My Life in Zion

The life and views of a Latter-day Saint in the 21st Century…

Archive for the tag “Politics”

My Feelings About Today’s Supreme Court Decisions

supremecourtgaymarriage

In a pair of landmark decisions, the Supreme Court today struck down the 1996 law blocking federal recognition of gay marriage, and it allowed gay marriage to resume in California by declining to decide the case regarding the 2008 California voter initiative Proposition 8, which defined all marriages in the state as between a man and woman.

The court invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to gay couples who are legally married in their states, including Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights and family leave.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-4 decision, said that the act wrote inequality into federal law and violated the Fifth Amendment’s protection of equal liberty.

“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal,” he wrote.

In the second case, the court said that it could not rule on a challenge to Proposition 8, a ban on gay marriage in California passed by voters there in 2008, because supporters of the ban lacked the legal standing to appeal a lower court’s decision against it.

The court did not rule on the constitutionality of gay marriage, but the effect of the decision will be to allow same-sex marriage to resume in California. That decision was also 5-4, written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

I had eagerly awaited, along with many Americans, the outcome of these two cases, and wondered when the Supreme Court’s rulings might come. Shortly before 1PM I left work for the day and was on the phone with our full-time missionaries as I was driving through the local Taco Bell drive thru to grab some lunch. As I ordered and chatted with one of our missionaries I also began checking emails on my phone, and (since I wasn’t already doing five things at once) turned on the radio to catch NPR’s top of the hour news. It was there, while paying for my lunch, talking on the phone, and reading emails, that I first heard of the court’s decision regarding Propostion 8, and I was so surprised I nearly ran into both the car in front of me and the side of Taco Bell.

I have written extensively before in regards to my personal feelings in regards to gay marriage and civil rights, and the church released the following statement today regarding the decisions announced by the Supreme Court on the cases involving marriage:

“By ruling that supporters of Proposition 8 lacked standing to bring this case to court, the Supreme Court has highlighted troubling questions about how our democratic and judicial system operates. Many Californians will wonder if there is something fundamentally wrong when their government will not defend or protect a popular vote that reflects the views of a majority of their citizens.

“In addition, the effect of the ruling is to raise further complex jurisdictional issues that will need to be resolved.

“Regardless of the court decision, the Church remains irrevocably committed to strengthening traditional marriage between a man and a woman, which for thousands of years has proven to be the best environment for nurturing children. Notably, the court decision does not change the definition of marriage in nearly three-fourths of the states.”

As the afternoon progressed I saw social media explode with people outspoken on both ends of the same sex marriage spectrum. Some of my closest friends on Facebook rejoiced and put up rainbows as their profile pictures. Some others of my closest friends decried today’s SCOTUS decision as a sure sign that Jesus will be coming back soon to burn the whole planet. It was interesting to see people from both ends of the spectrum interacting, commenting on one another’s posts, each calling the other side a group of bigots, and both groups of people being equally nasty towards one another.

My personal feelings are simply this:

Today the Supreme Court struck down a law defending traditional marriage nationwide and a voter initiative defending traditional marriage in California. As a Christian there are parts of this that trouble me. However, Jesus Christ at no point today struck down the Golden Rule. At no point did the Lord descend in a pillar of fire and say it was now okay to be uncivil and unkind to people who you happen to disagree with politically or on social issues. Christian love and charity of heart were not struck down. So my fellow Christians, although today is a day that many find entirely dreadful, that does not excuse us from showing love and kindness. Period. End of story.

Do I disagree with today’s Supreme Court ruling? Perhaps. But what the Supreme Court rules does not change how I live my daily life as a Christian and a Latter-day Saint. All are children of God, straight folks, homosexuals, and everyone else. It is the call of the Master to love everyone as He loves them. And perhaps the best way to show our love won’t be in mean spirited comments online, but then again, what do I know?

Stan Way

A Romney, A Political Loss, and a Lesson for Latter-day Saints

Cousins: Marion G. Romney, former member of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Mitt Romney, a potential President of the United State of America.

Tuesday 6 November 2012 will be a historic election day for many reasons. The first African American President of the United States up against the first major Mormon candidate for President of the United States.

A hundred years ago the mere thought of such an election would have had people’s sides aching with laughter.

When Reed Smoot, the elected Senator from the State of Utah, first arrived in Washington D.C. in February of 1903 to take his seat in the Senate he was met by violent opposition. That opposition stemmed from the fact that Senator Smoot was also an actively serving apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and was believed to still be promoting the practice of polygamy among church members. After years of government hearings, and even a prophetic appearance by President Joseph F. Smith to testify on Senator Smoot and the Church’s behalf, the opposition eventually dissipated and Senator/Elder Smoot served in the senate faithfully for thirty years.

We have come many miles as Mormons in the field of social acceptance.

The history of polygamy that plagued Elder Smoot over 100 years ago is still alive and sometimes mentioned on the campaign trail during the current presidential race. One headline I saw a few months ago read brightly:

Mitt Romney: A Mormon with a Polygamous Past

It is true.

