things than a conference of the one true President Prophet Seer and Revelator meeting with the temple recommend-holding faithful Saints and literal children of God who, of all the teeming billions of people on earth, are the most likely to one day be actual deities ourselves.
Pharisee Mormonism has embedded throughout our culture the idea that if you are not willing to hand over whatever money the Church leaders ask for without question, or wanting any reassurances about what it will be used for, and if it is really even needed, then that is a sure sign that you are worldly and spiritually broken and not humble enough before God. This idea needs to be challenged and decisively defeated. One of my dear friends I grew up with since we were tiny tots in the Sunbeams class in primary and served a mission around the same time as me who has since been disillusioned and left the Church said religions offer the perfect financial scam opportunity. You take money from people with promises of blessings now or in the next life, and if the blessings don’t happen coincidentally now, there is no accountability because we cannot fact check the afterlife. It’s a win win for the people taking the money either way. A perfect crime.
And when you discover just how many lies have been and still are told by our Mormon Apostles about God’s requirements of our money, it changes a LOT.
I now think of the Phillips and Bloor courtroom drama as a genius piece of protest performance art. It seriously put the wind up a lot of religious organisations who followed it closely and started to get nervous; it got headlines in national media; and it forced anyone interested to ask serious questions about the conflation of religion and money. How do we differentiate between religions convincing people to pay up based on by definition irrational supernatural beliefs and stories when in a non-religious setting convincing people to part with their money because of a made up story and promised rewards that don’t actually happen would be immediately regarded and prosecuted as deceptive fraud exploiting the vulnerable and gullible, and result in convictions? So Bravo chaps! And that was all BEFORE we discovered that President Monson had continued President Hinckley’s top secret investment program to hoard so much tithing money they could pay off the national debt of several nation states.
These days there is a very long list of purely financial reasons to justify fraud prosecutions against the LDS Church hierarchy, so in retrospect it was fascinating that they focused entirely on verifiably false religious truth claims and beliefs and how THEY lead to significant financial decisions by Church members and their leaders.
Well, here’s some timely and interesting news. A Federal Class action lawsuit against the Church making very similar argument is working it’s way through the American court system and gaining momentum. Maybe Wendy Nelson is going to get her chance and we’ll FINALLY find out what Got showed her, TWICE. that’s so sacred she can only tell us about it in a court of law…….
If we decide to step out of the ‘pay and it doesn’t matter what they do with the money’ blind faith and trust in the leaders mindset that the Church leaders advocate to do some proper research and follow the money trail, the startling discovery for most members of the Church is that we are at the bottom rung of a global feudal system of power, privilege and financial exploitation that for decades now has been harvesting money from the international poor and pouring it into the wallets, communities and lifestyles of a privileged oligarchy of mostly white American General Authorities, and their extended families and friends. And we discover that we had absolutely no idea this was happening because of the towering mountain of lies they told us about all of it.
THIS IS YOUR PLACE IN THE PHARISEE FINANCIAL FEUDAL SYSTEM
A feudal system is how prototype human civilisations organise themselves with vast masses of powerless peasant farmers and slaves working hard to create tiny profits in a basic agrarian economy which are then passed up a hierarchy of ownership and power through landowning aristocrats until it is concentrated in large enough amounts to allow a very small cluster of families at the top of the pyramid to live a life of Riley with comforts and luxuries beyond the wildest dreams of the masses. This whole system is only able to happen because everyone at the lower levels, who far outnumber their overlords and could easily overthrow them, is told by their royal despots and their priests that this is the will of God who has decided where everyone should be in the ranks. They and their children should stay in their place and accept their low-status limited role in life, do their duty, and hand over their money and crops to the aristocrats and the priests without complaining because it is good for them. It’s all part of a divine plan that they don’t need to understand beyond accepting that it is God’s will, and it is keeping them and their family safe. A feudal system depends on convincing the peasants that any rebellion against their kings will actually harm them and their exploitative society rather than helping it.
One of the most extraordinary chapters in the Book of Mormon is Alma 30, which to me personally is proof that something much more amazing was involved in writing it than Joseph Smith directly plagiarising the Kings James Bible and creatively synthesising the big social and religious ideas sloshing around in his community, for which there is also convincing evidence that I will discuss how to navigate in the next episode 6 focused on the battle between the Christians Mormons and the Pharisee Mormons for control of our minds.
In Alma 30 Korihor the anti-Christ trots off every rational philosophical argument that the modern age has come up with to argue against belief in God, including several ideas that were first written down and gained traction decades AFTER the Book of Mormon was published. He hints at postmodern theory that things only mean what society at any given moment wants them to mean and there is no absolute unchanging truth or morality so “and whatsoever a man did was no crime.”
He teaches the Darwinist theory of evolution applied to human society as what we now call Social Darwinism where only the ruthless and strong prevail – “every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength.”
Korihor is recorded as going into most detail prefiguring the Marxist critique of religion as a system of oppression administering the anaesthetic or opium to the masses telling them to ignore the pain of their oppression, and recognise that they could make a heaven on earth instead of waiting for it to happen after they are dead and end their suffering if they would just realise they don’t have to live hard and die young just to make a few families rich. It should be they who receive the rewards of their hard work, not their rulers and priests.
The Book of Mormon was published in 1830, 29 years before Charles Darwin’s ‘Origen of Species’ (1859) and 53 years before Marx’s ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right’, which he started writing in 1843 but was not published until after his death in 1883 which contains the famous polemic about religion being the opium of the masses.
Alma 30 says Korihor went to the city Gideon and declared to their high priest Giddonah:
“27 And thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges.
28 Yea, they durst not make use of that which is their own lest they should offend their priests, who do yoke them according to their desires, and have brought them to believe, by their traditions and their dreams and their whims and their visions and their pretended mysteries, that they should, if they did not do according to their words, offend some unknown being, who they say is God—a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be. 29 Now when the high priest and the chief judge saw the hardness of his heart, yea, when they saw that he would revile even against God, they would not make any reply to his words; but they caused that he should be bound; and they delivered him up into the hands of the officers, and sent him to the land of Zarahemla, that he might be brought before Alma, and the chief judge who was governor over all the land. 30 And it came to pass that when he was brought before Alma and the chief judge, he did go on in the same manner as he did in the land of Gideon; yea, he went on to blaspheme. 31 And he did rise up in great swelling words before Alma, and did revile against the priests and teachers, accusing them of leading away the people after the silly traditions of their fathers, for the sake of glutting on the labors of the people. 32 Now Alma said unto him: Thou knowest that we do not glut ourselves upon the labors of this people; for behold I have labored even from the commencement of the reign of the judges until now, with mine own hands for my support, notwithstanding my many travels round about the land to declare the word of God unto my people. 33 And notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor; neither has any of my brethren, save it were in the judgment-seat; and then we have received only according to law for our time. 34 And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren? 35 Then why sayest thou that we preach unto this people to get gain, when thou, of thyself, knowest that we receive no gain?”
In the story Korihor has to admit they weren’t being paid money for being religious leaders and that Satan appeared to him and told him what to say and he comes to a literally sticky end trampled underfoot.
To me, and this is not the only way to frame this, I find this fascinating as a keen student of 20th century history and politics and religion. It feels like this was Satan limbering up, flexing his muscles early in a trial run for his massive victories that would come in our time and it was as if Korihor was speaking to our world rather than the Nephite one, or Joseph Smith’s one.
Somehow Joseph Smith managed to identify that the Social Darwinism that led to the pseudosciences of Eugenics and the Nazi genocides, and Marxism would end up becoming two of the most significant forces in the world driving people towards atheism and persecuting religious belief in ways Joseph Smith’s contemporaries hadn’t even begun to imagine in this book of scripture that claimed to be edited to be of particular relevance to the situations and needs of the modern age its editor Mormon saw in detailed vision, according to its own text.
There is an argument to be made that on the Marxist front the French revolution that inspired the American Revolution had gone in a very dark direction with overt hostility to the Roman Catholic Church as an enabler of the aristrocracy who were having their heads removed by Madame Guillotine. Notre Dame cathedral and several other churches were redecorated and repurposed as ‘Temples of Reason’ with imagery and rituals emphasising atheist rational and scientific thought as the religion of the future, and a far better alternative to medieval superstition and control by the clergy. I don’t know how aware or conscious of that Joseph Smith might have been to influence the arguments of Korihor, but it really feels a bit too much of a coincidence to me that his arguments and the language he uses so closely match those of Karl Marx regarding the role of an enriched and corrupted clergy serving the needs of the wealthy and powerful in a system of oppression.
High Priest and the first elected political Chief Judge of Zarahemla Alma The Younger’s response to these accusations is a bit fluffy compared to the specifics of Korihor’s arguments, and the whole story is very much written as a summary version with bullet points in Alma 30, but one thing he does respond to in detail in the text is the accusation that the senior clergy like him were financially exploiting the Church members. He made very clear that, a bit like King Benjamin, while he had ruling authority he was feeding and financing himself and not taking a penny from the people in personal support for his religious role. Unlike King Benjamin he did receive a salary for his secular job as Chief Judge in their new democratic system that replaced the old monarchy.