One of Mitt Romney’s great-great-grandfathers, Parley Parker Pratt (one of the original apostles called in 1835), began to practice plural marriage during its initial inception into LDS religious faith under the direction of church leadership in Nauvoo, Illinois. In 1852 Brigham Young, the second President of the Church, publicly acknowledged the practice of plural marriage through a sermon he gave. Additional sermons by top Mormon leaders on the virtues of polygamy followed. Controversy followed when polygamy became a social cause among many in the United States, and writers began to publish works condemning polygamy. The key plank of the Republican Party’s 1856 platform was “to prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery”. In 1862, Congress issued the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act which clarified that the practice of polygamy was illegal in all US territories. Church leaders believed that their religiously-based practice of plural marriage was protected by the United States Constitution. However, the unanimous 1878 Supreme Court decision Reynolds v. United States declared that polygamy was not protected by the Constitution, based on the longstanding legal principle that “laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices.” Increasingly harsh anti-polygamy legislation in the United States, which included imprisonment, fines, and voting privileges being revoked, led some Latter-day Saints to emigrate to Canada and Mexico where they believed they could still legally practice this demanding aspect of their faith.

In the summer of 1885, Miles Park Romney, another of Mitt Romney’s great-grandfathers, boarded a train in Salt Lake City with his wife, Annie Woodbury Romney, and her three young children. Wearing a disguise so as to be able allude federal authorities who wished to jail him for his practicing polygamy, Miles even sat apart from his family during their long train ride to preserve his incognito. They traveled first to San Francisco, then east through California and then into Arizona. At the San Simon railway station in southeastern Arizona near the New Mexico border, Will and Miles Archibald Romney, two of Miles Park’s older sons, met their father and Annie with a team and wagon, which would transport them to the Mormon settlements that were just beginning in Mexico.

Another of Miles Park’s sons, Gaskell Romney, also made the move to Mexico with the family. Gaskell would assist his father in establishing the Mormon colonies in Colonia Dublán, Galeana, and Chihuahua, Mexico, as more Mormon settlers moved in. While the original intent of the settlements was initially reached, to preserve the practice of plural marriage, eventually the Church itself would ban polygamy entirely in coming years.

In 1907 Gaskell’s wife would give birth to a boy which they named George. Growing up in Mexico amidst a colony of polygamy practicing Mormons, George Romney, loved his surroundings. However, the Romney families, extensive in size by this time, would lose their holdings in Chihuahua during the Mexican Revolution in 1912, and Gaskell’s family, including the young George, wound up emigrating back into the United States and eventually settling in Salt Lake City Utah.

George Romney grew up and would end up working in a number of jobs. He served as a Mormon missionary in England and Scotland, and attended several colleges in the U.S. but did not graduate from any. In 1939 he moved to Detroit, Michigan where he ended up becoming amazingly successful working in the auto industry, and would end up serving as the Governor of the State of Michigan from 1963 to 1969, and the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1969 to 1973. In 1947 George’s wife Lenore gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Willard Mitt Romney, or as I like to call him, Mittens.

“So why the story about the Mittens’ and Mormonism’s polygamous past?” you may be asking yourself at this point.

Because Mitt Romney isn’t the first Romney to delve into the political arena, and his progenitors created a real fireball of offspring that would run for public offices from sea to shining sea. One of these Romneys being Mitt’s own cousin, Marion G. Romney.

It is Marion G. Romney which provides us with what is one of my favorite stories in all of church history.

Born in 1897 in Colonia Juárez, Chihuahua, Marion G. Romney loved growing up as a young man in Mexico among his extended family. Marion studied at Juarez Academy until his family left Mexico in 1912 as the violence from the ongoing Mexican revolution spread to their region. He spent the remainder of his youth in California and Idaho. In 1917 his family moved to Rexburg, Idaho where George S. Romney (his father and cousin to Gaskell Romney) took the position of principal of the Church’s Ricks Academy (now BYU-Idaho). Romney completed his high school studies at Ricks and graduated as valedictorian of his class in 1918.

From 1920 to 1923 Romney served as a full-time missionary in Australia, and after his return from his mission he worked in construction in Salt Lake City for his uncle Gaskell Romney (the father of George W. Romney). Marion studied at BYU for a year and while there he renewed his acquaintance with Ida Jensen, a former teacher at Ricks who was working on a master’s degree. The two wed in 1924. Afterwards he  began studying at the University of Utah. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science and history in 1926. Romney then studied law at the University of Utah, but did not complete his course work there. After some time working for the postal service, he passed the Utah bar exam in 1929 and became a practicing attorney.

A hard worker and voracious lover of the political system, he was elected to the Utah state legislature in 1934 as a Democrat. – Then, like today, it was as rare to see a Democrat in Utah. – But he ran in that election and won. While running for the state legislature he also accepted a call as a bishop from his stake president, Bryant S. Hinckley (father of Gordon B. Hinckley). Due to his election to the state legislature his ordination as a bishop was delayed until after the end of the legislature’s term in April of 1935. Among the many church callings he would hold before becoming a General Authority, he was a stake president and  managing director of the Church Welfare Program. During his time as director of the Welfare Program that he first became closely associated with a fellow stake president, a man by the name of Harold B. Lee.

It was during this period of life, amid trying to raise a family, serving in the Church, and trying to fulfill a variety of demanding church assignments, that another election came around.

And that finally brings me to the main story that I would like to share.

Harold B. Lee, who would later serve as 11th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often taught that we must all face great trials in order to prove ourselves before the Lord. Any cursory study of scripture or church history makes this plainly evident. Marion G. Romney was one who was tested most thoroughly before his sacred call came as the first Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve ever called in the Church.

Like I stated, Marion G. Romney was a Democrat. And perhaps I cannot stress enough to those of you who are from states elsewhere, but a Democrat is a rare find in Utah. Imagine trying to find a Marilyn Manson CD for sale in Vatican City. It’s just not something you see a lot of.