Growing up in Mormonism we are regularly taught about this and taught the concept the Book of Mormon also emphasises of what it calls the sin of ‘Priestcraft’ - receiving a salary for being a priesthood minister or leader, even the very top leader - the prophet.
Nephi taught in 2 Nephi 26 “29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion. 30 Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish. 31 But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.” That verse dating from the early years when they were practicing the law of Moses allows for a subsistence support of enough to keep the full time labourer for Zion or temple priesthood from dying with the charitable donations of their peers. But please note and keep in mind as we continue that last couplet: “the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.”
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism’s entry for Priestcraft says “When leaders "make merchandise" of men's souls (2 Peter 2:3), they turn religion into a business, and pride, materialism, and unrighteous dominion follow.”
As I grew up we were regularly taught that receiving a salary for serving in the priesthood was this sin of priestcraft and we regarded the paid clergy in other churches as one of the clearest indicators that thy were in apostasy.
And so it was that we all naturally assumed that is what was being done in our Church. Very obviously none of our local leaders and clergy were being paid a penny, even the extremely busy Bishops and Stake Presidents and their counsellors working every hour and probably matching the hours put into their paid employment. And many female Auxilliary leader were doing the same. They paid for their own many additional expenses in travel costs and so forth to do this while being exemplary in the tithes and offerings they were obliged to encourage their flocks to pay ‘fully’.
The call to ministry in our Church was very clearly understood to be a call to financial sacrifice of expenses and potential paid promotions or overtime at work which they simply could not also take on. We saw our local leaders making these kinds of sacrifices to fulfil the expectation that they would shoulder the burden of these heavy callings for the usual period of around 7 years without a break or a sabbatical.
And the mythology we spun about the full-time General Authorities! I was taught that when they were called they consecrated everything they had with the other Apostles and agreed a simple living allowance from that so they would not have to take a penny in support or salary from the Church and instead live frugally within their own means like our scriptures and manuals taught, and even if they wrote one of their many books that Mormons lined up to purchase, all that money went to the Church or maybe their shared expenses kitty. When they preached to us about making financial sacrifices to donate to the Church and other good causes and tighten our belts and forego the new car with proper seat belts the family needed or other such luxuries it felt right and we did not hesitate to feel the good in it because we knew they were probably practicing those principles of consecrated sacrifice more than any of us.
Spoiler alert: The General Authorities were all being paid a fortune from our donations all along and living in luxuries that 90% of even the Mormons in the wealthiest countries could never aspire to. And that was just the start of the edifice of financial exploitation and corruption they were up to their necks in.
So go for it ex-Bishop Bloor and ex-Stake President Tom Philips! Sue the bloody lying huxters to your heart’s content. It won’t work and you know it, but that’s was never the point was it. Shine a light on their low down dirty spoilt rich kid scam. Phaser the Fraudsters! Be the men who sued the greedy ‘gods-in-embryo’ ripping off the old aged pensioners and widows! That’s pretty much what Jesus did with his lot doing exactly the same things, accusing them in the court of public opinion!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. It feels SO GOOD to say it though, doesn’t it? That’s the first step to our liberation from this Feudal system pretending to be God’s plan. See it for what it is. SAY it for what it really is. Open your eyes, take in EVERYTHING there is to see, and then decide if you are going to stay exactly where you are in your life and community or start making some changes and breaking some chains. Break open the ‘Mind forged manacles’ the English artist poet William Blake wrote about in his “Songs of Experience.” English artist poets are awesome! …Except we have really bad teeth like Austin Powers.
Mormons love to quote the nice middle class English Romantic Poet William Wordsworth having a comfortable life in the countryside and writing about daffodils and how we come to earth “trailing clouds of glory” from our premortal life with God when we are born. Dear friends of the wealthier side of my family owned a sprawling Victorian stone house with a wild Lake District garden to explore running down to the shores of Grasmere Lake in the North West of England a short walk from Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage in Grasmere village. We spent some truly idyllic Swallows and Amazons summers there in my childhood rowing to the island on the lake, exploring the fells and the wildflowers that inspired Wordsworth, and parading through the village in the annual Rushbearing ritual to refresh the rush matting on the floor of the ancient parish Church in the village followed by Grasmere ginger bread and Kendal mint cake as a treat.
But as I have got older my heart and mind have increasingly turned to the life experience and world of my mother’s family and my grandfather Cornelius who grew up one of 11 children of Irish immigrants living in poverty in the Dockland of the East End of London. And the writings and art of the other William in English Romantic poetry, Wordsworth’s working class cockney London doppelganger William Blake, who was a street smart revolutionary dreamer with an even more vivid imagination. In his powerful poem titled ‘London’ crying out about the unjust exploitation of the poor by the feudal rich in British Society in 1792 while the French revolution was cranking up across the channel he wrote:
“I wandered through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
A mark in every face I meet,
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
In every cry of every man,
In every infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear:
How the chimney-sweeper’s cry
Every blackening church appals,
And the hapless soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood down palace-walls.
But most, through midnight streets I hear
How the youthful harlot’s curse
Blasts the new-born infant’s tear,
And blights with plagues the marriage-hearse.”
The journey of human civilisation since that was written has been primarily one of the impoverished and exploited common people in every corner of the earth rising up in revolution to destroy or radically reform social, religious, political and economic systems of oppression that used to exploit the many and enrich and empower the few, whether the French and American revolutionary wars and the Slave revolution in Haiti of the late 1700’s or the communist and democratic revolutions all over Latin America and Europe and Asia and Africa that followed. They recognised that the only thing restraining and limiting them was the ‘mind-forged manacles’ the powerful elites had indoctrinated them with to make them accept injustice and oppression instead of recognising their own worth and rights to liberty and opportunities.
We have collectively analysed and rehearsed and written school assignments about these momentous events and the revolutionary heroes overthrowing tyrants. We have documented and discussed how they tragically too often replacing the old systems of oppression with new ones, whether communist or nationalistic fascist or revolving around a single dictator and his family independent of political ideology. In free societies we have been taught the need for constant vigilance because there is always the Pharisaical impulse to exploit and dominate other people and fight your way to the top of a hierarchy of power and wealth.
Jesus was intense and persistent about deconstructing those systems and bringing about justice and equality and compassion in every aspect of our lives. He may have taught that the poor will always be among us, but he never said that was a good thing or to ignore or tolerate it - our primary duty is to end literal and mental poverty. To feed and clothe the hungry, and to feed their minds with truth and their own potential. To lift up all the hands and the hearts that hang down.
The Book of Mormon has powerful messages about social justice and racial and gender equality. Its current guardians may be predominantly Trump-voting gun toting racist unregulated capitalists who regard the slightest whiff of the redistribution of wealth as a communist abomination that you can’t even think about without risking universal white slavery, but even Dallin Oaks has realised the time has come to tap into its woker messaging as they look in horror at the monster they have unleashed with their silent complicity while America’s politics went to hell in a handbasket… and then totally contradict it by doubling down on God being a racist in his BYU devotional on 27 October 2020 called “Racism and Other Challenges” that was such a sporgasboard of covert and overt racism while also teaching the complete opposite it needs its own series of podcasts to even begin to do justice to. You may have seen in the media his quote from that stating “Of course Black lives matter. That is an eternal truth all reasonable people should support.” But listen to the whole talk. It’s flabbergasting, and yet more proof that these gormless old dinosaurs have still not got a fricking clue about anything going on in the 21st century, or any other century for that matter, and investing hope in them eventually getting a clue is futile.
Last week at the time of writing the world watched a Mormon returned missionary from Idaho swinging down from a balcony to sprawl in the Vice President’s chair in the Senate after joining a mob of rioters storming Capitol Hill in Washington to overturn the elected government and murder a security guard by beating him to death with a fire extinguisher and plant pipe bombs while outside a perplexed news reporter interviewed another Mormon cosplaying as Captain Moroni waving a huge banner with Captain Moroni’s war slogan on. Photos of his iconically Mormon banner waving in the wind above the mob had gone viral in social and Idahoan news media and then, joy of joys, footage emerged of a TV news reporter interviewing him while the Ku Klux Klan waved THEIR flag in solidarity in the milling crowd behind them.
Captain Moroni from the Capitol Hill Riot turned out to be a cuddly, obliviously racist, anxiously sincere, LARPing man-child overwhelmed by the competing priorities of his conditioning to make the most of this unprecedented and exciting missionary opportunity by wittering on at the poor guy with the microphone about the origins of the Book of Mormon and Captain Moroni and the Kingmen and how there is proof that native Americans have Jewish DNA in their genes so it’s all true, while also managing to reference along the way an obscure apologist controversy about the precise dating of the Book of Mormon’s narrative timeline… AND being annoyed that his once-hero Mormon senator Mitt Romney has turned on his new more dazzling hero Donald Trump! He literally couldn’t have been more Utah Mormon if he tried! Except maybe get a gun or something. He seemed under-armed for a proper Utard, but maybe he had a concealed weapon under his actual breastplate of rightousness. He was an avatar hybrid of every soul in the Beehive State condensed into one person. Even when Mormons are crazy and rioting we’re so gosh darned NICE about it! .... I may have to rethink quite a few of my paradigms about Trumpists. This one was so CUTE! Like... a Fascist Ewok. I was so confused, yet at the same time it all made total sense. I KNOW that guy and everything that he is. This was the state of quantum uncertainty we Mormons live in somehow made flesh.