Romney, like his dear friend Harold B. Lee, ran for public office. He was quite aware that his election hung on the coattails of the national election. The president of the United States at the time was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who, in the language of many journalists at the time, had “packed the Supreme Court” with his supporters. Just before the election there was a four-column, front-page editorial in the Deseret News, a newspaper owned by the Church, that blasted this move by President Roosevelt and many of his other policies. When Marion read the column he knew that, as a Democrat, his chances of being elected were over. An editorial in a paper owned by the Church had suddenly dashed all of his young political hopes and dreams.

He described his turmoil as he went to bed that night. He prayed, “O Lord, I feel all right about it and I’m going to sleep now.” Then he got into bed and thoughts started going through his mind: “Why can’t the Church lay off matters political? Why do they have turn these issues into moral issues? Why…?” The more he thought about it the more and more upset he got. So he got out of bed and prayed again: ” Father in Heaven, I want to forgive the Brethren if there’s anything here amiss, and I want to you to forgive me for my feelings, but…”

This inner debate and wrestling with himself lasted all throughout the night.

The next day as he walked down Main Street in Salt Lake City he saw his friend Harold B. Lee. Harold beamed brightly at his comrade in Christ and said, “Good morning Brother Romney!”

“Good morning.”

“How are you Brother Romney?”

He gave the standard answer: “Fine.”

“Did you read the paper last night, Brother Romney?”

“Yes, I did, Brother Lee.”

“Well, what did you think?”

“Well, Brother Lee, I’ve had a bad night, but I’m determined to sustain the Brethren.”

It wasn’t long after this experience that both Marion and his friend Harold were both called to high and holy callings within the Church at the April 1941 General Conference. Elder Romney would end up being called as an apostle in 1951 and would serve as a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church to two different Church Presidents, and as President of the Quorum of the Twelve before his death in 1988.

So why the story?

Perhaps to show that faithful Mormons can be Democrats too?

No.

Was I emphasizing that in the Church every Mormon is connected to every other Mormon in a weird Six Degrees of Separation way?

No.

Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to write about The Mittens?

I think not.

My point is merely this: No matter who wins the presidential election in a few short day, it will all end up being alright.

Marion G. Romney, Mitt’s good ol’ cousin, is perfect proof of that the Lord’s purposes will all be fulfilled in the end.

And most importantly for us as Latter-day Saints: We must be determined to follow the Brethren.

Since hearing this story many years ago I’ve often thought to myself, “What would I do if my political views came in direct opposition to the Brethren? Could I be as humble as Elder Romney was?” And I’ve also wondered, “Well what if Marion had just rebelled, gone against the Church, and cursed the Brethren for fiddling with political matters? Where would he have ended up in life?”

Of course those are questions that no one will ever know the answer to.

But for Marion G. Romney, during an election many years ago, his faith was tried and tested. His greatest decision in the turmoil was in that he determined to sustain the Brethren, despite the crushing personal loss he felt at the time.

The other day The Salt Lake Tribune ran a story entitled “Mitt’s Bid: Would his loss crush Mormon backers?” The brief article said in part,

“For some Mormons, Romney’s bid is more than just a political contest, it’s almost a matter of religious destiny, an event rooted in the faith’s belief of the major role Mormons will play in saving the world in troubled times.”

Sadly, I know of a handful of people that will be wailing and gnashing their teeth come Tuesday night if Mitt Romney loses the election. It will be hellfire and brimstone, and a sure sign that our government is going to fail and Jesus will be coming to take out that Mean old Obama soon.

I think it is far safer to place our faith on something more solid than politicians whose views seem to shift as the sand.

Will I be voting for Mitt Romney? Yes. I want a person who represents my moral values and my old fashioned stance on social issues as Commander in Chief.

But will the world end if Mitt Romney loses his presidential bid? No.

As a believing Christian I believe that Jesus Christ will again come to this earth to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, a time which some people dreadfully refer to as “the end of the world”. But frankly, whether it’s Obama or Romney in the Oval Office, all that matters is that I’m living my life faithfully to the covenants I have made.

I hope Mitt follows in the fine example of his cousin Marion no matter what the results are on Tuesday. The Lord will find a terrific way to use him win or lose.

6 November will be a historic day, and in the past century we Mormons have come a long way in being socially accepted, but I hope that we as Latter-day Saints can remember that there are things far greater than an election, namely our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in His teachings, and in His living oracles

In the end I have a feeling campaign successes or campaign failures matter very little to the Lord. All that matters is that we, as His covenant people, serve Him and our fellow man with full purpose of heart. The government can fend for itself.

Stan Way

If you’ve stumbled upon this site and you’re not a Mormon please click here to learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and what we believe.

To learn more about the Romney Family’s history you can click here to read Amy Tanner Thiriot’s excellent guest post at the blog Keepapitchinin. You can also see  Todd M. Compton’s elaborate essay entitled “Plural Lives: Mitt Romney’s Polygamous Heritage“. For a full account of the experience between Marion G. Romney and Harold B. Lee on the street please see Marion G. Romney, Look to God and Live: Discourses of Marion G. Romney, comp. George J. Romney (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1971), xi–xiii. For the best overall view of Mitt Romney’s life I would recommend Michale Kranish and Scott Helman’s The Real Romney.

Russia to Kick Mormons Out?

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Moscow in March of this year. – Photo from the RIA Novosti news agency.

Mormons have a history of being misunderstood.

Case in point would be this past week when the youth wing of the ruling United Russia party held a protest on Thursday 1 Nov. calling for a ban on Mormon missionaries in Russia, and  charging that full-time missionaries are potential American spies. The Young Guard defended the move on its website, describing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is based here in the United States, as a “totalitarian sect” whose missionaries seek to gather Russian intelligence and genealogical records.