Forrest Gump has got nothing on the Mormons who keep turning up at pivotal moments of American history and making them just that extra bit more cuckoo. It was a Mormon who found the first nugget that kicked off the Californian gold rush, and now THIS! Just one of the many reasons I LOVE my people, even when I also want to smack their bottoms and put them on the Naughty Step.
Rather than the rapacious Banana Republic mafia nepotistic capitalism advocated by hopefully soon to be Ex-President Pussy Grabber, the Book of Mormon defines success for a society as having ‘No poor among them’ and no ruling class of the wealthy obsessed with their status, privileges, clothing and bling and looking down on the losers.
Alma 1:30 offers the ideal of a prosperous and generous community: “And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.”
The descent into social injustice and hell is described in 3 Ne. 6:10-14:
“In the twenty and ninth year there began to be some disputings among the people; and some were lifted up unto pride and boastings because of their exceedingly great riches, yet even unto great persecutions; for there were many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers. And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches. Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble . . . And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up.”
I love how the Book of Mormon repeatedly warns that allowing class consciousness and privileging a wealthy elite with greater access to academic education not only leads to the collapse of that civilisation into corruption and being ruled by robbers, but it always fatally damages the ability of the Church to continue in those societies because the churches become corrupted by the wealth and inequalities too.
Mormon signs off his great work of editing the history and scriptures of his people with a powerful warning that exactly the same mistakes will be made in our time, which he saw clearly in a vision. As we look at the state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today the awful realisation starts to dawn that he wasn’t just writing about all those other wicked apostate denominations we look down on and feel superior to. He was precisely and powerfully describing US. We are in SO much trouble…..
Mormon chapter 8: “28 Yea, it shall come in a day when the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts; yea, even in a day when leaders of churches and teachers shall rise in the pride of their hearts, even to the envying of them who belong to their churches. …………..32 Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins. 33 O ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people, why have ye built up churches unto yourselves to get gain? Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God, that ye might bring damnation upon your souls? Behold, look ye unto the revelations of God; for behold, the time cometh at that day when all these things must be fulfilled. 34 Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you. 35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. 36 And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. 37 For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. 38 O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world? 39 Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not? 40 Yea, why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads? 41 Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer.”
THE SWORD OF VENGEANCE HANGETH OVER YOU
So what’s really going on in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding our money then that is precisely what Mormon saw our Church doing in his vision? And what kind of a revolutionary reform will it require to save us from God’s promised vengeance?
First, remember that it is LOVE of money that is evil, not the money itself. As we read in Alma 1, money can be used to do great good and feed and clothe the poor, and is essential for God’s work to be done in the world. Money is in itself not real. It is a social construct. It is a token or avatar or conceptual symbol we use to represent the fruits of our labours and our practical resources. As the Temple teaches, you can buy anything in this world with money, and if you are evil what you will buy up is armies and navies so you can rule with blood and horror. Or these days buy millions of stocks and shares in military weapons systems manufacturers and fossil fuel companies and Big Pharma companies that directly inflict blood and horror and addiction on people and the natural environment, and buy millions of stocks and shares in social media companies that offer up blood and horror and pornography as entertainment and propaganda into every internet connected home, all of which our First Presidency have done with tens of billions of dollars of tithing and fast offering donations and the profits they made from investing those, instead of spending them on either the Church or the poor as instructed by the Book of Mormon.
Since being shamed into revealing some of the details of their investments a year ago in December 2019 by brave whistle-blowers, the Church’s Ensign Peak Advisors fund has been publishing online its holdings for the first time in its 22 year history. Go and check out what the brethren have been spending your tithing and fast offering on instead of saving the Church, or building the chapel you need, or funding your young friend’s mission, or feeding and housing the starving and homeless in your own community or somewhere on the telly. Or providing schools and universities in countries that actually need more universities to elevate and transform them.
The Bible is very clear about financial management and how to use the power money gives for good and not be corrupted by it. There are a few key messages that should be guiding us and that we often reference in Mormonism. And as we shall discover, which are completely and comically misunderstood by the actual General Authorities managing the Church’s vast wealth.
The Old Testament scriptures we learn as children as the foundation for tithing are Deuteronomy and Nehemiah which describe the bronze age farmers bringing a tenth of their produce to the storehouses to feed the full time working clergy, and Isaiah 1:17 says our financial duty is to support the poor as well as the full time priests: “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.” James 1:27 revisits this verse to say “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Deuteronomy 14:29 also links the duty to use tithing donations to feed the Levitical priests with feeding and financing anyone else in poverty: “Then the Levite (because he has no portion or inheritance among you), the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow within your gates may come and eat and be satisfied. And the LORD your God will bless you in all the work of your hands.” Jeremiah 21:12 and 22:3 repeat the message to “Rescue the victim of robbery from the hand of his oppressor.”
That spoke vividly to me as a ward Clerk who spent many of the last few years putting the coins and banknotes and cheques of poor old age pensioners in my congregations into plastic money bags to be banked and logged as donations to the Perpetual Education Fund and International Humanitarian Aid Fund. I know they can’t really afford it and it has humbled me that they have chosen in their last years to share what little they have with people struggling in extreme poverty and natural disasters that they see on the television and deprive themselves of whatever extra comfort it has cost them to give. Perhaps turning the heating down a bit in their little home and putting an extra jumper on or having the plain digestive biscuits instead of the fancy ones.
And then I found out that they were the victims of a fraud. All that money they and thousands of other faithful and generous British Latter-day Saints have been giving for the last 5 years has just been accumulated in a bank account earning interest. Their Book of Mormon Fund donations have piled up to £345,000. Not a single one of the hundreds of thousands of Books of Mormon that could have bought has been paid for and flooded our country with the scriptures we have been commissioned to gift to the world and our missionaries still have to practically beg for another box of the rationed Books of Mormon provided to their mission to give to people. Their Temple Constructions fund is up to £739,000. Their Perpetual Education Fund donations are up to £931,000 but not a single impoverished person in the world has been educated with it. You could pay the entire tuition fees for an entire 3 year degree at a UK university for 33 students with that. And their donations for International Humanitarian Aid are now sitting doing nothing at £4,252,000 and helping noone.
So what was I to do? Jeremiah tells me twice that it is my solemn duty to “Rescue the victim of robbery from the hand of his oppressor.” How do you do that when the robbing oppressor is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ripping them off with a classic Charity Fraud? Tell them and break their hearts or hide it from them and let them finish their days in a happy bubble of faithful certainty that they are helping people and their Church is exemplary when it isn’t? Or have MY heart break when they tell me yet again that whether or not the money is actually spent on what it should be doesn’t matter because God is in charge of everything the Church does and as long as they have done their bit to be generous that’s ALL that matters and the leaders can answer to God for what they do with it? But what about the people who were meant to be helped with that money? Don’t THEY have rights? The Old Testament says that they do. Surely it would be better to tell the donors so they can give the money to a charity that will actually use it to help people instead? Win Win?
Should I report the Church to the Charity Commission and the police Fraud Squad? Am I ready to be another of the anti-Mormons who sued the Prophet in everyone’s mind for the rest of my life?
In the end I chose to tell people and leave it up to them what they do about it. I posted the information about the financial declaration in the Charity Commission website on my Facebook page. I spoke about it in Bishopric and got either the uncomfortable tumbleweed silence that usually results from most of the things I said there or the predictable declarations of blind faith that it is not ours to reason what they do with the money, just faithfully give it and that’s all God wants. I mentioned it in a Sunday School lesson I think, and in one of my passionate offloading rants to my patient Stake President I asked him ages ago if he would investigate and he said he would find out what’s going on with that. He didn’t get back to me and it was probably forgotten in the fountain of other discomfitting truths I was sharing with him. I was however released as Ward Clerk a few months ago.
I was grateful as it put me out of my misery about being part of a system of robbery, which is always nice when charity fraud has never been one of your personal life goals! And the Church will not get another penny from me until it has repented and reformed. Not that it needs another penny from any of us and President Joseph F Smith taught in General Conference that we are all already off the hook. Just the annual interests from the Ensign Peak fund covers the entire budget of the Church with spare to reinvest. More on that in a mo. So keep your money or give it to someone that actually needs it.
These charitable funds given by British Latter-day Saints may not seem very significant compared to the Ensign Peak behemoths of hundreds of billions of dollars in America, but this is the widows’ mites of my people in my country, and I know and love the actual widows who gave them. They have been my Mormon grannies and grandads. My heroes and my examples. The people who built our congregations from scratch with a lifetime of service and devotion and complete faithful trust in the prophets who are robbing them now.
The Bible offers a few other key principles for financial management that Mormon lesson manuals regularly repeat. We learn from Joseph in Egypt that we should be prudent and help ourselves and prepare things like savings and a food storage and other supplies for times when things like natural disasters or war or unemployment may leave us unable to access food for our families. Joseph stored surplus grain for 7 years and used it to feed Egypt and its neighbours for the 7 years of famine that followed.