“This is an American sect,” said Ekaterina Stenyakina, co-chair of Young Guard’s coordinating committee. The RIA Novosti news agency further reported Stenyakina as saying, “They are funded by the United States of America, and it’s been proven that many young Mormons return to the U.S. to work for the CIA and FBI.”

Full-time missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ministering in Russia.

Mitt Romney, perhaps currently the most prominent member of the Church in the world, has made numerous comments about Russia in the past few months leading up to this weeks’ presidential election, including calling Russia our “number one geopolitical foe”. That comment, made in a recent debate with President Barack Obama, caused many liberal pundits to make joking references to Mr. Romney thinking we were still living during the Cold War era.  Two days ago Matt Romney, a son of the Republican presidential nominee, traveled to Moscow seeking Russian investors for his California-based real estate firm, Excel Trust,  just days before his father is to wrap up a campaign in which he has vowed to take a tougher stance with the Kremlin with “more backbone”. The Romney campaign has described the visit as “friendly”.

While we may not be in a nuclear arms race any longer, Romney’s off-the-cuff and frequent remarks may cause more friction in Russia’s relations with his church than with his country.

On 26 October Russian President Vladimir Putin made an official state visit to the small Province of Samara in west central Russia. While there he attended a meeting with Nikolai Merkushkin, acting President of the Samara Province, and representatives of the local community. During the meeting a local employee of the Samara Regional In-Service Teacher Training Institute, Elena Belchikova, asked Mr. Putin if the government could do more to help regulate and control “totalitarian sects”. Specifically, Mrs. Belchikova was complaining about various religious sects in the region. According to her, many of the foreign religions in the area promote their ideas and sectarian views using educational programs that mask their true intent to win over converts. She said that as a school administrator it is easy for her as an adult to see “what is behind” such programs, but that often the young people in her community do not know what they are getting into.

Mrs. Belchikova’s remarks could have easily been prompted by remarks made earlier in the week by Alexei Grishin, president of the information and analytical center “Religion and Society”. As the Russian version of a religious think-tank, Religion and Society’s purpose is to study the influence of different religious groups, especially foreign, and the effects they have upon Russian society. Earlier in the week Mr. Grishin had made the recommendation to create a central government database which could “more fully track” movements made my members of certain religious sects. Recently Russia has been plagued by a string of radical Muslims attacking more moderate followers of Islam, leading to numerous deaths. And while these are the kinds of groups which are obviously in need of being tracked for society’s safety, other sects were not dismissed. According to Grishin, who is also a member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, an effective fight against totalitarian sects would need a general method of initial detection. Such totalitarian sects include any group which requires extreme sacrifice or adherence to an “unorthodox set of beliefs”.

Belchikova’s direct request during the meeting in Samara provides a clear view of how many Russians still feel towards outsiders in their country. A nation with 142 Million residents, Russia is still a country saddling between an old Soviet world view and a capitalistic future which may be more godless than communism. Asking President Putin for the federal government to improve resistance to totalitarian sects, the educator further expressed the need to create a data bank of totalitarian sects with brief information about them, which would be accessible to regional education ministries and schools.

In response to the request, Vladimir Putin noted that Russia has four traditional religions, but stressed that representatives of other movements and faiths should feel free. “As for the totalitarian trends that are a threat to society, their hunting is not only for souls, but they are also hunting for property,” said the President. He noted that often during his visits to the region he hears about problems with the activities of totalitarian sects. He then said, “As the mushrooms grow, and the cabin, where all sorts of  secret rituals are held, and where it is not clear what is happening, and where our people are being driven into the ground, this is a problem.”  While no specific commentary was given as to what particular group or rituals the president was referring to, he then said directly to Mrs. Belchikova’s requests, “I agree with you.”  However, the head of state then noted that it is a very sensitive issue because Russia must respect freedom of religion. “We have no restrictions,” he said in reference to religious practices among citizens.

Although Mr. Putin’s remarks in regards to totalitarian sects seemed to end on a positive note for all, his reference to religious freedoms obviously did not strike tune with the Young Guard of United Russia, the highly organized youth wing of the United Russia Party. As a group which claims to have over 160,000 members in their late teens and early twenties, the Young Guard of United Russia is the political action group of youth in Russia. – Picture University Republicans on steroids, only more organized and more popular. – The Young Guard are known for their ability in assisting young Russians in registering to vote and becoming involved in the political process for the first time. The Young Guards’ use of the internet, social media, and the media at large has also been impressive in the past few Russian elections, and their theatrical rallies and organized protests are known to create passion in young Russians.

It was this past Wednesday, 31 October, as the youth of Russia logged onto the Young Guard of United Russia’s webpage they saw a headline which read:

Young Guards Open Campaign Against the Presence of the Mormon Sect in Russia

The call to to campaign by Russian youth was then set forth on the web site by planning the above mentioned protests for the next day throughout Russia, and then giving a brief outline of the history of the Church. It was in this posting that the Young Guard claimed that Mormon missionaries have direct contact with the U.S. military while  also ominously pointing out that a certain proportion of young Mormons returning to the United States after missionary work enter the service of the CIA and FBI.

A screenshot of the Young Guards statement on their website as it appeared Wednesday 31 October 2012.

To make certain they conveyed how evil Mormons’ foreign influence is, the Young Guards also warned that polygamy and pedophilia were a “widespread practice” in the Church, and linked their webpage to a story about Warren Jeffs, leader of a fundamentalist sect of polygamists who are no way associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The group also mentioned that Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and accused him of holding anti-Russian beliefs which are common among church members.

As groups of protesters gathered outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Russian headquarters in Moscow and hoisted signs reading “No, to foreign agents!” and “Foo, CIA!”, there were similar protests occurring across Russia at each of the Church’s mission offices in the country the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

In Moscow some Young Guard members held up a makeshift one-way plane ticket reading “back to Washington” for Mormon missionaries.

The protests in St. Petersburg, Samara, Novosibirsk, and Vladivostok were also well covered by local and national media outlets such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The protests have came in the wake of President Putin’s recent remarks in Samara, and other remarks from Mr. Putin condemning alleged foreign influence in domestic affairs and calling for an end to the presence of non-governmental organizations with foreign links that promote democracy and civil society within Russia.

On Wednesday, the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house, passed a bill that broadens the definition of treason to potentially include foreigners that provide “consulting services” for foreign governments or organizations. Under this new law, missionaries could be prosecuted for treason merely by their presence within the country fulfilling their proselyting duties.

Last month, the Kremlin ordered the United States Agency for International Development to end all operations in Russia. The organization had funded many Russian civil society organizations for two decades.

The statement on the website of the Youth Guard also noted that Putin has called for the need “to confront totalitarian sects operating in the territory of Russia.”

“In this regard, the Young Guard as a social organization intends to attract the attention of questionable activities of totalitarian sects operating in Russia, in particular, the sect of the Mormons,” the statement said.

Stenyakina, the same young woman who made allegations about a link between Mormons and the CIA, warned Russia’s youth that they could be easily wooed by the free English lessons and community service that the Mormon missionaries provide in their communities.

Young Guard members hold up a makeshift one-way plane ticket “back to Washington” for Mormon missionaries.

According to the RIA Novosti news agency, Elena Nechiporova, director for the Church’s East Europe Area’s public affairs department, stated emphatically that the allegations that Mormon missionaries are foreign agents is baseless. “It is somebody’s opinion without any facts, without any legal investigation, without court decisions,” she said, adding that “preaching the gospel is our main goal.”

Russia is home to approximately 16,000 Latter-day Saints in roughly 100 scattered congregations throughout the country. The Moscow Russia Stake of the Church was dedicated last year on 5 June 2011.

Surely, no matter the outcome of recent political frictions or newly passed laws, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Church members will strive to honor and obey the laws of the land in Russia and to serve their fellow man and their communities. A basic tenet of Mormon faith is that,

“We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience.”

- Doctrine and Covenants 134:5

Misunderstandings about the Church and Church members is expected, but as Christians we always welcome an open dialogue of common courtesy and respect. Although the full causes for last weeks protests may never be known, they ended peaceably and with little disturbance.

As missionaries and Church members continue to labor to build up Zion in their part of the world I have little doubt that their shining examples as good Christians will erase any harm done by recent simple misunderstandings, and the work of the Lord will continue in Russia.

Stan Way

If you’ve stumbled upon this site and you’re not a Mormon please click here to learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and what we believe.

A section of the Young Guard’s statement and call for protests on their website 31 October 2012. This section began with the heading “Dubious Mormon Missionaries in Russia” and accompanied a picture of two elders.

You can read more about the history of the Church in Russia online here.

The National Debt and Federal Budget Deficit Deconstructed by Tony Robbins

Regardless of your political point of view, I hope you’ll invest the next 20 minutes of your life to to empower yourself with some knowledge about our national debt.

As a Latter-day Saint I believe firmly that it is impossible to separate the temporal things of life with the spiritual. All things are spiritual to the Lord. (See D&C 29:29-35)

Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, Baptist, Pagan or Cajun, it is your responsibility to be a wise citizen and contribute to the betterment of society. – That’s why I personally enjoy what Tony Robbins does to assist others in his life. – But I hope that by sharing this video, and by your watching it, you’ll be more empowered to make wiser decisions in your life as an individual, a citizen, and a voter.

I love the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Said he,

“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.”

- Articles of Faith

I honor and respect all people.

Honestly, I don’t care what your political affiliation is or what your personal preference of faith is. But I sincerely hope you do believe in using your life to assist in the betterment of our society. I believe fully in being a wise steward of the things we’ve been blessed with in our lives.

So go ahead and watch the video above. Be informed. Ponder it.

The national debt and the federal budget deficit are problems that no one person, no one candidate, and no one party can fix alone. As a nation and a people we are going to have to work together on this. But I hope that you’ll support those who wish to fix this problem, and I hope that in your personal life you’ll learn from the bad example of our federal government the damaging and damning problems of debt in your life.

Let us all be wise stewards.

Your pal,

Stan

If you would like to know more about Anthony Robbins go ahead a click here.

If you’ve stumbled upon this site and you’re not a Mormon, but you want to learn more, please click here to learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and what we believe.

The Winds of Religious Influence Are Shifting: The Rise of the Non-Religious in America

As a Latter-day Saint and a Christian, today was a historic day.

For centuries America’s largest religious group has been “Protestant”, but according to findings published today, that is no more.

Earlier today the Pew Forum on Religious & Public Life released their latest analytic study titled, Nones on the Rise, now showing that one in five Americans (19.6%) claim no religious identity.

This group, called “Nones,” is now the nation’s second-largest category of faith, behind only the Catholics, and outnumbing the top Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptists. This shift will have, and is already showing, significant cultural, religious, and even political changes in our society at large.