In Matthew 25 Jesus taught a parable of the talents in which a wealthy master decided to go travelling so he turned all his wealth into 8 talents of 32KG each of silver and gave 5, 2 and 1 talent to each of his three servants to look after till he returned. This was a vast amount of money – a talent was worth the pay of a typical labourer for 6000 days. The first two invested their shares of the wealth and doubled its value by the time the master returned and were rewarded. The third was cautious and scared so he hid his in the ground where it was not helping anybody or growing, gave it back exactly as he received it and was punished by his master. This is usually interpreted not as an encouragement to speculate on the stock market and get richer but as a metaphor for not using whatever God has given you in abilities, wealth or opportunities to do good in the world and help people but instead choose to withhold them from helping other people and not even help yourself.
The other powerful teaching is Jesus’ observation that the widow giving her last two pennies to the temple fund was giving far more than the wealthy people pouring in what seemed a lot but was only a small percentage of their total wealth. Jesus was definitely NOT, however, offering the widow paying her last pennies to the temple as a model for virtuous behaviour by other desperately poor people. It was an outrage. An abomination defiling His temple. He had previously excoriated the temple Scribes and Pharisees for robbing widows of their houses and wealth and in Mark 7 rebuked them for doing this by allowing people to donate to the temple the money they should otherwise spend supporting their elderly parents and keeping the commandment to provide for them:
“For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and 'Whoever curses father or mother shall die.' Yet you say, 'If a person says to father or mother, "Any support you might have had from me is qorban"' (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things."
In fact the temple funds should have been given TO the widow to ensure she would never be that poor again according to all those Old Testament scriptures I quoted earlier.
SABBATH OR SOULS?
In recent years the LDS Apostles have put a huge emphasis on the last verse of Isaiah 58 which urges us to call the Sabbath day a delight and observe it with enthusiasm. And President Nelson has called upon us to fast twice on a sabbath and on Good Friday when Jesus died to turn the tide of the covid pandemic of death. It didn’t work at all. The death toll continued escalating.
I would expect a bit more sober reflection among Latter-day Saints about this than there has been. Maybe we have just got used to the idea that such miracles and prophets sealing the heavens or ending plagues with their power and faith just doesn’t happen any more and have put that thought on our heaving shelves or into the other half of our divided cognitive dissonant minds. Maybe we all got distracted by the next amazing revelation we were promised from President Nelson that he said God himself had revealed to him the exact date to announce… that turned out to be telling us to spend the 7 days leading up to American Thanksgiving posting examples of what we are Thankful for in social media! With a hashtag! Amazing. Where on earth could that idea have some from except God? Nothing whatsoever about wearing masks in a pandemic though that would have actually turned the tide against the plague, specially in Utah. The heart surgeon prophet who spent his career wearing surgical masks in a Mormonland teeming with vociferous ant-mask and anti-covid skeptics shouting their insanity in social media and in public demonstrations said not a single word about wearing masks.
Instead he said “Turn social media into your own gratitude journal for each of the next seven days, post about something or someone you're grateful for using the #GiveThanks hashtag. Invite others to do the same. As we fill our hearts with thanks, we will be better prepared to light the world together in December.” Standard Pharisee Mormon gaslighting – when your world does to hell, ignore it and think happy thoughts! Totally predictable.
This was 2 years after he told all the youth of the Church to come OFF social media and “Give yourself a seven-day break from fake” because “The downside of social media is that it creates a false reality.” And a few months before that on 6 October 2018 he told all the women in the Church it was his prophetic commandment to them to have a total 10 day social media fast and be silent in social media….. during the last weeks of an American general election…. in the year of ‘MeToo’ which was all about the patriarchy demeaning and silencing women... and coincidentally literally 2 days after Utah’s main TV channels and newspapers featured child abuse allegations against President Nelson’s daughter and son in law on 4 October, which I presume he was very keen that the Mormon women didn’t carry on discussing online. All purely coincidental I’m sure.
I really wonder if one of the things that gives the Apostles a buzz about having absolute power over millions of people with no accountability is that they can flipflop between completely opposing commandments and messages and have them just go with it unquestioningly. Like Dallin Oaks when he told everyone in the kingdom he rules in April 2016 Conference that there can be no ‘loyal opposition’ in our religion, then 2 months later went to the Mother of Parliaments in my kingdom that invented the Loyal Opposition concept to lecture our politicians about religious freedom and respecting diversity! They are having a whale of a time playing around with the sheeple in their flock like toys aren’t they. How they must laugh at us as they pass around the chocolate box by seniority in the weekly Apostle meeting in the temple and leave the ones noone wants for the new kids. I’m not even joking – they actually do that. So much for the brotherhood and equality of Apostles. The feudal system pyramid goes all the way to the top.
And guess who didn’t post on social media what they are grateful for every day for 7 days leading up to American Thanksgiving while pretty much every Mormon I know was filling my Facebook with their thanks diligently and daily all week? Yes, of course. Every single one of the 15 apostles. Including President Nelson. Rusty only managed to post on 2 days. Dale Renlund was the winner with … 4 days out of the target 7 that was commanded. Uchtdorf and Stevenson posted none whatsoever and Jeffrey Holland only coughed up one at the very last minute after people started shaming him for it in Twitter. As the great Johnny Rotten, lead singer of the Sex Pistols would say, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”
Every time a new gimmick or administrative adjustment is announced we are encouraged by the Church’s propaganda machine to rejoice at the spectacle of our beloved leaders being important and saying important things… while making sure that we don’t join up the dots between what they are actually saying and doing.
Our current totally unimaginative non-scriptorian Apostles and manual writers are surely the only people on earth who can read Isaiah 58 and declare to a 21st century world in crisis as they did for a good stretch recently that the most relevant and important thing there we should make a big priority out of is keeping the Sabbath day holy! Big fat enormous yawn! We learnt everything there is possible to know about that in Blazer class in Primary. Come on chaps! They always pick out the most boring bits and ignore the juicy stuff.
What would really be impressive and timely is if they spent some time studying the first ¾ of Isaiah chapter 58 because it feels highly and specifically relevant to our troubles today even though it was written in the Bronze Age. History does keep repeating itself though, and the hypothesis taught in the temple endowment is that the age old conflict between a Christ and a Lucifer, between freedom and deceptive control, which plays out every time a planet is populated, has been carrying on ever since it began in the preexistence war in heaven when the Gods first started planning the creation of our world. The Pharisees make the same mistakes in EVERY era and dispensation so its very useful to us today to learn from how they did it all those other times.
This is the de-Tudorfied New International Version for clarity:
“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have NOT seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have NOT noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is THIS the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it ONLY for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is THAT what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not THIS the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
THEN your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your HEALING will quickly appear;
THEN your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord WILL answer;
you will cry for help, and he WILL say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
The multitudes of Latter-day Saints tormented by the Church’s dysfunctions and sins or who have left are shouting to our apostles exactly what their sins are that are causing us to fast and not have our prayers heard and causing them to no longer be capable of performing miracles or revealing scripture.
“they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’” Isaiah 58 is precise and clear that there is no way we our going to have our fasting and praying for healing granted, specially healing from a global pandemic, until we have first prioritised using our resources to feed and house the poor. It’s that simple.
I have ended up being a regular participant in a Covid impacted fortnightly zoom meeting of the Watford Interfaith group in North London and it has been a delightful substitute for the Religious Education and Philosophy and Politics classes I was teaching at my school for several years before returning to full time Arts teaching. The Hindu representative reminded me that his religion which is thousands of years old has now got 1.2 billion members. Growth from small beginnings to become a world religion is possible. It has been done several times. Much newer Christianity now has 2.4 billion adherants and even newer Islam has now overtaken Hinduism with 1.8 billion members.
But as we reflected on all those billions, the billions I was worrying about were the billions of dollars of tithing donations my Church’s leaders have not invested in a functional missionary program and growing our people into a membership of billions, but have instead given to the oil companies destroying the environment. Just by participating in that Zoom meeting with my interfaith friends I was using tools of Mammon that President Nelson and his team have given at least $5 billion of tithing money to instead of spending it on the poor, or saving the Church, while of course they increased the monthly payments taken from full time missionaries to serve in the middle of the global pandemic that has left most families much poorer by 25% from $400 to $500 dollars each a month. The Church’s $100 billion Ensign Peak Advisors stock portfolio gave $1.3 billion of our sacred funds to Amazon, $1.8 billion to Apple Inc, $1.9 Billion to Microsoft and a rather stingy $7.7 million to Zoom LOL. We are rapidly heading the way of Scientology, hemorrhaging members but with an exponentially growing portfolio of financial investments. It’s probably an understatement to say that for every member the LDS Church loses each year its investments make another million dollars now.
I’m sure Jesus is beaming with pride. The Jesus who told the rich to sell everything they have and give it to the poor, and commanded in Matthew 6 19-21 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Never mind institutional wealth hoarding. If we were an exploitative cult like people accuse us of being these leaders would surely be getting PERSONALLY rich and making their families and friends in the business world rich, but our prophets and apostles don’t do that, do they?.... They tell us regularly that they carefully guard every penny of the Sacred Funds we donate and make sure none of it is wasted and it is only used to build the kingdom of God. Let’s investigate and find out.