Last year, the president of the largest atheist organization in the United States spoke to a group of students organized for the 2011 Secular Student Alliance leadership conference. A focal point of his talk on the future of atheism was the idea of a “sleeping giant,” or what he called the “30 percent under 30″, the nonreligious Americans who would shape the future of our national discourse on religion.

Even though that figure was slightly off – under the most recent survey figures available last year, 25 percent of Americans under 30 were religiously unaffiliated, and only about 7 percent of them identified as atheist or agnostic – the statement was oddly prescient. Indeed, those who identify as religiously unaffiliated is growing rapidly, particularly among people born in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

The nonreligious do indeed seem poised to assist in shaping the future of religious discourse, but who are these “Nones” and what exactly do they really believe?

According to Pew,

“In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).”

- “Nones” on the Rise

About 37 percent of the religiously unaffiliated say they’re spiritual but not religious. Many even pray, believe in God, and have regular spiritual routines according to the report. From 2007-2012, the so-called “Nones” have risen from just over 15 percent to just under 20 percent of all U.S. adults. That is staggering growth, the likes of which not even us Mormons can keep up with as the nation’s faster growing religion.

But as society changes, and secularism and succinct socialistic ideologies squirm their way into the footholds of society, I believe we’ll see even larger shift and growth of the “Nones” in coming years.

In the 1960’s two in three Americans called themselves Protestant. Now the Protestant group – both evangelical and mainline – has slid from 53% of the population of the U.S.  in 2007, to 48% just five years later.

According to a Washington Post article written earlier today about the survey’s findings,

[The "Nones"] can be found in all educational and income groups, but they skew heavily in one direction politically: 68 percent lean toward the Democratic Party. That makes the “nones,” at 24 percent, the largest Democratic faith constituency, with black Protestants at 16 percent and white mainline Protestants at 14 percent.

By comparison, white evangelicals make up 34 percent of the Republican base.

- One in five Americans reports no religious affiliation, study says; Michelle Boorstein; The Washington Post, 9 October 2012

The Post article goes on to say that “the study presents a stark map of how political and religious polarization have merged in recent decades. Congregations used to be a blend of political affiliations, but that’s generally not the case anymore. Sociologists have shown that Americans are more likely to pick their place of worship by their politics, not vice versa.”

In a society where people choose their religious doctrines according to their political beliefs, instead of the other way around, it is easy to see why Elder Quentin L. Cook spoke directly to the members of the Church who “allow intense cultural or political views to weaken their allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ” this past weekend.

The winds of religious influence are changing. The world and society are changing. The currents of popular opinion are shifting our nation like never before.

As Latter-day Saints we make up just 2% of the general populace of the United States. However, though prophetic mandate the Lord is likewise working in the winds and currents of society, and is now calling younger missionaries than ever before to serve as His ambassadors to the world.

As the youth of the world follow less and less the faith of their forefathers, the youth of Zion are being called upon to shoulder a challenging charge.

Graphic Courtesy Pew Research Center

Today as the Pew Research Center released their report I felt like standing up and singing happily We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet, because surely the Lord knew what was coming, and what is yet to come in the world in which we live. It is of little wonder that we’ve been counseled so vigorously to more fully convert convert ourselves, strengthen our families, and stand in holy places as the world changes around us.

As a tiny 2% we cannot change society as a whole. Yes, we must stand up and let our voices be heard. Yes, we must defend sacred doctrines, family structure, and our beliefs to the world. But in the end the real question will be, “What did I do to secure my family in Zion?”

I pray that might be a question we will all be able to answer happily when the day comes for an accounting.

Your pal,

Stan

To download the complete Nones on the Rise findings to your computer in PDF Format click this link and select “Save as”:  Download the Full Report (1.37MB, 80 pages)

If you’ve stumbled upon this blog and website and want to learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints you can do so by clicking here. You’ll be glad you did.

My Personal Views on Same-Sex Marriage

The ABC News Exclusive that rocked the world today.

Today was a regular day. I was visiting with my mother when the television screen showed that an Exclusive ABC News special report was coming on. “What’s this?” I thought to myself. “It must be important to broadcast in the middle of the day and interrupt the soap operas.”

This is what I saw.

Diane Sawyer, who was anchoring the live breaking broadcast, was entirely correct when she said, “This is an historic political and cultural moment in this country.”

Today, for the first time in the history of our nation, a sitting President declared his support for same-sex marriage.

As I watched the breaking news I was greatly saddened.

I could go into great depth and detail of why I believe what I do, but as a Christian and a Latter-day Saint, I feel there isn’t great need for an exhortation of doctrine. But I will share the basics.

I believe that marriage is ordained of God between a man and a woman. It is a religious ceremony, and sacrament, and has been since the beginning of time. I am entirely opposed to same-sex marriage. This does not make me a bigot. It simply means that I sustain what the Holy Bible teaches regarding marriage.

I declare emphatically that those in the LGBT should have every legal right that the rest of us have. There should be zero discrimination. They should have equal rights under the laws of the land because our Constitution says so, and because it is morally right to treat others with respect. And I believe we should allow civil unions to guarantee that there are benefits for the partners in a LGBT relationship.

However, marriage is a religious institution. It is the formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, in which they become husband and wife. And I do not believe we can redefine marriage just because a segment of society wishes it to be. Calling a carrot a pear does not make the carrot a pear, it only means we have confused future generations of knowing what a carrot or a pear really are. A carrot is a carrot and a pear is a pear, and holding votes to change the names of the two does not change what they really are.

I’ve shared before my great love for many people who are part of the LGBT community. And I count some of my dearest and closest friends as members of that community. Do I want them to have legal rights and enjoy their lives together? Yes. But I cannot let my voice be silent on the subject of same-sex marriage.

I realize my personal opinions and beliefs may not be popular to many in society. And I am aware that stating so publicly where I stand on such a hotbed issue may cost me personally with some of my closest associates. However, I believe this is a defining moment in the history of our nation, and I cannot stand idly by as the “good news” of  the announcement of today spreads across the airwaves. Frankly, I was saddened to see many media outlets this afternoon convey messages of support for the President’s new-found stance. An unbiased media has always strengthened our nation. A biased media may help lead to its destruction.

For those who believe as I do, it is a time to stand up and declare simply where you stand. It is not a time to be shy and meek in your personal beliefs. Nor is it a time to be bigoted or hateful to others. In saying why he changed his mind on this issue, President Obama cited his Christian faith and the Golden Rule. And because of my same respect and honor for such the Golden Rule, I fear that in this moral and political debate many words of unkindness will be shared by those with differing opinions.

Today was a historic day. And this debate and battle are nowhere near to being over. In fact, I am sure we shall hear it for days, weeks, and years to come. Luckily we live in a democracy, and The People will eventually be the ones who makes the choices regarding same-sex marriage. – I personally pray that The People stick with traditional marriage. But only time will tell.

- Stan Way

If you would like to read more about what I believe about the divine institution of marriage, you can do so by clicking here.

Lawrence O’Donnell, Martin Bashir, MSNBC’s Bigotry, and Lots of False Facts about Mormonism

A couple of weeks ago MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell made some statements that troubled me regarding my religious faith. I wrote a long, heavily cited, and not very friendly blog post addressing Mr. O’Donnell’s complete bigotry and lack of facts. However, in good judgement, and having vented it all out by typing it, I decided not to post it. “Not just yet,” I said to myself. “We’ll see where this goes,” I thought.

There was eventually an apology, of sorts, on Mr. O’Donnell’s part and I thought that the idiocy of the press had passed by (for the most part). Surely they could only make so much out of Mitt Romney’s religious faith, right?

But oh no. I was wrong. Because now MSNBC’s Martin Bashir has joined in on the religious bigotry. So let’s consider both public rants by both of these MSNBC commentators, and then I’ll share my thoughts on the matter.

Go ahead and watch Mr. O’Donnel’s statements first.

The above clip was aired April 3rd, in the middle of a piece about Mitt Romney’s claim that President Barack Obama was trying to “establish a religion in America known as secularism.” O’Donnell brought up the Church’s origins to make the point that Romney, while attacking the beliefs of Obama, was vulnerable on the same score. “Religiously, Mitt Romney lives in the glass house of American politics,” he said. O’Donnell then continued with the following:

Mormonism was created by a guy in upstate New York in 1830 when he got caught having sex with the maid and explained to his wife that God told him to do it. Forty-eight wives later, Joseph Smith’s lifestyle was completely sanctified in the religion he invented to go with it, which Mitt Romney says he believes.”

Any serious student of history, Latter-day Saint or not, could blow a hole through the middle of such a ludicrous statement. That the Church was organized in upstate New York in 1830 by Joseph Smith is perhaps the only correct statement in the entire sentence. The fact that Joseph Smith and his wife Emma didn’t even have their own home at the time, let alone a maid, had little cause for the Church’s organization. And it is a well established fact that Joseph Smith did not even begin practicing plural marriage until years after the Church was organized.

The very next day Fox News’ Bill O’Reill responded by calling O’Donnell’s screed a “smear,” and made the point that if O’Donnell had similarly blasted Islam, he would have been fired instantly. But oh no, that was not the case with Lawrence O’Donnell and MSNBC. Instead, he continued on with his show without even the slightest of comments from MSNBC. Only after an uproar on the internet (by those who were obviously not as conservative in their blogging and Tweeting as me) did Lawrence O’Donnell issue an apology on April 11th. He said in part,

I am truly sorry if I said something inaccurate about Joseph Smith, and I am happy to provide time on this show to a Church of Latter Day Saints spokesman to correct any inaccuracy. I just wish I could take those words back.”

The main thing O’Donnell was sorry about, however, was that “my word choice ripped some people’s attention away from my point, and that is that we should not tolerate religious intolerance in voting.”

“My preaching on the politics of religion has always been that religious intolerance is wrong,” O’Donnell said. “Refusing to vote for a Mormon candidate is wrong. Refusing to vote for a Catholic candidate is wrong. Refusing to vote for a Jewish candidate is wrong. Refusing to vote for a Muslim candidate is wrong. And yes, refusing to vote for a non-believer is wrong.”

That the Church didn’t send a spokesperson like Scott Trotter to then go on the defense I believe is admirable. Just because one national news media outlet allowed one of their highest paid hosts to publicly defame Joseph Smith doesn’t even meet our standards for an acknowledgement.

But then this past week MSNBC’s Martin Bashir had this to say on this program. Go ahead and watch.

Given what the Book of Mormon is clearly saying, Mr. Romney has but two choices. He can either keep lying and potentially win the White House, but bring eternal damnation upon himself or he can start telling the truth. The question for him, I guess, is which is more important.”

Fool me once MSNBC, shame on you. Fool me twice into thinking that you and your hosts are still reputable? Shame on me.

I won’t even make reference to the fact that he says “Nephi” wrong, or that their graphics guy in the back thinks that The Doctrine & Covenants is part of The Book of Mormon, but what I will confront is his blatant use of Mitt Romney’s faith – my faith - against him. It is nothing less that completely and totally disgusting. And luckily, we Latter-day Saints aren’t the only people who have thought so.

It seems as if countless conservative blogs are condemning Martin Bashir for his choice of words, including the Right Scoop, which called Bashir one of many “jackholes” who cannot be taken seriously in the media. Said they,

It just doesn’t get more absurd than this…[T]his is why people don’t take jackholes like Martin Bashir seriously, because they themselves are the most egregious of liars and are simply trying to cover for Obama’s bankrupting policies.”

Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters accused Bashir himself of having “flat out lied,” noting that the MSNBC host’s claim that the president never promised to keep unemployment rate below 8 percent is a “total falsehood”.

Saying that Bashir has a “tendency to predict such a destination [Hell] for people he doesn’t agree with,” Sheppard continued, “Exactly how is MSNBC allowed to broadcast such falsehoods with total impunity while calling itself a news network?”

Billy Hallowell at The Blaze also blasted Martin Bashir for unleashing an “excoriating rant” and “religious lecture”, while Allahpundit at HotAir gave the journalist a piece of his mind in a post titled, “Martin Bashir to Romney: The Book of Mormon forbids lying, you know.” The post at Hotair continues:

I’m … pretty sure the Bible does too [condemn lying], yet rarely do you see chapter and verse cited on cable news when a Democrat or Republican lies.”

As a Latter-day Saint I welcome the extra attention the Church is now getting. It allows me, and my family of 14 Million+ to address your questions and concerns. However, when networks such as MSNBC continually allow their hosts to throw up such ludicrous straw man debates it takes away the focus both of Mitt Romney’s campaign, and what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really teaches.

Mitt Romney has always referred all doctrinal questions about our faith to the Church itself. Recently at a political rally in Wisconsin, Romney was faced with a voter quoting from The Book of Mormon, and suggested dark skin was a divine punishment. “Do you believe it’s a sin for a white man to marry and procreate with a black?” the person asked. “No. Next question,” Romney responded, obviously wanting to avoid a major political gaffe. However, a few moments later he turned back to the subject of his faith. He told the audience of his time spent as a bishop and then stake president in Massachusetts that allowed him to work hands-on with regular folks who needed help. Then he continued:

I’ve had an unusual experience. This gentleman wanted to talk about the doctrines of my religion. I’ll talk about the practices of my faith. I had the occasion in my church to be asked to be the pastor, if you will, of a congregation. I’ve served in that kind of role for about 10 years. And that gave me the occasion to work with people on a very personal basis that were dealing with unemployment, with marital difficulties, with health difficulties of their own and with their kids.

Most Americans, by the way, are carrying a burden of some kind. We don’t see it, we see someone on the street, they smile and say ‘Hello,’ but behind them they are carrying a bag of rocks. It may be their own health difficulties. It may be concern about a job, it may be inability to pay for the home or the college they were hoping to pay for for a child. But people have burdens in this country, and when you get a chance to know people on a very personal basis, whether you’re serving as a pastor or as a counselor or in other kinds of roles, you understand that every kind of person you see is facing some challenges. And one of the reasons I’m running for president of the United States is I want to help people; I want to lighten those burdens.

If Lawrence O’Donnell and Martin Bashir, and MSNBC as a whole, want to discuss Mitt Romney and his faith, that’s what they should be talking about. They never consider what being a Latter-day Saint makes Mitt Romney as a person. They simply engage in the same Anti-Mormon tomfoolery that has been around since the Church began. Would they ever dare question Rep. Keith Ellison, a faithful Muslim, or Senator Joseph Lieberman, a devout Jew, about the doctrines of their faiths? Would a national news commentator ever quote the Holy Koran to a Muslim and ask why he’s not slaughtering the infidels?

I don’t think so. The mere thought of it is ridiculous.

I believe Mitt Romney put it rather well himself during the Presidential Election Season of 2008 when he said in his now famous speech:

Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president, not a Catholic running for president. Like him, I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith. Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.

So dear MSNBC, please get a hold of your hosts. Such religious bigotry has no place in our nation. If you want to discuss the politics of Mitt Romney, go ahead. Rip him to shreds. I don’t care. If you don’t like his health care plan in Massachusetts, go ahead and rant and rave all you want. If you think he’s an out of touch millionaire, go ahead and talk about his fancy new house plans in California. But if you want to attack his faith – my faith – pervert the scriptures, and continue with your religious prejudice, all I can say is shame on you.

During an election year when there are so many important issues on the table for both sides, I think it’s time for people like O’Donnell and Bashir to grow up and start focusing on the issues. I don’t care if Barack Obama ate dog once when he was younger, or that Mitt Romney once carried a dog on the roof of his car. What I, and the rest of America cares about are the issues.

And as for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my church, I have no doubt that this will be a long few months as my faith is scrutinized like never before. And we welcome that. But idiocy, bigotry, false statements, and downright lies we won’t accept. Perhaps Bashir should have been quoting the verse from 2 Nephi to his good friend Lawrence O’Donnell?…But then again, that wouldn’t have been very nice, would it?

But that’s just the way I see it.

- Stan Way

If you’re not a Mormon and would like to learn what we really believe, not what MSNBC is polluting the airwaves with, please go ahead and click here.

If you’re a Latter-day Saint, please remember to keep calm and respectful in your comments to others during this tumultuous time. Whether online or offline, every word we say will effect others.

And if you’re someone from MSNBC, please just know that you have lost a viewer for good. And not just me, but everyone else I can convince that you’re biased and unreliable. It won’t be such a hard argument for me to prove.

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